Coping with a mental disorder

16 June 2019 | Columns

Julienne van Rooyen

I always try to write from the heart, even though my writing has gotten me into trouble at times. What I believe is that it if my story manages to touch somebody and makes them feel connected in some or other way, then it will always be worth it in the end.

We try hard to fit in and be “normal” and it’s refreshing to have someone that isn’t afraid to be honest, without fear of standing out or being different. This especially relates to speaking about mental disorders such as depression, anxiety or any other subject that may appear to be taboo.

So here I am at 36-years old, realizing that I am far from perfect and that I too have a mental disorder. It took me a while to figure out that I am not just shy, but have something that actually has a fancy name attached to it. It’s called Social Anxiety Disorder.

Thanks to the ever trusty Google and all the information it can supply in an instant, I now understand that I am not the only person on earth with such a phobia. I may also not be the only person who might be feeling this way.

It’s something I don’t really wish upon anyone and it affects a person’s life in every way you can possibly imagine. I have never heard of anyone ever talk about this disorder and you won’t notice that they may have it by just by looking at someone.

A person with this disorder appears to be hostile or unfriendly, when in fact it’s the complete opposite and all we would love is fit in. Simple things such as meeting new people or going to a social gathering become so stressful, that a person will actually start worrying about it for weeks in advance.

Imagine being afraid of people. We have to live and work with and are surrounded by people every single day. It also has a major influence on your career; what would your potential employer have told you if you said that you were terrified of people in an interview?

I know that it’s irrational, but the fear is just like any other phobia and for someone living with it, it feels very real.

Luckily there are measures to take in the form of medication and therapy. My best form of therapy remains putting pen to paper, or in this case getting out my trusty laptop and typing my story.

What also helps me cope is the fact that I have a great husband and amazing children as well as our family dog. I can completely rely on them when dealing with my disorder. They accept and love the true me unconditionally, with all my strange and occasionally funny quirks and imperfections.

This gets me thinking about all the people who don’t necessarily have the support they need or are just too scared to talk about their mental disorders for fear of rejection or being judged.

Today I give you a secret high five as a sign of my support if you are suffering from a mental disorder. My wish for the future is that we can completely get rid of the stigma attached to mental disorders. We should feel free to talk about these issues, always keeping in mind that nobody is perfect or “normal” even though we all like to pretend we are.

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