Mental illness just sucks. That’s pretty basic, but entirely true. Calling it an illness is kind of a misnomer, because most illnesses have cures, or at least accurate treatments, and mental illnesses really don’t. For depression alone there are dozens of medications, and that doesn’t even cover all the non-medication treatments.
One of the worst part about all these kinds of things is that no treatment works for everyone. I’ve taken over a dozen medications, and tried a number of non-medication treatments, and even a few different therapy techniques (well, more than a few), and most of them have had no real effect. Of the people I know in treatment for depression, none of them are on the same medications. Most of them have also changed medications a number of times. There’s no vaccination for mental illness. I don’t know if there ever will be something like that.
Even our symptoms differ. Isolation is one of my biggest problems. I’ve had to struggle with that a lot since getting to Menninger; I need to make myself go out and be social, even if I’m not actually saying a lot. I just need to be with and around other people. Other people I know, though, actually prefer to isolate themselves when they have problems, and when they’re having difficult time, being around other people actually makes things worse for them. Most people don’t share the same symptoms of depression, or any other mental illness; there are some commonalities, but it is entirely possible for two people who have the same diagnosis to share almost no symptoms.
I imagine it is confusing for the doctors and psychiatrists who have to try and find treatments for us, but it can also be very difficult for us, too. While we often share a lot of similar experiences, the fact that we have different symptoms often means we can have a lot of very unhelpful advice for each other. I’ve tried to give some friends the same advice that I’ve been given, and it doesn’t help them the same way it helped me. And giving this advice can often make relationships tense, especially when things don’t work out.
It’s something I’ve had problems with, because I often really want to help people out, and so I try to give advice, and it often doesn’t help very much. So I have been working on trying to listen to others. But even that doesn’t work at times, because different people need different things. Even among my friends I have people who react in radically different ways to similar situations, and sometimes trying to figure out what will make people happy or set them off is enough to make someone crazy. Well, crazier.
I know this is all really vague, and I wish I could go into more detail. Some of this really makes much more sense if you know more of the details. But knowing what medications I’ve been on isn’t really important to this. It’s just important to know that for people with mental illness – any mental illness – there’s no one set of symptoms everyone has. There’s no treatment that works for everyone with the same illness. It is all confusing as hell, for everyone involved. This can drive friends, families, doctors, therapists, and even those of us with mental illnesses up the wall. But we just have to keep trying new treatments and therapies and medications until we find something that works. Patience is a necessary part of treatment, and sometimes there’s just not enough to go around.