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.
The 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.
Mental 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.
Tracy, N. (2010, November 14). Mental Illness Requires Treatment: You Can’t Get Better Alone, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/11/mental-illness-requires-treatment-you-cant-get-better-alone
Author: Natasha Tracy
How do I know if I am mentally ill? It's not that I don't want to admit it. i do. yes I am mentally ill, but i don't believe it's a doctor who sees me once in a while who can judge whether i am or not. It's only a person who knows me well enough and for a certain period of time who can judge and say if i am.
I wish I know, I need to know, but won't let any doctor tell me so before he knows me well.
Hi Unusually Cheerful06,
I can see you're in a tough spot. Many of us have been there. I just wanted to remind you of something - no one says you have to restart the same meds as before. You may find another medication or another combination that works better for you with fewer of the side effects you seem concerned about.
Just a thought. Good luck.
Thanks. Finding your articles down to earth and realistic. Both qualities have temporarily been removed from my mind but I would like them back. Presently below ground level and wondering whether continuing without antipsychotic is something I have a choice over. My evaluation of the situation is I have a choice to carry on and realistically self destruct or to reconnect with the community..... as I seem incapable at present of the second.... and I don't really want to follow the first path for many of the reasons you have written.... I am trying to commit to a doctors appointment today to probably restart my meds. Not really happy about that but a little unhappy about everything at the moment. Cheers.
I'm glad when things come across clearly. Thanks for the feedback.
Borderline is a problematic diagnosis due to the lack of proven therapies available, although it gets better all the time. I had a doctor once tell me it was a diagnosis doctors gave when they didn't know what to do with a person. It got the doctor off the hook.
Of course that was years ago and things have changed a lot. I'm not suggesting that doctors in general think this, have no idea.
As for what happened to you? That sounds crazy, if you will. Punished for surviving.
I'm pretty shocked when people are turned down for mental health help. In my experience it's the last thing in the world people want to do and if they're willing to get help it's because they really need it.
But that's me.
Your article makes so much sense! I mean it's written crystal clear. Super good for those in denial too.
I was turned down from an outpatient clinic because I am diagnosed with borderline. The clinician said that there is nothing they could do for me. She said if I have been dealing with the issues as long as I have, therapy and medication will not work for me. Nice, huh?
Yes, we do talk a lot, but I like to consider that a benefit; it allows for a sharing of views even if they differ wildly.
Thanks for your comment on being honest with doctors and taking meds as prescribed. While it's not perfect, it's good to know it's working for you.
Happy Holidays to you as well.
sorry, i didnt mean to ramble on so long.
And, Dont forget the word "normal" is only a setting on a washing machine.
Everyone have a Merry Christmas!
And quit pickin on each other so much! geez
wow, you guys talk alot! I dont have much to say except that i am pretty sure id be dead if not for finding Seroquel. I tried several others and the side effects were bad. Everyone's body's chemicals are different. One "crazy pill" might work for one person...it doesnt for another. You need to try several till you find the 1 that is the best and that you "can live with"
My life is far from perfect, but like one person said above, at least im in the game. And those that say its all in your head...for me, yes it is. I hear voices every minute of the day pretty much. Its not the best life, but it beats being homeless or in the mental ward! Seroquel saved my life. You cant take a huge dose or you 'll sleep 24/7. but i found a nice dose that works for me "most" of the time. Yes i sleep alot still.
My 2 cents worth...about people being mis-diagnosed. People have to be honest with the doctor. If you don't tell them everything that's wrong, then those people are partly to blame. I used to lie to my docs. Did not help at all. They don't know your problems, unless you tell them. I have missed maybe 4 daily doses in 6-7 yrs. That's the trick too...take your meds every day, not just when you don't feel great!
Doctor and patient trust relationship is important when it comes to cases like this because the patient is putting his whole treatment into the doctor. But some patients go overboard even during personal schedules, they insist on the help. Family and doctors are a big factor in getting better.
Treatment of mental illness requires somewhat more than the professional preparation of the therapist. The keys is understanding and trust of the patient to the psychiatrist. One such condition requires that the physician-patient relationship to be honest and without the tendency of mutual contempt especially ignoring the concern of the patient from the doctor. For more, many psychiatric patients will follow doctor's recommendations if the same doctor expressed serious and regret over mentally ill.
