Mental Illness is Still Here

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that this new virus spreads throughout the world and no one is afraid to talk about it. People don’t feel uncomfortable when the words “Covid-19” or “coronavirus” are mentioned. No one is denying that it’s real. And yet people are still afraid to talk about mental illness. People still get uncomfortable when someone uses the words “depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder” or “schizophrenia”. So many still don’t believe mental illness is real. Or if they do, they seem to have forgotten or shoved it aside because apparently Covid-19 is the only thing in the world that matters anymore. No, no it’s not. Other illnesses are still raging and actually worsening because of the virus. Not because people are contracting it, but because of being being shut in and shut out.

Similarly, people have had no problem voicing their outrage about not enough tests being ready to administer. Where is this same outrage and concern for people who may not be able to get the help they need during this time? Hell, where is this outrage and concern for people like me who constantly struggle to get the help we need with our medical conditions that never go away and are also life-threatening? That’s right. Mental illness takes lives, too, but nobody seems to care about that right now. Nobody seems to care that their guilting and shaming on social media may be having a dire, destructive effect on people with the pre-existing condition of a mental illness.


Being shut up in my house so much of the time the last couple of weeks have definitely done a number on my depression and anxiety, and I know I’m not the only one. This is hard enough without having to feel like I’m a terrible person if I go for a walk around the block—because that’s what so many people are passively-aggressively saying on social media. I find it rather hypocritical that these people don’t have a problem with people who may have been confirmed to have the coronavirus getting medicine, but they don’t think I should be able to get my medicine for my health problems. Getting outside is my medicine. Going birding is my therapy. And yes, it is needed. In order to continue functioning as a person, and especially a mother, I need my medicine, I need my therapy. So do others.

So I beg you—please, please—think about your words and your posts. You are giving people with OCD yet another thing to obsess over, to feel bad about. You are giving people with anxiety yet another thing to have panic attacks over, to feel bad about. You are shoving people with depression even farther into that bottomless, black hole they are already in, giving them something else to feel bad about. There is already so much negativity and judging going on right now, without shaming and guilting. Why not show understanding and love? Why not encourage and build up and show kindness instead? Make a positive difference, not a negative one. Please.


What Helps and Hurts

I found this on a fellow blogger’s site, Bipolar, Uninvited, and she told me I could share it here. I get this one hundred percent! Of course, no one wants to feel like they’re walking on eggshells around anyone, but words are real, as are their effects. It would really help for people to know some basics of what not to say around those of us who are struggling with mental illness and things that are okay and could help. I doubt anyone would tell someone with multiple sclerosis to just “snap out of it” and get up and run a mile. It would be completely insensitive and inappropriate. Well the same is true of depression, OCD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. Hopefully some of you out there can relate and hopefully, for some, this helps and makes a difference.

Another Failed Medication Attempt


It seems everyone has an opinion about medication when it comes to mental illness. I suppose, as a passionate and opinionated person myself, I get it. When you find something you really believe in or find something that works out so well for you, you want to share it. The thing I’ve come to realize, in recent years, is that everything in life is a matter of perspective. We are all different, and, as I’ve stated before, what works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.

I think people who are so vehemently and adamantly against medication for mental illness are ones who have had bad experiences themselves, so they assume it will be bad for everyone. Or they are the kinds who have given into the stigma of medication and don’t truly understand just how real—both mentally and physically—things like depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar and schizophrenia are. These are people who think medication for thyroid or heart disease is okay, but not when it comes to mental illness. It’s a double standard some people just can’t see past. Anyway, my experience with medication was good. I started taking Zoloft a month after my son was born for my horrible postpartum depression. Within a few weeks I felt so much better! It didn’t “cure” me or make me exuberantly happy, but it did take away the utter darkness and sense of defeat I had been living with. It helped me become functional again.

After about six months I slowly weaned myself off of the medication, hoping I could survive without it, but it didn’t take long for me to crash again. That’s when I realized I would likely have to be on medication the rest of my life. I started taking it again—until it stopped working two or three years later.

This was the second time my body had adapted or adjusted to an anti-depressant. I went in to see my nurse practitioner, who put me on Lexapro. It turned me into an insomniac, which was just as depressing and debilitating as . . . well, being depressed. So I went back in and she told me she thought I would do better on Prozac. The stuff worked! It got me back to functioning—other than in the winter. My seasonal affective disorder always outweighs medication, but before and after winter, it helped so much. It literally was a life saver.

A year or two after I started the Prozac, I went off of it. It was stupid, really. Something I was trying to prove to my then-husband. And guess what? I was fine! I went off of the medication, and I didn’t crash. I didn’t go back to the horrible, awful place of darkness and despair. It was amazing! Not only was I functioning, I was actually happy! It lasted for awhile—until my marriage collapsed. Going through a divorce was the most devastating hell I’d ever been through. I tried to stay strong, tried to remain happy. And while I knew getting divorced was the right thing to do, it was just so damn hard. So I went into my NP again and told her the Prozac had worked great so it seemed like a good thing to go back on. Unfortunately, it ended up having the same side-effect as the Lexapro. I stuck with it for a few weeks, hoping something might change, but only getting two to three hours of sleep every night wore me down, and I just couldn’t do it.

Luckily, life went well for awhile. Then all sorts of . . . stuff happened, I’ll say, and I went downhill again. And again I ended up in my NP’s office. This time she wanted me to try Wellbutrin. No surprise here, no twist in the story, it turned me into an insomniac zombie AGAIN! Another failed medication. Okay, so my NP also prescribed me a sleep aid, but that’s one thing I refuse to become dependent on.

