Telling Others About Your Illness

For a long time, I actively rebelled against disclosing any information about my schizophrenia, even avoiding the subject matter altogether so that I wouldn’t have to tell people I had it.

I remember bringing one of my books to a friend at a bar one night, and an older woman struck up a conversation with me about it. Disclosing was pretty unavoidable due to the book being specifically about my psychotic break. When she asked me if I had schizophrenia and I said yes, she actively recoiled and shook her head as if to get a rotten taste out of her mouth.

In another instance, I was on a first date with a woman and she asked what I did, as is customary, but against my better judgment, I told her that I write about living with schizophrenia, she proceeded to ask if I have ever killed anybody.

The point of all this is to say that schizophrenia is a frightening word and, though it has lessened in recent years, there is still a great deal of stigma surrounding major mental illnesses.

Those instances are only two examples of myriad circumstances I’ve been part of where disclosing my illness has dramatically altered and in some cases ended entire interactions.

Throughout my writing career it’s been a challenge not to disclose, given the subject of my work, and I’m sure that contributed to a long period of burnout I experienced for almost 5 years.

During that time though, I didn’t have to tell anybody and that was a breath of fresh air.

Also during that time, society shifted its view of mental illness thanks to the millions of young people being open about their anxiety and depression on social media and across the internet.

Many famous people have also disclosed their struggles with mental illness.

Because of that, the word “schizophrenia” doesn’t have the weight it used to, and people, myself included, are more willing to speak about their struggles with the illness.

That said, if you’re afraid to tell people about your diagnosis, that is perfectly valid and rational given the media’s portrayal of major mental illness and the resulting stigma.

You don’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want to and it’s perfectly acceptable to keep it to yourself.

Hopefully you have a strong circle of support where you can feel safe discussing your struggles but if you don’t there are groups and resources available.

Disclosing your illness is entirely up to you.

Even I’m still guarded about it but if you feel compelled to express yourself and find community, this blog is a safe space.

I wish you guys the best and please remember, you’re never alone.

2 thoughts on “Telling Others About Your Illness

  1. I write about my mental health too. I have schizoaffective disorder. I find it easier to write about it than talk about it. For a long time I was misdiagnosed as bipolar with psychotic features. I found it was much easier to disclose that I have bipolar than the new schizoaffective diagnosis. And your examples are very real reactions from people. It’s a tough topic. But worth the discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

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