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30-day-challenge16Day 16: How many people are you “out” to with your mental illness(es)? Why?

Being ‘out’ about my metal illnesses…

The short and simple answer to today’s question is, for me, that I am ‘out’ with my mental illnesses to most  people.

That is not to say that everyone who knows me knows that I suffer from mental illness or poor mental health.  But it is – I think – true to say that most of them do.

As for why this is the case, well that comes from a number of different reasons…

Why am I ‘out’ about my mental illnesses?

Firstly, having spent the majority of my life hiding or trying to conceal my mental illnesses I reached a point in my life (in 1999 when I suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown) where I could hide them no longer.

And so, as a result of this, my family and associates became very much aware of my mental health issues.

smiling maskAnd whilst this was a particularly difficult time for both myself and my family, it was (once I had started my recovery) both a huge relief and a huge release and did also mean that I could finally get some proper help with it.

No more could I hide my mental illnesses from my family and associates and no more could I hide it in my professional life or ministry.  In fact, as a result of those breakdowns, I was no longer able to work and was medically retired and placed on long-term disability.

no_turning_back_by_expiredcupcakeWhich brings me to the second reason why I am ‘out’ concerning my mental illnesses to most people…

Secondly, having spent so much time and effort trying to hide my mental illnesses (and/or trying to explain away or limit any damage done as a result of it)  and now being finally free of this burden, I simply didn’t want to go back there.

The truth is that I could finally get the help that I needed and I knew – if I was going to have any chance of repairing some of the damage done to my family as a result of my mental illnesses – and indeed limit the potential for further damage I needed to face what had been and was going on with me and to get the help I had desperately needed for so long.

And finally, or thirdly, another reason why I am out to ‘most’ people concerning my mental illnesses is in fact this and other mental health related blogs which I write.

In my attempt to recover from my breakdowns (1999) I started writing out what I was going through or had gone through.  It was a way of my trying to make sense of it all.  My way of processing it all.  Something else which I had, I thought out of necessity, often avoided in the past.

From this – and knowing the isolation that I had always experienced in my mental illness and realizing just how damaging that had been – I wanted to share what I had experienced and to somehow let others know that they are not alone and indeed didn’t have to be alone.

So I started this blog (and then other blogs).  But when I started this blog I was faced with a choice and a very real decision to make.  Did I write anonymously, as other bloggers who write about their mental illness seem to do?  Or do I write openly under my own name?

And that is a decision many bloggers have to make.

Trust me, having hidden my mental illnesses for so long I truly understood the necessity for some bloggers to write anonymously.  But since my breakdowns (when everything came to light in a very real and unavoidable way)  and since I was no longer working and thus had very few reasons to hide my mental illnesses any more, there was no longer a need for a mask of anonymity.  My mask had very clearly been removed.

Removing-the-MaskAnd whilst this very much left me feeling (in many ways) both naked and vulnerable.  It did also bring with it a great deal of freedom.

So yes, I am ‘out’ about my mental illnesses to most people.  This blog is a matter of public record and is in the public domain and is linked to, and often contains, not only to my real name but also my real face.

Additionally it is linked to both my twitter account and to my Facebook account.  So that whenever I post on here it appears on both of those also.  And in this way, there is no longer any hiding.

The results of being ‘out’ about my mental illnesses…

In truth, (and from what I can tell from comments family and others have made) those who want to know more about my mental illnesses or my mental health read my blog posts and some ask me about them or comment on them.  Doing so either on here, on Facebook, in email, or by private messages or in person.

I actively encourage these questions and comments as in the dialogue that follows not only do I feel that I learn and benefit but that others also seem to learn and benefit.  And those comments and questions also often challenge my perspectives.

And here, I think I would like to close by including one last topic into the mix.

The challenges of being ‘out’ about my mental health…

But being ‘out’ about my mental health isn’t always a bed of roses and it does indeed have it’s associated challenges.  Mental Illness and indeed Mental Health is still not fully understood or fully accepted by everyone.

In truth, it still carries with it a great deal of misconceptions, misunderstandings and even stigma.  Mental Illness unsettles some people. Challenges other people. Confuses a lot of people and threatens yet other people.

One example of this, which is directly applicable to my own experience, is in respect of the church and the Christian community.

I am a Christian and have been a Christian for a good many years.  I am a member of an extremely loving and compassionate and caring and Christ-centered church.  And trust me, I am so blessed to be a part of them.

When-The-Stigma-Of-Mental-Illness-Keeps-Christians-From-Getting-TreatmentBut even in this loving, compassionate, caring and Christ-centered community of believers I still meet folk for whom my mental illnesses bring confusion.  Folk who are unsettled by my being a Christian with mental illnesses. Folk for whom the presence of my mental illnesses seems to threaten their understanding of faith.

And trust me, as sad as I find it to be, I do – at least in part – understand this.  And it is one of the reasons why I ‘out’ and why I actively encourage; objective, loving and sensitive discussion and dialogue concerning my mental illnesses.

When asked about my faith and my mental illnesses here is the reply I often give…

My mental illnesses do not limit either my faith or my Christ, only (at times) my ability to enjoy or fully experience my faith and my Christ.  But here’s another equally important question for you.  Does your attitude towards my mental illnesses limit your faith and your experience of Christ?

If you want to know more about my mental illnesses and/or my faith all you have to do is ask. I would love for you to do so.