Breaking the Silence of Stigma: Not What You’d Expect

Marci:

I have my days, more than most.  I am mostly depressed.  Walking to the mailbox is exhausting and considered an accomplishment.  I stay in my room and hide from the world.  I don’t feel like eating, it seems pointless and food has lost its flavor anyways.  All I want to do is sleep but I can’t.

The thoughts won’t slow down long enough to allow me to rest.

“Why me?  This isn’t fair?  I just want it to end. You’re over reacting.  I wish I could escape.  What did I do to deserve this?  You’re stupid.  Just snap out of it.  Why me?…” 

I can’t sit still, my legs shake and my heart pounds as I try to anticipate what is coming next…  How bad will it get this time?  Will I need to be hospitalized again?  Have my medicine changed again?  Should I call someone?

I live 75-90% of my waking hours actively psychotic.  I hear voices that live in multiple places in my head as well as voices from the outside that belong to real people.  The voices say many things: including demeaning comments or suicidal and homicidal conversations.

The voices scream and sometimes I listen to what they say or bargain with them.  I am often paranoid that my family is talking about me behind my back and plotting together to get me institutionalized so they do not need to deal with me.

I self-harmed for over 10 years, usually cutting open my skin with something sharp and occasionally burning myself.  I think about suicide constantly, not only from the voices urging but as a relentless thought.  I plan my death, what will be done with my body and possessions, what my funeral will be like.

I fantasize about the pain finally being over.

I will no longer be a burden to my family and others.  I’ve written a few notes and had a couple attempts the first being at the age of 10 when I tried to suffocate myself.

I often have no feelings, a numbness and emptiness in life.  I’m afraid people will leave me or reject me, so I mostly stay away from people and have only a few close relationships.  I’m terrified of conflict and cannot handle it, this stems from experiences in my childhood.

Much of my childhood was spent raising myself and sometimes my sisters. My parents were often physically unavailable and never emotionally available.  Alcoholism and anger outbursts were standard in our family throughout my developing years.

Before the age of twenty-five, I had more than 80 Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) treatments also commonly known as shock therapy. I have been in numerous medical studies not commonly used yet to treat my different symptoms, including having a stimulating device implanted inside me by surgery (VNS  therapy).  I’ve been hospitalized, in a psychiatric hospital, over a dozen times in the last 8 years, mostly involuntarily.   I’ve also spent time in crisis residential housing, which is similar to being hospitalized but with more freedom and fewer patients.  I compare it to being in a “group home.”

Along with these overnight stays I have been in many different programs that take place during the day and I am able to go home and sleep at night.  These programs vary in length and duration but all are outpatient services. One program is called a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) that is Monday-Friday 8am- 3pm for at least 2 weeks and sometimes as long as a month.

These programs take place at psychiatric hospitals, where the group does group therapy, art therapy, skills based learning groups, and one-on-one appointments with psychiatrists and social workers.  Enrollment in a PHP generally is a step down from hospitalization or used to prevent hospitalization.

I’ve been in weekly therapy since I was 19 years old, in addition to any groups or classes I might have been in at the time.  I’ve been on psychiatric medication since I was 10 years old.  I have been on over 30 different types of medication and at my worst was on 11 different prescriptions, taking over 20 pills a day.

With just this information, what do you picture? 

What would you expect?

Believe it or not, I’m a (mostly) functioning adult.  I am 30 years old with blond hair, blue eyes and I am a college student.  I do have schizoaffective disorder bipolar type and borderline personality disorder.  I am on four psychiatric medications and still go to counseling once a week.

I am not “dark,” I have few visual scars, do not dress in all black, or wear black eye liner.  I’m not an EMO teenager or someone just going through a “phase.”  I do not walk around mad at the world talking about how everything is depressing and pointless.

I am not an “attention seeker.”  Few people know the extent of my illnesses.  I am not homeless and do not walk around dirty or talking to myself or the voices.  I am not a zombie devoid of any emotion or intelligent thoughts from my brain being shocked too many times.

I will not approach you to tell you how the government is spying on us and has been for years.  I am not a serial killer or a danger to anyone except maybe myself.

You do not have to worry about setting me off.  I am not stock piling weapons or making a list of innocent people to kill.  I do not use street drugs and have never been arrested.

I am not “psycho.”

Who I am is intelligent and compassionate.

I have above a 3.9 grade point average and over 100 college units.  I am always trying to lend a helping hand to those I know personally and strangers as well.

It is likely I am one of the least judgmental people you will ever meet; my illnesses have given me empathy as well as a unique perspective.  I love children and have worked as an after school teacher.  I also teach Sunday school and have done reduced cost child care for families that needed it.

My favorite place on Earth is Disneyland and I go there at least a few times a year.

I am not my mental illnesses. 

I am not a stereotypical “crazy” person.

I am not what you’d expect.

