I had an “Aha” moment. But when I say that, I don’t mean I spent thirty seconds listening to “Take on me” created by the gorgeous vintage Scandinavian band of the same name (Aha).
No, I mean that I had an epiphany – a realisation, of sorts. It was about my mental health.
Years back, I was diagnosed with a mood disorder and it means that my “happy” times and my depressed times can be a bit harder to manage than the average person’s. Luckily, I was able to afford seeing a psychiatrist and other mental health experts and I was also able to gain access to medication and other treatment that has made all the difference to the way I live my life. It has changed my life completely – for the better. This makes me very privileged because I know there are many thousands of people around the world that don’t have access to these amazing resources as I do.
Why this is important
Before I was diagnosed and got the medical help I needed to make my moods more manageable, my life was sometimes unbearably emotional; swinging violently from high to low and often within the same day.
I moved a lot. Like every six months for decades. And it was impossible for me to foster a relationship with even friends over lengthy periods of time, never mind landing myself a rugby husband.
Some of my lows were also so terribly low that I came close to taking drastic action to get away from the pain I felt. Thank God that’s over.
I consider it a miracle that the lithium and quetiapine that I now take religiously every day has manged to dramatically turn down the volume on all of that emotional drama.
People still Poo Poo it
If I like you and I trust you, I might tell you about my mental health diagnosis. This isn’t because I want your sympathy but because I want to provide you with a context to draw from when my moods seem a bit erratic, which they sometimes still can if I’m stressed or haven’t been getting enough sleep.
Recently, when I did this with someone I really liked, he responded in a very interesting way. He told me that he thinks Psychiatry is bullshit and that all psychiatric medication is just a bunch of chemicals being used on people like they’re Guinea pigs.
His suggestion was that there was nothing wrong with me that a decent diet and meditation wouldn’t fix.
Here’s the deal
Lucky for me, I know that most people in society are ignorant about the science behind psychiatry, so I knew not to listen to him and keep taking my meds.
The brain is an organ that can malfunction just like the heart or a kidney or thyroid gland. Just like someone with diabetes may need insulin or someone with a heart condition may also pop pills to live their best lives, so too must I.
I also know that 1 in 4 people with my diagnosis attempt suicide and that many of those who do will succeed and that the likelihood of this is even higher when people with my diagnosis stop taking their medication.
No amount of broccoli and chanting ‘Ohm’ would cure type 1 diabetes and yet so many people would suggest it can fix mental illness.
Mood stabilisers work and they help people like me find an even keel. It keeps me from becoming hypomanic, which might cause me to become hypersexual and take risks that I would normally know not to take.
Or it allows me to put a cap on my lows, so even when I do feel gloomy and down in the dumps it’s bearable enough for me to want to stay alive.
I eat healthy, exercise regularly, meditate and even write in a gratitude journal daily and spend time in nature whenever I can. But I still need my pills.
For me, good mental health is also good sexual health
So, next time you discover that someone you know is taking medication for depression, anxiety or another kind of mental illness, think twice before sharing any partially formed or ill-researched advice on how they should go about treating themselves if it involves them stopping their medication.
It’s literally a matter of life and death.
The Little Poof is a contributing writer for the Anova Health Institute. These are his views, which may or may not reflect those of Anova and its affiliates.