Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In Honor of World Mental Health Day

I actually had a few other posts in my head that I wanted to write today, but then I realized that today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. This is a blogging opportunity that I simply couldn't pass up. As my readers know, three years ago I was diagnosed with rapid-cycling cyclothymia, a mood cycling disorder that is characterized by bouts of hypomania and depression (with a lovely host of side effects like insomnia, anxiety, and more). For a better understanding of my condition and the process I went through to finally get diagnosed at the age of almost 30, you can read more here, and here (highly recommended/shameless plug).

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).
So in honor of World Mental Health Day, I ask you to reach out to someone who you know deals with a mental health disorder, and ask them to genuinely understand their condition. Listen, open your mind, and get to know them for who they really are, and their condition for what it really is. If you suffer with a condition, honor yourself. You've been through more than many people understand, and you're staying as strong as you possibly can. And if you think you may be dealing with something, or you know that are but are keeping it to yourself because of the stigma, today is a perfect day to reach out to someone in confidence and start to open up. I'm happy to be that person, if you need. So happy World Mental Health Day. May you celebrate and love yourself just as you truly are! 



  1. Great Blog Maya! What you are doing with mental Health/mood disorders is absolutely amazing! This blog feels like a giant hug and definitely brings awareness to Mental Health.

    1. Thank you, Kristin! I greatly appreciate it. That's exactly what I want to be doing. Happy World Mental Health Day!