Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dangerous assumption

If I never opened my mouth, I don't think anyone would ever know the extent of my suffering. Everywhere I go, it's always just assumed that I'm the sane one there to support someone else. Even at my therapist's office, I've been greeted with the line "you always look so nice, I'd never suspect you were mentally ill" from one of the receptionists.

In rare defiance of the voices in my head and the overwhelming anxiety created by being in small groups, I went to my first Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance share & care meeting. I've gone to a few of the educational meetings where they've had guest speakers, but never dared go to the support groups. Wasn't at all sure what to expect because my experiences with group therapy have been almost exclusively negative. I tend to feel like an outsider, unable to connect with anyone else. I view everyone else as clearly sick, and I'm just, well, fucked up.


I hadn't even planned on speaking, but the group facilitator (who is also the president of this particular DBSA chapter) seemed to be quite interested in knowing my story. I'm guessing that by looking at me she drew the same conclusion everyone else seems to, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with me, so she wasn't sure why I was there. Even though two of the people seemed to want to make the group discussion all about them, especially one woman who gave her diagnosis as emotional intensity disorder (aka borderline personality disorder), the facilitator kept bringing the conversation back to me.


After explaining a bit about what I've been dealing with since 2003, and what I'm currently going through, I could see everyone staring in disbelief. I was waiting for one of them to say, "but you look so normal", a phrase I hear far too frequently. The looks of disbelief quickly faded into the next expression I'm also very familiar with, the one of "she wins the award for the most fucked up person here".


Everyone seems to carry around this stereotype of what a seriously mentally ill and/or suicidal person looks and acts like, admittedly I sometimes do too; and because I don't fit that stereotype than I must be just fine. Let me just say, that's a VERY dangerous assumption.

5 Comments:

OpenID structuredmadness said...

I could not agree with you more, Sid. Some of those same comments have come my way. Forgive me for being such a fabulous actress and always looking "so put together". It makes me want to punch them in the face because they have no IDEA what is going on just beneath the surface... It's no wonder I hate being around people.

2:53 PM, October 13, 2010  
Blogger Michael said...

I completely understand what you mean. I deal with the public for work, and it takes every cubic inch of energy I have to keep the bonhomie flowing, to appear normal, to seem sane, to not let it slip...not one single inch....never, ever give a hint of the roiling, black madness that is actually inside my head.

6:20 PM, October 13, 2010  
Blogger In the Pink said...

Looks are soo deceiving.

2:32 PM, October 14, 2010  
Blogger Handsome B. Wonderful said...

"If I never opened my mouth, I don't think anyone would ever know the extent of my suffering. Everywhere I go, it's always just assumed that I'm the sane one there to support someone else. Even at my therapist's office, I've been greeted with the line "you always look so nice, I'd never suspect you were mentally ill" from one of the receptionists.
"

Me too. It sucks donkey balls.

6:24 PM, October 17, 2010  
OpenID fishrobber69 said...

I have had this as well. I think people just can't understand how hard we work at maintaining an illusion of normality for everyone else. People who think they know us well have formed their opinion of who we are, and they have a hard time accepting that there could be so much hidden inside. It's easier for me to be honest with a stranger than a friend.

10:08 PM, November 26, 2010  

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