It’s my birthday.
12 Oct 2014 6 Comments
This is one of the flavors of my depression, feeling translucent and fragile, a melancholy scrim of gossamer floating untethered in the sharp October air. This is when I yearn for deliverance, rescue, capture by warm and gentle hands. My weepy mind slides into fantasy to protect itself from the hard edges of the world. It pulls Heroes around itself like cashmere. And it tries to sleep.
I am here, now, in this place of soft sorrow. One eye on the Hero, one eye on the rhythm of the Real. Train whistles in the distance mourn and warn traffic. The pumpkin colored oak tree across the street paints across gray canvas and readies for winter. I am both hibernating in the safe corners of my mind and stepping out to do laundry, meet a friend, have a birthday meal with my sister. I am both insulated and exposed, denying and tolerating this phase of my bifurcated moon.
But, duality is home to me, my nature, and this season will pass to the next. All I must do is wait. In the cashmere and in the banging drum. Both. Always both.
08 Oct 2014 10 Comments
What is mental illness?
A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.
Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.
Learn more about treatment and services that assist individuals in recovery.
Find out more about a specific mental illness:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Dissociative Disorders
- Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
- Eating Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Schizoaffective Disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Tourette’s Syndrome
Find out more about conditions sometimes related to mental illness:
- Anosognosia (lack of insight)
- First Episodes of Psychosis
- Sleep Apnea
- Tardive Dyskinesia
What does recovery look like?
As people become familiar with their illness, they recognize their own unique patterns of behavior. If individuals recognize these signs and seek effective and timely care, they can often prevent relapses. However, because mental illnesses have no cure, treatment must be continuous.
Individuals who live with a mental illness also benefit tremendously from taking responsibility for their own recovery. Once the illness is adequately managed, one must monitor potential side effects.
The notion of recovery involves a variety of perspectives. Recovery is a holistic process that includes traditional elements of mental health and aspects that extend beyond medication. Recovery from serious mental illness also includes attaining, and maintaining, physical health as another cornerstone of wellness.
The recovery journey is unique for each individual. There are several definitions of recovery; some grounded in medical and clinical values, some grounded in context of community and some in successful living. One of the most important principles is this: recovery is a process, not an event. The uniqueness and individual nature of recovery must be honored. While serious mental illness impacts individuals in many ways, the concept that all individuals can move towards wellness is paramount.
Mental illness by the numbers
Check out NAMI’s fact sheet, Mental Illness: Facts and Numbers, to find out more about mental illness.
(Thanks to Kitt O’Malley for posting the information from the NAMI website.)
04 Oct 2014 8 Comments
In my fevered state, I’ve been looping this song of Ed Sheeran’s. Sweet comfort.
04 Oct 2014 15 Comments
Oh, for a cup of grog. Or a hot toddy. Just when I thought I was shaking off the annual lung crud, I’m back to being feverish and sore-throatish. Methinks a secondary infection is taking naughty advantage of me. I’m afraid this means a trip to the quack on Monday if this new development doesn’t skedaddle by then. Poo. Ah, well. At least the first round of depression has come and gone. That’s lovely. So much easier to deal with one bully at a time.
27 Sep 2014 22 Comments
I’m at that phase of The Chest Cold/Bronchitis Opera where initial mania (Ooo, goodie! I get to sleep all day and eat Raman Noodles!) gives way to the longer aria of depression. I’ve been singing this part for several years now, and sometimes the Dark Solo can go on for months. As can the bronchitis itself. It’s a nasty, double whammy. Sorta like Brünhilde losing her immortality AND getting thrown on a pyre. Heh, Heh. That Wagner. What a cut up.
This season, though, I’m finding the depression to be different. Not easier—that strum und drang never gets easier—but simpler. This time, I have the gifts my mom left me to help me through the whole Ring cycle—her almost-new Honda and a small monthly income from investments.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—the stress of poverty kills. The hopelessness and desperation it creates turns a person into a sack of mindless meat. It yanks away the will to live and leaves said person on bloody knees. It’s a weight that can’t be shucked off or reasoned with—like Sisyphus’ stone (Oops. Wrong Mythos).
I thank my mom every day for taking away my need to choose between medicine for chest blight and gas for her wonderful car. I thank her for taking away the stress of being squashed-flat by poverty. Eliminating that stressor has already made a huge difference in how I deal with my bipolar disorder. Now I have a real chance to manage it.
