Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to help your loved one who has a mental illness

I thought I'd follow up the post on 'My Illness' with an informational article on some suggestions for helping your loved one who has a mental illness.  People in my life have wanted to help but haven't always known how.  Sometimes even well-meaning people have totally said the wrong things to.

The primary suggestion that I have that works for me is:  When I need to talk, just listen.  I'm not expecting you to have the right things to say, nor am I expecting (or wanting) advice.

Good things to say:

  • I know you have a real illness and that's what causes these thoughts & feelings.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel but I care and want to help.
  • What can I do to help?
  • You are not alone in this - I am here for you.
  • Talk to me - I'm listening.

Things to avoid saying that will make the situation worse:

  • You have so much to live for, why would you want to die.
  • Suicide is a selfish decision.
  • Here's my advice...
  • It's all in your head.
  • We all go through times like this.
  • Just snap out of it - Look on the bright side.
Alot of the above is taken from www.dbsalliance.org 

Monday, April 22, 2013

My illness

I've wrestled with whether or not to divulge this information about myself for awhile now.  But I'm so tired of the stigma, and me keeping quiet about it only reinforces stigma.  Some of you may know that I was in and out of the hospital back in the fall/winter time but I wasn't clear about what was wrong with me.  Well, I have major depressive disorder and was suicidal and so was in a psychiatric hospital.

Sometimes major depressive disorder can be misunderstood as being the same as the emotion of depression.  There is a difference between the normal emotion of depression, and being diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  The emotion of depression is a common response to a loss, failure, or disappointment.  The diagnosis of major depressive disorder is a serious emotional & biological disease that affects a person's thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and physical health.  The criteria that professionals use to diagnose this are as follows:

  • Depressed mood.
  • Reduced interest in activities.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Feeling agitated or slowed down.
  • Feeling worthless or excessive guilt.
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
  • Suicidal thoughts or intention.
People who have a mental illness are not crazy, they just have an illness.  It is no different than someone who has diabetes...it is a disease that has to be managed and coped with for life.  It shouldn't be something to be embarrassed about, yet many people hide their condition for fear of being judged.  

It hurts....alot.  It's a different sort of pain then someone might feel who has cancer or a broken limb.  Not quite physical pain, yet it is.  You know the pain that most of us feel when a loved one passes away for instance.  Imagine experiencing pain, hopelessness, etc., with no reason for it.  That's what it's like to be depressed.  You feel these things yet can't explain why you feel the way you do and can't do anything to stop it.  I experience a severe lack of energy to do anything including household chores and even personal hygiene.  I have difficulty concentrating and sometimes lose interest in activities that I usually enjoy (even spanking).

Wanting to die.  Suicidal.  When people hear this about me, they usually say, "But you have so much to live for!  You're so talented, pretty, etc., why would you want to kill yourself?"  It's not that simple.  It's a symptom of an illness.  Not everyone who's depressed has the 'symptom' of suicidal thoughts, but it so happens that I do.  We all know of celebrities who've committed suicide...they seem to have it all, yet they see no reason to continue to live.

I not only suffer from major depressive disorder, but also post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety.  I got help from my many back-to-back hospitalizations and medication, but still experience symptoms to a lessor degree.  Unfortunately for me, my illness has resulted in not being able to work a full-time job so I have alot of time on my hands now.

If you think you may have a mental illness, don't be ashamed of it.  There is plenty of help and resources out there so seek it out.  These illnesses are treatable and professionals can help make the symptoms less intense by therapy, medication or other combinations of treatment.  I've included a list of national resources to get you started.

Resources:
National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-TALK
Psychology Today - Find a therapist in your area