…….as opposed to what, exactly? Mental illness that’s just for fun?
I see this term bandied about a lot in the press and on the psychological websites I visit, and I wonder sometimes exactly what it’s supposed to mean. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the various psychotic disorders are the ones most frequently included in this category. I’m not sure why anxiety disorders aren’t on the list, even though for all intents and purposes, any mental illness that substantially limits one or more life activities is considered “serious”.
For my money, they’re ALL serious. They all limit life activities. And they all suck.
They are also all potentially lethal. I have a friend diagnosed with generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder who is basically fighting for her life right now, thanks to a severe episode of depression with a generous side of anxiety. Like me, she recently found herself unemployed and is having to consider major changes in her lifestyle; unfortunately, she lives in a distant state and doesn’t have the support system I do, and she is struggling against being swept away by waves of despair. Yeah, I’d call that pretty serious.
She has previously attempted suicide, twice. However, she promised me when we were texting last night that she wouldn’t harm herself, even though she felt she wanted to. She reported that she was sitting on her bedroom floor, more or less paralyzed by her fears, unable to get up or even open the door because her arms were “too heavy”. I urged her to call her psychiatrist to adjust her meds, or simply go to the ER and be evaluated for admission. I can’t do anything for her, except for providing a crying towel. She’s sick, she obviously needs professional intervention to get better. And yet, her disorder isn’t taken as “seriously” by the establishment as mine is.
Frankly, I don’t think psychiatric illnesses should be categorized this way, especially for those which fall outside the realm of “serious”. There isn’t even a name for them (what do the people who make this stuff up call them? “Non-serious”? Or simply “other”?). Just because depression and anxiety seem comparatively uncomplicated when measured against the mysteries of bipolar or psychotic disorders doesn’t make them less difficult to treat, nor does it minimize the danger to the individual. I know from my own experiences with severe anxiety that it’s one of the worst states I can be in, because that’s when I start feeling the need to flee, and then the suicidal thoughts come. And that is serious.
I think my friend will be OK. She texted me again a little while ago and said her p-doc is increasing her Effexor and gave her a script for PRN Klonopin, and she says she already feels better knowing she will feel better soon. I’m glad for her, and maybe tonight I’ll be able to get to sleep before 1:30 AM. But I also know that if my husband ever has to drag me to Dr. A’s office in the kind of condition she was in last night, I probably won’t be sent home with a bottle of pills. Just saying.
OK, rant over. Remember: all mental illness is serious. Thank you.