Coming out about having a mental illness isn’t easy. Elizabeth Horner, psychiatric nurse, mother of 4, joins us to talk about how she decided to come out to her friends and family about her bipolar disorder.
In our conversation we both shared our experiences from finding out about our bipolar diagnosis, to how we deal with it and what we can do to encourage others to speak their truth and de-stigmatize having a mental health difference.
Elizabeth’s story of how she finally decided to get help, then how she spent nearly 2 decades keeping her truth to herself and how she decided to come out about her diagnosis sheds a lot of light on the stigma associated with mental health that we face from society, from family and from friends. This highlights the need for us to talk about these things and normalize them so stigma decreases.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT:
- Elizabeth Horner is a psychiatric nurse, mother of 4, and lives with bipolar disorder. She kept it private for many years until she decided to come out and share her story on her personal blog.
- She was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder 20 years ago and didn’t tell anyone for about 19 years.
- She shares with us examples of her symptoms of both mania and depression.
- Elizabeth shares about how she started abusing recreational drugs and alcohol to manage her symptoms. She wanted to die. We talked about how we both have wanted to self-medicate the highs and lows with substances at times.
- Elizabeth talks about why she kept this a secret from her family and friends for almost 20 years. She reached the point where she just didn’t’ want to keep any more secrets, she wanted to be seen for who she really is. She shares about what kept her from disclosing this to her friends and family.
- Why did you wait so long to come out about it? She couldn’t bear the thought of how she perceived that others would treat her. But more importantly, she was fearful of how her view of herself would change if she spoke her truth. Elizabeth talks about “unconditional self-acceptance” and how she had to get to that place to be able to speak her truth.
- How did you make this decision to come out about it? She asked her family, and they encouraged her not to come out about it at first. Elizabeth wanted to own that this was a part of her, and she wanted to get to this place of self-acceptance where she could accept who she is, where she is.
- What was the defining moment for you on the path to self-acceptance? She told me it felt like she was trying to be silenced, which made her uncomfortable and made her feel shame. When she got to that crossroad, she decided to accept who she is and speak her truth with courage.
- When she finally spoke up about it, she felt a huge sense of relief. Owning her past experience was very freeing.
- What fallout could there be? Possible consequences with work, family, and friends. Not everyone will see it the way you do. You can’t control other people’s reactions. I’m going to stay honest with myself regardless of reactions.
- How do we encourage others to share their stories? 1) Stigma starts young, so we need to educate our children and talk to them about mental health. We need to normalize that conversation and talk about how it’s important to protect out mental health. 2) We need to examine our own feelings about mental health. We need to come to terms with our own views on mental health broadly. 3) We need to stop demonizing medication.
- We talked about what her support structure looks like from therapy, to medication, and other wellness practices. Elizabeth talked about how she keeps a daily mood chart and notes the benefits as well as short comings of doing so. Often times we find ourselves going to our psychiatrist and telling them we are fine when we may be that day but haven’t been for some period of time.