Today I choose to talk about Mental Health. One, because it constantly haunts my every key-stroke. Two, I think it’s important to give voice to everyday life and the way those with Mental Health issues deal with it.
Roughly 12 years ago, I was beginning to struggle for no reason. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time. During that time, I was Recruiting in Eau Claire, WI, in the latter half of my career in the U.S. Army. I had just got back from a deployment and was sent off to school and assigned as a Recruiter. The reason I mention that is that it could be easy for me to point to that and hang my hat on that ideology. I do believe it affected me in ways I can’t explain. I am also sure it is part of the problem, however, to say it was the catalyst, I can’t be sure.
One morning, I got my first sign, on my way into work. I had to pull the car over because I was crying so hard, I couldn’t stop. It came from nowhere and for no reason. I felt a kind of grief I couldn’t explain. Ask any Recruiter, no matter the service, and they will tell you the job has more stress than deployments. It is a different kind of stress, but none the less, hard to maneuver through. No one sets out to fail, so inherently you work as hard as you can.
The next sign was thinking about dying with a great deal of anticipation. I am not saying it’s right by normal standards but when you’re not chemically balanced you have a habit of falling over. I would think about death as I did about sex when I was a teenager. The thoughts wouldn’t relent, and it drove me to self-medicate to try and get through it. This only caused issues between myself and my wife of 22 years. If not for her, seeing the signs before I could, I would not be here today, and for that, I will forever be grateful.
Guess what? No one tells you when you go get some “happy pill”, by the way, I hate that terminology, that it could take months or years before you find relief. The medications have horrid side effects, but you take them because you hate your disease more than you hate them. See most people don’t get that, you take them or die, by your own hands most likely. It’s no different than any other disease and too many people take it too lightly.
Well, why does it take years Bryan? Good question, let me explain. You get say, Prozac, we will use this just as an example. It takes, by medically backed science, 2 weeks to 1 month for you to see any relief. Well, what happens when you get a side effect you can’t deal with? You get another med, then that is another 2 weeks to 1 month. There are dozens of anti-depressants, so that could take a very long time. Even then, when you find relief, it can stop working efficiently and hence the cycle continues.
I used to ask myself why people don’t take their medications. I don’t ask that anymore. When you must get up and take it every day, you start to realize that if you don’t, you won’t be you. That is depressing in and of itself. You may start asking yourself, “Is everything you are in your hand?” No, it’s not.
I have learned a lot, and maybe someday I will write another book about this very subject. That is not today though, I am already writing my second book. If talking out loud gives people a sense of not being alone then I have achieved what I set out to do. A few things I will say before I close this out:
– Family: Don’t feel you can fix it for them, or that it’s your responsibility. It’s not your fault that this happened. Support them as best you can but have a frank conversation with folks close to you, so they know. I keep a small arrow system written on our home calendar to know when I’m down, when I’m going back up or when and if I have a decent day. It shows it without having to talk about it all the time. Let’s be real here, it can’t be easy to be around people who are, by definition, constantly in a bad mood or don’t feel like talking. For someone like me, who doesn’t speak much at all, it can be hard to have to energy to interact.
– Those that suffer: Understand you will have to make your way through a gauntlet of medications before you find relief. You might get lucky but go into it knowing it’s going to be a while before you find anything outside what you know. It is worth it, it is difficult, it sucks, embrace that and you will not get stressed out as much doing the regiment.
– Those around you: You don’t have to have something to be sad about. Your cat doesn’t have to die, your day doesn’t have to go badly, it just is. You can’t understand if you have never been through it. Even if you have, each person’s mental illness is explicitly their own. Do your best to be patient.
Lastly, talk to someone. Yes, I know, I am an introvert as well, but I am telling you it helps. Find a counselor, a friend or anyone that you trust, and just tell them your sucking wind. People can sometimes do a better job of dragging you along until you forget. This is where the sweet spot is. I’m not saying you can just will yourself into happy but having someone help you to content is better than dwelling in where you normally spend your days.
I hope this helps someone. I will always be a Mental Health advocate because, for me, it’s not a choice. With understanding and knowledge, comes power.