Please, Stop Discrediting Mental Illnesses

Please, Stop Discrediting Mental Illnesses

Not everyone can afford to get help.
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More and more I’ve been seeing people post things such as: “stop faking a mental illness” or “if you have a mental illness, stop self-diagnosing and just get help.”

Mental illnesses are far more common than most people think. Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (nearly 43 million) suffer from a mental illness in any given year, 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (10 million) suffer from a severe mental illness, and 1 in 5 children from age 13-18 suffer from a mental illness as well. Close to a quarter of everyone in the U.S. are suffering from a mental illness. But of these people, about half are left untreated. Why?

There’s a lot of reasons why mental illness is left untreated; some people just deny they have a mental illness and refuse to seek help. But a very prevalent reason why so many with mental illnesses don’t seek help is because they cannot afford to. Therapy alone (not going to a psychiatrist and receiving medicine) can cost anywhere from $50-240 for just a one hour session. To visit a psychiatrist you can expect to pay $400-500 for the first visit and $100 for services moving forward. On top of that, medication such as antidepressants can cost anywhere from $30-200 a month.

It’s no secret that mental illness is more prevalent in lower social classes - the same social classes that literally struggle to buy food for themselves on a daily basis. Some people know they have a mental illness, but they will have to choose between getting medication or eating for the month. What are they supposed to do?

It’s not as simple as “go get some help.” It is literally impossible for some people and I’m so sick of others making mental illness not seem serious unless it is professionally diagnosed. You know your body, and most of the time you know when something’s wrong (although I know this isn’t the case for everyone). Many who have mental illnesses know they have one, but they can’t afford the proper treatment. That doesn’t make their mental illness any less real, and it’s about time we stop acting like it.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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Why You Actually Don't Want To Be Prescribed Adderall

ADD isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
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As I'm writing this, I can feel my concentration slipping. Noises have become enticing, I feel distanced from my phone, and every time someone walks by me in the library, I turn around seeing if it's someone I know. My extended-release Adderall is starting to wear off and my brain is starting to relax back to its natural state. My ADD is climbing out from underneath the blanket of focus I had for 10 hours today.

ADD is not all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, we get prescribed the precious Adderall so many people want, but at what cost? Let me put this in context for you. You know when you're at the library and there's a one really, really loud girl talking on the phone? You know the one. The girl that, for some reason, thinks it's OK to have a full-fledged conversation with her mom about her boyfriend in the middle of the quiet section. The girl that's talking so loud that it's all you can think about, occupying all of your focus. Well, that's what every single person in the room is like when you have ADD.

Distractions that are easy to ignore to someone without ADD are intensified and, instead of focusing on the task at hand, I'm listening to the girl three seats down from me eat her barbecue kettle chips. When you have ADD, it's not just schoolwork you can't focus on. You can't focus on anything. I tried to watch a foreign film one time without my medicine, and I forgot to pay attention to the subtitles. I realized about halfway through the movie that I had no idea what was going on.

What almost everyone that asks me for my Adderall doesn't understand is that I take Adderall to focus how you would normally. When you take my Adderall you feel like you can solve the world's problems. You can bang out an entire project in one night. You can cram for an entire exam fueled by this surge of motivation that seems super-hero-like.

You take my Adderall and ask me, “Is this how you feel all the time?" And, unfortunately, my answer is no. I'll never feel like a limitless mastermind. When I take Adderall, I become a normal human being. I can finish a normal amount of work, in a normal amount of time.

My brain works in two modes: on Adderall, and off Adderall. On Adderall, I'm attentive, motivated and energetic. Off Adderall, I can barely get up the motivation and focus to clean my room or send an email. And it's frustrating. I'm frustrated with my lack of drive. I'm frustrated that this is how my brain operates. Scattered, spastic and very, very unorganized. There's nothing desirable about not being able to finish a sentence because you lost thought mid-way through.

The worst thing that you can say to anyone with ADD is, “I think I should start taking Adderall." Having ADD isn't a free pass to get super-pills, having ADD means you have a disability. I take Adderall because I have a disability, and it wasn't a choice I had a say in. I was tested for ADD my freshman year of college.

