So it was a bit scary to publicize that first blog post, but it's important to emphasize that:
1) I'm fine.
And, more importantly:
2) Tons and tons of people live happy, productive lives even while struggling with mental health issues.
Depression, bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder, OCD, ADD, ADHD, etc. etc. are chronic illnesses. So are arthritis, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, Crohn's disease, sleep apnea, etc. etc. The latter six afflictions are for the most part discussed without shame or stigma. The former? Not so much.
Mental health problems are exactly that: health problems. Everyone experiences them to some degree: you may not have one of the chronic issues, like recurring panic attacks or bipolar disorder, but you have experienced moments of anxiety or sadness or stress. Think of those periods like the flu or a cold: you exhibit symptoms that are hard on you and your body, but eventually they go away. More chronic conditions require medicine, therapy, lifestyle changes, or some combination of the three. Someone with Type 2 diabetes has to change his diet and measure his blood sugar daily. An arthritis sufferer might take painkillers and do physical therapy. An OCD sufferer might take an SSRI and engage in cognitive behavioral therapy (in a later post I'll get to just how painful this treatment can be when dealing with OCD). A person with ADD might take Adderall and practice concentration techniques. Get the idea? It can be physical. It can be mental. But if it's a health issue, we try to treat it and should do so without shame.
I should say here that, obviously, when a mental illness causes someone to really harm other people through violence or abuse (emotional or physical), a whole new set of issues arises. As I have no meaningful experience with that type of thing, I'm not particularly qualified to comment on it, but I do believe that mental illness cannot be used as an excuse for that violence or anything like it.
To me, that makes it even more important to treat mental issues early. My concern is that mental health problems, from the earliest stages, are unnecessarily placed in a shameful "Do Not Discuss" box and are left untreated. Looking at them like we do physical maladies and treating them from the get-go, without hesitation or embarrassment, could help prevent things from getting to the point where people get hurt. I totally understand why it's difficult for some people to see it that way and why the comparison isn't perfect: unlike the case with physical illnesses, symptoms of mental disorders are often completely internal, observable only by the person whose brain is affected. When symptoms are observable, they often take the form of strange or unusual behavior. So symptoms are either invisible or manifested in how a person acts, which makes mental conditions seem...weird or scary. I get it. But our brains are physical things comprised of neurons and blood and chemicals. When something in there isn't functioning perfectly—just like when a pancreas isn't producing the perfect amount of insulin or when joint cartilage isn't lasting as long as it should—we are left with uncomfortable symptoms and should try to treat the problem.
A constantly aching back is nothing to be ashamed of. Nor is a mind that won't stop racing. Irritable bowels are no cause for embarrassment, and neither is a stubborn depression. They're all health issues, so talk about them, get help, and treat the problem before it gets too serious.