During this past Thursday’s class, we discussed the current stigma surrounding mental disability. From severe anxiety to schizophrenia, so many conditions exist without visible proof. Paul Heroux, a Massachusetts State Representative, wrote a blog entry on the Huffington Post about a friend of his who was diagnosed with chronic dysthymia last year. The Mayo Clinic states that chronic dysthymia is “a mild but long-term form of depression. Symptoms usually last for at least two years, and often for much longer than that. Dysthymia interferes with your ability to function and enjoy life.”
Prior to receiving his diagnosis, Heroux’s friend was overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. These things and his paranoia severely impacted his dating life. He was hesitant to seek medical attention because he felt as though being given a diagnosis would bring about unwanted shame. (This certainly speaks to the perceptions that many individuals have of mental illness.) Fortunately, he sought help, was diagnosed with chronic dysthymia, and began to take Celexa. His behavior in relationships and overall temperament drastically improved.
Sadly, the issue of whether or not to treat one’s mental illness with medication continues to prevail. Heroux’s friend was in much higher spirits while taking Celexa, but, as a side-effect, he gained a bit of weight. This led him to stop taking his medication. The detriments of his chronic dysthymia returned, and he embarked on a lengthy cycle of highs and extreme lows with a woman who he has been dating for several months. Heroux, upon discovering this, decided to have a conversation with his friend. He discovered that, like with the shame mentioned at the start of the post, his friend was ashamed of his needing medication. He believed that his girlfriend, as well as other women, would reject him because he has a condition.
To an outsider, mental disability is quite confusing. But I think that even those who are on the inside can be perplexed by their conditions. This blog post is a great example of the benefits and consequences of medication, as well as the damaging effects of stigma.