I once read this article that spoke about a woman who found herself fearful of crowds, preferring instead to be in places that were emotionally safe. I turned into that woman. I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone anything about my condition; that just lead to social isolation and made me feel even worse. I thought that having a mental illness was due to some kind of personal weakness. Almost daily I felt the stigma of people making negative remarks about people with a mental condition. Or the subtle, like the assumption I could be violent or dangerous because I have a mental condition. It was those types of stigma which lead to my having feelings of frustration, shame, low self-esteem, and ultimately anger. I had feelings of embarrassment and humiliation because of something beyond my control. I tried to pretend nothing was wrong and refused treatment; I was of course praying about it and according to the black community that’s all I needed to do. But in the end things just got worse.
I just knew for sure I would feel rejection by family and friends. So I hid my illness from them. But I was only fooling myself because surely they knew something was wrong; they just didn’t want to name it. It was sort of a, “don’t ask don’t tell” arrangement. Angry is what they called it for years, crazy came later. The rages that got me into fights, caused health problems like hypertension, muscle tension and stomach problems. My Bipolar disorder caused changes with my sleep habits, difficulty concentrating, feeling depressed, anger, sadness, nervousness, guilt, and worry. I avoided tasks, spent increased time alone, obsessing about a situation and blamed others for my problems.
Work was a whole other problem along with the fear of discrimination. I recognize that mental disabilities often create fear and stereotyping; and I believe this is what happened to me. Soon after having an “episode” my employer terminated me. “Elimination of my position” is what they called it but I knew in my heart it was due to my mental illness. It was determined that my disability caused an impairment that “substantially limited” my ability to handle “major-life activities. For me, mental impairments restricted major-life activities, like thinking, concentrating, learning, interacting with others, caring for myself. My employer never made Reasonable accommodations for me; they instead just let me go. I didn’t have the energy to fight them then and now it’s too late. It’s been difficult trying to get another job and I can’t help feeling like my last employer has a great deal to do with it. I’m sure that age old question of “would you rehire this person” kind of sweeps any existing new opportunity from my reach.