Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es)? Explain it a little.
Major Depressive Disorder (also known as clinical depression) – is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes. Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7% of U.S adults experience major depressive disorder.
My symptoms presented a bit differently; and I hid many of what would have been the more obvious ones. I have never had a problem sleeping unless I was angry (and I rarely get angry). I could sleep all day, if I let myself but I don’t allow myself to stay in bed late and typically have activities to be up early for every day of the week. I always stay busy and enjoy my work so can hide my depression by getting lost in my job/office/computer. I believe I have had this since I was a teenager, at least. I can now understand that I also had a pretty serious case of Postpartum Depression with both of my children.
General Anxiety Disorder – people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are extremely worried about many things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks. People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.
My therapist feels that this is my most “active” illness. My depression will come and go and vary in intensity but apparently I am extremely anxious. He says people that suffer at the level I do often aren’t able to work, but work calms me most of the time (unless things begin to get out of my control). I am most anxious outside of work in uncontrolled environments. I have always hated being startled (it makes me extremely angry/irritable as I have always described it but in actuality it sets off an anxiety attack). Loud noises and chaotic environments trigger massive anxiety issues (particularly when there are loud, chaotic children; children REALLY set off my anxiety). My poor children were taught at a very young age to talk quietly, especially inside and to never yell in the car or I would be likely to run off the road. My anxiety is probably why I wasn’t able to follow through with becoming a teacher. Business is much more quiet and controllable! I hate shopping (another loud, chaotic, uncontrolled environment). I suspect my father also has anxiety because he has many of the things I listed above as well. Although I have also been known to overreact when things happen that I haven’t scheduled that are out of my control such as flat tires, traffic, pop in clients, ‘surprises’ are actually torture for me. Often at family gatherings I will escape to a quiet room and shut the door and just sit quietly and ‘blank out’ to calm down. I love my family and don’t see them often and the children in my family are well behaved and mostly not loud (not any louder than a typical child) but I can only take about 30 minutes or so before I start to get anxious.
Phobias – A specific phobia is an intense, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Some of the more common specific phobias are centered around closed-in places, heights, escalators, tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, dogs, and injuries involving blood. Such phobias aren’t just extreme fear; they are irrational fear of a particular thing.
When I was younger I had a phobia of thunderstorms after a huge hurricane came through Texas. I would literally cry so hard I made myself sick, and shake uncontrollably everytime it rained. I overcame that in my 20’s when I had my children; I assume out of a need to protect them (our house was hit by a tornado and my instinct kicked in to take care of the baby, the next time it rained I wasn’t scared.) Currently, I have a phobia of snakes (I won’t go outside if I think there is one) and an intense phobia of guns. I cannot look at, and have never touched a gun. I have had intrusive, horrible, violent, thoughts about guns since I was young and although I am fine with those that are confortable and safe and trained to have a gun having them, I will NEVER, EVER, EVER touch one. Given the situation of being within feet of a dangerous, homicidal person who has a gun; and I am standing there within inches of a loaded gun within seconds of reach and an ability to save myself or even a roomful of people I will not be able to touch the gun. I would, without any doubt, feel better about trying to disable the dangerous person with my bare hands. The fact that HE has a gun doesn’t scare me as much. Weird? Yes, I know.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (One Dr and 2 therapists said I had this and another DR and therapist aren’t sure I have this) – People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling them. People with OCD may also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have difficulty throwing things out (so they accumulate), or hoard unneeded items.
I get unreasonably annoyed when people claim to have OCD because they organize their closets and pantries!! (Just a note. LOL.) When my children were born, I believe this condition presented itself. I began to have thoughts of them being injured when I walked my counters with sharp corners or by their being dropped on their heads or falling on coffee table corners. I had visions of them suffucating. I could picture their little hands being slammed in doors over and over. These thoughts and images would get stuck in my head and play over and over no matter what I did to try to stop them. I never felt compelled to hurt them I was just so afraid they would be hurt or I would drop them on accident. This caused me so much stress when they were little. I was never able to have coffee tables in my house. I also began to be obsessed with how clean they were and how they smelled. If someone held them and made them smell different, I would have to bathe them or at least change their clothes right away. If the person was a smoker (as were all of my in-laws at the time) and held the baby I would shake until I was able to get the smoke smell off of her. I still can’t stand it when she gets home from her Dad’s and smells like smoke. I have to wash everything she has brought back with her right away. I used to bleach the floors every day and wash all counters and tables; anything that she would come into contact with. There were a couple of times I rubbed my hands raw and had fingernails fall off. I still occasionally will have ‘cleaning fits’ but they are nowhere near as bad as they were when the kids were babies. Any number I can control HAS to be even (volume on the TV, words in a sentence when I speak, etc.) and I have certain routines I have to follow or I have intrusive feelings and visions all day of someone I love getting killed violently and feel it will be my fault.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers. People with PTSD may startle easily, become emotionally numb, lose interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble feeling affectionate, be irritable, become more aggressive, or even become violent. They avoid situations that remind them of the original incident, and anniversaries of the incident are often very difficult. PTSD symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was deliberately initiated by another person, as in a mugging or a kidnapping.
The trauma I experienced isn’t something I talk about but it was in the month of November, which has been a very hard time for me in retrospect. This trauma is also why I cannot even look at a gun and know I should NEVER have a gun. I do startle easily (see above anxiety), I can actually make myself become numb if I get emotionally overwhelmed, I do have trouble being affectionate even with my children at times. I have NEVER been violent and do not like confrontation. I am very uncomfortable with making other people unhappy.
Thank you for reading and if this project can help someone else understand mental illness, please feel free to share with them. If you choose to take part in this project, link the originator of the blog, Marci (linked below) at the original posting: 30 Days of Mental Illness…Master List in order to find all the daily prompts. Thank you!
*All definitions were found at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/index.shtml