In order to commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to address mental health and all the controversies surrounding it.
“You are so crazy” is a phrase that has been repeated about me, especially after my discovering my psychiatric diagnoses.
“Are you sure this girl is NOT bipolar or schizophrenic?”
“You are completely irrational.”
May is a very important month for me, as it marks mental health awareness month. As a person who struggles with mental health issues, as it may be one of my biggest problems, I find that bringing awareness to the universal health issue and speaking freely about mental health combats the stigma behind mental health issues.
While mental health issues are prevalent worldwide, our society seems to have managed to continue to make it difficult for individuals to seek help, get diagnosed, and share their diagnoses openly. In my experience, talking about mental health issues, specifically my diagnosis, automatically makes others feel uncomfortable, as they slowly begin treating me differently. My mental health diagnosis literally has resulted in numerous friendships ending, which did not surprise me, as I have been informed by a variety of people, including professional doctors, old friends, strangers, etc., that I am “too much to handle.”
To break the ice, my diagnosis is complex PTSD, which I have been dealing with since childhood, six types of ADD and ADHD, both of which I have dealth with my whole life, OCD, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety, and phobias. I am a fairly well-rounded individual.
The two specific diagnoses that tend to steer people away from me are my complex PTSD and my panic disorder.
While every “disorder” that I have been inflicted with is “very extreme,” I have managed to be fairly successful and functional when performing the task that I call life. I cannot imagine being the person I am without these diagnoses and the symptoms that accompany it. I may not be pleased with certain qualities about myself, as a result of one of my handful of disorders, but I can say without a doubt that if I had never been labeled with these disorders professionally, I would feel a lot better about the way that I react and act.
Once an individual gets diagnosed, it is super common for an individual to be confined and defined by the disorder. You are more than a label, and the symptoms you experience are just as a result of your unique brain chemistry. It may seem that your mental disorder(s) are holding you back, but this is not the case, unless you allow it to. Working around your symptoms is important, as it is vital to learn to find coping mechanisms and ways to continue living the functional life that you are capable of living.
People may attempt to belittle you by using your mental health as the theme of their belittling. This has occurred to me more often than not, and I would define this as the most commonly used blow, in order to attempt to bring me down, or fill me with self-doubt.
The stigmas surrounding mental illness are prominent, as we have not transitioned into a accepting society. The stigmas instill embarrassment, and the most common instillation is shame. These stigmas that we have enforced into our society have left people feeling afraid of seeking proper help and of disclosing honest information about the state of your mental health.
While our country advertises the importance of seeking help and the praises the courage of the individual for seeking help, there are many factors involved in seeking professional help that contradict this statement.
Seeking professional help and care is extremely expensive, even with the assistance of health insurance. Committing to a treatment plan is painful these days, as I begin to wonder if my mental health is worth the large investment that I know I will have to make.
Participation in treatment is a long process, and often requires a lifelong commitment.
With my particular situation, with more disorders than you can count on one hand and that I can remember, receiving a proper diagnosis and a correct diagnosis cost around $3,000. With a proper diagnosis, which can take many sessions, you can continue to move forward with depleting your bank account, as purchasing a monthly medication prescription adds up very quickly, even with insurance. My medication, without any health insurance, came out to the grand total of $2,000 a month. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and whether the medication is covered by insurance, the cost of your medication can fluctuate.
While professionals are very qualified, they are capable of making mistakes, as the wrong medication, or a medication that does not help you, could be prescribed to you. With my situation in particular, the variety of disorders and the severity of my symptoms led to large amounts of cash being wasted on medications that do not assist me. Medication is very expensive, regardless, once again reaffirming how difficult it is for individuals to seek help.
All these factors play a huge role in discouraging acting on seeking help.
The financial and lifelong burdens of being inflicted with these mental disorders are enormous.
Stigmas behind getting diagnosed and seeking help are completely negative. Stigmas are powerful and have the ability to control and define individuals, as a result of how much society capitalizes it. Similarly, our society loves to shame those inflicted with a “disability,” which is what those inflicted with mental disorders are defined as. In addition, the attaching the words “disorder” and “illness” to describe , or otherwise label, one’s mental health only implies negative emotions towards the situation.
