My name is Sophie Jones, and I was diagnosed with mental illness. Standing among a group of strangers seems rather generic on television. Doing it live means acknowledgment. Acknowledgment of this different life I'm forced into rather than asked to live. The two diagnoses changed my life forever and destroyed everything: family, friends, and psyche. There was a time I’d rather die until I realized it was my mind trying to manage or make sense of trauma and genetics. Saturday, I stood before group members, some of whom have been with me from the beginning, and spoke. I could see the connection between my words and their eyes. It felt inspiring to see that connection. I felt something! My girl said, “Write it down,” so here we are--
I’ve fought to hold things together for years until, one day, I couldn’t. Self-medicating and finding ways to curve the changes chalked off as mood swings. For over 26 years, I managed and supported a marriage and family. It didn’t mean shit as I lost most of them. Admittedly I went on a tear and shut myself off, but those few who thought enough of me to be worth fighting for found me and have been supportive. My estranged sister checked in and flew here to see me once she heard of the diagnosis. It sent a message that I was worth it.
While some family and friends continue to believe I’m the same person and speak with me when I allow like I have the same likes and dislikes, I’m reminded of how I’m no longer that person, and they choose to see me their way, which means we are at a plateau. There is no need for dwelling anymore to repair a past when people don't meet your present. To his credit, my husband minimally tried to see me but lives in this "I left him" stench that is exhausting. If I had stayed, he would’ve judged every move and had an opinion because that is his OCD ass in a nutshell. I fought with this for at least 10 years of our marriage, and he didn’t last two years. All about protecting himself and believing what he liked. But, he has come to seek me out and fight a little, whereas some of my group members' spouses left, taken trips as far as Bermuda and London, but never to group or to see them. They’ll say, “I wasn’t invited” or “they needed space,” but that’s a bitch retreat to protect their feelings. The message is you don’t fight for me, so I won’t fight for you because I can’t. Actions say more than words: I love you or care mean nothing when you don't show up for fear of being turned away.
I’ve met some people in the group who feel more vested because they understand, this new life is tough but so much more worth it. It feels like I have been tested, but the people around me were tested to determine if they’re my kind of people. Nope. As my brother says, they loved their best ability but not mine.
Yes, mental illness destroyed my life, but now I have a new life full of support. I can be myself and say what I feel without judgment or the need to explain. I’ve learned to say less and less in unsafe places, and the group is how I’ve learned to be me with all the fucked up voices in my head. Pills are a necessary evil; while I hate them, they serve the purpose. I’m staying medicated and committing better to the process. I’m learning that when a house burns down, yes, memories burn with it, but those memories may have been through trauma. It’s like looking through a dirty window. I’m building new memories by looking through a clearer window in a new apartment.
The red pill ain't so bad, lovelies--