Doctors do not diagnose most mental illness in childhood. I wasn't diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder until my early 20s. While the diagnosis made sense to me, it came as a surprise to many of my loved ones. I believe there were signs growing up that could have indicated that I would develop a mental illness, we just didn’t realize it until I was stable and on medication. There were signs of my mental illness in childhood.
Recovering from Mental Illness
I am constantly testing my limits in mental illness recovery. I’ve always been an ambitious person – before as well as after receiving my diagnosis. I’m usually walking a fine line between barely holding it together and being symptomatic. I tolerate the occasional hallucinations just to continue with my busy life. I don’t want to give up anything. You only get one life and that’s it, so I plan to live it to the fullest and keep testing my limits – mental illness or not.
I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in my early 20s, and since then I’ve received many different reactions when disclosing my mental illness. Many people are supportive. Others are curious. Sometimes I face mental health stigma. Writing for HealthyPlace means my diagnosis is out there for anyone to see. I’m fine with that because I want to help and I want to fight stigma. However, in my day-to-day life, I choose whom I want to tell and when I want to tell them. Here are a few of the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences with disclosing my mental illness diagnosis, not necessarily in that order.
Finding a job with mental illness is more enjoyable when you look for the right job for you. Working can really enhance your recovery from mental illness. A job not only provides income; it also gives you a routine and sense of purpose. Early in my recovery, I worked part-time to get back on my feet. Later, when I was ready, I chose to work full time. For the past 11 years, I’ve had two jobs, both at mental health agencies.
My recovery from mental illness started on the Internet. I knew I had an eating disorder before I was diagnosed. But before I took that giant leap and asked for help, my curiosity led me to the Internet. I first visited a forum and read others' inspirational stories of recovery from mental illness. Then finally, when I was ready, I researched my own eating disorder treatment options which put me on the path to my recovery from mental illness.
In the past few years, I've developed a crippling fear of driving, way beyond driving anxiety. People who know me now find it hard to believe that I used to drive every day in Los Angeles traffic. When I was younger, I was fearless. In my early 20s, I lived in Los Angeles, which now feels like a different planet compared to my present-day home in Toledo. I never had a fear of driving when I was younger and I'm hoping that my motivations to succeed in business will continue to help me overcome this specific phobia.
I've been parenting with a mental illness for a while now. My daughter just turned two years old, and people are asking if we’ll have another baby. There are so many stressful things about pregnancy and parenting when you have a mental illness. We have a lot to think about – even the second time around (Should People with Mental Illness Have Children?).