My therapist recently recommended that I check out a book by a speaker he had recently heard, a man named Eric Arauz. His book is called An American’s Resurrection: My Pilgrimage from Child Abuse and Mental Illness to Salvation. I couldn’t find it in physical form, but luckily, it was available as an e-book. It’s one of the few books on mental illness that I’ve read, or started to read, that is from the perspective of someone who has mental illness; most are just books on research, what is known thus far about various mental illnesses, and generally somewhat academic topics like that. I’ve really only just started the book, but I’ve already gotten to a point where I feel he’s got some important things to say; they are things that I have mentioned before, but they can always use more air-time.
I think the most important thing he has mentioned so far is the idea of acceptance. Once you are diagnosed with a mental illness, accepting this as the truth can take a while. But acceptance is one of the things that has to happen. There’s really no way around it. If you don’t accept that you have an illness, then getting the right treatment is going to be impossible. I’ve seen people who didn’t want to accept that they had an illness, or who felt that they were able to handle their illness on their own, without outside help. But dealing with mental illness is different than relying on your immune system to power through an illness. For one, mental illnesses don’t go away; they can’t be cured, just managed. And for another, when you decide that you can handle your illness on your own, you are essentially using a compromised mind to fix itself.
Accepting that treatment is necessary is one of the most important parts of treatment, because without it, you aren’t going to get anywhere.It took me years to figure that out, because while I knew I had clinical depression, I never accepted it. I thought that if somehow, I could ignore it, it might go away. It’s a foolish thought, but then those are what you get when one part of your mind is working against the rest. But Acceptance is the key; without it, you are stuck fighting a battle that you can’t win.
It isn’t just acceptance of one’s illness that is important, though. That’s the first step, but it is also important to accept help. If your mind is compromised, then you have to rely, to some extent, on the minds and aid of others. The others don’t even have to be mentally uncompromised themselves; I have found that some of the best aid and advice I have received has come from friends who have their own mental issues to deal with. But help is necessary, whether it comes in the form of medication, therapy, other treatments (like TMS or ECT), or even just being able to tell other people about what is going on I’ve seen books at the bookstore I work at with titles like The Depression Cure, or other things that imply that a person can cure themselves of a mental illness with no outside help besides the techniques learned in a book. That is dangerous, and untrue – there is no cure for depression, like there is no cure for any mental illness; believing in a miracle cure is more likely to kill you than do anything to help.
Acceptance can help you get to a point where you can manage your illness. I know that my symptoms abate when I take my medication, and that I often feel a significant lessening of emotional stress, and when these things are managed, I find that my decision-making ability – something that is significantly compromised when my symptoms are untreated, leading to things like my suicide attempts – is clear, and I feel more like the person I was before I was diagnosed. It is this managing of my illness that will hopefully help me to dodge an unfortunate reality of mental illness, something noted by Mr. Arauz: “The population of people with serious mental illness die fifteen to twenty-five years earlier than the average American according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD).”
Like I said, I’m just getting into this book – that quote is from the end of Chapter 2, for instance – but I expect that as I progress through the book, I’ll find a lot more of interest. I can already see why my therapist would recommend this book. I just thought this was important to get out there.