It has been awhile since I have had the time to write a piece for Bring Change 2 Mind. My journey, as of recently, has taken me to a new area of my profession. I am now a nurse practitioner, an opportunity for which I am grateful as it enables me to play an even bigger role beside my patients. However, this growth would not have been possible had it not been for the events of my past molding me and helping me to understand my strengths and my weaknesses.
I call this piece “People Do Not Like Me” because for those of us who have traveled, or are traveling, with a mental illness we know all too well the effect it has on those around us. When I walked in the shoes of PTSD and major depression years ago I was a brilliant actress and expert at pushing people away. Back then I hated myself and felt it would be better if people did not have to come into my life and struggle with me. I did not want people to see my tears or self-hatred. My weaknesses and pain were not to be other people’s burden, they only belonged to me. So, I became an expert at putting on a lovely smile and finding new ways at keeping people away from me. I hurt a lot of people in my 20’s as I struggled with the grip PTSD and depression had on me. People did not like me because they only saw what I wanted them to see. A smile, mean words at times, and a person desperately trying to be what others wanted me to be because I hated who I was. Funny how when you wear masks people end up not liking you because you are either trying too hard or they want you to take the mask off, which back then I was not prepared to do. I did not want people to see my pain or carry it on their shoulders, as I carried it on mine.
At the age of 41 I now look back and wish I could apologize to each of those people, but most of them cannot be found. It is almost ten years ago now that I lost my father to cancer and it was during that time that the grip PTSD and depression had on me began to loosen. There were conversations had with my father in which he reminded me that I had this one life and opportunity to make those dreams I feared happen. This one life to learn to love the person I am and let go of my self-hatred. One opportunity to just be myself, flaws and all. During this time, I learned that masks were truly only best worn on a stage; but not in everyday life. I watched as the man I once thought of as a brick wall, a man who could never be torn down, changed before my very eyes. His mind left and his body weakened. Yet during this time he told me to live, breath, love, and grow. The grip mental illness once had on my hand was replaced by the strong grip of my father reminding me to be kind to myself.
For years now I have lived without PTSD and depression by my side. They taught me many things, but I had to say good-bye to them so I could allow myself to shine and pursue my dreams. Funny how life is though. When I lived with PTSD and depression people did not like me because I would push them away or try too hard to fit in. Now I am perhaps too honest, because I lived for so many years not being honest with myself or those around me, and people do not always like that. However, I refuse to be ashamed or to hide anymore. I want honest conversations. I want people to tell me when I mess up because it only helps me to grow. If people do not like me that is okay because now I live my life without masks. I will never go back to wearing masks or hiding who I am. One thing I have learned is that we all have stories, moments that have molded us. Why do we fear sharing those? Why do we fear allowing people to see who we are? Why do we fear honest conversations, even if it means something may hurt our feelings? I am not ashamed of my past journeys with mental illness or the paths it took me on. I am grateful to those who stood by me and believed in me. To those I brought pain and pushed away, I am sorry. In the end, we are all on this journey through life together. Let us start holding hands and learning from one another. Let us stop the stigma.