it’s all in your head

28 Oct

I’d like to write about something heavy tonight: mental illness.

I just finished watching a 48 Hours special about a woman whose schizophrenic son killed her. The son never received medical treatment for his disorder because they are Scientologists. Of course, they interviewed a “specialist” who claimed that mental illness doesn’t really exist and is not a medical disorder at all.

Watching this brought up all sorts of emotions, including anger. This is by no means an attack on anybody’s religion. Mental illness is still a bit taboo in our culture in general. There are many people that think mental disorders are “all in your head” and if you just convince yourself to be happy it will go away.

This is bullshit. Let me use an example to explain:

Insulin is a hormone. When your body doesn’t produce the correct amount of insulin you have a disorder known as diabetes, which causes multiple physical symptoms that can be treated using pharmaceuticals.

In the same vein, neurotransmitters are hormones that affect brain function. When your body doesn’t produce the correct amounts of certain neurotransmitters you have a mental disorder, which causes multiple physical symptoms that can also often be treated by pharmaceuticals.

Mental illness is a real, physical disease that should be treated as such. It’s not something that can just be wished away, just like diabetes cannot be wished away. No amount of “sucking it up” will fix the problem.

I’m not trying to say that drugs fix everything and medication certainly isn’t for everybody. But I know from firsthand experience that it can improve quality of life in some cases. Medication didn’t solve my self-esteem problems or my insecurities but it helped relieve enough anxiety so that I could start to address these other issues. It’s hard to focus on what you need to work on in your life when you can barely get out of bed or eat, or when you’re in such a heightened state of anxiety that you lose control of all logical thought.

I believe that I would never have gotten through college without the help of medication. And this is not because I was a weak person, it’s because I had a disease. In my family it’s something that’s been passed on genetically from one generation to the next.

Most people never knew the full extent of my disorder because I tried to hide it, because of the stigma that’s attached to mental illness. I even tried to hide it from Kristen, my own roommate, because I didn’t want to seem pathetic.

I’m glad to say that I have been drug free for almost two years now. I’m certainly not cured, and there’s always a chance that in the future some traumatic or stressful event could send me into a bout of depression. If I have to, I’ll medicate myself again. For a long time I lived in misery because I didn’t want medication, I thought it wasn’t natural and that drugs would cause me to not be myself. I thought, “This is how I am and I just have to deal with it.” But now that I’m in a good place in my life I know that this is the real me, and it’s the depression that makes me something I’m not.

Anyway, sorry for the long rant, but this is something that hits close to home for me and I just had to let it out.


3 Responses to “it’s all in your head”

  1. debber October 29, 2006 at 01:45 #

    I also watched 48 hours tonight. I too am not one to bash someone’s religion. I do have a big concern though when I hear someone tell others that there is no such things as brain disorders (mental illness). It down right scares me! It is like saying that cancer does not happen or there is no need to for anyone to take insulin. Look at the harm that would cause.If we are going to talk religion: It is my belief that God made our bodies and yet our bodies are not perfect. We live in an imperfect world and I do not think there is a religion that believes that the world or anything in the world (besides God) is perfect. There are many religions that believe that is what the resurrection is all about. I know I am looking forward to a perfect mind, body and spirit. LOLNone of our organs are free from becoming ill or having disorders, therefore the brain being an organ can become ill. My Aunt has diabetes, my uncle had cancer, my mother has arthritis and I have a brain disorder called bipolar. I most likely will be on medication the rest of my life and thank goodness for medications that have changed my life so the second half of my life can be in peace and FUNCTIONAL.Compared to the many heartaches and serious upsets that had to do with a sick brain the first part of my life was a nightmare! I am fortunate to be alive. My aunt would not be alive today without her insulin. My uncle would not have lived to be 93 without cancer treatment. My mother could not function without pain medication. Again, the brain is not different than any other organ in our body in that it is an “organ” and why wouldn’t it get sick like the other organs in our body? It is a “no brain-er.”Let’s get back to religion. I believe that God has blessed us all with gifts and talents. There are many talented doctors, therapist, etc. who can help people who have mental illnesses (I prefer: neurobiological disorders.) We have also been blessed to live in modern times where we have been able to learn about the brain far beyond our expectations due to the advanced tech. and this is only the beginning. I think we should thank God for the tech., medicine and treatments we have today for neurobiological disorders and continue to pray for advancements. Yes, I continue to pray for strength, support and guidance while I take my medications and work with my psychiatrist and psychotherapist. I pray and thank God for his help and direction. Please except my apology if I have misspelled any words. I also have dyslexia and others learning disabilities (LD). Of course, Tom Cruse will tell you that LD does not exist either. I used the same text books on tape to earn my college degrees that students used who had visual impairments. Is Tom C. now going to tell us that there is no such thing as blindness?

  2. Shrig November 6, 2006 at 20:59 #

    Hey you!Its so good to hear from you! How are things? Everything is going well here. Jersey living is always an adventure. ;)Shoot me an email and we’ll chat it up some more.Ps. I couldn’t agree more with this entry. I think its rather scary to actually hear someone say, “Its all in your head.” Its a very good way of saying, “I’m ignorant.”Laters!

  3. Shrig November 6, 2006 at 21:07 #

    Oh, and thanks for the compliment! I really enjoy taking pictures (and inflicting them on the rest of the world ;) )

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