By Mike, West Coast Correspondent
You guys, I’m sick. Not head-cold sick, not on my death bed sick. Take a look at me and you’ll probably assume there’s nothing wrong- I tend to give off a healthy, bubbly vibe. But let me put it this way: some people collect stamps, some people collect movie posters. For me, I collect mental illnesses. I have diagnoses ranging from clinical depression, severe GAD (General Anxiety Disorder for you nuero-typical folks), panic attacks, addition issues, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, body dysmorphia and most fun, Bipolar II Disorder (Also referred to as BP Lite since it’s a little less manic/depressive than B.P. I. I like calling it BP Lite because it sounds like a beer I would drink in a sweaty college basement). I’m pretty sure there’s a couple I’m leaving off the list, but why brag?
“Well what the Hell happened to you to make you this way?” you may wonder. But guess what, you don’t need to have a reason your brain works the way it does! I had a great childhood and can’t recall any specific trauma from my upbringing that I can recall that implanted these feelings (except for Detective Morgan carrying me out of that blood covered shipping container, but that’s a long story). I have a stable job and people to keep me company in a city that always finds a way to keep my occupied. You could say that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community puts me at increased risk statistically due to the stigma I felt associated with it growing up. Nonetheless, I’m valid.
If you’ve been on the internet this week, you can probably tell I’m a little inspired by Kevin Love recently opening up (great read if you’re Amish (in which case, how are you reading this?): link here.
Kevin opens up about his struggles with mental health. Famous people, they’re just like us! And just as valid. We wouldn’t discount an athlete coming forward with a cancer diagnosis just because of their income and social status, would we?
Don’t ever let your concern about others thinking you’re faking it or that you should be focusing on other issues make you think you’re 100% all there mentally when that’s clearly not the case. From my experience, this stigmatization isn’t based out of spite, but ignorance. I’m blessed to be able to start this article saying I live with mental illness in lieu of suffering from it (at this point in time at least) because of my awesome support system and tools others have taught me to cope with my thoughts. That, and a combination of medications prescribed by a licensed physician that make it so I can get through the day. I’m not diabetic, but I’ll go so far as to say my Lexapro is just as relevant and important to me as insulin is to them. There’s no shame in needing to get on something! Keep I mind that just because a medicine has always worked for you in the past that it’s always going to do the trick. Maintaining your mental health is a process! And sorry, Karen-Yoga and hiking in the woods aren’t magic cures for chemical imbalances.
It’s not always external situations that make you feel like you need to keep your validity quiet. Depression doesn’t want you to talk about it. Depression tells you nobody cares about you/how you feel. But it’s in me telling depression to its face to shut the fuck up and opening up to my network about my issues that’s the reason I’m here typing this today. And as hard as it is to admit, some days the demons win. But it’s all part of this wonderful thing that’s made Mike Spettel the bad bitch he is.
At the end of the day, I don’t define myself by my mental illnesses. I’m a loyal friend that can light up a room with laughter and I’m pretty intelligent, too. But anxiety is valid a part of who I am and something I’m forced to think about on a daily basis. If I wake up in the morning feeling like I have a med-school textbook sitting on my chest, shaking uncontrollably and a faint copper taste in my mouth, it’s a panic attack whether or not I can think of a reason to justify its existence. I can trace the blossoming of my depression and anxiety in high school, saw it pick up some momentum in college and eventually snowball into a minor breakdown in spring 2016. And if I could go back in a time machine, I would’ve nipped this in the bud in high school. Luckily, I got to my shit before my shit got to me. And I credit that to those who gave me the strength to ask for help.
There’s people out there who want to help, even if you don’t feel like it. When you go to bed at night, it always comes down to you and your emotions. You’re allowed to have feelings about certain things even if you think the world has bigger fish to fry. If reflecting on your day always seems to bring up dread and/or anxiety, it may be time to talk to someone (though I’m no DSM-V and can’t tell you what’s going on). If you continually let an ignorant stigma keep you from getting what you need, mental illness wins. And if you’re lucky enough to have a clean mental bill of health, educate yourself and practice empathy towards those working on themselves. You have no clue how much of a change that can make.
Always remember: this too shall pass and you are valid. And you DESERVE to be happy and healthy.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: