Mental Health Month: You Are Not Your Illness

“You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle.” – Julian Siefter


For Mental Health Month, our very own Jody Morgan has shared part of her story with us. 


​I started working in the mental health field about 5 or 6 years ago. I started off by wanting to give back to those who gave so freely to me in my mental health recovery. You see, I grew up in a suburban middle class family​ in NE Ohio. Nobody talked about mental health and I was surely not aware of diagnoses like bipolar or schizophrenia. This is one reason why Mental Health Month is so important now.


I recall my first visit to a psychologist was around 5th or 6th grade, shortly following my parents divorce. I recall acting out and not behaving the way that a normal 12 year old should, and my parents thought talking to someone would solve this problem. I don’t recall much of these visits, but I know that my parents thought it was the right thing to do.


My first daughter was born in 1997, when she passed away due to prematurity I was put on some medication to counteract post-partum depression. I didn’t like the side effects, so I recall not staying on the medication for long. What I do recall is I didn’t have a name to those who were prescribing me medications. I was a person who they assumed had a mental health diagnosis and just wanted to keep subdued.


In 1998 my second daughter was born and things had improved surrounding my mental well-being and I was feeling good. Little did I know that I was clearly in the early stages of borderline personality disorder.


From 1998 forward I managed to not take care of myself physically and mentally, I would like to blame it on a divorce, being a single mom and working, but it was because I wasn’t aware of what was really happening. I was entering into risky situations, made bad choices and put myself into a downward spiral that in the end proved to be very hard to come back from.


Starting around 2010 things became worse for me in a number of ways, not only was I physically ill, but I became worse mentally. I started to see psychiatrists and psychologists along side of a myriad of other doctors, but nobody was communicating with each other and it was one medication after another and in retrospect I realize now that a lot of the time one contradicted the other and so on and so forth.


After spending many days, weeks and months in hospitals and nursing homes trying to rehabilitate myself both physically and mentally. It was a long road and it wasn’t until I really connected with the Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board and their staff that I started to move in a forward motion with my life.


The ADAMHS Board helped me to have a voice for myself and to speak out to others about how important it is to have advocates for mental health recovery. I recall my first bus trip from Cleveland to Columbus to talk to those in charge of funding for individuals in recovery. Talking to many others like myself was eye opening and it was that first trip that I made many friends. For the first time in a long time I felt like I was worth something.


The most important lesson for me to learn was that I got my voice, personality and ability to be an individual back. Now it is 2017, I am able to say I am not my illness, I am Jody. For the last six years I have worked to improve the world for those in mental health and addiction recovery. To allow for those individuals to have a voice, just like was done for me in the past. Am I “cured” of my mental illness? Nope. Am I able to “manage” most days with my mental illness? You betcha.


Learning about Peer Support and what it offers was a game changer for me, I know that there are other people out there like me and to be able to talk to them about similar feelings and emotions means the world to me. If you are looking for someone to talk to or need mental health support within your relationship, here is a great article.


We need to work to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness at home and in our communities. To be inclusive of all those in recovery and ensure that they have a place in communities and society. Not just during Mental Health Month, but every month. I am a member of society and my community, and I hope to be able to keep it that way. Tell your story. You are not your illness.


If you struggle with mental illness and want to find a nearby therapist, check out BetterHelp here. They connect people with online therapists around the country that have mental health experience.


Peace and joy,


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