Category Archives: Mental Illness

The Thing About Grief

It’s a deep, twisting, vertical cave, and you cling somewhere to the side of it. The Rock is slimy, cold, covered with a residue of something quite foul. You are frozen, unable to climb up toward the light.

You can hear them calling you from the light at the top of the cave. You rest your cheek for just a minute against the icy rock. You despise it here. You wish you could feel their love, and that it could save you. You wish you actually wanted to live, for them. But right now, all you want is to let go of that jagged rock, and be free. You are desperate to stop hurting. You didn’t know this type of torture was even possible.

The thing about grief, is that it can be caused by many different things:

Death of someone you love, care for, admire.

Loss of a beloved pet.

Loss of a close friendship.

Loss of/ ending of a career that gave you a deep sense of purpose.

Loss of a romantic relationship.

The end of a marriage.

A parent leaving.

The ending of a dream, vision you had of the way your life would be.

Loss of your life as you know it, as you are comfortable with, as you have come to depend on.

Love and care in any form that you had once relied on, suddenly taken away.

Those things all cause grief.

And the thing about grief, is there is absolutely nothing that can be done to make it go away. Grief is awful beyond belief. Period.

You have to feel it, in all it’s miserable, hellish agony, before you can even begin to think about healing. That means for a certain length of time, you will exist without joy, without a sense of hope, without anything except your will to keep clinging to the inside of that cave.

And that is okay.

Don’t you dare put on a fake smile to make others feel comfortable.  Don’t you dare pretend you are okay. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you “it could be worse.” Don’t you dare let anyone tell you to “be strong.”

Because, my dear, the very fact that you still live, enduring the hell on the inside of that cave, clinging despite your stiff, tired hands, and exhausted heart. ……..that, my dear, proves you are very, very strong.

As you exist, feeling ill, exhausted, angry, full of sorrow on the side of that cave, take comfort in the fact that you are strong. Yes, you feel helpless, because pretty much, that’s exactly what you are. Helpless. Unable to gain back what you have lost. Unable to escape your pain, except during sleep, if you are lucky.

It sucks very, very badly. It probably will for a long time. The last thing you want to hear is some hopefull, flowery quote telling you to think positive and it will be okay in the end. So I won’t do that.

But I am going to say that one day (when you are ready and not one moment sooner,) you will remember that you are alive, and that your life belongs to you. You could not control the devastating loss you have suffered, but you can control what you do with the life that still exists within you.  It is your life that those voices coming from the light at the top of the cave are calling for. Over time, those voices will get stronger, and that light will get brighter, because you will have started your careful climb upward.

An important part of your heart, of who you are, has died. The suffering you have endured is indescribable, and you deserve every ounce of sympathy you receive.

But, you have not died. You still live. You have full control over what you do with the days you have left on this Earth. I really hope you choose to (eventually) have some fun, find a new purpose, and love again. You deserve love. And just because you have lost love in the past, does not mean you will lose it again.

The thing about grief is, the reason it hurts so badly is that at one time you had something very, very special. At one time, you had something that made your soul happy. Try to remember that. And keep gripping to the side of that cave.

 

*****************************

Thanks for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

10 Ways To Repair An Injured Self Esteem

If you suffer mental illness, chances are pretty high that you also battle low self esteem. Self esteem is very hard to change.  It sure isn’t a matter of waking up one morning and deciding to love yourself. It takes a lot of conscious effort and perseverance, but it can be improved. Whether your self esteem has been damaged by traumatic life experience, a less than stellar upbringing, or the wear and tear of physical or mental illness, here are 10 things worth trying to help repair your injured self esteem.

 

1.) Spend Time Doing Things You Love: 

Doing what you love automatically makes you happy, which helps you feel better about everything, including yourself. The things you love doing are likely also the things you are good at. Be brave, and choose hobbies and work with your heart. You get one chance at this thing called life. You might as well spend it doing what you love, and being awesome at it.

2.) Use Social Media Wisely:

Participating in groups, making plans with friends, keeping in touch with loved ones are all positive ways social media can affect self esteem. Comparing your posts to others’ , or depending on a certain number of “likes” of your selfie or status update to feel good about yourself, or spending so much time on social media that you aren’t meeting your responsibilities, might not be so great.  When you log off of Facebook, ask yourself honestly if the time you just spent put your heart at ease, or made you feel low. Then adjust your habits accordingly. (Easier said than done, I know. But try! Try hard. You are worth it.)

3.) Help Others:

It’s hard not to feel good when your actions have improved someone else’s day/week/life. Just make sure the helping you do is on your own terms, and not the result of someone guilting/ pressuring/ taking advantage of you. The important thing here, is the acts of kindness you practice must be for people who will appreciate it, and done because you just really felt like doing it.

