Editor’s note: Happy Monday light beams! Today I’m feeling amped because it’s the start of a new week and we’re just on the cusp of the Christmas season right now, so I’m happy the year is ending. It’s been terribly trying for me in many ways, especially with my mental health, but I’ve learnt so much and my growth is undeniable – good stuff. There are big plans for 2017 in the works and I’m claiming it as my year of greatness, so now I’m looking forward to it coming so everything will start to manifest. Isn’t it crazy how time is? Pretty sure it was January last week. Anyway, today is a pretty special one for me and for this blog – I’ve been hinting at it for a while (this post should have been part of my World Mental Health Week 2016 series, which totally didn’t happen) and now it’s time to finally share it with you – because everything manifests exactly when and as it should. *drumroll*
Tsansai.com is premiering its first mental health-related guest story (by an overseas writer) and I couldn’t be happier! It’s the perfect preface to my upcoming post about coping strategies/positive lifestyle changes that can be implemented to make life easier when mental illnesses get involved – the struggle is real, fam, but it can be done. Today, Michigan-based fellow writer/advocate Simone Flynn of The Perpetual Pink Cloud is sharing useful information and tips with us about the relationship between drug abuse and mental illness; and, as I always stress, why we need to urgently address the associated stigmas so more people can reach out for the help they need.
I want to thank her for her contribution as I find this guest post as refreshing as it is educational – she’s taken the time to simplify the matter for us so well! Dive in and check it out and if you’d like to contribute a post, feel free to reach out here.
Love, light & blessings,
Addressing the stigma
Mental health issues and drug or alcohol addiction are two topics that are heavily stigmatised here in America and many other areas of the world. The false idea that the addict or someone with a mental disorder is weak, or less than, must be broken. Someone struggling with a mental disorder or an addiction will often continue to live in their own hell out of fear of what others will say, rather than stepping forward to get the help they need.
Making the connection: why drugs/alcohol and how it begins
According to the (American) National Institute on Drug Abuse, those who suffer from a mood or anxiety disorder are two-times as likely to also suffer from substance abuse. A 2014 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests over 20 million Americans suffered from a mental disorder, and of that number, nearly eight million also suffered from substance abuse. This problem is called co-morbidity, meaning that the abnormal thoughts, behaviours and emotions that come with mental illnesses can result in the individual self-medicating, which often leads to addiction. To manage their uphill climb, many people suffering from mental disorders and addiction must be diligent on a daily basis in order to function as productive members of society—and all too often, their struggle remains hidden in the face of stigma.
It’s understandably hard to win the day-to-day battles of addiction, or to live with a mental health issue, so it helps to first understand the problem. It could be possible that some people are living with mental disorders and have been struggling with drug addiction for a long time without making the connection. Many treatment centres here, such as Floridian or California rehab centers (i.e. a popular, sunny place to receive treatment) have been at the front of the line when addressing co-morbidity, and some will still see mental health and addiction treatment as two separate categories. Going to a rehab, hospital or clinic that can assess patients for mental health issues rather than just treating a drug addiction is a great start for personal recovery and growth.
It is important for persons challenged with these problems, or loved ones who take care of these persons to know that learning about their mental disorders must be done with an open mind. As stated before, the stigma and judgment that comes with having a mental health challenge can be quite overwhelming – and that’s putting it mildly. When you accept the problem and can see the connection between mental illness and addiction, you will be able to better treat these problems. For example, I know of someone suffering from high anxiety and alcoholism who decided to go to a California rehab facility for his drinking. Little did he know, he was also going to be assessed for mental illness by a licensed psychiatrist. Luckily, with this assessment, the psychiatrist realised that he was suffering from an anxiety disorder and began drinking heavily to cope with it.
When people are made aware of their mental illnesses, they can begin to identify or plan for better ways to cope with their symptoms that turning to drug abuse. There are plenty of positive outlets people can implement into their daily lives to deal with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other common mental health problems.
Acceptance – The First Step
As with many other things in life, the key to overcoming the problems associated with mental illness and drug abuse/addiction is often acceptance, which follows understanding. The first step in the world-renowned Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step plan is to admit your problem (and I’m not saying that you need to adopt AA to successfully recover— but it’s the first step for any variation in the recovery process, be it from mental illness, addiction, or both).
Once you can do this, you will begin to address it with a more open mind. Owning your mental disorders, or not being afraid what others think about you, can go a long way in your overall quality of life. And being open about your mental health challenges or addiction could also inspire someone you know to come clean about their own problems as well, in turn, helping to save a life. When you continue to share your struggle and move forward, you will learn how to shift your perception to seek help, embrace the your journey and recovery process, and, in doing so, develop inner strength that can last a lifetime.
Simone Flynn is an American writer who blogs about addiction, recovery, mental health and wellness, along with other topics. Feel free to check out more on her own blog The Perpetual Pink Cloud or her contributions at The Mighty for more #mentalhealth stories, and follow her on Twitter to keep up with her latest happenings.