From the outside looking in, Sophie Eliza appears to be a typical 20-year-old. She loves dogs, Star Wars, taking fun selfies, and wearing bright red lipstick. But there’s something that sets Sophia apart: Her courage.
On February 14, Sophie publicly shared her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, severe depression, and schizophrenia with the world in a raw and powerful Facebook post. But she also went one step further: She offered an inside look into mental illness with heartwrenching before-and-after photos.
“The first photo is of the Sophie that everyone knows,” her post begins. “Happy and smiley.”
“The next photo and video is of me is during a psychotic episode after I had calmed down a bit to where I could talk and I was seeing things other than visions of people screaming covered in blood. Believe me, I was much worse.”
The last photo is of an exhausted Sophie, hugging her dog and finally getting some relief after the drugs have kicked in.
The images are captivating, and frankly, all too familiar to me. You see, I have also been diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder. And when the medication fails to be effective, it’s bad — really bad.
I scream, cry, and punch the walls. I’ll even try to punch myself. My feelings are so intense, I’ve been known to cut. And, like Sophie, I can only compare the pain to that of a death in the family.
“It makes me feel things that aren’t real, including physical pain,” Sophie explains. “It makes me relive the worst moments of my life again and again with no escape. But those traumas are mine and I keep them with me at all times, wherever I go.”
I’m open about my disease. I’m not ashamed of it, because I know that it’s a chemical disorder that’s no fault of my own. But like Sophie, I get angry — not about my disease, but about the dialogue around it. Words like “schizo” or “bipolar” trivialize the serious nature of these devastating illnesses. The terminology surrounding mental illness is used so flippantly.
“Mental illnesses aren’t a quirk,” she continues. “Mental illnesses are serious, they’re dangerous and ugly. This is the reality of being triggered by something. It’s not a joke, or a laugh. Being triggered by something can lead to this. This state of pure agony and fear.”
In the weeks that have followed, Sophie’s Facebook post has been shared upwards of 34,000 times, and she’s received over 500 messages of support. Others suffering from mental illness are now asking her for advice, as well as thanking her for sharing an experience that they know all too well.
However, Sophie has also gotten backlash for her post. As she revealed on her blog, she recently lost her job due to expressed concern of her working with children.
“This is part of the stigma and part of the problem,” she wrote. “This is due to a misunderstanding. I am a functioning human being, not a danger or threat, if I was seen as a threat I would be in hospital.”
But in the end, she doesn’t regret being open about her disease. This courageous young woman wants to raise awareness and help fight the stigma surrounding mental illness, and I can’t support her enough.
Keep fighting, Sophie — and so will I. And so will the millions of others who draw strength from your words and courage. When they see you, they see themselves. And, even more beautifully, that self is stripped of all shame.