Why People Don't Believe Me When I Speak Of My Mental Illness

Photo Credit to: Sybil Liberty 

Photo Credit to: Sybil Liberty 

Written by: Ros

Apparently I am a Zen individual.

I have been told that I seem like someone that has never experienced heartache or any pain. Perhaps I emit some form of peace, because everyone has the impression that my life is perfect.

It is my fault that people have this impression of me because I always act like I am okay. I smile during situations in which most people would cry. I withdraw when people present me with emotions that I cannot process without showing some form of distress. I hide behind pleasantries and try not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I hide the fact that I take medication- or what happens when I don't take it. I don't tell people from the onset that I have bipolar disorder because I fear what they might say.

I am afraid because of the reactions that I have received in the past. A lady I thought was a friend told me that people with mental illnesses are weak. Her reasoning was that everyone goes through pain, so those living with mental illnesses have no reason to break. An ex-boyfriend, who was a medical student, laughed and told me mental illnesses do not exist; that they were created to make the weak feel less sorry for themselves.

My family can't even say the word "mental illness" and often refer to the bipolar disorder as a simple "illness". They talk about the taboo of mental illness very rarely, almost hoping that it goes away. The idea that mental illness is hereditary is ignored, leaving me to feel like an isolated case. Many feel like I am cold and disconnected because I do not involve myself in family politics. Few take the time to realize that I feel like the black sheep that nobody wanted, but were forced to tolerate.

My friends read my writing, but they never hear me talk about the pain that fills the pages of my posts. They read about the distress and uncertainty, but are always greeted by a smiling face. They do not wonder why I never come to events or cancel at the last moment. Perhaps they think I am selective or simply do not care about spending time together. They read about the social anxiety and shyness, but are often confronted by a girl that loves to talk about anything and everything.

People at work say I am strict and capable. They see a young lady that walks through the doors at 8 am and does her work without question. They don't see the constant fatigue or the naps in the toilet cubicles. They think I am unwilling to communicate with those around me, but they do not see that I am unable to do small talk out of fear of saying something wrong.

People don't believe me when I speak of my mental illness because I appear "perfectly normal".  They do not get to witness the daily battle with suicidal thoughts. They are absent when I cry myself to sleep on days I should be happy. They feel like I'm being fun when I engage in reckless behavior. People do not see how I am unsure of who I truly am, because for so long my diagnosis has eclipsed my personality.