When I hear the words “mental health,” I automatically think of someone with a healthy mental state, or advocates for the mentally ill. I do not have a healthy mental state, but I do advocate for those with mental illness, mainly because I have suffered from mental illness since I was a child. I had minor depression beginning around age 10 which lasted until I was around 16. Then again in my early 30s – I was finally diagnosed as Bipolar around then. But I also showed the reckless behavior of Borderline Personality Disorder beginning in my 20s and lasting through my mid-40s. I’ve had Social Anxiety Disorder since my early 30s and suffered Agoraphobia in my mid-30s until my early 40s. I’ve rarely known a time when mental illness hasn’t affected my life. Mental illness even runs in my family on my mother’s side. My mother had some form of it and I had an aunt who committed suicide. I’ve witnessed almost all of my other aunts suffer from depression or phobias.
In the Mental Health community, I was fortunate enough to end up in some really great hospitals, have some good doctors who worked to get me the help I needed and even a few therapists who took the time to understand me and work with me. But there are still stigmas out there about the mentally ill. People think most of us are deranged or dangerous and that isn’t always so. The only danger most of us pose is toward ourselves. And yet anytime something really bad happens, the government and the media always declare that the person or persons was mentally ill. We cannot even discuss our illness in workplaces because we get stigmatized or, as in my case, fired – though I was never directly told it was because I had a mental illness, but I knew why I was fired. And because there isn’t enough knowledge about mental illness, relationships get ruined.
So how has Mental Health impacted my life? Negatively for the most part. My only success in dealing with my illness has come through Mindfulness practice. Without it, I would most certainly be dead.