Same Mental Illness, Different Perception Of Reality

Woman with white paint on palm and face

Mental Illness Personalized

The subjectivity related to the field of mental health has a lot to do with the many different versions of a particular mental illness. Someone with MDD may by suffering from a decreased appetite and sleep, while another person with atypical depression may be experiencing an increased appetite and sleep. Mental illness may affect everyone differently even if the diagnosis is the same. That’s why we cannot assume that we understand what everyone is going through.

It’s not that the mechanism of action of a mental illness is different for everyone; the same imbalance in neurotransmitters and structural brain changes may be occurring in everyone who is affected. But not everyone views a similar environment in the same way and that’s why mental health is unique to each individual. In order to more effectively help a person suffering from a mental illness, we must become more effective and empathic listeners.

One’s surroundings, financial and marital status, background, childhood and even race affects their perception of reality differently when suffering from a mental illness. For instance, a rich 40 year-old man may recover more easily from depression than a poor 40 year-old man isolated in a rural area. One’s environment and background are extremely important to how they handle their present day mental illness.

Can you see how and why mental health is so personalized to the individual patient? Half the battle of defeating a mental illness has to do with a patient’s current social and financial status. If a patient has nothing going for them, think how much more difficult it is for them to harness the inner strength and desire to recover from their mental illness; medications will not always carry the heavy load all the way to the finish line.

From now on, whenever you meet someone who you think might be suffering from a mental illness, don’t be quick to assume that you understand their pain and suffering. You really have to listen to them carefully and even then, you might not relate. But you don’t have to be able to relate in order to be of help; listening will always go a long way to helping a mental health patient feel heard and more accepted.

Let’s continue to come together and share our experiences with mental illness. By opening up and spreading more honesty, love and joy into the world, we will be able to create a place where people will no longer be ashamed of their mental health status; a world where acceptance and appreciation of one’s differences will be the reality at play.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

You’re Not Crazy, Just Different

Black man with afro and glasses holding hands in front of left eye

Your Perception Is Unique

The word crazy should be eliminated from the mental health community. It really serves no purpose besides reinforcing the stigma behind mental illness. There has never been a time in the mental health community where the word crazy served a useful purpose. All it does is label those who act differently than the rest of society. But has labeling ever accomplished anything useful in this world?

The truth of the matter is that people are going to continue to use the word crazy and there’s nothing we can really do besides advocate otherwise. But you shouldn’t get bothered by the fact that someone is labeling you as crazy; just brush it off and move on with your life. The more we remain strongly united in the mental health community, the easier it will become to shake off the many attacks that prevail.

The beauty about mental health is that there are many differences among us. We are trained to believe that having a mental illness is all bad; that’s it for you, you’re done for! But it’s quite the opposite. Many people who come to terms with their mental illness find a new love for themselves and some even claim to experience more energy and creativity, in a good and healthy way (not the manic kind).

These differences are what is going to continue to unite us in the mental health world, but we need to step up to the plate and embrace our differences on a global scale. The more people that we can touch, the easier it will become to have the many who are ashamed and embarrassed of their mental illness come out of the shadows. Can you imagine the day when the world will no longer associate a mental illness with a stigma?

I know that many of you continue to suffer on a daily basis because of your mental illness, and I feel your struggle, but you have to also find a way to discover the beauty behind your altered perception of reality. If you continue to dwell on the negativity associated with your mental illness, you are only giving it more power and energy to keep haunting you.

In my previous article, I talked about the importance of learning how to take back control of your mind. Now I’m taking it a step further; the importance of recognizing and connecting with your differences and unique perception and really tapping into them so that you can harness the good that lies beyond. The truth is that I have no way to teach you how to do that; you have to learn it for yourself.

At the end of the day, remember that there is no such thing as “crazy;” it’s just another label thrown around by mankind to help contribute to division and hatred. Everyone is different and that’s what makes this world beautiful.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Silently Panicking

Brown and black desk globe with yellow "stay home" sticky note on top of it

Living In A Ghost Town

The coronavirus pandemic is every bit as mental as it is physical. You are not in the clear if you don’t have physical symptoms because your perception on reality has now been altered. It’s not like you purposely altered your perception; it just happened as a reaction to the virus infecting humanity. Just take a look outside and you will see how quiet the streets are; ghosts have replaced human beings.

New York is not what it used to be. It now takes 30 minutes to get from eastern Queens to Washington Heights where Columbia University is located; on a normal day, it would take 45-60 minutes. Walking down the streets of Manhattan, very few people can be observed. Almost everyone is wearing a mask and you don’t even have to wait at a red light if you are attempting to cross the street; no cars are coming in the opposite direction!

