Is It Me Or My Mental Illness? By Dr. Sachin Baliga
“I’ve been a very lazy person since childhood. Being organized has always been a problem for me. Not just that, I tend to procrastinate every task and then end up doing it at the last moment. Each task is like a ‘flight or fight’ response for me. This is how I have always been. How can this be an illness?”
“Keeping things spick and span is something I learnt from my mother. I can’t tolerate even a single smudge on a washed clothing, utensil or a furniture item. The moment I see it, I feel as though the object is defiled. And the restlessness I experience doesn’t go away till I have washed the thing thoroughly again. Some people say I have OCD, but I feel it’s just me. But these days even I’ve begun to wonder because I’m wasting too much of time and water on a daily basis…”
A lot of individuals struggle with identifying and labelling their possible mental issues- ‘Is it a problem or is it just how I am?’ Particularly in the post-pandemic area where we now have an increased awareness regarding mental health, information obtained from questionable sources on social media can lead to failure to identify a genuine mental health issue or worse, even a mis-diagnosis. To give an example, so many individuals who experience mood swings related to day-to-day life diagnose themselves as bipolar disorder before even reaching a mental health professional. Online tests and screeners from authentic sources can definitely be helpful to get an estimation of what you might be experiencing. However, self-diagnosing is not always a good idea since mental illnesses are complex disorders involving disturbances in human thoughts, emotions, perception and behaviors that may or may not follow the typical descriptions you cross online.
There’s always a possibility that you might not even have a ‘diagnosable’ mental illness. But then, absence of a mental illness does not necessarily imply a ‘normal’ mental health. there are people with mental illnesses who do very well in life once they receive the right treatment and get better. On the other hand, there might be individuals without a diagnosable mental illness - those supposedly ‘normal’ - who might still be going to stress, struggling to find meaning in life, questioning their decisions and in general not in a good mental space. Instead, a better approach would be to look for pointers towards dysfunction: is what I am going through affecting the quality of my life? Is my performance at the workplace persistently getting affected by it? Are my relationships towards my friends, family and colleagues getting strained as a result of my behavior? Has my hygiene, self-care, sleep and appetite gone for a toss because of this? If the answer is yes to any of these, then it needs to be looked into irrespective of whether a ‘mental illness’ is at play or not.
And remember, sometimes, due to the basic nature of mental illnesses, we might not always be the best judges of our own behavior. But if people close to you, who know you very well have recently been showing concerns about your mental health, it might be a good idea to pay heed to them and visit a mental health professional. Because as they say, there is no health without mental health!