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Living with mental illness: A personal story

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As we move into Mental Health Awareness Month, 9 On Your Side is shining a light all week on the many issues, not only affecting those living with mental illness, but their families and the system itself.

The people it affects can't help it. But for the most part, they're just like you and me.

In a special report, you'll meet a man who asked 9 On Your Side to protect his identity. His story is one of resilience, a lesson that once you admit you're different, you become normal.

"This is an old, um, buoy," he told us. We'll call him Tim. And he knows a lot. "It floated on the water so they would know where the nets are or the crab pots or stuff like that."

He met 9 On Your Side recently to do a little shopping.

"Oh that's not a bad price for that, too," 9 On Your Side said.  "No," he agreed.

All so 9 On Your Side could see just how normal he is.

"Wow, my dysfunction," he called it. "A journal for chronicling my immeasurably fascinating dysfunctions, neurosis, emotions, inner children moments of shame and doubt."

"That's a lot," 9 On your Side said.

"Yes, that is," he agreed. "Isn't that interesting?"

Tim lives with mental illness.

"I've been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, high anxiety disorder and PTSD," he explained.
He does not suffer from it.

"Suffering pretty much means that you are a victim of and you can stay stuck in that for a very long time," Tim explained. "Living with is when you actually realize what you've got and try to do something to better yourself."  
Tim, like so many people living with mental illness, functions.  He's great.  A nice man who's had a rough journey many of those around him know nothing about.

 The people you work with, do they know," 9 On Your Side asked.

"No," he answered.   

Do they, do you think they have any idea? And why don't they know," asked 9 On Your Side.

"I don't know, probably, the negative stigma on mental illness," he replied. "You know any time anybody says something about mental illness you know they always go to the bad. You know which is a very small minute amount of mental illness."

"There are people out there in the community that have mental illness that are respected people of the community. And they probably know them. They just don't see the sign hanging around their neck," he continued. "People with mental illness is you know people without empathy or psychopaths or whatever they are called. That's not me."

"Sanity is a cozy lie," Tim said matter of factly. "It really is."  He chuckled.

"Mental health has such a stigma attached to it, how do you think that has affected your life and how do you think that affects most people with mental illness," asked 9 On Your Side.

"Well, luckily, my mental illness isn't as severe as some people's," Tim said. "Some people with severe mental illness, they don't see that they actually have a mental illness. so they don't see that something is actually wrong with them."

"Um, luckily I'm on the side where I can see that there is something wrong with me, and work to try to get better," he added.

"So how much in your life have you been a victim of this stigma," asked 9 On Your Side.

"Well, you know, I have, I have, I guess, I wouldn't call myself a victim of the stigma," Tim answered. "Because you can only let people get to you, and that's what I mean YOU can only let people get to you."

"Yes, I have been around in certain situations around people that have used derogatory statements towards somebody with mental illness, like the word ‘crazy'," he continued. "Stuff like that. But for me, I don't let that get to me."

"We all have issues," said Tim. "Ain't that interesting?"

"What do you think we have to do as a society to change that," asked 9 On Your Side

"I think, um, as a society, we should embrace mental illness," Tim answered. "I mean, we embrace everything else. Why can't we embrace mental illness?

"What do you mean embrace," 9 On Your Side asked.

"Um, well, we embrace breast cancer, we embrace cancer, regular cancer," he explained. "Um, you know, know autism. You know? Things like that, you see, they have walks and runs for the pro football players wearing pink tennis shoe. Our society embraces things like that. I think what we should do is rally behind and learn to embrace mental illness."

"It is not the person's fault that they're mind is not right," Tim added.

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