I wasn’t diagnosed with anything “scary” to other people until I was in my mid-20’s. They accepted the PTSD because it made sense with what I had been through. They accepted the Generalized Anxiety Disorder because they had seen me go through the attacks. They even accepted the incorrect diagnosis of “clinically depressed” because they knew that I had times of dealing with extreme depression.
But when labels of “bipolar” and “schizo-affective” were added to the list, people who had known me all their life began to see me and treat me differently. It breaks my heart. It feels like a deep cut to me that doesn’t heal. The relationships with family and friends are gone now. And the only thing that changed was a label.
They had been through the changes of moods, paranoid thoughts, fears, hallucinations, uncomfortable times, and seeing the highs and lows of it all. They had comforted me and helped me through it all. Yet, when the label was placed on it, suddenly I was a whole different person.
I’m not. I’m the exact same person! I the same person as I was before a label was added to a chart in a doctor’s office. The whole reason that label was added was so that insurance companies would pay for my medicine and treatments. I’m still me.
I still cry. I still love. I still breathe. I still hurt. I still feel. I still get excited over silly little things like getting sesame chicken after craving it for 3 days. I still love opening emails or text messages that just simply say “Have a great day. I’m thinking about you”. I still laugh when I hear a baby laugh. I still cover my eyes when I know a scary part of a horror movie is coming. I still walk my dog. I still love to cook. I still pray. I still protect the people that I love. I still act, think, feel, respond, and live life the same — well maybe a little easier.
I got a little better because I started getting the correct treatment and medicine. But suddenly others see me differently all because of a label.
In a way, I might understand. I might get it. And who knows before labels were added to me, I might have done it to others. (But I hope not.)
We need to remember to share our stories and stop hiding behind a mask pretending we are what people expect us to be labeled as. We need to allow people to see that we are the people they interact with them every day. We aren’t the people that they see in the media (who are always quick to point out that someone had a mental illness when they do something horrible). We need to show them that the books, movies, and television shows don’t tell the full stories.
We are still human. We still feel. And most importantly we still need to be seen and have the chance to be loved.