Everyone in my life — from my family to the Beauty Ambassadors at my local Bare Escentuals — knows of my mental health struggles. Since I came to terms with the fact that this was something I could not tackle on my own nearly a decade ago, I have been an open book on the topic. To me, there was never any stigma attached. I have brown hair, blue eyes, a passion for writing, great taste in music, a love of reading, and I deal with a number of mental illnesses.
I’ve had reactions of mild surprise, reactions of curiosity, reactions of understanding and empathy, and reactions of support. Never has anyone backed away from me, nor have they shielded their children’s eyes like they used to do with witches.
But for nearly 18 months of blogging, I kept my offline identity a very closely guarded secret. Everything from my name to the general region of the U.S. I inhabit was off limits for public consumption. Mostly this can be attributed to raging paranoia, which I am grateful to say has been reduced to manageable levels. That being the case. . .
My real name is Stephanie (last name withheld primarily for reasons relating to privacy and safety). I still blog as Ruby; after such a long time I have found that moniker a comfortable and freeing one to write under. I am 33 years old and I live in a suburb of Denver, CO, USA. I currently do not have a job and am on SSI disability due to my mental health problems.
I have a very loving and supportive family, no spouse and no intention of ever acquiring one. I have no children in any traditional sense, but I do have three girls whom I consider daughters of my heart, aged 13, 10, and 5. The elder two I was a nanny for, the youngest is the 10-year-old’s sister, and I love them as much as if I had carried and birthed them.
Given that this is a mental health blog, one more thing I suppose I ought to provide here is a list of my diagnoses. I’ve always shied away from doing so, not from shame or the desire to conceal, simply because in my opinion labels are for jelly jars. But for those of you who need to pack me with your preserves, I am Bipolar I, have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Impulse Control Disorder has also been seriously considered and may or may not be accurate.
I want to link my name and image with my diagnoses and this blog because I have an intrinsic desire to educate people, to eliminate misconceptions, misunderstanding, and the rampant stigma which plagues the general public’s perception of the mentally ill. I don’t want my children or anyone else’s growing up seeing mental illness as something that must be hidden, or discussed only in hushed voices with certain people.
So many individuals with mental illnesses cannot take the stones they will be hit with by “coming out” about their struggles and diagnoses. As someone who can I believe I have a sacred obligation, not just to the next generation but to all of those, past and present, who have been silenced by fear and by stigma. I want change, and that doesn’t come easily.
So here I am. If you ever recognize me on the street, please do come and introduce yourself.
My blog: I Was Just Thinking. . .
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