The Downside to Being Open About My Mental Illness

In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and an eating disorder – both of which I struggled with in childhood. I’ve had my ups and downs over the years but recovery remains an important part of my life. I’ve always been open about my struggles thinking I have nothing to hide, but it doesn’t always go as planned. Here are the downsides to being open about my mental illness:

When conflict arises, people assume I’m the problem because I’m the one with the mental illness, but it’s usually not true. They think I’m too sensitive or too crazy so they place all blame squarely on my shoulders instead of taking responsibility for their part.

I always feel I need to prove myself. I may have a schizophrenic disorder but I’m far from fragile. I have a full life and I can take on a lot. I assume people think I’m not capable. I feel the need to show the world what I can do – even though it’s probably not necessary.

People can be overly concerned and it makes me uncomfortable. I get annoyed when people ask me how I’m doing over and over again. I told you the first time, I’m fine. Don’t ask me about my therapy appointments because it’s none of your goddamn business. If I need help I’ll ask for it.

People see my illness – not me – and assume my feelings are symptoms. What I feel is valid – just as valid as the feelings of someone without a mental illness.

Being open about my mental illness has shown me I can’t depend on everyone – even loved ones. Not everyone has the capacity to be supportive and that really hurts sometimes. I’m learning to be more selective in who I trust.

It’s hard to be around other people who have unresolved issues and are unwilling to get help. I remember what that felt like and I’m not going back to that place. Of course, with everything I’ve been through I have an urge to help but I can’t save everyone. I have to focus on saving myself.

Despite these negative effects, I choose to continue to be open about my mental illness. My mental illness is a part of me and I feel I have a lot to offer the world. Dealing with people in my own life can be painful, but I hope one day my story will help others and that alone is worth it.

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