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  • Writer's pictureSharon McClellan Thomason

Why Mental Illnesses Should Be Treated as Seriously as Physical Illnesses

A day in the life of someone who suffers from Huntington’s disease:

July 22, 2016

My first trip to the emergency room for anxiety.

*Alarm goes off*

I literally can’t get out of bed today. I have to get out of bed today. If I lay here and do nothing, then I’m wasting all of my time and being lazy. If I get out of bed, then I have to face the world. My head feels so heavy. The clock always ticks so slowly, and I’m going to have to talk to a lot of people today. Maybe I can call in sick. Maybe I’ll crash my car on the way to work. Maybe…

I get up to get ready.

My hair looks so frizzy today. You know what? I’m not going to wear makeup today. No-wait, if I don’t wear makeup, people will think that I’m lazy and ugly. But if I put on my makeup, people might think I’m trying too hard. I have to put on just the right amount. 

Ugh, I overdid it again. I look like a slut now. I’ll have to wear something to make it look like I really wasn’t trying that hard. 

I throw on some sweats and a t-shirt.

Now my face and my outfit don’t match. I just won’t go anywhere until I have to work.

I look at all of the medication I have to take for the day. Sometimes they make me feel almost normal, and sometimes they make me feel like a ghost.

I wonder if I could leave out this medication and replace it with this medication so that I’ll be able to feel better? I’ll just take these five and this one later. I hope they keep me level-headed today. If not, I’m really screwed.

I sit down on the couch to try and watch some T.V., but my thoughts are racing so quickly that I can’t even concentrate on what I’m watching.

What am I doing with my life? I’m 23 and still in school. I have so many bills to pay. What if I never meet someone before I get sick? I want to have children so badly. What about my mom? I have to help her, I have to make her well. And my sister, she can’t have Huntington’s, and neither can my nephew. If we all have it, who will take care of us? I’m sitting on the couch, literally doing nothing with my time. What if my writing career never takes off? I don’t even feel normal enough to punch something out really quick. Why don’t I look like that model on T.V.? Does God hear me when I pray? Why can’t I muster up the strength to check in on my friends?

And this is all within about a two minute time-frame.

Work rolls around, and the medication I had taken earlier was not making me feel very good.

Oh God, I’m so scared to get into the car. What if I get into a wreck? What if I accidentally kill someone? Or get pulled over? I would go to jail for life. What if I’m late to work? I would get fired and have no money to pay all of my bills. I have to make enough money today. If my car breaks down, how am I going to pay to fix it? God, please help me.

My heart begins beating rapidly, but I drive off to work anyways.

I arrive with five minutes to spare and a mind that is not ready to interact with people, at least not properly.

I do fine at first, conversing with my tables politely while satisfying their need for quick, friendly service.

But my mind hasn’t stopped. In fact, it’s been racing faster and faster as every minute passes.

My heart starts to race. I begin to notice that I keep running into things: tables, chairs, the walls.

And then I wake up on the ground, gasping for every breath and shaking like crazy. People are surrounding me, shouting at me to roll on my back, no, on my side, keep your head tilted. Open up your chest. Breathe.

I’m taken out of work on a stretcher and hoisted into the ambulance. The medics put breathing tubes into my nose, and soon, I begin to feel normal again, but completely unable to answer the question, “What in the world just happened?”

And as fate would have it, I am brought into the hospital (the #1 place that gives me anxiety) and stuck with needles (which are on my top ten list of phobias…yes, I have a list) and then told that everything was fine.

My anxiety was telling me otherwise. There must be something seriously wrong with me. All of this couldn’t have just been one big anxiety attack.

So, I had them run every test available. The only thing that came back abnormal was from my x-ray, which showed that I was a little bit constipated.

After a couple of hours, I was released and feeling back to normal, or at least my version of it. Needless to say, the whole debacle was a huge wake-up call for me. I never really even thought twice about the serious effects that mental illnesses can have on your body, but now I know. Now I know.

Whatever mental illnesses you might be suffering from should not be ignored. If you’re really feeling badly, then do yourself a favor and do whatever it is you do when things get bad. Stay in bed if you need to. Take a hot bath. Drink some tea. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. You’re not doing anyone a favor by pretending to be “fine” all of the time.

You see, physical pain can be treated with pain medication, a splint, and some crutches. It can be seen, most of the time, anyways. But there is never an easy way out of your own thoughts. People that can’t control certain aspects of their brain can only be treated to a certain extent, and I’d much rather have a healthy mind than anything else.

If you need to take a sick day because of your mental illness, go ahead and do it. It’s just such a shame that we have to make up some sort of physical ailment rather than tell the truth.

It’s 2016. The earth is millions of years old. It’s time for that to change.

capturing the corners” is a blog site maintained by two young women,  Leah Barker and Anna Lunsford, who have been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. On their “About” page, they say, “This is a blog about a life that didn’t go as planned. It’s about a broken childhood, a life plagued by Huntington’s disease, and all of the tears, laughter, and hope that comes with it. Suffering is good. It makes us all the more grateful for the happy times. Life is short. Let your voice be heard.” The blog currently has 946 followers.

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