Living with Multiple Mental Disorders
This is the third and last in a series of blogs about comorbid mental disorders.
Perspectives of Persons Affected
For this blog, I am directing you to the 2 linked articles below, both by individuals who live with comorbid disorders. Via the articles, they generously shared their experiences and insights. I have outlined here key points they made, but I highly encourage you to read the articles in their entirety. Of course, each person’s experience of comorbid disorders is unique. Yet, the personal accounts offered in the articles do shed some light on the realities and challenges of living with multiple disorders, strategies to cope and ways others can support affected persons.
Living With Multiple Illnesses: 7 Things to Know & How to Be a Better Ally (thebodyisnotanapology.com)
In this article, the author shared things she wants us to know about living with comorbid mental disorders and things we can do to help.
Things to Know About Comorbidity
- Comorbidity is complicated.
- Comorbidity can create external barriers to treatment.
- Comorbidity can create internal barriers to treatment.
- Comorbidity often involves compounding symptoms.
- The self-understanding of people with multiple mental disorders is constantly evolving.
- Their illnesses evolve, too.
- Comorbidity is its own trigger.
How to Support People Dealing with Comorbidity
- Understand and learn about the experiences of people who live with multiple mental disorders.
- Trust what persons with comorbid disorders tell you about themselves.
- Use your abilities to help persons living with multiple mental disorders.
- Leverage your privilege to help persons living with multiple mental disorders.
- Check what you think you know.
- Become an advocate.
- Take care of yourself.
In this article, the author noted that it was particularly important for her to learn how to “live with her multiple mental health disorders rather than in spite of them.” As she grew in her understanding of her multiple diagnoses and found her way to successful treatment, she recognized that these mind states/activities were essential in managing her diagnoses:
- It’s OK to lean on family members and loved ones.
- It is important to take care of your physical health, too.
- Be aware of—and avoid—risk factors to kept yourself safe.
- Stay on top of your medications.
The author acknowledged that the process of diagnoses and effective treatment of her multiple mental disorders has been a long journey. This quote nicely sums up her current approach to living with her conditions:
“While I’m certainly not dancing in the street and celebrating my diagnoses (aside from the fact that I can’t dance in the first place), I do take comfort in understanding them, and I feel confident in my ability to work with healthcare providers to maintain an effective treatment plan. As I said at the start, I live with my conditions. But it wasn’t easy getting to this point.”
Getting Started in Managing Symptoms
If you are dealing with co-existing mental disorders or think you have symptoms of multiple disorders, it can feel intimidating to seek assistance. You may feel alone and resigned to being ruled by your mental illnesses. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is help available and there is no shame in reaching out. You are so worthy of help and of being more contented in your life.
To start the process of getting help to manage multiple mental health conditions:
- Begin to educate yourself about what you are dealing with.
- Identity healthcare providers in the community who can assist you–your primary care doctor may be able to refer you to appropriate mental health providers.
- Work with your healthcare providers seek diagnoses and come up with a treatment plan (medication, talk therapy, self-care strategies, etc.) tailored for you.
- Implement the plan (with other’s support as needed)
- Tweak the plan, in conjunction with treatment providers, if the treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, your symptoms change or if new situations arise that impact your mental health.
It likely will require a sustained effort to get the help you need, but it can be done with commitment, patience and self-compassion. Please don’t give up if you don’t get relief in the short-term. Look for ways to avoid major overwhelm or frustration in your ongoing quest to better manage your mental health conditions.
For example, break the process down into small steps (however small you need them to be). If there is a long wait to get started with the diagnostic or treatment process, give yourself related tasks to do in the interim (such as talking about your struggles with a friend who is a good listener or calling a crisis worker as needed via the free 24/7 national 988 suicide and crisis lifeline, taking care of your physical health and finding out more about mental health conditions online (two good websites to get rolling with are the National Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health America).
Another thing you can do to help cope with stress and frustrations related to getting the right mix of treatment: Build a network of personal support (support groups included) to aid you in the difficult times and celebrate with you in good times.
Contact the Mindful Counseling Center to discuss your options for getting started with treatment: 609-377 5859 or go to our website.
Article by Kristin Littel