Are you open about having mental illness?

How open are any of you about having a mental illness?

I suppressed this information from almost everyone around me for nearly a decade. I wouldn’t even admit to myself that I had a problem for most of that time.

When I finally sought help and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, much of what I read strongly cautioned me against sharing this information with anyone except maybe your closest family and friends.

Stigma. It’s what we hear all the time in discussions about mental illness. While books, websites and blogs all stressed that I shouldn’t feel ashamed about my diagnosis, they equally stressed about how failing to suppress this information would lead to job loss, disappearing friends and, if you’re unlucky enough, perhaps even problems from your family.

I held my diagnosis tight for almost two years before my parents found out accidentally, and up until very recently I could count the number of people who knew on my hands.

So far there has not been a single person who has judged me foe having bipolar disorder. Actually, quite the opposite has been true – my friendships are stronger than they’ve ever been.

On learning about my diagnosis people have generally reacted in one of two ways: with an admission of suffering from some sort of mental affliction themselves or with genuine empathy and curiosity about it. They want to learn about it not for gossip’s sake but so they might understand and maybe help.

Granted, I still don’t speak too openly about it and largely that’s because I’m just a private person and I don’t think it’s necessary for me to push it in people’s faces any more than a person might choose not to share any other medical diagnosis. But if the topic comes up I’m much less afraid to share my personal experiences now than I was just a year ago.

Please comment about your own experiences with sharing your diagnosis, or reasons why you choose not to. I want to hear about how it’s been received and whether much of the stigma about mental illness actually just stems from our own fear of what people’s reactions might be.

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5 thoughts on “Are you open about having mental illness?

  1. patsyk05 says:

    I am fairly open about telling people I have bipolar disorder and have not had any negative reactions. I have encountered some people who, through ignorance, give ill thought out advice. I do however engage in self stigmatisation in that I feel like a failure. This doesn’t make any sense at all because I don’t judge other people with mental health problems as failures. I need to learn how to be compassionate towards myself but this seems like such an alien conception.

    • Kerrie says:

      I can definitely relate to that self-stigmatisation and treating yourself differently to anyone else with mental illness! This is the root of half my problems in managing the illness to be honest…

  2. patsyk05 says:

    Me too. I am hopeless at self care/self compassion. I’m on a waiting list for psychotherapy so am hoping to address this. I agree with you, it is vital in managing bipolar disorder

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