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17 Tweets That Get Real About Mental Illness Medication

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Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Anyone who’s taken medication to manage a mental illness knows the process can be less than straightforward. In fact, sometimes the first medication you try isn’t right at all, and you’re forced to go through… a dreaded med change. For those who eventually find the right medication for them, this process is ultimately rewarding. For those who don’t, it’s frustrating. And overall, psychiatrists need to do a better job showing compassion for patients they’re putting through these med changes, which means being honest and clear about possible side effects, believing the person when they explain how they feel and seeing the person as more than the sum of their symptoms, but as a fellow human who wants to improve their overall quality of life.

We have a long way to go.

That’s why it’s important for people in the mental health community to open up about medication, and why #ThisIsWhatAnxietyLooksLike creator and Stigma Fighters CEO started the hashtag #ShoutOutYourMedChange. All last week people have been taking to Twitter and using the hashtag to a start dialogue about how different medications affected them.

It’s important to note that not everyone reacts to medication in the same way, so it’s not always wise to take anecdotes as gospel. But, hearing fellow medication-takers discuss how medication affected them can give you tools to talk to your own doctor, and will at the very least remind you you’re not alone if you can relate. You can see much more specific tweets about medication by checking out the #ShoutOutYourMedChange hashtag.

Here are some of our favorite conversation starters:

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6 Tips for Making Friends While Struggling With Mental Illness

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Mental illness is more common than most people think. Around one out of every five adults will deal with some form of mental illness in their lifetime. If you’re that one person, trying to make friends might seem about as appealing as pulling your teeth out, but a good group of friends can also be an invaluable support structure to help you through your darkest times. If you’re having trouble making friends, here are a few tips and tricks that might help you bring awesome new people into your life.

1. Love yourself.

It’s so much easier to get other people to love you if you take the time to love yourself first. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but it can help you make friends. You’ll also find if you feel better about yourself, it can make things easier to bear (though I’m not suggesting this is a cure for mental illness). Try focusing on your physical health, making a list of small goals or just doing something you enjoy every day.

2. Join a support group.

Mental health support groups can be a great place to make friends because you don’t have to worry about being judged for your mental illness. Usually, everyone in the group is going through a similar experience and is trying to find ways to reach out and connect with other people. Don’t feel like you have to stay with one support group just because it’s the first one you picked. Feel free to try a bunch until you find a group of people you mesh with.

3. Take a class.

You don’t have to go back to school for this trick. Find a class that offers something you’re interested in like cooking, sewing, painting, etc. These classes can be a great way to find people who have similar interests while doing something you enjoy. Plus, you can hone skills you already have and learn new skills at the same time.

4. Stay connected.

The trickiest part of making friendships that stick is staying connected. If you meet someone you’re interested in fostering a friendship with, get some contact details. Phone numbers, Twitter handles, Facebook details — the type of contact info doesn’t matter. The trick is to stay in touch so you can build the friendship up. People tend to think social media is isolating us because we’re all constantly staring at our phones, but recent studies have found the opposite is true. Facebook users, for example, have been found to have closer and stronger relationships than those who don’t use social media. Social media can also help you stay in touch with people who might live a bit further away.

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5. Ask for help.

If you’re seeing a therapist — or considering visiting one — mention to them you’re having trouble making friends. They’ll have a better understanding of your specific situation than any random “how-to” site, and they might be able to offer advice or tricks that might help you more because they’re catered to you. Therapists are there to help you, not to judge your friend-making skills, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you have the option to do so.

6. Find someone who loves you for you.

Instead of worrying about judgment from friends, spend your time surrounding yourself with people who love you no matter what. You need friends who understand sometimes it’s hard for you to get out of bed, or sometimes you might have a ton of energy and other times you don’t. Just find someone who loves you for you. That’s the most important thing. If you decide later they need to know about your mental illness, that’s entirely up to you, but you don’t need to build your friendships on that.

Making and maintaining friendships might seem like an insurmountable hurdle when you’re struggling to just get out of bed in the morning, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to help you deal with your mental illness. Build up a good support network to help you through the hard times, and you’ll have an amazing group to help you celebrate all the good times as well.

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Thinkstock photo via criene.

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My Complicated Relationship With Mental Illness Recovery

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Recovery really isn’t as simple as it may seem from first glance. Having a mental illness is like being in an abusive relationship, but it is a relationship that you both equally loathe and love. You can become addicted to the distress it causes you, but without it you believe you would feel isolated and lost. You fear change and you fear the unknown and you can’t ever remember being deemed as “normal.” You don’t even known what “normal” is anymore, as you’re too consumed by the torturous comfort that being in the relationship gives you. In many ways, the more you walk away from the relationship, the more you want to stay, but deep down you know it’s causing you more harm than good. You never decided to begin the relationship in the first instance, you may have no idea how it came about, but at the very least you can be the one who decides to end it.

