It seems my generation and perhaps the one preceding me began a new trend with mental health and social issues. We are, as a whole, more willing to openly discuss and come forward than ever before. Admitting to having autism, depression, or an eating disorder was commonly viewed as weakness in the past. This general change in mindset as a society has had tremendous impacts on how we deal with those effected by such obstacles and also in the upbringing of children. I’ve been around mental illness in many ways whether in helping my friends with their problems, accepting my own mannerisms, or through my various family member’s careers. My Mother has been a teacher’s aid for as long as I can remember and my sister became a teacher a few years back. Thus giving me a front row look at how our education system has developed new strategies for dealing with early onset OCD, Aspergers and other learning disabilities. My brother also does incredible work as an emergency room psychiatrist. Who knew a barista and a psychiatrist could come from the same set of parents, though I have been told my lattes have healing powers. Jokes aside he basically lives and breathes at the epicentre of the nurturing process for those that require a little extra caring and love. Unfortunately by the time they visit him medication is usually required, and this brings me to the point I have been exploring in my head for months, maybe even years. Have we gone too far in the opposite direction in the spirit of acknowledging and diagnosing our mental health? As in are we too quick to slap a label on a child or adult say ‘here is your medication, this is now your life.’
This isn’t a topic I strongly feel a certain way about, seeing the benefit and faults to both sides. More so an observation of my own life experiences. So let’s break down my question as it really is two parts coming together. Firstly the effect labelling has on us. Secondly, are medications always the first answer or are there other options we should explore first. I can’t help but believe that those with minor symptoms only see an increase in trouble dealing with said issue once they’ve seen a doctor and been told they have X, Y and minor Z attributes. For example depression; a terribly heavy burden to bear for anyone. I sympathize with anyone having to live through such a struggle. Yet without having experienced it myself I really can’t understand just how severely it effects all aspects of ones life. I have an idea as I’ve attempted to help individuals get through difficult times, but never will I completely understand the disease nor will I pretend to. Something I do understand though is how difficult it is to quit an addiction to a substance, and yes your antidepressants can be just as mentally addictive as any illegal substance. They become a crutch, that’s a huge part of any addiction. ‘I don’t like the world I’m in, how can I change it.’ That’s how the subconscious acts in the early stages of an addiction. So once you’ve started taking these medications that effect your mental state you may have a very hard time kicking them. After all isn’t that the motivation for starting medication like that: to eventually improve your state so that one day you’ll be a better version of yourself without it. Yet it seems that most have a harder time stopping than they initially thought. After all it’s medication it’s good for me. In my opinion save the medication for those who really need it; the clinically ill. I understand why one would be so willing to do anything to better their life; no one wants to be uncomfortable in their own skin. At what cost though?
This summer during a phone call with my brother I asked him about social anxiety. Explaining to him that I think I have a severe case and want to get over it. He recommended some books for me to read and told me everyone feels some degree of anxiety around people, and to maybe consider the fact that what I feel is severe might in reality be fairly minor. So in doing some research I read about some people who haven’t talked to anyone besides their immediate family for months, who can’t leave their house for much more than twenty minutes without having a nervous break down. I quickly realized he was right, what I deal with is very minor symptoms. Still they are some very real symptoms. It is strangers that affect me, once I know you I’m my loudmouth, smart-ass self as anyone I’m good friends with can attest to. I’ll give you an example to illustrate. A week or so ago I went out with the work crew for a farewell night for one of the employees. We spent a good two or three hours there. Near the end of our time there a few of us wanted to continue onto another pub, so as we’re paying and preparing to leave one of the girls sees a friend of hers at a table and runs over to say hi. A few minutes pass and she returns asking ‘hey Jared what do you think of those two girls sitting over there?’ ‘They’re both very good looking girls’ I say ‘why?’ Apparently she told them I was single and they would love to join us to the next location. Instantly I start sweating and fidgeting. ‘They both are single too and think you’re a great looking guy, you’re welcome.’ I can’t recall any other time where I immediately had to run to pee out of unease. Simply put the rest of the night I awkwardly sat with the group and rarely squeaked out a couple words. Even after three doubles I could barely make eye contact with the pair never mind hold a conversation with them. Needless to say it is something I struggle with to an extent everyday, where just like anything else I have good and bad days. But even with everything I’ve just admitted to I don’t believe for one second I would be better off visiting a specialist, going through an evaluation and taking the medication he will undoubtedly prescribe to me. I think being labelled as such would only worsen any chance of beating this mental block, and any medication would simply suppress them until the effects wore off.
To finish, I don’t think there is an answer to my question. I think everyone is a special case that requires care and attention. Don’t go through your symptoms alone, confide in a loved one, make a plan of attack and be willing to try out multiple strategies. If there’s anything I’ve learned through my bit of research is that every illness is as individual as the person dealing with it. But I can’t help but wonder how in a world where we don’t fail kids at a young age anymore because of the social effects it has on them why are we so quick to label a child with ADHD just because he or she can’t pay attention in social class? Maybe they just find it boring as shit and they’re going to be an amazing artist.
Till next time.