Telling people I’ve got a mental illness is still really hard for me (I really show that by telling the whole Internet about it, don’t I?). At the start, I found it hard to figure out whom to tell. Do people want to know? Am I comfortable enough with someone to tell them? Do people need to know? How much do people need to know? How do I start the conversation?
Right now I’m a lot more comfortable talking about it. Lots of people know about it. But here are the first people I told:
1. Flatmates. They’re very close friends of mine. They live with me and have to deal with the occasional crap so I feel like it’s important that they do know what’s going on. Plus, they were there that time I had a bad night so this one is a moot point, really.
2. Other closest friends. They’re in the best position to give me support; they go absolutely above and beyond what I ever would have thought to ask of them. Some of them are literal life-savers.
3. GP and other professionals involved in the management of symptoms. Goes without saying. They’re the best people to go to in a crisis. There’s also something to be gained from talking to people who are neutral and impartial to my immediate situation.
4. Parents. My Asian-born parents have had very, very little exposure to mental illnesses so this one was hard. But again, goes without saying. My little (read: mature young woman who also happens to be taller than me) sister is hugely supportive.
5. Church small group leaders. The church community and my personal relationship with God is a central part of getting better in the last few months. They’ve been able to help in a way that all the medical and psychiatric professionals can’t. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been encouraged through their words and prayers.
6. The medical school. The terrifying words: “Fitness to Practice”. In reality, the faculty want to get you through medical school. People in pastoral support and occupational health are there to see what sort of adaptations can be made to make your life a little easier. I’d had wild thoughts of my medical career terminating before I even graduated, which turned out to be baseless.
7. My study group. My course assigns you to a group whom you’ll work with for a good chunk of university. Having spent hours every day with each other for months, we got pretty close. I think it’s important that they know cause, like with my flatmates, a lot of our lives are intertwined. Plus they’ve gone above and beyond whenever they feel like there’s something they can do to help.
It wasn’t many, initially. And I could comfortably survive if no one else gets to know. Some people would indeed prefer to keep things like these more private, which they absolutely have the right to do. But I am at the point where I want to be more open about my experience. I’m talking about it in the hope that maybe someone will feel a little less isolated. Less mystified. Less alone.