I should note. I lost my brother ten years ago to suicide, which almost triggered my own. His depression was fatal.
My greatest fear is that my own children have to go through this, I don't want them to and I hope I have provided them with the tools that if they do encounter mental illness in their own lives it is less daunting.
My heart goes out to you and your family. The best "pill" you can give your child is unconditional love.
I see that they are, and I was merely commenting on how much more fortunate you are in that respect than my son, as well as other people's sons whom I know... I see that as something positive for you. Keep up the good fight.
"I marvel that you can still communicate so well and think so clearly. "
Ouch! I am either endlessly walking into it or do I have a target on my back! lol. (I am teasing you Shari, not mocking you.)
I hope my brain is not cheese. It does not feel like cheese, then again who can say what it feels like to be cheese or have a cheese brain.
Critical thinking is not the exclusive domain of the "undiagnosed" some of us mental folk (I use that term with affection) actually research medications and therapies.
My eyes are open when I swallow my pills.
FYI, even if there is no official "CBT" center near you, there are many books and workbooks on the subject. And you might consider asking around general psychotherapists as many of them practice CBT even if they're not advertised that way.
Just a thought.
To all of you:
I am very happy that you are discussing the possibility that maybe these meds are not all they are promoted to be. That was really my object. I have no connection at all with Scientology and their radical stances. However, some of the things they are saying about psychiatric meds and "treatment" are weil documented in other places. You are right on, Jake, about the selfish greed of the "drug pushers." If you have been taking these meds for all of these years, I marvel that you can still communicate so well and think so clearly. My son would not be able to do that. I am sure his frontal lobes are shrunken from the antipsychotics, which brain scans have proven can be a result. As for the cognitive behavioral therapy, I am sure that would be most helpful, but, unfortunately, that is not available in our location. The right medication, used judiciously and sparingly by a psychiatrist who knew what he was doing could probably be helpful for a lot of people. Unfortunately, the usual "treatment" is to keep a patient on them for life. So many, many stolen lives.
Sad comments for the holidays. I think holidays are very sad for many people. Having bipolar mental illness diagnosed for 2 years undiagnosed for a life time: I now take Seroquel which keeps me on the playing field. I may not hit a home run, but I at least get on base. I have hope now that has not existed for many years. Very very thankful for Social Security Disability, which I filed myself and approved. I do have a Masters of Science in Social Work--have been helping others for 30 years. Now focusing on myself!!! Hard to do but I am learning. God is so good He guides me, loves me and shows me the way...
Sorry, sarcasm is so my go-to place. It doesn't come off well online. I apologize.
"You are advocating something which you seem to have little faith in. That is all I meant."
That's true. My faith isn't so much at issue though as much as we just don't have any better answers. I know science. I know what gives people the best chance.
Oh, I've considered the placebo effect. Believe me. I suspect though you would see this so much in cocktails. If I was going to get all placebo-y I would have done it 30 medications ago.
I have no love for the drug companies. No love at all. Actually, I'm appalled at some of what they do. And especially on my personal blog I talk about that. And I post certain atrocities and warnings. And I encourage everyone to know what they're getting into.
But it doesn't change my feeling that meds are the only thing that have ever helped my bipolar. I mean, my mind does a lot of the work to keep me functioning. It's the best thing I have. But by itself, it can't keep me alive.
"That’s peachy-keen for you", I am not claiming I have had a wonderful life or that my way is the only way. I certainly was not looking for a sarcastic response when I am only seeking knowlege. Nor am I trying to diminish you in anyway.
I feel you have been contradicting yourself. You are advocating something which you seem to have little faith in. That is all I meant.
I too have have had a multitude of treatments.
If treatment is not helping you as you expect it to, have you considered that perhaps the only real help you are recieving from it is strictly a placebo effect.
I have my doubts about medication. I have had psychosis triggered by more then one med and ended up attacking a couple of cops and a mental health worker(I thought Satan sent them to me) I don't to want to suffer but I dont' want to take desparate measures and do greater harm.
They used to bore holes into peoples heads(trepanation) to help the evil spririts tp escape which at the time was modern medicine. Many people felt trepanation was an effective way to get rid evil spririts and it was widely practiced. It is not now, it did not work.
The diagnosis that lead to someone recieving trepanation was a subjective diagnosis not unlike psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.
