My mental health professional speaks in terms of a “reset” or “reboot.” In other words, “Let’s turn it off and in a bit, turn it back on and see what happens.”
That idea regarding my mental and emotional state elicits a chuckle. Alas, some part of me still has a sense of humor, which perhaps has been my salvation.
Foregoing the details, an accumulation of life events and their accompanying stressors triggered my mental health conditions: Depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). After nearly three decades of relative stability, I was again in a battle for sanity and my life.
The battle was chaotic—a child huddled and cowering in fear one moment to uncontrollable, perhaps maniacal, laughing to frenzied exasperation. The varied, constant chatter in my head and the erratic, sometimes unexplainable, behavior was maddening. Perhaps just as maddening were the times of calm and my reasonable, sane presence.
As I told the psychiatrist in the emergency room, “I am okay until I am not.” He concurred, “Yes, you were in considerable distress earlier.”
In times of clarity, the undeniable fact that I was in a PTSD and DID crisis after being symptom-free for years was exasperating, and that exasperation was matched by the fact that I could not seem to pull myself together and get out of it.
Now, three months after the onset of symptoms, with antidepressants in my system and a dozen or so counseling sessions in the mix, I am beginning to feel more settled.
Mental health struggles are real—not only for me but millions of others. Perhaps for some of you.
The National Institute of Health reports that in 2021 approximately one in five adults in the U.S. (22.8%), lived with some form of mental illness. That’s 57.8 million adults with only 26.5 million (47.2%) receiving mental health services: inpatient or outpatient treatment, counseling and /or medications.
In the same period, 14.1 million representing 5.5% of the U.S. adult population experienced severe mental illness, resulting in serious functional impairment, with only 9.1 million receiving treatment.
The numbers reflect considerable disparity between incidence of mental illness and treatment. Consequently, we must ask if this is due to the stigma so often attached to mental illness, the lack of–or difficulty in accessing–treatment, or a potential lethal combination of both.
Considering my mental health diagnoses, in 2020 approximately 21 million or 8.4% of all U.S. adults experienced at least one major depressive episode and 6.8% of U.S. adults experience PTSD in their lifetime. Dissociative disorders are rare, with 1% to 5% of the global population experiencing the disorder. DID affects only 1.5% of the global population.
The rising rate of mental health issues in the general population (and particularly among youth), as well as the significant increase in suicide and violence in our society are evidence of our ongoing national mental health crisis.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, do reach out to someone—a trusted friend or family member or a mental health professional. Share your struggles and ask for help.
As with our bodies, our minds are subject to stress, injury and disease, resulting in a need for compassionate care and/or medical treatment. For far too long we have kept our mental health concerns closeted in the darkness of shame, weakness and failure.
I am reminded of the prophet Jeremiah’s warning concerning superficial declarations (6:14). You can’t heal a wound by saying it is not there.
Acknowledging our mental health wounds necessitates a vulnerability which, much like mental illness, our culture has cloaked as weakness. Brene Brown, writer and research professor in social work, tells us that vulnerability is not weakness, but our greatest measure of courage.
If you know someone who is struggling with mental health issues, reach out to them with compassion, not judgment. Sit with them while offering a listening ear, an empathic heart, a gentle nudge or an insistent voice, if needed, to seek professional help.
We need to know we are not alone in our struggles. Honestly, I don’t remember much of the chaos of two months ago but I do recall my spouse holding me as I was balled up in the fetal position, crying and babbling incoherently even as she had no idea what was happening to me.
I do recall a mere acquaintance intervening on my behalf to arrange a quick appointment with a counselor. I do recall a dear friend sitting beside my hospital bed holding my hand and gently calling my name, keeping me tethered to reality.
I was not alone. I am not alone in my mental health struggles, and for that I am extremely and forever grateful.
If you feel alone and need support, click here.
Retired after 38 years in education and counseling, the last nine of those as school counselor serving a campus of 650+ third, fourth and fifth graders. When not traveling, she fills her days with community, charitable and civic work, along with occasionally writing for The Tyler Loop and blogging at Pilgrim Seeker Heretic, affirming the sacredness of life and the sacrament of relationships.