Here’s where all sorts of people tell me about other ways I can get help with my mental illness—from changing my diet to using natural or homeopathic remedies to getting therapy. All of those things sound great, and maybe I could get results from them, but some of them are way too expensive for a struggling single mom who pretty much lives paycheck to paycheck and some of them are just too complicated for someone who’s anxiety-filled mind turns molehills into mountains. I like the idea of medication because it is simple and easy, and just once in my life I want a simple, easy answer. But that’s never how my life has gone. Everything has been complicated, everything has been hard. Nothing comes easy, never has.

I feel stuck, trapped, not knowing how to move forward. Will I eventually get over it? Can I get out of this slump, out of this hurt, this darkness, this anxiety, this circling hole of OCD all on my own? Will I ever be able to find some sort of “alternative” solution? Right now, I have no idea. I guess I just keep on surviving one day at a time and see what happens.

Let’s Talk Personal Responsibility


Some time ago I was reading another mental health blog about what living with bipolar on a daily basis is like. I found it very interesting because bipolar is one thing I’ve never dealt with in my own life. I have known a few people with this illness, but most of my “knowledge” was hearsay. There were over a hundred comments on the post, some from others who had bipolar who were agreeing with what had been written or adding their own struggles. Others were grateful she had been open, so they could understand the illness better. Then there was one woman who left a comment saying how sick she was of people with mental illness being lazy, feeling sorry for themselves and using the illness to get out of all responsibility. She related how she had had to quit her successful job to move back in with her aging parents because her sister with bipolar would do nothing to help and that their parents let her sister get away with everything. While it was perhaps a harsh and overgeneralized judgement to make, I also saw her point. As someone who has lived with mental illness off and on for many years and as someone who used to live with another person who had mental illness I feel qualified to talk about this subject.

As I have already made clear from other posts mental illness is real. As real as any other illness. You can’t tell someone who is suffering from depression to just simply choose happiness anymore than you can tell someone suffering from asthma to simply choose to heal their bronchial tubes. Just because someone with depression is depressed, just because someone with anxiety is anxious, just because someone with OCD is obsessing, just because someone with bipolar is depressed, anxious or/and obsessing doesn’t mean that they are lazy or feeling sorry for themselves. However, I do believe in personal responsibility. I don’t believe that our ability to choose, our gift of agency, is completely denied us simply because we have mental illness. It is up to us, or those around us who care about us, to do everything we can to help—the same way someone with asthma or family and friends of that person would want to help them with their illness.

A family member of mine has very extreme OCD. He had a few different doctors/therapists say he had the worst case of it they had ever seen in their careers. He’s spent the last thirteen to fourteen years in and out of hospitals and jail because of it. I lived with him during some of these times, and while my heart ached for what he had to go through, my blood also boiled at how unwilling he was to at least try. What got me even more was how his parents let him get away with everything—just like the woman who left a comment on that other blog. It’s been the same old story for the last thirteen or fourteen years. He has a complete breakdown, does something crazy like driving donuts in a farmer’s field and gets thrown into jail, or during a psychotic episode he does something violent like attacking his own mother and gets put back in the hospital. While there, they get him on the medication and the therapist he needs. He’s even been court ordered to do these things. Each time he gets out, he swears he’ll be different, that he’s changed, that he can handle life, and each time he refuses to take his medication (I saw him dump his meds down the toilet once), and he refuses to go see his therapist or do the things they have counseled him to do. I watched him play his parents like a well-tuned violin so many times! And like him, each time they would swear this time would be different, this time they would enforce the court order, make him call in his medication, make him see his therapist, and each time they gave into that lulling tune he played. Each time, they would claim that no one else in the world could possibly understand what he was going through, what they were going through, and that no one else had ever suffered the way they all had. And then the cycle repeats.

This family member is almost thirty-three, still living with his parents, no education, can’t ever hold down a job and has no clue how to live on his own. I, and other family members, have asked his mom what’s going to happen when she and his dad die. The question is always skirted around or met with an angry, “I don’t know, all right?! I don’t know!” Well, I know. He’s either going to end up on the streets, in jail or in the hospital the rest of his life. Probably all three. Why? Because all responsibility has been lifted from him. Yes, I get that he has mental illness. I get that it is extremely debilitating. But I bet there are people reading this blog who have experienced the same thing or have known someone who has experienced the same thing. Everyone wants to believe that they are unique. Guess what? We aren’t. Once you start opening up, it’s amazing to find how many other people are like you. And steps can be taken to improve quality of life and quality of life for the future.


Obviously, I’m not God, I don’t know everything, but again, I have lived with these people, I have experienced my own hell of mental illness combined with the hell of a failed marriage, getting divorced, becoming a single parent, and I can say that doing nothing but feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere. I’d like to think that if it were my own child, I would do whatever I could to look out for my son’s future. Yes, it might be hard, it might be hell, it might tear my heart in two to see my child suffer as I ripped the bandaid off, but wouldn’t it be better to let him struggle while I was still here to help him, comfort him, walk with him instead of simply carrying him, rather than to leave him completely alone and unable to fend for himself when I was no longer there?

Yes, mental illness is real and it is hard. We don’t live “normal” lives. We can’t. And even the “help” doesn’t necessarily cure us. But there are things that can help—now and later, and it is up to us and those around us who care about us to take responsibility for it the way someone with asthma should assume responsibility for their illness. So, if you are someone struggling with mental illness, do what you can to find help. It may be little, and it may be hard, but you can do it. If you live with or love someone with mental illness, do what you can to help them or nudge them in the right direction. It may be little, and it may be hard, but you can do it.