You have pointed out "mistakes" in your treatment. You have also pointed out your treatment barely works if it works at all.
A note about conspriracy theories. Drug companies do withhold negative information about their products. Google childrens cold remedys, drug companies knew most were ineffectual for children long before they were pulled from the shelves.
How about more recently "zyprexa" or that heart drug Tambocor, there is no compassion in the drug business. It is just like dope or alcohol, you deal with the same people just different outfits.
This is a really hot button topic. I could argue both sides for hours.
I have had some of the most idiotic therapies every and some really good ones. I like some meds avoid others like the plague.
I agree with you on treatment or as I like to call "growth" but like I said I seesaw as far as meds go.
cheers Natasha, I admire your tenacity keep it up.
Any information from the"CCHR" is Scientology propaganda. Their stance is thar psychiatry should be abolished and that no one should be able to receive treatment except for Scientology brain-washing. It's a crock. I along with many others have had our lives literally saved by good psychiatrists and the right meds.
A bit off the main topic of convo, As a newly diagnosed bi polar sufferer I have struggled for over 10 years and most of the time I thought I was mad,you're depressed,take prozac and go away for most of those years,well theres the mania stoked,a few sucide attempts,wanting to leave my child,my family,breaking up my relationships,As for progressive yes I have gotten alot worse 10 years ago I could work, be in love, live a pretty much normal life now well I don't see any of that being my future but I do have a future filled with meds and shrinks and yes pain and suffering but I will be here I will take my meds and I will stay as stable as I can, what more can you hope for? I will never be normal, I will never feel sane or part of the crowd but alive somedays I do feel alive and that makes the meds worth it, Bipolar its already nearly killed me, it has stolen years of my life so are the pills worth it even with the side effects and all of it I would say yes for ME they are worth it..... As for Natasha please keep writing your posts and blog have kept me going for the 6mths of hell, thank you so much :)
That's peachy-keen for you. I have no doubt people come to their own conclusions. But medication has an obviously positive effect on me:
1. When it's not working I feel terrible, do terrible things, attempt suicide and end up in the hospital
2. Only medication has ever brought me up from long-term, serious depressions
3. I've had every kind of therapy imaginable. I recommend it, but it doesn't help me much.
Mental illness is only a problem when it's a problem. IE, if you experience "symptoms" but have a perfectly happy productive life then there's no need for "treatment" for you.
If psychosis bring about a spirit quest for you and then you're a-ok, well, that's fine. If it makes you think you molested and killed your cousin and you constantly talk to the Terminator, then it might not be so fine.
I have no intention of telling people how to live. I just happen to live in extreme suffering much of the time. So do a lot of other people.
I sit on both sides of this issue. I feel that the reason I take meds is not in fact to feel better but to be more palatable to the people around me. I have been treated for by psyhiatrists since I was nine and I am 46 now.
I personally do not believe psych drugs do anymore then make me sleepy or high. The most effective "treatment" I have recieved is CBT(cognitvie behavioural therapy) which is based upon the premise that the brain is elastic and repairable and that treatments can go beyond bandaids and become cures.
Increasingly the concept that "its all in your head" is gathering steam and that people with mental health issues whether consciously or unconsciously perpetuate their own symptomology. Which I am sure to some degree is true for all of us. Sometimes it is safer and more familiar to buy into a institutional mindset then facing hard realities about ourselves.
With that said we need to find decide for ourselves it means when we are mentally ill, what mania is, what depression ie. one mans psychosis is anothers "vision quest".
We cannot let ourselves be put in neat little boxes and we have to educate ourselves and advocate for the care we want.
I believe that treatments should be determined between patient and health care professional. And yes, I agree, the treatment options are limited.
The Church of Scientology has a very well-known perspective on psychiatry and I think it's important to note when they are funding things.
Being medication-free is an option for some and it isn't for others. Medication treatment has many, many flaws, I would never argue otherwise. The side effects can be absolutely devastating. The drug companies have many, many problems. I would never argue otherwise.
But here's the thing about conspiracy theories - if more than 3 people know a secret, it's no longer a secret.
