ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Some Useful Self-Assessments

Jack Bragen
Sunday November 26, 2017 - 04:20:00 PM

If you drive an automobile under the influence of medication, and/or fatigue, this can create a lot of trouble for you. It is a separate offense from the improper use of a controlled substance. You could be taking prescribed medication, yet, if it can be shown that it impairs your driving, you could still be in for a lot of trouble.  

If you take a "benzo" you had better wait about eight hours before you get behind the wheel. If you take other medications, you had better be certain that they do not affect driving. 

The above is one type of self-evaluation or self-assessment. If you come to the conclusion that you shouldn't be driving, you may have to miss an appointment, you may have to displease someone, but you will still have your life and you will still have your liberty.  

I have driven while on antipsychotics for more than thirty years. I am adapted to them, and they do not usually affect my driving. If I am fatigued in combination with this, I will often stay home rather than going somewhere, including when there is pressure put on me to be somewhere.  

When someone is pressuring you to do something that you can't reasonably do, it is your responsibility not to cave to that pressure.  

Another category of self-assessment pertains to work. Self-assessment concerning working a job is a mix, and is a bit more complex than the driving self-assessment. This is because those who work in the mental health treatment systems may underestimate your capabilities. However, you or someone hypothetically helping you could overestimate your capabilities.  

When I was twenty years old, I lived at a "halfway house" in Hayward. In my chart, a counselor wrote that I had not yet accepted that I "can't work." Over the next several years, I obtained training in electronics, and I worked several jobs in television repair, and was also self-employed in television repair. I also worked at other jobs with a decent amount of success. 

When my illness worsened, I decided to cut my losses. The work attempts had become futile, and I could no longer meet the demands of the types of work I was trying to do.  

It is not considerate of others to take a job in which you can't meet the demands. It costs the employer, and it can be bad for your profile. It also promotes a negative cycle of getting jobs and quitting them. I had this problem at one time. I decided I wasn't doing anyone any favors by accepting jobs. 

A combination of age, burnout, and being heavily medicated for more than thirty years makes me unable to meet the demands of most employment.  

Someone intelligent said that "the definition of insanity is where you continue to do the same thing and expect different results."  

There are other types of self-assessment as well. For a person with a mental health diagnosis, there is the realization of needing treatment. Not everyone needs treatment for a mental illness. However, if the experience of doing without treatment hasn't ended up well, you might want to consider taking care of the disorder with the treatment that is probably being offered.  

Sure, some are misdiagnosed. How do you know if you've been misdiagnosed? I can't answer that. You need to look carefully at the pros and cons of accepting treatment versus not accepting treatment. If you are too impaired to reasonably do that, then you already have your answer.  

There is no law written on stone tablets that says your psychiatrist is correct or incorrect. You should evaluate this with the evidence available. However, if you are already delusional, this self-assessment will not be accurate.  

The insight that we have a psychiatric condition and need to take meds doesn't usually come easily. Many persons with a psychiatric diagnosis can not accept this. There are many reasons for this. I believe it is normal not to like the idea that you are ill. 

We ought to weigh how bad a psychotic, manic, or depressive episode can be; also how it is a threat to your and other people's lives; also that your family probably goes through a very rough time in trying to help you. 

Youth doesn't last forever, and neither does the "luck" that might allow us to survive the dangers of having a psychotic episode.  

It is important to remember that there is hope. Many people with psychiatric disorders have workable and worthwhile lives. If we accept the treatment, it can allow better health and retaining basic liberty. From there, we can accomplish things--whether that is a job (part time should be an option) school to get some type of degree, or anything else that can be realistically accomplished. Many people with mental illness lead very productive lives.  

In your self-assessment, you should acknowledge both your abilities and the areas that need work. What you're good at will often coincide with your interests.  


A reminder that my new book "Understanding People with Schizophrenia," is available at LULU.COM, and will soon be available from other venues. To make it easier to find, click here.