I am back. I know it has been a couple weeks since my last post.
In my earlier blog posts I discussed the symptoms and issues dealing with my illness. I went from the agony of depression to the terrors and difficulties of psychosis. It is terrible and I have just come out of a particularly troubling week (hence the lack of and delayed blog posts), but I have reached a point in my recovery where I can at least attempt to keep going. The illness does not define who I am and I think that is a very important mindset to have if one is going to overcome the stigma and some of the inertia that is experienced in a disorder. Knowing that the illness has affected you, but not become you, may help relieve some of the guilt and shame associated with having a mental affliction. Just like having diabetes or heart disease, it is not one’s own fault, but rather something that can hinder life for long periods of time if untreated or treated improperly.
For me, the greatest thing that has helped is accepting the fact that I have an illness and learning as much as I can about it; the symptoms, triggers, causes, and treatments that are associated with it. This helped me grasp an understanding of my condition because even now I have trouble recognizing episodes of paranoia. Without knowing about my condition I would not know what to avoid, what to discuss with my healthcare professionals, what to be aware of (to the best of my ability because sometimes one is unaware they are descending into an episode or relapse), and my family does the same thing so they know what to look for and what to expect, what to ask, and what to do when I am struggling. I believe it is important to learn about your illness and it is the family’s and friends’ responsibility to learn about it too (more so the family but for close friends they may want to understand as well). Knowing that my family and friends know what I go through has helped enormously. I have also learned through them how to be there for them as well and having a bond that supports each other is key to any healthy life. I did not have close friends for years and my family couldn’t understand and those were the worst years of the illness with a few trips to the emergency room and heavy doses of sedating medication to keep me mellow.
There is a common trait in many schizophrenics where they lack all ability to recognize their illness. It’s called “lack of insight”. It isn’t that they are in denial, but they literally can’t see that they are ill and therefore refuse treatment. These cases are more difficult but if you love them, you will do your best to understand. It is important that no matter how hard it is, do not give up on them. They did not choose to be ill and if they weren’t ill they would live much differently. It is enormously stressful and difficult, but gaining as much support as you can may be helpful. I couldn’t be more thankful that my friends and family don’t give up on me even when they point out my delusions and I cannot see them. They tell me weeks later after the episode passes how I was obstinate and aggressive in my beliefs and no matter what they said I couldn’t see the reality because my extreme thoughts became my reality and I don’t question it during those times. This is why I haven’t posted blogs for last week and a half. I was emotionally perturbed. But it has gotten better to where I can semi-function again. But I often become oblivious to the delusions, which is common in people with psychosis. I do have quite a bit of insight, especially between episodes, thus I am able to tell you all of this.
I think it is also important for people to remember that you shouldn’t define yourself by your illness because in that train of thought you slowly lose the ability to see yourself as human and only see yourself as sick or abnormal. We are all human with various struggles, but the mind is a place where we should feel safest and for some it is the most dangerous place. I think it would be amazing if people could see past the unusual behavior and mood swings or the intensely depressed states some people are in and see that they are human just like them who need compassion, love, attention, and patience; to see that just because someone is struggling with anger or sadness or delusions does not make them any less of a person.
The stigmas really upset me because some of the nicest people I’ve known struggle with mental health issues from anxiety to psychosis. I feel as though people only see the displays of wild moods or fearful trembling. Yes those things must be addressed if they become too out of hand but that does not mean we should give up on them. I personally wish I could see more resources and funding to help people with mental illness to help avoid the homelessness or unemployment we see in so many. It may just be wishful thinking but I know that if we could have more knowledge, support, and education about all disorders we may begin to remove some of the stigmas. I see a lot of commercials for depression but what about anxiety, or bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia, or PTSD, or even OCD and panic disorder? We are focusing on just one illness when there are millions struggling with others that are just as debilitating. I asked my friends about what came to mind when they heard some of these names and they either said, “You,” (I laughed and understood what they meant) or they weren’t sure or just had a vague idea. I just think that education on mental health in a broad spectrum of conditions will help people understand and possibly start a stronger support system for people with these conditions. I know it would help me and I know that millions of others would appreciate it.
I am sorry for rambling. I started in one spot and sort of derailed onto other topics. The fact of people in my life knowing and understanding me has been one of the most tremendously helpful things for me; knowing that they understand how my mind works and knowing that they must be patient and reassuring is so important. We can’t treat mental illness like we would treat a cold or a headache or even a cut or broken bone. It takes a lot more than that. I’m not sure how to go about making people more aware of mental disorders other than sharing my experiences and thoughts on the matter, but I would hope that if everyone was much more aware, the stigma would become less sharp and less isolating. Don’t give up on mentally ill people. It is definitely not easy to deal with, but it is even more difficult to be the one who is being dealt with. You may be the only thing keeping them here. Don’t let go even when it seems to be impossible. I wish there was more support for people dealing with family members who are violent or manic, or incredibly difficult to talk with. I don’t have all the answers. I am not a doctor. I can just share what I do know.
I want to write a little more on other things that have helped me and could help others. That’s for the next post.