There are stigmas that exist within the professional mental health community. People who use opiate-based pain medication are addicts. Being refused treatment or admission to programs is then viewed by other mental health professionals as denial of the need for assistance. Staying within your health insurance providers mental health network limits your opportunities within a reasonable travel time. And, when 99.5% of psychiatrists do not return phone calls, you are seen as not trying hard enough.
There are catch-22s: a program will only admit you if you are seeing a therapist; you want into the program because you can’t find a therapist. You can only receive mental health assessment and assistance if you are a threat to yourself or others.
Tight budgets and inadequate health insurance block you from going outside the network, or using alternative therapies. As a result, diagnoses are either not obtained or never assessed and examined. Medication becomes therapy, often with ineffective outcomes, improper (too little/too much) dosing, and dangerous side effects.
If you are lucky, you have a social support network of family and friends. Without that, you are left to devise and design your own therapy to claw your way out of the black hole when there is no ladder.
I know – this is just a glimpse into the problems I had after a complete mental meltdown in the fall of 2011. (I actually had already had several nervous breakdowns not recognized as such at the time). Chronic depression had been my shadow since early childhood. Now, especially over the previous decade, additional mental health issues had become an overlay.
With the real world unable to provide me with any therapeutic modality, I turned to the virtual world. I’d been blogging since 2009, but always felt more comfortable discussing physical rather than mental/emotional pain. Private and public writing became my therapy. A potential diagnosis of bipolar 2 disorder (never confirmed, assessed or evaluated) gave me a self-forgiveness lens to look back at what I thought were moral and judgmental lapses, self-inducted failures and lost of dreams, and inherited and acquired character flaws, and separate me from my mental illness. These were symptoms, not symbols.
My blog posts are often as bleak and dark as my mindscape can be. My fiction, prose and poetry show how fragile and damaged I can feel. My lack of measurable progress, and my many relapses don’t make for enjoyable, comfortable, or pleasant reading. But, by sharing some of demons that haunt me, by opening up, by forcing thoughts out of my head and on to the computer screen, I’m trying recover; to gain back what I’ve lost.
Sessions with a cognitive behavioral therapist and a helpful depression phone advocate assigned by my health insurance provider in 2013 where therapeutic but not enough to propel me forward. I try every day to complete a set of tasks to add stability; to stop and assess my anxiety levels, to use some of the techniques from chronic pain management as tools for chronic depression and mental meltdown recovery.
But I get anxious and easily overwhelmed. Each post or journal entry takes me hours or days to complete bringing back memories I need to forget. To let go of the past so I can function in the present. I forget things, I can’t make myself do what needs to be done. I still wish for a magical medication that will take away my brain pain. To feel stable, hopeful, and optimistic on a regular basis.
I accept that my chronic physical pain will never be totally alleviated. I have chronic pain, it doesn’t have me. I don’t let it define who I am nor constrain what I can do.
Accepting that I will always be depressed, haunted by the ghosts, beset by demons, constantly at war, battle-weary in heavy armor, flexing my sword arm and clutching my shield is much harder.
But I am committing to the pledge below; I need a focused outlet. I want to regain at least a fraction of the 1/2 of myself I’ve lost. Perhaps, I will find it within this pledge from blog for mental health 2014.
I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.