While we have made headway in the acceptance of those who may suffer from mental health complications, “more major illnesses,” such as bipolar, schizophrenia, and PTSD, are the most stigmatized mental disorders out there. The complexity of these disorders make individuals discouraged about learning about them, let along attempting to understand them. I will admit that even I have a very big struggle attempting to conceptualize and understand what I am feeling and how these symptoms effect me, all while attempting to control these symptoms, in order to live a comfortable life. Stigmas often to lead a world of problems that bloom, as a result of the negative connotation associated with mental health disorders. You are not sick if you have possessed a proper diagnosis! These negative terms are half the problem. The other half of the problem is that individuals often feel too ashamed, or afraid of judgement by others, to disclose to others what they have been diagnosed with. It is incredible how quickly people are willing to figuratively “swipe left,” and not even give those struggling with mental illness a chance. Not openly speaking out about mental health and your own situation only strengthens the falsified idea that mental illness is something to be ashamed of.
Even at 2018, I have found it quite surprising how little individuals speak out about their mental health. Fortunately, with my ADHD and my six types of ADD, I love talking non-stop and forget to consider how uncomfortable these topics make people. However, I have found that living in secrecy is dumb, plus, I love to complain, or talk about my life. My mental health and the obstacles I face with controlling my symptoms is such a big part of my life, and there is never a moment that I do not think about it.
Okay, I am exaggerating. On a good day, I can not think about my professional diagnosis for only about five minutes maximum. Even when I am asleep, my PTSD manages to creep its way into my dreams.
I guess from first glance strangers would not correlate myself with the diagnosis that I have. Most often, when disclosing the PTSD part of my diagnosis, people tend to shut down, give me a look of pity, and engage in attempting to understand how someone with PTSD appears to live a fairly normal life, without avoiding responsibilities.
Speaking up about mental illness, in particular PTSD, openly has helped me more than I expected, though I was not pleased with the outcome.
Recently, I was in an Uber and hit a standstill with my treatment process and being able to control my symptoms. For some reason, I could not resist making a “trauma/trigger joke,” and the Uber driver ironically goes, “PTSD, much?” My reaction was so happy, as I disclosed that I actually did have PTSD. After sharing this information, I immediately realized how uncomfortable this could make a stranger feel. Regardless, the Uber driver also had been diagnosed with complex PTSD, too, so the comment slowly began to lose its awkwardness. This young man gave me amazing advice about how he combatted his symptoms and spoke with me about what PTSD felt like, which we both concluded felt like “a an on-going, loud war within your brain.”
We jinxed each other, when we both attempted to decide how to describe living with PTSD. He did not get me a soda, but he did give me some hope and some coping mechanism skills to try when my thoughts begin racing with trauma that I have experienced.
I love complaining about my symptoms sometimes….Nope, just kidding, I love making jokes about my mental conditions in order to attempt to take the stigma out of the disorder. I have the PTSD jokes down. While I am enduring one of my major panic attacks that can last for up to 24 hours, with a side of flashbacks, nightmares, racing thoughts, and reliving trauma, I tend to have time to think about great jokes as I am living the experience. This applies to all of my mental disorders, including ADD, ADHD, OCD, and social anxiety.
Here are some of my best jokes to throw around:
1. “There is no amount of adderall or vyvanse that could possibly make me do anything.”
2. “I am not procrastinating, I just have to clean because I have OCD.”
3. “Having PTSD is exciting, because you never know when you are going to be triggered.”
4. “Everyone hates you when you have ADHD.”
5. “Be prepared to be PTSD-ed.”
6. “If I tell you that I have PTSD, will I give me a break?”
8. “When you are inflicted with PTSD as a child, you are allowed to have low-energy levels, because you have been fighting a war since ‘nam.”
9. “PTSD taught me how to deal with myself, as I am forced to hang out with myself because I am too afraid and triggered by other people.”
10. “Don’t call me traumatic, I have PTSD.”
11. “Hi, my name is Aichan and ADHD is my game.”
12. “If you are looking away to get a quick, dramatic response from me, try messing up my daily routine, triggering me, or assigning any kind of homework that contains a headline.”
13. “I can’t tell if I hate having ADHD more, or if I hate going to class more.”
14. “I do not have social anxiety, I just hate new people.”
15. “Do not trust anyone, because everyone is your enemy. I got trust issues #PTSD”
16. “Harry Potter and I have a lot in common, mostly his PTSD.”
17. “Just call me the ADHD bunny, not the energizer bunny.”
18. “What is OCD if you do not color-code your notes and re-write them perfectly?”
19. “Yes, you are allowed to drink my water, but I would rather have you drink your own water.”
20. “I blame my PTSD for not ever letting a grudge go, because I can never forget it thanks to my nightmares and flashbacks.”
