Day 4: What are the pros and cons of having a mental illness(es) or your specific illness(es)?
The PRO(s) of having a mental illness?!
I have always believed in the theory that everything happens for a reason. I do believe in God and I know that if I have faith that I can make something good out of something unfortunate. But I cannot say that I see the benefit of this at the moment. I am still new to this realization and there is some relief in knowing that the way that I have felt is not ‘normal’. Humanity as a whole isn’t meant to know this kind of suffering. The human condition is full of suffering, this I understand; but to feel so hopeless and dark for no other reason than because your brain isn’t able to properly release the correct amount of dopamine and serotonin…aren’t our bodies supposed to adapt to changes in our environment? The biologic ability to evolve might have accounted for the ever increasing stressful nature of our day-to-day, right? So why do I need to see a therapist and carry medication to keep myself from feeling as if I am having a heart attack when I get overly stressed out in crowds, around loud children, or when I cannot control my surroundings?
There has yet to be found definitive ‘scientific proof’ that certain mental illnesses are caused by biological factors. There is no blood test that a doctor can give you that will prove a person has depression versus bipolar disorder; anxiety or OCD (or both); psychosis or schizophrenia. These diagnoses depend entirely on observation and symptoms expressed. Feelings. This easily brings me to the ‘cons’.
The CON(s) of having mental illness:
Many in this section are pretty obvious. It wasn’t until I was 37 that I was diagnosed. So I have lived without treatment of these conditions for many years. I have gone day to day feeling pain, confusion, an inability to enjoy my children and my family, and I have no way of knowing what ways my life may have been different if I was aware of any of this before. I do know that my children and I would have had to go through one less traumatic day last November.
I am not one that blindly takes information and accepts all that I am told as fact. Particularly when it comes to my health and as I mentioned before, mental health is not an exact science so I have spent much of the last year learning as much as I can about these illnesses and the medications to make them better. I have found peer reviewed studies and educational podcasts; speeches from lawyers who fight for patient’s rights against mental health facilities and doctors who try to win custody of very sick patients so they can be treated before they do irreversible harm to themselves or someone else.
There are anti-medication advocates, anti psychiatry activists, and even those that feel people make up their mental illnesses for some sort of personal gain (only goodness knows what kind of gain a person gets from something like this). Some illnesses (like my PTSD) are caused by trauma but the fact that I was already predisposed to anxiety and depression made me more likely to be affected like I was by this trauma. I am also more likely to succumb to dementia when I get older. The more I learn about mental illness, the less hope I feel about my future. I will not be cured. Ever. I can get better and I can learn to manage symptoms better. I am managing to avoid situations that trigger me and I assure I get plenty of rest, eat well and I don’t drink much wine anymore.
The biggest con is that I could have passed these illnesses on to my children. I hate the fact that they may feel some of what I have experienced some day. I recall being pregnant with them each and hoping they would get my ability for forgiveness, my small nose and my love for literature. One thing that never occurred to me to hope for was that they would manage to avoid the gene that will cause them to hate themselves. This horrible gene will not care about the literature (which ironically prefers Plath and Hemmingway), and cute little nose. The gene will enable them to forgive everyone but themselves.
I can’t really say that I find much benefit in any of my illnesses at all.