Mental illness is not confined to anxiety and depression

We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about anxiety and depression more, when we’re really just destigmatising anxiety and depression more, and that’s it.

I can tell you that a lot of people are going to read that sentence and think, “And?” or “What’s she talking about?” You probably thought I messed up what I was trying to say, or maybe you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that sentence. Anxiety and depression are mental health issues, right? Yes, but mental health issues are not confined to anxiety and depression.

You could argue that anxiety and depression are the more talked about illnesses because they’re the most common ones, but we don’t know just how true that is. More often than not, mood disorders that show any signs of depression, such as bipolar disorder, are put down to just that – depression. It can take years for doctors and even patients themselves to realise that there is something more to their problem.

As I said, patients can go undiagnosed for years, because they don’t really know that they have a problem. Personally, I know how that feels. I went until the age of fifteen before realising that there was something wrong with me, that this crippling anxiety I’d been feeling my whole life was not normal. Why didn’t I realise? Well, because nobody ever talked about it. Ten years ago, anxiety was still a taboo. People weren’t sure if it was a real thing, they looked down on people who had it, they didn’t understand it, and they were scared of it. And while I’m so glad that moves have been made to destigmatise anxiety and make my life that little bit easier, I can’t help but think about the people who still have a mental illness that nobody talks about. I can’t help but think about the forgotten side of mental health.

Unfortunately the likes of borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder still have a huge amount of stigma attached to them. People forget that they are a part of the group of mental illnesses, and they know little to nothing about them. Because they know nothing about them, the people who have to live with these illnesses every day are afraid to talk about them. And because they’re afraid to talk, nobody is learning.

When there’s so little information given to us about these illnesses, how are people supposed to recognise that they have a problem in the first place? Would you know the signs of borderline personality disorder if you had them? Most people wouldn’t. Oftentimes, patients are only diagnosed when their illness gets to an advanced stage, and this is what helps make up the negative stigma attached to the illness.

And that’s not the only thing that creates negative portrayals of mental illness. Patricia R. Owen conducted a study on the portrayals of schizophrenia by entertainment media, and in this study of more than 40 movies (released between 1990 and 2010) she discovered that over 80% of characters who were schizophrenic showed violent behaviour, and almost a third displayed suicidal behaviour. This portrayal that people with schizophrenia are dangerous is wrong, and it’s having a detrimental effect on sufferers who are afraid to speak out for fear of having this label slapped on them.

People have a fear of the unknown, but we can help them with that. By speaking out more about the less commonly known mental illnesses, we can break the stigma attached to them and help sufferers feel more at ease when talking about them. We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about depression and anxiety more, but we need to speak more about mental illness as a whole. We can’t keep leaving certain issues out because we’re afraid of the unknown.

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What It’s Like To Cope with Inheriting a Mental Illness: An Anonymous Story

The one thing I’ve learned, and mostly definitely learned the hard way, is that suicide and depression are nothing to joke about. Depression is a serious matter and is becoming incredibly worse in society today.

I know from family history that with any sign of depression at all you were sent straight to a mental institute. No treatment or visitors, just sent away until you were “fixed”. What most people don’t understand is that it’s an illness, a long term one at that. Not something that just springs up in life when you have a bad day. It develops as you age.

I’ve been surrounded with depression and suicide since a very young age. I’ve heard stories of my grandmother who suffered from bipolar disorder and was a manic depressive. Then when it was coming up to my 2nd birthday, my father took his own life as he too suffered with depression for a very long time. At the time he was just sent away, no counselling or call centres were around, and the institute just made him worse. I’ve grown up with a father figure as such but I always wondered how life would be with him. I always wonder if things would be different if he was still around, what life would be like, etc. Although people might think that I’d be different if he was still here, I know for sure that I wouldn’t have my younger sister, baby brother and my stepfather, some people who I am extremely grateful for every day. Things like this are what have made my family stronger. Now at the age of 15, there’s a possibility that my little sister could be bipolar. I still remember the day she told me and the feeling of my heart dropping to my stomach as I soon realised what could come; the dangerous and unpredictable future that lies ahead.

