Impostor. Pretender. Phony. Fraud.
Everywhere I go, I feel disingenuous. I’m always pretending, whether I am at work, or with friends, or even in the mental health community. I’m good at faking wellness; I work hard to seem normal enough on the outside while I am struggling on the inside. However I always feel dishonest wherever I find myself.
I hide my mental illness from my employer, even though by law they are not supposed to discriminate based on health conditions. But because they have designated my job a “safety sensitive” position, I have to be “fit for duty” when working. If I told my employer, would they be afraid I could suddenly snap? Would I be forced off work until I could demonstrate I had recovered (as if that is even possible)?
I don’t tell my coworkers or my few friends about my mental health, and I dissemble when the subject comes up in conversation. Would they not believe me because I act “normal”, or would they overreact because they wonder if I could “go nuts” on any given day? Would people suddenly avoid me for fear of being associated with the crazy dude, or would they tell my employer that I was hiding the truth? I’m not willing to take the risk.
I avoid settings like group therapy meetings, forums, and online communities because I don’t want to face reverse stigma. Would people who are truly struggling not accept me because I don’t seem to be as ill as they are? Would people judge me for being “high functioning” and feel like I was just looking for attention? Even in the hospital mental health ward, someone told me I seemed the most normal out of everyone, and that bothered me.
In the past I have wondered if my psychiatrist takes me less seriously because I’m not as sick as his other patients. I think that was the case several years ago with Dr. PrescriptionPad and his 7-minute appointments. [Fortunately, I think my current doctor does take me seriously and seems to listen to me when I describe how I am feeling.]
I guess this is why all my mental health issues come out in my blog, because I have an outlet where people can come or go, read or not, and I never hear about it if they think I’m only doing it for attention. I can be honest here, even though I am doing so under a fake name in the hope no one in real life ever finds me (which is a story for another day).
Note: here’s a post by Meghan which discusses similar feelings.