There are more parked cars than there are moving vehicles. Sadly, people are either at home or in the hospital; society feels totally shut down. At least hospital cafeterias and coffee shops remain open; there are no lines and the food options have decreased greatly. But you can still get a nice warm veggie pizza however!

No more long Starbucks lines. You can now receive your Caramel Frappuccino in a couple of minutes. But as you slowly make your way back outside, you unconsciously start to panic after you see the empty streets again. You also develop a dry cough . . . “Does this mean that I have COVID-19?”

As you very well may now, this time of the year you are still susceptible to acquiring a common cold or the flu. But because of the coronavirus slowly destroying society, you start to freak out when your cough persists. Your anxiety level starts to build as you wonder if you are walking around infected. If you are living alone at home, you start to become sad as you start to feel isolated and distanced from society.

But then you remind yourself that the rest of the world is isolated at home too and that you’re not the only one. But does that help?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

World Dominated By Hallucinations

Bokeh photography of young woman experiencing colorful hallucinations

Altered Environmental Perceptions

There are many types of hallucinations and each may result from a completely different reason. No matter how unrealistic the description of a hallucination may sound to you, it is very real for the individual who is experiencing it. It is also very tempting for people who don’t experience them, to discount others’ hallucinatory experiences.

We must remember that even though hallucinations are not real, we should not put someone who experiences them in a position of shame or embarrassment. Since hallucinations are powerful to begin with, the last thing that you want to do is to further destabilize their state of mind with insecurity and uncertainty.

Schizophrenics usually experience auditory hallucinations. These are typically voices which are heard coming from the inside of their head. Most will tell you that the voices sound like as if a real person were talking to them! The voices may alternate between male and female, young and old and sometimes even converse among each other.

The voices can be commanding in nature, telling them to do harmful things to themselves or to others. When not controlled by antipsychotics, many people can do quite harmful and terrifying things secondary to command hallucinations. The voices can also be pleasant, demeaning or neutral, either telling them nice things, making fun of them or stating things that are neither harmful nor pleasant.

Schizophrenics usually don’t experience visual hallucinations, but they can! These are mostly experienced when an organic pathology is at play, such as a brain tumor, a traumatic-brain injury or viral infection of the central nervous system. Visual hallucinations are also experienced in people who use drugs such as psychedelics, deliriants, ecstasy and more.

Schizophrenics may also experience olfactory hallucinations or hallucinations of smell. They may complain of smelling dead people! Others with a seizure disorder may smell burning rubber prior to the onset of their seizure. Olfactory hallucinations are not as disturbing, but can still be quite uncomfortable.

Schizophrenics may experience tactile hallucinations or hallucinations of touch. The classic tactile hallucinations experienced by cocaine users is called formication, or bugs crawling on top of their skin. The experience may by very frightening, often causing them to vigorously scratch at their skin or even use more of the drug, with the hope of making the sensation go away.

While hallucinations are just altered perceptions of one’s environment, they feel very real to those who experience them. The best approach to adopt when talking to someone who is experiencing hallucinations, is to compassionately listen to their description and understand where they are coming from. By developing a therapeutic alliance, you are putting yourself in a much better position to potentially guide and help them come back to reality.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

You Decide Your Reality

Below view of window ceiling architecture based on the perception of reality

The Garden Of Positive Affirmations

I often hear people saying “this or that will be hard, my life is so miserable, I can’t take it anymore”; what they don’t seem to understand is that they’re feeding their mind these negative comments. Your mind is like a garden; it’s easy to grow weeds (negative thoughts) but it takes work and effort to grow flowers (positive thoughts). Be thankful for what you have definitely promotes flowers!

“You decide your reality” means you have a large saying in how your life goes; your perception of reality plays a large component. Studies have shown that people who practice positive affirmations (daily repetition of positive phrases) are happier, more optimistic and have a clearer perspective on life.

We often get stuck in negative thoughts based on events that occur in our life; negativity has such a strong impact on our mind and personality if we don’t learn to tame it. First, is coming to terms with the fact that negativity will never go away; it’s just part of life.

After you have accepted this, now your task becomes to tame negativity: learning to not be as strongly affected by it and quickly putting it aside shortly after its inception, will help you recover more effectively.

Practicing positive affirmations does not mean that you are ignoring your reality and being unrealistic. It is a tool that can help you stay positive and reframe the way you think, believe and perceive the world and your surroundings.

Find your positive inner child and have fun creating positive affirmations; you have been given free will to control your thoughts. Why let the world decide for you how to think, feel and react when you are the controller of your mind?

The DSM Ready Movement is based on positivity; a free community based on openness and honesty and the advancement of human consciousness through the power of love!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)