Why mental health stigma angers me

It usually takes a lot to get me angry. Cut in front of me in traffic? I’ll just smile and nod. But when people are just outright rude and mean, that’s a hot button issue for me.

Recently it seems, there have been many celebrities/sports stars who have disclosed that they have a mental health issue. The most recent disclosure has been from Brandon Marshall,  in which he shares that he has Borderline Personality Disorder.

Now, anyone who has mental health issues (I *hate* using the term “mental disorder”) can tell you that it is quite painful to live with it, and even more painful to disclose it to people. You never know how people will look at you after you tell them what is going on with your brain. You are afraid of how people’s judgement will color your relationship with them.

I clicked on the article about Brandon today, and was glad that he was brave to announce what he is enduring. Then, I scrolled down to the comments and that’s when my blood started to boil. People were making nasty, rude, and ignorant comments such as:

“I call it Spoiled Black Thug Trying To Save Face Disorder”

“Yeah Im an @#$% too, Brandon.”

“another over paid whiner”

“I see “acting black” now has a new name…”

There are some thoughtful comments in there, but they are few and far between.

Why the anger, you ask? Because it’s in these ignorant comments that people in the mental health will never get support, understanding, and help.

The next time you hear someone disclosing their mental health issues, take a step back and think this: It could be you.

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: The Power of Hobbies

When I was younger, I was a dancer. I was a tap, jazz, ballet, and Hawaiian dancer until I was in 7th grade. I remember those years very fondly because it was so much fun to be creative, active, and with other people my age. As I aged, my extracurricular activities drifted into drama and cheerleading/drill team. Once those extracurricular activities were finished for the season, I remember feeling very empty, like a part of my identity was missing.

Fast forward many, many years. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized that I needed something to do besides being a mom all the time. I took a pottery class when the boys were still little, and really enjoyed playing in the mud. When the boys became toddlers, I started scrapbooking.

When the depression hit, all of the hobbies that I enjoyed just came to a crashing stop. I ceased to care about doing anything fun because I felt like I didn’t deserve to do anything fun. (Yup, you gotta love that self-discipline when you’re depressed. /sarcasm) Again, it felt like a part of me was missing.

While I have endured the ups and downs of depression, I have realized that hobbies have been one great way to help lift myself out of the pit. Yes, at first it will seem overwhelming to start back into your hobby if you haven’t done in it a while because of your depression. You might not even want to do it because you feel guilty about wanting to do something fun.

Do it anyway. Listen to some music. Dance. Bring out your arts and crafts materials. You could even learn something new. The point of getting back into your hobby is to have fun. You need to re-energize that part of your brain that says “you know, life can be fun, and I’m going to be a part of it again.”

This past fall, I learned how to crochet. I can’t tell you how calming it is for me to take the yarn and the crochet hook and make something. I’m still a little overwhelmed about picking up my scrapbooking and rubber stamping again. I guess I’ll take it one step at a time.

That’s all we can do- try to take it one step at a time when we’re trying to take care of ourselves.

Mental Health Awareness Month: When it’s hard to reach out

Experts will be the first to tell you that in order to recover from a mental illness, you need to reach out for help. For many people, reaching out for help is the biggest obstacle in getting any kind of help. I know first-hand because I’ve been there I’m still there.

For me, it’s been hard to reach out at times because I feel like I’m stuck in a pit with no way to get out. I can turn to friends for help, but those friends are few and far between.  Sometimes I feel like I’m judged for who I am because of needing help. Other times, I judge myself because I feel like I shouldn’t need help. I mean, heck, I’ve been down this road a thousand million times before. I should know exactly what I need to do in order to get myself in a better mental frame of mind. When those thoughts flood my mind of “you shouldn’t feel like this”, it makes it even harder to reach out for help because I feel like I shouldn’t say anything about how I feel. I’ve been told a few times: “You’ve been going to therapy for so long. Why aren’t you better now?”

It’s not that easy. It’s not as easy as making a to-do list and checking off things once you accomplish them. My list ends up being very circular in nature: if I do A, then I have to do B, which means that if I mess up B, then I’m back to A all over again. It feels like a wild goose chase on most days, knowing what you need, but never finding it. I wish it were as easy as someone giving me a list and saying, “Hey, if  you do all of these things in this order, then you will be fine.” Life is not linear; it’s circular, and sometimes even makes shapes that only a seasoned mathematician can label.

