Thursday, July 3, 2014

Being Mentally Ill Sucks

There's a lot of things I don't like about dealing with mental illness, the main one being that you are miserable and tend to make everyone around you miserable as well (to some extent, obviously everyone is responsible for their own feelings, etc etc), because 1. you are suffering and this makes them sad; 2. you are unable to fulfill your usual responsibilities which at best inconveniences others and at worst seriously harms them; and 3. you are suffering, which makes you unpleasant to be around. This is true of any illness though.

The difference with the suffering of mental illness from a physical illness is that 1. it is even less quantifiable than physical illness (with no visible symptoms or objective criteria to even demonstrate its existence) and 2. there is no effective treatment. If you are in terrible physical pain, there is a wide variety of amazingly effective drugs (thanks epidurals for making labor almost pain-free!); if you are in terrible emotional or psychological pain, people tend to recommend stuff like diet changes, getting more rest, or "relaxing". I have given birth, had appendicitis, and had multiple episodes of kidney stones, which are supposed to all be quite physically painful, and there is no question in my mind that the pain I felt from all of these, while certainly bad, was nowhere near the level of suffering I have felt from my mental illness.

Connected to the lack of effective treatment (at least in the short term/crisis mode) is the generally abysmal state of mental health care. Singapore does not win any awards in this regard (our insurance, as is quite typical here, does not even cover any form of mental health care, including drugs), but as a modern, first world country and destination for medical tourism does have a number of specialists, specialized drugs and the like. I am highly literate, well able to advocate for myself and pursue the best care, and have enough money to afford whatever care is necessary, and it still is a struggle to get treatment even of a minimally effective level. Part of the problem is that the vetting of mental health professionals is spotty, in that many of them, while possessing the proper academic credentials, have very poor people skills (which is a BIG problem when treatment relies on the provider's relationship with the patient).

Couple that with the very real stigma of mental illlness (I always have to debate how much to tell people), and it makes having mental problems absolutely exhausting. I absolutely understand why so many people do not treat theirs (in my opinion, a majority of the world's population would benefit from the right drugs and/or therapy): it is very expensive, time consuming and not very gratifying.

I have been spending a lot of my time (and money) on searching for the right drug combination, which among other things has made me gain around 20 pounds. This is in addition to attending therapy sessions twice a week. I think I am finally starting to see some progress, and have tentatively found the right drug combination, but it is heartbreakingly slow and so frustrating.I suppose I should be grateful that I have the time and resources to pursue all avenues though, and focus on the positives in my situation rather than on how I would like things to be different.

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