(Beth’s note, February, 2013: Hi friends. It just occurred to me I should probably let anyone who reads this below post from November know: I am doing great! I feel very much myself and continue to be grateful everyday for the many, many people who helped me in a rough patch and continue to support me as I do what I need to do to stay healthy. I feel awesome and life is good. And please, anyone reading this who thinks you might have some mental health problem or other– reach out, get help. Everyone has their thing. Don’t suffer for no reason! Thanks…Beth)
So, where to begin with this one?
The purpose of this blog has been, since the start, to do two things, really: give me a place to process what I learn about things that interest me and pass the information on to any readers who stop by for a read.
Well, the last six months or so, the thing that I’ve been most seeking to learn about and most trying to process has been my own brain.
The deal is this, friends – like millions of people all over the world I have a chronic mental illness stemming from a chemical imbalance. Since the spring, this illness and I have been locked in a bit of a knock-down, drag out. And up until a few months ago, I was not winning.
In fact, I was getting my ass kicked.
I won’t get into the specifics here, because they’re personal (and boring, actually….) Long and short of it, I have an anxiety disorder which a shrink and a therapist have diagnosed as OCD.
This is your brain on OCD…
Now, for me, it’s not OCD like we’ve come to know with hand washing or counting rituals or spending hours making sure everything in your cabinet is straightened. My version is manifest all in my head and it latches on to a variety of targets.
It’s not a new thing, really, for me, either. It just hit me with a vengeance this time around. There have been some days where the whole “getting out of bed in the morning” thing wasn’t so easy. There have been days where irrational and obsessive fears have colored every minute and left me constantly freaked out. There’s been confusion and desperation. And the illness has effected my work, my relationships, my physical health.
It has, in a nutshell, sucked.
But, thanks to the support of loved ones and the essential help of professionals and medication (“Mm, zoloft! Tastes like chicken!” ), I feel on the mend.
I know there will be a more mental skirmishes ahead, more than I’d like (because I’d like zero more) but I feel armed now, able to defend myself, and assisted in this defense.
My own avengers: family support, therapy, and medication. SMASH.
And, also, I feel like I can start blogging about other issues in the world again and not just my own stuff. And I wanted to start by offering a few things this whole deal taught me so far, things which may be applied to the big picture:
1. We need to assure no one who needs mental health care is denied it because of money.
I don’t want to get into the politics of health care reform and who should rightfully pay for what, and taxes and all that. I just want to say, human beings shouldn’t suffer when help is available because they can’t afford to pay for that help. Mental illness can be treated and managed and in some cases cured. In my case, professional help and medication have made an enormous difference.
But left alone, mental illness can take a frigging wrecking ball to a person’s life. It can cause pain and suffering and be debilitating.. That there are people no different from me or you who are suffering because they are unable to access mental health care because of money strikes me as colossally unacceptable.
There are the practical rationales for society making sure its people get mental health care: work productivity, the expense of mentally ill people in the justice system or the expense of the fallout from people who are unable to take care of their kids. But there is a moral imperative here, too. I think Nick Kristof put it well when he said, to paraphrase, civilized societies don’t let people who are sick just suffer (and even die).
We gotta figure this out. There are probably fifty different ways to do it. But we need to figure it out. It’s uncivilized to deny people access to care they need because of inability to pay.
2. Get Help If You Need It
I’ve had issues with anxiety most of my adult life. But I never seriously considered therapy. I did this time around because I knew I couldn’t manage it anymore and I also couldn’t stand it anymore. Maybe I was older and wiser, too, less concerned about stigma.
Or maybe I’d just hit rock bottom and wanted to grab any ladder I could find to get me out. I don’t know. Probably a combination of all the above.
I just know I’m glad I went.
And so my pass-along here is: if you’re feeling like something’s not right, whether it’s anxiety, depression, whatever it is - talk to your doctor, talk to a counselor - talk to several counselors til you find one that fits. FIND HELP.
If you don’t have insurance, check into it anyhow and see if you can find someone who will help you. If you’re okay but a loved one is suffering, talk to a professional who can help you manage the situation. If you feel like you can’t get help for yourself, find someone to advocate for you. Talk to someone who you trust and get help.
Getting mental health care doesn’t mean you’re weird or crazy! It means you’re sane and taking control of your life. Seek help if you need it.
3. If you have a mental health issue, you’re SO not alone…
I haven’t talked to a ton of people about my situation. But every person I’ve talked to has told me very quickly in the conversation that they also know people who are doing the therapy thing, taking medication, or dealing with some kind of mental health issue.
In other words, YOU ARE NOT ALONE if you’re in this boat. You will see me, for instance, playing shuffleboard there on the Lido Deck (Love Boat shoutout for my sister lol).
Millions of people have mental health issues. I’m not special in my anxiety/OCD. In fact, I think my pro help finds me pretty mundane. I have yet to impress them at all with my brand of the disease. I’m totally dull.
And you will be dull, too! Whatever you may be dealing with – the professionals have seen it before. And there are regular everyday people out there who know what you’re dealing with ’cause they’re dealing with it, too. You may think no one’s going to get your “stuff”. But you’re not weird or abnormal or part of some tiny odd club. It’s a very prevalent thing. You’re not alone.
A few info links:
National Alliance on Mental Illness
A few tips on finding a counselor
A new take on PTSD and veterans
So that’s about it, I guess….
….And I want to dedicate this entry to my family: my mom, dad, sister, brother, and in-laws who have 100% had my back through this rough patch. I don’t know what else to say but I love you guys.
As always, thanks for reading,
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