Mental Health Journey, Pt. 2

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Life for a mental health patient is a journey, made somewhat better by medicines and treatments. Sometimes the “better” is marginal, sometimes it’s manageable, sometimes there’s a glimpse of a near-miracle. Medications are little slices of wonderful, if and when they work. There’s the issue for many. The ever-present IF.

With psychiatric medications, what works for one person may not, and does not, always work for another person. This is because individual brain chemistry is as unique as a fingerprint. Patients are often faced with having to try different medications to find one that works. After that comes finding the proper effective dosage that works for them. And with psychiatric meds, if A doesn’t work for you, you can’t just take one, stop and then immediately start taking B like you can a pain reliever or some other type of drug. There is a sort of “half-life” with brain chemicals when they are affected by psychiatric meds.

Because psychiatric medications have to build up in the brain tissue in order to be effective, if a drug does not work, you have to wean yourself off it before starting a new one. This can take time and is frustrating and, unfortunately, depressing for the patient. It often feels like you “roll the dice” when you try another drug because you truly do not know if it will work. In addition, you wonder how effective it will be or for how long.

And don’t get me started on the Side Effects! (too late)… With side effects of psychiatric meds, it can sometimes feel like you are experiencing the saying, “The cure is worse than the disease”. There is weight gain, or there could be weight loss. You have insomnia or you might sleep too much. You feel ravenous or have no appetite at all. There is constipation or diarrhea. Not to mention impaired coordination or memory, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fatigue, and of course, sexual difficulties. You are dealing with many of these while you are trying your hardest to JUST FEEL BETTER!

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You’re Not Crazy, You’re Just Depressed, Pt. 2

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I’m sure there are people who think if someone is depressed, or claims to have a mental illness, they can just snap out of it or it will pass or they’re faking it. While sometimes this might be the case, most of the time nothing could be farther from the truth. Those who are dealing with any type of mental illness desperately wish they could just snap out of it.

Sometimes mental illness is situational. Sometimes it seems temporary but all too often it’s a lifelong condition. Sometimes there’s a biological or genetic component. However it arises, it can take a lot of effort & support to survive.

I’m not a psychiatrist nor am I a trained psychologist. I am simply someone who is in the trenches of depression. I’ve heard, “Snap out of it!”, “It’s not that bad.”, & many other responses when people find out I have depression. Like I said, you can’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t tell by looking who is or who isn’t depressed or otherwise mentally ill. I look “normal”, whatever that means.

Most of the time w/ medication & talk therapy, I & others like me do pretty well. Some days are better than others, just like they are for anyone. Like other humans, appreciate & enjoy understanding & support. We find it in groups, w/ friends, & through help from those in the medical profession.

You can’t tell by looking if someone is depressed or experiencing a mental illness. You don’t know their journey just as they don’t know yours. As I said before, not everyone who living w/ mental illness is psychotic or dangerous to others. For the most part, they’re just trying to get through, & get along, in their lives w/ some enjoyment & hard-won positivity. And w/ mutual acceptance, support & understanding from those around them, this is & will be possible.