My Name is Mark and I have a Mental Illness

On December 16th, 2018 I had a complete nervous breakdown which resulted in me being hospitalized. I have lived with mental illness since childhood and I will die with mental illness.

Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate

“What do you have to be depressed about?”
“Get over yourself”
“Just put things in perspective, you have it better than most”

Those are all things that have been said to me over the years when I try to discuss my illness with friends or family. I have found out this week that I am not alone in hearing those statements.

Most people see depression, anxiety, etc… as an on/off switch; something that those of us who suffer with it, and yes it is suffering, know isn’t the case. It can be managed with medication and therapy, but it can’t be “cured”.

Mental illness doesn’t respect socio-economic boundaries. A quick through the years of all the celebrities who’ve committed suicide will prove that. Rich, poor, and those in between can fall prey to mental illness, just as all of us can fall prey to cancer.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

My diagnosis is called Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. To be clear this is not the same as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The symptoms of OCPD include:

  • perfectionism to the point that it impairs the ability to finish tasks
  • stiff, formal, or rigid mannerisms
  • being extremely frugal with money
  • an overwhelming need to be punctual
  • extreme attention to detail
  • excessive devotion to work at the expense of family or social relationships
  • hoarding worn or useless items
  • an inability to share or delegate work because of a fear it won’t be done right
  • a fixation with lists
  • a rigid adherence to rules and regulations
  • an overwhelming need for order
  • a sense of righteousness about the way things should be done
  • a rigid adherence to moral and ethical codes

My OCPD has caused depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, and a near lack of self-esteem.

I have been struggling with work, friendships, and family.

What Next?

Mental illness is very similar in nature to that of addiction. That means that “recovery” from mental is a life long process. A process that could include times of relapse. Now that I understand my illness I can accept what the process of recovery entails; both the good and bad that go along with that.

Currently I’m in an intensive 10 day out-patient program that includes group therapy, 1:1 therapy, and medication adjustments. After that I’ll transition to a therapist and, of course, my meds.

In addition to the medical aspects of my recovery, there are non-medical aspects as well.

Music is one of my post-care, recovery, pillars. That means getting a guitar back in my hand. That means learning what it once meant for me to be “creative” musically. Fun fact, I haven’t written a complete song, on my own, in nearly ten years. I’m pushing myself to play out once a month. That could be as simple as playing a few Tom Petty songs on my guitar for 3 people in a bar who aren’t listening.

Work will also be a pillar. This year I lost a complete lack of structure in my day and my work has suffered, along with my health. To help with this part of my recovery I’ll be looking to do daily stand-ups with my business partners, as well as a clear goals and timelines.

Finally, family and friends will be the biggest pillar in my recovery process. Their love and support over the past week has been a rock I could hold onto to prevent from sinking. Talking with them, explaining my issues and problems, and knowing that despite all of that they still love me is an incredibly empowering feeling.

Why Did I Share This?

I didn’t write this post to get sympathy. I wrote this post for two reasons. The first is I needed to share what was happening with me. To share is to heal. But that is only a fraction of the reason.

The true reason I wrote this post is help others with mental illness realize that they are not alone.

The stigma of mental illness prevents many of us from seeking help and treatment we need. We need to start treating, and talking about, mental illness in the same way we look at any other chronic illness. And yes, it is a chronic (lifetime) illness.

Getting Help

The first step in getting help is an awareness that there is a problem and a determination to seek help.

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help — is a great resource for those looking to find that help.

If you are with someone whom you believe has a mental illness I offer you this advice: You can help make them aware of their illness, but you can’t make them seek treatment unless they are ready.

For those of you who suffer with mental illness know that you are not alone in this world. Many of us suffer in silence. If you’re ready, seek treatment. It is hard to admit that you have a problem, but once you do, you’ll start to feel better.

Good luck and thank you.