Day 4: What are the pros and cons of having a mental illness or your specific illness(es)?
Cons – Well, I have a hard time keeping a job, making friends, enjoying life — my depression and anxiety really inhibit me to do a lot of things. It isn’t fun at all. With anxiety, I really hate going out. I am scared of meeting new people. Then when I do make a friend, I get really overwhelmed if they keep asking me to hang out, so I quite answering their calls or texts – and well, they give up on me, which I don’t blame them for. I get overwhelmed with jobs too – so I feel sick and can’t go in, or I have panic attakcs during them, or I just stop going, or I quit. When I get depressed – nothing makes me happy. I can sleep for days. I can not shower for days. I am not interested in anything. My mania with my bipolar even stinks — spend lots of money, get agitated and frustrated. Nothing good from that. Basically — it just sucks. So nothing good about the mental illness there.
Pros – Hmm that is a hard one to even think about. With bipolar, there is mania. Most people like that. They say they are productive and all that jazz. For me, I hate my mania – nothing good comes out of it. So I cant even list that as a pro. I think I am more empathetic though. I see the world differently than most people. I feel pain. I know what it is like to hurt. I guess I don’t want to say I understand things better, and yet I also do want to say that. When someone is hurting or down, I feel like I really do understand them. I do feel like I see the world completely differently than someone without mental illness – I feel like I have a better perspective. I know that sounds bad and mean and wrong and as if I am better than them — but I feel like I just have a better understanding — or a different understanding I guess.
Word Press Post A Day – When was the last time you experienced writer’s block? What do you think brought it about — and how did you dig your way out of it?
I just started doing these Post A Day things from Word Press – I thought it might help me expand on my topics – bring in new ideas to relate to mental health…which is what my blog is about. For the most part, I think it has helped a bit. I think most of them I have been able to relate to mental health/illness in some way, even if it has been a bit of a stretch at times. Except Unlikely Pairing – that one, nope, I just couldn’t tie in. I wrote about it anyway, just to write.
I am passionate about mental health though. I have been affected with mental illness my whole life. There is so much stigma associated with mental illness though. You rarely hear about the great people that have mental illness, just the horrible stories related to it. Everyone just gets a bad picture.
I created this blog to show my struggles, but also my triumphs over my disorders – my bipolar, my borderline personality disorder, and my PTSD. All of which I struggle with daily. I also overcome it everyday though.
Each day I get up, I write on here. I write about what mental illness is, or how to cope with it, quotes related to it, how it has affected me, how it might be affecting me that day, what I am going to do in the future to overcome a challenge that I faced because of it, suicide, sexual abuse, past traumas, therapy, etc.
I’m sure I had writers block in high school related to some silly essay my AP English teacher wanted me to write. When it comes down to something that I am interested in though, something I am passionate about – no, I haven’t had it. I am sure it might come eventually, but so far, it hasn’t hit me. I hope it doesn’t because this is a topic that needs to be spoken up for and needs to be heard.
This is my coping skill. It’s keeping me mentally healthy right now. Or as much as it can anyway.
Stigma. Stigma creates so many barriers for those of us with mental illness. I know it has prevented me from sharing my illness with people, at least when I was first diagnosed. Although that quickly changed. I was in nursing school – and I ended up in the psych hospital —- the same semester we were doing psych clinicals. So, all my fellow students walked in there ready to work with the patients, and I was one of them. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I was so freaked out. I ran to the room and shut the door and refused to come out. It didn’t matter though, my name was up on the board and they had my chart. My whole history!
After that, there was no point in hiding it. I just decided to be open. Of course, I still was in denial at this point and was in and out of the hospital. I had dropped out of school for the semester after my first hospitalization, but still saw my fellow students throughout all my hospitalizations. I was open with them about what was going on with me. They never talked bad about me to my face and I think they were understanding.
Stigma really hurts though. There are two types of stigma:
1. Social stigma – this is the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that other individuals direct towards those with mental illness
2. Self stigma – this is when the person with mental illness perceives the discrimination in their own way and internalizes it – leading to poor self esteem, guilt, shame, etc
Because of self stigma and social stigma, those with mental illness avoid treatment for fear of how they will be treated. They do not want to be diagnosed with something that might make them “different” from others. They do not want a diagnosis that will cause others to be scared of them. Many people often think that those with mental illness are “dangerous” when in reality, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence (by someone else or to themselves, i.e. self harm or suicide) than to be violent towards someone else (shooting, murder, all those stories they show on the media, etc).
The only way to get rid of stigma is to continue to educate those around us about mental health and mental illness. People might not want to hear about it. We cannot push people to hear about it. But we can bring it up here and there. We can be honest about our struggles instead of hiding them. If someone asks how we are doing, we can tell them, we can be truthful. We can take off our masks and tell them we have bipolar or ptsd or anxiety or whatever we might have and explain we are having a rough day. We can write to our leaders in government to help expand funding to mental health resources. We can leave brochures at libraries or other public places about support groups. We can make a difference in helping defeat the “bad name” that these disorders have gotten.
