I know that as mental illness sufferers we often times feel like we are the only ones out there suffering. That only we know the pain and struggles we go through. I am guilty of this kind of thinking as well. I know I am not the only one and yet sometimes I feel like I am...I think everyone struggles with these kinds of thoughts.
A few weeks ago something happened to remind me that I am not alone. Not just one something but two somethings completely unrelated to each other and yet very much the same. It was an eye opener for me, to say the least.
The first "something" was a few days before my last scope/surgery. I got the usual call from the hospital asking me all of my latest medical information of what I do and don't suffer from. I should have caught on when the lady went into a big spiel about the personal will question and how it was a question they had to ask but not something that that meant they felt my life was in any danger. And while I appreciated that sentiment, as I hate that question because it creeps me out, I felt she was trying to not only calm any fears I might have, but also because she was uncomfortable with asking it as well. And then it was on to the do you have anxiety issues question. After I chortled for a bout five seconds I went on to explain that I had severe OCD and while I would try my damnedest not to have an anxiety attack while I was there I could ,in fact, not make any promises. As she looked in my chart she saw that I do not currently take medications for my OCD and she asked me about that. After I explained that the only medicine that has ever worked for me was dangerous in large doses and I had become immune to lower doses than the huge amount I was used to taking she was quiet for a few seconds. She did something unexpected, she confided in me that she too had OCD.
"How do you do it?" She asked me....and I thought about it and I answered as honestly as possible. I told her that some days I do okay and some days I do not. That it was one day at a time for me. That I have learned to push through as hard as I can simply because for me, right now, there is no other option. I would do medication again, if I was able to find one that worked but apparently I seem to have, medication resistant OCD. At least for the time being.
After the call ended I felt really good. No, she didn't have to tell me that she was also a sufferer. I don't know her name or what she looks like. It was simply an exchange of two sufferers saying that they understood each other because we have the same disorder.
A couple of days later I was playing a computer game still in beta that I am seriously addicted to right now. In it I was typing to another player who is working to become an addiction therapist. We were in game messaging each other about something in the game when I made the comment that I thought his choice of career was a wonderful thing, since I have so many addiction issues in my family. He thanked me and then he said something that just blew my mind. He wanted to be an addiction therapist not because he has addiction issues but because he has OCD and he wanted to work with people with OCD as well. There it was, a second person with OCD that I had run into totally by accident and totally unexpectedly. We ended up talking about OCD for an hour and totally forgetting about the game. I was just so surprised and honestly, excited to have the chance to talk to someone else who totally got what I go through.
And there you have it.... the proof I needed that I was not only not alone but that fellow sufferers were everywhere even in the most unexpected of places. Just a click from a mouse or a answer of a phone call. None of us usually lead conversations with the declaration of of our mental illness, for obvious reasons, but when we find fellow sufferers it is a relief to be honest about our diagnoses without the fear of judgment or misunderstanding. I can't describe how freeing it is to talk with others that share your same disorder. Even if the conversation never goes past the "I also suffer from that" phrase. There is a knowing. An understanding. We share the same demons and even if our particular demons are different they come hand delivered to your door decorated with the same ugly ass gift wrap. We get each other. We know.
And so it got me to thinking that on days when we feel very lost and totally alone maybe statistics could be helpful.
One in five Americans have, will, or are currently suffering from mental illness.
About 6.3 million American people suffer from OCD in a given year.........
More than 2 million Americans suffer from Bipolar DIsorder.......
More than 2.2 million American people suffer from Schizophrenia...
And there are so many more mental illnesses and statistics out there to share that it would take me all day to cut and paste. Statistics that show no matter what mental illness you may suffer from, there are so many others that share that same illness with you. You are not alone. There are people that understand. It is not as vast of a void as we tend to think it is. In realty, it is a teeny tiny world we live in and it is populated by a great number of people just like us.