What's the name of my condition?: (Rapid Cycling) Cyclothymia.
When was I diagnosed?: A month shy of my 30th birthday, but I've had it since birth.
Will I always have it?: Yes. At least as of now. No cure has been discovered.
Am I always cycling?: No. But there's always the possibility. Many days, I feel quite... un-cycle-y.
What's my chosen course of treatment?: Therapy approximately once every three to four weeks, oxcarbazepine three times per day, hydroxazine (for anxiety) twice per day with an option for a third time if bad. Let me say that treatment is very individualized, and everyone has to tailor their treatment to what works best for them.
Why do I advocate?: Because there's stigma. Because people are still afraid of saying that they have a mental health condition for fear of repercussion - from their families, from their friends, from their jobs. Nobody should have to fear repercussion from others for having an illness. And because there are still so many myths about mental health that are absolutely untrue, and people need to have factual information to in order educate themselves on the topic. People don't know what they don't know.
What do I want people to know?:
- 1 in 5 people in the US has a mental health condition. That's 20% of the US population. When you include addictive disorders, that percentage is even higher.
- People with mental health conditions are 10 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than perpetrators.
- We are not "crazy", "mental", "insane". We have an illness. Just like someone would have diabetes or asthma or any other chronic illness.
- Taking medication doesn't make me a pawn of the medical/pharmaceutical industry. It saves my life, and that of many others.
- Anxiety isn't just being stressed; depression is not just being sad; mood cycling isn't just being moody. They are multi-faceted illnesses that are rooted in a physical part of our body - an organ called the brain. These illnesses are not a choice, an attitude, or a lack of gratitude. We would never choose these things if we had the option.
- My illness is, and never will be, a crutch. If I say I cannot do something - physically, mentally, emotionally, because my illness affects all three - I cannot. Just like I cannot know what it feels like to not be able to breathe due to asthma, since I don't have it, those without mental health conditions don't know what it's like inside my brain.
- Our illnesses are not adjectives to be thrown around. Someone who changes their mind isn't "acting bipolar"; needing to double check something isn't "so OCD"; you're ADD isn't acting up today, unless you actually have ADD and it's acting up today; you're not "so depressed because you have nothing to wear to the party" unless you actually battle depression and this is somehow a trigger. You wouldn't say someone was acting "so cancerous". So don't use mental health this way either.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. There are approximately 121 suicides in the US every day (over 44,000 every year in the US). For every suicide completed, 25 attempt.
- Mental health conditions are not weaknesses, they are illnesses. Illnesses that can be fatal. Suicide is not weak or selfish, it is (at least when related to mental health), a battle with an illness that's been lost.
- If you struggle with mental health, you are not alone, even though it often feels like it. There are so many of us that understand. Please, reach out. To me personally if you would like.
- I am not ashamed of having a mental health condition, and I will never let anyone make me feel that way. If you, too, battle mental health and need some help in talking about it, reach out. To me, or to anyone else who advocates and is open to it.