The Stigma of Mental Illness – A Personal Story

The resources for people with mental illnesses in the country are sadly lacking. They are terribly underfunded and understaffed. The problem is somewhat better for those with health insurance, but even then, there is the social stigma that goes along with being mentally ill.

I would prefer a term such a Brain Chemical Imbalance or Brain Structural Anomaly. These terms are more accurate and better describe where the real cause of mental illness lies. It is a malfunction of various brain activities. Because these things are happening in our brains, where our mind resides, the effects can be profound and devastating to the person suffering from it and all those around him.

I have a son with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). Deal with him has been a constant and difficult struggle since he was a baby. While he is intelligent, attends high school like any other kid, ways of perceiving the world and relating to others that make life very difficult for him. He can come across as indifferent to feelings of others because he can’t understand the normal queues such as tone of voice or body language or facial expressions that most of us grasp intuitively.

I myself suffer from chronic clinical depression. There are days when I literally can barely function. Imagine wearing a suite that weights 200 pounds and goggles that are slightly cloudy and then trying to go through your day like that. Add to that a complete lack of motivation and even something as simple as standing up to walk to the printer at work takes an amazing effort. I’ve even had people remark that I look like I’m carrying a weight around on my shoulders. It actually affects how I move physically. It certainly effects how I feel physically. My head feels like it is full of cotton stuffing, my arms, hands, head feel like little needles are being poked into the. There are almost constant headaches and the pain in my neck, shoulders and arms are real and ever-present. When those commercials say that depression hurts, they are 100% serious and true.

I have begun to reach the point where I don’t know if I can work anymore. Of course, I have to because I can’t afford not to. I’m a single dad and there is no one else to take care of my kids. Taking a leave of absence is out of the question. I have not idea if my disability insurance at work covers mental illness. I suppose I need to find out.

I’m sure you are wondering what I’m doing to treat this? I am on various medications for depression and anxiety. I also regularly see a therapist. I try to get out, do some exercise. Not keep myself isolated. I’m doing the right things, but the depression just seems to worsen as each day passes.

Why do I bring all this up? I’m not looking for sympathy. I want people to be aware that mental illness is more than just homeless people mutter to themselves in parks and on street corners. It can effect anyone, in any walk of life. It is as debilitating as any physical illness can be, and that is because it is a physical illness. And just like other physical illnesses it needs to be treated with medication and therapy.

Unlike other physical illnesses, you can see the signs just by looking at someone. Instead it affects behavior and mood, which are considered to be part of our personalities. If your job performance is impacted because of a physical ailment like a back problem, accommodations can be made to help compensate. But what accommodations can you make for an inability to focus on tasks or to organize your thoughts enough to organize your work?

I don’t have the ability to even focus on possibly solutions. If anyone out there does, please comment.


7 thoughts on “The Stigma of Mental Illness – A Personal Story

  1. *nods*

    I don’t know any “answers/solutions” but aside from the websites that I’m sure you already know about, I suggest looking into Dr. Oliver Sacks’ writings and maybe try to see if he (or any clinic that operates under his philosophy) is nearby where you are.

    • I’ve got an appointment this Friday with a new therapist. It’s supposed to be the start of in-depth psychotherapy. We will see how it goes. Still, there are no magic bullets.

  2. I don’t have much helpful to say, aside from that this is very necessary. I’ve been artfully hiding my mental disorders for years. While I don’t agree that medication is necessary (after seeing what medication for many schizophrenics can do to them), I think in some cases it can definitely help offset things.

    Mental health problems come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and I think more honest research will go into helping people who have them with accounts like yours, that we’re not all just homeless people, muttering to ourselves on the street corner. Some of us make a pretty good play at being “normal people” and often times slip by unnoticed, therefore not getting the help we really need.

    • Ya know why? Cos you ARE “normal” people.

      Normal is overrated…lol. (I’m the daughter of a person diagnosed as mentally ill…and she manifests in ways that are quite mad sometimes, but she’s not “abnormal”…)

  3. After reading what you had to say I was compelled to comment out of concern for your well being. I have a brother who has suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for over 20 years. You are correct on the severe lack of resources available for the vast majority those suffering from mental illness. It is truly something that only those who have been there will ever really understand.

    I know you say you are on meds and seeing a therapist, but have you sought out any kind of support system, such as those provided through NAMI? There is a local chapter right there in Omaha. If you are not involved I strongly urge you to contact them and get yourself connected with the people there. They will truly understand what you are going through and can provide tremendous emotional support in addition to helping you find resources to cope with everything that is going on with respect to you and your son. The worst thing about mental illness is the overwhelming sense of isolation one feels and the mistaken notion that your situation is unique and beyond understanding by anyone else. That is absolutely not true. You are not alone.

    I know all too well how you are feeling. And I also know that you don’t have to succumb to your feelings of despair. Find the available support that is within your community and take advantage of it. There are caring and understanding people out there who want to help you cope.

    Please, for your sake and especially for your son’s sake, don’t put this off. I have seen firsthand the devastating toll that untreated and under-treated mental illness can take. Do not delay seeking out some support for you and your son. Therapy is good and meds can be good. But without supplementing that with caring support from other people who understand your plight, it is often not enough to overcome the obstacles that mental illness lays down in your path. If you really don’t know where to turn, please contact me directly and I will try and find local resources for you. Mental illness is an awful, awful thing. I don’t want to ever see it win out over anyone.

    • Thank you so much for your response. You kindness is touching and much appreciated.

      I contacted NAMI and now have a schedule of support group meeting and I will start attending. 🙂

  4. Have you considered that your depression may be caused by external sources? It sounds like your son’s situation alone is quite depressing and you sound like work is real drudgery. I did not hear about anything social. You sound as if you have a lack of hope. No dreams for the future.

    I had depression for a while. My work life was extremely pressurized and I was at that time married to a crazy woman that caused me nothing but grief.

    I changed my job situation and my marital status (after she went out on me) and life got much better. Depression went away totally.

    Be wary of terms like chronic clinical depression and drugs in particular. To me this is all psychobabble. Head doctors are in the business of being in business. I am not convinced they care for you any more than the guy at 7-11 who takes your money for a soda. They are in it for the income first and foremost. Fully half the people they treat never get better. I feel the ones that do get better do so because of other things, not anything the dr. did.

    If you are taking drugs for depression, you have another reason to be depressed. They don’t help at all. My mother was chronically ill and took all kinds of drugs. All they did was dope her up so she did not feel anything at all. Read the cautions on the bottle and google the drugs. It will scare the Dickens out of you.

    Change your life. Consider a different job. Work out at a gym every day. Go golfing, ride a motorcycle, take up hiking or kayaking. Just a few ideas. A lot of these activities could be done with your son. Rather than him being a burden, this might be a way for you two to enjoy each others company.

    Whatever you do, it *must* be different.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    A. Einstein

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