The Face of Mental Illness – 10/27/2013

Photo: ~ Rory

Photo: ~ Rory

(L) Karl; No mental illness
(R) Sam; PTSD (non-military)
To Sam:
~”Do you mind if I ask, are you gay?”~
“No.”
~Do you have anything to say to people who think being gay is a mental illness?~
“That’s CRAP!”
~Thank you.~
“Remember – that’s CRAP!”

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Photo submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

Photo submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

Hi, I’m Sada. I’m 32, and I live with anxiety, mild OCD, and PTSD from childhood molestation. I’ve joked with friends for years that “being an adult” is a big cosmic put-on, and we’re all just pretending…but when I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack or a flashback, it’s not so much of a joke. In the moment, it’s my truth. I’m 9 years old and all I want is my teddy bear…and I’m terrified that someone is going to figure it out: I’m not the mature, calm, decisive adult they see. I’m a scared little girl. I am the face of mental illness.

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Photo by ~Rory

Photo by ~Rory Picture taken at 2013 Phoenix NAMIWalk

(R) I’m here supporting all the people. I had an ex in the early 80s with mental illness. I’ve been involved with NAMI for 25 years.

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Image submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

Image submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

Hi! My name is Karin. I was just diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder a couple months ago. I have struggled with self harm since age 11 and other mental health problems my whole life, and I’m so thankful that I’m finally getting treatment. I’ve started antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and they are helping out a lot. I’m in college to be a teacher, and I’m the president of our school’s Secular Student Alliance. I love my community and my friends, and I’m so thankful that I’m finally getting healthy so I can be the support they need.

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Photo: ~Rory taken at Phoenix NAMIWalk 2013

Photo: ~Rory taken at Phoenix NAMIWalk 2013

Jon (L) Paranoid Schizophrenia
Mother, Lane (R) “I work for Breaking Stigma with Faith programs. I don’t have mental illness, but my son has Paranoid Schizophrenia. I’m a deacon of the Episcopal church.”

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Image submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

Image submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

My name is Nicole, I am a 43-year-old mother of 3. I have suffered from an eating disorder and PTSD since I was 8 years old, depression since age 12, general anxiety, social anxiety, and insomnia, I am recovered from self harm, and within the past 2 years have been diagnosed with bipolar type cyclothymic, and borderline personality disorder.  Her diagnosis led to the discovery of my own. I have gastroparesis as a result of starvation from anorexia.

My youngest child, Erinn, was diagnosed at age 5 with severe, debilitating OCD, then at age 6 with bipolar disorder. Erinn began hoarding at one-and-a-half-years-old. She would go into her room and empty her bookshelf onto her bed, put all her animals and toys on her bed, and the pile on the bed would grow, she would continue to add to it anything she picked up during the day. By 2-2.5 she was fully engulfed in OCD symptoms. Doctors refused to diagnose or treat her until age 5. Once the OCD was dealt with, Erinn was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, and finally at age 6, Erinn was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The typical tell for childhood bipolar is the level of rage and aggression they exhibit. Erinn would experience 4-hour violent rage episodes 4-5 times per day, every day, for 2 years. She threatened to kill me, kill her brother, tear us apart, etc. I had multiple trips to the emergency room for injuries sustained from her. [Erinn has a service dog named Blue.] Blue smells the chemical shift in Erinn’s brain and alerts me before Erinn has an episode, so now I have a few minutes to prepare myself and my son for her rage. Blue positions herself between Erinn and whoever she is attacking and prevents Erinn from hurting us. Blue can retrieve a cell phone and bring it to me so I can call for help. Blue can retrieve Erinn’s emergency medications. Blue is trained on time so Erinn gets her meds at the right times. In short, Blue saved our lives.

If you could make everyone understand one thing about you/your child what would it be?
That she is a warrior and does not need pity. She is delightful and funny and sweet. She lives with a mental illness, but she shouldn’t be treated any differently than if she had diabetes or cancer.

Blue. Image submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

Blue. Image submitted via TheFaceofMentalIllness@gmail.com

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