What does it mean to have a mental illness? Maybe nothing. It’s like asking “what does it mean to have a computer?” Uh…I don’t know I just have one. It’s not like I bought mental illness from the store. It was given to me by genetics and neurochemistry. I’m not sure what it “means” but it probably doesn’t mean anything. It impacts my life, sure, but I don’t think it has objective meaning. It’s something that I have to manage in terms of symptoms. Sometimes I have trouble leaving the house in the morning because I’m having difficulty finding my keys, but not like a “normal” person. I have problems finding my keys because I’m distracted. I am trying to do 60 things at the same time and none of them are working because you can’t do 60 things at the same time. Multitasking is something that we’re told we should get good at as adults. Yet, we’re also told “one day at a time” and practice “mindfulness.” So which is it? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.

What I do know is that labels are for cereal boxes. I self-diagnosed myself with Complex PTSD, but I’m not even sure that’s helpful. It’s helpful in the sense that I have a framework for how to work with my therapist and create a treatment plan now. But, I don’t know that I want to assume that or any other label. I can tell you my symptoms, I can describe my feelings in utter detail, but I don’t want to assume any labels. I want to just be Sarah Fader. And “just” is complicated. There isn’t anything simple about being me; I’m complicated, and I don’t pretend that I’m not. Many people can’t handle my intensity, and that’s even a label. It drives me crazy when people call me intense. I am passionate, tenacious, fun, warm and real. But I’m not intense. Feelings can feel intense but to call a person “intense” isn’t kind. It makes them feel like they’re a burden. When you’re outside in a hot New York City summer and the temperature goes above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s an intense weather condition. I will not be a “100-degree person.”

I want the people around me to appreciate who I am, what I stand for and to understand that they might not always get me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m lacking in the awesome department. I like being quirky and weird. I love making people laugh and I’ve decided that just because you don’t understand someone doesn’t mean that you can’t love them. I love plenty of people that I completely don’t understand. They are amazing people that confuse the fuck out of me and I love them anyway. Because you can love people that are extremely problematic and remind you of puzzles that you can’t solve. The pieces are hiding in the closet and the lights are off and there are no light bulbs. But you still love them.

People are wonderful and confusing and if we can connect to one another on any level, it’s exciting. I guess my point in all this is that we don’t need to define each other so much as we need to communicate and appreciate one another. Stop reading the labels and open the box to see what’s inside.