Mental Illness
Submitted Anonymously

I want to talk about the perceptions of people with mental illness. When most people
think of this term, many things come to mind. Things like: the crazy lady down the
street with all the cats, the recluse that won’t come out of his house and doesn’t want
anyone on his property, the woman walking down the street talking to herself, the
person that washes their hands 100 times a day out of fear of germs, the list goes on
and on. Sometimes you can look at someone and tell by the way they act that they
suffer from mental illness, or you can work next to someone for 20 years and never
know they battle depression.
How does our society look at those with mental illness? To most people they are
someone to stay away from and to talk about. Many people it seems think that
mentally ill people can snap their fingers and change how they are. Honestly, do you
think that someone would actually want to be ill? Many mentally ill people want
nothing more than to be what everyone else considers, “normal”. So in addition to
battling their illness, most often in secrecy, they have to live with the stigma of being
mentally ill.  Some forms of mental illness have been brought to light in recent years.
Movies such as "As Good As It Gets" and "A Beautiful Mind" have shown life for
people with OCD and Schizophrenia. "A Beautiful Mind" is about a genius named John
Nash. He even won a Nobel Peace Prize. He suffered almost his whole life from
schizophrenia. No one wants to have to depend on others, or be talked about behind
their backs for something they have no control over. Mental illness is no different than
having an ulcer or a virus. The person who has it doesn’t want it, but has no choice in
the matter.
Now a little from someone who suffers what is considered mental illness. I suffer from
some very debilitating illnesses,  and they are considered mental illnesses. I have
sought treatment that has, for the most part, so far been unsuccessful. I suffer from
severe anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I do not want these illnesses, I would
do almost anything for them to go away, and I would not wish them on my worst
enemy. I ask myself why me? What did I do to deserve to feel this way?
Let me take you through a bad day for me. I wake up and immediately feel light
headed and anxious, maybe even a little off balance. I try to calm myself, tell myself it’s
ok, it’s just anxiety and panic. I do this for a few hours, sometimes less, until the real
panic hits. I feel like I am going to pass out, I get very light headed; I feel like any
second I am going to pass out and die. My vision gets blurry and fuzzy, I feel like I am
suffocating. I feel like I have to get to the hospital so if something does happen this
time I will be where there is medical help. Telling myself that if something does
happen, I can call an ambulance doesn’t work. I have to go, I have to get to the
hospital. I go there and sit, waiting for something to really happen this time, scared,
shaking. After several hours I feel I can go back home. I drive home. I need something
from the grocery store. I think I can make it this time, I get in the van and start to head
towards Shop N Save, out of no where the terror strikes again, I’m dizzy, lightheaded, I
can’t breath, back to the hospital, I know it’s real this time. I’m having a heart attack, a
stroke or a brain aneurysm, I just know it. A few more hours, I go home. I’m calm again;
I know how silly and irrational my feelings have been. I know it's anxiety, almost
positive that is all it is. I’m ashamed; I was going to do better today. I was going get to
the store. Maybe tomorrow I’ll make it there. I never do though, the fear and panic is
too much.
I live in shame and fear, I’ve let my family down, my children, people don’t understand
what I feel, they think I’m nuts. I’m not stupid, I get good grades, I could be a nurse by
now, but the drive to school is too far. I want to get better but how? Medicine doesn’t
work, therapy is too expensive….what is there left? It seems some doctors don’t even
understand it and the ones that do have no real answers. Where do you turn?

Believe me; no one wants to feel this bad day after day. Next time you come across
someone with mental illness, try to be a little more compassionate, they do not want to
be how they are and they didn’t choose it.