I attended a presentation that Robert Whitaker did back in August at the Empowerment Initiative in Portland, OR. The kind of work he shared is freely published in other countries, but not in the US. He and the staff at EI offered well-reasoned information, based on research and personal experience. They don't advocate that clients go off their meds, but they offer support for those who want to go off their meds to do so in a safe, medically supervised way. I do agree that the pharmaceutical companies in the US have far too much power, while naturopathic remedies aren't allowed to claim to treat the maladies they can address. I agree that psychotropic medications cause side effects and in some cases irreversible damage. I'm not saying that medication isn't appropriate in some cases, but I think it's highly overused. I work with adolescents on probation who have mental health disorders, and I've seen kids who have been heavily medicated since early childhood and the long-term effects it can have on their behavior. Once one medication stops working, they're switched to another one until the doctors run out of medications to try or they have to wait until a new one comes out. I always support parents who want to try naturopathic means to treat their children instead of putting them on meds.
All right. I tried. At least you are not advocating medications for everyone, is that right? It did seem that way when I read your blog. I only know that now after researching the real results of the clinical trials which were covered up and distorted by Big Pharma, we are gradually taking my son, who had been on all of their antipsychotics for many years and continued to deteriorate, off all medication and already he is so much better. The goal is to get him medication free. Hopefully, his brain is not completely destroyed. Scientology had nothing to do with covering up the results of the clinical trials or paying psychiatrists at the big universities to to advocate the drugs. "Treatment" necessary? Yes. Unfortunately, there is very little available.
For anyone interested, the link Shari points to is a non-profit created by the Church of Scientology.
Sorry. I did not read your reply to me before I sent the last note. Yes, I have read MANY scientific papers over more than 20 years. I am my son's medical guardian.The reason Whitaker is not published in peer-reviewed journals is because they (being Big Pharma and the Paid-off psychiatrists they are in cahoots with) are too threatened by him. One person's slant? So not true. Do you have any knowledge of the many lawsuits the pharmacy companies have settled out of court and are ongoing? As a short-term cricis intervention the meds may be necessary (a sedative would probably be as effective and not as dangerous) but long-term? Heaven help all of us.
I know you are definitely meaning to have a positive effect. Your suffering is unbelievable and criminal...I only wish I had done the right research before letting them shoot my "schizophrenic" son up with big pharma's toxic money makers for over 20 years. Please take my advice and read Robert Whitaker's books. Also Dr. Peter Breggan. You can find the true results of the clinical "studies" done on these meds through the Right to Public Information act. Also try this link www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/
You might want to do more research on me before saying such things.
For my part, I have done more research, seen more doctors and talked to more doctors than anyone I know. How many scientific papers have you read in the last year?
And for the record, I do _not_ advocate any particular type of medication, I advocate _treatment_. Treatment means different things for different people. But yes, _statistically_ people with a mental illness do _best_ when they are on a combination of medication and therapy.
You are fear mongering. You are throwing falsehoods at a scared population without backing it up by any fact.
I can site case after case after case of people's whose lives have been saved by medication. People who are functional because of medication. People who live normal lives because of medication.
Is medication overprescribed? Probably. Are people overdiagnosed with some illnesses? I think so. Would some people do better to focus more on therapy and their lives? Yes, again, I think so. But none of this comes anywhere close to what you're saying.
Robert Witaker is not proof of anything. He's just a person with a particular slant. There is a reason he isn't published in a scientific peer-reviewed journal. One person does not an entire body of clinical trials refute.
Thanks for the comment. I do like to think I'm having a positive effect.
My God. Please, please do some real research and get the true facts about these so-called "medications" that you are advocating taking. My blood just ran cold when I read all of this. Will you be worse if you quit taking your "medications?" You bet you will!! These horribly toxic "chemical lobotamies" make big-time changes in your brain, and you will get a strong reaction if you take them away. Your only hope is if you have not taken them so long that the brain cannot come back from them . Haven't you ever wondered why people on these meds keep getting worse and not better and requiring more or different "medications?" Try to get hold of Robert Whitaker's books.
Thank you for not being afraid to talk about mental illness in a frank way. I appreciated the way you compared the need for treatment to other illnesses that people wouldn't think twice about treating. Keep up your outspoken advocacy! The world needs more Natasha's to break the stigma of mental illness and encourage treatment.
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:
I hope something in there helps for you. You are welcome. Good luck.
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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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...
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.)
MMC, she didn't say any of that. Really, she didn't. Sheesh...
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.