Today's blog though, is not about me - or not about me specifically - but rather about mental health in general, and all of those that deal with these conditions. Mental health disorders are probably some of the most mis-understood and stigmatized conditions out there. For those who don't deal with them, they can be scary, and confusing. As a general rule, people don't like things that are scary and confusing. While it's frustrating, it's understandable in a sense. I'm not in any way, shape, or form condoning stigmatizing anyone. But I am saying that stepping away and looking at it objectively, I could understand shying away from something that scares and confuses me. The flip side of that is, I should probably learn more about it before I decide it's scary and confusing and back away (or turn and run full tilt in the other direction).
So I wanted to use this day to address some beliefs, misunderstandings, and just thoughts overall about mental health. While I will use my condition as a reference because that's what I know, I will try to keep it general enough that it can apply to others as well.
- The brain is an organ, just like any other. We aren't generally scared or confused by people with kidney issues or gallstones or appendicitis or even cancer. Cyclothymia and other mental health conditions are related to physical hormones and body parts just like numerous traditionally thought of physical conditions.
- We aren't our conditions. We have conditions. I'm not always up or down. I have plenty of "normal" days - the majority in fact. Ok, we all know I'm not normal (it's boring!) but you get the point. Similarly, people with anxiety disorders aren't always "on edge" and people with depression can be positive, enjoyable, funny people who you'd never suspect go through what they go through.
- It's not like the movies. We don't go from ecstatic to bitchy in mid-sentence. Even me with my rapid cycling doesn't cycle that fast. I might go from energetic to more passe between morning and afternoon, but that's about the fastest and most dramatic it will be.
- I find there are actually positive points to my condition:
- My brain works in ways that I think many others' might not. I have a crazily vivid imagination, which makes envisioning possibilities for business and life pretty amazing.
- I have such a wide range of emotions that I am the person my friends come to for support about basically anything and know that I'll be empathetic and understanding.
- Because of my imagination and longing for creativity, my mind is very open - I'm a science geek, but I don't need things to be scientifically proven to believe or at least be open to them. I cherish this openness.
- I think outside the box more than most people I know - because often, that's where my brain is in one of it's cycles.
- Mental health conditions are in no way a barrier from a successful career. In fact, often times our determination and persistence developed in our desire to overcome the difficulties from our conditions make us that much more successful.
- Mental health conditions are much more prevalent than you might think. As of 2009 (most recent data I could find, and the data is probably higher now), an estimated 26.2% of the US population suffers from a diagnosable mental health condition. If you include substance disorders (recognized by the DSM-IV as a disorder), that number rises to 32.4% - so basically 1 out of 3 Americans. When you look at lifetime prevalence rates, that number is up to 54.7%. Which means 1 out of every 2 people. Wow. (source: Psych Central).