Tag Archives: mental illness

When Did You Become an Expert?


I have spent the past year trying to focus my writing around issues of mental health. With this I hope that I have given some helpful advice and some interesting stories. I like to believe that by doing this I have helped at least one person to see that they aren’t alone. What I wanted to achieve by writing about these issues was to give people who don’t live with mental health problems a glimpse into the difficulties faced by those who do. What has somehow happened is that people now have decided that I do not have a mental health disorder, but instead an addiction problem. I want to know when it became more acceptable to be an addict than it is to be crazy.

I think that part of this is because crazy is something we don’t control. People who don’t live with a mental health disorder, much less multiple disorders, seem to accept addiction more easily. Addiction is something that can be controlled, or at least that seems to be the prevailing theory of those who have been confronting me lately. It isn’t my OCD that causes me to think in circles, but instead it is some addiction. The truth is that I am not an addict. I can’t say that I have never drank too much or tried things which I shouldn’t have. I have never needed a substance to survive, well other than food water and air—all of which are made up of chemicals. I can live without medication, and even if I choose not to, this choice doesn’t mean I am an addict. I do not feel as if I cannot handle life without medication, and I don’t believe that for my disorders that medication is a long term fix. It is a band aid to be used while I learn other ways to cope.

The truth is that many people with mental health difficulties do self-medicate, and often find themselves in positions of addiction. Since I do not claim to be an expert in addiction, I cannot say anything more than that it is possible for someone who starts off with a diagnoses and medication can become an addict. I only know this much because I have seen it happen. This does not mean that anyone who has gone to a doctor for help and takes medication is an addict. Nor does it mean that every person taking medication is doing so because they need to. There are plenty of people who get prescriptions legally for problems they don’t really have. From what I have been told, and experienced, if you go to a doctor who is just trying to see as many patients as possible, all you have to do is give a list of symptoms and they will prescribe what pill goes along with that set.

Recently I have been told by recovering addicts that I have addiction problems, and that I need to get clean and sober. They congratulated me when I went off medication, and proclaimed that I was taking a step in the right direction. They seemed to think that they influenced my choice in going off meds, but the truth is I went off meds because I wanted to see what affect they were even having on me. The reality is that for the most part they were affecting my memory. There were other effects from the meds, but the most disturbing to me was with the memory. Other than that they didn’t change my personality and they didn’t help consistently with my anxiety, so why take them? Well for me the only time I feel medication is helpful is when I have to be in a situation where I have no ability to avoid my stressors. These would be holidays, family events, and weddings.

The next set off accusations about being an addict came from someone who doesn’t know me outside of text messages. We text a couple times every few months and that is the extent of our communication. I have never met this person in real life, and I really don’t have any desire to. Recently, while talking to him about my current job situation he accused me of being an addict. This was based off me not having been able to find a decent job in the past nine months. Because of course only an addict would have trouble finding a job in a bad economy, therefore I must be an addict. It couldn’t possibly be that my skill set lies with writing and mental health advocacy. Or that my degree, which he also claimed I must not have, is in a field which tends to require at least a Masters to find work. My education allows me to be a candidate for entry level jobs, but my experience puts me at being a little over qualified, or a little under qualified. If I mentioned that I am crazy I would spend another ten years looking for work.

So when did mental health turn into addiction? When did people who have no experience with one or the other become experts? I don’t claim to be an expert in mental health other than my own. I know what is wrong with me, and I don’t need people to create new labels for me to make themselves feel more comfortable. If you don’t believe that OCD, and Anxiety can cause extreme difficulty for someone, then I am not someone you should be associated with.

As we change how mental health is viewed, we seem to being adding a new face to crazy. I can’t just be crazy, I must be abusing something, or I wouldn’t act the way I do. Since people tend to think that crazy celebrities are only this way because of substance abuse, why not believe that everyone is this way? Well, the biggest reason for why not, is that it is Not True. Not every person who decides to embrace their own crazy, go out into the world and live their lives is an addict—just as not every person who is on drugs has a mental health disorder.

The picture of mental health is bigger than people seem to want to accept. The rules keep changing, and they aren’t all changing for the better. Every day we have to learn how to live in a world which doesn’t understand us, and has to create some new reason as to why we act the way we do. We can’t just be crazy anymore, no we have to be on something, and even if the thing we are on is to help us control the crazy aspects of our personality this now means that we are addicts. Not everything is so cut and dry. People however don’t like messy, and mental health is messy—it’s complicated and makes people uncomfortable.

So I am sending out a big thank you to all of the people who realize that this is not easy. Thank you to everyone who doesn’t try to change me or anyone with a disorder, and to everyone who doesn’t need to have me be an addict so that I can fit into your box. Thank you to all of the people who are fighting for these diseases to be understood, and who stand by their friends and family who are fighting everyday with some form of mental illness. And most importantly a huge thank you to those of you who are yourselves fighting for your own version of sanity and doing what you can to live in a world which hasn’t learned how to accept your particular brand of sane.