Did you know that July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month? If not, you’re not alone. Sadly this month is often overlooked by the majority of Americans. It is a time when summer has bloomed, fireworks have entered the scene, and multiple summer parties and cook-outs are in full swing. It comes at a time of the year when so many people are outdoors, enjoying the summer time weather and penetrating sun. This lack of awareness, however, not only affects minorities struggling with mental health problems, but our society at large.
There are multiple things we need to do to bring greater awareness to minority mental health:
- Build awareness
- Remember services are difficult to locate
- Remind clinicians and mental health professionals to be culturally competent
- Understand that:
- Many cultures lack knowledge about mental illness or see it as taboo
- Lack support from their own culture to seek services
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A lot of people tell me I don’t need medicine. This especially happened when I was first diagnosed with depression. “Oh I have been depressed, it will pass. Just don’t worry about things. You have such a good life. You are doing so well in school. I don’t even know why you are depressed.” – they would say. Even today, I get the whole “mind over matter” given to me or “God will heal you, just pray.”
My problem with this is, none of these people have been in my situation. Sure, everyone gets “depressed,” BUT depression is such an overused word now that it has lost its real meaning. In reality, everyone gets “sad.”
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, depression is defined as: a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, sad is defined as: affected with or expressive of grief or unhappiness
So when people say they are depressed, they are not, they are sad. Unless they have been to a doctor and have been diagnosed with a disorder that encompasses depression, they do not understand.
I am not saying that everyone who has a psychiatric diagnosis of something that encompasses depression will need to take medication, because there are a select group of people that can function and learn to function without it. However, many people do need to take medication. For others to put stigma on mental illness and basically encourage them to not take their medication by saying they do need it is dangerous.
I personally have gone on and off medication. I was noncompliant with my medication when I was first diagnosed. I didn’t think I needed it and I didn’t want to take medication the rest of my life. What ensued after every time I stopped taking them was a trip to the ER and then psych hospital for a suicide attempt, a trip to the psych hospital for suicidal ideation, the cops coming to my apartment for welfare checks and then usually bringing me to a psych hospital…and that continued until I was eventually committed to a state hospital where I was forced to take medication. The light bulb went off in my head there, my Aha! moment occurred there though. I was actually doing better! I was feeling better! The medications actually helped me!
It took years and years to find the right combination of meds for me. And for most people it does take that long. It is easy to give up, especially when people are telling you that you don’t need it. If you know that you need them because you are not functioning well though, don’t give up. Continue to use your coping skills and continue to fight to gain your life back. Mental illness is not easy, but you can learn to live with it. And not only live with it, but live a good life with it.
Most importantly, if you ever feel like you want to get off or change medications, for any reason at all, make sure you talk to your doctor about it.
Today I “graduated” from the NAMI Connection Facilitator Training! I officially can be a facilitator at my local NAMI meetings. Why am I so excited about this?
Well, first off, NAMI has been an integral part of my recovery through mental illness. I first found a NAMI Connection Group when I was in college and began having severe symptoms. I was in nursing school and had heard of it during my psychiatric clinicals. I was nervous to go as the meeting was held in the local hospital where I did my clinical and thought some of the nurses might recognize me. I went anyway, and continued to go. Meeting others that had similar diagnosis and faced similar problems in their day to day lives with me helped me tremendously. I was able to relate to them and learn new coping skills. I still struggled a lot and was in and out of hospitals, but they were there for me. I had no family in Indiana and they really became like family to me – they were my support system as I did not really have one before joining NAMI. After moving to Florida, I immediately began attending a NAMI group here. The closest one to me was about 45 minutes away at first, but I went anyway. I made such amazing friends. Another one started closer, about 30 minutes away, so I went to that one too – but I could leave my friends from the other one, so I went to both. And now a 3rd one is even closer, only 15-20 minutes away. And I have trained to become a facilitator for that group, as I want to step up and grow within the organization which has helped me so much.
So, what exactly is NAMI? NAMI is the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. It is the largest mental health grassroots organization. It has local affiliates all over the US and Puerto Rico. There is most likely one in your area – and you can go to http://www.nami.org to find out if there is one. They run all types of educational programs. They have support groups for people with mental illness (NAMI Connection), support groups for family members of people with mental illness (Family to Family), educational classes for people with mental illness (Peer to Peer), educational classes for family members (also called Family to Family), educational class for parents of children with mental illness (NAMI Basics), and many other services depending on what your local chapter might also offer.
Support groups are important to our success when we are trying to recover with mental illness, whether it be through NAMI or another organization. Whether we feel great or bad, attending them helps us. It helps us focus on how to continue to focus on the positives, how to socialize and not isolate, how to help others which in turn makes us feel good, how to learn new coping skills, how to examine our own needs, and how to express ourselves in healthy ways. Someone once told me, when you feel like you want to go to a meeting you should go, and when you feel like you don’t want to go to a meeting, you need to go. They said this because generally, if you don’t want to go, that is when you really need to go – you are isolating or feeling depressed, and being around people and hearing the support they can give is what you most likely need.
I hope that if you are not already involved in a local support group, you find one and check it out. There are many out there. A few that I know of are DBSA (Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance), NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and MHA (Mental Health America. Depending on your area, these organizations might or might not run groups or another organization might have groups too.