I just want to be like everyone else but I’m not – I am mentally ill

“That is what madness is, isn't it? All the wheels fly off the bus and things don't make sense any more. Or rather, they do, but it's not a kind of sense anyone else can understand.” ― Audrey Niffenegger

It’s hard to explain to someone what it’s like to have a mental illness. It’s hard to even admit that you have one. I’ve struggled my whole life trying to put a name to what I was feeling. Hell, doctors even have a hard time attaching a label on what you are experiencing.

When I was younger, and I realized these feelings of angst were not just part of puberty, I didn’t want to admit that something was wrong with me. I didn’t want to be different. I was already somewhat of a freak because of my religion. Other kids looked at me as that Jehovah’s Witness guy. When they were doing something fun, I was sitting in the library by myself. They didn’t understand why I didn’t celebrate any holidays. They didn’t understand why I was different. I didn’t even understand why I had to be different. It was not my choice. It was my parent’s choice for me. I just had to live with it. As I got older, there were many more things I couldn’t do. I didn’t go to dances or other school functions. I couldn’t play any organized sports. I was never going to go to college, even though my grades were awesome enough to get a scholarship. School seemed like an exercise in futility, so the first chance I got, I quit and later got my GED. I couldn’t stand the stigma of being different from everyone else.

I was different from everyone else for another reason I couldn’t put a name to. I was always sad and hopeless. I cried when I was by myself. I preferred to be alone because I felt nervous when I was around other people. I wanted to hurt myself, not because I enjoyed pain, but because I wanted to somehow release all of the things I was feeling. I felt broken. I wanted to die. I didn’t see anyone else who was feeling like I did. I felt so alone.

These feelings didn’t go away when I got older. When I could finally make decisions for myself, I left my religion. It didn’t make me feel any less different. I started to live my life like other people my age. I threw myself into being as bad as I could. I drank. I smoked.  I did drugs. I had sex with many different women. I did everything I could to be like everyone else my age.

None of it helped. I was still different on the inside.

Life went on. I got married. I had kids. I eventually went to college. I tried to be like the people around me. None of it helped. I was different. I still felt all of these uncomfortable feelings on the inside.

After college I finally hit a wall. I was doing everything the same as everyone else, but I still felt all of these feelings I could finally, after some research, put a name to. I was depressed. I felt anxiety and had panic attacks. I was paranoid. I heard voices. I cut myself. I was suicidal.  I knew there was something seriously wrong with me, but I couldn’t do anything about it. Nobody else I knew had these problems and I wanted to fit in like everyone else.

The suicidal feelings got so bad, I finally gave in and tried to kill myself. I couldn’t even do that right. After I failed, I thought I would be treated like everyone else who was crazy was treated in the movies and on TV. I thought I would be locked in some padded room and subjected to electroshock therapy. I thought I would be that like that homeless guy you see on the bus talking to himself. But, in the end, I was just put on a lot of medication and sent to have therapy.

I finally realized that no matter what I did, I was never going to be like everyone else. I was mentally ill, and thus different from the “normal” people. I knew it was time to stop living my life like everyone else, because I would never fit in the mold.

Having a mental illness is not like anything else. In addition to all the bad feelings you had to deal with, there was always this stigma following you around everywhere. I spent the rest of my life until now running away or hiding what I was. Even though I now knew I was different, I didn’t want everyone else to know that fact.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I knew I had to embrace what I was in order to recover my life. I spent my whole life trying to be what society wanted me to be, and that is not healthy for someone like me.

At least I know who I am now. I am SchizoAffective. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am a cutter. I am a loner. I have depression and anxiety. I have racing thoughts and hear voices. I am suicidal.

I am mentally ill.

Beyond that I am a father, a husband, a son and a brother. I will no longer try to be like everyone else. I will battle the stigma that surrounds my illness. I will be honest.

I will take my life slowly and just take it one day at a time.

I will be different.

++++++++

This was an exercise for the Daily Posts’ Zero-to-Hero 30 day challenge. Today we were to attempt to “write the post that was on your mind when you decided to start a blog”.

