Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hiding mental illness behind the mask

At some point in everyone’s life, there is the dream of being an actor. We watch movies and picture ourselves starring alongside our favorite performers, walking the red carpet and receiving an award.  It’s a glamorous life, one envied by many.   I never thought that I would become an actress, but along with my diagnosis of mental illness came a new identity, a persona was created and the acting skills I didn’t know I had emerged in order to ward off any indications that something was the slightest bit off.

The charade goes like this.   You are invited to a party and have agreed to go.  The day of the event arrives and suddenly anxiety starts building, this alone will begin an internal breakdown of who you really are.  Dialogues begin of what people will say when they see you.  Will they remember the time you made a minor mistake at work three years ago?   As the scenarios begin to take form, self-esteem takes a hit as you look for something to wear , other than the “comfy clothes,” you wear at home.   By the time you get to the front door you have yourself convinced that everyone will know you are sick, they will judge you and see what a mental illness is really like.   And just like that, you smile in the mirror, as a small voice in your mind yells, “ACTION.”  It is time for your performance.

This can be a similar dialogue on any day; the problem is it occurs too often.  Over time it becomes normal and in the desire to hide the illness, we hide ourselves instead, often without realizing it.  The person we create becomes who we are and our true self becomes a person in the mirror that we never really see, because it is a reminder that we are not who we want to be.   So, in order to protect our already fragile minds, we go within, create a life we think is perfect and “press play.” 

I would give anything to be myself most days, but I am not sure I know how anymore; not completely anyway.   I long to be the person I was before I became “sick,” the athlete, the super-mom,  the friend everyone turned to.   Now, instead, there  is always that part of me that is on guard, afraid that if I reveal too much of who I am then my ‘secret’ will be out and that is the fear, the truth and what people will say.   So, the act continues, no awards are given, no speeches are made and there is no red carpet to walk down.   This is a private performance created in the mind amid the maze of medications, doctors, diagnosis, illness and stigma. 

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