We came through the presentation with flying colours, and I was a guest speaker talking about the challenges and issues of dealing with an invisible disabilty--mental illness. The audience, mostly undergraduates, were very receptive. They actually spontaneously applauded, asked a lot of questions, came up to each of us at the break and said what a good talk it was, etc. It was the first time I've ever talked to complete strangers about living with anxiety disorders and borderline personality. Several people were dealing with similar issues in their own lives either personally or because of a friend, and it apparently spurred continued conversation once the class convened after break. (I stayed outside at that point going over my assignment for a book review for CAPHIS that's due tomorrow. Gee, it's like being in school again!) Needless to say, we were floored by the response. And I'm very proud of D because she did something she's never done before...she self-disclosed about her own struggle with panic and anxiety disorder in front of her classmates.
Dwana started out with a good overview of services and barriers to those with disabilities, what types of disabilities there are, etc. Then she showed a videotape that looked at how local people had dealt with mobility, sensory, and learning disabilities.
Then it was my turn. We especially wanted to underscore that successful professionals could also be dealing with mental illness. In preparation I really had to think in terms of how it impacts me...I don't normally think of myself as disabled, but really, my life is impacted on all levels by my mental health issues. I gave information on the things I deal with (OCD, anxiety/panic disorder, social phobia, and BPD), the therapy that helped me (dialectical behaviour therapy), what it was like being suicidal and emotionally labile, and how it affected my relationships with others and my work. I gave them handouts that supplemented it really well; since many of them were going into teaching or counseling, it seemed to be worthwhile to give them good information they could take with them.
Here are links to some of the resources I used:
- BPD Central FAQ
- Borderline Personality Disorder: What Is It, What Causes It, How Can We Treat It/From Grief to Advocacy: A Mother's Story
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Dialetical Behaviour Therapy
- BPD Experiences
- Borderlines Talk About Self-Harm
Afterwards we celebrated by going over to Starbucks and playing Hear Me Out, with D getting a lot of the 'Sound Bite' spaces where you have to do impromptu speaking, as if she hadn't already presented enough! Then we both went home and I, at least, napped for a couple of hours. At one point we talked on the phone, sort of a debriefing and analysis, and we spoke a lot about our own experiences. It was a really great conversation. We both learnt new things about the other during the talk; I think Dwana saw for the first time what I had been dealing with; she didn't know me when I was undergoing therapy. And I saw dealing marvelously with her anxiety...the only hint that she was nervous was her neck turned bright read and splotchy, which is a physical response that I'm not sure most people could control. Each of us did a really good job, but apparently together we were a kick-ass team. We had lots of questions and I think the teacher was really pleased. We'll be a tough act to follow, and next week there are two presentations, one on female circumcision (that would be hard to talk about, I think) and same-sex parenting.
I really feel that it was important for us to be there, together, today, patially because I think it helped us deal with our own issues, and because there were a few people in the class who apparently were dealing with similar problems and it gave them a sense of where to turn for help. I feel really good about what we did today.