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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The Mental Health Journey, Pt. 1

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Is it crazy if you see a therapist or counselor? Why that word, why “crazy”? Sometimes I think all those who do not think they need counseling in this life are the “crazy” ones. If you think you can make it through this life alone, without some sort of help, YOU are crazy.

Life is not easy, for anyone, and there are those who need a little extra outside help to get through it. And one should not be looked down upon or think less of oneself if one chooses to get such help. Those who think they do not need even a little help are not always helpful or understanding to those of us who do.

We’re often told, “It’s all in your head.”, or “You’re just lazy.”, “I have felt sad too.” or “Snap out of it!” As you may have guessed, none of these phrases are supportive or helpful. Think of some of the other words that are used to describe someone who is a little “off” and imagine what it would be like to be labelled as such.

For the millions among us who are living with a mental illness, we are thought to be crazy. I choose not to say, “suffering from” mental illness because I do not want to put more of a negative spin on it than already exists. This is due to the already unfortunate prevalent stigma, the stigma that says we’re crazy, among other things.

The rest of the world thinks we’re crazy, or dangerous, or lazy, or insert (mostly negative) adjective of your choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are often among the most thought-ful ones. There is a lot going on between our ears. Our thoughts are just not always the most positive or uplifting or constructive, for us personally.

Our attitudes are usually reserved for ourselves alone. Our judgments are most often inwardly focused. And we are our own harshest critics. We share this with others around us, also harsh self-critics. Unlike those around us, we often can’t easily escape the possible downward spiral such negative self-criticism causes. Therefore, we need to “get out of our own heads” which doesn’t always seem easy or even possible.