Mental Health Day

Last week, I went to see Dr. “N” to re-up my prescription of Zoloft for another year. As per usual when I visit, I fill out a depression screening (like a PHQ-9) and rate how I’m feeling on a scale of 1 to 5.

When I first went on Zoloft last year, I was rating all of the questions in the “5” section. (or “1”…whichever is worse…I can never remember) And as the meds took effect, my subsequent visits shows great improvement.

And while submitting myself to Big Pharm was not a panacea, I certainly couldn’t argue with the results. I felt better about myself. I was generally more motivated to do things. I stopped over-sleeping/eating. The side effects (sexual, low energy) suck. But it’s hard to tell when the symptoms of age end and those of the medicine begin. Suffice it to say, it’s something I monitor with my doctor.

I opened Twitter today to see that something called Mental Health Day was trending. I’d never heard of it before and just assumed it was another one of those lame internet holidays, like National Catsup Day or Rodeo Clown Appreciation Day. But a quick Google search tells me that it is sanctioned by the World Health Organization, and that this year’s theme is ‘psychological first aid’.

Efforts in support of the day will focus on basic pragmatic psychological support by people who find themselves in a helping role whether they be health staff, teachers, firemen, community workers, or police officers.

Considering that there are millions of people all over the world directly affected by the ravages of war, this is a timely theme. A lot of these people will never be able to un-see some of the traumas they witnessed first hand. And our betters must be prepared to help them in the years ahead.

My own mental health journey is complex. It’s hard to know when it began or how it manifested itself. I will say that my issues, and denial, about my substance abuse definitely complicated matters. From what I know of my past diagnoses and treatments, there is something there. Probably a combination of generalized anxiety and depression. I’m also highly-functioning mentally, and get bored really easily. I still lead a pretty isolated life, but I’m more comfortable with it. Or I change it when it becomes absolutely unbearable.

I’d just assume not be on medication the rest of my life. But I know it works. I was lucky: I found the right prescription and dosage to make things tolerable. Many others aren’t, and may never even find it. But there is no shame in finding something that works. We’ve done a great job of de-stigmatizing things like antidepressants while acknowledging their limits.

And then there are those that suffer silently. Not knowing if it’s their job or their partner or their clothes or their chemical make-up that makes everything that much more difficult. We need to let everyone know that they are not broken or defective.

And to make sure that we elect people into office that understand physical and mental health parity so that we don’t end up exacerbating things due to our wholly inept and crooked health insurance system.

I wrote this because I don’t think there’s anything to be embarrassed about anymore. That is not to say that you or anyone has an obligation to disclose anything that ails you. But for me, it’s an exercise. It’s catharsis and therapeutic . It’s a tacit acknowledgement that I am nowhere near being cured of this. But that I, like everyone else, am a work in progress.