Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dual Diagnosis and Recovery

Once it became painfully clear that I needed to go to rehab for meth addiction, I knew I also needed a dual diagnosis program. It wasn't difficult to find one. Many addicts have mental health issues in concurrence with their addiction problems. I don't know the exact statistics but as I said, finding a program that would treat both addiction and underlying pathologies wasn't hard. The hard part was finding a program that actually treated mental health rather than just using the catch phrase 'dual diagnosis' as an advertising gimmick.

* * * *

I've had chemical depression all my life. This is different from the depression that most people go through at one time or another. The chemicals in my brains don't work like they should. Much like a person with epilepsy, I need daily medication to be able to function.

Unlike epilepsy, though, there's a huge stigma associated with mental illness. Especially depression. In the past twenty years or so, it seems everyone is on some kind of anti-depressant. It's almost chic. People even put their dogs on medication for depression and other 'puppy pathologies'. There are television and print ads all the time for one drug or another. "Tell your doctor you want (fill in the blank). It will open up a whole new world for you."

A quick aside: doesn't asking a doctor for medication as opposed to having one recommended make him/her a drug dealer? Just an observation...

I don't want to have depression. I would do anything to not be the way I am. The thing is, I just am this way. For good or ill, I'm playing the cards I've been dealt. Sometimes I play them better than others.

The stigma associated with mental illness resides in my mind as much as it does in society. There are times when I need my medication adjusted. There are times I forget a dose here and there. It's during these times, when the depression breaks through, that I feel like a freak. I can't stop crying about nothing. My motor skills deteriorate. It's difficult just to get up and make it through a day. Sometimes I think the worst part is that I know how weird it is. I understand how difficult it must be for the people around me who see me fall apart for no apparent reason. Most of all, I know how helpless it makes the people who love and care about me feel. All of this, of course, makes me feel like more of a freak.

I believe much of my addiction was an attempt at self-medicating. The hideous flip side is that I've done even more damage to my brain through years of meth and other drug use. Some say the additional damage is permanent. Some say my brain will repair itself with the passage of time. Regardless, I know I have to take medication every day for the rest of my life.

The biggest obstacle for me, though, isn't the medication. It's not even the stigma. The biggest obstacle is me accepting me. I know all of this about myself, yet I still get so frustrated and self-punishing when I have to face facts. When everything is going good, my meds are adjusted correctly and I'm taking them faithfully I don't think about it too much. I take things for granted. It's when things kind of get derailed and I feel myself slipping that I start feeling like a freak again and self-loathing creeps back in.

A huge part of my recovery, though, has been getting to a place where I can accept me for me. Over time, I've started to understand that the things that make me who I am - the good and the not so good - are okay. It's how I choose to deal with my idiosyncrasies that will make or break me.

So I'm trying. I'm trying to become comfortable living in my own skin, and I'm getting better at it, too. But sometimes, like today for instance, it takes more work than others. The difference now is that I know I can get through today and things will be better tomorrow if I just do the next right thing...whatever that may be.

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