Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Men­tal Health Aware­ness Month. The month is about real­iz­ing how com­mon men­tal health issues are, sup­port­ing each oth­er through them, and remov­ing the stig­ma about them.

A few statistics:

  • 21% of U.S. adults expe­ri­enced men­tal ill­ness in 2020 (52.9 mil­lion peo­ple). This rep­re­sents 1 in 5 adults.
  • 5.6% of U.S. adults expe­ri­enced seri­ous men­tal ill­ness in 2020 (14.2 mil­lion peo­ple). This rep­re­sents 1 in 20 adults.
  • 16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6–17 expe­ri­enced a men­tal health dis­or­der in 2016 (7.7 mil­lion people)
  • 6.7% of U.S. adults expe­ri­enced a co-occur­ring sub­stance use dis­or­der and men­tal ill­ness in 2020 (17 mil­lion people)

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you almost cer­tain­ly know peo­ple at work, in your fam­i­ly, or among your friends who are expe­ri­enc­ing men­tal health prob­lems or have done so in the past.

I’m very open about my own men­tal health strug­gles. I’m diag­nosed with treat­ment-resis­tant major depres­sive dis­or­der, com­plex post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der (C‑PTSD), anx­i­ety dis­or­der, and obses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der. I’ve been in treat­ment for these dis­or­ders for most of 30+ years, engag­ing in indi­vid­ual and group ther­a­pies of var­i­ous sorts includ­ing cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py (CBT) and dialec­ti­cal behav­ior ther­a­py (DBT). I’ve under­gone tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stim­u­la­tion (TMS) and elec­tro­con­vul­sive ther­a­py (ECT) treat­ments. I have a screen­ing appoint­ment this week for a study on vagus nerve stim­u­la­tion ther­a­py. I’ve done biofeed­back train­ing to help me regain con­trol dur­ing pan­ic attacks. I take a dai­ly cock­tail of psy­chi­atric med­ica­tions and will prob­a­bly be doing so for the rest of my life. There’s also a long, long list of oth­er psych meds that I’ve tried. I’ve had phar­ma­coge­nom­ic test­ing to help fig­ure out which med­ica­tions work best for me. I’ve sur­vived one very seri­ous sui­cide attempt, result­ing in sev­er­al days in the ICU, and have lived with sui­ci­dal ideation for most of my life. I’ve been in two psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tals as an inpa­tient and two oth­ers as an outpatient.

Two part­ners, one with whom I was mar­ried and anoth­er with whom I was part­nered for 14 years, end­ed our rela­tion­ships dur­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly bad times. I’m one of the peo­ple behind the sta­tis­tic that men are much more like­ly to leave an ill part­ner than women are.

I’m a sur­vivor of child­hood sex­u­al abuse and I’ve expe­ri­enced part­ner, phys­i­cal, ver­bal, men­tal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, finan­cial, and reli­gious abuse. Expe­ri­ences with bul­ly­ing and stalk­ing have exac­er­bat­ed the effects of that abuse. I also have mul­ti­ple inter­sect­ing con­di­tions that cause chron­ic pain, which con­tributes to anx­i­ety and depres­sion. There are no cures for Ehlers-Dan­los Syn­drome, fibromyal­gia, osteoarthri­tis, spondy­loarthropa­thy, bur­si­tis, degen­er­a­tive disc dis­ease, or chron­ic myofas­cial pain, so I will be deal­ing with that pain for as long as I live.

I’m not ashamed of any of my health issues or the treat­ments they require—in fact, I’m proud of sur­viv­ing this long and recov­er­ing as much as I have. I was on dis­abil­i­ty for years due to these con­di­tions but was hap­pi­ly able to return to full-time work a few years ago. In addi­tion to my work as a sup­port engi­neer, I vol­un­teer, spend time with my extend­ed fam­i­ly, and social­ize. I miss very lit­tle time dur­ing my 50–60 hour work weeks. I always car­ry med­ica­tion to help deal with pan­ic attacks, just as I car­ry my EpiPen (for bee stings), asth­ma inhaler, and migraine res­cue medication.

A few resources to help if you’re one of the 46.6 mil­lion expe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal illness:

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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