Helpful resources are also very scarce, which makes reaching out for help even more difficult. If you live in an urban area, then you have access to many resources, clinics, outreach programs just because of geography. I live in a rural area, and our resources are very stretched between counties. Most resources are only for those with certain income guidelines. So, for those of us who are on the border of not rich/not poor enough to qualify, we end up somewhere in the middle of finding help, or not finding help at all.

Then, you have the finances to figure out. No one said getting healthy was cheap. If you’re lucky to have health insurance that has provisions for counseling, then you have to make sure that you can afford the copayments. If you see a psychiatrist, then welcome to the world of medicine and even more copayments. Of course, there are some pharmaceutical companies that do offer patient assistance programs. You need to research and ask your psychiatrist if he/she has information on those programs.

So, is reaching out for help a laborious task? When you’re not feeling well, yes, it is. How can your loved ones help?

  • Tell them how you feel. Yes, I know earlier that I said that I get scared for being judged for how I feel. It’s my feelings. Feelings can’t and shouldn’t be judged. If you don’t say anything about how you feel, then how are your loved ones going to know?
  • Try to spend time with your loved ones without talking about your mental health issues. We are more than our mental health. We are still the same person we were before we became ill (well, at least I hope so.) Take a walk. Play a game.
  • Loved ones: When your loved one falls into that pit do not judge. I’ve said a few times in the past, “How would you like to have my brain for a day when I’m feeling like this?” Sometimes, it’s not in our control when we fall into that pit.

Living with my mental illness has made me feel very alone. Reaching out is difficult because of that stigma of “what is everyone going to think of me?” when you see how different people act around you. If more people had a supportive circle of love and support, living with a mental illness wouldn’t be so painful.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Here we go into another awareness month. I’m coming off the hyper-aware autism awareness month (because for me, EVERY day is autism awareness day), and entering mental health awareness month. For me, these awareness months are like a double edged sword. I can tell people all about facts and figures about mental health. It’s not going to do a lick of good if I don’t get a bit of acceptance with the awareness. Granted, there is a huge social stigma with many all mental illnesses.

Many of us will withdraw into ourselves because we don’t feel accepted or loved. It’s a double edged sword because in order to get out of the pit, we need to reach out for help.

Many of us wish that our loved ones would show more compassion. We try to explain to our loved ones what is going on in our brains, what we need, and why we need it. Sometimes, we get lucky and find someone who gets it. Other times, we end up feeling like we’re talking to a wall, and the cycle of falling into a pit starts all over again.

Many of us wish that we could talk openly about what we’re enduring, but because of stigma, we’re afraid because we don’t want others to judge us or call us ‘that crazy one’. We’re also afraid of losing friendships because of our mental illness.

Many of us dream of a day when we don’t fall into that pit, when things aren’t overwhelming, when we can feel loved and accepted for who we are as people.

Did you know that women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime?

The average age-of-onset for major depression is 32 years old.

In a 12 month prevalence, 6.7% of the United States adult population will be diagnosed with major depression.

(All facts from the National Institute of Mental Health)

So, what can a friend/coworker/family member do?

Stay tuned….

Untangling ties

Today was THE day from hell. Not only did we forget to set the alarm so we could wake up in the morning, but we were running late. You know the panic that runs so high when you’re running late? Take that and multiply it thousandfold. Then add your loving child telling that you’re a “bad parent” because you forgot to set your alarm. You have the start of a recipe for a disastrous day. I felt like I was in knots.

The above episode is just one layer of the tangles that entwined my day. I was still reeling from my emotional meltdown from last night. For those of you relatively new to The Den, I have clinical depression, which almost borders on being bipolar. I can go from one extreme to the next very quickly when things are incredibly tangled. Some things that really tangle up the ties include not getting enough sleep, not eating well, and constantly feeling isolated.

Mix into this day more tangles from acidic arguments,  malodorous moments, and rancid rage. At this point, you can see the taut knot, tightened to the point where it is almost impossible to see where it begins or ends.

How can one even begin to untangle such a tied-up knot like this? I don’t know at this point. Today’s knot has me in a stranglehold.

One thing upon which I can usually rely is music. I have a memory bank of songs that I extract for days like today. Granted, some people say that if one listens to music that is sad, then it will augment the sadness. For me, it is like a security blanket. I know that I can retreat into my music and be comforted by words from other people who understand how I feel.

This song is one of the many I have in my security blanket chest.

(Photo was graciously provided by Mr.Greenjeans by a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.)