Archive for social interaction

Making Friends When You Have Mental Illness

I have a hard time making friends.

To my credit though and to the credit of my chronic mental illness, it’s hard to trust anyone that much when you think everyone is making fun of you.

This anxiety isn’t the only facet of schizophrenia that I live with, there are also the delusions of grandeur, the psychosis that the TV is sending you secret messages and the constant aching knowledge that you’re crazy. At it’s worst, it’s hard to even manage getting out of bed in the morning but with meds and a lot of work on myself those things don’t bother me that much anymore. Read More →

The Struggle of Relating to People When You Have a Mental Illness

When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago, it was almost impossible for me to talk to people let alone relate to them.

If it wasn’t the constant anxiety and paranoia keeping me engaging, it was the burden of having an 800 lb. gorilla that nobody understood hanging over my head.

How could I possibly get on anyone else’s level when there was this immense self-stigmatizing diagnosis of being crazy sitting on my shoulders?

I was a singular unit among the normal people. I had never met anyone with schizophrenia before. I had no experience with anyone who had mental illness and to say it was scary knowing that I was crazy would be an understatement. Read More →

It’s Ok If You Have Anxiety

Anxiety is a fickle beast, it can come on at any point during your day and completely wreck you until you’re able to find a place to unwind.

A major point of contention in my struggle with mental illness has been the anxiety I feel in social situations.

It goes like this, you’re about to enter a new situation and deal with people who don’t know you and you wonder, what are they going to think of me? Read More →

Anxiety Can Protect Us

In life there are some things that are good for us and some things that aren’t. Many times though, the things that we think are doing us harm actually have a component of good. This is true for things like relationships that although were not healthy while we were engaged, taught us great life lessons weeks, months or years down the road. The same can be said for anxiety.

Anxiety was best described to me as the point when your fight or flight response is triggered by something that should be completely innocuous. It can be brought on by social interaction, peer pressure, perceived slights or even things as seemingly harmless as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk or not doing the precise number of actions or the precise order of actions before something happens. Anxiety is the result of compounding worry that’s sparked when we feel we’re losing control and many times it can be debilitating enough to interfere with our happiness. Read More →

Facing Stigma as a Person with Schizophrenia

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia ten years ago. In that time, I’ve been able to stabilize mostly and regain a sense of self that was all but lost in the first few years I was sick.

As a writer, the next challenge is always, “What should I write about?” and to say the least, schizophrenia has given me so much to put on the page.

There are so many different challenges and facets that someone with schizophrenia experiences that to cover everything I’d have to fill a library.

I won’t lie that the illness is also a blessing though, writing about my experiences has gotten me bylines in some of the most prestigious publications out there and it’s provided a basis for self sufficiency. Read More →

Disclosing Your Illness to New People

A funny thing happened the other night. I was out with friends and I was asked what I do for a living.

I told these new people that I write about mental health.

Naturally more questions came about my experience in the field and I jokingly said, “Yeah I’m crazy” my better friends and I laughed it off and while there was a moment of silence and a little awkwardness it felt much easier than disclosing a hard scary truth that I had been diagnosed with a major mental illness.

I’d be lying if I said I was a stranger to disclosing my illness to people I meet as it pretty much comes with the territory of what I do for a living.

Many times though, I’ve gotten way serious and vulnerable about it and people don’t really know how to react to it.

Joking about it is relatively new to me and though it’s still a bit awkward it can take a lot of the scary power away from it.

There have been times I’ve disclosed that I’ve gotten dirty looks or I’ve been asked whether I’ve killed anybody and to be honest the reactions don’t bother me anymore.

It’s always tough though to be honest with people. Especially people you’ve just met.

People can react in a lot of different ways to something of that magnitude and taking the sting out of it is a skill you have to hone and practice just like social interaction, or writing, or photography, or anything that requires grace and finesse.

The point of this all is to say that it doesn’t have to be as tough as it seems. If people pry there’s no harm in being honest and I’ve found that the people who are the least understanding are the people you don’t want in your life anyway.

There’s an old adage by Dr. Seuss that says that those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind and that’s been true in pretty much every interaction where my mental illness has come up as a topic of conversation.

Honesty is an incredible tool in dealing with the ins and outs of living with a mental illness. It can relieve you of the stress that’s building in your chest for a long time and it can cement incredibly strong friendships and relationships.

I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that a great deal of stigma still exists regarding mental illness but diffusing that stigma with jokes or crazy stories can move you past that initial point of weirdness.

If you still don’t feel fully comfortable disclosing just say that you have experience in the field. Or that you went to school for psychology (sure it’s the school of life and hard knocks, but you’re damn right you’re educated)

Overall, it doesn’t have to be a burden you carry with you that you have a mental illness. You don’t have to go around telling everyone, but again, those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Vulnerability is key in building relationships and friendships and those of us with a mental illness sometimes don’t have the choice of whether or not to be vulnerable.

The point is, if you don’t let your label weigh on you it won’t.

I’ve faced this situation more times than I can count and in every instance, honesty is the biggest most important thing you can do. If you can joke about it even better. You don’t have to tell the people you don’t want to tell either. Sometimes you have to be your own judge.

Either way, I’ve been there, so just know you’re no alone.

Good luck out there!

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