21. “My favorite hobbies, include “anxiety-ing,” organizing and re-organizing my studio apartment, spending 12 hours deep cleaning my apartment, doing the same stuff everyday, procrastinating, looking like I may poop myself when I am simply just panicking, TALKING, TALKING, TALKING, and trying to utilize positive coping mechanism skills.”
I still struggle with acceptance and loving my diagnoses, despite the challenges that come with it. The greatest part about my unique, extensive and almost unbelievable diagnosis is that no one will ever meet anyone like me. I am an acquired taste, with a brain that never rests and always working. While things can get hard and I can get salty, I know that there are many benefits that came out of having to live with the symptoms.
I do not know what the big secret is. Is it your mental diagnosis?
If it is, stop keeping the secret and spill the beans already.
If you do not even know what the big secret is, then you are missing out completely and you need to get familiar and educated. Finding out your biggest secret, otherwise known as your mental health diagnosis, is the best Christmas gift that you could ever receive.
The longer you wait to get yourself this present, the harder you are making things for yourself.
A lot more people have received their best Christmas present, and you would be surprised how many people receive treatment, attend therapy, and engage in medication intake.
Secrets do not make friends, so open your mouth and spread the word. The more you are willing to address and acknowledge the “so called illness,” the less power that it will have over you.
Mental health is a very important part about living a full and happy life. While mental illness is very prominent, access to these outlets for treatment, help, etc. is limited and does not allow for many individuals to truly follow through and work on their mental health.
If you are struggling to control your symptoms, try to remind yourself that your brain is a muscle, and therefore, it can be trained, or rewired, to react differently towards situations, control your stream of thoughts from unfolding, etc.
Speaking out about mental health openly should be allowed ALWAYS. What are your personal experiences with mental health? Have you ever sought professional help?
If you are struggling, lost, or just bored, give my friend therapy a try. I haven’t hung out with my therapist and my psychiatrist since ‘nam, but I would recommend therapy to everyone, as it is nice to have someone you can trust to talk to about ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING. You can even use your session to complain mindlessly, and they must listen to you. For someone that loves talking and cannot seem to shut my trap, therapy is my best friend.
Finding a proper therapist, or team of specialists, that are willing to work with you and are a good fit is a process, which may take a long time, or it may take a very short period of time. The key is finding people who you can be comfortable with, and if things do not work out, try again and look for other specialists.
Becoming comfortable with your team of specialists is also a process, as not everyone is meant to work together.
I have faced rejection from many doctors, who have said that my diagnoses are “too extensive” and that “it would require more energy and time to work with me than they would like.” My first psychiatrist and therapist admitted to me that when he found out my diagnoses, he was “VERY HESISTANT TO TAKE ME ON AS A PATIENT.” In fact, he disclosed that after meeting me he “DID NOT WANT TO TAKE ME ON AS A PATIENT, BECAUSE I WAS TOO COMPLICATED.” I have heard these kind of statements from a wide-variety of individuals, which has made the hunt for a specialists incredibly difficult. At times, it has been completely discouraging and these statements have stuck with me since I heard them.
While there has been negative aspects, or hardships, seeking and finding my “perfect team,” I know how healing having this kind of support can do for someone’s mental health, for their overall well-being, and for their overall sense of confidence.
Finding outlets where you can express yourself freely and talk honestly about things that you may not otherwise address is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. By speaking and being open about your life, not only can you receive advice, but you can also begin to work on getting to know yourself, getting to know the things you need to work on, etc. This is all much more helpful with the assistance of an outside observer that genuinely has your best interests and knows you honestly, as they can identify behaviors, reactions, thoughts, etc. that you engage in when stressed, when triggered, when anxious, when emotional, when focused, etc.
The greatest thing about therapists, or specialists in this area, is that they are not there to punish, scold, etc. you, they are there to provide a sense of safety, a sense of stability, a source that you can trust, a source that does not judge you, and a source that only wishes to help and to support you.
In reality, with my extensive diagnosis, which can be considered a “double whammy,” I am supposed to be participating in therapies, such as CBT, CPT, and exposure therapy. Similarly, my diagnoses make me more than qualified to have A TEAM OF TRAUMA SPECIALISTS to help guide me through life. In addition, a life-coach also is highly-recommended and beneficial for a young thug like me, even though I do not like listening to other people.
Let me be the LAST PERSON to admit that I NEED HELP!
THERE IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.
•SEEK HELP, UTILIZE HELP, & GIVE HELP•
♥♥♥♥It is #TIMETOTALK ♥♥♥♥