Saturday, February 11, 2012

We all go a little crazy sometimes...

The title of this post is in reference to a quote by Norman Bates from Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). As I write this I'm wondering how many people are going to be offended by the fact that I choose to use the term mental disorder instead of something that they deem more politically correct. Fortunately, I'm not overly concerned. The reason why I chose this particular quote is that over the years people have come to associate mental disorders with the psychopathic murderers presented on the silver screen. While murderers are for the most part psychopaths, to assume that all people suffering from mental disorders are a danger to society is far from the truth. Roughly 20% of the American population suffer from a mental disorder, which is a huge number once you break it down and realize that is 1 in 5 Americans. Despite this, society continues to stigmatize mental disorders.

Although strives have been made over the years, the fact is that the general public is mostly misinformed when it comes to the topic and has false preconceived notions that jade the way in which they view mental disorders. For example, people will often assume that people exaggerate or fake symptoms in order to get attention, that mental disorders are not "true" diseases, that depression is nothing more than laziness, that "will power" alone can overcome mental disorders, or that only "crazy" people see psychologists/psychiatrists. This alienates those who suffer from disorders, which in turn discourages them from seeking help. I say this not as an outsider looking into the topic out of curiosity, but rather as a veteran who is genuinely concerned with the way the public at large continues to chastise those who suffer mental disorders. Throughout my life I have struggled with chronic depression and anxiety, and while I have been lucky enough to have a strong support group behind me, I know others are not so lucky.

There are days when getting out of bed has turned into a task on its own, and I still find myself on the verge of tears for no apparent reason on a regular basis. Writing about it has helped me cope with my disorders, but there are still times when I simply cannot function. For a man-boy in his mid-20s there is little more disheartening than crying for hours on end when there is no logical reason to feel depressed. Nothing I write will ever convey just how alone I have felt at times, even when I was in a room full of my friends. My disorders have affected not just the way I feel about myself but also my interactions with others, the way I write, think, the music I listen to, and how I process things. I say this not to be fatalistic, but rather to emphasize just how strong the impact that mental disorders have on a person is.

I have a feeling that the majority of those who read this article are already well informed on the topic. While this is a good thing, I regret to inform you that I did not write this for you. I wrote this for those out there who know little about mental disorders, in an effort to educate them. The more that we educate others and make them aware of the truths of mental disorders, the greater the chances are that the 13 year old crying himself to sleep right now will encounter someone who will provide him with enough information and guidance to alleviate some of the pain he feels. Someone who will tell him that he is not alone and that help is available. And if you are that 13 year old, then let me be the one to tell you: You are not alone. There is help out there.

I stated earlier that I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. What I didn't mention was that I am a graduate student who holds a full time position at a university as well as a published author. I have been promoted at every job I have worked at, and I have never been charged or arrested for any crime. My bouts with depression and anxiety have not stopped me from accomplishing what I want to accomplish in life. Moreover, although I firmly believe that medication can help, I also believe that medicine is not the solution for everyone; it certainly isn't for me. I see a psychologist on a regular basis and while I she has offered me medicine, just having someone to talk to is enough for now. But who knows, maybe I'll change my mind down the road. After all, we all go a little crazy sometimes, right?

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