Jon: World Mental Health Day 2017 - Personal sharing by Individual with Dysthymia

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In commemoration of World Mental Health Day 2017, we have a series of posts on mental health issues lined up for you!  The first will be a sharing of a personal case of an individual who has been through mental health issues and for the sake of this post, a pseudonym will be used to protect the identity of the individual.  This post is essential because it will give insight into the world of the mentally ill from their perspective as compared to what we often learn from the internet or books.  Without further ado, please enjoy this short question and answer style post!
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Q:  What mental illness did you have and how long did you live with it?

I was diagnosed with dysthymia when I was 15 and I have been living with it since I was 8 or 9. I can’t really recall.

Q:  What is living with a mental illness like?

Dysthymia is a milder form of depression but it’s also known as Persistent Depressive Disorder because it goes on for an extended period of time.

Imagine feeling depressed all the time, from your waking moment to when you finally fall asleep.  While I don’t necessarily have suicidal thoughts, I live in such depression every day.  Being in a melancholic state, coupled with my low self-esteem, I tend to overthink every single action and word of people I interact with on a daily basis.  It gets extremely tiring when every micro-expression makes you feel as though a person hates you or finds you a terrible company to be with.  Even when I receive compliments, I feel greatly uncomfortable as I can’t help but think they are just lying to me.

As an extrovert who enjoys being around people, I get exhausted by the end of the day because I have to use a lot of energy to not think about how others see me or that I am worthless to the people around me.  It gets in the way of me enjoying time with people.  Sometimes, I feel so drained, I’d stay in bed the whole day just crying.

Q:  What do you wish for others to know about mental illnesses?

Unlike media portrayal, a large majority of us aren’t violent or perpetually weeping away.  We look just like you, except we are ill.  I hope people will understand that mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses and can be treated overtime with medication and therapy.

I also hope people know that mental illnesses come in different forms and on a spectrum.  Just because someone may not be diagnosed with a severe form of mental illness or may appear stable to you doesn’t mean you can invalidate their experiences and what they are going through.  Nothing hurts more than receiving dismissive comments and knowing someone understands is so important to one with mental illness.

Q:  What advice would you give to people who have friends/family that suffer from mental illnesses?
Be patient.  
Sometimes, we may do things that makes no rational sense or get upset with things that appear trivial to you.  Instead of telling us how we should feel, being a good listening ear goes a long way in letting us know you care.  Personally, talking to people who tries to understand what I am going through motivates me to stop skipping my medication and focus on recovery.

Q:  What do you hope to achieve by sharing your story with us?

While what I say may not be representative of my fellow mental illness fighters, I hope people understand that it is excruciating to live in our heads all the time, just like it’s painful to live with a cold for a period of time.  I hope people will be more aware of the different types of mental illnesses but at the same time understand that everyone has a different experience.  Just because someone may have for example, anxiety disorder, does not mean he/she has the same symptoms as another person with anxiety disorder.

I also hope my fellow mental illness fighters know they are not alone and we are all fighting together.
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[The above interview was curated by Jon, SG Psych Stuff team member.]