Health

17 Things Only People With Mental Health Issues Know

It’s a flaw in your chemistry, not your character.

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"Psycho." "Crazy." "Insane."

We've all heard someone use one of those terms to describe another person's behavior, or even said it ourselves. As harmless as the words seem, they carry a lot of weight, especially for people living with a mental health condition — around 1 in 5 Americans, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

BuzzFeed Life reached out to 17 people living with mental health conditions to learn more about the challenges and stigma they face.

1. Getting a diagnosis doesn’t mean it’s the correct one.

Courtesy of Beth P.

"I was diagnosed this year. I have suffered with the symptoms [of premenstrual dysphoric disorder] for many years and had been speaking with my therapist, gynecologist, and primary care doctor about how I felt during the two weeks prior to my menstrual cycle. My previous therapist misdiagnosed me. I finally found a new therapist and team of medical professionals who listened to me and were knowledgeable about PMDD. I tracked my symptoms for several months and, with the help of my medical team, we were able to confirm that it was in fact PMDD."

Beth P., 35, UniServ director — premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

2. It can take years, and lots of research, to understand how your condition actually works.

“I knew from age seven that I wasn't like other kids. I was always worried about dying, stressing about school, and very withdrawn. At 13, I started having panic attacks. It wasn't until 18 that I went to see a psychiatrist, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, GAD [generalized anxiety disorder], PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], and borderline personality disorder.

"When I was 20, I started researching my mental illnesses and looked into my family’s mental health history. It was the best and worst thing for me. My father, grandmothers on both sides, and a couple of aunts had diagnosed mental illnesses. Bipolar disorder was at the root of all their issues as well.”

LaLa B., 28, life coach — bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder

3. Perhaps that’s because no two conditions are the same.

"There are as many kinds of mood disorders as there are kinds of people. Just like no two chicken pox are the same, there just is really no one mental illness. That means we all aren't the pilot who will take down the plane, or the mass shooter, or the girl who can't stop crying.

"Symptoms look different in each person. Solutions are different for each person and what works at one stage doesn't work later on. Before kids, antidepressants worked great. Then my body changed and I'm trying to figure out something else. I wish relatives, friends, and co-workers would stop putting depression in a tiny box with one recipe for health."

Therese B., 44, founder of Project Beyond Bluebipolar disorder 2 and treatment-resistant depression

4. Sometimes taking medication can make you feel worse.

Courtesy of Maun F.

"Medicine caused me to be flat and completely without feeling. It caused my kidneys to start to fail. It wrecks your sex life and makes you drowsy and unmotivated. Some just make you sick in general."

Maun F., 55, intensive care and ER nurse, certified recovery specialist — bipolar disorder, anxiety, addiction, past history of PTSD

5. Often, there is no quick fix.

Courtesy of Melissa J.

"I have suffered from depression since age five. I am 40 now. I go day by day."

Melissa J., 40, administrative assistant — depression

6. Your condition can affect every aspect of your life.

"There are weeks when I don't shower or leave my apartment. When I feel OK and clean up, I feel a bit better."

Danielle F., 54, applied for disability — major depressive disorder, PTSD, anxiety, and severe insomnia

7. It can affect you physically.

Courtesy of Erin F.

"My mother passed away when I was eighteen. This furthered my eating disorder activities. I just went through life in a daze to get by. From the outside looking in people would've thought I was so happy, which I thought I was — but there were days I remember crying in the shower and not knowing why.

"I suffered a stroke at the age of thirty. This was all due to my eating disorder. I am now legally blind. "

Erin F., 36, special events and fundraising specialist — eating disorders

8. ...and socially.

"[My conditions] seem to have destroyed the very possibility of [a relationship] because when push comes to shove, any woman who wants to end a relationship with me can always use my condition as an excuse."

Robert S., 53, proofreader — generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, depression

9. Intimacy can be challenging.

"My eating disorder affects intimacy — both physical and emotional — in a more significant way than anything else. I find it incredibly hard to accept compliments or to believe that my partner is attracted to me because my body is so disgusting in my mind.

