I read a post this week on TheMighty.com about a girl whose illness was brushed off in an abrupt and painful way. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I’d share about what it’s like to have similar things happen to you with respect to chronic mental illness.

Often my biggest issues have to do with talking about my life while tip toeing around my mental state. People don’t really understand chronic mental health issues. To them, anyone who continually struggles with something must have something “truly awful”. Which, is relegated to paranoid schizophrenics and people too misunderstood and over medicated to be allowed out of the hospital. What seems to be the most difficult thing to grasp is that one can have an ongoing struggle with mental illness and that it isn’t just a conglomerate of “episodes” sewn together with bouts of normal behavior.

Many, many, people have a diagnosed mental illness and live productive lives with the aid of medication and regular therapy. Most of us have never even been hospitalized. Though hospitalization can be a very helpful thing, a lot of mental illnesses can be treated in outpatient facilities, even schizophrenia, so stop making them feel terrible.

This misunderstanding makes for awkward conversations about what it is like to live with a mental disorder.

A lot of these exchanges tend to begin with respect to my employment status. Looking for work and finding it can be difficult when you have any kind of chronic illness.

I have to stick to a strict schedule with respect to medication which precludes me from being able to stay up very late at night and from getting up very early. This means were I to have aspirations of being a nighttime security guard, they would be dashed. Lucky for me, I don’t.

But, this does mean that I can’t hold jobs with long hours because of the chronic fatigue that comes along with my illness. I have muscle issues because of mental anxiety turning into physical tension. So, I can’t have jobs where I need to lift heavy things on a daily basis. I can’t be in situations with heavy crowds so working Black Friday at a large retail store is out.

I can work at small retail businesses, I thrive when I can set my own hours, and I have developed a strong sense of time management. I can do a lot of things.

My circumstances are only limitations if I allow them to be.

Looking at what I can’t do can be debilitating. But, when I focus on what I am able to do it makes everything a lot easier. I can write and so I do. I have two published books (shameless plug). I am working on my next book. I keep up with this blog. Some days I can’t write, but most days, I do.

I try to help other people by spreading awareness and talking about uncomfortable things. That is a lot of my work. Do I get paid? No. But one of the most rewarding things about learning how to live with a chronic illness is being forced to find yourself outside of common place validation.

I don’t have a degree. I don’t have even a supplemental income. I don’t have children. I don’t have a lot of the things that people ask about. But I do have an answer for when people ask me what I do.

I make a difference.

A lot of people with mental illnesses can hold jobs. Some of us are restricted in our options and some can’t work at all. But I challenge you to change your line of questioning when you meet someone new. Don’t start with, “Where do you work?”. Why not ask, “What do you like to do?”.

Wouldn’t you rather talk about the things that people are proud of, that they enjoy, causes that they are passionate about; instead of just the same three questions about where they live, what they do, and how many kids they have?

I would like to be asked different questions. Because I don’t really have answers for the other ones.



*I do have kids. I have an abundance of kids. 13 nieces and nephews and lots of kids I’m not related to but I love a lot. So, I amend the statement that I don’t have kids. Because there are kids that will refute that.* 



photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/45257015@N03/8213795101″>Home Sweet Cubicle Embroidery Hoop Art</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

advice, anxiety, Boundaries, comfort, complex trauma, CPTSD, healing, invisible illness, jobs, mental health, mental health awareness month, mental illness, mental illness awareness month, PTSD, recovery, rethink trauma, special needs, spoonie, therapy, Trauma, work