- Quality of Life & Wellness
Depression and anxiety: My Responsibility
Yes, I get depressed, anxious and fearful. I am one of those who have a mental disorder, condition or illness. I prefer to call it a mental disorder, emotional condition or "this thing in my mind disturbing my life". It must be a disorder because my thoughts can get disorganized and my emotions are all over the place disrupting the way I used to be, the activities I used to enjoy and my professional life. This will be the basic explanation I would give to others.
On the other hand, a mental disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association(APA) as "a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress or disability or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom."
Read more at minddisorders.com
The APA definition is the generic one we commonly get from health professionals, websites and/or books. This is the basic definition I learned when pursuing my Masters Degree to become a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist for Psychiatric Units. This definition was developed to enable Mental Health Professionals establishing basic criteria and identifying a particular mental disorder. In order to reach a diagnosis, treatment plan and and prognosis, mental health professionals use a guide known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published and modified when needed by the American Psychiatric Association.
Read more: www.minddisorders.com
Two ways to define mental disorder; one way being subjective while the other being objective.
The starting points of my mental health deterioration
Although I have experienced, as everybody does, a number of problems and bitter moments, there were specific events that contribute in the development of my anxieties, fears and confusion. The lost of my premature baby girl (2001), the sudden death of a very special friend and co-worker (2003), theft of my identity (2005), having to go to court for a period of two years, and finally, having to endure a very hostile environment in my job. I began feeling a change in the way I reacted, behaved and thought, clearly affecting my life in 2003 just when I was being successful; holding an executive position, pursuing a doctoral degree and engaging in the activities I liked. During this year to 2005, I saw myself in a constant battle to keep going. By 2006 I was not able to handle my life as I used to know it. I decided it was time to resign my position and relocate to another State. At this point I was confused of what was happening to me; I tried to look for ways to run away from everything I was feeling; I tried to search for a fast way to get better in order to start working again; I wanted at all cost to become what I was before. Little I knew, I was fighting something I was introduced to only through books, work and others with mental disorders. Through these years I looked for psychiatric and psychological help. I was lucky to find an amazing Psychiatrist who work with me from 2005 to 2007.
It is important to make clear that I had episodes of anxieties and depression since I was a child. The difference was that at this time, the episodes were strangely taking control of my life in a way I could not keep going ahead. I became overly fearful of losing love ones; afraid of trusting others; apprehensive, fill with bewilderment and confused. I became paralyzed and lost. The first years after anxiety and depression struck me hard, I began looking for ways to ease the pain and get cured by taking medications, joining depression and anxiety groups, and receiving therapies. These were supposed to be the means to return to my own self. I put myself in the hands of professionals and medications as most of us should. I kept believing that having a mental condition meant that it was acceptable to wear a label and as a result, I was a recipient for pity from myself and others.
Educating myself; a new approach
October of 2008 was the turning point living with my mental disorder. That same month I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I spent eight days in a place run by many who were not professionally prepared to work in this kind of environment. Patients were allowed to sleep all day if they wanted to; the quality of group therapies was very superficial, the care in general was lower than efficient and effective for the well being of the patients. By the second day being there I realized that I was not getting the help I needed; this was not the place for me. I spent a lot of time looking around and observing the chaos, poor management and care in this place. Everything I knew and I learned trough my years of studies and career was underestimated in here. Where were the ethics, professional responsibilities and human values in this place? At one point, I determined to get out of there as soon as possible and start a new approach.
Days after being discharged from the hospital, I started the long road towards educating myself about my mental condition, its effect on me and others, and how to develop strategies to manage it. This new approach would mean working hard for my own benefit in a life style I never met before. I had to be willing to accept that: being a successful professional does not define me as a person; I have a condition that triggers other disorders, and that they are part of me; I need to embrace and accommodate my condition into all aspects in my life. Many will say that this approach is a way to give up. I have been, as many others in my situation, conforming with medical ideas or models which main goal is to remove or relieve all patient's complaints and symptoms, and send her/him back to the "functional life in society". It is the process of treating the illness and then, rehabilitate the person. I do not want this method anymore. I cannot allow myself to be the "hopeless patient waiting to see the superhuman healing doctor". I rejected the word "victim" and welcomed the word "survivor"; I will not comply with doctor's orders without understanding WHY.
Taking responsibility for my own recovery regardless of the state of my condition
Taking responsibility for my condition has been and still is a difficult road, but an interesting one. I use health professionals and medications as outside resources, but I am an active participant in my recovery. I have planned, developed and practiced many different strategies to overcome deficiencies:
- Reading, researching and understanding about my mental disorder.
- Exploring everything that triggers reactions, behaviors, thoughts or fears pertaining to my conditions.
- Acknowledging my rights as a patient and an individual fading away stigmas.
- Accepting and embracing my condition as part of who I am, but that I am not a permanent victim... I am a survivor.
- Adapting and coping with mental conditions that have incapacitated certain aspects of my life.
- When appropriate, educating health professionals, family and friends about my conditions with assertiveness.
- Learning to see myself as the only one responsible for what is going on with me; Others can be amazing resources if they approach without pity.
- Acknowledging the existence and value of others around me.
There is a lot to be discussed and work on. We as patients, need to learn and teach. We must take advantage of the good days to be content, active and alive in order to face the bad days.
Now, in 2013, I look back and I am so proud of myself. I have found ways to be who I like to be; happy, content, doing what I like and coping with those triggers that bring up the anxieties. I learned and accept that I survive OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) which is the mayor factor for my anxieties and depression. I am happy to say that the depression has not been present…I can crush it down. I have so much to offer, I love life and I am so satisfied with what I have done in my life and what I am experiencing now.
Living with a mental disorders is not what I had in mind. Not all days are easy, but I cope. I like myself and will never turn my back for the worst. I believe; I am smart and beautiful; I am successful my own way.