(TW: mental illness talk will follow)

This will be completely anonymous for everybody. I've just received that confirmation from my instructor.

This will be anonymous for you guys. I won't even attach usernames. And if I have to divulge where I've conducted it, I won't use it at all, because I'll have to doxx myself.

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For my current writing class I have to write a report to urge my employers (who are currently fictional) to participate in a cause to make the world better. I've chosen to write about raising awareness about mental illness/mental health struggles, because as someone with a mental illness, it's pretty damn important to me.

We had to use TED talks (I know, I know...) to find our topics. I came across this one by Ruby Wax. This part stuck out:

I wasn't sent a lot of cards or flowers. I mean, if I had had a broken leg or I was with child I would have been inundated, but all I got was a couple phone calls telling me to perk up. Perk up. Because I didn't think of that.

So here's my question. My question is, how come when people have mental damage, it's always an active imagination? How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?

So—yeah, why is that? What sorts of things have you guys heard? "Just cheer up." "You don't need medication! We're all over-medicated!" "What sorts of tests did they run on you?" "Just go for a run and eat more kale."

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Have you had to argue with others that these struggles are just as real as physical struggles?

If you were diagnosed with a treatable but long-term illness like cancer, would you hesitate to tell your family, friends, and employer? But, on the flip side of that, having a mental illness or disorder instead, would you tell all those same people or a smaller sample?

Have you ever passed off being physically sick when your mental illness has kept you from being able to go to work or follow through on social obligations, because "Cough cough I'm so siiiiick" is way easier to explain than "I'm curled up in bed and I can't stop crying."?

Talk to me about this sort of stuff; if you do, thank you so much in advance, whether or not I can actually use any of it. You guise are awesome.

Me first, to break the ice:
Before being diagnosed as bipolar, I had a long-term diagnosis of clinical depression. My parents knew, since they were buying my long list of anti-depressants (that were always making me worse), but we never talked about it. I tried to talk to them about it, but they would brush me off.

I told my favourite aunt, and got a lot of the "Did they do a test? How do they know you have this?" sorts of questions.

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My childhood best friend had me diagnosed as bipolar and/or ADHD when we were teenagers because she hated seeing me upset. She was genuinely trying to be helpful.

I never told my employers. Ever. They knew something was up with me because my behaviour was erratic and unpredictable, but it just led to a lot of conflict in the office and a lot of reprimands. I missed a lot of work, not just from having a weak immune system from anxiety and stress, but doing a lot of "Cough cough I'm siiiick" because I couldn't tell them I was so miserable I couldn't leave my bed.

I heard a lot of "But you're smart, and you're funny, and you're really creative and talented! You don't have any reason to be sad!"

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Having now been diagnosed as bipolar, I know my parents don't really get it; my dad and I don't have a lot of heart-to-hearts but I've recently come to understand that he knows how serious this is and feels helpless. My mum feels guilty. My other aunt and her daughter believe that I don't need meds and all I need to do is eat organic food and take herbs and go to a chiropractor and be cured.

My current best friends are all super supportive, but they all either have mental health struggles of their own or have people in their lives who do.