Welcome to day 20 in the #Write31Days challenge on mental health. Today, after sharing a number of informational posts, it’s time for a personal one again. I’ve decided to pick another question from the 30-day mental illness awareness challenge. This one is about the effects your mental illness has had on your life.
In 2005, I graduated from high school with good grades. The principal held a brief talk about each student before they’d receive their diploma. About me, he said I was going to study English in Nijmegen. This was my original plan for after high school, before I’d decided I wasn’t ready for college yet and wanted to go to a rehabilitation center for the blind first.
Until I graduated from high school, I was the only person who noticed something was off with me. That is, my parents and teachers did notice, but felt I was or should be capable of solving my problems with my intellectual abilities. By 2005, I was at my highest point in terms of believing I was “just blind”. You might think I had the highest self-confidence, but I didn’t. I was fiercely independent, but also terribly isolated.
By early 2006, I entered a training home for the disabled. I was adamant that I only needed a little daily living skills training and would be off to univeristy and independent living by September. It didn’t work out that way.
Mental illness has impacted many areas of my life. Of course, you could say that it was my blindness. You could say that the people at university in Nijmegen should’ve been more accommodating of my blindness. They weren’t particularly accommodating, but they reasoned all blind students who had previously attended, had been able to succeed with the accommodations they did provide. You might also reason that I should’ve gotten more orientation and mobility training whilst living independently, but twice a week is the absolute most you could get back then and it hasn’t gotten any better. In other words, of course my blindness did contribute to my eventual failure at independent living and at university, but apparently all “just blind” individuals are able to cope. I clearly wasn’t.
It was a common misconception at the acute ward that I was falling apart because of some problem relating to my blindness. I replied to this that, if my blindness was causing me to be suicidal, there’d be much better care for blind people with mental illness, because then each week there’d be a suicidal blind person somewhere. The truth is, I am multiply-disabled, including mentally ill, and it’s not just one of my disabilities that’s causing me to be unable to function independently.
Because I’ve been mentally unstable all my life, I can also not really compare my situation before and after the onset of my mental illness. I can only compare my situation to the ideal I had in mind for myself. Doing so, I realize that mental illness has affected my education. I can no longer go to regular college and can only do distance learning courses one at a time. This means I will most likely never earn a certificate that’s worth anything.
Mental illness has also impacted my work life. That is, due to mental illness, I have none. Of course, I did get disability benefits without a problem when I was eighteen and “just blind”, but, as my parents reasoned, this would be a temporary situation. It’s now more than likely that I’ll be on disability for life.
Mental illness has made independent living essentially impossible. I pretty much need to be able to reach someone for support 24/7. It doesn’t have to be a professional carer per se. At least I hope that in time, my husband will be able to fulfill this role to an extent. This in turn obviously impacts my relationship. However, since my husband was my first boyfriend and I met him when already on the edge of mental breakdown, I have nothing to compare our relationship to. I think in this area I’m pretty well off however, in that at least I am in a long-term, loving relationship.