This was hard for me so I just sat down and typed. I wrote it down exactly like I thought it. I really didn’t spend much time editing it because I wanted this to be a post to show how someone with a mental illness thinks.

I hope it means something to someone.

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40 thoughts on “I just want to be like everyone else but I’m not – I am mentally ill

  1. First off, thank you for following me and liking my post. I saw you did that as I was reading yours 🙂

    Secondly, I know how you feel. My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness. It made me feel different too and I eventually left the religion myself. I put up my first Christmas tree at 19… and I battled severe depression for years. I burned, cut, tore and dug a hole so deep in my soul it felt like I was never going to get out. I’ve been there. It’s not easy to become happy again… but I promise with a lot of work and dedication it will come.

    • Hi, thanks for coming by and commenting. I’m just getting to the stage in my life where things are starting to make sense, and I’m thinking about how to recover from all the damage I have done to myself. It isn’t easy as you well know, but I know I can do it.

      Good luck with the challenge!

  2. We all need to be who we are and we should never try to be like anyone else. If writing about this helps you then by all means do it. There is someone else out there struggling with the same things you are. They will love seeing their are not alone. You can be helping them as much as your helping yourself. I admire that you had the guts to put this out there and I agree it takes a brave person to do that.

    • Thanks a lot for coming by and commenting!

      A few people have said how brave I am to write about mental illness, but I still think I am a bit of a chicken. After all, I don’t really reveal who I am. But, I enjoy it and it has become like therapy for me to get all this stuff out and write it down.

      Good luck with the challenge!

      • I admit “Well damn” is a pants response to something so intimate, but it’s how I felt after reading it. If I could, I would share my hot chocolate (or hot drink equivalent) with you and tell stories. But a salute is the best I can offer!

        Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you, that really means so much to me. I’m a little sensitive about my writing, a little scared to show it off like you. It’s nice when someone appreciates it.

      Come back soon!

  3. The reason I write is to face myself, see who I am, good and bad. Growing up I hated myself and also reached a point where I wanted to die. And then I almost did. I and my twin sister almost drowned together, but somehow, we managed to pull ourselves to shore. Strangely enough, the old me did die then, and I can honestly say I am different now. I have yet to write out today’s prompt, but reading through your post and that of others had inspired me. Thanks.

    • Thanks for coming by and sharing your story, I really appreciate it.

      My goal is to be as honest as possible. That is the only way I can get all my feelings out. I think people respond well when you tell the truth no matter how hideous it is.

      Good luck in the challenge!

      • That’s a wonderful goal, and I wish you success in it. Honesty shows that we aren’t perfect, doesn’t it? It destroys that image of perfection that so many people like to pursue even though it’s a lie. Well, good luck in the challenge yourself!

  4. Hey there! 🙂

    Well written piece and good on ya for posting it, talking about your illness is one of the best types of therapy! 🙂

    Another good thing you’ve managed to do is accept you have an illness that’s never going to go away and you’re living with it! Keep at it!

    All the best,

    – Phil

  5. I completely connected with this post and simply had to comment – a rare feeling for me!

    I’ve dealt with a plethora of anxiety disorders (including moderate/severe social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and OCD) in addition to mild/moderate depression and hormone difficulties for the last several years. Life is already an uphill battle and dealing with the additional disorders such as those you and I possess can make life rather tumultuous.
    However, I also believe these disorders cultivate introspection and empathy and thus there is a silver lining to the chaos!

    You are very courageous and have great potential. I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog and I look forward to future posts!

    • You are one of the reasons, besides writing therapy, that I started this blog. I want to connect with other bloggers and visitors and help to destroy the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses.

      Thank you for sharing a little bit of your story….I am following you now, and I look forward to more mental stimulation in the future.

      Thank you for coming by and commenting!

  6. My mother was mentally ill. She was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic at an early age. It wasn’t until she was in her early sixties that doctors put her in a CAT scan (or MRI) and found out that she had an “organic” brain disorder.