I hope you all have a happy, crazy, fun filled and safe Thanksgiving.

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Mitch Hedberg Got it Wrong


Mitch Hedberg once said that addiction is the only disease you can be yelled at for having. Unfortunately, I have found in my life that people are just as willing to yell at you for being crazy. So ultimately he got it wrong.

If you have a mental illness, people often get upset with you for it. Post-partum depression is one that people really just don’t get. Often people think that if you just have more time to bond with your baby that things will be alright. Or if you have anxiety they get angry because you can’t always do the things you want to do, or planned to do. Those who have never experienced these things often get angry with the afflicted person. Even if they truly wish to be understanding, at some point they get mad.

Now the problem with this is that it is completely counter productive to tell a crazy person to stop being crazy. You can’t tell someone with OCD to knock it off, it doesn’t work that way. I can’t shut off my OCD any more than I can shut off the need to eat and drink to live. I don’t need OCD to live, but I’m hardwired for it. Getting angry with me because I see the world different isn’t fair. It’s not like I have an opinion you don’t agree with, my brain literally works differently than yours does.

Lots of crazy people end up with addiction problems and then get yelled at even more. Well I think that if we were more understanding in the beginning that some of these people would have never turned towards self-medicating to feel better, or feel nothing. When everyone around you doesn’t understand you or accept that you have a problem it is tough to recover, whether you’re an addict or have a mental illness, we need love and support. Screw that, as humans we need love and support.

Now there is love and support, and there is smothering. You can just be there as a friend to be loving and supportive, you do not have to constantly go over to your friend’s house to make sure they are alive, a text works. A phone call to show you care. Be there when they need you, so they know it is okay to ask you when they need help. Be prepared to be frustrated, those of us who are crazy and know it are a tough bunch to be around. You have to understand that we can’t always control how we feel, most people can’t control how they feel all the time anyway, so why expect us to be able to.

We are a little different, maybe even slightly broken. This doesn’t mean to throw us away, this means you sit around while we stich up our gaps. Just existing helps us more than advice. If you don’t understand it you can’t fix it. Those of us who do understand our illness can’t fix it. We think differently, and that’s a good thing. If everyone in the world saw things in the same way, then it would be a very dull world.

Embrace the crazy. Don’t be angry about it, learn how you can live with it.

How the Crazy Hurts Everyone


It is difficult enough to know that every day of your life you have to live with an illness which people don’t understand.  There isn’t exactly a support group for those with mental illness, and everyone has a different experience with it.  What is most difficult when living this way is not just that you hurt personally and emotionally, but that you unintentionally hurt everyone around you.  People are pushed out of your life because you snap at a child when you are trying not to have an anxiety attack.  Worse still is when you lash out at you family from impulse aggression which is caused from feeling trapped inside your own skin.  You want to hurt yourself because you hurt everyone around you.  Then at some point, everyone seemingly gives up hope that you will ever get any better.  At this point, you get even worse.  Anxiety so bad you can’t get out of bed, or leave you house to do something as simple as getting a drink, or going to buy a pack of cigarettes.  Putting air in the tires on your car becomes a terrifying event.  The thought of seeing your family causes so much tension before you get there that everyone is on edge and they are all just waiting for you to snap again.  Then if you manage to try to control yourself, and someone else yells at you or insults you you are stuck with the dilemma of responding or walking away, both reactions are taken as insulting to the person you are trying to not fight with.

Living this way is a constant battle.  One which a person cannot hope to face alone.  One which family and friends need to learn how to understand, so that they can help you take the steps forward in your life which you long to take.  It is hard enough when you are terrified of everything to get out of bed in the morning.  However, knowing that you have hurt almost every person in your life because of your disease makes it that much harder.  There is no cure, but with support we can overcome and live normal lives.

So to those whom I have hurt, my best friend, mother, sisters, brother, grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-mother, father, and my son I am sorry.  I try everyday to become a better version of myself, but I am still lost inside this disease.  I don’t know which direction will take me out of it, and that is why I have felt the need to write about it.  I hope as you and others read these essays and posts, that you might gain some understanding of what it is like to live in my skin, to walk my path, and how difficult it is to know what I have done and that nothing I say can repair what i myself have broken.

To the readers who don’t know me in person:  I hope that you can gain insight into your own lives through my struggles.  I hope that if you are reading this because you have a family member or a friend with a mental illness that you will gain insight into them.

The key is support.  Crazy or sane we all need support.  We all need our friends and family to be there to listen when we are in pain.  It is more difficult to do this when someone is always in pain, I know, but please remember that even if you are not seeing the person you love when they have an anxiety attack, a manic episode, or a bout of depression, that person is still in there.  They are trying to figure out how to come back, and they just need a strong hand to hold until they can make it through.

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