Dec. 24: Last Day at Work!

It’s my last day until January 4! I’m excited to have time off this wonderful job. My clients are all truly wonderful people and a great gift for me to be able to work with them, but I’m burnt out.

Anyway, more about diagnosis of Brain Disorders/illness/challenges:

I’ve been asked a lot about the differences between cognitive/“learning” disorders and “mental illness”.

It’s pretty complicated and not in my “Wheelhouse” beyond personal and professional experience with ADHD, but neurocognitive disorders seem to be ones like Dementia, rather than Neuro-Developmental Disorders that have a young age of onset.

I’ll do the writing 5 things to avoid a long irrelevant ADHD like post.

1. If you change the term mental illness to Brain Illness, then it makes sense for all these issues, whether learning challenges, dementia, the autistic spectrum, ADHD or mood disorders, OCD, substance dependence issues, etc. to be in the DSM; it’s the only way I understand it. All of these are in the brain and nervous system and connected to how one’s brain “functions”.

2. Many people think getting a diagnosis for a brain disorder is bad, a label, limiting. I think if I had Diabetes, I would want to know what it is, which one I have, what it’s doing to my body, how the medication works, etc.

This, for many a Diagnosis can be very validating, as with OCD, for example. Many people with OCD worry that they’re lying, that they don’t have a problem, as part of the illness, where you’re focus on intrusive thoughts/beliefs you need rituals for to be safe. I’ve seen it be a real relief, also to know it’s not their fault, as they can easily blame themselves for anything.

3. How can you think about taking medication if you don’t know what it’s for, why you’re taking it and how it will help you as well as how long you’ll need to take it? Not that every brain disorder requires medication as treatment.

Bipolar Disorder is one of the few disorders where someone may stop taking their medication as part of their illness, a symptom often occurring with mania or hypomania. Others with different diagnoses may choose to stop taking meds for many reasons, but not to continue feeling sick, even if they say they want to “tough it out”. Hypomania is often pleasant and exciting when it starts, and the impetus to take less meds or stop taking them is to enjoy the “illness”. For some people who’ve had a lot of self-hating beliefs and thoughts, to suddenly feel extremely good about themselves, like, wow, I’m not ugly; I really am attractive etc. feels like it’s not a sick moment.

4. Speaking of Bipolar, hypomania/mania is not the cliche of being hyper sexual and spending thousands of dollars you don’t have. For many, it’s feeling highly creative and extremely excited about everything, especially an overdose of meaning making and connecting things based on your own perceptions of synchronicity- the opposite of depression, where life seems meaningless.

5. If your friend has a brain illness, treat them like they have a bad cold or flu. As with a cold, they may seem to function well, but then it turns into a bad cold, and they can’t focus, same as if they’re very anxious. If they’re in bed for two weeks, treat them like they have the flu. They’re not lazy or trying to get out of something; they’re very ill.

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