"Borderline [personality disorder], in particular, makes relationships tough because I have a hard time holding on to facts about myself for a long time. So he might tell me that he loves me one day, and I can believe or accept it, but that knowledge seems to fade away and I question it over time."

Olivia J., 25, freelance writer and marketing specialist — major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, eating disorder not otherwise specified, borderline personality disorder

10. And parenting downright exhausting.

Courtesy of Angela W.

"Not only am I trying to cope with my illness, I also have to be a parent. I get very tired and I feel that when I get home all I want to do is get in my pajamas and sit down. I feel that I have robbed her of the fun, exciting things in life, but I know I am not a bad parent and that I have done the best I can under all that I have been through."

Angela W., 38, clerk to sales and administration — complex PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and major depressive disorder

11. It can strip you of your personality.

"Depression has stripped me of many of the qualities and quirks that make me, me. What's left is a husk of a person — someone I don't particularly like, so how can I expect others to like me?

"In the midst of my depression, I hate myself. It is very difficult to even tolerate yourself when you can seldom muster a shower and your personality has disappeared. I used to be a major tinkerer, always with a drill or paintbrush in hand. But depression has turned me into an inert lump, unable to cook for my family or even keep my hair clean.

"I feel totally disconnected to most of the people in my life and truly lonely for the first time in my life."

Susie C., 48, stay-at-home mom — major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

12. And leave you wondering who you are.

Courtesy of David P.

"When I get into these manic states I can’t control my actions as much as I would like. It’s extremely frustrating and makes me wonder who I really am sometimes."

David P., 26, musician — bipolar disorder

13. Or questioning your potential.

"I was diagnosed with learning disabilities after transferring from public to private school in the third grade when I was eight years old. My first thought was I must be stupid. Already feeling shy as the new kid in school, the diagnosis only added my shyness and embarrassment."

Zach V., 26, founder of Project Upliftlearning disabilities and ADHD

14. You’re tired of being labeled by your condition.

Courtesy of Jeanette P.

"I was 21 when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I was in hospital and the whole thing just seemed too weird for words. I couldn’t accept that I had this illness. It seemed ridiculous. I didn’t really fit the stereotypes I had seen in the media or literature about people with schizophrenia, so I thought the psychiatrist who diagnosed me must have made a mistake.

"I also didn’t want to accept that I had a lifelong illness which I would need to manage forever. My journey to acceptance is an ongoing journey. I learn more about who I am and what my illness means for me every single day."

Jeanette P., 41, risk manager in public administration — atypical schizophrenia and Asperger syndrome

15. You are sick of people downplaying what it means to live with your condition.

Courtesy of Lari W.

"I find it truly offensive when someone says 'I’m so OCD.' Just because you like things to be organized or don’t like your food touching doesn’t mean you have obsessive compulsive disorder.

"You may like all your pictures to be perfectly straight, but have you stepped in and out of the shower for 20 minutes until it felt right, or been convinced that your parents would die if you didn’t get in and out of bed 16 times before you finally went to sleep? Because I have, and I definitely don’t think it’s a cute quirk to have."

Lari W., 21, premed student — OCD and harm OCD

16. You just want to move on and feel better.

"I struggled and still struggle with feeling not mentally ill enough to deserve help, telling myself I'm just lazy and overdramatic and looking for things to blame my problems on, and as a result I kept those problems to myself for years. I did so much unnecessary damage to myself and put myself through so much extra stress because I convinced myself this was just how I naturally was and how life was supposed to be for me. Those are the kinds of lies depression tells us and the kinds of lies anxiety latches on to. They're in no way the truth."

Chelsea P., 26, — currently unemployed — depression and generalized anxiety disorder

17. It’s time to end the stigma.

"Stop calling us bipolar or schizophrenic. Stop labeling us. You don't say someone is cancer or diabetes. I'm not bipolar, I have bipolar disorder. We are people, not diseases. Our diseases don't define us, and people shouldn't use them to define us either."

Joe, 40, applying for disability — bipolar disorder 1, anxiety, depression

Contact Jordan Davidson at jashleydavids@gmail.com.

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