I didn’t have time to shop on Black Friday, so I decided to order online from Kohl’s and pick my items up at the store. I chose bathroom towels and rugs that I knew were different shades of blue, but on the website, it looked like they’d match closely enough.
I was wrong. When I installed them all in the bathroom and walked in, the effect was jarring. The hand towel blended OK with the rugs, but the bath towels were a shade that didn’t play well with the others.
I had that same uncomfortable feeling the next several times I walked into the bathroom. Eventually, though, it softened. The mismatched blues didn’t startle me anymore. They started to look right. I stopped seeing their distinct differences and just thought of them as, well, all blue.
That’s kind of how psychosis can creep into your thinking. At first, you recognize the delusional thoughts for what they are: not based in reality. But they keep coming more frequently, and they start to feel true. Yes, you think. I didn’t see these connections, this new truth, before. Eventually, the psychosis becomes your new reality. The thoughts, like the towels, make sense.
If you’ve never experienced this, you might think it couldn’t happen to you, that you would continue to recognize the delusional thinking as psychosis. You’d either seek professional help or be incredibly uncomfortable all the time, afraid of your own brain.
But you can’t fight brain chemistry.
So many veterans are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some get help and recover. Others, unable to cope, become homeless. And way too many commit suicide.
There are vets who served during the Vietnam War who are still struggling.
Here are some startling facts from a recent blog from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
- PTSD wasn’t even recognized as a mental illness until 1980.
- About 31 percent of male American veterans who served in Vietnam experienced PTSD at some point in their lifetime. Almost one out of three.
- Approximately 1 in 10 veterans who served in Vietnam experienced PTSD 40 years later. This is called delayed-onset PTSD, and it often occurs during a major life change like retirement.
Vietnam vets may be more likely to suffer from PTSD for a number of reasons. The draft. Conflicted feelings about the war itself. And a society that didn’t exactly welcome them home with open arms.
There is help available, like counselors at VA hospitals and a 24/7 veterans’ hotline (800-273-8255). But so many vets can’t or won’t ask for assistance. It’s up to us to engage with Vietnam veterans when we can. Thanking them for their service is a start. A “How are you doing?” is even better.
Read the entire NAMI blog post here.
I see a lot of TV ads for new, expensive antidepressants. Probably some of them work for some people. But my severe depression in 1988 would probably not have been relieved if my psychiatrist hadn’t gotten creative. She did try what was a brand-new med at the time (Prozac), which did absolutely nothing for me.
So she took a non-standard approach and gave me lithium. I wasn’t bipolar, but it worked. Another doctor many years later prescribed Adderall off-label, which knocked out some low-grade depression.
So don’t settle. Depression is disabling at worst. Even mild depression keeps you from enjoying life as you might. It’s possible that an older, less-prescribed drug could work for you.
Much of the population names mental illness as the root cause for the horrendous number of mass shootings in this country. I don’t want to turn this into an adversarial blog, but it occurs to me that many of the people advocating mental health reform are some of the same people who don’t want to do what’s necessary to fix our broken health system.
Mental health is a part of health care — or at least it should be. If we see the number of uninsured in this country rise again, some who need mental health care will be unable to get it.
Does anyone else see this disconnect?
Welcome. I started this blog for two reasons. First, I want to help raise awareness about mental illness and do what I can to minimize its stigma. I’ll be adding a lot of my own posts, but I encourage you to participate by contributing comments and telling me what type of content you’d like to see.
Second, it’s a shameless plug for my book, Dopamine Diary. It’s my story, available on Amazon. I wrote it for the same reasons I created this blog. Here’s what one reviewer said about it:
I have read any number of novels addressing mental health issues but I have never read such a vivid description of what it feels like, moment by moment, to be in the grip of paralyzing paranoia and depression.