However, breaking up the relationship means you have to leave your “safe place” for a long time until you eventually find another one. But what if? This is the question that has a million answers… But what if you still don’t feel safe and you still miss being in the relationship because what feels “normal” for many other people, does not feel “normal” for you? But what if it all goes wrong and you never end up being free from the relationship? But what if you can honestly never see this all ending? Unlike some conditions, there is no magical tablet that can fix all the issues. It has taken you this long to become this unwell, and it is most likely going to take you even longer to recover. Recovery is different for every mental illness and is unique to every individual. However, the question is, what does recovery look like? What do you want from recovery? Why do you want to recover? Trying to explain to a family member, a friend or even a complete stranger how both mentally and physically hard recovery can be is virtually next to impossible. Imagine trying to throw yourself full force into the exact opposite direction, mindset and lifestyle you are used to, and the most difficult thing within all of this is the challenge of trying to want to stay there and not relapse.

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Denial… “I’m fine” is the statement of the century. You feel as if you are in full control and can stop whenever you please, but this isn’t the truth. You are not in control, instead you are being controlled. You believe all in all being in the relationship is helping you, not hurting you. You finally have control over things in your life and you are convinced that things are fine. Although inside you feel utterly terrified by the thought of letting your mental illness go, without it, who are you? When you try to pull away, it tries to grip you even harder, when you consider recovery, it gives you a list of reason of why you can’t ever recover. You need it in your life, after all, it is your life.

You didn’t always have an eating disorder, you didn’t always have anxiety, depression or body dysmorphic disorder. You didn’t always have borderline personality disorder. Your life didn’t always used to be like this! You can recover and you will. Things can change and eventually you will grow stronger than the demons in your head, your voice will be even louder and you will scream right back at it. You are not your illness, you have a name, a history and you were given this life for a reason.

Recovery… It will be challenging, it will also be worth it. You will relapse and that is OK. You may feel alone in your struggles, but you will be able to help others who are struggling. Your loved one may not always understand, but you can try you best to explain. You will have good days and bad days, but in time the bad days will get fewer. Your problems won’t magically disappear, but they will become more manageable. You might not feel different at first, but when you have finally won the battle that is going on inside your head you will be happier, healthier, stronger and recovered. This is why you need to keep on fighting.

Many say you will never be truly recovered from any mental illness. This is a fair statement, you can be in recovery for the rest of your life. There will be many triggers, slips and setbacks and times when you want to sprint right back to where you started, back to the welcoming arms of your illness. Yet you need to remember the pain it causes you and you need to remember that it takes your whole life away from you. It is nothing but a nasty monster that wants to drag you down and make your life a living hell. You do not need it anymore, you have yourself, your amazing, brilliant, fantastic self, and that is more than enough.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Veleri

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The Song That Helps Me Forgive People Who Didn't Help Me Face My Mental Illness

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The song Tassez vous de d’là” from the Québec band Les Colocs helps me understand how difficult it can be to support a loved one with a mental illness. The song goes like this (my translation):

Move out of the way I need to see my friend
I haven’t seen him in a while
He was gone he wasn’t there
Last time I saw him
His heart was badly turned
His head was in a vice he didn’t look pretty

He had cocaine in his eyes
He had heroine in his blood
His whole body was leaning forward
He wanted to puke
He wanted to die
What does one do in this situation?
I wanted to run away

I left him alone on the edge of a catastrophe
Forgive me, forgive me
I didn’t mean it I didn’t mean it
I didn’t mean to abandon you in the roughest moment
I am the weakest of the weak
Not the toughest of the tough

(singing in an African language from Senegal)

I’m making my way though the crowd
Hoping for one thing, to see your face
Or to hear you scream
With your immense voice and your exploding heart
Help me, help me

I’m making my way though the crowd
Hoping for one thing, to see your face
Or to hear you scream:
I’ve had enough but it’s not yet an overdose
Help me, help me

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These words get to me because though I have heard this song a million times since I was a child (it came out in 1998) I never realized the depth of the lyrics. The person feeling bad is not the one abusing drugs, but the one who should have helped but didn’t. Through my struggle with mental illness a lot of people could have done things differently, but instead of resenting them, I should rememberer they are only human.

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Thinkstock photo via SergeKa

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To the Psychiatrist Who Told Me I Should 'Find God'

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Dear Psychiatrist,

You were the very first psychiatrist I saw. I was young and in the early stages of my diagnosis. Just getting in to see you was no easy feat. Despite having a referral from my GP, I still had to endure 20 questions from your receptionist and many phone calls before she actually made me an appointment to see you.

You gave the impression that I was wasting your time and diagnosed me within 10 minutes of meeting me. I’m really not sure how this is possible, but you did it and prescribed me some medication.

During our conversation you told me I should find God and get better for Him. This is probably some of the worst advice I’ve ever received. I personally don’t have a faith. I don’t believe in God. While I fully respect your faith and right to follow your religion, I don’t think pushing it onto others is a good idea. You also need to respect my and others’ rights to not have a faith or follow a religion.

