Sunday, May 6, 2018

Guest Post #6 - My Story - Mental Health Awareness Month - By Aubrey Good

1)      How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?
I believe that I was in elementary school when symptoms first came forward. I was an extreme perfectionist, often having enormous tantrums if one little hair on my head did not sit right or I received a 98% on a test instead of a 99%. I also began going through cycles of “ticks” and phobias. I went through phases of social awkwardness as well. By the time I was 13 it was apparent that I had episodes of depression which is when I was misdiagnosed.
2)      Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?

My grandmother worked in the mental health field and my family on both sides have dealt with various mental health issues so I did have a support system in place and was given treatment (for the wrong disorder) when things became severe enough. Unfortunately the antidepressants caused a long, drawn out mania that wasn’t understood and discovered until about 16-18. At 18, after being medicine free for about 2 years and still acting unusually, I was finally diagnosed correctly and was supported moving forward although I do believe that if there had been more willingness to discuss personal mental illness/struggles, I could have received better guidance and care.

3)      What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?

I would tell myself that the best I can do for myself is to shed the shame and embarrassment I feel and instead own the illness for its role in my life. Acceptance is crucial to moving forward toward a better, more positive self.

4)      What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?

I get frustrated when I hear people using “mental illness” incorrectly to describe individuals who are struggling with their mental health. I believe that referring to a healthy state of mind as “mental health” but a chemical imbalance in the brain as “mental illness” is misleading and offers the misconception that our minds should only be treated with care if it is diseased. I think that a better term to describe mental illness would be “mental disease” because there is an extreme difference between someone with bipolar disorder (the disease) and someone who is having a difficult time mentally due to extreme stress in their life (temporarily ill). I came across this misconception multiple times in the recent reporting surrounding mass shootings, but I see this regularly on a daily basis where people without the chemical imbalance ignore their mental wellbeing in general.

5)      How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future?
I believe that where this is a lack of education and understanding, there will always be a certain degree of stigma. I do believe that it is getting better though because I am able to see each day a number of new voices being raised to share their realities living with mental illness. It is a very daunting task to stand up to stigma because despite all of the good and progress made, there will be some pushback and negativity. This is what makes advocacy such a brave act.
I do think that we within the mental illness community need to do a better job of eradicating stigma amongst our peers. We all lose when we begin to compare each other to one another. Mental illness comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, etc. and the experience of it is relative to the individual. Embracing our differences in favor of support of one another is so important.
6)      What do you do to get through the bad days? 
I always looked for a magic routine to use during my bad days. I was convinced that this routine would save me from wasted hours lying in bed. It turns out my bad days vary in intensity and form and that there is no one-fits-all routine. So now I just let myself have them. Sometimes this means staying in bed all day, sometimes it means calling off work. Other days it means refraining from any social activity while others I need to be around people. I have learned to stop fighting the bad day and let my body and mind recover in whatever way is best in that moment.
7)      Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community?
I work as the Social Media & Program Coordinator at International Bipolar Foundation. In some ways my whole life has become finding new ways to help the mental health community. Some of the topics I am passionate about and work on at IBPF include: inclusivity from the mental health community in our blogs, webinars, etc, men’s mental health, criminal justice & prison mental health reform, veteran mental health reform, and minority mental health. It is amazing to see some of these topics slowly working their way through our organization to make lasting change. My work here has also inspired me to taking more responsibility in the role of being an advocate in my personal life.
8)   Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.
Instagram: agood0825
Twitter: AubreyMGood

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