Today I had the privilege of participating in my dear friend’s thesis project about mental health in university. She interviewed me and we talked for an hour and a half about my experiences. At the end we discussed the complex feelings that come with disclosures like this one.
I’m used to disclosing my mental illness all the time, to professors, bosses, and peers. Because my anxiety can be absolutely incapacitating, it is important to me that I maintain open communication in case I need to take a break from my commitments.
The kind of disclosure that can be the most tricky for me is actually the situations where I’m expected to talk about my mental illness. Especially in a therapy or interview scenario. In my friend’s project today, I felt safe and held – I had no problem talking about my experiences. But I still felt that nagging guilt for taking up space. I wanted her to share her story as much as I was sharing mine. I wanted to hold her instead of being held by her. In therapy I have similar reactions, I feel like I’m just another person sitting in front of my therapist, taking up their space with my problems that are just like everyone else’s.
Am I worth holding?
I think this is what it comes down to with disclosures for me. Disclosing mental illness means we end up receiving something we either do or do not ask for. (Like accommodation, discrimination, physical touch, etc.) I am definitely afraid of being discriminated against (especially in the workplace where “neurotypical” (fuck the concept of normalcy) employees are much more reliable and hireable. But, it’s often the positive responses of support and accommodation that make me feel the worst. I have a hard time believing that I deserve any of the things I end up receiving.
Am I a burden?
What if I’m making all of this up?