Mental by Lois Hewitt

Everyone is talking about mental health issues and relating personal stories about the subject. I hate to be a follower but this is an important topic.

As a person who has long carried mental illness in my purse I feel compelled to weigh in on the subject. Back in my day, mental illness was the lone guy downtown swearing to himself and urinating in his pants. That wasn’t me. I could not possibly be like that.

But I suffered other things. I would have excruciating manic periods where I was compelled to get a second job and/or volunteer and/or go back to school and/or any number of things. I felt invincible. I talked nonstop and could not sleep. Then one day the depression kicked mania out of the house and I could barely move. I let people down because I could no longer honor all those commitments. I felt a loser which made the grief and depression even deeper. Then one day I got up like Superman and the cycle continued. It never stopped. I had two speeds: full on or non-existent. In retrospect, the manic times were more devastating than the depressed times.

Now throw some heavy duty OCD into the mix and I had days I didn’t know how to go on. I worked hard to hide my “quirks”. More than once I heard it said that’s just how she is. As I piled empty soda bottled in front of every door every night and checked and rechecked in closets and under beds looking for the sum of my fears. Going out literally meant up to three hours of checking the house for those fears in human form.

I have only told one person this but it feels important now. When I drove somewhere I would wonder if I had run someone over and I would have to drive the route several times to check if I had or not. Then I would agonize for hours about something I may have missed. My mind was like a prison. I, obviously, couldn’t say anything to anyone. Because, in my mind, I was crazy. Unfortunately that is just the tip of my personal descent into mental illness

Late in my 20s, my doctor, very casually, put a name to what was happening. I was manic depressive with OCD. I was amazed at her calmness. I thought I was the only person living through this. Turns out I wasn’t very unique at all. More and more people deal with these and other illnesses every day.

So what happened? I took anti-deptessants until I barely felt alive. I didn’t hurt as much but had all but lost my joy. One day I just stopped taking them. My advice…DONT EVER DO THAT. The spiral was insane. It look a long six months to even out. In place of the numbness I was treated with anxiety.

Over the years I have learned techniques to help. I feel pretty stable. I feel the mania and I can tone it down. The depression still kicks my ass.

This week I had two separate incidents where I thought I was having a heart attack. Ready to head to the ER. I think it was anxiety. We live in a new world that wraps every news report and every event in a blanket of anxiety. Why are you anxious, you might think. Why aren’t I? Plus it is just a normal state of being for some of us.

You don’t have to be a rock star or part of the Royal family to have this. And there are many varying degrees of it. I have learned a lot from my time silently suffering. Find someone you trust and talk about it. You don’t have to live with this alone. Do not let it be brushed off as if it was just a quirk. This is serious shit.

While I am on the subject, self-mediicating isn’t the answer. Buying things to fill holes in your soul does not work. Alcohol and drugs make the situation worse and can be deadly. The other devices we use to feel better don’t work any better. That’s why you need someone you trust in your corner. Please don’t suffer alone. Please!

It might be a place to start. Be safe everyone.

Today I’m living with it all. Good days and bad just like everyone. Here is to better days for all!


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