There are so many issues with this advice it’s hard to know where to start. Even if I did follow a particular religion, I don’t believe prayer is not going to “cure” me. While I acknowledge that prayer is helpful and therapeutic for some, it doesn’t solve the problem. Getting better takes work, medication, time, therapy, effort.

Having faith in God may be perfect motivation for some people to get better. But not everyone. Even if a person has faith, it may still not be enough to help them get better. Each individual will have their own reasons for wanting to get better. Perhaps next time you should have a more in depth conversation with your patients to find out who they are. It could be their children, their spouse, their friends, their dog, any number of things. Maybe they don’t have any reasons to get better. Help them find some without being so judgmental and be open to each individual’s unique set of circumstances, beliefs, culture and identity.

From, your former patient.

Follow this journey on The Nut Factory.

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Thinkstock photo via vadimguzhva

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8 Brave Poets Who've Put Mental Health in the Spotlight

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To honor National Poetry Month, we wanted to celebrate modern poets who’ve put mental illness and mental health in the spotlight. They say out loud words we’re used to hearing in whispers, and give us permission to tell our own stories — however we chose to.

Thanks to these poets for sharing their words with us. Missed someone you love? Tell us about them in the comments below.

1. Neil Hilborn

Who he is: Neil Hilborn made waves when his performance of “OCD,” a slam poem about falling in love when you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, went viral. He also writes about living with bipolar disorder. A College National Poetry Slam Champion, his debut full-length poetry collection is called “Our Outnumbered Days.”

Our favorite lines: 

The first time I saw her, everything went blankAll the ticks, all the constantly refreshing images, just disappeared / When you have obsessive compulsive disorder, you don’t really get quiet moments

2. Blythe Baird

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Who she is: Blythe Baird represented Chicago as the youngest competitor at the National Poetry Slam. Her poem, “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny” tells the story of when she developed an eating disorder as a teen.

Our favorite lines:

When you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story / So when I evaporated, of course, everyone congratulated me on getting healthy / Girls at school who never spoke to me before stopped me in the hallway to ask how I did it / I say, ‘I am sick.’ / They say, ‘No, you’re an inspiration.’ / How could I not fall in love with my illness?

3. Yashi Brown

Who she is: Yashi Brown is an author, poet, speaker and active leader in the mental health community. She writes about living with bipolar disorder. Her recent book of poems is called “Black Daisy in a White Limousine.

Our favorite lines:

I’m severely severe in all clinical severities / Those severely large psychiatric books with new severe terms every day have to say that I wouldn’t know them if they ran up and severely slapped me in the face / They’re like unidentified flying objects. 

4. Sabrina Benaim

Who she is: Sabrina Benaim is a writer, performance and teaching artist, whose home base is Toronto. She enjoys breaking down stigma, which she does in her piece about explaining depression to her mother.

Our favorite lines:

Mom, my depression is a shapeshifter / One day it is as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear / the next it’s the bear / One those days I play dead until the bear leaves me alone. 

5. A.S. Minor

Who he is: A.J. Minor is a United States Army veteran, TedX speaker and mental health advocate. He writes about his borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder to show others they are not alone.

Our favorite lines:

Sometimes I’m drowning so deep in an ocean of medications / that all I want is to feel like me again / I want to pull him out of the water, breathe life into his lungs / and tell him, ‘No, you can’t give in.’

6. Taz

Who she is: Taz is a spoken word poet from the United Kingdom. She writes honest, confessional pieces about her experiences with depression and self-doubt.

Our favorite lines: 

For as long as I can remember / I’ve always had this void in my life / This empty feeling deep, deep inside of me that you can’t quite shake / no matter how hard you try / It’s what consumed and eats away at you/  You have great happy moments and just when you think things are fine / Surprise / The feeling always comes back.

7. Jeanann Verlee

Who she is: Jeanann Verlee is a poet, editor, and former punk rocker. She currently lives in New York City. She is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow and the author of “Said the Manic to the Muse” and “Racing Hummingbirds.” In her poem, “The Mania Speaks,” she writes from the perspective of her mania.

Our favorite lines:

I gifted you the will of gun powder / a match stick tongue / and all you managed was a shredded sweater and a police warning? / You should be legend by now

8. Bharath Divakar

Who he is: Bharath Divakar is a spoken word poet and a mentor at National Youth Poetry Slam in India.

Our favorite lines:

Dear Depression / you’re my oldest friend of 12 years / and you hate to be alone / so you brought along sickly friends and cousins of yours / panic, anxiety, mania, social phobia and made me believe my life was a party / a party where I was the cake people would leave half-eaten on paper plates.

9. *BONUS* Our Mighty Contributors

I Am Not Like You: Life With Mental Illness

Explaining My Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Poetry

Hello, I Am a Person: A Poem About Anxiety

My Life With Anxiety: A Poem

The Thing About Depression Is…

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