Let Me Diagnose You

May is Mental Health awareness month.

The best way I can talk to you about Mental Health is the best way I learned it. Think of it as Physical Health. There are people from one end to the other on the physical health spectrum and the same for mental health.

And just like physical health, it can fluctuate. If you have the flu, if you have a bad few months and miss the gym, you could slip down a few notches.

Or years (potato-potahto).

And just like physical health, it can feel relative. So if I’m surrounded by people 200 pounds overweight, my extra pounds don’t feel as bad as say, when I am surrounded by thin people.

Within my family, I am one of the saner ones (scary– I know). But I deal with depression and anxiety. I didn’t for a long time and I felt superior. And then about 2006, I didn’t feel superior. I felt like I couldn’t get out of my pajamas. I tried. I even tried getting rid of my pajamas. It must be the FLANNEL!

But then I got smarter and less prideful and then I got better.

The thing is we are ALL on that spectrum. The book of mental health diagnosis- the official book- is the DSM and it is HUGE. And they ADD TO IT each and every time it is revised.

One of my favorites is Confabulator- a person who makes up a story for the story they do not know to be factual.

Like asking- why did that guy take the elevator instead of the stairs? And then you just make up the story that he has a bum knee from a pipe bomb on his front porch…or he is just lazy. Because you don’t know that guy and yet, there  MUST be a story.

So I think ALL fiction writers must have this. I actually have caught myself saying, “I just made that up. I don’t know.”

So you may not be talking to a lamp post, but I’m sure if we read the DSM closely enough, we could find you in there.

Because of my confabulation and interest in the subject, I think there should be a DSM Party Game. We just sit around and talk and make notes and then diagnose you. The winner gets a lamp post (just kidding).

Or it could have dice or a spinner with different symptoms and we match you with the diagnosis. So many options!

I’m truly hopeful mental health treatment will come more and more into its own and the stigma reduction efforts will result in increased tolerance, better care, and more research into even better treatment. I have met wonderful people struggling and lost people important to me because they refuse treatment. I know others who didn’t get treatment in time or it wasn’t enough and they died. Many mental illnesses have terrible suicide rates.

I know people tormented because they are told to snap out of it or pray harder or go for a walk.

And I am not against any of those things, but we would not say that to someone dealing with a physical illness. We may say pray and walk but also go to your doctor.

And if you’re reading this and haven’t been able to get out of your pajamas, please make a doctor’s appointment because it’s not a game and it’s not the flannel.