Why I'm Public About Having A Mental Illness

My name: Tracy A. Butcher
My age: 32
Diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar 1, PTSD, OCD
Symptoms since: 1985

I had quietly dealt with mental illness since the age of 12, when I was first diagnosed with a few mental health disorders. Having been so young when learning of my disorders, I never imagined the depth they would have on my life and my future.

People with Mental Illness Experience Many Injustices

In September of 2012, I decided to come out publicly with my mental illness after a life altering break down, followed by a horrible experience in a mental health facility. These experiences left me with many raw emotions and I recall feeling very alone, misunderstood, while at the same time having many pent up thoughts and emotions that I needed to get out. During my own personal experience with the mental health system, I heard so many other people's stories and saw many injustices. I felt an urge to let people know they were not alone, as I had felt; to let them know there were others out there and that there is always a way to take back your life. My husband encouraged me to share my story with others in the hopes it would bring awareness, hope, and understanding while at the same time helping me deal with some of my feelings.

Going public with my mental illness has affected my life in multiple aspects. In some ways it has been empowering; a way I can take control of the mental illness and make it do what I want. In some ways it has been scary, as some people have expressed negative opinions towards me. I have never been very good with criticism and that aspect can be hard. I will also admit that sometimes I feel a desire to push myself harder, to work through issues as they come because I feel like I am an example; and so I want to show others what they are also capable of, while still being a person who is real and still stumbles along the way.

Going Public With Your Mental Illness

I encourage others to go public with their mental illness if they feel comfortable with it, but I know it's not for everyone. It takes a support system, and an ability to allow things to roll off, which isn't always easy. I have been hurt, angered, and saddened by things related to being so public with my struggles and sometimes it can be a setback. I feel that if you are going to be public with your illness that you also need to be comfortable with yourself and with who you are. That by no means says you're happy with yourself, or you consider yourself in control, because I don't; but I believe you do need to have a level of acceptance. Also know there are many ways to be public, and I believe there is a venue for anyone wanting to do it. Opportunities from anonymous writing or community outreach, to full on TV, books and blogs. It's just about what you truly feel you can do and what your goals are.

Tracy Butcher's blog: The Messy Art of Living

next: Mental Illness and Self-Stigma: A Personal Story
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Last Updated: 01 June 2015
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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