Mental Disorders

I don’t understand the fascination people have with self-diagnosing serious mental disorders, and laughing about it like it is some kind of joke.

I, myself, have occasionally used the colloquial phrase, “Sorry, my OCD made me do that.” when I’ve done something stereotypically OCD. Something you’d see Tony Shalhoub do in passing on Monk when it was still on the air. I know in my head that OCD is a serious disorder, and I shouldn’t make light of it. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I used that particular phrase. But I know I shouldn’t, and that’s an important part of the process.

I do not have OCD. I do, occasionally, suffer from depression. Not self-diagnosed, either., I went to a doctor and have been dealing with it without medication since I was roughly 10 years old. I know, what the fuck did a 12 year old have going on in his life that was so fucking awful that he got depressed? I don’t know. I don’t know why, at 28 with a good job and great friends and a decent family I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the gun that I keep on my shelf and how quickly it would make the meaningless and pointless world go away.

Luckily for me, unlike so many others in the world, I found a way that I can fight those thoughts immediately when I recognize that I’m having them. It works for me, but it probably won’t work for anyone else. Most of the time I can function like a normal, ordinary citizen that has goals and ambitions. Plots and plans, schemes and ideas. I experience moments of joy, and moments of sorrow without batting an eye. Sometimes. Most of the time.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why being “depressed” or “having OCD” has become a badge of honor for some people. The way this country approaches mental illnesses is a joke, and maybe that’s why people feel okay making jokes about it. I find, generally, that the people who suffer from these illnesses do not mention them to other people. It’s tough when you look into someone else’s eyes and say, “I thought about killing myself last night.”

At least, it is the fifteenth time that you’ve said it. Because by that point they’re past the “sympathy” phase of the program. Anyone who asks for help the first time gets it. Its a freebie. You need help? Ask for it. You’ll get it. Alcoholics do. When they finally start in on the 12 step program, they get all the support in the world. People throw them parties, and take them out for lunch, and congratulate them for doing something great for themselves. But if they fall off the wagon? Nobody wants to be around them. Everyone feels betrayed; let down for putting their trust in that person. Everyone who tried to help the alcoholic feels like their good will was just shoved into the dirt and spit on. Like it was trash and didn’t mean shit to the person who took it.

That’s what it’s like when you tell someone you want to kill yourself, or that you’ve thought of it. They feel betrayed. Like you’re telling them that they’ve fucked up your life some way and are trying to punish them, when in reality? It probably didn’t have a thing to do with them at all and you’re just trying to get help.

The special thing about mental illnesses is that they’re all in your head. So it is really, really hard to get people to realize that spending all day in bed on Sunday was not because you were being lazy, but because you couldn’t make your brain form the conscious actions that are required for you to get up and move.

Someone who relapses into drugs or alcohol is a pariah. Someone that “was” depressed, but cured, who suddenly feels suicidal again? They’re treated like they threw someone’s love away.

Its understandable to see why. A flu victim has physical symptoms. A fever, coughing, aching bones. They shake. They can barely talk or walk, but there are symptoms that other people can see, and relate too. You’d never imagine that someone with the flu would be told, “Hey, I know you feel bad, but you need to get up out of bed anyway and do something with your life. You can’t live like this forever.”

Of course, I’m an advocate of getting up and doing something when you start feeling sad or depressed, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Brains don’t work the same across the board, so each one needs to be approached differently. And you shouldn’t stop trying to help someone turn away from the dark path that they see in front of them. It’s important to show that you care for them and support them, and sometimes tough love is the answer. (Never let someone’s depression be an excuse for them treating you like garbage. But maybe get some opinions from doctors on how to handle that before you just throw water on their face when they’re laying in bed crying.)

I think back to the attention I got when I was put in “the hospital”. Here there were, a lot of people in similar situations like me: Anger problems, depression, attempted suicides and various other issues that I was not privy to because I was too young to know what was happening around me. I remember the attention I got, though, and I can only think that people who make a joke of these illnesses are unaware of the damage they can really cause people, or are looking for attention.

Seeking attention like that is its own mental illness too. It speaks to a core problem with the person’s psyche, and maybe they need help too. So I try my best, now, not to get angry with people who throw out, “I’m so suicidal today” or, “I’m super OCD about my clothes.”

Maybe they just don’t know, right? Or maybe they too need help, and who am I to judge someone that needs a helping hand.

I know I do sometimes.

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