I’m Alice, and I’m living with mental illness.

I’m not afraid to say this anymore; once upon a time identifying as somebody suffering from an ‘invisible’ disease terrified me. I have multiple diagnoses (boring you with the whole list is not necessary) including bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder (clean and serene for over three years now – big acheivement). Being diagnosed with bipolar aged 14 was something I never expected to happen when I first sought therapy because I felt ‘different from everybody else’. The word different is important here: it was this difference that scared me.

Would people think I was crazy? Would people judge me? Would I be excluded?

The answer to all of these questions is yes, that did happen. Did it bother me? Hugely. Does it bother me now? No.

Representations of the various diseases are often misleading and offensive; there are many more aspects to mental illness than meets the eye. What does gender, race, location, status and physical appearance mean when representing mental illness? How is it to actually live with the mental illness, and the stigma that surrounds it?

These are the questions, and many more, that I want to shed some light on. Campaigns such as #endthestigma are working to raise awareness of, and remove the negative discourse around mental illness, and if I am able to play even a little part in that, I will be satisfied.

Learn to love your illness.