Sunday, January 18, 2015

Things You Want to Know About Mental Health But Are Afraid to Ask - Part 2

A while back, I wrote the part one of this blog. I have found that not everyone who is uneducated about mental health wants to be so. There is a lot of information and propaganda out there (by "there", I mean the internet and media) and it can be hard to tell the accurate from the total crap. There's so much BS in the public eye about how those with mental illness are dangerous people who go on shooting sprees at schools, act like animals, and should be locked away (see NAMI's response to such comments from both Dr. Phil and NBC's Brian Williams), that it's easy for people to unintentionally start forming a negative opinion, a stigma.

Often, I find that it's not that people are intentionally ignorant, purposely and steadfastly believing these kinds of falsities, as it is that they're afraid to ask. It's been taboo. It's something people have so long swept under the rug, not discussed about themselves or others, that it's thought poor form to ask about - like asking one's weight or age. We can't clear up these stigmas unless we talk about them, and since people seem afraid to ask, I feel it's my role to go ahead and take the initiative. So, here you have part two of Things You Want to Know About Mental Health But Are Afraid to Ask.

  • Does your condition make you angry? Violent? Angry, yes. Violent, no. Not unless you count hitting a pillow in frustration, which, by the way, is a therapist approved technique for anger and energy release. It's NOT the same as hitting a person or an animal or any other living being. It's more like, say, going to a boxing class or hitting a heavy bag. People do this all the time, for fun, and we don't say "oh that person takes cardio kickboxing, they must be violent!" If you actually look at the facts, very few people with mental health conditions display the type of violence that the media likes to portray. And there are PLENTY of horrendously violent people who do not have a diagnosed mental health condition. What does the media have to say about them? 
  • What does depression feel like? Are you always really sad? No, actually. Or rather, not for me personally. Depression is like any other medical condition - it exhibits itself a bit differently in each person. For me, it's not sadness. It's nothingness. I simply don't care. I don't care what I look like or what I'm doing or what I'm eating. I don't feel happy, but I don't feel sad. I just don't feel. It's like something came in and sucked out my emotions, leaving a giant, empty void in its place. It's a thousand times more scary, and debilitating, than actual sadness. 
  • What's the worst thing about having a mental health condition? Ummm, everything, pretty much. But I would say the trouble that I have had finding myself at times, and the fact that I see the world so differently than so many people, is toughest to deal with. I've come to know the symptoms of my depression, hypomania, anxiety. With medication, therapy, writing, yoga, meditation, and a host of other factors (like a regular sleep, meal, and workout schedule), I can generally manage that. Generally. But feeling lost, at times like you don't know who you are, like you don't recognize yourself, like you have this "real" self that's buried so far down that people don't actually believe it's real, is very tough. Feeling like nobody sees the world the way you do, like you're alone in a crowd of thousands, is very lonely. 
  • How do you feel about medication? Yippee! Woo hoo! Seriously, medication has helped me tremendously. I resisted for a long time, determined to fix it on my own. Then I actually got diagnosed.When my condition was explained to me, I realized it was a medical condition, lifelong, and that I'd be dealing with it every single day. I accepted that, like with any other medical condition, sometimes you need medication.  I've never looked back. I'm thankful every single day that there are meds that help me. Some aren't so lucky. Some people never find a medication that works for them, or have side effects so bad that they'd rather deal with their cycling. I have been, knock on wood, very lucky thus far with my medications. 
  • What are the side effects of medication? As I said above, as far as mental health medications go, my side effects are pretty "minor". I put that in quotes because everything's relative. I get nauseous, dizzy, disoriented, continually exhausted. My tongue and lips and occasionally my hands and feet get that numb, pins and needles feeling after I take my meds. I sweat like hell when I sleep, which is an all-too-common side effect of these types of meds. I run the risk of hyponatremia, or low blood sodium which, at it's worse, can cause seizures and at it's best makes me feel nauseous, dizzy, and disoriented (on top of those same effects of the medication). There's also the very rare risk of developing Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a potentially fatal skin rash, though it's not a side effect that I've ever lost sleep over, the chance is so slim. Like I said, in the grand scheme, not so bad. Seriously. 
  • What's therapy like? Will you always have to go? It's amazing. It allows me to talk to someone, tell them anything and everything, without them judging or having any bias. Let's face it, most of our friends and family are biased in our direction, as they should be. In my therapist, I have an objective ally; we both want the same thing - for me to live a happy, healthy life - and she has the tools and training to tell me when I'm going astray of that goal, even if it's not what I want to hear. Will I always have to go? I don't know, maybe. But if I do, that's ok with me. 
Have a question? Feel free to ask. I'm not shy, and I am happy to answer questions as best as I can. As a necessary CYA disclaimer, I'm not a medical doctor nor am I a licensed psychologist/counselor. I speak strictly from my experience and the experience I have in helping oversee an online support group for mental health. So go ahead, throw 'em at me. If you'd like to ask incognito, feel free to email them to me or Facebook message my Lilies and Elephants page (you can also post as "anonymous"). 

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