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Mental Illness Requires Treatment: You Can’t Get Better Alone

Many of us with a mental illness have tried to “power through” it. We have tried to muscle through the pain without getting help of any kind. Most of us don’t want to admit we need help. Most of us don’t even want to admit we’re sick. We think that we’ll be fine without doctors and therapists and pills. We think that they are the enemy. We think we’re better off without them.

We are so ridiculously wrong.

Mental Illness is an Illness

Do the mentally ill need treatment? The answer is in the question: mental illness is, literally, an illness. Like cancer, or epilepsy, or diabetes, or Lupus, or Parkinson’s or other disease.

And every person with a disease needs a doctor. Every single one of them. And we do too.

doctor_bagThe Mentally Ill Need Doctors

The idea of life without doctors and pills is extremely seductive. All you have to do is read one personal account of someone magically curing their mental illness and you can become consumed with doing it too. But let’s remember, there was a skydiver who survived a skydive with no parachute; I would still recommend you not exit a plane midair without one.

Doctors and Therapists Are Your Best Shot at Getting Better

I cannot say this loud enough or long enough: you need doctors and medication and therapists. You need them. You need them like insulin, chemotherapy, anticonvulsants and antiretrovirals are needed by other sick people.

As mentioned by a commenter here, Jake:

“…bipolar left untreated is a progressive illness and you need to be compliant”

If you do not receive treatment you will get worse. I can guarantee it. It may not happen today, tomorrow, or next week, but mental illness isn’t something that just magically disappears because we want it to or because we refuse to acknowledge its presence.

We are just every other sick person. We need treatment. Every day we don’t get treatment is a day we get worse. Every day we don’t get treatment is another day of decline. Every day we don’t get treatment adds to the guarantee that we will have another episode and it will be sooner and more severe.

When we don’t get treatment we sign our own death warrant.

spiralMental Health Treatment is Painful

Mental health treatment is really horrible treatment. It’s similar to trying to hammer a nail with a 2 X 4 – even if you manage to get the nail in there, you decimate the surrounding area. I get that. It totally sucks. It sucks beyond sucks. It isn’t fun, it isn’t fair and it’s natural to want to be rid of mental illness treatment.

But let’s be real here: no disease is fun. Every disease, disorder, condition has a price. Usually a daily price. Think people being treated for HIV are having fun? How about people who get organ transplants; a party? How about people with a physical disability, or brain damage, or an amputation, think those people have had only great days?

Yes, our treatment sucks, but that doesn’t mean we need it any less and it doesn’t excuse us from getting it.

Yup, it’s your life. If you want to sign your death warrant, hurt everyone you love and hurt everyone that loves you, that’s your business. But you’re being an idiot.

It was once said that democracy is the worst form of government… except for all the others.

Mental illness treatment is the worst thing in the world… except for everything else.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Author: Natasha Tracy

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44 thoughts on “Mental Illness Requires Treatment: You Can’t Get Better Alone”

  1. I understand you’re trying to reach a sometimes noncompliant audience, but promoting a passive “just shut up and take your meds” attitude is not good either. Ideally there should be a relationship of trust with doctor and treatment does not necessarily have to suck!! It is important to be upfront about side effects and be willing to change meds or doctors if it is not working.

  2. MMC,

    That’s not what I’m saying at all. I have repeatedly advocated patients learning _more_ about their treatment. I have repeatedly advocated that patients take control over their own treatment.

    My point is this: you need treatment. Period. Get it however you want.

    (And treatment sucks for 99% of people. Between meds and side effects and routines and all the things you have to give up, suckage is definitely there.)

    – Natasha

  3. Oh OK–I’m not a regular reader of your blog so it sounded rather harsh initially. I’ve been hearing too many horror stories lately of treatments gone astray and not-so-good doctors. One happy ending of a friend who at 36 finally got on the right meds for ADD and bipolar II but he lost years of his life to a schizophrenia diagnosis and it seems like the right doctor made all the difference in the world to him. I know your 99% “sucking” figure is an estimate, but if you have other sources to read on the topic I’d be interested–it goes against those pharma commercials that life will be great once you’re on the right meds…

  4. If I stop treatment, I might be fine for a week, a month, who knows maybe even a year and then what.
    I have had psychotic mania in the past and almost succeeded in having the Mounties kill me. I have been so depressed I have tried to kill myself.
    Either way long-term use of psych drugs is less deadly, that’s my bottom line.
    It is important to know about your diagnosis, it is important to ask questions and not blindly accept all a doctor says as gospel.
    I think Natasha’s basic point is, “do nothing and die”.
    Bipolar disorder is potentially a progressive illness if you don’t get treatment it is most certainly guaranteed life will not get any easier or safer.

