I have mental health issues. I always have. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and have a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder; there are other things, but I’d prefer not to go into them at this time. I was only diagnosed for the majority of issues in my mid-twenties after years of therapy, medication and an intense neuropsychological exam. These things contribute to who I am, no matter how much I dislike some of the issues, I wouldn’t be the Amy I love without them.
Coming out about something always seems to be a pretty big thing. My family’s always known that I had problems, just what was never really clear. Up to my early twenties, friends suffered through my bouts of depression and extreme emotional outbursts, often to the detriment of the friendship; now, the majority of people I know are aware of some, if not all, of my diagnoses. Some coworkers and employers have known in the past and some know now, but not many: this post will potentially alert all of them to my issues and could result in discomfort at work.
I feel that it’s important for me to be open about my mental health: it shows others that mental illness doesn’t have to mean dysfunction; it shows that one can successfully function in life, relationships and work while coping with mental health issues; it encourages acceptance and fights ignorance.
I’ve been medicated since I was sixteen. It began to treat pretty debilitating depression, but it was more or less family doctors simply throwing random drugs at the problem. Eventually, my current doctor hit on Effexor (venlafaxine), which I am coming off of after ten years. Since then I’ve acquired, through much work and a breakdown, a psychiatrist. She’s been very proactive about managing my medication.
I can only imagine how overwhelming the following list is for someone not familiar with psychiatric drugs or treatment, heck, even I get overwhelmed. Here’s a rundown:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR): antidepressant, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac): antidepressant, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin XL): atypical antidepressant, norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor
- Aripiprazole (Abilify): dopamine agonist with additional antidepressant properties
- Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse): psychostimulant
- Zopiclone (Imovane): non-benzodiazepine hypnotic agent used in the treatment of insomnia
- Trazodone (Desyrel): antidepressant, serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI)
Currently, lisdexamfetamin is a temporary measure to up my mood and improve my concentration, and I’m slowly coming off of venlafaxine using a steady increase of fluoxetine to counter withdrawal syndrome. Both new drugs (fluoxetine and lisdexamfetamine) may be temporary, but if they work really well at improving my mood and function they could be continued.
Posting this, opening up about this: what am I now responsible for? How are others responsible to me?
First of all, I have to take care of myself: on a plane in an emergency, you put your oxygen mask on first, then on those dependent on you. I’m responsible for my behaviour and the repercussions, even when I feel I have little control over it.
How am I accountable socially? Do I have to be on all the time and willing to discuss my issues and treatment with anyone that asks? I’m open to talking about my mental health: I think it’s interesting both neurologically and psychologically. I’m also available to offer support to others, but not necessarily all the time, just when I’m strong enough to do so. I aim to communicate honestly and effectively both in advocacy and support.
Other people are responsible for accepting me as I am and keeping their judgement to a minimum. They’re not expected to understand or be able to support me. I don’t expect or want special treatment, but empathy is important.
In the past, talk therapy and proper medication have improved my mood and increased control of my behavior, there’s no reason to think that those things won’t continue to help. I think that having a change in medication is exciting, it’s an opportunity that I can use to improve even more.