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.