What would happen if we put mental health first?

Every year, millions of Americans have their physicals. But a checkup on your mental health? There is officially no such thing. And in the absence of an annual assessment or follow-up care, mental illness frequently goes untreated or is misdiagnosed, sometimes as a physical condition.

That is problematic on numerous levels and personal to Psycom Executive Editor Ann Gault. She writes about her long Mental Health journey to comprehend and treat her daughter’s refusal to attend school in this piece.

Not as They Are: The Initial Signs of Mental Anxiety;

My daughter’s mental anguish seemed to start in high school, but she had always shown signs of anxiety. CeCe was our fifth child in a little more than five years. We had a very active family life. She was always dependent on knowing the day’s plan as a preschooler. As if she needed to be prepared for a catastrophe, she never left the house without a snack and a water bottle.

Unlike her two older sisters and brother, CeCe preferred to stay at home on Saturday nights as she got older. She had a lot of friends and was never bullied. Like her father, I assumed she was a homebody. Her bedroom was always cleaned on Sundays, but then I realized that she was turning down social invitations because of her cleaning routine.

An Odyssey in Diagnostics:

The school became challenging academically the following fall, at the start of that fateful sophomore year. She took honors and AP classes like her siblings. We didn’t push her; she just did what she thought was right. She witnessed her siblings’ academic and extracurricular success as a child. They were selected as team captains and school leaders by their peers. For their efforts, they received honors and praise. They pleased teachers. CeCe also desired all of that. CeCe’s self-esteem plummeted when an insensitive teacher noticed her difficulties and made unfair comparisons.

We decide to give medication a shot out of desperation to get CeCe back on track and well. Sadly, it does not assist. CeCe detests therapy as well because it makes her “feel like a noodle.” She describes her therapist as “weird,” but we force her to continue the sessions. The therapist tells me that weekly 50-minute sessions won’t be enough to get CeCe back to school because she doesn’t respond.

Disorder of Conversion: Not Exaggerating:

The meeting with Dr. Sands is a unique advantage. He examines her medical record ahead of time for the appointment. During the visit, he personally inquires about CeCe and examines her eyelid. He then discusses his diagnosis, which is conversion disorder. A physical manifestation of emotional distress known as conversion disorder (CD) is CeCe, who most likely suffers from social anxiety. Note: Conversion Disorder has also been referred to as Functional Neurological Disorder and Somatic Syndrome Disorder.)

Physical Signs of Conversion Disorder:

 According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, physical symptoms in CD frequently occur following a period of emotional, physical, or psychological conflict—the body’s response to a stressful event. CD may be brought on by trauma or panic attacks, according to some medical professionals and researchers. My daughter might have experienced this as well. Do you recall the ambulance?)

 In patients with CD, that part of the brain is just silent.” CeCe was not in any way experiencing her eyelid’s inability to open on her own. Both she and the girl who couldn’t walk had a type of paralysis that could be fixed with psychotherapy.

Is it a mental illness to seek attention?

I’ve often wondered if CeCe liked the attention she got at that time on some level. Is it possible that it was an unintentional effort to be noticed? A way to set herself apart from her siblings and brothers? She loved Grey’s Anatomy the most, but she also loved nearly every other medical drama on television. CeCe was taught how to use her stethoscope and blood pressure cuff by my mother, a registered nurse, who also talked to her about the many benefits of nursing. The nurses at the nearby hospital where CeCe volunteered also supported her. She seemed to enjoy providing care—finally, a field in which she could shine!

Recovery from mental illness;

CeCe was ultimately the key to her recovery. Her diagnosis had to be accepted. She did want to get better, which was necessary.

“The patient’s willingness to accept the diagnosis is one of the best predictors for positive therapy outcomes,” according to research.

Hypnosis and stress management may also be useful treatments for this unusual condition. Some people also require physical or occupational therapy, depending on their physical condition. Once my daughter started taking part in meaningful ways, the therapy worked for her.

CeCe’s eyelid issue was resolved within weeks of meeting Dr. Sands. Do you remember the wedding she was looking forward to attending the week before the suicide attempt? She went to the wedding and had the time of her life with a lot of mascara and sparkly eye shadow that went well with her lacy pink dress. Dancing and singing with the eyes of _BOT_H open!

It was satisfying to observe her development and improvement as a result of the experience. Cece currently attends college to study nursing. I have a feeling that what she went through will make her a great nurse in a few years.

Routine mental health care is needed:

This nation operates in triage mode when it comes to mental health treatment. Instead of working to prevent fires, we put out fires. Our country is in trouble. Suicide rates have never been higher. How many more people must die by themselves before our broken system can be fixed? The only way to stop this dangerous trend is to give mental health first, but that won’t be enough.

Mental Health and Physical Health as One:

Treatments for the mind and body shouldn’t be separated, Dr. Kim told me. Without input from the head and support from the heart, true body healing cannot occur. They should all be part of the same toolbox because they work together.