The term “mental disorder” is a riveting assertion in and of itself. According to News Week, about 42.5 million American adults are labeled with a “mental illness”. This would mean that one in every five people have some sort of irregularity with their thought process.
I often find that “mental disorders” are simply exaggerated emotions. Every person alive has feared at one time or another. Yet, only so few of us are treated for anxiety, which in essence, is just the overabundance of fear.
You and I both have had emotions that changed rather sporadically. Or long periods of sadness. Or even eaten a little too much at once. In those moments, we could’ve been labeled as bipolar. Or depressed. Or even disorderly eating. Instead, we accepted them as normal mistakes.
I had this friend back in high school who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in our junior year. Nearly six years have passed and he admits his emotions have changed. Struggling now with what was once a blossoming charisma.
In a recent interview, he had told me, “-if a doctor never mentioned that something was wrong with me, I would’ve assumed I was just like everyone else. It’s hard not to trust the doctor when everyone around you does.”
The Assumption of Thinking Abnormally
I’m not trying to say that there aren’t people with serious mental disabilities. I’ve had my fair share of social interactions with the “crazies”. It’s hard not to when you live in San Francisco.
All I’m saying is that one’s perception of what is crazy will always differ from someone else’s. We can use my friend as an example.
First, by observing his mother, who’ve I found to be a caring and well-natured woman. Upon her son’s diagnosis, she inevitably wanted to help him with warm-hearted sympathy. Just like any mother, she didn’t want to label her son with a mental disorder. Yet, she knew the doctor had reasonable evidence.
She took care of him the best she could. Taking the doctor’s considerations and offering some of her own help. Placing him in therapy, making sure he took the prescribed medication, talking to him one-on-one.
I, on the other hand, didn’t want to believe my friend had schizophrenia. That would mean someone I relate to is mentally disordered. This brought suspicions upon my own way of thought. However, with enough time and maturity, I came to the conclusion that he was still simply my friend. No different crazier now than before his diagnosis.
I’ve kept in contact with him over the years and the topic of schizophrenia is brought up frequently enough. The more I hear his side of the story, the more I listen to the often forgotten half of mental disorders.
Society’s stigma and years of medication have taken their toll on my friend. He has become victim to the assumption that he is an abnormal thinker. This is partly due just from the diagnosis. If people were to ask, he couldn’t deny that, on paper, he is schizophrenic. This alone is enough to convince people that my friend is quite different. The doctor’s educational assumption became everyone’s educational assumption.
The other part is due to prescription medication. Coinciding with society’s stigma, these two factors have caused him more trouble than necessary.
Then again, who am I to question a doctor? His tests and treatments have been practiced for centuries now. Each study with the goal of discovering the perfect medication for any problem our bodies or minds produce. Truly, my knowledge on medicine is belittled compared to a trained professional.
Yet, it doesn’t take a genius to see that there are problems in the medical field. Preferably, with prescription medication. People with “mental disorders” happen to be my easy example.
Treating the Assumption with Medication
There are two circumstances we must look at. People who sincerely need medication and people who misuse their prescribed treatments. It’s sometimes hard to decipher who is who.
If I were to break my leg in some horrid accident, I can assume that a couple of pain killers would do me some good. If I were a veteran just returning home from overseas with memories of the nightmarish battlefield, then I’d consider myself eligible. If I were a woman about to give birth, you can guarantee I’d want some drugs to numb me up.
I am not one to knock something when it has shown bright potential. Obviously, prescription medication can do wonders for some people who are in need of assistance. Still, I must flip the coin and take a look at the ugly side of this modern marvel. With such potent substances that can do much good, it should come to no surprise that people will have the tendency to abuse and misuse.
There are many reasons to prescription drug misuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 54 million people take medication for nonmedical reasons. Usually, just to get high. The Institute’s reasoning has to do with misinformation being spread through the medical field and the dramatic increase of prescriptions given for particular diagnoses. They’ve noticed that much of this is problematic amongst the youth.
I’ve noticed this as well, especially during high school. Students who claimed to have anxiety were getting prescribed Xanax and often just sharing it with their friends. The same goes for other substances such as Percocet’s and Oxycontin.
I often wondered whether or not they really even had “mental disorders”. It’s hard to tell when so many people claim to.
From Medication to Addiction
I happened to witness the reality of prescription medication in my own home. My mother was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was young. My child-like assumptions made me believe she wasn’t doing anything wrong. I used to call her pills, “mommy’s vitamins”.
It wasn’t until I got to high school that I realized my mother was a drug addict. I had assumed the doctor was taking care of her. However, I grew to mistrust this notion and come to terms with what was really happening.
My mother most likely did have some mental problems that she felt too overbearing to take care of herself. She most likely needs some sort of assistance as well. Yet, I will always deny that the assistance she needed was prescription medication. It has affected my family in ways I wish not to write about.
Unlike my friend, my mother had spent most of her life like everyone else. She wasn’t diagnosed until her thirties, meaning she was able to take care of herself at some point or another. On top of this, she admitted herself into this prescription cycle. My friend was forced into it by his family and our high school’s administration.
You see, my mother wasn’t shoved into the label of a mental disorder by anyone other than herself. She chose that uncertain fate. She wanted to be labeled. My friend hadn’t.
Within this article, I used personal matters as examples because of their effects on me. If I were to go to a doctor myself, I am certain I’d be diagnosed with something. Most likely social anxiety.
I refuse prescription medication as a means for my little fears. Writing has always been a sort of therapy that I hold true to. Often, I find when I write about what’s really on my mind, I feel quite better. This topic has been egging me for weeks now. Reason being the interview I’ve provided below.
Since the interview, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m avoiding a label. Some may consider this a strange behavior, but I’m very certain I’m not the only one in this position. Especially amongst the youth.
I’ve come to understand that my position isn’t so rare. Many have family members damaged by prescription drugs and friends who’ve deteriorated through their mental disorder diagnosis.
Therefore, I wish to give my reassurance to anyone labeled with a mental disorder. When a doctor gives his/her diagnosis, he/she never mentions that people who are different are often unique. They’d rather get you back to normal like the rest of us.
The friend I had a discussion with wishes to go unnamed. I respect this decision and will simply refer to him as My Friend.
Q: Are you led to believe that the labeling of your diagnosis alone has caused any mental harm?
A: Sure. I can’t go anywhere without knowing that on paper, I’m schizophrenic. It was really hard at first, but maybe I was just too young to understand. All I know is, if a doctor never mentioned that something was wrong with me, I would’ve assumed I was just like everyone else. It’s hard not to trust the doctor when everyone around you does.
Q: Has meeting other people, likewise, with schizophrenia helped you in any way?
A: Sort of. I was forced into a mental hospital which was aggravating at the time. Since I didn’t want to be there, my attitude towards those I was meeting was skewed by my anger. I saw the similarities between us, but like I said, I assumed I was like everyone else. I assumed that up until the hospital, honestly.
Q: Upon entering the hospital, did you feel like your life was changing.
A: It felt as though it was changing and only in ways out of my control. That’s why I was mad. I wanted to be making the change myself, but instead, a bunch of people around me were.
Q: Do you consider it fair to assume that you have schizophrenia.
A: I figure at this point, there’s no going back.