04/01/2014 05:19 EDT | Updated 06/01/2014 05:59 EDT

10 Things to Expect When You're Mentally Ill

These past six months have been an onslaught of revelations, some good and some bad, as I've been navigating my way through the diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (MDD), and an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). Along with the side effects of the cocktail of medications that have been hit and miss in helping to alleviate the symptoms of my mental illnesses, adjusting to my life has been a juggling act of emotions as realizations either make my heart melt into puddles of gratitude or crack me in the head like a brick.

1. Napping in the staff lounge during every lunch break because your medications are making you groggy will have co-workers asking the following: a) Are you not feeling well? b) Did you not sleep well last night? c) Why are you so tired, and d) Do you always need this much sleep? The answer to any of these questions inevitably puts you in the position of having to share more than you might have wanted to.

2. The medications will often make you feel worse before you feel better. The nausea, headaches, teeth grinding, lip twitching, dry mouth, and muscle cramping (but to name a few) will leave you wondering if the health benefits will be worth it.

3. In a few weeks, once the antidepressants begin working, you will think there was never anything wrong with you, and you will stop taking them against your physician's advice. Psychologically you will then plummet to a state of mind so dark and incomprehensible that you will wish for death.

4. If you're lucky, somebody in your life will realize what has happened and will walk you through the steps necessary to begin retaking your medication, and will monitor you until it takes effect in a few weeks.

5. If you're not lucky and nobody realizes you are living in a nightmare, the immensity and evil of which only someone living through the same thing as you can understand, then you may finally take that final jump over the bridge railing.

6. Telling those in your life you've been diagnosed with a mental illness is not the hard part. The mental illness is the hard part.

7. Those being told about the mental illness will be curious, questioning, compassionate, concerned, and committed. And then will continue to treat you as a capable human being.

8. Those being told about the mental illness will be curious, questioning, skeptical, and dismissive. And then will continue to treat you as a capable human being.

9. Those being told about the mental illness will appear to be curious, questioning, empathetic, and understanding. And then you will never hear from them again.

10. Some people being told will display a wide array of behaviours; will struggle themselves with your diagnoses; will deny that you're "crazy"; will name off all the ways in which you are a perfectly functioning member of society and that there isn't even such a thing as mental illness, it's just propaganda invented by drug companies to sell antipsychotics; will tell you to sort yourself out, get up, get dressed, and go to work; will never ask you how you're doing or acknowledge that they've ever been told you have a mental illness.

And then, with time and education, these same people will share of their own encounter with the demons of depression, and even though they will never really accept the reality, they will cry tears for you and tell you they pray to God every night that you will get better.


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