It’s been over 21 years since I’ve been diagnosed with Schizo-Affective disorder, (a combination of Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia) and in that time I have learned what is takes to not only survive, but live with my diagnosis.
When I was first diagnosed I was sure I could do it on my own, most of us do. We believe we know better than the doctors, after all we know ourselves and what we are capable of. We don’t set out to fail, as with any illness we want to feel well and capable of living our lives fully. Mental Illness is different, with such a stigma attached; feeling the need to hide it offers one of many reasons to stop treatment or even start.
#5 – Hospitals: If you’ve spent time on a psych ward you would understand it is not a place to learn about your diagnosis in its full extent. It is a group of individuals trying to understand how they got to be where they are and what they have to do to leave and get better. The nurses, techs and ultimately the doctors can talk and prescribe medication, all the while hoping that when their patient is discharged they will continue treatment, though there is no guarantee. So, yes hospitals have their place, they can start the process, but it’s a long term solution that is needed.
#4 – Medications: With so many medications available, it is hard to find the combination that will work. Often times it can take months and multiple tries to find what is right for you. Sadly, there is no one drug that will work for all mental illnesses, is it trial and error. In some cases, side effects can lead to further illness and/or hospitalization. This can be why treatment is often stopped, the endless frustration from not finding a treatment that will work can be overwhelming.
#3 – Doctors: It takes time to find a doctor you connect with and feel comfortable talking to, if not you may be less likely to listen to them. It can take time, but it is important when you are serious about your treatment. Psychiatrists and Psychologists alike are there to help, but it is a two way street, so understanding on both sides is vital.
#2 – Friends and Family: We may have heard a friend or family member say that the diagnosis is just something the doctor made up, you were just a little sad for a few days, or being told it’s not something to talk about, what will people think? Knowing those you rely on the most are not supportive, or willing to listen and help, can set the cycle in motion again This ultimately leads to medications not being taken, doctor visits cancelled and the mind spinning looking for answers. In the same breath, the opposite can also be true, family can promote the illness in order to keep their loved one medicated and “under control.”
#1 – Ourselves: It is our human nature to believe we know more than those who are telling us what to do, feel, or say. The idea is adopted that the illness does not exist and that if it is ignored, it will go away. Doctors can talk all they want, medications can be taken, but if we want to believe we are fine and go on with life as we see it, then that is what we will do. It takes time for the realization to sink in that this is a life long illness and some help is needed, we are not super human, though there are times we believe we are.
I know there are many more reasons or ideas that can be used to explain why it is so difficult to stabilize these illnesses, but if just one of these sounds familiar, then it is one step closer to finding the peace that is so desperately wanted and needed.