Meet Joshua Mootilal: Part One
Interviewed by: Lauren Lee, October 23 and November 2, 2020
Photo credits: Joshua Mootilal
Please note: this blog discusses mental health, suicidal thoughts, and domestic violence. If while reading this you find you want to talk, go here for a list of supports and rescources.
Meet Joshua Mootilal. After Mental Health Awareness Day, he reached out to us via social media asking us to share his story. He's been coping with mental health issues since he was six years old - so as someone who is twenty-one, that's most of his life. This is his story...
J: My name is Joshua Mootilal, I'm in the creative writing and English program, and I guess I'm in year two technically, it's my third year attending but year two because of how the credit system works.
I guess the background to this though is that I'm someone who suffers from a lot of mental illnesses and I have for quite a while. I have suffered from anxiety and depression since the age of 6 years old, which is a pretty cruel age to get stuck with that, and has time has continued, more has reared its head. That's the very broad view of this, I guess.
L: Thanks for sharing that. As you said, the main reason we are here today is to talk about mental health and your experiences with mental health. So my first question or you is, if you're comfortable, would you mind sharing a bit about your current experiences with mental health?
J: Yeah. So, I've been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, ADHD, insomnia, and because of this anxiety and stress it has caused my nervous system to "fracture" causing me to develop a nervous system condition called Central Sensitization. It results in chronic pain; so I suffer from pain all over my body and it can also make you more susceptible to mental illness because your nervous system has become erroneously over-reactive. It's like a negative feedback loop. This condition has also caused there to be foods I'm allergic to, which consists of a whole nightmare of things.
I've been seeking treatment for my mental health since I was 15. It's been a lot of wait lists and a lot of appointments. Now, the venture is at a bit of a stale-mate; I've been classified with having treatment resistant depression. This means that psychiatric medications have no effect on me and therapy isn't effective enough, truthfully, one hour a week isn't enough when you're just trying to learn how to function. I've been to genuinely probably 100 sessions of therapy. That's not an over exaggeration. I've been on at least 9 different medications. It's difficult. There's been no actual improvement.
When you have treatment resistant depression, there aren't a ton of options. The most effective method for trying to treat treatment-resistant depression, as futile as that sounds, is Ketamine infusion therapy. There's only one clinic in the country that does this. It takes effect after 2 days, compared to the months it takes for psychiatric medication to work.
It's crazy though, like it's $850 per session. So you'd have a few sessions within like two weeks and then based on your case you have booster shots, as they're called, and then you get treatment based on how often or how much you need it. Based on my consultation and my case, It's been assessed that I'll probably need treatment once a week, because Ketamine is also used to treat PTSD and pain, which is sort of why Ketamine infusion is like a golden egg for me. The pain is debilitating. It's more than pain; it's inflammation, my body overworks itself really easily, it's tension and cramps and all that garbage. It's like having the body of a senior citizen, I'd imagine.
L: You've had some of these conditions since you were six, so you have almost a full life of experience and history with mental health. Would you be open to sharing how you experience your mental illnesses? Since everyone experiences things differently.
J: With ADHD it's about both not being able to focus and then involuntarily hyper fixating on things. So there will be times where I spend like 3 hours looking at something that sort of side tracked me and that isn't in any way helpful or useful. But I just lose time to it and it's hard to get myself to stop. It makes me feel ashamed and anxious because I know I'm going to end up swallowing a lot more hours but I don't have the ability to control my brain. Now with the attention deficit, it feels like there are holes in my brain; I have like no short-term memory and it feels like I don't really have a brain anymore.
With OCD, when I was a kid it was just things that were icky or gross. Like we used soap bars in the shower and if there was hair or pieces of fuzz it would feel dirty to me and I wouldn't be able to use it. It always relates back to a stress; it make me feel stressful and uncomfortable and anxious.
Now it's a bit worse. I obsessively pick at my skin. I started when I was 13 or so. I used to pick at my face a lot, with more than just my fingers. There are parts of my skin that I thought made me look or feel unattractive. I'd try to remove these bits of flesh. Now more so it's just my arms, so my upper arms are riddled with dark circles and spots. It makes me feel pretty bad in terms of self esteem cause it makes me feel pretty gross and slightly disfigured. Something recent that I hate that I developed is I pick at my beard. Two nights ago actually I got stuck in this loop of picking out my hair and I couldn't stop. There's also intrusive thoughts, they're unwanted thoughts that just kind of implode in your head and they can be things that really disturb you and make you feel upset.
Stress and anxiety are the reason I have chronic pain. I've only known how to be stressed and anxious - how the heck to you un-work that? There's no treatment for that. And depression is so monstrous, I don't even know where it begins and where it ends. A lot of these mental illnesses blend together and the ways they affect you are shared. But, one big part of depression for me is exhaustion. I'm always tired and not able to enjoy myself; I don't really have any hobbies. It's hard sometimes to even move or have any momentum. I find depression is harder to put into words. It's sort of an overall life frame rather than ways it affects me. It's kind of like the backbone of my life.
L: How has your experience of your mental illnesses changed since you were a kid?
J: When I was younger I was suicidal. I was suicidal from the ages of 7-13. I spent nights wondering what it would be like, and not wanting to wake up the next day. I'm always scared I'll get back to that place because it's hard to know what it takes, I don't know what would ever push me down there again.
And there was foster care. My siblings and I were in foster care because of the domestic abuse situation. It sucked. Being in foster care wasn't great, they treated me like I had done something wrong. There were very little rights and privileges. I felt like I was guilty of something. I had set times to be in my room and be in bed and could only eat at certain times. You could only spend your day in this one particular space. No involvement as a family, nothing restorative and nurturing like you'd need. My stuff got moved around in garbage bags - it sucked. It was miserable.
L: I've got another question for you: what does an average day look like, and even feel like for you?
J: My life right now is a lot of appointments because I'm trying to keep myself connected and a lot of health appointments so I can get my stuff solved. Most of my energy is put there.
It's also a lot of nothing, and a lot of distress about that. It's a lot of sitting around and thinking and trying to make myself get done the things I have to get done. This doesn't happen a lot cause as I said I get overwhelmed really easily. That happens with depression, and it also becomes really hard to do things like even just take care of your own body. You'll go the 5 grimy days without showering and not eating properly. Sometimes it gets a lot worse because I can't smell so I also can't really taste, which makes eating - a major part of your day, not enjoyable and I just get tired of eating.
And doing things with my hands is hard. That feeling when you've been writing for too long and your palm cramps up and there's tension in your hand and your fingers lock up - that happens with me, but immediately and any time I have to use grip force. So taking notes in lectures sucks cause my hand is always throbbing. It also affects my hands when I'm trying to cook. I can't provide myself with food so I rely a lot on ordering food. My severe food intolerances make it even more challenging to be nutritious. If I accidentally consume one of those foods it results in intense gastrointestinal cramps, and it triggers hemorrhoids - excruciating pain.
So my day is typically a lot of nothing because of all these things I deal with, and it bothers me.