After School Special: Mental Illness

Since I was a boy, I’ve been dealing with Bi-Polar Disorder. I’m lucky enough to have been born in the decade when I was, as I never was made to feel like it was some sort of divine retribution for an arbitrary sin, and by the time I became an adult, mental illness had begun divesting itself of some of its social stigma as well. Like any other illness, these afflictions were treatable, and just because they were invisible, didn’t make them any less real. But for the people suffering form depression and other psychic infirmity, acceptance may not be enough. We think that we’ve got all under control until the moment when it becomes obvious to even us that we never really did. In the narrative of these United States, if cannot get out of bed, it’s because you just didn’t want it bad enough, and faced with overwhelming disapproval, it’s easy to just sink into despair.

It’s critical to get in touch with a psychiatrist and find out what combinations of medicine and counseling are right for you. Unless you’re the type who stops buying lottery tickets because claiming your multimillions has become too time-consuming, you probably won’t get it right on the first try. Be open and honest with your mental health professional about the side effects of any medication that you’ve been prescribed, and you’ll also need to let them know what you’re using recreationally. No one wants to hear that they need to stop shooting up their heroin, but your therapist will need to know so that he doesn’t kill you with the medication that he feels might be right for you. Generally, if you have a mental illness, and you’ve also been using narcotics, you’ve been getting high to try and medicate against the symptoms of your illness. Take this opportunity to put your trust in a medical professional who’s had to go through years and years of schooling before giving you anything, as opposed to being just this guy that your friend, Dave knows.

I’ve found that if you don’t suffer from clinical depression, that you really have no idea of what it’s like to try and endure. I’m sure that you’ve been sad before, but that’s like telling someone who has lost an arm that your paper cut really really stings. It’s not just a matter of making a choice to focus on the positive, and no amount of “bucking up” will possibly suffice. I know that if you love us, and see us curled up in a little ball of emotional distress, you get frustrated far too quickly that there’s nothing that you can do to make us feel any better. There are counseling groups for family members of people suffering from these disorders, and we know that it’s probably not that easy putting up with our brain chemistry. I look at roller coasters, and feel almost instantly nauseated, but I know the ride is something else entirely for those who are strapped in.

If you want to help someone who’s suffering, just offer to be there for them. We only want what most people want: to be taken seriously. I’m not saying that you need to be a card-carrying member of the Aluminatti (Tin-foil Conspiracists), as a good third of what we say, based upon my own lengthy ramblings, is pure nonsense with a lyrical lilt. Just listen for the basic needs of all humanity, and let us know that everything, within reason, is going to turn out fine (governmental tracking chips, excepted, obviously). Be that one person that we have that doesn’t judge us by our illness. Treat us as if we’re just any other person. If we need help, and are ready to receive it, we will ask the ones whom we have come to trust the most. If we screw up, believe me, we will know it, and we don’t need to hear about it at length from everybody that we know. Just listen. I mean, really, truly listen to what we’re telling you.

It’s not easy being there for someone who has needs beyond what’s considered “normal.” And a lot of times it’s easy to just accept the invisibility factor, and let yourself forget that there is actually something wrong. We don’t have wheelchairs or casts, and we don’t haul around tanks of oxygen or hang placards from the rearview mirror. We often speak in parables that have marinated in metaphor for just a week too long. The particulars can get wrapped up in implausibility, and obfuscate what we are actually experiencing. Still, I ask that you stand by us. The crazier we get, the more we try to drive you further from us, the more we need you to stand firmly by our side. Stand by you man (or woman, or child), and let them know that though they walk this path alone, you’ll always hold their hand.

And to those who walk a similar path to my own, I say don’t give up. Just hang on for a little while longer. I know that it hurts now, hurts worse than it ever has before, but I promise you that some day it will get better. Maybe not forever, and maybe not even long enough to grow accustomed to, but there will come a time when the darkness won’t shine so brightly, and you will have a moment of peace, a moment of freedom from the shackles of your illness. When you’ve got the flu, like two days in, and everything aches, and it hurts to even think about breathing, and your nose seems only to exist to irrigate your upper lip, it’s easy to forget that there was any other life but this. But eventually, you will feel better. For all our time spent reminiscing, or daydreaming of what might come to be, we are creatures of the present, and nothing stifles an imagination like the pain that just won’t quit. It’s hard when no one around you knows what you are going through, but never lose sight of the fact that you are not alone.

I find it unsettling that the acronym for the National Alliance on Mental Illness is the name of my ex-girlfriend. But here is a link to their website, to learn a little more about the topic of mental illness.

And if you are feeling suicidal, please click this link, or call: 1-800-273-8255.


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