“I am not my illness”

I am not my illness. 

Keira, 16 

I’ve had depression for three years, and I used to hate the way my illness had changed me. I thought I could never be the girl I used to be. But my psychologist helped me to see that my illness can never change the inner me. In the end, I will have changed – I will be stronger for this battle – but my central values and the things that make me ‘me’ will always remain the same.

I am not my illness. 

Mark, 23 

I have schizophrenia. People call me crazy, and avoid me, because I hear voices and talk to them. Maybe I am crazy sometimes, when I have an episode. But I’m not always crazy. I may be schizophrenic, but schizophrenic is not all I am.

I am not my illness. 

Jessie, 13 

The girls at school all tease me because I always stutter when I talk, and sometimes I try to speak but my mouth can’t form the words. They call me retarded, dumb. I’ve never really had any real friends, all because I have autism. They can’t look past my illness and see the real me, the ‘me’ who longs to be accepted like any normal person. I may be autistic, but I’m still human. I still have feelings.

I am not my illness. 

Chrissie, 30 

I have bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. Many people consider me ‘unemployable’, because of my illness. They say I’m ‘unstable and unpredictable’. But just because I have bipolar, doesn’t mean I’m unstable. I take medication to stabilise my moods, and though I have to take care not to stress out too much, my condition doesn’t prevent me from working, and working well. I can actually be very efficient and organised with what I do. But people don’t see it, because they never give me the chance. Bipolar disorder may be part of my life, but it doesn’t define who I am or what I’m capable of doing.

I am not my illness. 

Patrick, 15 

The guys at school call me a wuss, because I freak out so much before exams I throw up and faint. They reckon I’m chicken. I can’t tell them I have an anxiety disorder. They reckon mental illnesses are for weaklings. They don’t understand. Anyone can be affected. Anxiety has been part of my life for a long time, and mostly I still manage to live normally. Why can’t they see that?

I am not my illness. 

Annie, 16 

I had a nervous breakdown two years ago, and it led to me slowly sliding into mental illness. I missed almost a whole year of school last year. Now I’m back, and even though I know I’m not meant to take things too fast, it bugs me that people treat me like I’m going to go crazy at a moment’s notice. I know I’m fragile, but why do they have to always make such a big deal of it? I’m still the same person I always was.

I am not my illness. 

Samantha, 17 

I have suffered from anorexia for my whole high school life. At first I got so many compliments on how skinny I was, which only pushed me further. Then people started to notice that I wasn’t just pretty skinny any more, I was skeletal. They call me crazy, that I can’t see myself for what I actually am. They say I’m delusional. I’m not delusional. I’m sick. I know what I’m doing is wrong, but I can’t stop it. It’s the illness. It’s not me.

I am not my illness. 

Lily, 14 

Ever since the girls at school noticed I had scars on my wrist, I have been the subject of merciless taunting. My friends have turned their backs to me; they say I’m crazy. They look at me with disgust. I’m not crazy though. Or at least, I’m not crazy all the time. I’m sick. It is an illness, this addiction. It’s paralysing. I still cope though. I’m still me, whatever my illness. I’m still me.

I am not my illness. 

I am not my illness. My illness is not me. I am above this. I am above my illness. I. Am. Not. My. Illness.