Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Things You Want To Know About Mental Health But Are Afraid To Ask

When I tell people that I have cyclothymia and/or that I write a blog that focuses on mental health, I get a wide variety of reactions. Many people tell me that I'm courageous for being open and honest about my condition. Others just kind of nod and make some comment about how their best friend's cousin had depression, or how they tried to write a blog about xyz but couldn't get into it. A few awkwardly look at me and are probably calculating whether or not they think I'm "crazy" (society's term, not mine).  For the record, I'm not. Overall, though, I think there are a lot of questions that people have about mental health but are afraid to ask. Whether they are dealing with a condition themselves, or think they may be, or they have a friend or loved one that's been diagnosed, or they're just downright curious, mental health can be a daunting subject to many. I totally understand. It's been too taboo of a subject for entirely too long, and it's tough to get away from that, even with the best of intentions. So I thought I'd write a blog of things that people may want to know but are afraid to ask. As usual, these are in no order, other than the ones which they came into my brain.

1. Do you ever feel "crazy"?/Do you ever feel "normal"? Yes, to both. Well, let me rephrase. I don't really know what either feels like per se, because really both terms are in the eye of the beholder. But do I ever feel like I want to make my brain work one way but have a hard time doing so, even with meds? Yes, I do. It sucks. It sucks even more because I'm aware of it when it's happening, but feel helpless. Do I ever not feel cyclothymic (i.e. depressed or hypomanic)? Yes, surprisingly more than one might think. I'm not always up or down. I'm often somewhere in the middle. I guess you'd call that normal.

2. How did you feel when you were diagnosed? Relieved, scared, worried, sad, curious, slightly peaceful and hopeful. It was a complete mix of just about every emotion one can feel at once. A lot of people think being diagnosed is awful. In reality, it allows you to finally focus on what's going on, create a treatment plan, and get to it. It's way better than doctors randomly throwing inappropriate meds your way and having uninformed people tell you that if you just smile and have a positive attitude, you'll feel better.

3. Is having cyclothymia (insert condition) tough? Can you still live a normal life? I'm not going to lie, it's rough. Some days, it's downright awful. But please, stop using the word "normal". It's a setting on the dryer, nothing else. We are all unique creatures. My unique makeup happens to include this condition. I've had it since birth. I managed to get through college and grad school with 3.8+ GPAs; I run my own company and work a part time job at a conference center; I am a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor; I have a good group of friends and a close family; I'm a published author and now working on my first novel. If you call that normal, then I suppose that answer is yes.

4. Can mental health conditions be cured? There's debate on this, both among mental health professionals and those diagnosed. In my opinion and my experience, no. Conditions can be better or worse; they can be managed successfully and you can live a successful, fulfilling life, but it doesn't go away. It might go into remission, but it doesn't disappear forever. That said, I'm not a mental health professional and I suggest everyone ask their treating professionals about their own condition. But personally, I was born with my condition and will die with it, and that's that. It's tough to come to terms with, but once you do, the pressure of "curing yourself" is off, and honestly, that's kind of a relief.

5. Does mental health impact your relationships?  Absolutely. I relate to the world differently. I often don't understand others and they don't understand me. They don't know what it feels like, and I can't put it into words at times. It's frustrating as hell, both to me, and to them. I honestly think anyone who said that it doesn't affect their relationships in some way or another would be lying. But it's completely possible to have a successful and happy relationship with someone with a mental health condition. Anyone who said that it's not would also be lying.

6. Does mental health affect the.... "romantic"... part of your relationships? (Earmuffs/blindfolds, family/colleagues/anyone who doesn't want to read the answer to this). Personally, no. Generally, it could. First off, depression makes you not interested in anything. Anything. That includes whatever goes on behind closed doors. It makes you want to lie in bed, and only lie in bed, until it passes. Also, certain meds can "decrease libido," to use the official phrase. Not all meds, just some. This is very personal to each individual, and if you ask ten people you'll probably get ten different answers. If it's a concern (and I'm guessing it probably is to most people), talk to your prescribing doctor about choosing meds without this side effect, or at least combating it. It may not be possible, but it's worth a try.

7. Do meds make you gain weight? Again, they can, but don't necessarily. If you are concerned about this, let your doctor know. I told my doctor I didn't want a med that caused weight gain and we worked around it. Hopefully, it's possible for you to do also.

8. Do you ever do things when in a rough state that you are later embarrassed/ashamed/frustrated with/mad at yourself about? If I got a nickel every time this happened, I could retire tomorrow (and I'm 35). Just remember, everyone does this from time to time. People do things when they're mad, tired, drunk, had a bad day at work, etc. Nobody's perfect. You are not your condition. You have a condition. Expect to have  "oh crap why did I say/do that" episodes, and possibly more than those without conditions, but don't let others make you a scapegoat for everything, and don't take all the blame. I find it helpful to give people a heads up that I'm having a "rough day". This tends to soften anything you might say/do that you later wish you hadn't, both to others and to yourself. When it does happen, acknowledge it, apologize if necessary, and move on.

9. Do you ever want to give up? Yes, but don't do it. It's as simple, and as complicated, as that. Take it hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, if you have to. But please, don't give up. People think mental health can't be fatal. They're wrong. Some days, every second is an internal struggle. Keep plugging along.

Have other questions? Feel free to ask me personally, if you don't want to ask them in the comments. Of course, comments are always welcome too.

No comments:

Post a Comment