Getting Well

in diary
#personal #mental health

I have struggled with mental wellness most of my life. I think the first time I realized that I wasn’t like other kids must have been Kindergarten. I seemed to be more sensitive than other kids and was plagued with self-doubt. I also seemed to have stronger emotional swings, mostly towards anger and sadness. What I didn’t realize then is that other kids didn’t have the same chaos at home. I was different because my environment was different, and I adapted to survive it.

You Don’t Choose What Happens to You

Everyone, at some point, has something bad happen to them. Whether it’s through their choice or just because the universe can be cruel, something gets through the bubble of optimism and lands a blow. If they’re lucky they get a scratch that heals up, or a bruise that goes away as the memory fades. But some wounds leave scars, leave sore bones that never recover. Those are the things that mark us, change us into someone slightly different. The more traumas like these that we live through, the more scar tissue we carry around with us.

Scar tissue is the best comparison. Tumescent, an over-reaction to an injury by the sub-conscious engines of the body, it grows without our control and then covers us. For me it resulted in a lifelong battle with depression, anxiety, and anger. For others in my family it left similar marks. The killer is that none of it was my fault, but I was left to deal with it, as were everyone in my life.

You Choose What You Do with It

A decade ago I started therapy just after I was married. My wife realized after being around me more than she ever had that something was off. I could normally hide these things so I would limit the time that I was around people. But marriage changed that. I could no longer hide, nor could I act on my best behavior all the time. And so my journey with therapy started.

A few years in to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) I became frustrated by my overall lack of progress. Some of that was down to me; in a therapy session I’m on my best behavior and I’ve become quite adept at psychologically denying that I had outbursts or was in a depression. The next step was Psychiatry, and for that I’m grateful, though it wasn’t easy at first.

Most of my life I clung to the “crazy artist” rationalization: smart people are a little crazy, I’m smart so I get to be crazy. The reverse is that if I stop being crazy I’ll stop being smart. This is stupid, but the mind can do powerful things when it wants to rationalize something. Over the past several years I’ve had my medication switched up in an attempt to find something that works.

If you’re new to Psychiatry, I reccomend having a close friend (or wife) play the role of Watcher. Trying to be objective about how you feel and act can be incredibly difficult. Especially when you’re altering your brain chemistry. So having someone to be a neutral observer of your behavior, to help you know if you’ve gotten better.

Last Thoughts

Men still have a stigma around mental health. My father struggled with mental health and very rarely talked to me about it. I think he felt it made him look weak to admit he had PTSD from his time in Vietnam. I rationalized my own mental health as a necessary evil. The truth is that we owe it to the people in our lives, the people we work with, the people we love, to be as mentally healthy as we can.