Yesterday, I had lunch with my cousin who reminded me of one of my favorite sayings about dysfunction.

She spoke my thoughts exactly saying, “It can’t just be everybody else’s problem, right?”

Well, yes.  Right.

Our discussion was about mental health.  Or, to be more specific, mental illness.  We talked about depression, addiction and bi-polar disorder, each having affected someone we know.  Each a dark, personal fear.

Depresson seems to be the disease du jour if you pay attention to advertising.  Within four types of medications for depression, there are no fewer than twenty-six brand names.  It would seems that depression pays.  I’m still waiting for my check.

Post-partum depression was my most recent dance with the devil.

It pounded me like nothing ever has before and I’m no stranger to the dark side.  I was six months into the pit of despair before I could even ask for help.  There were signs, of course, but between new-mum hormones and my self-imposed isolation, who was to catch them?  It was finally my husband who mandated that I get help.  It took more than a year for me to get better and drugs definitely helped me on my path to recovery.

Have you seen the commercials for Bring Change 2 Mind?  Glenn Close is the spokesperson for the organization advocating against the stigma, misconceptions, and bias surrounding mental illness.  I cry everytime I see it

The site says that 1 in 6 adults are living with a diagnosable mental illness.  Actually “suffering” is the word they use, and the difference is not semantics.  I don’t know their methodology for that statistic but it stuns me. 

How many of these people go undiagnosed for their entire lives?  And what are the ramifications of that?

Therapy seems like a great idea on paper.  In practice, however, it feels like a money pit.  Out-of-pocket expenses and unending treatment plans are daunting at best, prohibitive at worst.

I can remember when I was an adolescent, my parents took me to a few different shrinks to find out what was “wrong” with me.  I would venture that I was suffering from “teenager” but my perspective is skewed.  When I refused medication for my real or imagined malady, my parents expressed their pride in my decision. 

This seems odd to me now that I know depression is  not indicative of weakness – mental, physical, or spiritual.

Perhaps “Mental” illness needs a rebranding effort. 

Would “Chemical Illness” be less difficult to say?  That sounds like radiation sickness to me.  What about “Hormonal Illness”?  That could be confused with menopause.

What about the word “Illness?”  Diabetics don’t make enough insulin but get to use “deficiency” to describe their body’s betrayal.  Why can’t I have just been diagnosed with a “Seratonin Deficiency?”

My aunt, who has spent her career in nursing and hospital administration, pondered aloud why psychological care wasn’t treated like dental care?  Everyone should receive preventative/restorative treatment every six months – whether you need it or not.

Can you imagine the cavities that could be filled?

The definition of insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  So the dysfunction definition, while funny in a cynical way, alludes to an inability to self-assess, an ignorance of culpability, a blindness to our own responsibility for our happiness, or lack thereof.

Whether the decay is of the mind or of the spirit, Billie Holiday had a beautiful suggestion:  “Be kinder than necessary.  Everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”

May you win yours.

One thought on “Winner”

  1. Such great thoughts. Have you read “Eat. Pray. Love.”? (I really enjoyed Gilbert’s discussion of her battle with depression.) Some good talking points from that book re:misconceptions of depression as weakness. I like the comparison you make between mental care and dental care–so much stigma and assumption are yet to be peeled away, though…to say nothing of our critical need to get a better handle on what’s actually going on re:human psych. Thank you for sharing!

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