Im Starting THIS Conversation

First of all, I am so glad they killed DOMA.  Really.  I’m glad that my friends can enjoy the same benefits of marriage that I have with my husband.  That being said, I just wanted to get your attention before you road off into the sunset on your horse of many colors.  You know that while most of America supported you, in the quiet passive way that America likes to support things, it was mostly you.  You with your strong voices and your pride and your love.

The thing I liked about the Human Rights Campaign (or at least the name) was it was Human Rights.  That humans should all be able to pursue happiness.

So can I just redirect your focus for a second (and not just the LGBTQ community but anyone that’s reading this).

There are a group of people that desperately need a voice: The mentally ill. Until 1973 homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Now most of us, including the APA, know that this isn’t true.  Its a difference. Not a disorder.  There are disorders though.  Depression, Bipolar, Panic Disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders etc etc.  They unlike homosexuality do have treatments because they are sicknesses.

The closest thing I’ve seen to awareness for the mentally ill is TWLOHA and all the anti-bullying campaigns but for those of us not in high school anymore, it’s too little too late and for anyone with an organic problem it’s in the wrong ball park.

I’m not sure how much the general population knows about these issues. However, if you are lucky enough to have good health insurance when they first occur then you’re probably eventually going to be ok.  You will get the proper medication with the proper follow up and appropriate therapy.  Your doctors will continue to monitor you and make adjustments.

But if you don’t? If you’re like me? I’m pretty lucky. I have a job. I have a place to live. I have a husband that’s seen me at my worst and still loves me.  Most people don’t.

A little bit about me: In hindsight I’ve always been anxious. I have had separation anxiety for as long as I can remember.  Which sounds like something that only happens to high strung dogs (and in people only in children) but regrettably it’s still a problem for me and is the cause of the end of most of my relationships with significant others and friends.

The depression really hit when I was 14 by 15 I was cutting myself regularly. My parents thought I was just being a moody teenager and that a series of talks and prayers would make it go away. It didn’t.

I’ve been in a mental institution where I was diagnosed at 19 after a 15 minute interview as being Bipolar and was medicated as such.  I never found out if it worked because that is when I lost my health insurance. I couldn’t afford to see my therapist, psychiatrist or pay for my medications. I dropped out of college. I moved in with an ex boyfriend. I developed an eating disorder.  I drank entirely too much.

Somehow I made it back to college. I continued to drink entirely too much and eat too little I went to the school clinic and was lectured for not taking the medication I couldn’t afford.  I went to the therapists that they had on staff at the university and was told I needed long term therapy and that they couldn’t help.  I drank. I did drugs. I ran away. I engaged in “risky behaviors.” At some point I managed to also become addicted to work which Im sure is the only reason I got through college.

In a particularly dark time a friend referred me to a psychiatrist that I generally refer to as “Dr Unscrupulous” because he’s never spent more than 10 minutes talking to me before giving me prescriptions that usually just made me feel stoned….except nothing was funny. I couldn’t hold conversations. I couldn’t drive. I ran away again.  I stopped taking the meds so that I could drive away.  I smoked cigarette after cigarette. I came home. Dr U tried lithium.  It made my hands shake so badly that I couldn’t draw or write legibly. He decided I wasn’t really bipolar.  He gave me Paxil.  The worst drug I’ve ever withdrawn from. Cymbalta? which didn’t work.  Zoloft at a dose that is considerably higher than is normal. Especially for someone my size. Xanax three 1 mg pills a day. But he’s the only Dr I can afford.

I know that there are places that work on a sliding scale.  I know that there are ways to help pay for your medication.  But when getting out of bed is a struggle,  when your phone ringing sends you into hysterics, filling out that much paper work seems insurmountable and the wait lists are months and months and months. And when you’ve reached this point, you don’t know if you’re going to be alive in three months.  So you take a xanax, slam a bottle of whine and cry til you fall asleep and your a little disappointed that you woke up in the morning.

Another way to get help is to declare that you are disabled. I don’t want to be disabled.  I want to work.  And since these diseases can’t be seen and can be faked it’s a difficult case to win.  How can you provide documentation of a disease that you can’t afford to see a doctor for? How can you build yourself esteem and not feel like a waste of space if getting help means you can’t work?

People keep telling me it isn’t weakness to ask for help.  But the never tell me who to ask.

Other people tell me to fake it.  Eventually the smile will become real.  Eventually this will pass.  It’s been over a decade and it’s still there gnawing on the raw corners of my soul.

The mentally ill are not a group of people that can band together and make their voices heard.  They are too afraid. Too embarrassed. Too hopeless.  They need help. I’m asking for help.  For them.  For myself.

I thought maybe the LGBTQ community was a good place to start.  From one group of people that have been told to “just stop” to another. (don’t be gay, don’t feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body, date women, wear a dress) (don’t be depressed, don’t be scared, just smile, just suck it up).  I doesn’t work for me. I don’t think it worked for any of you either.

Things can change.

Please. See us. Help us. We can’t do this alone.

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One thought on “Im Starting THIS Conversation

  1. I live with major depressive disorder, and it IS hard. Finding treatment, AFFORDING treatment, just getting out of bed everyday–those are the struggles.
    Thank you for sharing your story, because it does matter. I hope we can stand together, because being heard and walking through life with a community is the best way to make it through. And I do believe you will.

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