Wednesday, March 9, 2016

See Me: Fighting The Invisibility Of Mental Illness.

Great piece over at The Establishment, See Me: Fighting The Invisibility Of Mental Illness. Here are some of my favourite bits: 
Each time I made myself invisible, I did not realize that I was slowly but surely falling down the rabbit hole of severe mental illness. Sure I was always sad, confused, solitary. I led a life of few friends, bad relationships, and constant self-harm. But that was simply the way things were. I never thought that when I took the trowel to my arm when I was eight years old that I would be sitting here 30 years later, frantic that my food stamps were just cut off and my disability check would never pay all the bills. I never thought that the breakdown I had right after grad school was actually a psychotic break, that my bipolar disorder was in control of my life now, and that as hard as I tried, I couldn’t hold a job, or a relationship, or even a place to live.
This says so much about the power of aid and (in my case) diagnosis.  There is a reason why everything seems harder for me. There is legitimacy to your struggle.
It’s easier than one might think to stay invisible. When I speak out for mental health advocacy, when I tell my story, people get uncomfortable. Society wants us to stay behind locked doors, and if we are out, plenty of people want us to either accept the poverty level of living that being on permanent disability demands, or to fake being one of you “normals” and keep our illnesses invisible.
I think about this often, it doesn't show in my face - certain things can clue to it, what I talk about, sick days, medical appointments, my voicing having a "bad day," or "feeling sick" but what else?  If I don't speak out, and share my experience with those around me, how would they know? If I don't identify as "mentally ill" when the news and media use that term in one of many blanket statements, I lose that chance to represent a complex identifier.
It’s so easy to be invisible in a world that doesn’t want to see you. So I make the decision every day to be seen. I talk about my illnesses, my addictions, my pain. I encourage others to do the same. I give out my number. I even assure people that they can call me instead of texting. Little things like that to do anything and everything I can to keep us from vanishing into the ether.
This hits me hard. I started this blog a little over a year ago. Initially anonymously. I struggle with that. I struggle with that because I am open in my everyday life, but I worry about how using my full name here might affect a job prospect, or a google-search of my name.

Sure, The Bloggess Jennifer Lawson writes candidly about her experiences, but she also makes a living off of that candor. She's a best-seller. Before she was a best-seller she has a partner who worked. She was not an island that would sink if left to the option of representing itself honestly.

Jenny is very much the exception to the rule. Just scroll down her comment feed and see tons of people, linking to countless blogs, most of which deal with illness of some kind. Anxiety. Depression. Severe mental illness comes with it the specific curse of being an invisible disability. 

Here I will commit to my first name. My name is Kristin. 

I want to share all parts of myself here, but not quite yet.

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