I go on camera with my friends and promote getting professional help. I talk about going to the doctor, being diagnosed and admitting to having a problem as the first steps towards feeling better. I hope that my stories offer some kind of help.
Because of the stigma, getting help for mental illnesses is really hard, which is why I also try to show how I practice what I preach. I go to a therapist. I take medication.
I also would be lying, if I said I was okay with being sick. I go through spurts of being exceedingly angry with myself. Mad at my brain. My body. My genetics. But mostly, I am mad at the disease.
When I am in the right state of mind and not being eaten alive by depression—bedridden and crying all day—I am upset because of all of the time I have wasted bedridden and crying. To have something take away my ability to spend time with friends, enjoy foods I love, with very little control to stop it—it’s just not a fair.
Of the seven stages of acceptance (in grieving the loss is of my mind) I am stuck in Anger. And I don’t think I should move from it. You see, being angry at this disease is what keeps me seeing a psychiatrist. It’s what keeps me going to counseling sessions.
I am so mad, that it makes me want to fight. I want to punch depression right in its shadowy face. I want to kick anxiety. I want to rip through every flashback PTSD brings.
Unfortunately that means I have the mentality that these things can be beaten, whereas research says that someone diagnosed with mental illnesses will likely have to fight more than once. Sure, you can beat the main symptoms, in fact that’s why you get into the ring. However, it’s realizing you’re in a ring in the first place, that gives you a fair chance at a long, fulfilling life while continuing to fight.
Sometimes I go down because, after swinging for months, I get exhausted. Am I still mad? Yes. Upset? You bet. But the fight is so unfair, I slip up and I let depression’s left hook hit me right in the gut. And once a mental illness gets one good punch in, it can keep hitting until you go down for a long time.
At the end of that fight, I know I fought well, using all the techniques my coach (therapist) trained me to do. I might fall, but I know that I did the best I could. It's almost as though I am going down on my own terms. I know that I need to give in for a bit, but it is so that I can keep going in the long run.
On the other hand, it feels way worse when I go down because I got too proud to admit my ongoing problem
I don’t need to fight, I tell myself, I’m too good to be someone forced to live in the ring. And I am so wrong then, it’s not even funny.
Like insulin to a diabetic, SSRI’s keep my neurotransmitters working the way they were meant to. I wouldn’t kick a crutch from under someone with a broken leg, but I seem to not mind opening my own carefully sutured scar and watching myself bleed out. I take myself off of the meds that have helped me and might even skip a few behavioral sessions.
Being mad and being proud are the opposite sides of the same coin. The difference is, being mad equips me to keep fighting. Being proud will not stop the negative thoughts and panic attacks, it’s just another reason I stop fighting. Pride makes me think I am too good to have to battle at all so when the fight comes to me, I am unprepared.
Don’t be proud, stay in the ring. At least, as long as I am here, mad and still fighting. This way, mental illness is less likely to catch us by surprise. Let us admit that we need to fight, even though it hurts that its more than others have to.
Whether you’re mad, or just over not feeling 100%, please stay in the ring with me. Because if I know that other people are in the ring with me, if I know that they’ve fought the same demons and came out stronger in the long run, there is no exhaustion that will keep me from wanting to provide an assist when mental illness decides to hit while you’re not looking. In the ring, I will have your back.