In Defense of Mental Illness
Mental illness…two words that scare the hell out of some people. It scares those who have never dealt with it. It scares those who remain ignorant to it. Do you know what mental illness is? It is an illness that affects the mind. It can range in severity. It can be something so simple as a chemical imbalance, which only means that your body isn’t producing enough of a certain chemical to make your brain fire “normally”. Or it can be so severe that you are a danger to others. The range is VAST!
I bring this up because frankly I consider diabetes to be something of a chemical imbalance as well. Your body is not making the amount of insulin necessary. That’s a chemical imbalance isn’t it? People who suffer diabetes generally aren’t told how terrible they are for having diabetes. No. They are told to go to the doctor and to get treatment. And a lot of times treatment is affordable and their medications and appointments are covered by insurance. This is not always the case for people with mental illness.
People with mental illness can’t always afford their illness. It isn’t always covered by insurance. It is sometimes covered under a special umbrella. There are limitations. There are limits on visits. There are limits on who they can see. There are limits on medications. There are limits on lifetime benefits.
Most people with a true mental illness aren’t instantly cured with a few sessions. It is ongoing. It is painful. It is their life. Just like type 1 Diabetes affects patients for a lifetime, mental illness can affect patients for a lifetime. Sometimes there are situations, such as dealing with a situation, where a person will only need temporary help. The limitations on insurance might be effective for those types of situations, but for people with chronic, on-going issues, it is not helpful.
It pisses me off and pains me when I hear people speak so negatively about people with mental health issues. I feel like people just don’t get it and just don’t care to get it. They feel holier than thou and prefer to stay safe in their bubble-wrapped glass houses. They feel they are untouchable by something that has touched so many. I feel sorry for their ignorance and yet disdainful for their judgments. They are so ignorant to think that the perfect storm couldn’t cause the same situations to affect their lives and so judgmental to assume they could or would handle things differently had they walked in another’s shoes. You can’t look at one aspect of a person’s life and think about how you would handle something (i.e., suicide); no, you have to look at all the pain, losses, grief, etc. they have endured throughout their whole life and see that they went through that while dealing with mental illness. Sometimes they are only in dealing with something that is situational. Other times they are dealing with something that has affected them from the time they were conceived.
Why do I have such a strong opinion on this? I have dealt with mental illness from the moment I was born. I was surrounded by it. I was around people who had it. I have it. My loved ones have. My loved ones had it. It has hurt me in ways I can’t describe. I have had it shape my life. I have worked in it. I understand it. I don’t understand it.
I suppose those answers are confusing. I have dealt with depression for just about as long as I remember. I am not going to discuss all of it. It is personal and it is mine. The severity of my depression has ranges. When my personal life was a wreck and everything was falling apart, I will admit I wanted to die. I didn’t want to just die for a moment. No. I wanted to die. I really wanted to die. But I wanted to live more. I prayed and begged God to help me and He did. I was and am grateful God loved me enough to get through to me. He kept pointing out to me the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This did give me hope at times when I had none. This gave me strength to reach out and get help. I was blessed and lucky. I was able to get help.
I do not consider myself any better than anyone else. Some people can’t hear God because they are too deep in a pit of despair and depression. Some people don’t turn to God because they feel He is the reason for their despair. Because of this, they may do a variety of things to try to feel better. It’s a form of self-medication. When you feel bad, don’t you try to feel better? Most do. They have probably tried various methods and they’ve failed. They probably feel like a failure. If they don’t kill themselves then they start doing something to numb themselves or make life tolerable. They take a pill or drink something. It can lead to more and more. This can lead to addiction. I’m not saying it is a good way to medicate. But it is often cheaper than going to the doctor. You don’t have to make an appointment. You don’t have to fight with your insurance company to do it. You can just medicate. And it is readily available. (Unless you live in the South and have Blue Laws.)
Mental illness isn’t just one type of illness. As I said, there are many types. If you want to learn more, you can visit NAMI, which is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. You can look up information specifically about mental illness and get answers. You can also look for support and/or programs that might be beneficial. It is a little easier to understand than DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is the book that psychiatrists and psychologists use as their bible daily.
I ask anyone reading this to please consider how you could easily be affected by the disease of mental illness. It is a disease as much as diabetes and other things are. You should treat it as such and treat the people afflicted with it with the same respect you would with any other illness or disease. Don’t condemn them. Would you want someone slinging hateful words at you for something that is consuming your life that you didn’t ask for and were born with? Try having mercy. I ask others to please remember that you still could be affected by mental illness. If you have a brain, which I hope you do, then something could affect it at some point in your life. My hope is that it doesn’t. But if it does, I hope you have support. I have lived through times where I felt there was no support. Those are the hardest times of all.
- Mental Illness is such a dirty word (poemsforkush.com)
- New CDC Vital Signs: Smoking among those with Mental Illness (prweb.com)
- Executives dismissing staff mental health issues (smh.com.au)
- A Quandary: Mental Illness, Public Safety (acanvasoftheminds.wordpress.com)
- Mental Illness in Kids: The Surprising Warning Signs (everydayhealth.com)
- DSM-V – Mental Illness vs Normal Behavior (theness.com)