May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

I always loved watching CNN but lately I have been finding it too difficult to watch the news. It is extremely depressing and while I do like to be educated about the events around the world, I am trying to find a balance between that and keeping my distance between the nonstop horror stories we are surrounded with each day. Last night as I was about to turn the television off, a story about Catherine Zeta Jones came on and I was glued. For those who are unfamiliar, she was just hospitalized for bipolar disorder and has really become a huge advocate for mental illness. I love seeing people like her because I find her so inspiring. Here is someone who is so successful, so beautiful, and looked at in such a positive light standing up and telling the world that she just went into a psychiatric hospital. As I listened more to the story I was surprised to find out that because of her, more people Googled the symptoms of bipolar 2 (who knew there was a difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2?) than her name! This says to me that the public actually wanted to become educated about her condition.

May is Mental Illness Awareness Month. I have spoken about mental illness a good amount on this blog since it really does overlap with IBD in so many ways. I have even talked about my experience with it in multiple posts but went into the most detail here Mental Health and IBD. One thing I still have a hard time with – and maybe someone can educate me – is what actually constitutes a mental illness? Does having anxiety mean you are mentally ill? Does getting sad every once and a while mean you are mentally ill? Or is it only if you are sad for no reason? What about random bursts of anger, is that a mental illness and if so, what kind? I can go on and on here but my point is that I actually believe at some point every single one of us can be described as mentally ill. Obviously, there are more extreme cases so I am absolutely not negating that. I just have a hard time understanding how you classify someone as “mentally ill”.

There are so many types of mental illness, many of which overlap, making it sometimes very difficult to diagnose. There is usually no right or wrong way to go in terms of treatment. There are more standard ways, there are more acceptable ways, but I have never been a person who believed that there was only one way to treat emotional issues. As with everything else, everyone’s bodies are individual and respond differently to various medications and therapies. Mental illness is tricky in that respect because so much of it is about what a person is willing (or able) to handle. A lot of psychotropic medications come with nasty side effects. For some people, those side effects are a deal breaker while for others the benefits far outweigh any downside. Certain types of behavioral therapies can work magnificently for one person but may not fit into another person’s lifestyle making it a completely ineffective treatment plan. There is a tremendous amount of trial and error for those people who suffer from any type of mental illness.

In the wake of so many tragedies, for anyone who does not believe that mental illness is real I actually have nothing to say to you. Sounds harsh but it is true. I understand that with any kind of emotional issues that there is an enormous amount of stigma attached to it. You cannot see a person suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, etc. It is an “invisible illness” and one that we as a society look at as something we ought to be able to keep in check. After all, if you are depressed just think more positively right? If you are anxious, why don’t you just calm down?

The reality is that while we may not be able to “fix” anyone who suffers from these terrible illnesses, we sure as hell can make things easier by being more empathetic and understanding. We can EDUCATE OURSELVES. In this day and age, it takes such a little amount of time and energy to search the internet and look up the symptoms of some of these conditions. There is no excuse in 2013. No one needs to go to the library and scroll through encyclopedias for hours.

If you spend just TEN minutes a day this month, you can not only be a more educated member of society but you have no idea who might cross your path that may need your understanding and compassion.

Thought I would give you guys some ideas for anyone who does want to do the research:

Today is Monday, May 1 … spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Depression”

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 2…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Anxiety Disorders”

Friday, May 3…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Bipolar Disorder 1”

Monday, May 6… spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Bipolar Disorder 2”

Tuesday, May 7…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Schizophrenia”

Wednesday, May 8…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Dependent Personality Disorder”

Thursday May 9…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”

Friday, May 10…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Borderline Personality Disorder”

Monday, May 13…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Bulimia”

Tuesday, May 14…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”

Wednesday, May 15…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Anorexia Nervosa”

Thursday, May 16… spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Substance Abuse and Mental Illness”

Friday, May 17…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Mental Illness and Chronic illness”

Monday, May 20…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Panic Disorders”

Tuesday, May 21…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “ADHD”

Wednesday, May 22…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”

Thursday, May 23… spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Multiple Personality Disorder”

Friday, May 24…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Self Harm and Mental Illness”

Monday, May 27…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Suicide”

Tuesday, May 28…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Physical Manifestations of a Mental Illness”

Wednesday, May 29…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Caregiver of a Mentally Ill Person”

Thursday, May 30…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “Isolation and Mental Illness”

Friday, May 31…spend ten (10) minutes looking up “The Impact Mental Illness has on Relationships”

  • Jodi

    very powerful. Not just words, ACTION!
    you are beautiful.

  • val0525val0525

    Wow, Marisa!! What a great post. You are right that many of these mental illnesses do overlap and there is such a stigma attached to all of them. Many people still feel as if they need to keep their mental issues private. As a mother of a young woman who suffers from OCD, Anxiety, and a Dependent Personality Disorder, I think of what will become of her when I am gone. In the areas where I live, most of the suburbs do no want any kind of housing in their neihborhoods for people with mental illness for fear of people being violent. They use a sterotype and lump all mentally ill people together. They say that having mentally ill people living in thjeir neighborhoods will devalue the price of their houses.

    I think the majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. They are just trying to live their lives as best they can. They struggle to find Medication or Therapy that will help them.. Medication is a game of trial and error for most of them. Sometimes they are given one medication that interacts with another condition and and then it is back to the doctor. My daughter was once prescribed Haldol and she had a reaction to it and had to go the the hospital ER because she was getting lock-jaw. They told her in the ER, that it was a good thing she had come in when she did,

    You are right that sometimes some patience and understanding will help someone so much.

    I AM going to take the time each day to learn more about some of these disorders.

    This post is very powerful.

    Thank you for posting this and giving everyone somethings to think about and do. If everyone would educate themselves a little, some of these people would not bve treated like they don’t exist or that they do not deserve the same rights and opportunities as others.

    Love Val