  5. MMC,

    It is harsh. Reality is harsh. Jake is right, “do nothing and die”.

    And here’s the thing about how many people think treatment is wonderful:

    – there are basically none
    – even if you do find medications that work, they will have side effects
    – even if you find medications that work and don’t have side effects that bother you the changes you have to make in your life to accommodate your disease you won’t enjoy

    Commercials are commercials. And besides, you are missing all the parts of the commercial that tell you how sucky it’s going to be. All the myriad of small print and fast-talking at the end. You’re seeing the part they hope you’ll see and not noticing the part they hope you won’t notice.

    Numbers? Here’s one, only 29% of bipolars achieved remission. people studied for 14 years http://www.mcmanweb.com/mood-stabilizers.html

    The other 71%? on meds and hating it would be my guess. And some of those 29% are hating the meds too, they just consider the price reasonable given remission. I would too. It doesn’t mean that the treatment doesn’t suck.

    I could give you other numbers like 50% of bipolars attempt suicide and up to 20% of bipolars actually manage to kill themselves. And not all these people are untreated. They are treated. They just weren’t too happy with their treatment.

    If I took a random sampling of people off the street and gave them my medication cocktail right now they would think they were dying, and it is such for many mental illness medication. The question is not does treatment feel good, the question is are you willing to pay the price of treatment in order to get better, or perhaps in order just for the opportunity that you might get better.

    Harsh. Yes. Reality is like that. But that biting reality is what we have to remember in order to stay on track. You can change meds you can change doctors you can change therapists you can try ECT, that’s all your business – but you can’t just stop treatment no matter how much you don’t like it. It will not make your life better, in fact, it may ensure you have no life at all.

    – Natasha

  6. “If I took a random sampling of people off the street and gave them my medication cocktail right now they would think they were dying”

    Awesome and so true.

    They say that pathos is the root of all humour and that is why I am laughing now.

    I call my med mix “mood chemo”, I have what I call VPB or Valproic Pattern Baldness from the drugs I take because my hair is falling out.
    Which is not so bad because the babes dig the bald guys especially the bald crazy guys ones………..right?

    I am currently on the antipsychotic+moodstabilizer+anxiety blend. I fart a lot. There is harshness, I am sure many of us could traumatize others with the details of the shit we have waded through. There is pain which is an unavoidable part of this illness. Medication blunts it a bit, it does not fix it.

    Bipolar disorder is really shitty and it can be deadly but as sucky as it sounds you can also really learn from it and accept it like a gift.
    Maybe I am truly nuts(sorry for the term, I feel like I own it) but would not trade the life I have had. I feel I have an awareness as a result of my lifes experience as a “mental patient” that I would not have otherwise.

    Aw well thats my rambling response.

    I like your posts Natasha. Cheers

  7. this post was well-written and not sugar-coated. You came straight to the point. It is necessary information.

    I’m glad I found it tonight, my daughter wants to kill herself. She’s having a very hard time with life. She went off her medications (because she didn’t need them). We both have Bipolar. It’s only by the grace of God that I’ve made it through this so far; but it’s getting harder every day.

    Once again, thank to for your Blog.
    Donna
    Illinois

  8. Jake,

    Well you can laugh or you can cry about it – laughing is better.

    I’ve had my hair fall out three times and I think one of them might have been on Depakote, I can’t quite recall.

    Well, I would trade this life. I know many say they wouldn’t and that’s great, but I would. I would trade this jail sentence. I think it all comes down to how much pain you’re in on a daily basis. I’m in quite a bit. Sometimes quite a bit more. And with very few OK days. Yes, I would trade that in a heartbeat.

    I’m glad you like my posts. Thanks.

    – Natasha

  9. Hi Donna,

    I agree, I think non-sugar-coated information matters. I hope your daughter gets some help. As little hope as many of us feel, there are always options for people. Try to hang onto that. I know it’s impossibly hard. But try.

    I’ve written a couple posts recently and you might want to read them if you haven’t already:
    http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/11/you-think-theres-only-darkness-hopelessness-you-are-wrong/
    http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/10/holding-onto-hope-in-bipolar-treatment/

    I hope something in there helps for you. You are welcome. Good luck.

    – Natasha

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