The Media Can Be Misleading About Mental Illness Recovery

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Anyone who sees a loved one depressed, anxious or manic, wants them to seek help and get better. It’s understandable. Who wouldn’t?

There are also tons of well-meaning phrases that people in the media throw at you. “You’re not alone.” “Help is out there.” “You don’t have to live like this.” “Reach out.” While all of these statements have truth to them and are more than likely said from a place of good intentions, they may not be so helpful.

Here’s why:

First, when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety it took me many months to find a decent doctor. A lot of doctors out there do not listen to you, put you in a box and love to over-prescribe pills. In my case, I cannot take most medications as the side effects are too severe for me to handle. The depression is easier to cope with than the side effects. This has left me seeking alternative treatments like acupuncture, meditation and dietary changes. Not every doctor is open to this. You have to do what’s best for you and it may not always be embraced by the medical community.

Second, the same is true for therapists. I was treated awful by one therapist. He said very inappropriate things to me which I will not get into here, but let’s just say that he probably should have lost his license. Aside from that, finding the right therapist takes time. It’s almost like dating. You have to find one that you click with, who understands your journey and is willing to work WITH you.

Third, taking a pill and going to therapy doesn’t always mean that, “poof!”– you are now magically all better. For many of us with mental illness, it is a series of stops and starts. You try one med and it works…then it doesn’t. You find one good doctor and then then he moves. You try a new med and a new doctor and both end up being a bust. You’re back to square one. You research more treatments. You read books. You join support groups. You learn. You get better and then sometimes worse. And then better again.

Fourth, family members and friends don’t always understand your issues and either don’t take the time to because they either don’t care or they just don’t know how to be there for you. So relationships end up being a roller-coaster and are subject to strain.

While all of this may sound really negative, it’s not meant to. It’s meant to combat the myth that we hear so often when we encourage people to seek help for their mental health. That myth being that once you reach out, go to a therapist and state your feelings–then magically, all will be well. While it’s possible to go to one therapist and one doctor and get one pill that will make you feel almost 100 percent better, that is often not the reality for most people. It’s a journey. It’s YOUR individual journey. I can’t say it will be easy. It’s worth taking, though. Seek answers. Be your own advocate and keep going. When you can’t keep going, take a break. Let it all go for a while. Then start again.

Coming Out: Why More Men Need to Come Out as Chronically Ill

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When I first was diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder and depression, I searched a lot of sites for help and support. There was one thing that was blatantly obvious. I noticed that men were largely absent from the conversation. Even in the support groups that I attended, men were scarce and the ones that did show up did not really participate. It left me wondering…why don’t men speak out more when it comes to their health issues?

Years later I would develop digestive problems and food allergies. I once again combed the internet looking for support and answers. I found great groups and Facebook pages that offered some help, but once again, no men.

I would read article after article – all written by women and feel so relieved and inspired – that I wasn’t alone in this world of doctors, diseases and medical problems. But then I started to think again, “Where are all the men telling their story?” I knew I couldn’t be the only man struggling with mental and physical issues.

I think our society stigmatizes men more. We are supposed to be tough, strong and resilient. I’m not sure men want to talk about their issues because maybe society programs us not to. We are supposed to just power through and not complain and bitch. It’s seen as pathetic.

Nobody likes to admit they have a problem or health issue. It’s not fun, but when it comes to finding answers and seeking help, why are men less likely?

I guess there are many statistics I could site here, but there is more to it than that. I want to encourage men to come out of the so-called, “chronically ill closet.”

I know for me, I have heard all the lame and hurtful remarks people make. “You look fine.” “You’re a tough guy!” “You can’t feel that bad.” “Toughen up and try harder!” “It’s in your head.”

Women hear these remarks all the time, too, but for some reason it’s implicit that men are not supposed to be ill or live with impairments. Or if they do, they should be able to just RISE ABOVE them and carry on like all is well. As a man, I feel frustrated by this – almost discriminated against.

Today, it seems it’s a lot easier to come out as gay than to come out as having an invisible illness. If I tell someone that I am gay, it’s almost no big deal. “Good for you”, they say. “Live your truth!” “It doesn’t matter, as long as you find happiness,” says another.

So, for all my fellow men who are chronically ill out there –I know that what you want people to know is that it doesn’t matter if they understand what it means to have an invisible illness or not. In fact, they probably never will unless it happens to them. What we care about – what’s most important to us, is that we are treated with dignity and respect. Yes, we are men, but firstly we are human beings. We are sick. We need to reach out to those safe people that understand. I am with you. I support you and I encourage you to come out and tell your story. Together we can help support one another and end the stigma.