What country do you call home?
The United States. Specifically the state of Massachusetts where I have lived all my life.
When were you first diagnosed with your illness? (And, if you’re comfortable sharing, how old are you now?)
Did you know you were ill before your diagnosis?
Yes. For years. My doctors and past psychiatrists would not diagnose me because there were one or two symptoms that did not match up with mine. So I had to really plead my case to get diagnosed and receive treatment/medication and now therapy for my mental illness.
How did your diagnosis make you feel?
Honestly? Receiving a diagnosis brought me relief. It explained everything I had been feeling and experiencing for over ten years. It helped me understand my behaviors. I always assumed that it was just who I was or that it was my personality. Knowing and understanding my diagnosis has helped me immensely.
How has it impacted your life? Your work? Your relationships?
Before the diagnosis, all of the evident symptoms along with my depression stopped me from having any long-term jobs. I would be triggered a lot by authority figures on the job and was in a controlling 7-year relationship which eventually I was able to build up the courage to end. After I was diagnosed, that is what made me seek out the mental health community on twitter and here I am now.
Have other aspects of your identity (your gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity/race) intersected with your illness?
Not really. As a straight white male living in America who doesn’t really practice any type of religion, it doesn’t really affect my illness.
What steps have you taken to get help for your illness?
Advocating for myself for years. This was pretty much my only way of getting people to take my problems seriously.
Tell me about your support systems – the people who have helped the most (or the least) in your recovery.
Everyone I have bonded with on Twitter and now my current therapist are the reason I am recovering. I would not be feeling more positive and re-energized without these people. And my family over in the @MHCrisisAngels is literally like a second family to me. We all support each other and yet we have never met face to face. But many of us have felt more heard on twitter than in real life.
What do you use for self-care? (Be as honest as is comfortable, even if you’re not proud of the answer.)
Exercise (walking mostly), meditation (using the Headspace App on my phone), blogging about mental health and compiling mixes of songs to upload on Mixcloud.
Walk me through a typical day for you.
I get up. I shower. I get dressed. Have breakfast. Check my phone for any updates in my twitter DMs (regarding the MH Crisis Angels). And then go on my morning walk. I have my phone with me all day. But I do this to help people alongside my online community. It’s voluntary but eventually it could be a job too. So my typical day revolves heavily on my work with the Angels and the Mental Health twitter community.
What do you wish could be better about the mental health system in your country?
For us here in America, we need more services (whether social security benefits, job placement programs, the public school system and of course the overall medical field) to treat mental health the same way they would treat physical health. Both go together and because mental health is often invisible and people are not as aware as they should be on it, in many ways mental health is even more detrimental to the well being of people vs physical health. There are a lot of double standards. Let alone stigma.
What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with your illness?
Don’t hide how you’re feeling. Don’t be ashamed of who you are because of your illness. Talk. Be open. Educate people about your experience. Spread the word. Talk to your doctors or any care provider about what you need to help you and why. Because your reason for seeking help are valid and it is a strength to do so. Not a weakness.