It never dawned on me that flipping ironing boards and slinging coffee while I was raising my daughters, meant that I might have a personality disorder lurking in my closet. It probably had not occurred to a large percentage of other adults in the nation either.
According to National Institute of Mental Illness (NIMH) statistics, approximately “26.2 percent of 60 million adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year,” says an article printed on the Purdue Exponent website.
I was a single mother back then; in my late 30s and 40s, struggling to pay the rent and keep us all fed on a salary that could have used a financial boost, and a mentality that, unbeknownst to me, could have used some counseling. I could feel that something was wrong; that what should have been simple issues sent me over the edge. But I still didn’t attach it to anything as serious as a mental illness. Yet I’m certain that if I had, the stigma of possibly having any level of mental illness was a powerful one that my middle class upbringing from a small town would never have allowed me to disclose.
The Mayo Clinic has steps that can help with handling the stigma of admitting a mental illness and disclosing to friends and family – steps I would not have had the courage to take with my mother who believed that cultivating a public image was most important. Today though, I can see that ignoring my fears, frustrations, and anxieties and hoping they will go away only hugged them closer, with disastrous results.
While a stigma still exists today, its social bite is a lot less painful as people readily admit their mental health disorders, complete with medications they are taking to control it. Even taking selfies, seemingly nothing more than narcissistic ventures surrounded by bathroom fixtures, has gained attention as a mental health disorder according to an April 2014 article published in Dubai. Body Dysmorphic Disorder – having such a negative and obsessive view of one’s own body type that it hampers family and social life, has been linked to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.
Still, for those suffering from the chemical mis-firings of Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, or Schizophrenia, life is not always a smiling reflection.
I have not been formally diagnosed with any of the personality disorders, but many of the symptoms look painfully familiar and I worry – not as much about me – but of what effect my issues may have had on my daughters; and how that may transfer to my grandchildren.
Get involved in raising awareness for mental illness – particularly in children. Click on the Children’s Health Matters website and see how Maryland is raising awareness about children’s mental health. Also from May 4th to May 10th, join the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health by clicking here: National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Addressing potential mental health issues at younger ages may prevent more severe problems later on.