My parents were skeptical because they didn't know exactly what ADD was. To them, the kids with ADD were the bad kids in school that caused a scene and were constantly sent out of class. Not an above average student in her first year at a university. I went to a counselor and, after I was diagnosed with ADD, told me with a straight mouth, “Marissa this is something you're going to have to take for the rest of your life."

When the late-night assignments and cramming for the tests are over, and we're all out in the real world, I'm still going to be taking Adderall. When I'm raising a family and have to take the right kid to the right place for soccer practice, I'm still going be taking Adderall. And when I'm trying to remember the numbers they just said for bingo at my nursing home, I'm still going to be taking Adderall.

So you tell me you're jealous that I get prescribed Adderall? Don't be. I'm jealous that you can drink a cup a coffee and motivate yourself once you lose focus. I'm jealous that the success of your day doesn't depend on whether or not you took a pill that morning. The idea of waking up and performing a full day without my medicine is foreign to me.

My brain works in two modes, and I don't know which one is the right one. I don't know which mode is the one the big man upstairs wants me to operate in. So before you say you want to be prescribed to Adderall, ask yourself if you need and want to operate in two different modes.

Ask yourself if you want to rely on medicine to make your entire life work. If I had a choice, I would choose coffee like the rest of the world.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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An Open Letter To The Person Feeling Everything Is Too Much

The strongest people to exist struggle the most.

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Hey, you.

I heard through the grapevine that life's got you in the dumps. You're feeling overwhelmed by your surroundings, stressed by your responsibilities, sensitive to the things that people are saying; everything just feels like it is too much. It almost feels like you're stuck in a room filling up with water. You know that the door opens, but you're numbed by the circumstances; you can't get yourself to take hold of that handle, so you just stand there, frozen in time. You feel the water rising up around your body, and with every inch it gains, you get even more overwhelmed. Maybe the water flooding in contains your schoolwork, your family dynamic, your drama within your friend group, your relationship status, internal anger about who you are or aren't, or hell, maybe all of these.

You feel like life is throwing rogue waves at you left and right, and you can't understand it. Why is this happening to me? Why is life trying to break me?

Well, let me tell you something that has taken me years to even grasp, let alone fully understand.

The strongest people to exist struggle the most. They are given some of the most intricately woven issues that may not have a black and white solution but live somewhere within the gray. Things pile up and upon them until everything feels like too much. And you know what they do, the strongest people to exist?

They break.

They stand there, trapped in that water-filling room, and let the water seep in. They don't open that door, they don't take the easy way out. They stand there, thinking about what is being thrown at them, not knowing what to do. They let the water overwhelm them, completely filling the room. And right when they feel that they can't take this anymore, like everything is too much, the door breaks... they break. The strongest become the weakest as they float out of the room, carried by the rushing water filled with their burdens. They lay washed up on the shore, weaker than ever... broken and cracked, frozen and numbed by life.

While they lay there broken and numb, weakness does something so immaculate and beautiful: it settles into the brokenness and the cracks like fresh, fertile soil, planting the seeds of wisdom and strength. Over time as it continues to rain, wisdom and strength grow throughout their bones like vines, making them even stronger than they were before they got trapped in that room before they broke. The strongest people to exist break frequently, so that room can be made for more love, more strength, and more wisdom than imaginable.

Now you may be thinking, why this analogy? What are you getting at?

I want you to know, and read this closely: it is okay to break. It's okay to let everything feel like it's too much because you know what? Sometimes it is, it just is. Sometimes, you have to just stand there, and let yourself feel. Let it explode and wash over you. Let it leave you cracked. Once the explosion has ridden its course. analyze the broken pieces you feel inside. Look at them individually and try to find the root of that feeling. Finding the knowledge behind that feeling means that you now know how to fight back. So you know what you do? You piece yourself back together, slowly but surely, using wisdom as the glue, and you come back stronger than ever before.

You have to break before you can grow. Let yourself feel, feel all of it. Break and be grown anew.

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