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Have You Ever Lied About Having a Mental Illness?

Have you ever made up a white lie or two to cover up a gaping hole in your resume where a psychiatric hospitalization was considered to be your primary employment?

Have you ever told acquaintances that your fascination with mental health was born due to ‘some close personal friends and family members who have struggled?’

Have you ever lied about having a mental illness?

I have.

My Entire Life Was a Lie

I used to do it on a regular basis. My entire life was a lie. I went through college without telling one single person that I was once hospitalized for psychosis, as well as for a suicide attempt and a few months for a major depressive episode. I guess I wanted to be in the field before I came clean about my personal struggles with mental illness.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I work as a mental health and addictions counsellor so it isn’t all that surprising that I have suffered myself. My clients almost expect that I have and I am also granted the opportunity to be completely open and honest with my supervisors about my past. But, as I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.

If I was interviewing for a job as a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor or a salesman, there would have had to be a much more tumultuous inner debate before coming forth with the truth of my past.

The Tumultuous Inner Debate

If I was a cancer survivor, I don’t think I would have any problem telling a potential employer that I had fought and battled and won against cancer. If I suffered from diabetes, I doubt I would feel any anxiety prior to telling a potential employer about my condition.

But I suffer(ed) from mental illness. It’s just not something that you can bring up in a job interview.

I think we can change that.

Depression is referred to as the common cold of psychiatry. Think of how many times you hear your friends talking about their cold symptoms. How many times do you hear your friends talking about their symptoms of depression?

Let’s Normalize Mental Illness

Let’s change that. One person at a time. When you feel alone and that no one in the world could possibly understand; try someone. When you sense the paranoia enveloping you from within; talk about it. When you can’t comprehend your own moods that are spiralling out of control from manic to depressed, let someone know.

The more everyone hears about it, the more normal it becomes.

Remember when the AIDS epidemic began? Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the last ten years have been monumental in the reduction of AIDS related stigma. Let’s do that for mental illness.

Talk. And not just for you.

For all of us.

The Completely in Blue website is here. Chris is also on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

18 thoughts on “Have You Ever Lied About Having a Mental Illness?”

  1. Hi Jay, I know exactly how you feel. I worked as a substance abuse/MH counselor, as an intern working toward my certification, for a year and a half (I was halfway there). I loved my clients, and they loved me, and I had actually made a real difference with some, whereas other staff (with no personal experience with the issues) had basically given up on them. Then, state cuts in Medicaid happened. They basically turned on ME, with a vengeance. They didn’t want to even pay me unemployment so, they tried to make me quit, by making my life a living hell. I was NOT going to let them win. I stayed (until they “had to let me go because, I just couldn’t keep up with the paperwork”) kept my cool, made notes and fought for my rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the right way, with my doc standing up for me & my good character) for my unemployment. And I won. I hated them, too, and had thoughts that were not the nicest as well. Luckily, I did not act on them and, life went on, although it was difficult for awhile. But I survived. I lost my home and ended up out in the boonies staying in a vacant room of someone I knew. Thank God for foodstamps! That was my last “real” job. But I finally won my disability and got a little apartment, back in civilization and I’m okay. Remember, this too shall pass. Stay strong, keep your cool and I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Good luck to you my friend.

  2. Many of my co-workers as well as my supervisors do not know about my mental illness (major depression, ED-NOS, and borderline personality disorder). I do have FMLA to use if I am hospitalized or cannot come into work, but I use it sparingly.

    I find that in my line of work, I need to keep a certain image. I am a RN on an inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit. Those who know my struggles tell me they make me a better caregiver, more understanding and empathetic. But I am still terrified to be labeled as “incompetent” if people are made aware of my mental illness.

  3. “My career would be ruined if I had psych treatment for suicide on my medical record anyway.” Ken from ~Stone of Conscience~ “I can neither suffer nor delight in the human condition for the man made conditions that obscure it.” Sa from ~Conundrum~

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