What are some of the strangest reactions you’ve had when you’ve told someone your mental health story?

Do you tell people your story? I know plenty who do not, and for good reason: we’re not exactly the most understood people out there.

But see, I like shocking people. I like making them uncomfortable, watching them squirm. And so I often tell my story to strangers, especially if they approach me on the street trying to hit on me. How do I do it? Well, here’s the way it usually goes.

“Hi, I’m Dave, can I ask your name?”

“Hi Dave, I’m Alishia, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too. What are you up to today? Any plans for tonight?”

“No real plans, just some relaxation. It’s my day off today.”

“Oh yeah? Where do you work?”

*Insert Cheshire Cat smile in my head*

“I work at a peer respite house.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

“Well, you see we support people who are apart of the county mental health system.”

“That sounds nice. Did you go to school for that?”

“You have to have lived mental health experiences. We do get trained, but we also have to have lived with some mental health challenges ourselves.”

And if that doesn’t make them uncomfortable, if they don’t glance away or squirm or do any of the body language symbols that means I’ve got them by the neck I mention my psychosis. That usually gets them.

What are the benefits and disadvantages to doing this? I don’t see many disadvantages. I of course wouldn’t do this in a professional setting were I applying for some big time job that isn’t mental health related, I’m aware most people have some serious misconceptions of who someone with mental health issues is. But I do it to people I meet or people I’m meeting because I’m not someone who sees my mental health as a disadvantage or something to hide. I see it as something to embrace, something to be fully, wholly comfortable with.

I don’t run down the street screaming I’m crazy, even if that’s what it sounds like. But if the topic comes up in conversation, I casually mention my struggles, and if people struggle with accepting them, that’s not really my problem.

How did I become comfortable with this? I wasn’t in high school. I didn’t like telling people I had anxiety around people because I thought it was a weakness and I didn’t want to expose my weakness for people to play target practice with. I didn’t start getting comfortable until I turned twenty and was forced to tell my boss at the amusement park I was working at so that I could get accommodations. The way he responded was very understanding, and I regret leaving that job without really giving any proper notice.

Sometimes all it takes is one moment in time.

Sometimes all it takes is a little risk.

People will react badly. And if you already know that, you’re already 10 steps ahead of everyone else. And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

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7 thoughts on “Tell ’em

  1. daniela

    yes, I feel you. long story ahead lol my sister invited me to a party. Post-‘getting cute’, but pre-party, I’m in a good mood when three friends drop by, so I go w/ the flow. When the new J.Cole album starts playing, the friend to my right starts talking abt mental health & how we should be open and honest. no shame, no stigma. the two friends to my left are hyping her (in agreement)… so, I’m like ‘ok, perf timing’ — I tell them I have sz and I’m stable bc meds. And bc I’m high-ftning, I try to advocate and increase awareness. the two friends straighten their posture and avoid eye contact/ conversation by taking out their phones and scrolling until the friend to right suggests they leave and let me party. They left. I cried myself to sleep. I woke up to txt messages from an angry sister, but that part didn’t bother me lol

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  2. daniela

    but, to be fair, I also reconnected w/ an old friend – who is soooo different now – and she is one of the best ppl in my life. she’s so empathetic and proactive in helping me develop better habits, for the sake of managing the sz. ❤ ❤

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    1. AlishiaDee Post author

      I’m sorry to hear those friends left you like that, obviously they weren’t the right type of friend. Real friends don’t do that to people. And I think that’s one beautiful thing about being open and honest, is you end up finding yourself in the presence of people who are real and raw and who care, and get rid of the people who are not. I’m glad to hear you were able to reconnect with someone who has become so important in your life–one of the real and caring people. I think your story is one many people could relate to in terms of what happens when you share your mental health with someone. I’ve had a few friends do the same to me, and I’m okay with it because the ones who stayed are the ones who matter.

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  3. daniela

    omggg thank you for responding and for the kind words – 100% I agree w/ everything you expressed. I was so hurt by the three friends, but it also motivated me to work on decreasing stigma w/in the organization (that we all joined at ucla, at diff times). I graduated, but I’m returning in fall as an alumna advisor for the mental health committee. I’m being hopeful, but w/ 2-3 years of advising, this type of shiz won’t (be as likely to) happen to someone else in the org. ❤

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