But I still have to manage it. Last week, someone asked me if, since I had a little more money and didn’t have the stress of my Peer Support job, I’d ‘get over the whole bipolar thing now.’ I wasn’t sure how to answer. It’s not like a cold sore that flares up when you get nervous and then fades away. It’s not a case of hives. It’s a mental illness. I still have to strap on my breast plates and take the stage. Every single day. And belt out that damned song.
Don’t be fooled. The fat lady sings because she has to, not because the show is over. This is one show that never ends.
18 Sep 2014 23 Comments
You’re minding your own business, washing your hands at the bathroom sink, when you look up in the mirror and freeze. Is that really what I look like now? Holy Methuselah, Batman! You lean in, touch the flesh, pull it tight, let it flop back into place. You bare your teeth. That’s not the color I remember. Leaning into the sink gives your back a twinge, but get close and look into the eyes (not the bags around them). You see something familiar. Blink. Look again. Ah, there I am.
With a deep breath, you can straighten up. And Ace Ventura comes out of your mouth:
14 Sep 2014 10 Comments
Just a pretty while I work my way through this year’s case of bronchitis. It’s not so bad. I’m eating what I want (lots of Häagenn Dazs bars) and shuffling from bed to chair either watching episodes of Call the Midwife, or cruising Pinterest, or sleeping. The weather is fine, so the windows are open and the boys enjoy the sniffs as well as burrowing under the covers with me. Maybe it won’t take until October to de-crap my lungs this time. Wild hope.
10 Sep 2014 12 Comments
After my session with Luke Skywalker yesterday morning, I decided it was time to call it quits on my stint as a Peer Support Specialist. I’m quite proud of myself for hanging in as long as I did, and for staying relatively stable through the stress and uncertainty. I learned a lot about what I need and what I will tolerate. But, I have bronchitis now, and that means being sick for at least a month. I was waiting for something to tip the balance on whether to stay or go, and this is it.
The part of me that thinks in black and white wants to consider this a failure, but I’m not having any of that. I may be returning to a less stressful life, but I’m not the same person I was when this whole job journey started. I’m more flexible and resilient than I was. I bring all that back with me. And, who knows? There still might be a job out there for me. But, first, there’s bed and Kleenex.
08 Sep 2014 19 Comments
I figured flying to England and back would give me a cold. And I thought the spotty sleep over there mixed with the inevitable drop in adrenaline might bring on depression. Check and Check. What I really hoped for, though, was magic. Alas, no.
I hoped a break from this weird job I started in July might help me see a clear path. Stay or Go? Jump in with both feet and start setting up mental wellness support groups? Or resign and look for a position with less chaos, less pressure, less ambiguity? You’d think leaving the freaking country might shift one’s perspective, throw a little light into the shadows, turn the fire up under the subconscious, but no. I’m still sitting just as squarely on the fence, the pros and cons equally balanced. I’m still in this Neither/Nor space—not able to fully commit, but not able to back away.
Sick and depressed, the impulse is to quit, crawl back into my safe, old life and nurse myself back to health. But, I don’t know if going back is the answer. I’ve spent the last two months pushing my Distress Tolerance envelope, and now I have this new space around me. When the impulse says, “Run!” I can actually take a step back from it and answer, “Wait.” And when I do that, the emotion and the thoughts settle down, and I simply show up for whatever is in front of me. Sure, I could take this skill back to my old life, but I’ve had a taste of more. I can have more if I just wait and stay present.
Yesterday, I felt too funky, physically and mentally, to meet my friend, but I also knew it would be good for me to get out of the apartment and into the sunshine. So, I went. Allison and I get together to write, which is always good, and to connect, which is even better. We sat in our booth, doing our thing, aware of the noise in the booth behind us—two very young mothers with their combined litter of small children eating lunch—when it suddenly got very quiet. We had heard the bonk of a little head hitting something hard and anticipated the bawl that would follow. We both turned and saw that the baby was choking.
Allison asked the mother if she needed help, and she rushed the toddler to our booth. I picked him up without thinking, and started doing the Heimlich. One. Two. Three. Four. Out flew a wad of chewed food. And he started crying.
The mother grabbed him and the whole crew went back to their booth.
I looked at the baby crying in his mother’s arms. I looked at Allison. She looked at me.
“I’m glad I showed up today,” I told her.
I believe in synchronisity and looking for lessons in the moment. But, this was a little much. My legs felt like jelly as I walked to my car.
Just Show Up.
Well, I asked for magic, didn’t I?