mental illness

5 illnesses and me

What I’m struggling most with at the moment is how my mental health affects other people. Particularly, how they react to it.
Whenever I try to explain anxiety to other people who have no experience with it, I become suddenly inarticulate. I just struggle to explain it. But it’s different when I’m talking about any mental illness that I don’t have. Take schizophrenia, for instance. Ask my anything and I can chat away for hours. I love discussing mental illness, everything about it. I just can’t talk about my own.
Maybe it’s because they’re my experiences and they’re intensely personal. When I’m in an anxiety attack, my ‘sane’ thoughts leave me and are replaced with their irrational, debilitating counterparts. I don’t understand them or the direction they take or the way they make me feel. All I know is that I’m panicking and the thoughts won’t go away until I’m out of whatever situation I’m in.
I may print that section off and keep it in my bag for any time someone asks me what anxiety feels like.
That’s why I worry about my family and my friends. It feels like I’m diagnosed with a new mental health issue every time I go to the doctors. So far there’s been anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, delusional disorder and possibly bipolar (Side note: I swear I’m not a hypochondriac, I just have extremely indecisive doctors). And herein lies my problem. Reactions to my possible bipolar diagnosis have been… varied. Interesting. My best friend laughed, my dad frowned in a slightly worried way, my mum sort of expected it. Yet when I was diagnosed with depression, every reaction was predictably similar – sombre looks and pitying sighs. I actually started saying ‘I’m depressed, not dead!’ because people were so morbid about it.
I have a theory on this difference. Bipolar is, undoubtedly, less talked about than depression and anxiety. Some people, it seems, are stuck in the Victorian era when it comes to certain mental illnesses. They don’t know how to react. I’m fairly sure that’s why people reacted the way they did.
That doesn’t mean I like it. Actually, I hate it. I know, obviously, how bad anxiety and depression can be, and I know how important it is to talk about them. But I wish people understood that there are other, equally (if not more) important illnesses that need to be talked about.

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