1. The illnesses I live with are:
Chronic major depression
PTSD, Dissociative-NOS ("recovered")
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year:
According to my records, 1998 for the mental stuff. Not sure about the migraines.
3. But I had symptoms since:
Before 1994, which is when my coherent memories begin. Most probably before 1991 when things get really hazy.
There's some 27-odd other questions on the version from cheshire_bitten, but I can't really get myself to bother answering them. Most of them target people who've acquired disabilities late in life, late enough to remember the "good old days". My father can tell you when he got diabetes, the pictures can show how his diet changed, his children can tell how his temper waned. My mother could tell you when she was diagnosed with bipolar, but she wouldn't because secrets stay in the family. My girlfriend will tell you when she acquired her wrist problems, how that changed the way she lives her life, how she gets around it at work. But when it comes to her anxiety issues or to my depression, what is there to say?
The most invisible of invisible disabilities are the ones we're born with. Because these are the ones we don't know how to live without. I can tell you how I live my life differently than how you live yours. And you may ask whether that's because of who I am or because of the depression, but that question is without meaning. Who I am is someone who lives with depression. To try to separate it out is like trying to separate out that I'm intelligent or that I was born in the States. The person without those traits would be so different that I cannot fathom where my life would take them.
The disabilities we're born with are the most invisible because all too often they are invisible to ourselves. Countless people cope with issues like depression and anxiety for years before realizing that perhaps it's different for other people. Even those who know it must be different often can't imagine what different would feel like. When I started on anti-depressants a whole new world opened up before me, a startling realization that happiness can be a way of life rather than a rare brief moment. When my girlfriend started on anti-anxiety meds she was dumbstruck to find the metaphorical pain of a panic attack was real physiological pain, and that suddenly a wrong turn or change in plans no longer evoked it despite the instinct to brace for the blow. She'd been telling people the pain was real for years, and yet on some level even she didn't believe it.
Too many of us are quiet, not because society frowns on admitting illness, but simply because in our suffering we do not know that it can be any other way. It is important to gain recognition from our peers that, yes, life is in fact harder for us. But for me, the bigger issue is to help our peers recognize that, yes, what they feel is real and they are not alone in what they know not how to name.
Update (Sunday, 21 September 2009): I think I'll tackle this one though,
17. The commercials about my illness
The iconic silhouette of a marine with the inscription "it takes a warrior to ask for help". ... Chesh's bobblely headed blonde twentysomething running through untrammeled plains in a floral sundress. ... An asian woman declaring "I'm glad I failed (to kill myself)". ... A teenage girl in a darkened room staring out a rain-soaked window. ...
Now, I know people who fit these descriptions and have the associated illness (except the blonde), but I know also a lot of people with the illnesses who don't match these images. Yes, soldiers are one of the main demographics for PTSD (aka "shell shock", aka "battle fatigue") but do you know who the other main demographic is? Rape victims and children who've grown up in sexually abusive households. Yes, teenage women are one of the main demographics for depression, but men with depression are more likely to commit suicide.
These commercials are a disservice in many ways. By presenting the soldier and teenage girl they only reaffirm these stereotypes, continuing to marginalize and deny the experiences of victims of sexual assault/abuse and depressed men. And woah, talk about mixed messages! "Not only can't you deal with the stress, but you're a failure as a soldier 'cuz you can't even ask for help." "Yeah, look at you: the failure. You can't even off yourself properly." While I understand the marketing engine behind these punchy lines, for all that they grab the attention they undermine the message they're trying to send. Patronizing, mocking, and teasing are not ways to earn the trust of someone who is suffering. These slogans only serve to reenforce the silence and isolation of those they're trying to reach.