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)

Planes Are Dropping COVID-19

Flying plane in dark leaving trail of smoke behind

When Reality Turns Into A Video Game

We’ve touched upon mental health patients who were previously stable and decompensated from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as patients who were not stable in the first place and who further decompensated mentally. But we haven’t touched upon normal people with no preexisting mental health conditions who became psychotic due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are people who were previously functional prior to the Chinese virus hitting the streets of America. These people were going to work, were completely functional, interacting with friends and family and going on with their normal lives; not even their families were ever suspicious of any loose nuts or bolts in their mental health.

Until the coronavirus hit. Some of these people reported that they were watching a lot of news and constantly worrying about people dying; imagine a tea kettle exploding. They would watch the news so much that it slowly starting impacting their lives: they stopped going to work and started spending more time isolated at home.

Keep in mind that these people never had any previous mental health symptoms. Now that work was out of the picture, they found themselves at home entertaining strange thoughts, such as the UPS truck driver delivering them a package filled with a bomb or the actual virus itself.

If that’s not enough, they even started experiencing visual hallucinations for the first time. Some of these visions included seeing shadows on the walls and the sky turning pitch black. They even started to believe that their cell phone was being traced and also reported hearing voices in their head telling them that they would get the coronavirus.

At this point in time, they became completely nonfunctional within a matter of a month. Keep in mind that not everyone has insight into their psychosis; to some of these people, what they were experiencing felt like reality, but in reality, they were experiencing a video game: planes dropping COVID-19 in the form of dark smoke, evil characters dropping off contaminated UPS packages and demons entering their minds and whispering, “gotcha ya!”

The point is that some people cannot handle catastrophic events like the current coronavirus pandemic; the intensity of the situation overwhelms their rational mind, converting it into an irrational battlefield. So they end up getting admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit and placed on psychotropic medications such as Zyprexa and Thorazine. Thankfully, these medications are powerful enough to end their psychosis but not all return back to being completely normal.

Do you know anyone adversely affected by the coronavirus?

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)

Psychotic And COVID-19 Positive

Psychotic man leaning on frosted glass panel door

When Mental Illness Trumps COVID-19

When psychosis infects your brain and reality retires on vacation, anything can hit you and you’ll likely remain oblivious. That’s because psychosis takes over your thoughts and the way you interpret reality. Imagine the part of your mind that is in tune with reality laying on the beach holding a corona and stating, “I’m done . . . I can no longer deal with his psychosis. Peace.” What’s left in your brain is psychosis with an evil smile stating, “My turn.”

The problem with psychosis is that even patients who are infected with COVID-19 may not be aware of their symptoms . . . or they may be aware but not fully comprehend the nature and severity of their illness and situation. You may try to explain to them that they are infected with a deadly disease and they may look at you like, “COVID? Is that a satellite dish detecting gray space folks?”

When a patient suffers from psychosis and COVID-19, oftentimes, the psychosis trumps the physical disorder. That’s because psychosis takes over the mind and when the mind is distracted, physical symptoms become slowly buried. Unless severe pain is involved, shortness of breath and fever are no match in the ring versus auditory hallucinations and delusional fantasies.

So what becomes of this situation is the question. The patient will end up being treated for the coronavirus and hopefully recover, while quarantined that is. But as far as their insight goes, they will not care that much about their physical symptoms. They may complain that their cough is getting worse or even their shortness of breath, but as compared to a person with no psychosis, their complaints will be minor.

It’s always important to keep in mind that a psychotic patient cannot always relate to reality as well as other people can. It depends on the severity of their psychosis, but psychosis is psychosis at the end of the day . . . something is still off in their thought process and content. That’s why we have to be extra cautious with patients suffering from a mental illness and who are COVID positive . . . they may never report their symptoms in the first place.

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)

Learn To Accept Your Reality

Black man in orange hoodie wearing white VR headset accepting his reality while lifting right hand

Do Not Run Away From The Present

We hear a lot of rags to riches stories on YouTube and on the internet and we start to feel down because we are not living that life. We hear positive affirmation techniques to apply to ourselves and tips on how to get ahead in life, but we end up scratching our head, wondering why they do not work on us. But the truth is that these stories and techniques will not advance your life; only you can do that!

Accepting your reality and becoming happy with your life is the first step in climbing the ladder to success. You can apply all the techniques in the world but if you are not genuinely happy with yourself and your reality, you will not budge.

The key to accepting your reality is being present in the moment and being thankful for the things you have. A mistake people make is that they live in the past or in the future because their reality is too painful; this prevents them from working on themselves in the present moment.

Thinking about the future is an excellent way to increase your motivation, but you must also be fully in tune with your present reality in order to strive forward. Even if your present reality is painful, by accepting it, you will learn how to master the pain and move forward.

Pain is inevitable; it is something that we will experience for the rest of our lives, rich or poor. But you learn from pain! Pain teaches you how to not make certain mistakes, builds your character and sets a direction for you in life; it stimulates you to heal by altering your habits and choices in order to avoid more pain in the future.

But it all boils down to one point: accepting your reality.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)