This is a portrait of Ned Vizzini. If you read a few posts back, this is the author of some teen novels. Most importantly, he is the author of, “It’s Kind of A Funny Story”. He also suffered from depression, and he also committed suicide just before New Year’s of last year.
He was an advocate for depression, and if you read a lot of his books, some tended to deal with depression. A lot of people would come up to him on book signings and speaking events and say how much just reading his books changed their lives. And even though there was an outpouring of this for him, in the end, he couldn’t deal with what was eating away with him inside.
I wanted to bring him up because there is something that really wanted to touch upon, but I really couldn’t until now. What happens to those who suffer from a mental health diagnosis, when you are in the point in your life when you are consistent with your treatments, and doing well with yourself, but you find yourself in sort of a limbo? What I mean by that is, what do you do when you everything you do is under a microscope, and any little thing you do could be a turning point into you either ending up in a hospital, or you ending up like a Mr. Vizzini?
I’ve been thinking about this question for a long time since I got hired at the day treatment program that I work at now. I look at the consumers that I serve, and then I take a look at myself. There is a big difference between where I am, and where the consumers are. Some of them, it’s like they don’t get it, and never will perhaps. Some are just fine with having just a place to come and get breakfast and lunch up to five days of week, and then just go to their proverbial personal care homes where they do nothing for themselves. For those like this, they are just fine with this. For others, they are soaking in every opportunity. Keeping their head down and making moves to better their lives despite having the diagnosis they may have. Then I look at myself who has pretty much entered a category that you see a lot of advocates, actors, singers, and other successful people have come into. The people in here all pretty much while they are probably famous or really popular, they have to really limit themselves and the behavior. One wrong publicity stunt or negative press coverage could mean tough times for their careers.
So that’s where I am. Over he past three months I’ve gotten a lot of offers from people out there who said if I need to talk, then they are there. Let me tell you as someone who is always living in recovery, this is extremely, and very difficult. The main reason, I feel like, is that as someone with a serious mental illness and who struggles with it very often, you have to decipher what is a character problem, and what is a problem that has to do with the symptoms of your diagnosis. This is a hidden thing that a lot of people don’t get from those who actually suffer and are prisoners of their symptoms, even those that are the family members, spouses, friends, or coworkers would not see, and even those in the medical model won’t even pay attention to on many occasions. There are a lot of instances where you just don’t know what you are feeling at the moment. Not to mention, that situations in where your flaws as a person are exploited can even trigger symptoms. I’ll give you an example.
A couple of weekends ago, my phone got stolen. Had it been a few years back, I would have beat myself up about it. Because I would have beat myself up about it, I would eventually get triggered into a deep depression. Because I would get triggered into a deep depression, I would eventually get into a crisis state. Now, it’s like I have to think about everything I say and do because one wrong move, and it is curtains for any progress I would have made at all.
It’s rough. And for those who suffer like I do periodically, You just don’t know what to do. Living with bipolar disorder for 17 years of my life, the way my symptoms affect my reality is that the cycles from a moderate hype, to a severe low becomes so overwhelming that I can’t function. For those with Schizophrenia, they hear and see things which distort their view on reality. For those with Borderline Personality Disorder, the inability to regulate their emotions causes them to do inexplicable things which destroy boundaries and relationships. But, when you are making a conscientious effort to get better, to recover in a way to where you are functioning just like one without one of these illnesses would, when is the time where you get to know yourself? When is the time where it isn’t just the symptoms, and when is it just you, the person.
That is why it is important to just be a human being. Yes, I do suffer from a serious mental illness. But it is just one part of me, the person. I would say that one big thing that has helped me out is to just be objective when I can…to look at everything with open eyes. I mean, let’s be honest, I am human, and I react to things just like any other person would. However, I think just because I do react, I don’t want to be looked at as some freak, or that monster, or that crazy person, or that psycho. That’s also why I don’t open up as much as I should, because of these things. This is also why a lot of my consumers do not open up to my coworkers or myself. They want to get away from the stigma from being a psycho person and find some type of routine or, “normal” in their life.
I think I can speak for a lot of people who suffer from serious mental illness when I say that when you first learn of your diagnosis, you understand that there is a part of you that will always say in the shape of the symptoms that you won’t get the same types of things that others will. I guess somehow that is partially false. If you don’t do the right things to keep your symptoms under control, and let them run amok, then yes, that will happen. But if you do the right things, things will happen, pieces get put together and such.
I guess it’s just when you do put these pieces together that I am struggling with. It’s like, you are damned if you and damned if you don’t. But I guess there’s one good counter to it: just to live. Somehow, though, I’ll find an answer, cause I do want a good life like anyone else, and I really want to help people. I guess what I’m trying to find is that when you find a little bit of success as someone living in recovery from a serious mental illness, when is it okay to just open up? Perhaps finding the answer to this, will prevent a lot of successful people, like a Ned Vizzini or a Robin Williams from suffering a cruel fate, and then help a lot more who aren’t as famous but struggling just as much.