Dealing with mental illness and suicide is very difficult for anyone to go through, believe me. I find it disgraceful how people use it and alter it for their own advantage to get “likes” on Facebook, or a double click on their Instagram picture of their wrists slit for a celebrity, or when their relationship fails. Of course you’d be hurt, that’s natural, but they don’t realise that their family would have to go through being put in my shoes. Being confused, depressed, hurt, and lost at what has happened. Wondering why this person had to go through these lengths to think that this was the only answer. It wasn’t their only answer. Maybe yes if they thought this was how they could get their crush to give them the attention they wanted, or for people to notice them more but it disgusts me that our future generation act in this manner.

Whilst I was in my final years in secondary school I began to research more and more about my father’s illness and I realised that I too have felt and gone through what he has, of course not at the same lengths. It scared me to think that I could be dealing with this illness too. Yes I do have horrible bad days where I don’t even want to leave the bed or eat anything, but every time I even have a small thought of suicide I know that I could never put any other member of my family through it again, especially my mother.

So if you’ve ever dealt with depression or are now dealing with it, I want you to know that you shouldn’t be afraid to tell your family. They’re the ones that are going to be effected the most. They know the people who could help you. Even if you feel that they won’t understand there are counsellors and community group talks that too are only there for your health and support. I hope and pray that suicide won’t be the answer for anyone feeling this way.

What It’s Like To Have Manic Depression: An Anonymous Story

I’ve decided to compile a series of blog posts on different mental health conditions. As you all know, positive mental health is something that I support 110% and I play an active role in trying to destigmatise these illnesses and help people to understand them more. However, I can’t help but notice that although we’re all working hard to “destigmatise” mental health issues, that some of them are being left out. It seems that only the more popular and talked about illnesses such as depression and anxiety are being discussed, and I don’t like that. Sure, it’s great for me because I suffer from anxiety, but what about the people who suffer from schizophrenia, manic disorder, and all those other illnesses? I feel like people are still afraid of these illnesses, and that’s why I’m going to try my best to have them explained from the point of view of somebody who has experienced the illness themselves. This way it’s humanized, and will be easier for people to understand and in some ways relate to. I want to destigmatise mental health issues, and I want to do it the right way. There is no mental illness that deserves to be left out.

When Michaela suggested for people to write about their mental health conditions I jumped at the opportunity. I’m remaining anonymous on this post because I haven’t told my family or been open about this to my friends, and I’d hate for them to discover my mental health condition from social networks. I feel that mental health conditions are a bit of a taboo subject or that there’s an element of fear put into the idea of a mental health issue, which can make people who have it often block it out and deny it. I only discovered my mental health issue when I was turning nineteen years old because firstly I was too scared to admit I had a problem and secondly I was in a state of denial. I’ve now finally come to terms with my issue and hopefully I’ll have to courage to admit to my friends and family that I have this condition.

I have manic depression which is more popularly known as bipolar disorder. What I don’t like about bipolar disorder is the reputation it has. I feel people often have this mentality with bipolar disorder, thinking that the people who have it will go off one day and kill people but that’s really not the case at all! I want to be completely open about what it’s like to have manic depression/ bipolar disorder so that people can see that we’re not crazy. It’s just a bump in the road that you have to learn to overcome and this can take years to do.

I’ll tell you my story of what it’s like, but there may be other stories different to mine so don’t take this as a general one, everyone is different. With my manic depression I will go to sleep and not have a clue how I’ll feel in the morning, and depending on which stage I’m in I can either be incredibly nervous about it or indifferent. I have two stages – like it says on the label – I have my manic stage and my depressive stage. The best way I can describe how manic depression affects me is I feel different emotions to an extremity. This can be either unbelievable or incredibly scary.

