For the past few years, I have considered myself an advocate for the mentally ill. My advocacy corresponds with my coming out publically with my diagnosis after almost two decades of hiding it.
The problem with focusing on advocacy, writing dozens of articles, writing a blog, and doing many interviews about life with schizophrenia is that having a severe mental illness became my primary identity. Meaning, I focused a good deal of my time on having a brain disease.
I have written over and over again about how I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend, cousin, niece, aunt, writer, etc. and that I have many identities that have nothing to do with having schizophrenia. Although I wrote those words over and over again and said them in interviews just as many times, I wasn’t living that way. I was spending the majority of my time on things that were directly related to my illness.
I have seen many people (way too many to count) who receive a mental health diagnosis become advocates. It seems to be a way to try and make something positive out of something challenging, devastating, difficult, hard, and even at times, humiliating (because of stigma and stereotypes). I think advocacy is fantastic and I am glad that both family members and those with a brain disease are active in this work, but focusing on one aspect of your life especially one that can be as difficult as a severe mental illness is not good for mental health!
Doesn’t that last sentence sound ironic? Focusing too heavily on your mental health or diagnosis is not good for your health. For that reason, I am starting a blog (I’m keeping this one, too) that has nothing to do with the world of mental health (I hope to monetize that blog and make it a small business), and I am going to work part-time outside of the home in a job that is customer focused.
I don’t intend to give up my work as an advocate; I simply plan to start living a more full and varied life. At first I plan to work up to not thinking about schizophrenia for a few hours, and hopefully, after time, whole days will slip by where I don’t think about the world of psychiatry, mental health, stereotypes, stigma, or the world that consists under the branch of mental health.
Because let’s be real, what can be healthier than living such a great life that you forget you have a disease? Ignoring your mental health can be the best thing you do for your mental health. Riddle me this Batman.