To commemorate Mental Health Month, I have decided to undertake the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Blog Challenge, as conceived by Marci on her blog Marci, Mental Health & More. Although headway has most certainly been made in mental health awareness over the last six years, we still have an awful long way to go before mental illness is accepted as freely as physical illness. So feel free to join in with the challenge and help raise awareness of mental illness! :)
Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es)? Explain it a little.
One of the most frustrating things a psychiatrist ever said to me was that “it wasn’t possible to suffer from multiple diagnoses” because “how [was he] supposed to know what to treat?”
I vehemently disagree with this opinion, not just because my diagnosis is three-fold, but because you can suffer from (and be treated for) multiple physical illnesses at the same time (e.g. bronchitis, diabetes, asthma) so why not mental illnesses?
From reading that list, many people would assume that Bipolar (given its one of the ‘big mental illnesses’) would be the one that causes me the most distress. It isn’t a pleasant experience having your moods oscillate from the highs of mania to the crippling lows of suicidal depression, nor is it pleasant being discriminated against because people have lesser understanding of this condition than other mental illnesses, such as depression. But for me, the one that causes the most problems, the one I would happily take a ‘magic pill’ to eradicate, is social anxiety disorder.
This condition has destroyed my life in ways even I struggle to comprehend, and yet, because of opinions similar to those of the psychiatrist I quoted above, it is the mental illness I’ve received the least amount of help to manage.
Most see the words bipolar affective disorder and decide this is the only issue that needs treating. They don’t see the damage that social anxiety has caused; the inability to connect to people, the frequent (and debilitating) panic attacks, the frustration of self-imposed isolation because I cannot venture outside in fear of what people may say (or think) about me.
Couple this with my PTSD, and the inherent distrust of humanity that has resulted from the traumatic incidents that caused this condition, it makes ‘living’ feel almost impossible to achieve. Instead, the combination of my three illnesses forces me to ‘survive’ or, at best, ‘exist’.
This is why opinions such as the one dictated to me by that psychiatrist frustrate me so. Is it so difficult to understand that someone can and does suffer from multiple mental illnesses? That these illnesses interact with each other; feeding into each other to double or triple the pain that someone is in?
And is it so difficult to just treat the person rather than focus on the label(s) that have been branded onto his or her head?