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Mental Health Concerns

I’ve had psy­chi­atric care. I have, in fact, been treat­ed for major depres­sion on and off since around 1988, with both talk ther­a­py and anti­de­pres­sants. I think I prob­a­bly need­ed treat­ment long before that, but my par­ents did­n’t rec­og­nize the prob­lem and nei­ther did I. I’ve large­ly had help as an out­pa­tient, but I did spend one week in a hos­pi­tal after a seri­ous sui­cide attempt in 1988, and had anoth­er stay in 1991 when I real­ized that I was head­ed into a sui­ci­dal state again.

My depres­sion seems to large­ly be relat­ed to being raped when I was a child. It’s entire­ly pos­si­ble that oth­er fac­tors con­tributed to it, such as a genet­ic pre­dis­po­si­tion, but the his­to­ry of sex­u­al abuse seems to be the most sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor for me. I also have post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der and had an eat­ing dis­or­der at one time. All three are fair­ly com­mon in abuse sur­vivors of any kind.

I take anti-depres­sants and have come to accept that I’ll prob­a­bly always need them. I see a ther­a­pist reg­u­lar­ly. I mon­i­tor my depres­sion lev­els, and if I seem to be head­ed into the trough again I try to fig­ure out whether there’s some­thing in my life that’s trig­ger­ing the depres­sion. I improve the sit­u­a­tion if pos­si­ble, or accept it if that isn’t pos­si­ble. My fam­i­ly is great about help­ing me through those times, but some­times I require a med­ica­tion adjust­ment.

The PTSD actu­al­ly gives me more trou­ble than the depres­sion. I have a fair­ly low tol­er­ance lev­el for noise and crowds, which is unfor­tu­nate­ly exac­er­bat­ed by fibromyal­gia. I still get flash­backs at times (it seems to be a cycli­cal thing). I com­plete­ly avoid read­ing any explic­it recounts of any kind of rape or sex­u­al abuse. I still have night­mares about the abuse. I have tran­quil­iz­ers that I can take when nec­es­sary, but I’m wary of their addic­tion poten­tial.

Few peo­ple real­ize how dif­fer­ent­ly you’re treat­ed once any­one learns that you’ve been in a men­tal hos­pi­tal or had any oth­er sort of psy­chi­atric care. I know most of you think “Oh, I’d nev­er do that. I know men­tal health treat­ment isn’t so strange.” But real­ly now, look deep­er. You back off a lit­tle when you learn some­thing like that about new acquain­tances, don’t you? Almost like there’s a chance of con­ta­gion?

You would be absolute­ly stunned to learn how many peo­ple you see and inter­act with on a dai­ly basis have, at some time, had some sort of psy­chi­atric treat­ment, whether it was talk ther­a­py or anti­de­pres­sants or the occa­sion­al anti-anx­i­ety drugs. In most cas­es you’ll nev­er know unless they do tell you, because they are per­fect­ly nor­mal, func­tion­ing peo­ple. You’ll nev­er have rea­son to know unless they tell you.

The stig­ma regard­ing men­tal health will remain until we bring the whole top­ic out of the clos­et. It’s the peo­ple who refuse to seek help when they need it who go off the deep end and start shoot­ing chil­dren in play­grounds! Get­ting help for men­tal health prob­lems is no dif­fer­ent from tak­ing insulin if you’re a dia­bet­ic, or get­ting your bro­ken leg set so it’ll heal prop­er­ly. Do you take anti­de­pres­sants? You hide that from most peo­ple, don’t you? Do you wear glass­es or con­tacts? When’s the last time you hid that? Need­ing your vision or your body’s chem­istry cor­rect­ed isn’t a moral issue, but sim­ply a fact of life. So is seek­ing help for depres­sion or sim­i­lar prob­lems. Please get help if you need it!

There was a time when I did resist being hon­est about depres­sion. I did­n’t want to be open enough with my ther­a­pist to even get the help I need­ed. I resist­ed so much, in fact, that I tried to kill myself. I woke up in ICU a few days lat­er, throat sore from being intu­bat­ed, feel­ing gen­er­al­ly nasty from hav­ing my stom­ach pumped and being giv­en char­coal. My first coher­ent thought was “Damn, that was stu­pid!” If you’re think­ing about hurt­ing your­self, please take my word for it: Don’t. Get help. You aren’t irre­triev­ably bro­ken. You are sim­ply ill, and you can get bet­ter. It is worth the work to do so.

If you’ve been through some sort of men­tal ill­ness, talk about it. Be open about it. Treat it just as you would treat hav­ing sur­vived can­cer or a bro­ken back or any­thing else. Don’t let any­one shame you about it, and don’t be silent. You may be able to help some­one else through your open­ness.