I’ll talk about my manic stage first since that’s more positive and I am generally a very positive thinking person, or at least try to be. In my manic stage I am very hyperactive, I get excited easily and the feeling is prolonged so when everyone has calmed down I will still be beaming on the inside and nearly shaking. When I’m in my manic stage I am incredibly confident with an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude towards everything. I’ll wear more bright and daring clothes, and everything will be amazing. It’s like being on an insane high. The problem with my confidence is I tend to take on a lot of tasks, but because I’m on such a high it is incredibly difficult for me to sit down and complete them or do college work. This is because my mind in these stages works as if I’m flicking over a magazine, each page is different but the idea is only visible for a second before you think about something else. My mind is incredibly hyperactive that studying for the leaving certificate was a nightmare and impossible to concentrate for even though I understood the necessity to study for it. The problem with being on such a high is the crash from manic stage to depressive stage. It hits you like a tonne of bricks.

This is when my depressive stage comes in and I hate this stage. There’s a lot to talk about and if you find some of this incredibly scary please just try your best to understand. This is mainly because when I have it, it’s there for weeks and each passing day gets so much worse than the previous one. When I grew up with manic depression (which I didn’t know at the time) I always thought when you were upset that you’d have to justify why you were sad. It’s incredible now that I’m only discovering at nineteen years of age that you never need to justify why you feel a certain way. Sometimes we wake up feeling like shit and there’s nothing you can do about it except sit it out and try and get through the day. When I was growing up I would tell my parents that I was being bullied at school and that’s why I was upset, the problem was, this feeling was becoming so frequent and for long periods that my parents went to the school to give out to the children about behaving that way. That’s when I kind of thought to myself, “this isn’t what most kids feel like, this is different.”
This stage is called my depressive stage because when I feel crap, there is virtually no way out of it. The only thing I can do is try my best to participate in my classes (Which often lead me to a panic attack and I have to leave the room) even when it is impossible to concentrate. Basically on either end of my condition it is damn near impossible to concentrate. I always get really scared in my depressive stages because I can have them for as long as six weeks at a time and each day it gets worse. In fact after about two weeks I feel completely numb and I am desperate to feel something again. Back in my ‘dark stage’ when I was depressed for a solid two years before I went manic again I would cut myself to feel something, even if it was pain. The hell you go through when you’re physically numb with depression is excruciating. In fact I thought and still think about suicide at times. I am aware though that this is never the answer, because I think people have this mentality that those with mental health issues are completely out of control. I feel that although I don’t get to decide how I feel, I am completely in control about how to go through with them and I know what’s right and what’s wrong. When I’m in my depressive stage I go through a complete denial phase, over the years I’ve been seriously tested by life with shit happening to me which I have no control over and when I’m in my depressive stage I actually cannot think about them. If I do, my entire being goes into shut down, I completely panic and over think (perks of having anxiety with manic depression), I have to crawl into a ball, I want to get out of my own skin (which I’ll have to describe once I’ve finished the list), I can’t breathe and hyperventilate, if I’m not outside I feel like I’m suffocating, I try to tear my hair out and I usually can’t sleep. Yeah, it sounds like an absolute nightmare doesn’t it? It’s because it’s genuinely the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy, that’s how bad it is. When I say wanting to get out of my own skin it means I scratch. This is usually the first sign my friends can see when I’m starting to have a panic attack. I start scratching my wrists, hands and neck desperate to ‘get out’. I don’t really understand why I do it but it’s kind of like I just want to be someone else for a minute and not have the life I live or be in the moment I am currently in and maybe I’m just trying to scratch myself out. I don’t know, I know even when I’m describing it, it sounds absolutely psychotic. Sorry!

The problem with thinking about something upsetting is even when I’m in my manic stage it’s very easy for me to be pulled down to depressive stage and this can happen halfway through the day. This is when it gets kind of scary because I haven’t mentally prepared myself for my mood change. This is when I usually push people away and need to be alone but I can’t always do that since I’m a college student and sometimes have to be around people and try and do work.

This whole condition for me is a learning progress but I feel confident now that despite whichever phase I’m in that I know how to control it. I’m glad I got to open up about this stuff because I don’t think people understand bipolar disorder and it’s only something people just mock about like “what’s wrong with you today? You’re so fucking bipolar” because I think especially in the depressive stage that bipolar disorder really does affect people’s lives and if everyone could be more respective and understanding towards it I think people like me would feel much more assured.

Thanks for reading.