There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the media lately.  Mostly because of people with extreme circumstances.  I really don’t want to get in to the politics of it all but I believe there should be more that is done for people with mental health problems.  Helping to break down the taboos is, as far as I can tell, the best way for me to help the situation.  Among my friends and family I speak very openly about my mental health status and sometimes I’m criticized for it.  For the most part, however, the reception has been warm.

What’s Going On In My Head?

So what is my mental health status?  I have been diagnosed with ADD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in 5th grade and Anxiety only a few years ago in 2005.  I was treated for ADD as school age kid but quit taking Ritalin when I graduated from high school in 1994.  For most of my adult life I have had no problems.  I studied film in college and most of the teaching was very hands on.  As a visual learner this was the best way for me to learn.  What wasn’t hands on, I worked very hard at.  I got through college with very good grades and began a career.  It wasn’t long before I married my wife and was a husband and step-dad.

It is quite common for guys (and probably girls) like me to have a lot of success without treatment until we settle in to life and then have problems.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of success finding good treatment (until recently) so I gave up for a while.

The Problems I Had

So why do I need treatment?  An ADD brain craves stimulation.  There are certain instances where I thrive but this need for stimulation can cause problems.  I can be very impulsive and unpleasant to be around when I get stressed and feel the need to “vent”.  The anxiety side of me created a different set of problems.  I would become very defensive in public situations, especially when confronting conflict.  Many times I just stayed home when I didn’t think I could handle the task.  I often feared what would happen if, for example, my bank card didn’t work, I needed more documentation or showed up at the wrong time.  Honestly, I felt as if I was withdrawing from life.  I hardly ever get out of the house unless I’m with my wife and kids or I’m going to work.  My mental health was definitely affecting my life.

And Then I Got Treatment

I finally found an excellent doctor who is helping me.  She considers all of my reservations about taking certain medications and has prescribed just what I needed to improve my quality of life.  Some would say I’m dependent on drugs to be able to handle life.  I’d say with a wife, three kids and a great career that I’ve handled life very well.

What’s This Guy On?

I also want to share with you what I’m taking.  Not because I simply want to talk about what I take but because it demonstrates that you can get an effective treatment without having troubles like side effects or becoming addicted to drugs.

The first medication I am on is Xanax.  I’m sure there are mixed feelings about Xanax but I take a very low dosage.  When I have problems with my anxiety or am going to be in a situation where my anxiety typically hinders me, I take a half of a .25 milligram pill.  It doesn’t cause me to zone out or anything like that, it simply takes away my fears and helps me to feel normal.

The second medication I take is called Adderall.   Adderall is a stimulant used for treating ADD.  I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago who said she decided she doesn’t believe in ADD.  She was surprised that I am on medication for my ADD and asked if it makes me feel like a zombie.  With so much misinformation out there about ADD and the medications used for treating it people have just decided that they will ignore the problem in order to just remain normal.  Let me tell you, I am completely the same with Adderall as I am without it except for the fact that I can focus on tasks better and don’t feel so impulsive and stressed out.  I’m still a very creative person, and I’m still good at multitasking.  I’m also enjoying life more.

Full disclosure, Adderall is the third medication I tried.  The first didn’t work enough, the second made me feel like I was in fast forward.  I communicated with my doctor and she worked with me until we got it right.

How This Helps Others

Sharing my story with friends has helped others as well.  I’ve had people come to me and ask me questions about my condition.  A condition, by the way, that doesn’t define who I am, just something I deal with.  Sharing my story may open me up to occasional (slight) criticism but it has opened up a dialog with people to share their struggles with me and we have been able to learn from each other.  In this context it has enhanced my perspective on life.  It has also done the same for those I’ve encountered.

Mental health is a taboo subject.  It shouldn’t be.  You should share your mental health struggles with those around you and seek treatment.  You will also find that your courage will encourage those around you to seek treatment.  You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re improved your quality of life and the life of others.

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