💮 What mental illness feels like

A series with an inside look at the effects of mental illness and the way that I have made sense of it in my life.


Introduction/disclaimers

For a couple months, I have wanted to write about my mental health, and the different disorders or symptoms that I have faced. I continue to improve, and am currently working in an intensive outpatient program for my OCD. In a glorious cycle, as I become better at facing my mental illness, I am able to be more objective and detached about my experience, which helps me face and handle it better. So, while I do hope that sharing my experience can be helpful for others to recognize what they may be facing, this is primarily a selfish series in which I want to better understand myself and what I’m going through.

This is further a selfish series because I want to capture the current state of my thoughts around mental health. I can already feel myself bending and changing in my treatment. I know that I will progress and see things, including myself, differently as I move forward. Writing my experiences now preserves this fragile part of my mind, just like a before picture. I do not know if this is a series I will revisit in the future, but I already want to read it again in six months when I am a different person.

My mind requires me to issue a few disclaimers. I am not a mental health care professional. Essentially, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I may mix up terminology. I will almost certainly speak about disorders and symptoms incorrectly. I come to this as a fellow traveler on the road to discovery, seeking merely to share my observations of the journey, not as a sage atop the mountain of mastery and understanding. I do not speak definitively on any of these topics. Instead, I speak highly subjectively of my experience with them. If this is triggering for you, leave it. If it is offensive to you because of how wrong I am, I apologize. Try your best to let it go. If it is helpful to you, find a way to pay it forward and extend care and compassion to people in your life. I take no responsibility for what you will do with what I say. I simply seek to share my story.

Articles

Conclusion

Writing this series has been a wonderful experience for me. I have found the process to be therapeutic as I confront different dark realities of my mind and shine light on them. It has also been helpful to get concrete examples to better understand what I am experiencing. When I notice certain feelings in my body, I can now recognize them more easliy. As they have become more familiar, they have lost some of their danger and mystique.

I mentioned in my microblog post that this has been my best writing. As I alluded to, I mean that in a couple sense of the word. First, I feel the most proud at having written this series. It was deep and meaningful to me, and I felt vulnerable in sharing these private thoughts and experiences, and I celebrate that. This is the kind of writing I want to do more of. Second, this was immensely helpful to me to process and concretize my perceptions. I understand myself better, and feel a little more self-compassion.

Everyone has been or will be touched by mental illness. My hope is that we can have a more open and honest conversation about our experiences. Only in this way can we encourage the people we love (including ourselves!) to get the help that we so desperately need. I am so grateful for the support structure I am blessed to enjoy, particularly for my wife. And I hope that I can help others and pay forward some of what I have received.