Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Hello, my name is Erin, and I am a mentally ill individual. I have serious issues.
I'm not trying to be "clever" or sarcastic up there, and I'm definitely not joking.
When people think about mental illness, they often automatically form a mental image of a screaming lunatic raving about things that make no sense, and who may in fact be dangerous. One can hardly be blamed for that. It is an image that has been perpetuated time and time again in entertainment and the media for generations.
I'm not here to start a discussion about whether or not that perpetuation is "wrong" or "okay" (in the case of the former, I'm personally of a mind that entertainment is entertainment, and a certain amount of creative license can be forgiven--but we'll talk more about that another time).
What I do want to say is that in real life mental illness is way different than you may be picturing it. It is often invisible. And it can be crippling. And many people still don't understand it. Which is, frankly, understandable; it's a complicated issue.
I myself live with four different mental conditions. I hesitate to use the word "suffer," because it creates an unnecessary air of playing the victim, and one doesn't necessarily suffer from these conditions. Officially, I have been diagnosed with:
Major depressive disorder (MDD, often called clinical depression or simply depression), which is a condition that is caused, among other things, by a chemical imbalance in the brain--which, put simply, means one is inundated with an excess of cortisol (your body's main stress hormone) and a shortage of serotonin (your main "happy" hormone). It is so much more complicated than that short description makes it sound, but more on that in a later post.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which can be described as a really bad case of PMS--except that, when experiencing PMS, a woman may be uncomfortable, but she functions more or less like normal. PMDD impacts her quality of life, and in fact her very capability of living it effectively, much more deeply.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is exactly what it sounds like--general anxiety, which we all experience, but becomes a disorder when it is very difficult, sometimes literally impossible, to reason away. I take Klonopin, an anti-anxiety medication, for this.
Unofficially (I say that because I haven't been formally diagnosed with this), I also live with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which causes one to experience significant bouts of depression and restlessness during the colder, darker winter months. For depression, I take Wellbutrin daily.
As a result of all this, I experience irregular, but chronic insomnia, which I manage with Ambien. (For the love of god, please do not view this as an advertisement; consult your doctor before taking ANY prescription medications.)
But wait, you might be thinking, wouldn't someone with depression feel it worsen during PMS and wintertime anyway? Well, yeah. There are certain markers that doctors look for to determine whether or not an actual disorder exists--but I won't ply you with those technical details now, just trust me on that one.
This week, I'll go over what each of these disorders are, how to recognize them, and talk about some coping techniques. (Again, this is not meant to be read like a medical manual; talk to your doctor if you think there may be an issue. Do not attempt to self-diagnose; you and your mental health deserve better than that.)
For now, if you or someone you love is having a hard time dealing with depression and the myriad other conditions with which it often goes hand-in-hand, I just want you to know you're not alone. I feel you, I really do.
Catch me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest if you want to talk or just need a friend.