So today’s the day that the Bell Let’s Talk initiative is running on Twitter. I wanted to support it by using the hashtag, but it’s hard to really say anything significant about mental health in 140 characters.
For those of you who read my blog, you’ll know that I talk about my experiences with mental health pretty frequently. You might be surprised to know that I very rarely bring it up in my day to day life. Most people who know I have a disorder learned that when the CBC article came out. The most frequent response I get when telling someone I have schizophrenia is, “Wow. You would never know!”
The truth is, being schizophrenic doesn’t hold me back from doing much. I’m an A-level student (when I put the effort in), I have passions and hobbies, and if I’m comfortable with you I can carry on a conversation for hours. The biggest aspect of my mental illness that affects me is my anxiety. Anxiety over being judged. Anxiety over being rejected. And okay, sometimes anxiety that I’ll randomly get hit by a car on my way home from a comedy show. The point is, I’m just like everyone else. Because when I’m on my meds and not experiencing psychotic symptoms, then I’m considered by doctors to be healthy. Not mentally ill.
This might tick “normal” people off, but I actually have more opportunities available to me because of my illness. The reason for that is because I have “lived experience”. I have a first hand knowledge of what it’s like to be psychotic, manic, depressed, and suicidal. Better yet, I know how to get past all of those challenges because I’ve done it myself. It’s not just in my personal life where this experience comes in handy. I’ve gotten paying work simply because of the way my brain is wired. Having schizophrenia isn’t always a bad thing.
Here’s what I’ll say about stigma. For a long time I lived in denial of my condition. I didn’t understand how I – an intelligent, reasonable person – could be crazy. It was only after I educated myself about what schizophrenia is that I realized it’s nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. The people who knew me understood that better than I did. Once I accepted myself and my disorder, then it became a lot easier to talk about it with other people.
So #BellLetsTalk .