Chapter-Mental-health.doc - CHAPTER 13 \u201cYou\u2019re Such a Downer:\u201d Living with Mental Illness\"I feel like I'm in a cage and I'm trapped and I can't

Chapter-Mental-health.doc - CHAPTER 13 u201cYouu2019re...

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CHAPTER 13 “You’re Such a Downer:” Living with Mental Illness "I feel like I'm in a cage and I'm trapped, and I can't get out and it's night time and the daylight’s never going to come. Because if the daylight came, I could figure out how to get out of the cage, but I can’t.” Ava, a nurse in her 30s, continued to describe the darkness. ”Sometimes I feel like I’m being smothered in that I can’t breathe. I am being suffocated…And it’s like falling down a well, like I’m free-falling. That’s what it is. And I have nowhere to grab onto to stop it." 1 Scott, a journalist in his 40s, recounts similar feelings of desperation: "My wedding was accompanied by sweating so torrential that it soaked through my clothes and by shakes so severe that I had to lean on my bride at the altar, so as not to collapse. At the birth of our first child, the nurses had to briefly stop ministering to my wife, who was in the throes of labor, to attend to me as I turned pale and keeled over. I’ve abandoned dates; walked out of exams; and had breakdowns during job interviews, plane flights, train trips, and car rides, and simply walking down the street. On ordinary days, doing ordinary things – reading a book, lying in bed, talking on the phone, sitting in a meeting, playing tennis – I have thousands of times been stricken by a pervasive sense of existential dread and been beset by nausea, vertigo, shaking, and a panoply of other physical symptoms." 2 For Kerri, a recent college graduate, it was challenging to concentrate in class: “My professor is speaking just a few feet away, but he fades in and out of my focus. I drift between the PowerPoint on the screen in front of the classroom and the notes on my computer. I absently enter bullet points. Occasionally, a ripple of laughter flows through the classroom. My classmates’ questions and stories, along with my professor’s 1
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responses, swirl around me and fill the room. This isn’t a boring class. This lecture on mental health and exercise definitely interests me. And my professor does his best to keep us engaged with amusing and interesting stories. Still, like a pinball, my focus bounces from one thing to another. The lecture is the last thing my brain wants to pay attention to, even though I want to pay attention and I’m trying hard to. But I’m caught up in the chaos of the sounds of my fellow students—zippers, coughs, pen, keyboard clicks." 3 Ava has clinical depression, a paralyzing syndrome of loneliness and despair that affects approximately 6.7 percent of Americans over 18. Scott is among the roughly 18.1 percent of adults who have anxiety, a condition involving chronic worrying and feeling on edge. Kerri has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by impulsivity and difficulty staying focused on a single activity. It’s most common in kids. The medical community, which receives influence from the manufacturers of ADHD drugs, diagnoses about 11 percent of those under age 18 as having this condition. Depression, anxiety, and ADHD are three types of mental illness
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