Last night at my NAMI support group meeting we started talking about how many of us were in denial when we were first diagnosed. It made me think about when I was first diagnosed.
In one way, I was very relieved. My whole life I had been suffering with immense emotional pain. I had been severely depressed and had suicidal thoughts since I was about 10 years old. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what and I didn’t want to be different, especially as a kid and teenager. So when I finally got my diagnosis, it was a huge relief – it was a medical issue, there was a name for it, I could take medicine!
But then – it hit me. There WAS something wrong with me, I had to take medicine for it, people thought that “people like me” were not normal and that we could just snap out of it – not that it was a medical problem. I didn’t want people to judge me. I was already judging me. What would others think of me? I didn’t want to take medications for the rest of me life.
Denial caused me a lot of harm. I would start the medication and I would stop the medication. I would start it and then just not want to take it. I hate taking meds, so that would be one reason. Then I would just end up back in the hospital. Or, I would start the medication and it would actually make me feel better!!! And so I would quit taking it, because of course, I thought I didn’t need it anymore – I was fine, why was I on meds in the first place? Then, the downhill spiral would occur once I was off and I was back in the hospital. For me, meds are needed. As I have mentioned in some posts before, not everyone needs them and some can function fine without them. But for me, I need them, so when I was in denial, and felt I didn’t need the meds, it just caused my mental illness to get completely out of control.
It wasn’t until I hit completely rock bottom. It wasn’t after my first suicide attempt, my second suicide attempt, or even my 7th or 8th suicide attempt. It was after I was finally admitted to the state hospital, and 3 months into that admission when they decided to get the court order to extend the commitment another 3 months because I was not progressing, that I realized I did have a problem. I realized I NEEDED to accept that I had mental illness. I needed to learn about my bipolar, my PTSD, my borderline personality disorder. I am still learning about all of them. I needed to learn to cope with them. I needed to learn to take my medications as prescribed and not be more own doctor.
When we are first diagnosed, it can be a relief but it can also be scary. Education and a good support system is the best thing we can do and have. It is hard to accept our illnesses at first, especially when there is a stigma attached to it. I have learned to open up to those around me, even if they are not willing to accept the diagnosis. I will continue to educate those around me as much or as little as they are open and willing to learn. Just as I slowly had to open up my own mind to learning, those around us will do the same. Attending the NAMI support groups and the MHA support groups really helped me to gain the acceptance, support, understanding, and education about my illness. With the help of others with mental illness as well as my long term hospitalization, I have really come to terms with what I will, most likely, be dealing with the rest of my life. But, I know I will be able to face it head on, and I am ready for it now!