Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Things You Always Wanted To Know About Mental Health But Are Afraid To Ask - Part 3

I'm getting a lot of mileage out of this particular title. Pretty cool. But I feel that the list of things people don't understand about mental health seems to be growing by the day, and I'm giving people the benefit of the doubt that they'd want to know. And because every time I hear people make an ignorant comment I say to myself - hopefully to myself - uggghhh (or *%&$%&$%*%&$), if only they were educated on this topic and didn't have to be so ignorant! So, more things you always wanted to know about mental health but are afraid to ask.

Could you live life without your meds? I could. Technically. I did so for 30 years.  Could I live life at the same level of health and stability. That remains to be seen, but I'm going to say probably not - at least not personally. Because I know how it felt before, and it was rough enough to make me go on meds in the first place. Let me be very clear: This answer is for me personally only.  I'm not telling everyone with a mood cycling condition they should be on meds for life. But I've worked in health and fitness. I know how to exercise and eat right. I've done it with just therapy alone. I've done yoga and meditation. Those things all help. Collectively. Along with my meds. Are there situations in which I would go off my meds for one reason or another? Absolutely (i.e. when, all things willing, I decide to start a family). But just "to not have to rely on meds to feel 'normal'"? Would you ask a cancer patient to do the same? I rest my case.

How can I tell if you're depressed? Easiest answer in the world, if you're someone I'm close to: I'll tell you.  But everyone's different of course, and some might not feel so comfortable being this open. If you know someone who battles depression, ask them what theirs looks like specifically. It often manifests itself as lack of energy, exhaustion, apathy, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness (note: it's not always that you feel sad; it's often that you feel nothing at all), but helps to know how theirs shows up. It may vary from one episode to another, though this should give you a better starting point for recognizing it.

How can I tell if you're (hypo)manic? With me personally, you probably can't. Unless I tell you. Which I probably will if I feel it's going to be obvious. I don't get "delusions of grandeur" (this is such a weird description) or go on shopping sprees or think I'm invincible or anything like that. I might get a bit more antsy and agitated. I might be more productive because I'm feeling more awake. I might seem like I drank an entire pot of coffee, though then again I might have drunk an entire pot of coffee. But I also might be this way because I'm stressed with work, or life, or traffic. Or I might be more productive or positive because I'm just having a good day or things are going well in life. It's not always hypomania, or anxiety, or anything related to my condition. I may just be having a "normal" reaction to life as anyone else would.

Does (hypo)mania feel good? This is, for me, a big myth, though I've heard others say they do feel better during the "up" cycles. I generally feel like I have a lot of nervous/extra energy. Sometimes it feels like I need to run miles and miles, or drive fast with the windows down until I run out of gas, or scream until I've exhausted every ounce of energy in me, or punch someone (I don't, don't worry). Hypomania creates a tremendous amount of internal energy for me, and while that can be harnessed for positive, it can also make me feel very on edge. So no, I generally do not think it feels good. At all. It feels like a lack of control over my brain.  And regardless of if that elicits "good" or "bad" feelings, I don't like not being in control of my brain.

How can I tell if you're actually mad/upset/etc at me or cycling?  Are you being a jerk? Then I'm  upset with you. But in all seriousness, trust your gut. Not your defensive reaction, your gut. Your defensive reaction will tell you it's me 100 percent of the time. But try to get past that. If it's a repeated pattern - i.e. I always get upset with you when you're a half hour late and don't call/text to let me know - then I'm probably upset at you. If it's not, then it's possible I'm cycling. It's also possible that I'm not that mad at you about this issue, but it's been building up and I finally boil over. Or that I'm not mad at you but I had a crappy day and you do something that ever so slightly irks me and you get the brunt of my frustration. I try not to let this happen, but I'm human and it does.

How do I know if you don't want to do something/go out/etc because you're depressed versus when you're just tired from every day life? Does it matter? I'm not trying to be a smart-ass. This is a genuine question. My condition isn't contagious, so it's not like you have to stay away from me in one situation vs the other. And sleep is important to my condition even if I'm not depressed at the moment. Plus, if someone, anyone, condition or no, is exhausted from a busy week, shouldn't you just respect that?

Do you ever wish you were normal? Do you ever wish you were average-looking?  This is a tricky question (the former, not the latter). There are moments in which I wish I didn't have my condition, or that it wasn't acting up. I dislike the way it affects those I'm close to, and there are certainly times that I wish I didn't have to stop whatever I was doing to eat something so I could take meds, Or days I wake up depressed that I really, really need to not feel that way because I have to be "on" all day at some major event. Or moments when I can't stop myself from talking that I really wish I'd shut up. But no, I do not, overall, wish I was normal. Partly because there's no point. Wishing won't change it. Partly because, as my grandma used to say, "if it ain't your ass it's your elbow." Meaning, if it wasn't this, it would be something else. Nobody has a perfect life. My condition is part of what makes me, me. I wouldn't know what to do with normal if I tripped over it.

Have a question? Go ahead and ask. Be warned, it may well turn up in a future post. But that's a good thing (don't worry, I don't use names). It helps people understand me, and those with similar disorders, and to me, that's always a positive.

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