Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hope vs. Stigmas & "Cures"

       I have discussed how much my life has improved and how much my symptoms have diminished, but that so far no cure has been found many times. However, I have never dedicated an entire post to it. The stigma is so harsh for people with mental illnesses that, as a group, we are easy targets for ridicule and for con artists who would like to swindle us. 

       I get emails, tweets, messages on my Facebook page, DM on Instagram, comments through Google+, etc., from people explaining that if I would only try a certain technique, or buy their device or Ebook that I would be cured. I've learned to laugh at most of them. Some of them are hilarious. 

       Other times, some well-intentioned, but uninformed, people send me messages telling me that I am simply not exercising correctly, eating the right vegetables, meditating in the right fashion or that I haven't read the right book on how to be positive. Otherwise, I would surely be cured by now. 

       I hope by my posts on the many different things that I do, and the many different things I have tried, to lessen my symptoms that it is obvious I am an open-minded person. I throw everything I can at my illnesses to feel better. If there is good science to back up a technique, then I am going to try it. Because of that, I have made fantastic progress. That does not mean that I am going to listen to every Tom, Dick and Jane, who tell me that they cured their depression, anxiety or manic episodes by reading, eating, taking or doing XYZ. Just like with an illness such as cancer, mental illnesses have many different causes (most of which are not yet understood), different types and many different stages. Not to mention that there are varying degrees of severity. 

       So, when anyone starts talking about cures, belittling others' efforts or dismissing mental illnesses as simply some sort of bad philosophy of life, I get highly suspicious. This excerpt is from the Does "It" Work post:

       Finally, I wonder if what people are actually asking, when they ask if "It" really works is, will "It" cure me? The reason I do the things that I do is not because I believe they will cure me, but so that I can experience fewer symptoms from my illnesses. Fewer symptoms mean I struggle less and enjoy life more. I have stopped trying to find cures. 

       Often, other people believe that I should be "better/cured" by now. I have learned to simply smile and walk away when a well meaning, but untrained, person tells me that I should read The Power of Positive Thinking (or whatever hot new book is out on the topic), try talking to a therapist, or go to support groups. The implication, more often than not, is that I haven't done something correctly, or I would be better by now. I have read stacks of books on the subject, spent interminable hours with licensed therapists, and been in more support groups than I can remember. Those things have helped in immeasurable ways. However, nothing can change the fact that my brain chemistry differs from that of an average person. 

       If you feel like you are, in some way, a failure when people try to "help" you, because the implication is that you aren't doing something correctly, then know that you are not alone. Finding so many facts like this one (from reputable scientists and doctors, not from gurus, self-help experts or new age philosophers), has helped me to accept my illnesses as part of who I am:

"Medical research has found that people who suffer from clinical depression have changes in important brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. New medications are available that help restore these brain chemicals to their proper balance and relieve symptoms of clinical depression...At this time, most mental illnesses cannot be cured, but they can usually be treated effectively to minimize the symptoms and allow the individual to function in work, school, or social environments" 
(National Institutes of Health (US); Biological Sciences Curriculum Study Bethesda (MD); 2007). 

       The part that brings me the most peace is, "At this time, most mental illnesses cannot be cured, but they can usually be treated effectively to minimize the symptoms..." I have struggled since I was a kid to try and fix what was "wrong" with me. Now, I accept my conditions and move on. I play the hand I have been dealt to the best of my ability. That is what I strive for, to live the best life possible. 

       I have learned to stop letting people make me feel bad about who I am. No one gets angry when cancer patients don't experience complete remissions from their illness. No one tells them that if they only adopted a new philosophy all would be well. Why is it acceptable to treat people with mental illnesses in such a way? It isn't. 

       In summation, science has proven that eating healthy foods, consistently exercising, engaging in wellness activities and taking medications (as prescribed) works incredibly well at treating the symptoms of mental illnesses. Do they cure? No. That's why I keep doing them, not because I believe they will cure me, but because they have worked so well at bringing me hope and making my life worth living again. That is my message. That is what I have found by doing these things, Hope! 
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       One other post that goes into detail about this topic is Starting Over With Mental Illnesses. I hope it helps.

As always I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click the link to the right and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a great resource and is staffed by wonderful people. 
Feel free to send your questions or comments to: