I’ve been fighting a stomach bug for a few days now, and it has me contemplating about what it is like getting sick as an individual with a mental illness. When an individual who is healthy and does not struggle with a mental disorder gets sick, they just worry about getting healthy. When I get sick, there are additional layers added that complicate the worry and the process of getting healthy again.
In other words, getting sick as a mentally ill individual is not the same.
With the additional diagnosis of general anxiety disorder, I struggle with panic attacks. Those panic attacks are triggered by both rational and irrational fears. When I get sick, both rational and irrational fears begin to get triggered, due to thoughts of “will I lose my job”, “will I get reprimanded for being absent”, “will I get labeled at work for being untrustworthy”, and the like. And there are times that these irrational, and sometimes rational, fears that are triggered that force themselves into reality by making me sicker or thinking that I am sicker. Sometimes with the “thinking I am sicker”, it is by forcing the mental illness portion to be triggered, and not so much the physical.
Mental illness itself is such a touchy subject that is somewhat taboo in the workplace, and to admit that you have it can label you negatively if you were to admit it out loud to anyone in the company. Even if you feel that it would benefit you. It creates labels of mistrust, and the stigma that follows the diagnosis of bipolar disorder alone can paint an ugly picture by itself. People have been known to ostracize those with mental illness, almost as if it were contagious.
But it is not.
When I get sick, I would love to not worry about my job, but to only worry about getting healthy. Right now, the only thing I would love to worry about is getting enough fluids in me to not become dehydrated, to make myself comfortable, and get rest as the doctor ordered. Because, yes, we do go to the doctor just like everyone else when we get sick. I don’t want to feel like I have a target on my back when life happens, and freak out over what will happen if I get hurt, have to run to the ER, or have a doctor appointment. Because, even though I have to treat my illness, I still struggle with the same things healthy people do on a daily basis.
I just want to be treated the same. Not different. And I don’t like to feel different, either. So, please, don’t make me feel different.