This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week and I am writing this blog for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and for the people out there who are suffering right now. One in four adults experience mental illness in a given year. It is way past time to shed the shame and silence and speak out to break the stigma, the illusion of perfection. No one is served by the silence.
I will be giving some statistics throughout this blog post and all of these can be found at http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf
I have been diagnosed, misdiagnosed and undiagnosed in my 35 years. I have suffered with depression in my teens; a deep, dark, sucking blackness, a lack of emotions. Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year.
My grandmother suffered from schizophrenia and the lack of easily available, good, inexpensive mental health care in the US. She passed away in a state mental institution an hour and a half from her nearest relative. About 2.6 million people live with schizophrenia.
My aunt was diagnosed with manic depression over two decades ago which is now called bipolar disorder. About 6.1 million people live with this disorder.
Many of my wonderful friends have been diagnosed with clinical depression, chronic depression and general depression. I was diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in 2004 which is also known as "the winter blues". About 14.8 million people live with major depression.
I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and OCD this year professionally (although I've known for 15 years or more that I have OCD). My darling man was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder professionally last year. About 42 million people live with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and phobias.
I was also diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder this year and have been in recovery since March 1st. November 4th will be my 250th day binge free. My grandfather and great-grandfather, and many aunts and uncles were/are alcoholics in various stages of recovery or denial. About 9.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.
I was diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) which is a mood disorder in 2007 by my gyno. Mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18 to 44.
My grandfather and his brother, my great-uncle, committed suicide. Neither left a note so we do not know why suicide was their only option. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 years. More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders.
I write all of this to tell you: You are not alone. I could go into so many different stories just within my own family, within my personal experience, that it would end up being so long, it would be a series of novels. Untreated mental illness, no matter how mild, takes its toll on the body. The body and mind are connected in ways that science has not yet fully grasped. Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than other Americans, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
You are not alone. If you have trouble dealing with everyday life and stress, seek professional help. Therapy and mental health treatments are just as much preventative medicine as a blood pressure check or cholesterol reading. There are literally millions of us and a growing number do not speak about it in whispers or private messages anymore. You can get help. It can get better. You do not have to live like this.
You can find more information at http://www.nami.org