Day 16: How many people are you “out” to with your mental illness(es)? Why?
This one is interesting. About 4 months after my diagnosis, my family knew, my close friends knew, and my boss knew, but I decided that wasn’t enough. I came out on Facebook only 4 months after my diagnosis. I decided the day before that I was going to post it, and I won’t lie, I was nervous about the potential backlash. I was afraid of the negative comments – and I didn’t get the first one. Instead, I got 30 “likes” and almost 15 comments. I got private messages, text messages, and emails. People reached out to me about their mental health struggles, all because I started the dialogue and I came out of the shadows. Now, I post about the OCD conference and OCD Awareness Week on Facebook, and I have come out to a few work friends. I find that the more people I tell, the more people are educated about what mental illness and OCD really are and how debilitating they can be. But I also show them that I’m just like everyone else – I go to work, I’m successful, I’m funny (or so I’ve been told), I’m just like them. I’m not scary, I’m not threatening to kill them – I’m just like them, except that I struggle internally (and sometimes externally – hello panic attacks!) with an invisible monster that makes my day-to-day life more difficult. By seeing that I can function daily and that I’m an asset at work, at home, with friends, everywhere – I’m showing what it means to live with mental illness. We aren’t hiding in the shadows. We aren’t just the homeless man on the street talking to himself. We aren’t what the media portrays us to be. We are just like you. We are in your workplaces, your churches, your groups of friends, your trivia teams, your PTA’s, your neighborhoods and your families. By teaching others that this isn’t something to be feared, we break barriers and we destroy stigma. Because if I tell two friends, and they tell two friends, before you know it, the world is a more compassionate and tolerant place.*
*I feel like I should be smiling and waving like a Barbie doll at the Miss America pageant. “YAY for World Peace!” 🙂