17 April, 2012

Life is Messy

The DSM-V is arriving in 2013. The current DSM(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) in use is version IV, Text Revision. It is the manual used for diagnosing and describing mental illness and it's not extremely useful in my opinion. It is useful for billing insurance companies, and may help some to understand themselves better, but it's also true that it makes many feel helpless and many dehumanized.

Mental Illnesses are one of those things that are very tricky. "Depression" or "Anxiety" are terms that are in such general use and are such a common experience that almost everybody can recall feeling depressed or anxious at some point or another in his life. But it's also true that for some people, anxiety, depression, psychoses and other extreme mental states take over their lives.

The reasons for Mental Illness are many. It's not as simple as diabetes type 2 where a bad diet has caused or exacerbated underlying predispositions and despite what many say it's not as simple as diet and lack of exercise, although that plays a part. There are many misunderstandings and assumptions about mental illness out there, many of which psychiatry and the drug industry are only furthering such as the idea that these conditions are primarily chemical imbalances and of a physical nature, and many which society tends to further as well, thus adding to the confusion.

As far as I can tell, my mental state is influenced by the following things: my genetics, my past (including stressors, traumas, behavioral tendencies), toxins in the environment, my social ability, my income, my social connections, toxins in my diet, the level of stress in my current life, the amount of power I feel I have over current situations, my coping mechanisms and any drugs in my system. This is a pretty long list and if I think about it some, I am sure I could come up with some more things to add to that list. As you could guess, this kind of thing is very specific to a certain person and his or her environment, upbringing and means.

Using drugs in my experience is a very tricky thing. Especially since drug use coincides with mental illness quite a lot, using drugs is very cognitively confusing. Unless you have extreme schizotypy, it is difficult to recommend the anti-psychotics because of their extreme side effects which include feeling like your brain is in a plastic bag, heart palpatations, rolling of the tongue and sleeping sixteen hours a day. Antidepressants on the other hand have a nasty habit of not working while making it impossible to ejaculate. That said, cannabis, heroin and meth, while may alleviate some pain have quite a few of their own problems. And while all drugs have their dangers, sometimes the benefits of short term drug use outweigh any negatives (such as dying by vicious, violent suicide).

In the end, the path to take is up to you. I still think we're a long way from a sane way of treating the mentally ill, partly because we don't live in a sane society and partly because we don't have a sane psychological system(ie one that doesn't try to classify and patronize its patients) although the peer support movement is very promising. It is a tricky road, because mental illness is not something that is just caused by personal choices but by genetics, social status, past traumas and things that are difficult, even for someone not overwhelmed with anxiety to address.

The other part of mental illness, spirituality is something that I have not touched on much in this little blog post. I think spirituality is one of the most important factors in recovery from mental illness, because at a certain point our mind is out of our control, and we need to trust in the wisdom of others, and our deeper self to heal.

In the end, I wish you all the best of luck, even though life is messy.


Andrea Rouda said...

The words are thought-provoking and worthy of much discussion. The short video at the end is stunningly simple and eloquent and incredibly sums of the entire experience we call Life! (Did you do that? Love the voice, the images, etc.)

ozjthomas said...

Yes, that was my video, thank you. It's a very complicated subject and maybe I will write more about specific aspects of it as well as other things in the future. Thanks so much for the feedback!