It can be Marc Summers, the Nickelodeon host who was so obsessive-compulsive that he showered three times after every filming and often found himself ordering the fringes on his rugs to be perfectly straight.
It could be actor Charlie Sheen, having a bipolar manic episode as the world watched on various daytime talk shows, late night shows, and on the set of “Two and a Half Men”.
Or it could be the mother of three suffering from post-partum depression. Or the single man with an engineering degree who can’t find a job because he has a history of paranoid schizophrenia. Or the child with autism who reads omnivorously but won’t talk to strangers under any circumstances—including a doctor.
There is no “profile” for mental illness—only signs and symptoms at times readily identified by a doctor, at times only known by the one who is affected. And it can manifest itself in many forms and variations. Even bipolar disorder, often thought of simply as swings between the symptoms of mania and depression, has revealed itself to be a spectrum of disorders, including cyclothymia, dysphoric manias, and animated depressions.
Mental health comes in different packages to many people as well. To one coming out of a debilitating depression, mental health may mean simply getting up in the morning and dressing to face the day rather than staying in bed all day. To one in recovery from addiction, it may mean just one more twenty-four hour period of sobriety from their drug of choice. To one suffering from PTSD, it may be watching and enjoying a fireworks display without flashbacks to the Afghan war or 9/11.
Don’t think you can look at someone and tell if they’re “crazy”. Mental health is nothing if not fragile. Even the most well-adjusted among us can suffer periods where they may be depressed over a job situation or a poor marriage. Value your mental health at whatever level you operate optimally at. And find sympathy in your heart for those with issues different but no less real than yours.
Julie Whitehead currently writes and blogs from Mississippi at her personal blog. She has been a university lecturer, a disability examiner, and a freelance writer. She carries a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and blogs to create awareness and help others understand the disease and its effects.