Coming Out About Your Mental Illness

Avatar for Cmmelissa
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Registered: 11-13-2008
Coming Out About Your Mental Illness
3
Fri, 07-27-2012 - 3:03pm

I ran across an old article from the Huffington Post, where a journalist talks about his fears of letting the world know he has Aspergers, and how being bullied in the past made him afraid to be open about it and led to depression.  The following from the article is a very powerful statement on why people are close mouthed about their issues: 

People are often afraid to work on their problems because society tells them that suffering from depression or just being eccentric means you're crazy. And if you're crazy, your ideas don't matter, your thoughts don't matter, you don't matter, so most people try to hide it instead of working to improve their lives in the open.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-elk/coming-out-of-the-closet_b_392284.html

How can we encourage people to be open about their mental illness? 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-04-2001
Wed, 08-01-2012 - 6:41pm

My DS has been open to his peers about the reasons behind the facial tics he's been having, but I also worry that when he gets to high school in the fall that it won't go as well.

Yeah - my younger daughter with the Tourette's was glad to have a term to use, "tics" and the kids were pretty good about it once they understood. In general... usually... high school is easier socially than the pettiness of middle school. 

If the tics are very noticeable and disruptive, sometimes there may need to be an intervention so the whole school can be taught about an issue. That is sometimes done for TS, epilepsy, or even having a Service Dog. My daughter went to an extremely small school in high school. She thrived in college with her service dog. Her psychiatrist pointed out that by having a service dog by her side it would be an announcement everywhere she went that something was "wrong" with her.  She was OK with that, and the dog opened up opportunities for her, helped her make friends and gave her so much more independence.

I was wondering something if you don't mind me asking.  Is there a point  in new relationships, being either friendships or boyfriend/girlfriend variety, that your daughters feel they  should disclose their medical history?

Their medical history is fairly irrelevant now. After all - that is the past. Why would they be rejected? It would be disclosed when it came up... but NOT in a professional environment because again - people do not understand. Friends - yes. Professional peers? No. But then, it is a good idea to have professional boundaries. Work is work. Keep your personal life out of it as much as possible. Friendship outside of work is different. We all have pasts that have helped shape who we are today. I may be friends/good acquaintances with someone for years before they know a piece of my past, whereas that piece may come up sooner with someone else. Not because I am closer, but just because it came up. Isn't that true with everyone?

That's history.

If the issue is in the present, then it simply comes up when it is relevent. However, some things, such as when my younger daughter had hallucinations, she simply did not tell friends in school because friends may not remain friends and they may use anything they know about you against you.

So... I guess it all depends. Something like Depression? No problem. The younger one even went on TV about that. Even Bipolar Disorder is, at times, "fashionable". "Cutting"? It depends on the group or the friend. It all depends on the issue and the person.  And as for "when"... it is not like when do you tell a person you are dating you have Herpes or AIDS, or are infertile... or maybe it is.... you tell when it comes up... when it matters.


www. It's Not Mental .com


Avatar for Cmmelissa
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Registered: 11-13-2008
Tue, 07-31-2012 - 3:42pm

You make some very good points. My DS has been open to his peers about the reasons behind the facial tics he's been having, but I also worry that when he gets to high school in the fall that it won't go as well. There is a part of me that really worries about it, although I'm usually pretty open about his issues. But, like what you are talking about, his issues don't get the same reaction as saying you have a severe mental illness.

I was talking with a mom I know from baseball, and she ended up telling me about how one of her daughters is bipolar, I knew her from when she would help out at the park. The mom said she normally isn't that open about it because of the social stigmas, and was glad that I wasn't judgemental (I actually think her daughter is a great kid, and told her so). I can totally understand why she is hesitant, because you are totally correct that most people don't truly understand what the terms mean and make lots of presumptions.  

After thinking about this some more, I was wondering something if you don't mind me asking.  Is there a point  in new relationships, being either friendships or boyfriend/girlfriend variety, that your daughters feel they  should disclose their medical history?  It doesn't seem like something that needs to come up towards the beginning of the relationship, and I think it would be very hard to disclose later on because you are scare of being rejected.   It's something I think about a lot as my son gets older and I wonder what his life will be like in dealing with the issues he has.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-04-2001
Tue, 07-31-2012 - 1:07pm

I have given much thought about whether it is best or not to be "open" about "mental illness."  My older daughter was very openly saying the words, "I have bipolar disorder."  And now, of course, she no longer has bipolar disorder. The younger one did NOT want people to know about the schizophrenia illness because people do not understand. And just like the article suggests - yes - people would be able to dismiss HER, her ideas, opinions, and anything she says because she is "crazy."  It was enough that they knew she had medical issues, and did not always feel well, and there were days when she could not function. If pressed, we would just say she had a neurobiological disorder.  ... yes... like epilepsy.

I think it is a huge difference to say "I suffer from depression", "I have asperger tendencies" or even "OCD" and saying you have an illness people consider a severe "mental illness" such as a psychotic disorder. People don't hear or understand "psychotic disorder" what they THINK is you ARE psychotic... and therefore a potential danger!!!

So, I would NOT **encourage** someone to be open about their mental illness given the stigma and misunderstanding in our society. I know that we need more openness and less stigma, but at the same time, I respect it is a totally personal decision one must make given one's own specific circumstances.

There is a lot about ourselves we don't go around announcing. We may not be at all ashamed of it, but we don't announce it, either.

So... I have mixed feelings about it.


 


www. It's Not Mental .com