This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. As you probably already know, I advocate for mental health and have my own experiences with mental illness. There are people who don’t realize how many ways others struggle, and there are those who aren’t aware of mental health in general.
This week, I decided to interview four individuals, Nichole, Jonathan, Diana, & a person who preferred to remain anonymous, about their mental health: what they deal with, how it affects them, how they cope with it, & what they would say to others with similar experiences.
WHAT CONDITION(S) DO YOU DEAL WITH?
NICHOLE: I have a combination of Anxiety and Depression.
JONATHAN: I suffer from Bipolar disorder with rapid cycling (from my experience) and Anxiety (which keeps me from going to the grocery store). Physically, I have Type 2 Diabetes & Low Testosterone which also affect my mood.
DIANA: Major Depression, PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder traits, some type of unspecified mood disorder that they can’t put a label on (it seems to look like Bipolar disorder at times), and I once met the criteria for other disorders due to having psychotic symptoms. I also have really bad Anxiety. Pretty much, I feel like I’ve been told I have everything in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
ANONYMOUS: I have Bipolar 1 Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety.
WHAT IS DIFFICULT ABOUT LIVING WITH THESE THINGS?
NICHOLE: The difficulty for me is when my anxiety tends to climb at random times. I can go into panic mode in an instant and need no trigger. I know myself well enough to know that my depression comes from this vicious cycle of anticipating the next panic attack.
JONATHAN: Without meds right now, everything, even daily functioning.
DIANA: For one thing, I feel beneath many of my peers that aren’t diagnosed with these illnesses. I feel they have been able to achieve more as they did not have to deal with this stuff. I know everyone has problems, but a serious mental health condition in which you question your reason to be alive every day really can be hindering.
ANONYMOUS: With my Bipolar 1, I do a lot of “I hate you, but love me” with people I’m close to. My mood will go from a high to a low in a matter of moments if a situation is not ideal. This pushes people away.
HOW DO YOU DEAL/COPE WITH YOUR CONDITION?
NICHOLE: I have lived with both anxiety and depression for a long time. I have slowly morphed my home into being a place of joy and comfort. I added lush colors and decor. I also use candle warmers, as I am a big believer in natural remedies. I ensure to avoid clutter to provide me the visual that things are in order to also help me. My bedroom is set in tranquility, with a combination of teal and brown, and I also have a small fountain for the audial trickle. I have learned to take care of myself and that it is okay to escape. I have also added the art of meditation and Buddhism philosophy and it is helping me. I no longer take routine medication and only Xanax as needed and I only use it when my anxiety increases to panic.
JONATHAN: Wrestling takes my mind off of things and puts me in a happy place when I was 8 years old and carefree at the Mid-South Coliseum with my grandfather and family. Jesus is awesome, and laughter is the best medicine. I used to cope with alcohol, and June 28th will be my 7th year being sober thanks to my lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without him I would not be here right now.
DIANA: I see a private therapist at least once a week (sometimes twice a week if she’s available) for an hour. I haven’t had much of a history with her yet. I’ve seen her since October of 2016 after my last suicide attempt. I’ve seen my current psychiatrist since January. I’m hoping I can learn to trust him and my therapist more.
I belong to several Facebook support groups for people who have issues like me. I’ve tried to soften my anger in life by tapping into my empathetic side and taking on a challenging role of being an admin for a group for teens with mental health issues and another one for adults.
I’ve learned that being kind to others who are suffering helps me feel less alone; I can give to people and tell them what I always needed to hear- that it’s okay to not be okay and someone cares.
Sometimes, I also go to a support group in person once a week where females who have done the inpatient or outpatient program at the center can meet and talk to the girls who are inpatient at the time. I get to see others who are currently impatient and also talk to girls I’ve met throughout my treatment over the years.
I’ve tried to start fundraising to get people to donate items to our mental health centers that patients can use (journals, coloring books and markers, fuzzy socks, and new underwear). It’s very hard getting people to want to help with this.
I was reading books and trying to journal more in the fall. I’ve written some poems. I started working as a private tutor, and I’m especially helpful in tutoring algebra students. I was once very high achieving student, doing over two years of college (even with my disabling condition).
ANONYMOUS: My coping is still a work in progress. I still have a habit of letting little things bother me and making me upset. But these have gotten better as I have developed a mind set of “is it worth it”; I think about the situation at hand and if it’s a big deal or not. I journal a lot; it so nice to get all your worries out on paper and then sit back, read it, and think, ‘This is manageable’. Even recently, BIG things have happened; I haven’t reacted, but I have been visibly shaken. So those are pretty big steps. But really, just taking a step back when you can and evaluating makes a big difference.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE ELSE GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING?
NICHOLE: I would encourage those to find what works for you. It is trial and error to know what your natural response will be. It also takes education to understand how colors, smells, and sounds can help ease the symptoms. Self-care is truly important and recognizing that we do live lives that are so pressured through social conditioning. We work, we have families, we have responsibilities, we have to make sure mouths are fed, life is overall taken care of. Learn your limitations and know when to retract.
JONATHAN: Never give up. Live is worth living. Fall down 9 times and get up 10. Never hold things in. I am going to therapy when I start working. It is good to talk to someone about things especially someone that is an impartial participant in your life. Also, I am always here to listen to anyone that needs someone to talk to.
DIANA: For one thing, get help early on. If you’re a kid who is being abused at home and you try to tell someone like a teacher, but no one helps you, tell someone else. Tell the police, go to a church or synagogue and tell the minister or rabbi. Tell people who will listen and someone will eventually do something to get you out of that situation. Keep talking about it. Don’t put it deep down where you think no one cares. Don’t drink or do drugs or use sex as coping skills. This will make it all worse.
Get involved with hobbies and find what you are good at that is healthy. Everyone is good at something, even if it’s as simple as being able to say hello to one person a day because some people shut down and stop trying.
Take care of your body and mind. Make seeing the right providers for you a priority. If you think you are going to hurt yourself or someone else, call the police, and they will handle it. You may end up in a hospital, but it gives you time to rethink your actions toward yourself and others.
Keep trying and be open to different kinds of medication & therapy and ways of coping like coloring and meditating.
Do not listen to people who insult you or put you down. Ignorance can be very prevalent, but it’s their misfortune to be uneducated.
Apply for Medicaid in your state if you are low income and unemployed. You may even get Social Security and Medicare if you have substantial medical records. The healthcare will help you pay for your treatment, and the money each month can help you at least eat.
ANONYMOUS: This gets hard. It’s exhausting at times. The fight you put in shows. Everyday may not be great, but look for the moments in those days that made your day worth it. Medication is necessary, but not a fix all. Work on body and mind. And once again during the rough times, remember the good ones. Always hold on to the good moments.
Thank you to these four people for bravely talking about their mental health.
Remember that you never know what or how many things someone is dealing with.
If you are dealing with something, please know that you don’t have to feel ashamed. You are not alone; there is always somebody that’s willing to lead you to help.
UNITED STATES SUICIDE PREVENTION
INTERNATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE NUMBERS http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html
FOR MORE MENTAL HEALTH INFORMATION
https://afsp.org (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
https://www.nami.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
http://www.solossurvivorsoflovedonestosuicide.com (Survivors of Loved Ones to Suicide Loss)
http://www.activeminds.org (Active Minds)
https://thisismybrave.org (This Is My Brave)
INTERNATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH INFORMATION
https://www.wfmh.global (World Federation for Mental Health)