Do you cry?
Do you feel sad?
Do you get angry some days?
Do you feel annoyed with others?
Do you feel shy in a room of crowded people?
If you have any of the symptoms above, then you might be NORMAL!
I just recently read an article titled “Is Anybody Normal Anymore?” And I could relate to this article not because I had any of the mental health disorders listed but because I feel the same way about the DSM.
The DSM is a diagnostic tool that is used by psychiatrists or mental health specialists to treat so called “mental health disorders.” There is a lot of criticism, which is talked about in the article itself, on this diagnostic tool. Some of the criticism is that it includes normal reactions to life events or that it includes false-positives (mean potentially diagnosing someone as sick who may in fact be healthy). In fact, the DSM has been altered since its initial creation that homosexuality has been removed (which is GOOD!) and currently, the LGBT2Q community has been advocating for gender identity reform.
When I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with depression. I was forced to go on Zoloft which was not supposed to be administered to anyone under the age of 18. If I didn’t take it, the hospital team said that they would call CAS (Children’s Aid Society) on me and I would be taken away from my family. I don’t know what happened but not long after taking it, I was in a car accident. I don’t know what happened but immediately after the accident I was not on Zoloft anymore.
Then when I was 18, I was beginning to take a group of drugs that were frequently called “PAM family drugs.” For example, lorazepam, and any other drug that ended in PAM. These were used for my anxiety which sort of did help. The only downside? They were highly addictive. I don’t know if I ever got addicted to them but I take them only sporadically now. At this same time, I wasn’t diagnosed with depression anymore.
Again when I was 22, I saw another psychiatrist (one of about 8 in my entire life). He diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder. Before that, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And before that, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. And before that, anxiety disorder. I was on ativan (lorazepam), valporic acid, seroquel, various sleeping pills.
I just never felt right being on the medication I was on. Seroquel made me feel like I just took a tab of ecstasy. Valporic acid made me feel like a zombie, and wasn’t even supposed to be used for the diagnosis I had! It is a very powerful drug for epileptics. Ativan made me feel drowsy for more than 24 hours.
So what did I stop/start doing? I stop taking all these drugs, and I started eating healthy and going to the gym. I kept myself busy. If I wasn’t busy, I would start thinking about bad things again-things that made me depressed or stressed out which would later cause my anxiety. I cut back on drinking too (if you think you have mental health issues or a mental health disorder, limiting your alcohol intake helps tremendously–but I do know that for some it is more of a self-medication… I did that once too). Also, I started journaling and reflecting on my own thoughts, actions, or behaviours. I just overall feel better about myself. I do have bad days but I know that those bad days will past. It’s not the end of the world. The plus side? I don’t really take drugs anymore (of any kind). I also lost 20 lbs. So, people who I haven’t seen in a long time tell me how great I look which makes me feel great! There have been days where I thought about suicide here and there but I know that it is not worth it. I have worked too hard to get where I am, and have too much to leave behind. I know that people will miss me and that I won’t be able to make memories with them.
Do I believe that mental health disorders don’t exist or that the DSM isn’t helpful? No. I do believe that some people need additional help like with medications. The DSM provides a guideline for some mental health professionals but it should not be relied on in its entirety. My own personal examples above are a perfect example of how I was constantly being tossed around from psychiatrist to psychiatrist to only receive a new diagnosis and a new drug that wasn’t even made for the use it is originally prescribed for.
Just some things that are considered normal are now being treated as abnormal. We shouldn’t be just complicit in our demise as loving, caring, full of emotion human beings. It is okay to cry. It is okay to get angry. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel overwhelmed in a crowded room. And it is most certainly okay to be annoyed with people… because some people can just straight up be annoying!