You know what? The few of you who have followed me for years already know this, but I suffer from mental illness.
I’ve had chronic depression and occasional suicidal ideation since I was five years old. I know that’s not normal.
In my teens and twenties, I had some traits that definitely could’ve been classified as borderline personality disorder.
I’m also living proof that it’s possible to mostly overcome those traits. But I still sometimes get the idea to do something impulsive. It’s just that now my impulsive actions usually have much less consequence.
I’ve learned to value stability and to do the things it takes to cultivate it.
But at the same time, I know that I’m also prone to changing my mind a lot. I’ve tried numerous careers that I’ve been interested in. Although I haven’t made a lot of money, I have indulged my curiosity about many different career fields. I am very fortunate to have a husband who both tolerates this about me and provides a stable income of his own, especially now that we’re in a better area.
My social skills kinda suck and I’m prone to oversharing. I’ve become conscious about the oversharing so now I completely keep some things to myself. If I must tell someone other than my husband, I’ll write about it here where relatively few people are reading.
I’m now taking medications for my mental illness issues, which was a big step. For a long time, none of the medications helped me. I finally found a combination approach that makes me about 90 percent better.
I’m admitting my mental health issues both to acknowledge them and to give myself credit for what I have been able to achieve. I spent too many years beating myself up for not being more successful.
Now, the fact that the meds are working legitimizes my mental health struggles, as did the exams I had by the social security psychologist and by the neuropsychologist. Their findings concurred with each other: I’m bright and verbally skilled but am challenged by persistent depression.
If they had scratched a little deeper, they also would have found that I’m hyper-sensitive to rejection (which makes me a uniquely bad fit for being self-employed.)
None of this is to show off. More, it’s that I recognize who I am. My successes matter more than my failures because I achieved the vast majority of them while also often being mentally ill and unmedicated. That’s really pretty remarkable and I need to give myself more credit.
And if you’re dealing with mental illness too, just take a minute to reflect and to feel proud of how far you’ve made it. You don’t need big achievements to feel proud of yourself. You have stayed alive so far, even when it was hard to go on. You put on that brave face and went about your day as best as you could; that takes serious courage and moxie and determination.
We need to start talking more about mental illness and destigmatizing it, especially for men (who are significantly more likely to die by suicide than women.) It can get better. I am better now than I was 20 years ago. I still have issues, but I’m still alive to keep working on them.
And on the days when I can’t and just staying alive is hard enough, every day I get through is a major accomplishment in itself. The same is true for you, too.