Be Responsible for Your Mental Illness Part one: Acknowledge and Seek Treatment
May 23, 2021
By: Patty L. Fletcher
Author of Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed
Today, I want to talk to you about mental illness and being responsible for it.
Before I begin, I’d like to share a bit of my own history.
In the early 1980’s, I suffered my first Bipolar Depressive Disorder break. It was August and I’d just returned to school and was on what I and my family thought was a natural high of excitement at the prospect of starting the 10Th grade, seeing all my friends and being able to show off that I’d lost copious amounts of weight over the summer break. I was ready to take on the world, was joining every club and sports team I could think of and believed there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish.
Then, just as suddenly as the high began I crashed. The only difference, I told no one. Just as days before, I’d believed I could do anything put before me better than anyone on planet, I now believed I was the most hideous person alive. There was no real reason for such thoughts to enter my head and since I could make no sense of what I felt and because I thought everyone would laugh at me, I kept silent.
One night after a particularly bad conversation with a boy I had been in a relationship with the year before, I snuck back into the dorm, went to the laundry room grabbed a stack of towels and a washcloth or two and stealthily made my way upstairs to my room. With some relief, as I’d walked back from the library minutes before, I’d come to a decision. I felt I and everyone else in the whole, wide world would be better off if I simply ended my life. So, believing I’d made the correct choice to deal with things I couldn’t even define, I slunk into my room, turned on some music and began to ready myself to leave the earth.
I don’t have much memory of anything else after that until a fellow dorm-mate from down the hall entered my room to find out why my music was so loud and why I wasn’t answering the door began screaming.
I’d slashed my wrists and the floor round and underneath me was splattered with blood. Fortunately, I’d used a disposable raiser and so the injuries I’d inflicted were only superficial. But the meaning of this act was much more. Thankfully, the people at the school realized this and took measures to see I was placed somewhere where I could be kept safe and get the help I needed.
Over the next 5 years or so, I would be in and out of hospital after hospital, seeing doctors all of whom would diagnose me a bit differently, each one trying a plethora of treatments. It would not be until nearly 10 years later when I would meet a doctor who actually took the time to read all my medical and psychiatric history and make the correct diagnosis.
Even then, I was not even close to finding my way to a successful way of life where dealing with my mental illness was concerned and it would be a long, dark, twisting road with many pitfalls along the way before I would even come close to learning and putting into practice what I know today.
Having shared all that, the following is how I’d like to begin advising you who are out there suffering mightily with mental illness, trying to find your way along a pathway which even in this 21ST century of medical miracles is full of many sideroads designed to deceive and lead you astray.
First, my advice is, don’t allow a primary care doctor to prescribe your Psychiatric medications. Your Pc doesn’t have enough training in the field of psychiatry to do a particularly good job at treating mental illness. They get a rotation or two on a psych unit, and study a few chapters on it in school, then move onto something else.
A psychiatrist, studies much more thoroughly the subject of psychiatric medications, the mind, and what meds do for that mind than does a pC.
Secondly, if, you are taking a medication, that does not seem to be working, get to a doctor, and if you have no psychiatric doctor, get to the nearest crisis center or hospital emergency room, ask for a psychiatric evaluation, and go into a five or ten-day program to straighten out your meds.
Lastly, and most important, medication is only about 25 percent of your treatment and what is needed to be as well as is possible. The other 75 percent? Therapy and a continuing daily decision to be well.
Be responsible for your illness.
Most people, who have things like high blood pressure, blood sugar problems, and the like, treat their illnesses and do a good job.
Mentally ill people tend to put things off, deny there’s an issue, and though it’s certainly not the only reason, it is one of many which cause us to be frowned down on, looked on as people who are troublesome, and helps to cause the stigma to continue.
Why do I write these things?
Because I’ve lived them.
Those of you who follow me and read my work, will remember that in the summer of 2016 I went to the ER on my own, sought out help, and although the entire process of seeking psychiatric help took 16 hours from entering the ER to admit into the CSU (Crisis Stabilization Unit) it was the best decision I believe I ever made.
Now, years later, I know each day I wake I must make the conscious decision to be well. I must, even on the days when all I want to do is crawl underneath the covers and hide from the world, get up and follow the routine of taking medications, washing face, brushing teeth and hair eating and making sure to get exercise.
On the days when I am struck down with the weight of depression to the point of which I feel I can go not one moment more, I must follow a safe plan. A safe plan is for me following a checklist.
Another thing I’ve learned over the years is that I must have someone other than myself to which I am accountable. Someone to whom I can say, “I’m not doing well today. And I also have put in place a check and balance list which allows me to evaluate myself and if I go over a specific amount of days of depression, mania or OCD behavior I must then call my doctor and state that things aren’t right and that I must be seen.
While I’m the first to admit our mental health system is badly broken and the general public has no idea what it is to live with the monster of mental illness, I must also say that the first person with whom the responsibility lies is the one suffering from the illness.
To some, I suppose this sounds harsh but for me it has been a lifesaving mindset and now I’ve learned all I have there’s no going back to the hideousness which was my life before.
I hope this has been of some help to you and that you’ll come back to read more soon.
In part two, I’ll talk about some of the things which have happened to me along the road to where I am today and how you too can find a happy and healthy life.
You can, if you’re willing to do the hard work run your mental illness instead of allowing it to run you.
Living in Northeast Tennessee and need help? Visit: https://www.contact211netn.org/about/
Having thoughts of harming yourself? Visit: Suicide Prevention Lifeline
There is no shame in needing or seeking help. The shame is living without.
With all my love and hope for a better tomorrow, Patty L. Fletcher
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