Bright Side

14 People Talk About the Moment They First Realized They Were Mentally Ill

The most dangerous myth about psychological health is that people with different disorders don’t realize what is happening to them and are unable to notice when they start to have trouble. In fact, this situation is only possible when a disorder is psychotic or when a person sees a completely different reality. But if a disorder manifests differently, the person experiencing the disorder still has the ability to think critically and they are still able to notice that something is wrong.

Bright Side learned about the most important signs of psychological health problems from the stories of people who share when they first realized that something was wrong with them. These stories made us think a lot.


I had been really depressed for a few months (I knew I had problems with depression) when I suddenly started feeling better. In fact, I felt great. I felt great for about a week. Then I started to feel incredibly wound up. I spent nearly $40,000 (which I didn't have) in a few days, mostly on shoes. I stopped sleeping.

Very early one morning, I woke up obsessed with the idea that my shoes weren't perfect, and I took the subway to my office at 4:30 a.m. to collect the shoes that were there and brought them home and arranged all of my shoes in the dining room by heel height and then alphabetically by designer. And then I got distracted and made cupcakes. And then I went back to my shoes and recorded every flaw I could see on each of them so I could take them to the cobbler.

And then my boyfriend woke up, observed me and my shoes, and my breakfast of cupcakes, and told me I had to go to the doctor. By that point it was still only 7:30 a.m. Looking back, the strange thing is that I didn't notice anything odd about my behavior at the time. If not for my boyfriend, I would have gone to work that day as if nothing had happened. © Anonymous, bipolar disorder


Sitting in 7th grade social studies taking a test. Heard someone call my name. Turned to my sister to ask her if she heard someone call me... She hadn't. Things got worse over the next few years. But it was then that I knew something wasn't right. And I knew it wasn't good. © Julia Yeckley, schizoaffective disorder


I had trouble discerning reality from my thoughts, usually early in the day or late at night. I was worried about things that I thought were real, when I had only actually thought about them. The moment that really scared me was when I woke up one morning, went downstairs to take a shower, and that's when I woke up again, and it was only 2 am, and my alarm hadn't rung. This happened twice in a row, so in my mind it was all an illusion. I started having doubts about what I thought I knew, what I thought was real, and what wasn't. I told a few people about it, they all told me I was crazy. © weaselinMTL, schizoaffective disorder


I always knew I was an outcast and that I was different. I think around 6 or 7 years old is when I started experiencing mania, I would read in the pitch black darkness and try to maneuver my book to where the words I was reading would be illuminated by the light that would creep through the little gaps in the blinds of my window. If I got caught, my dad would get so mad!!

I didn't know how to explain it to my mom and dad that my mind would race at 150 MPH and I'd worry about bills and school and growing up and a career and how much money I'd need to make a week/month/year to survive… Yes all that at 7 years old. © Сhristina Lewis, bipolar disorder


The breaking point in my life was the first time I felt uncontrollable rage. I blinked and my entire world changed. I was holding a long steel table and I was trying to kill my colleague with it. Fortunately, there was not enough room for the swing and I was stopped by the wall. Then, I tried to squash the guy with a table. 2 other guys grabbed me and it was only then that I came to my senses and started to understand what I was doing. © Doug Hilton, post-traumatic stress disorder


I was 16 years old. I had been being treated for depression for several months. But I wasn't just depressed. I was having episodes of hypomania (later, when I was older, I had full manic episodes). I stayed up all night on school nights working on art projects that fell apart. At a gathering, I ran down the street without a shirt on. I kicked a hole in a wall during a tantrum. My energy was out of control. I would talk and talk like I couldn't stop. I knew something was up.

At the time some pharmaceutical company was advertising a medication online by posting a survey that had questions about mood and activities, and it suggested I talk to my doctor about bipolar disorder. I found myself agreeing with the quiz, and suggested to my psychiatrist that I was bipolar. My doctor agreed with that assessment. © Paige Lauren


I knew something was wrong when I began to tell my friend why I needed Adderall to stay up at night (used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy). I told him it felt like something was in my room. And the look on his face when I said it felt like that something was shoving me when I turned my back was a sign. The moment I decided to seek help was when a voice told me to be careful of the man who was behind me with a rope about to hang me. Everything's good now and I have no symptoms, but I'm glad I talked with my friend and caught it early. © astupidsquirrel, schizoaffective disorder


I realized that my childhood wasn’t normal, and that an “imaginary friend” who is able to take control of their body isn’t a normal imaginary friend. Still trying to find a psychiatrist in my country who will be able to diagnose us, but the last one we saw was sure we were more than one in our head. She just didn’t have the knowledge to make a proper diagnosis (and I bet she wasn’t good at English either, we never talked about the resources I gave to her). © Celine Denca


When I was about thirteen, I started losing interest in activities I liked and my best friend commented that I seemed so serious and didn't laugh anymore. Around the same time, I constantly smelled a dusty/smoky smell that no one else could smell. I went for a brain scan and everything was normal. When I was fifteen, my depression worsened, and about once a day I heard a voice that told me to kill myself. At the same time, my moods changed rapidly over the course of each day and I did not sleep a lot.

Sometimes when people hear about mood changes, they think of angry, violent people. I was never angry or dangerous to other people. I never yelled at other people or blamed them for my problems. Nor did I ever do anything to get attention. I hid my moods as best I could, and I did everything I could to be normal. I knew it wasn't normal to hallucinate (the voice and smell), but I didn't think anyone would believe what I was experiencing. © Jennifer Belzile


My legs started twitching again, I sobbed, I just wanted it to stop. I wanted everything to just stop. I wanted to sleep. I didn't want to exist. My mom tried to calm me down, but I couldn't be calmed. I felt like my body wasn't mine to control anymore. The shaking came and went in waves, my body shook like a house in an earthquake. I had to tell her I needed help. I couldn't live like this anymore.

