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The Torn Open Book with Sparkly Pages

Eliza Dimapilis

I have always been open about my mental illness, especially my experiences with psychosis and paranoia. I can't see any reason why not to. It is scary when attacks happen, but I find it somehow alleviating to the soul to share what's going on with me, or tell someone about it, in retrospect. It's amazing on what openness can do to other people — some laugh, thinking I'm just joking; some find it surreal and can't imagine I would have such eccentric phenomena really occur. But what moves me a lot is the number of people who are moved, even reduced to tears, and confess, “I am going through the same thing, I thought I was alone.” 

Some of my psychotic dips and paranoia include: 

  • Thinking I am growing tentacles, I hear myself sounding like a drunk octopus; slurred speech, and waving my hands... 
  • Faces seem to escape from walls and fall down on me; the ceiling smells like gasoline... 
  • Hearing Christmas carols from the electric fan at midnight; when I turn it off, the singing stops... 
  • Everything tastes like detergent, and next thing I know, my cousin's face is melting... 
  • Seagulls flying at three in the morning; one gets stuck inside my pillow, and a chimp is convincing me to destroy the pillow to set the bird free... 
  • Can't sleep because I hear police sirens, and the laughing of men and women as if they are in a bar...
  • My entire environment changing, as if I am back to my past and seeing old things which made me cry... 
  • Derogatory voices inside my head telling me I'm not good enough; or, if they are kind enough, they play nice songs in my head the whole day...
  • My aversion to throwing garbage in public because I feel like I am exposing my soul to the world...
  • My fear of doorbells and ringing phones which makes me get startled and feel like someone is trying to rip off my skin and ask for my skeleton...
  • Occasional dissociation, during which I feel like I'm floating, watching myself through myself who watches my other self, which leads me to thinking I don't know who is my real self anymore...

Some sound funny and almost “verum est-ish”, but they are real, and can really be scary when happening at the moment. I don't mind sharing it with others, because I want them to see this part of me that they usually don’t. It makes me feel upset when people don't believe I have a mental illness — I often get comments like “you seem okay to me,” “well, you're not locked up in an asylum, that means you're normal,” “it's all in your head.” It's not until I share all these bizarre experiences that they become convinced, even eager to learn more. I think being open about the mental illness journey is one key to recovery. Some people may be skeptical because they think that you seem okay on the outside; but some people, surprisingly, can see how you really feel on the inside because they feel it within themselves as well. Empathy connect is what I think I can call it.

Though the experiences of all individuals who are impacted by mental illness vary, there is a certain sense of connection that I feel when people who seem to be okay are actually going through something they are hiding, even to themselves. It's the feeling of being less scared, knowing that someone is going through the same thing as you. People feel safe and at ease when they can share their troubles with others who are going through the same, because they know that everyone who shares their issues has made themselves vulnerable enough to show their mental battle scars. Awareness about mental illness can start with a single person and be spread around. Not an easy task but it's something that we can do for ourselves and for others as well. Pass it on, be heard. Open your book no matter how torn it is, and let it sparkle — even for those who can barely see it shine. Someday, somehow, they will understand; some can relate, some will open up to others the same way you did. You'll be surprised and moved when they thank you for trusting them and making them feel that they are not alone.

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