NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) says that 37% of us alcoholics and 53% of drug addicts have a form of mental illness.  It’s a complex statistic for a couple reasons.  One, as a professional counselor who has studied the DSM V a bit, I realize that “substance abuse” sometimes is an actual diagnosed mental illness along with others more familiar, such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, so I’m confused by separating my alcoholism and my mental illness. Recently diagnosed as “Bi Polar I” yet for the past 15 years major depression was the name of the game.  Therefore,I question what came first?  The mental illness or the substance abuse, for those of us with both?  I know for me, mental illness was always there.  Waiting to be cultivated or aggravated by environmental factors (i.e. my childhood). My father is a tragic alcoholic. In denial still at age 64, that his drinking is a disease known by many as “alcoholism”. I have gone into detail on occasion of the misery this has caused for me and my two younger sisters. But now a grown CoA (Child of Alcoholic) and one that is also in recovery (450 days sober)I can’t totally forgive him and my mother for this awesome struggle I face daily. My depression, and now this new “bipolar I”, along with sobriety, challenge my sanity on a daily –sometimes hourly–basis. The burden of struggle is not unique to humanity. I get it. I just want someone to blame, and so I blame them. But that doesn’t make me healthy or any better off. I have accepted my alcoholism and did something about it. I got sober. Would I love my dad to do the same? Of course, I love him. But efforts to that effect are wasted. I am daily gripped by rages so hot they burn my eyes and my ears ring. This unparalleled anger softens eventually to a resonating guilt, leading to a deep depression. All in one day. Knowing this to be greatly interfering with my quality of life, I sought help. I’ve sought help for many years, in and out of therapist’s and doctor’s offices. I have some incredible ones I worth with now. I’m looking for the magic wand or fairy dust that will make this burden of mental illness go away. I am taking anti-depressants (that’s right, now with the new bipolar I diagnosis, we add) a benzo at night and my blood pressure medication. I hate taking all the pills. If simply because of the list of side effects listed. I mean, if I’m taking something that I research and find causes (but not usually, ahhh relief) insomnia, TD (where your face muscles make funny movements), anxiety, diabetes, coma, stroke, death and a host of other counterintuitive symptoms, I have a right to my hesitation surely. However, the doctor and patient must weigh the cost/benefit ratio. Because I have been suicidal and that is undoubtedly worse than TD right? I don’t know. I mean, I do know. And that’s why I take my meds. “If you’re happy and you know it, shake your meds” ha ha. That was on a card someone sent me. I think my sister. But honestly, the side effects of all these drugs scares me. Suicide scares me more. And my rage scares me more. It’s safe to say, without medication I wouldn’t be better. Living a better life. Maybe one day. But that day is not today. Sobriety has really unleashed the real me, I suppose. I now do not self-medicate with alcohol, if that is how some of us did become sick. I medicate the Western way, with prescriptions. Another funny (because it’s true) thing is that exercise can help. Maybe even as much as medication. But try getting a major depressive off the couch to go for a run! Ok. Enough with pity. I hate that too. Because I am not to be pitied. Others have far worse a burden and much deeper aches and pains. I wholeheartedly know being sober is best. But this shit with my mind, well…you cannot 12 step away crazy. Mental health providers, physicians, addiction counselors and specialists need to agree on that. A person like me, truly suffering from MI, can’t pray away this other disease. God gives us struggle to learn who we are. I wouldn’t know how crazy I really am save for my sobriety. And that’s all I’ve got for tonight.


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