Among the many other bad things associated with having a mental illness, I deal with the embarrassment of it every day.
You have heard me talk about the stigma of having a mental illness many times before. You just don’t go around telling people you hear voices. Even something as socially acceptable as depression can cause people to treat you differently or judge you harshly.
When I lived in the U.S. I was on Social Security Disability for about ten years. But, I was very reluctant to tell people because they always asked what was wrong with me. Having a mental illness, that was bad enough that I couldn’t work, would oftentimes make people to think I was weak or I was just making excuses to get out of earning an honest living. They didn’t have to say anything, I could see it in their faces. So I would just tell people that I was a freelance web designer (which was partly true) and I work from home. It’s sad I had to lie, but I just couldn’t deal with the embarrassment.
Another thing that causes extreme embarrassment for me is my scars. I like to tell people I am proud of them, but the truth is I am too ashamed to tell people what they really are. In the past, when I have told people that I used to cut myself, they reacted in a very negative way. They want to know more and I have to reveal my mental illness to them. Meeting someone who is crazy is bad enough, but a crazy person who cuts himself? That’s too much information for a “normal” person to handle. Most people who I actually told the truth to didn’t want anything else to do with me.
So yes, it’s very embarrassing to have a mental illness. The only people that know about my “dirty” secret are close family members, and many of them still don’t understand to this very day.
Over the past few days I have received many comments from people saying how brave I am to talk about my mental illness so openly. I appreciate it very much, but you see, I still feel like a chicken. I don’t reveal my true identity, because if anyone who knows me personally, even family, were to read this blog, I would be ruined. Even though many of them know some details about my illness, they don’t know, for example, about my cutting or that I was sexually abused as a child. I am very careful what I tell people, even close family.
You can imagine how hard it was to reveal everything to my wife when we were dating online. I thought for sure I would never hear from her again. She revealed to me just the other day that even after I told her, she still didn’t realize just how bad my mental illness was until I started this blog. Most “normal” people would not understand just how deep it runs.
That is the main reason I never tell people I know.
I am embarrassed.