“I never believed in mental illness until it happened to me.”
This is something I have heard a few times from different people when they speak about their condition. This doesn’t apply to me, however. I always knew it was a real thing. I always knew there was something going on with me, but I was never really clear on what it was. Diagnosing mental illnesses is very tricky. It is not like diagnosing someone with the flu etc. It takes time and lots of documentation. Before I decided it was time to go back to the doctor last year, everyone had their advice on what I should do. Don’t tell people they need to exercise, use herbal remedies etc. Encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional. Being told it could be worse is very discouraging because you feel like you are being compared to someone else or that you are a weak individual. I am not ashamed of my story because it may inspire others to get the help they truly need and deserve. I used to find myself telling people I was sick when I was having a bad day because it was easier for my friends and associates to understand me having a cold versus me trying to explain depression & anxiety.
The deepest pain I remember feeling before I started to open up about my condition was denying that I even had something wrong with me to make everyone else feel better and more comfortable around me. I didn’t want to be looked at as a charity case or as a Debbie Downer. I also learned that anxiety really sucks and happens sometimes for no reason. I can’t recover by staying calm or breathing. I actually need the assistance of medication to limit and avoid having panic attacks. I have social and general anxiety according to my doctor. Personally, I think it is more social. Recovering from depression is more than having positive vibes. If it was that simple then no one would suffer from it. People who have mental illnesses are not weak individuals. They are very strong people even if they handle emotions differently than you do. I fight to work, take care of my family, be there for my friends, act normal, etc when I am having an episode. It is dealing with invisible pain. It’s more exhausting acting like you don’t have a mental illness, than dealing with it and treating it. Don’t do that to yourself. Stop hiding.
Having anxiety and depression comes as a package deal. Some people would consider this as baggage. It takes a very caring and patient person to care for a person who has a mental illness. I learned that when your body is sick you get all types of sympathy…except for when your brain isn’t working properly and you have depression. It was a very frustrating time in our marriage with me trying to explain how I felt and what was going on in my head to my beau. He thought he could fix me. Hell, we both thought we could fix me. I would be okay for a while but then I would get triggered and have a mental meltdown. This happened once a month and then it started to happen more frequently. The panic attacks became my normal whenever I needed to leave the house. I shopped at Target multiple times per week to avoid the busy times and crowds. Whenever lines are long I get anxious and want to bail out. I am impatient.
Whenever we go to a restaurant I must sit where I can clearly see the door. I don’t like my food to touch, I can’t stand hearing people smack and chew their food, I have a bad habit of cutting people off when they talk (I have gotten better about this), if I can’t get ahold of you or it’s been a while since I talked to you I start thinking the worst. I can’t help it. Even if I trust you with my soul I will still get anxious. The meds help with all of that including the little bit of OCD that I have. The meds help me chill out and not be in flight or fight mode 24-7. The meds help me not look at everything and everyone as a threat. I don’t worry so much to the point where it makes my tummy hurt anymore. I don’t get nervous when I have to go to crowded places to the point that I want to puke anymore. I avoided parties and other social gatherings for a while because mentally I just couldn’t handle it during my meltdown periods.
Once my beau educated himself on my condition, he was able to understand things better and how to approach the situation. I love him for wanting to understand and help me. I know my beau loves me very much and wants me to be happy. I am very lucky to have him by my side and have him fighting for me and with me. I am not in this alone. Support goes a long way. My close friends always check on me and ask about my appointments. They ask how am I feeling. They all know the cues of when something is wrong. For a while, everyone suspected something but didn’t want to ask. Once I put it out there I think we all felt more comfortable about it. When you have a mental illness you have to have people rooting for you. You need that village. When I have a panic attack, my heart races, I tremble, I feel like I am going to puke and I feel scared. I want to leave wherever I am at. People saying they were going to have a panic attack as a joke about inconveniences of life makes it harder for those of us who do truly experience them to be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, anxiety and depression are very misunderstood. Sadly, getting help for mental health issues is so inconvenient and hard in America. I have been through several doctors etc before finding a decent one. I am also my own worst enemy because I am very knowledgeable about psychology and medical stuff. When we were looking for me a new doctor so that I could get back on meds, it took a week of calling around to pinpoint the right doctors that fit our insurance coverage. Then the majority of those doctors were not accepting new patients…..hello!? I am being proactive trying to fix me and you won’t even see me!? Sure if it’s an emergency they will just check you into a mental institution. Anyway, after finding two doctors, my first choice staff was very rude and nobody would answer or call back. Finally a week later they called me back and said that I could be seen as a new patient in 3 weeks… 3 fxcking weeks. My second choice called me back within a week and I was able to be seen that following week. I am still under the care of my second choice. With this doctor, I have the option under my insurance coverage to do telehealth. Telehealth is when your doctor can see you remotely. You don’t go in person to your appointments. You are able to call or video chat. You must be deemed stable. This practice requires you to have 3 or 4 in-person visits or be deemed stable to qualify for telehealth.
I have been going in person since November of 2018. I am very close to being deemed stable so that I can do telehealth. The only reason I have not been able to sooner is that we had to figure out the right combination of medications (I will talk about that in another post).
Here are some stats and faqs about mental illnesses in the United States
- 1 in every 5 adults will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some point in their life.
- 1 in every 24 adults will be diagnosed with a serious mental disorder.
- 1 in every 12 adults has a substance abuse problem.
- Most chronic mental disorders appear by the time a person turns 14.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages and is more common than murders.
- People who have a mental disorder are not more likely to become violent than those who do not have a mental disorder. People with mental disorders are more likely to be victims of crimes and not the perpetrator.
- Every 12.8 minutes someone dies by committing suicide in America.
- 90 percent of those who commit suicide had a mental health issue that could be diagnosed.
Suicidal ideation is usually a common symptom that a lot of people with mental health issues encounter at some point. I have been there personally. I found myself joking about it in a way to lessen the dark times I was experiencing. It was a valid expression of my emotions and felt right and the only option. Making jokes about it created the thoughts about it and the cycle continued. I scared the shxt out of myself at one point in time. I wrote a note and everything. Thought about how I was going to do it etc. I broke down in tears. I am not going into details about that but I was saved…hearing someone’s voice saved me…and I will forever be thankful for that split second that made me snap out of it because it saved my life. I found better ways to express myself. Part of the mental health stigma problem is words. Being more mindful of our language is a small step in erasing the stigma. Words hold a lot of power. Words can create stigma or save a life.