    Speaking from the perspective of the family, it was difficult to grow up with her.

    I’m following your blog because I want to get sense of what my own mother’s inner struggles were like.

    I’d like to congratulate you for having the courage to put yourself out there like this and thank you for sharing your perspective.

    Good luck to you — Let’s blog!

    • Thank you very much for coming by and sharing your story and thanks for following me. I poked around in your blog for a while and saw some really great looking food I would like to eat……Too bad I’m not a great cook.

      Looking forward to seeing you around!

  7. Wow! This is very compelling writing! Thank you for opening up and sharing. My life has included many of these elements, both in and around me. It took me years to realize I had suffered from depression while I was very young. I managed to overcome a lot of my racing thoughts and patterns that tended to pull me back into depression after going through grief counseling for several years and then family counseling with my kids.

    There are a lot of unhealthy behavior patterns that people engage in that are destructive to others, but are not a problem for the person engaging in them. Those people need “help” to protect others from them, but they seldom get it. Bullies, for example. They are everywhere. We need to develop a greater awareness of healthy and unhealthy behavior and communication patterns and set up institutions that support and develop those. Unfortunately, bullies are able to creep into many positions of power in a variety of institutions and the fallout is very unhealthy for many people. Society, culture and interpersonal relations constitute a system that has an organic life which could be much healthier, in my opinion, in other words!

    Blessings in the New Year and I wish you much success with your blog!

  8. So true and so poignantly said. I was also the different one with mental illness and physical illness from when I was a child. Look forward to reading more on your blog!

  9. Bravo. On writing this, publishing it and for every time in your life you’ve chosen to try and make things better or what you want them to be. I am so moved to read this, I’m choking back the tears. Your innocently is compelling and I feel for you on the basis of why I’ve read here. I wish you well for the future – the very best in fact. Xx

  10. I stumbled across your blog via my friend Jo Blogs. I just wanted to say I think you are incredibly brave. There is such sstigma surrounding mental illness and it’s very, very difficult to open up about it. Congratulations on this wonderful and honest piece of writing. Wishing you all the very best in the future x

  11. I feel so incredibly moved by this post. It was perfect, really.

    I have a kind of ‘shameful secret’ in that… I rarely tend to read people’s blog posts in full. The same with newspaper articles, books, magazine pieces (and I’m training to be a journalist, ironic, eh?) – but my mind can’t focus. With this piece, however, I forced my mind to re-shift back into focus several times when I felt the Depersonalization coming on, but eventually (+20 minutes later), I finished it! I kept going because I felt how touching it was going to be. And I wasn’t disappointed.

    Thank you so much for posting this. I think you’re incredibly strong. ❤

    • Thank you for making the extra effort to read my post, I really do appreciate it.

      I sometimes have the same problem reading blogs as you do….it really takes a lot to keep my attention focused.

      See you around!

  12. You are more normal than you actually think, whatever normal really is. I’ve been spending a lot of time on tumblr following some really dark ones, and I realise I’m not alone in what I feel. We all carry personal scars from old battle wounds, and we tend to think we are alone in our hopelessness and sadness and depression because there is still a big stigma about those feelings in our society. But the truth is we are more alike than we think. If only we started opening up to each other like you did. It’s a brave and bold post and I’m glad I’ve been reading these kinds of thoughts more and more often. It makes me feel less alone. It makes me feel we can relax a little instead of guarding ourselves from prejudice all the time. I dream with a world where we can just be ourselves without having to follow a proper conduct guide that the majority wants us to follow. Let us all be whatever it is we are. And embrace our strong points but also our weak ones. They are all part of us. They make us who we are.
    Thank you for your words. They are deeply touching.

    • Thank you for coming by and taking the time to read, and I am glad to see that you “get” where I am coming from.

      You are completely correct that we need to start being more honest with each other. Its nice to feel like we are not alone and connected somehow.

      Please come by again, and I am looking forward to reading more from your blog.

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