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Author: John Angelo


timely writerI like to joke that my PTSD, OCD, and depression kept an entire team of counselors and a female doctor in business. My daily life is no joke, though. Every day brings new challenges. Mental illness allows me and millions of others to live like normal people. However, it is a largely invisible disability, and because the stigma persists, few people with intellectual disabilities are willing to come out. Greeting cards and workplace signs that read, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps,” are most people’s defining understanding of mental illness.

In 1949, Mental Health America designated May as “Mental Health Awareness Month.” Today, people wear green ribbons to show their support.

I am 71 years old, but only ten years ago I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a month of disturbing dreams and waking auras. I’m here to tell you that repressed memories are real. The most profound incident of abuse for me occurred when I was six years old. I was diagnosed with OCD/depression when I was 19, which is the typical age of onset for mental illness. I recently learned that about two-thirds of people with PTSD also have some degree of OCD.

Depression is the leading cause of disability among 15-44 year olds and leads to 41,000 suicides each year. One in five adults and one in 10 teenagers suffer from some degree of depression each year. People with a family history of depression are 2-3 times more likely to develop depression (count me in!) and account for 35% of all depression diagnoses. Although only one in five adults with depression seeks treatment, depression accounts for 65.4% of all mental health services.

In World War I it was shell shock. In World War II this was called combat fatigue. The diagnosis of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) began in the United States during the Vietnam War and continues today among personnel deployed to combat zones. The battle zone can also be an abusive family or an abusive partner. This is an ongoing illness. Psychiatric medications can be helpful, but know that everyone has a PTSD threshold, which is a limit on how much stress a person can tolerate before the PTSD cup is empty. Support our veterans. Gaslighting (“It can’t be that bad”) is not allowed.

Not all therapists are created equal. Some people begin a therapeutic relationship in an attempt to put the client into their favorite diagnostic box. Some blame the patient. An angry counselor told me to put my past in a shoebox and put it on the highest shelf in my closet.

When I’m interviewed for writing, I follow the 45-second rule. My questions should be short and my answers should take no more than 45 seconds. The only thing I do differently with this is the last question: “Do you have anything else to add?” This is usually my only open-ended question.

A good therapist is a good listener, and therapist and client time limits work well here as well. A good therapist knows when to listen, when to offer advice, and when to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand. Being a good listener doesn’t mean asking the client to talk for only 45 minutes of a 50-minute meeting.

resource:

  • Nationalcouncil.org offers a free Mental Health Awareness Month toolkit.
  • The statistics in this article come from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-IV) and HopefordEpression.org.
  • Three books worth reading are darkness visible William Styron, Anatomy of an Epidemic Robert Whitaker and body record score In Bessel van der Kolk.
  • goffstownlibrary.com/558/MENTALHEALTH

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You can contact John Angelo at timewriter@hotmail.com




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