Friday, October 3, 2014

Don't fight mental illness alone

This is one young man’s story of coping with the thought of fighting mental illness alone. It appeared in The NAMI Advocate, Winter 2014, page 25.

“I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 1999. I was experiencing mood swings, delusions, and hallucinations about evil spirits. I felt like I was very much alone. There are times I still do think I am uniquely singled out to suffer.

But through the help of NAMI and other support groups available to me at my mental health behavior provider, I see clearly that the focus doesn’t have to be on myself anymore. Many people come to the meetings and get to share their difficulties, which are a lot like mine. My meds help me a thousand times over, as well as pastoral care, counseling and case management. When I struggle now with feeling like I am alone, I usually am able to use some of the skills I’ve learned in the support group to realize I am not alone. For example, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has rewired my thought processes in a positive way, bringing hope and confidence which bring both balance and happiness to my life.

The fight is real. Those living with mental illness need real intervention-from meds and doctor’s visits to attending NAMI groups and classes to see our own struggles through someone else’s life. Often, counseling should be added to the regiment, because counseling and meds, at least in my experience are the primary means for getting better, being able to copy and to gain confidence over our disorders.

When we think we are alone, we start ‘psyching ourselves out’ and obsessing on top of the original disorder.  Hope diminishes, and despair takes over. Deep depression takes a place in our minds, which adds to the confusion we are already experiencing.

The best places to go from there is some kind of meeting-be it NAMI, support groups offered through your behavioral health office or support telephone lines. I’ve even used the emergency line offered through our behavioral health office just to talk. I think they know me personally.

I always feared as a very young boy that I was going to be affected by a mental illness. I read about it in our old encyclopedias we had at home and the notion just scared me. I grew up and found myself fighting myself all alone, unable to express what was really going through my mind-until the day I got treatment and support. Then I knew I could cope with my disorder.”

Our gratitude goes to this young man who is brave enough to tell his story. It gives us HOPE.

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