The Brutal Truth About Living With Mental Illness
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and I would like to tell you a story about my son, Ethan.(EJ)
EJ was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder by Danbury Hospital psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Herrick 16 years ago. The best way to describe his mental illness is by equating it to riding a terrifying roller coaster. Some days he's traveling down a 400 foot drop at 120 mph and other days he may get a short break, but the truth is, his brain will strap him back in that coaster sooner than later. BPD expert Dr. Alan Fruzzetti put it this way,
"Imagine waking up every single day in a horribly bad mood that never goes away. That's what it's like everyday for individuals with BPD."
Mindy and I have had observational box seats to EJ's mental illness over the last 17 years. As the parents of an adult child with a mental illness, this is what we've learned.
- The stigma associated with mental illness stops a large percentage from seeking help.
- Having a mental illness can lead one to self medicate with opioids and heroin which eventually can lead to addictions.
- Until the adult child with a mental illness decides to accept the diagnosis and make the decision to seriously seek treatment, their behavior will not change.
- Mental health problems have nothing to do with being weak or lazy.
- The causes of mental illness are contingent on biological factors, such as genes, physical injury, or brain chemistry. Life experiences and family history can also play into the cause of mental illness.
- Anyone with a mental illness has a brain that works and thinks differently than a 'normal' brain. How they process information, how they react to situations, and how they communicate with others can be considered inappropriate by many, but to them it's perfectly normal.
This quote comes from my son EJ who has BPD and has fought opioid addiction and is in recovery.
"Absolutely no one with a mental illness woke up and chose to have it. We are sick and suffering like anyone with a physical disease. We need medicine and treatment just like someone who has diabetes. Mental illness is widely misunderstood and comes with a stigma attached. A perfect example are criminals who are mentally ill. They are thrown into a jail cell where they get worse instead of a hospital room to be evaluated. You would never tell anyone with a physical disease to simply just 'think' your disease away. I have an incredible support system but not everyone is as lucky as I am. Those people need people like you. As a family member or a friend, you can contribute to someone's quality of life. To me, that's what Mental Health Awareness Month is all about. Love yourself! I love you!
If you're suffering with a mental illness, have addiction issues, or are thinking of suicide and are looking for help, PLEASE contact Ethan James. There's an excellent chance he can get you started on a new path. It's hard work, but it's worth it! Just ask EJ.