What to Remember When Coming Out of the Mental Illness Closet

Updated on April 25, 2019
parishu profile image

Paris is a mental illness survivor. She came out of the "mental illness closet" in 2012 and has been happier ever since.

I'm a librarian. I enjoy baking, sewing, and reading. I'm the author of one poetry book. I have a story about the scar on my right ring finger.

Also, I take Paxil and Abilify to manage social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. There was a time when my anxiety was so bad, that I would have a panic attack everyday before driving home from work. There was a time when I was non-verbal due to my severe social anxiety. Today, with the help of medication and therapy, I'm able to speak clearly, have a conversation with you, drive on the interstate, and go an entire day without heart palpitations--things I wasn't able to do before due to my untreated anxiety disorder.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because, whether people are comfortable with it or not, my mental health is a large part of who I am and impacted a large portion of my life and the person I am today. Because there was a time when I wasn't able to do this with confidence due to the stigma of discussing mental illness. Because I hope to encourage people who are also considering coming out of the mental illness closet, but may be holding back due to worries of what other people will think of them.

Coming out of the mental illness closet wasn't easy and can still have its challenges. But there are a few things to remember when you decide to open up about your mental health.

Start off by coming out to someone you trust

Coming out of the mental illness closet can be a big deal and even a scary one, especially when you consider that not everyone is understanding or accepting of mental illness. That's why it's important to start off with someone you can trust--a close friend, a family member, a significant other, or anyone that you know will be supportive of you and your mental health condition.

There are no rules to "coming out"; do what makes you comfortable. You can be as formal or informal as you like. You can make it a big announcement at the dinner table or you can simply mention your anxiety or depression during a casual conversation and go from there. How you decide to share information about your mental health is all up to you. Just be sure that person you open up to is non-judgmental and fully supportive of what you're going through.

Not everyone will be accepting of your mental illness--and that's okay

When it comes to mental health, we've really come a long way. More and more people are seeking help for their mental health or starting a conversation about mental illness, and both instances are due to the fact that social stigma surrounding mental illness is no longer as strong as it used to be. Slowly but surely, the days of seeking a therapist being a "shameful" secret are becoming a thing of the past.

However, we still have a long way to go. Though the stigma of mental illness is slowly eroding, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding it. As you become more open about your mental illness, you're going to meet people who will not be accepting or open-minded about your condition. This person could be an acquaintance with strong opinions about "people these days" who take medications for anxiety. It could even be a close family member who suddenly changes their interactions with you after coming out.

Some people will distance themselves from you. Some people will try to tell you that mental illness is "all in your head" or an "excuse" or "made up". Some people will be discouraging or even downright judgmental and mean when you mention that you take pharmaceutical medications to manage your symptoms. And I can tell you that everything mentioned may happen because I went through it--and survived it. And so will you.

So, how do you deal with people when they become rude over a discussion of mental health? There are a few steps to take. One step--and this is the hardest thing to do--is acceptance of the situation. Yes, there are some people that will offer their unwanted opinions on your condition and there will definitely be opinions about your choice to take medications or see a therapist. But at the end of the day, you must remember that it's your situation and therefore, you have final say in who you are, what mental illness means to you, and how you choose to deal with your mental health. In the end, they're opinion is just that--an opinion. And you should practice saying "You are entitled to your opinion," to better move on from them.

The second hardest step is building a sense of self against the negativity.

Regardless of what people will tell you or think, you are not weak (gentle reminder that mental illness is a medical condition, not a character flaw). You are not a burden. You are not making it up or finding an excuse or seeking attention. On the contrary, you're a strong individual who's able to endure life and achieve so much despite a medical condition that's meant to hold you back. You're not weak-willed by opting for medication and therapy, but rather, you're courageous for acknowledging your mental illness and seeking ways to deal with it. Tell yourself this everyday, watch your self-confidence go up, and watch as other's people negativity become a little less relevant everyday.

Another option is to educate. When someone says something ignorant about mental illness, calmly provide them with information on what you go through and what your brain is going through. If, for instance, a parent is skeptical or just doesn't get anxiety or depression or bipolar, you can show them articles and research to help them to better understand mental illness. With this option, you may be offering them a new perspective they never considered before.

But what happens if this option doesn't work? The person is stubbornly holding on to their opinion that mental illness is a weakness and are even shaming you for having, say, panic attacks--now what? Well, you'll need to ask yourself: is this someone you'd want to associate with? Is this someone you can trust to be supportive as you conquer mental illness? Is this person good for your mental health? Sometimes, coming out of the mental illness closet means learning about the toxic people you need to weed from your life. And the more you come out, the more you'll be able to distinguish between people on your side and those who are not. Move on from those people and instead focus on those who are beneficial to your emotional well-being.

Find a community of others like you

Sometimes, discussing it with neurotypical friends is not enough. You may want to consider discussing your mental health condition with those who also suffer from the same issue. You can achieve this by joining an online forum or finding a support group in your area. By speaking with others who have the same condition, you can find those that relate to your experiences and give you the feeling that you're not alone. Also, there's a certain freedom to discussing your mental illness in a support group, as you'll know you're going talk to people who are completely supportive and non-judgmental.

Coming out of the mental illness closet may be the hardest and the most courageous thing you'll ever have to do. As for me, the journey was a challenge, the people weren't always nice, but I'm happier, more authentic, and I finally found a sense of freedom and strength I never imagined. In other words, the journey will be difficult as you encounter people of all perspectives about mental health, but the end result will be worth it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Lorna Lamon profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        3 months ago

        This is an excellent article Paris and working in the mental health sector I know how difficult it can be to talk about mental health. There is still the old myth that if you cannot see it then it does not exist. It takes courage to speak out and I am glad it has made you stronger and happier. Thank you for sharing.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, patientslounge.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://patientslounge.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)