I’ve had an acute mental health diagnosis for 24 years. Initially misdiagnosed with schizophrenia aged 24, then changed to Bipolar One around the age of 30. One element I recall, from those early encounters with chronic mental health, is that the condition and the words associated with it really messed with the core identity of who I thought I was. I initially could feel quite powerless against it.
I remember the early days of being lost in a fog of acute depression and medicinal side effects. I remember consciously saying out loud to myself, “Is this what I am now? Is this how the rest of life is going to be?” I’d gone from being a very happy go lucky individual to now being a distant relative of whomever that was. The change was dramatic. I could perceive others noticing it in me.
Now with half a lifetime’s experience of these situations I’m happy to say the short answer is, “No. This is not who you are.” What you’re experiencing in these early days or later days do not define you. They are aspects of an illness. The real you will resurface again soon. The real you can’t help but be brought to the fore. It’s nigh on impossible for any condition to eradicate who you really are. The real you is a very complex arrangement of tastes, experiences, emotions, opinions and much more. The real you is so much more a whole than the facet of you with a condition. I know this because I’ve been at the mercy of a condition many times. There’s always been one common denominator. No matter how difficult the condition makes things for me at the time, the real me is never far off around the corner. It’s the real me who has to deal with these things.
People who deal with regular mental health issues (In my experience) tend to be among the most resilient people I’ve ever known. That’s who most of them really are. The fight in them is a force to be reckoned with. They face down Dragons.
I thought I’d post this as recently I’ve been reading some younger peoples blogs. People who are encountering mental health issues for the first time. I can fully relate to the uncertainty they feel. I can fully relate to the pressures and worry around how others are going to perceive you. In my experience people tend to be a lot more understanding than you may realise. People also do not define you by what you are dealing with. People always remember who you really are. There may be the odd bit of ignorance out there, but most people are better than that. A lot of people can fully relate to what you are dealing with.
So try not to worry about how others perceive you. Try to understand what you are experiencing is transient. And if others do let you down…don’t worry…You can always rely on the real you.