I’ve got a few prepared blogs ready to go, and I should definitely be using one today as I spent yesterday at Mercy hospital puking my guts out. However, I also had a special topic to post about today, as it is World Mental Health Day, and while my physical health is kicking my butt I will try to expound on the other side of wellness.
I started my journey with mental illness at a young age, but wasn’t diagnosed with anything until I was nineteen. Then they decided that I was Bipolar and loaded me up with medications. Never mind that I was NOT Bipolar, and did NOT need those meds. I became a zombie. Everything somehow got worse instead of better, and I lost whole chunks of time from being so heavily medicated. Eventually, my mother got me to a clinic where a doctor told me I did not have Bipolar Disorder, and gave me one pill. One little miracle pill that lasted me very well for a very long time, until my insurance pulled it out from under me. I went on its sister drug, Celexa, and yes, I do have a couple of backup singers now, but it is nowhere near the fourteen pill a day diet I used to be on.
My diagnoses have changed many times as well. Now I am diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Severe Anxiety, Trichotillomania, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These feel the most accurate, I must say, and are much better than calling it all Bipolar and moving along. It took the time and energy of many medical professionals to figure out what was really going on with me, and I am forever grateful to them.
I tell you these things in the same way I talk about diabetes or gastroparesis, because to me they are no different. Yes, my pancreas is sick and therefore I have diabetes. Well, my brain is also sick and therefore I have depression. I do not believe in the stigma of mental health, so I treat its discussion no differently than that of my physical health. Sometimes this really surprises people. There have been many moments when I have received messages from both friends and strangers telling me that they are proud of what I have done, just talking about mental health. I don’t know that it’s something to feel proud about, because it’s just a piece of myself that I express to the world, just like the other pieces. I’ve had people write me with “me too.” This is when they realize that they have the same condition, but couldn’t put a name to it. Or when they’ve been diagnosed as well, but afraid to tell anyone. These little messages make me feel special, because my words on mental health are breaking a stigma for them.
It’s the stigma that is the worst bit, in my opinion. It’s the fear that we have, that someone else might think we’re wrong in some way. We’re scared of the reactions of other people, and that forces mental illness into hiding. It shouldn’t be hiding. It should be worn loud and proud. If you have a mental illness, you battle with that monster daily, and no one sees it. You fight wars against your demons constantly, even when you’re wearing a smile on your face. You know pain in a sense where physical pain would almost be a relief. And still, we hide this debilitating bastard behind so many veils of self-doubt that we become another person, almost. There’s the person you present to the world, and the person you are on the inside. I say no. I refuse to be two people, living half my life in shadow. I would rather throw it in your face and if you don’t like it, the problem lies with your own fears and neuroses. Mental illness is not contagious. In my experience, it really only scares those that already have it, and are doing nothing to help themselves. So, shout it out! Scare those people into getting help. Scare the people who think mental illness isn’t real-be their proof! Stop letting stigma hold you back. Other people do not dictate the course of your healing, you do. Talk about it. Laugh about it. Just don’t let others tell you your experience. As my father would say, “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”
So, on World Mental Health Day, I will be taking care of my physical health, by lying on the sofa and watching Parks and Rec and drinking a smoothie. It’s not what I had planned, but it’s what needs to be done, so that my mental health can realign as well. The two are very connected for me. When I’m in the hospital I become instantly depressed, and it takes time for that feeling to fade away. So today, I will do all I can to make myself feel better, inside and out. I will also, as always, continue my fight against the stigma of mental illness and tell you, my reader, that if you ever need an ally in this battle, you have one right here.
Stay safe, stay sane, and have a good Thursday.