Marci can be found on her own blog here

 

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31 Comments

  1. One thing that helps for me sometimes (not always) with voices that are “mean” -i.e. insulting or bossy, is to remind myself that just because it’s a disembodied voice doesn’t mean it’s RIGHT. Or even SMART. But yes, it’s hard.

    I do wear black ka-jahl frequently, & often prefer black or clothing with colorful patterns on them, but it’s not a phase for me either, since I genuinely enjoy the look of those things and have dressed that way well before emo was a thing. I’d love to have that on a t-shirt or something, actually…”It’s Not A Phase”

    Reply
  2. Howisbradley

     /  August 14, 2013

    Keeping your outsides from reflecting your insides is not an easy job. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  3. Jenny: I have been hearing voices for quite sometime now and have developed some good coping skills. I’ll have to add that one to my list, when I get psychotic though sometimes I’m hard to reason with, and they are RIGHT, SMART, and even all knowing.
    I too like black clothes, because they look sliming. I was trying to think of common stereotypes to do with my symptoms and disorder and that is one. It’s good you can differentiate liking it just because that is your style.
    They have so many good funny t-shirts these days. “It’s not a phase” would be a good addition to those.

    Reply
  4. Howisbradley: Thank you very much for your comment. It is very hard to not let the inner takeover the outer and a lot of work to achieve that.

    Reply
  5. Reblogged this on Mm172001's Blog and commented:
    I was invited to do a guest blog and this is it! 🙂 The post hi lights stereotypes of the mentally ill and what people expect them to be like. It includes: some of my symptoms, a little bit of my treatment history, the stereotypes that don’t apply to me, and then a little about myself.

    Reply
    • What an amazing, honest, insightful essay! I’m really blwn away by your candor and gift for expression, which I’m sure is one of an enormous package of gifts. Thank you SO much for being my guest blogger today.

      Reply
  6. Thank you to Marci for sharing so much of your life and yourself. Very well written and your point is very well made. I wish everyone in the world could read this and take it to heart!
    And, thank you to Laura for sharing it here! Keep on taking life on day at a time. Peace to your hearts

    Reply
    • Thank you very much for your kind comment. One of my purpose of blogging is to have people read pieces like this and understand that their stereotypes, prejudices, and perceptions may not be accurate.

      Reply
  7. Terri

     /  August 14, 2013

    What a woman! You are an inspiration to all of us……please stay on the Earth with us, we need you.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much!!! I try to remember any time things get real bad that I want to make a difference and help or educate people with my story.

      Reply
  8. A beautiful testimony of living above your illness.

    Reply
  9. So well written, this should be shared everywhere. People need to be “shocked” out of their assumptions about who is suffering and what they look like. I suffer from PTSD and this experience crashed me in 2011. Since then, I have learned a lot about this kind of struggle and suffering. One day, I hope to write about my discoveries half as well as Marci has in this piece. The world needs more fearless voices to raise awareness. Well done Bipolarforlife.me and Marci 😀

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, for your kind comment and coming over here to check out the final draft. You better let me know, when you write your book, and I want a signed copy 😉

      Reply
  10. So well written, this should be shared everywhere. People need to be “shocked” out of their assumptions about who is suffering and what they look like. I suffer from PTSD and this experience crashed me in 2011. Since then, I have learned a lot about this kind of struggle and suffering. One day, I hope to write about my discoveries half as well as Marci has in this piece. The world needs more fearless voices to raise awareness. Well done Bipolarforlife.me and Marci 😀

    Reply
  11. THANKS for sharing your feelings and thoughts with others. It must be in the AIR or something because my Blog post a lot about what you shared here. Thanks for making me feel I’M NOT ALONE with my Mental & Emotional illness’s, and it is why I NOMINATED YOU and your BLOG for *THE INNER PEACE AWARD* as we strive to find it within ourselves…..If you chose to pass the LUV on to others, All the Simple details on my Blog Post *Another Fabulous Blog Award* http://catherinelyonaddictedtodimes.wordpress.com
    *CONGRATS*!! God Bless, and have a great weekend! *Author, Catherine Lyon*

    Reply
  12. this is excellent, reblogging, thank you Marci

    Reply
  13. Reblogged this on Trauma and Dissociation and commented:
    Breaking the silence of stigma: Marci describes her life both with, and outside of mental illness. She also talks the medication/treatment “zombie” stereotype.

    Reply
  14. Your inner strength is helping you deal with your struggles. Many of us never find it. Keep going and God bless! You are an inspiration!

    Reply
  15. Marci, so good to see you here! Well, your pingback anyway…or is it a trackback? I have never figured that out. But I urge everybody to go and see what Marci’s up to on her blog!

    Reply
  1. Exhausted | Bipolar For Life
  2. I guess I’m doing a good job | Marci, Mental Health, & More
  3. What is it like to be suffering from something that isn’t adequately recognized? | Trauma and Dissociation

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