If you have a broken leg, it would never occur to you to hide your cast nor to be ashamed. It wouldn’t occur to anyone to make remarks like “Get yourself together and throw away those crutches, it’s all in your head…” or anything like that.
This is not so much the case when it comes to mental illnesses. Not visible and not leaving any visual clues of any inhibition, they are often overlooked, misunderstood and not taken seriously. Mental illness is still a big taboo in our society, an issue we don’t like to talk about, uncomfortable and something we would like to push far away from us. The stigma and misunderstandings and misconceptions around mental illnesses are still huge and a big barrier for all sufferers.
In this blog segment, I will post interviews with patients and loved ones of sufferers from mental illness. I want to show that you are not alone and give a brief insight into the mind and world of people with mental illnesses and hopefully aid to the breaking of a taboo that is harming way too many people.
We need to speak up and inform about mental illnesses and this series is an attempt to do so.
Today, Julia tells us about her life and battle with depression and borderline personality disorder.
tRIGGER WARNING! Potentially triggering content ahead.!
mental illness, suicide
Name: Julia Schuermann
Blog Link: www.freshstarteveryday.wordpress.com
Other Social Media Channels: Insta: _freshstarteveryday_
Facebook: Fresh Start Everyday
Marital Status: single
When & how have you been diagnosed
I think I’ve known for a while that there was something “wrong” with me but the depression wasn’t properly diagnosed until the end of 2011. An acquaintance of my parents was a doctor, she suggested a visit to a psychiatrist/therapist and suddenly my mental chaos and irrational behavior became something tangible. Depression was a diagnosis that I could research and try and understand. A few years later I took an overdose of different medications and it was determined that I also suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. Over the years I have also developed some anxiety issues.
What exactly is your illness
I always struggle with explaining a mental illness, they’re so complex and there are so many aspects to it but I’ll try to keep it basic. Depression is relatively well known, so I will skip that and focus on Border Personality Disorder. BPD is a disorder where you struggle with emotional stability. In my case, I experience my emotions intensely and I sometimes act quite impulsively – in those moments my emotions just take over and rational thinking goes down the drain which can (naturally) cause trouble. My anxiety issues are directly linked to my BPD. My fears are mainly the loss of family/friends; the idea of disappointing or letting down my family/friends (I have lied to them in the past to protect them from what I perceive as bad news, bad news could be anything from a parking ticket to a failed semester); the thought that people might think badly of me. In situations when the feeling of anxiety or fear takes over, I sometimes start to act irrationally, becoming really paranoid and needing re-assurance that everything is okay.⦁ I always struggle with explaining a mental illness, they’re so complex and there are so many aspects to it but I’ll try to keep it basic. Depression is relatively well known, so I will skip that and focus on Border Personality Disorder. BPD is a disorder where you struggle with emotional stability. In my case, I experience my emotions intensely and I sometimes act quite impulsively – in those moments my emotions just take over and rational thinking goes down the drain which can (naturally) cause trouble. My anxiety issues are directly linked to my BPD. My fears are mainly the loss of family/friends; the idea of disappointing or letting down my family/friends (I have lied to them in the past to protect them from what I perceive as bad news, bad news could be anything from a parking ticket to a failed semester); the thought that people might think badly of me. In situations when the feeling of anxiety or fear takes over, I sometimes start to act irrationally, becoming really paranoid and needing re-assurance that everything is okay.
My therapy so far incl. Medication and current state
I started ambulatory therapy in 2012. Over the course of the past 6 years I was an inpatient at a clinic for depression and other mental health issues twice (first time 14 weeks and the second time 8 weeks), and after I overdosed I spent a week in the closed ward. It’s been just over three months that I’m completely without any anti-depressants, I used to take them daily. My current state is stable. That doesn’t mean that I got rid of any mental health issues or that I’m constantly happy. No, it means that I am now capable of handling moments of emotional instability. I’m not healed but I can deal with my problems the appropriate way (mostly) and that is a huge step that means the world to me.
Limitations & everyday problems
Luckily, I barely experience any more limitations (in comparison to several years ago). There were times when I was basically incapable of leaving my bedroom. I think, what affects me most at the moment is the idea of what other people think of me, or the possibility of me disappointing them – in those situations I still fight hard to not give into my “flight” instinct. Generally speaking, I can solve any problems that are just about me. I start to struggle when other people join the equation.
My biggest fear is to be a disappointment to my family and friends. There is genuinely nothing that terrifies me more although they have always stood by my side for which I couldn’t be more grateful.
How do my problems affect relationships/job/personal life
I think the part that is most affected by my mental health issues, are relationships. I’ve been single for years but it’s only been a few months since I can sort of talk openly about my struggles with being in a relationship. To me, having a partner was part of being a functioning adult and as long as I didn’t have one, I was worthless. It is, of course, difficult when many people in your environment are in relationships, getting married or even having kids. You know, a 27-year-old woman who’s been single for years, people start to wonder why and sometimes it’s difficult. But that’s okay. I’m still learning to be in happy relationship with myself, which is exhausting enough 🙂
Impact on my environment, do the people know about me?
Generally speaking, yes, they know. I talk about my mental health problems relatively openly, they’re part of me and that’s okay. I talk about it on FB, IG and my blog. I love people with whom I can speak freely and openly about my issues, like an appendix operation or a weekend at the in-laws. I truly believe that if we normalize mental illness (not belittling it taking away the seriousness), we help people who are affected. I (almost everytime) feel a huge relief when people around me are aware of my issues.
What do I hope for in terms of society and mental illness
Mental illness is just as real as a broken leg. Instead of being vague about it, we should speak more clearly, call the things by their names. I wish for an environment where mentally ill people can talk about their needs and problems openly without feeling the need to be apologetic or awkward. This includes normalizing topics that are still being avoided (although there has been a lot of improvement) such as; suicide, self-harm, substance abuse, different forms of therapy…
The last few years have been a crazy journey of ups and downs. I started so many things, gave up on a lot of them and fought with myself for myself. I have thought about suicide more than once. Yet here I am, still standing, proving to myself that no matter how scary and awful some things can be, life is worth living. I am piecing myself together everyday, learning new things about myself and sometimes, if necessary, I say goodbye to a part of me and let go. Life with mental health issues is certainly not a ride in the park, but I learned to love and appreciate it.
Thank you Julia, for this wonderful opportunity to do this interview and the strength and openness.
If you would also like to participate in the interview series, feel free to contact me either via a comment on the blog or my email: email@example.com
It is absolutely possible to make the interview completely anonymous, if you feel safer that way. All data will be handled with absolute care and not published or used for anything else but interview purposes.