About Austin:

Former IT guy turned spec-fic writer and librarian, Austin Gragg lives in Independence, Missouri.

When he isn't writing, reading, or teaching digital literacy classes, he can be found playing Dungeons & Dragons with his partner, friends, and a pride of small domestic lions.

A Difference in Honesty -- a few things on mental health

A Difference in Honesty -- a few things on mental health

WOW! You opened this post... Shit. I didn't think anyone would make it this far. Well, I guess I gotta talk about the thing in the title then, right? Stick with me here. I can only promise I'm not here to whine or preach (at least I'll refrain to the best of my ability). I just want to make some observations, present some logic, and open up about some things I've struggled with. And I'd like to do so as openly and honestly as I can here. The hope is that this post will let some people know they aren't alone, and maybe give others something to chew on.

I felt moved to write this after reading some really honest writing done by a few friends.

The thing in the title, 'mental health', has a long list of reasons we don't talk about it. For one, a lot of people who openly talk about their mental health are obnoxious--but maybe that's just YouTube culture, or just the majority of people about my age. Another reason we don't talk about mental health, is because America's own mind is utterly fucked on the topic. And by fucked I mean the collective mind of America is in total denial that there's a problem with how we talk about mental health. In short, we just don't talk about it. And that, that's a problem.

Mental illness, has illness in the damn name, and yet the stigma around the topic often prevents us from talking about the topic openly, like we would about almost any other kind of illness.

Mental health, has the same issue as a term. Magazines LOVE to talk about health. What diet should you be on? How can you keep it up longer and do the bedroom dance better than all the people in an immediate five mile radius? (Despite the fact you SHOULD NOT be concerned with your neighbor's screwing habits.) How can you LITERALLY STOP TIME BECAUSE OMG YOU'RE AGING?! How can you prevent diabetes or heart problems? All that crap is in magazines regularly, but rarely, if ever, will you see articles in popular magazines with advice on how to take care of the most important part of you. NO! Not that part--gross--geez, the brain! Your brain. That's where all that is you, really truly, VERILY YOU, is stored.

Ok, you get it. You might be one of those people who's 'in the know' a bit more than others. But did you know that Newsweek reported in 2014 that 1/5 people in the US suffer from a mental illness each year? And there's plenty of other places with similar data if Newsweek is on your personal FAKE NEWS list. **Fuck you, Orange Donnie for coining that stupid, stupid term.** ANYWAYS. This means you know someone with a mental illness. You do. I promise. And because of our stigma against talking about our feelings, and all the shit going on in our heads--not only may you not know about their illness, but they might not either! SO. So... So what can we do, just as normal people, everyday, to help with the fact that so many people around us, friends and family, are suffering in silence?

We'll get to that in a moment. First, let me be open about something I don't think I've told many people in the past. And it's something I'm working on being a little more open about with friends and family. Why? Why do it here on the internet, out in the open and pubic for all to see?! Because I think this kind of open honesty encourages positive and constructive discourse. It's one thing to read about a condition existing. But it's another to see the condition exist with someone you know. And maybe, just maybe, someone who needs to hear this, hears it, and knows they aren't alone. So, I'm sharing openly and honestly.

Let me start off by saying that for many, many years growing up, I was one of those people who thought depression was bullshit. Younger me was ignorant--as many are--to the fact that there are two kinds of depression, generally speaking. There's the feeling you get momentarily when you are sad, and then there's the medical condition. Younger me was, and many other people are, ill-informed on the topic, and chalk the two up to being the same thing--something people should just get over and move on from. Get over yourself, grow up, act like a big kid, and move on, right? Yeah.

Long story short, I was exhibiting some really out of character behavior back in high school. (Not totally out of the norm, I know.) But after a long while talking about it and going to a doctor, I was told I might have some depression. I was given a medication--too easily in my opinion--and told that it should make things better. Now, in hindsight, the doctor was absolutely right to put me on something. But, also in hindsight, the doc didn't really give me the time of day outside of what was necessary to diagnose and prescribe.  And do you know what that did? It put doubt in my head from the get go.

So, when the meds made me feel funny--when the meds made it impossible to feel much of anything other than happy contentment--I wanted off of them. And I got off of them. I stopped quick. This happened just as I was getting out of my parent's house and out into the world. And so for years after that, I told myself I had been misdiagnosed. I told myself I didn't need any help. I told myself it was weak to need help with the shit in my head and that I was better than that.

These were all dangerous lies. And no matter how well intentioned a lie, truth crashes down on all lies with time.

I have the benefit of being a person who is pretty good at analyzing himself. I can step out of my head and look down on myself in a lot of ways. And while that trait was great in this situation, it can be just as bad as it is good. When I read a few symptoms of major depressive disorder that I hadn't heard of before, and they described me perfectly, the fact I'd been lying to myself came crashing in. That self doubt had me struggling for years against something I have no control over, with no help. Help I was too stubborn to admit needing. So, after talking to friends about their battles with diagnosed depression, I talked with my doctor. And after trying everything in my own power to cope on my own, I accepted that it was okay to need help. If you are someone reading this who's in the middle of the same fight, dealing with something 'in your head,' just know you aren't alone. There are plenty of other people out there who get it. Remember, one in five.

So, what can we do to help our friends and family? How can we begin to help solve a problem so large and so invisible? What can we do? Simple things.

When you ask how someone's day went, really want to know. Ask honestly. When you answer a question about your day, answer honestly. Was your day total shit? You don't have to be a total downer about it--but don't lie. "The last few days have been rough, but I'm glad to be here." See how that's a million times more meaningful than, "I'm great!" -- an all-the-time lie? You don't even have to go that deep, but just see the difference in honesty.

Let's be honest with each other, and ask about and respond to each other honestly.

Will this solve all the world's problems revolving around mental health and its stigmas? No. No it won't. But opening up, even just a little bit, is a damn good start.

Again, I felt moved to write this after reading some really honest writing done by a few friends. I certainly plan to write more about this subject here and there in the future.

'till next time.

An essay on death

An essay on death

When the creative well runs dry...

When the creative well runs dry...