That was my first and (thankfully) only panic attack. It was 11 pm, I had class the next day but I hadn't finished my homework. I wanted to explain to my mom what was going on in my life. Why I was always jumpy and on edge. I was so so scared. I didn't know how she would react. I feared judgment. I thought she would say I was lying, she listened calmly and told me she would set up an appointment for as soon as possible. © Marie Kuehler, panic disorder


During an anxiety episode caused by being in a crowded mall, I turned to my friend and said, in all seriousness, “If this crowd doesn't start moving, I am going to start throwing these girl scouts over the railing.” We were on the second floor, with a children's play area under us. I knew this. I did not care.

I only cared about getting out of there, and they were the immediate obstacles. Throwing them over the railing was the most expedient method of removing those obstacles. The fact that they were teens and preteens, had done nothing wrong, and would likely die and/or kill the children below did not matter. Even as I was thinking about it, before I said it, I knew it was monstrous. I knew it was a crazy thought from a diseased mind. I hated myself. I still said it. I still meant it. I still intended to act on it if necessary. He looked at me, wide-eyed, and then told the girls at the back of the group exactly what I said and why. They relayed it forward and the group moved out of the way rather quickly. I still felt horrible and added that to my list of things to address in therapy. © Erik Johnson, clinical depression, anxiety


It was probably the time I could hear my then husband breathing from 3 rooms away and wanted to go kill him just to make the sound stop (he was not snoring, and I did not attempt to do it)... That thought got me on the phone with my primary doctor ASAP. © Stacy Arguelles, bipolar disorder


I got up early, worked out, and was dressed ready for the day. I could do it today, everything can change today. I looked outside. I froze, I couldn't go into work, I couldn't go outside, I cried, and stayed in bed all day, trying to sleep off these emotions. It was then that I realized that I have been slowly declining and I am nearing the edge, the breaking point where something in life will fail.

I tried to deny how bad I was, since I was a fairly functioning person with absolutely no one truly suspecting that I was depressed and suicidal. I worked out, slept regularly, maintained my hobbies, but still could not escape the absolute void that was following me. Truly it was every day, the little things. Forgetting to eat, finding more excuses to not go into work, relying on coffee to "get through things" easier, saying no more often to any sort of social events. © Brittney Nichole, clinical depression


I stalked my therapist. I was seeing a therapist for about 4 weeks. We were still developing a relationship with one another. Before I started seeing him, I naturally Googled a way to find out more information about him, his practice, and possible patient reviews or complaints to see if he would be worth my time. He was a married man in his forties, with 3 kids, he was an active member of his church, and was in good standing with his clients. He had a polite demeanor and was overall a nice guy. There was nothing special about him.

I had been feeling depressed on and off, and it was starting to take a toll on me, hence, my visits to the therapist. I'd never heard of bipolar before. I just assumed that I had depression and my hypomanic episodes were just “bursts of energy.” During our fourth meeting, I was telling him how I was feeling disconnected from everything and everyone. I felt like I was just going through the motions of everyday life and I was tired of not having anything to ground me. I couldn’t feel happy and I was getting increasingly frustrated with my life.

I remember the exact words he said: “ A lot of people turn to religion in a time like this. Did you think about going to church?” Something snapped in me.

Is he trying to force his beliefs on me? He’s so pathetic that he needs reassurance that there’s life after death. Hahaha…what a weakling.

I left the session and headed home like nothing happened, still reeling with anger. I did not sleep at all for the next 2 nights. I was up, planning my revenge, obsessing over this polite, mild-mannered guy who just gave me an innocent suggestion that could help me. I remember trying furiously to dig up as much information about him as I could (even downloading things to allow me to explore the “dark web” to assist me with my search), pacing back and forth, basically climbing walls.

Suddenly, the perfect idea came to my head: I will seduce him. I was 24 at the time. A young, fit, attractive female. He will want to have sex with me. I will seduce him and he will cheat on his wife. He will destroy his perfect family. I managed somehow to dig up his address. I jumped in my car and drove to his house. My heart was pounding with excitement. This was the middle of the second night - I was running on virtually no sleep, yet, my mind was crystal clear. I was on a mission.

I wasn’t planning on doing anything, I just wanted to observe. I wanted to see him and his family that I wanted so badly to destroy. I was about a mile away from my destination, when my obsession began ebbing away. Sleepiness overtook me. I was tired. Hungry (I did not eat for 2 days). Weak. I suddenly started to feel deeply ashamed of myself. Embarrassed. Stupid.

I turned around and went home. I opened a bottle of wine and drank the whole thing, just to make those feelings go away and forget the past few days. I sank into an almost 2-week long depression after that. Why would I possibly want to destroy someone’s life like this? You’re a bad human being. Stay away from people.

Looking back at this, I often think that it was a dream, it wasn’t real, I’m not the kind of person who would do something like that. Maybe I was being possessed?

After that, I immediately canceled any future appointments that I had with him. I was too ashamed to face him. I couldn’t possibly look into his eyes and tell him what I did and what I was planning on doing. After that, I knew something was wrong.

Moral of the story? Get help before your mania takes it too far. © Anonymous, bipolar disorder

And do you believe that a person with a mental disorder can diagnose a problem on their own?

Preview photo credit Julia Yeckley / Quora