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Mental Health Blogger Of The Week – Jia

Posted Oct 26 2010 2:43pm

I would like to introduce this week’s Mental Health Blogger Of The Week. Jia of Color Me UnTypical . Rather than tell you about Jia, and I am going to let her tell you about herself, with her answers to the questions I asked her. I found what she shared to be very inspiring, I am sure you will as well.

I would like to apologize for not having this posted on Monday – like I was supposed to – I have had some internet difficulties that have gotten in the way of a few things.

1. What type of mental illness/es do you have?

– I have general anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and mild agoraphobia. It’s a very bitter cocktail. I’d much rather have a virgin margarita.

2. When were you first diagnosed with your mental illness?

– I remember being fifteen and diagnosed with depression. But going through old paperwork that my family kept, I found documents from doctors that I visited with when I was very young (after the death of my mother, around 2 years old) where they talk about certain compulsions and other issues I was going through as a result of my mothers death.

I discovered I had OCD when I was around twenty-two years old. Another young member of my family was diagnosed with OCD and we, as a family, decided to research in order to help her. In the process many of us found out that we ourselves had OCD as well, though we vary in types.

The anxiety and agoraphobia are the most recent.

3. In what ways, if any, do you believe your life has changed since your diagnosis?

– Battling depression has been on and off and it feels like a storm that comes and goes. Sometimes it stays longer, sometimes it’s very quick but either way I can’t play outside when it’s around.

The OCD has changed my life the most because unlike the clouds of depression, OCD is hard for me to distinguish sometimes. It’s a voice in my head that’s in a constant state of “What if?” My conscious self says, “I know the chances of me getting killed by a red car are slim.” But my OCD says, “But what if?” So the conscious me has to decide if it’s worth it to just avoid red cars all together. And my OCD agrees that yes, yes it is. That is the very basic of how my OCD works. It’s all about what feels right. What feels correct and safe. Everything from words spoken, to actions taken. It effects me the most.

4. What are some positive things you have learned about yourself since your diagnosis?

– I’ve learned how strong my marriage is. My husband has put up with a lot in regards to my illness. But he supports me. All of me. And sometimes dealing with mental illness has caused a lot of strain on our marriage and our lives all together. Especially when we weren’t sure what we were dealing with. But it’s amazing to see everything we’ve overcome together.

5. At the present time, what do you believe is your biggest stumbling block?

– The frustration that comes with having a mental illness. It’s very difficult to look yourself in the mirror and say, “You have an illness. A disability. Limitations. You need to remember you can only do so much.” When these are mental limitations and not physical. If I were in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t get a job working as a window washer on skyscrapers. But yet often times I overlook my mental disabilities and put myself in situations that cause immediate triggers, anxiety and panic attacks.

6. For you personally, what do you consider a life lived well?

– A life free of fear. It’s one thing to worry about a family member if they are sick and in a hospital. It’s one thing to be afraid for your life if you’re being chased by a rabid dog. But when you think about family gatherings, potential future scenarios or even whether or not you locked the door, your body shouldn’t kick in to adrenaline overdrive. I don’t think people realise how physically exhausting it is to have anxiety disorders. They think it’s all in the head, but really, it triggers hormones and glands all over the body. Coming out of a panic attack feels like finishing a marathon. A life lived well would be one where I have energy and am not constantly tired. No fear. No regrets.

7. Do you have any children? If so, what if anything do you plan to say to them about your disorder? If you do not have any children, do you plan on having any someday? Do you think your mental health issue will or will not impact your decision to have children?

– We do not have children. It’s been suggested that poor health is impacting our fertility. Despite my desire to get healthier, my mental illness prevents me from fully engaging in a proper health program. One example: agoraphobia limits where I can work out.

8. If given the opportunity, what is something you would like to say to someone who has been recently diagnosed with the same type of mental illness that you have?

– You are not alone. Just because your family, friends, co-workers don’t understand exactly what you’re going through doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling isn’t real. I pushed off my feelings for a very long time and just tried to “push through” and in the end I was much worse for it. I tried to act normal because it was easier than trying to get people to understand what I was going through. And it only made things worse for me.

9. When deciding who you would like to have as a part of your support system, what things do you look for?

– My support system consists of people who understand the language of OCD, depression and anxiety. A common obsession when you have OCD is that you often get images of scary things. Images of hurting yourself or others. You do not want to do these things. But it’s almost like OCD is saying, “This is what it would look like if you did.” It’s very scary and hard to overcome. When I talk about it to people who understand the language, they know how to react. Whereas if you talk about that to people who don’t understand, they will immediately assume that you want to hurt yourself and other people.

It would be like getting two different types of treatments for the same disease. One treatment can help heal, while the other will only make things worse. I need people around me who understand my disease.

10. Something personal you might want to share about your journey through life with mental illness.

– It’s not all bad. There are days, weeks and even months when I’ve found myself crawling into my bedroom closet just to hide from everything else that’s out there. I’ve had those kind of breakdowns. I’ve had nights where I’ve called help lines or looked at local clinics, just in case.

But I’ve had good days. I’ve had days where I can laugh about my smaller compulsions. I can joke with my sisters who both have OCD. I tell them that I wish I had their type of OCD because I’d rather be a germaphobe and have a clean house than an obsessor and think about a clean house.

Laughter gets me through my days.

11. Are there any doors that have been opened to you as a result of you having a mental illness?

– People. I’ve met the most amazing people because of mental illness. People who also suffer and understand me. If I didn’t have my mental illnesses, I wouldn’t know what they have gone through, and wouldn’t feel that connection to them.

12. Do you believe that there is a stigma associated with people who have a mental illness? If so, what do you think can be done to help eliminate it?

– Absolutely. People think that if you have a mental illness you can either just get over it, think positive, pray harder or take a pill and it will magically go away. That’s not how it works. Because of my mental illness, I can’t work outside of the house. This is something I have had a hard time coming to terms with. Many embarassing moments in the workforce that could have been avoided if I listened to my mind and body at how I was reacting to things.

It’s difficult talking to people about that because they assume that I can just get over it. Or if I needed the money badly enough, my mental illnesses would just go away. I’ve heard many times, “I know you have OCD, but just think about how better your life would be if you had more money.” It’s like telling someone who was missing a leg, “I know you’re missing a leg, but think about how much you could do if you just got over it and tried to run.”

Just because something seems easy to the rest of the world, doesn’t mean that it’s easy for those of us with mental illnesses.

13. What prompted you to begin blogging about your mental health issue?

– I was at my worst in February of this last year. After a scary experience at a job, I had a breakdown and lost control. My OCD took over and I could not face the world. I became nearly completely agoraphobic, only going outside when in the company of my husband and not for very long periods of time. I shut out friends and family completely. In trying to explain what happened, I realised that no one would understand everything.

I realised that I was someone different with everyone around me. I was putting on different shoes anytime I left the house. I had my friends shoes. My Church shoes. My family shoes. My inlaws shoes (the shoes that never accidentally drop an f-bomb). And so on. I was trying to be whoever everyone else needed me to be. But I wasn’t perfect. I was broken. And now my break was so bad that I couldn’t fake anything anymore.

So I stopped faking everything. I let everything out. I wrote all the crazy out of me, onto my blog and said I was done being anything that wasn’t me. Has it caused problems? Certainly. People get offended on occasion. But I’ve realised that that is their issue and not mine. It’s one less thing I have to worry about.

I felt an obligation to blog about mentall illness. If people don’t read and hear about what it’s like, then stigmas will remain in place and no one will be able to heal.

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