4.) Throw Negative Thoughts In The River:

If your self esteem is low, there are probably a lot of negative thoughts running through your head at any moment. When you catch them happening, visualize yourself physically taking those thoughts and throwing them into a fast flowing river. Picture them flowing far away from you, down the river. It might sound silly, but with practice this technique can become an effective tool to help fight the negative thoughts that torture you when your self esteem is low.

5.) List Evidence For/ Against:

If the river thing doesn’t work for you, try confronting negative thoughts head on, with logic. Maybe you think nobody likes you. Write that thought down. Then, list all of the evidence you have in favour of that statement, and all of the evidence against it. Think of everything! This should help you see that your negative self talk is not accurate, or logical.

6.) End Toxic Relationships:

This can be a tough one, but it’s vital for self esteem.  If you dread interacting with someone, if they put you on edge, if they treat you unfairly (directly or passively) the relationship is toxic, and you must get away from it. This takes a lot of courage, but if you can manage to let the person go, you will feel free and empowered.  Remove them from Facebook, delete their phone number from your phone. Walk away, and don’t look back. You NEVER have to entertain someone who brings you down. Cut that crap out of your life.

7.) Nurture Positive Relationships:

If someone makes you feel cared for, respected, listened to, important, hold on to them and never let them go.  Whether it’s a family member, friend or romantic partner, take time to show the people who make your life better that you care. Remind them how thankful you are for the things they do. And of course, spend quality time with them whenever you can.

8.) Take Care Of You:

It’s tough to feel good about yourself if you haven’t showered in a few days, or your toenails are an inch long. Eating nothing but chips and ice cream for 3 days is also not ideal for self esteem. Care for yourself as you would a newborn baby. Keep yourself clean, hydrated, nourished with healthy food. Make your environment comfortable and soothing. Moisturize your skin and floss your teeth. It takes effort, but the energy you put into caring for yourself is so worth it, because it comes out as improved self esteem.

9.) Forgive Yourself:

its way easier to say it than to do it, but you have got to move past your regrets and mistakes if you are ever going to have healthy self esteem. Admit to yourself that you messed up. Take whatever steps you can to correct things, then LET IT GO.  Promise yourself to learn from the experience, then leave it in the past. Agonizing over what you should have done, putting yourself down for wrongdoing is like poison to your heart. Forgive yourself. Yes, you have flaws, but so does everyone. You are worthy of forgiveness. You are worthy of love.

10.) Follow Your Heart:

If you suffer low self esteem, you likely try hard to make other people happy, at your own expense. Continually putting your needs and desires below someone else’s kills your identity. It drowns the fire deep inside that is who you are. Listen to what your heart feels. Muster up all the courage you have, and follow it. This is the only way you will ever figure out who the amazing, strong, loveable you truly is.

 

 

******************************

Thank you for reading!

Be Brave, and Talk

If Only They Had Known

She is 18 years old. She sprawls out on her bed, reads his letter for about the 9th time that day. His words make her shiver with excitement, and her heart feel heavy with loneliness and longing. She gazes at the calendar. Only ten more days until she will see him again, thank goodness. This long distance relationship is killing her.

Her brow furrows as she rereads a concerning part of the letter.

….as long as you are with me, I will always be the luckiest guy in the world. I don’t know if you know how much you have shown me and taught me. You made me realize how great life can be and you showed me how life should be lived. I am so much more full of joy. Remember that time I got all quiet and wouldn’t talk? That was the only time it happened while we’ve been going out, and it only lasted a couple of days. It used to be so bad before. It would happen constantly, a lot worse and last for days, even weeks. The feeling is so awful, and I’ve always hated it. The more I’d hate it, the worse it would get and usually I wouldn’t feel like living, or feel I deserved to live. But it will never happen again. If there is one thing I can promise you it’s that it will never happen again in my life. I have no reason at all to feel that way, and in fact I have every reason in the world to feel the exact opposite, because I have you. …..

She breathes deeply to relieve the tightness in her chest. Why did those feelings happen to him? Is she really going to be enough to keep it from happening to him again?

She subconsciously clenches her fist and decides that she is enough. She will love him with all of her might, and it will never happen to him again. She will save him.

If only they had known.

In their innocence, these young lovers believed the torturous thoughts and feelings that plagued the young man could be cured by love. They believed it was in their control. They believed life circumstances determined if his days were good or bad.

They had no idea what the terms “mental illness” and “bipolar disorder” even meant.

He was okay for a while. His visit at Christmas was romantic and passionate as ever. They decorated his family Christmas tree together and he whispered in her ear that she belonged atop the tree, for she was the true angel.  He drank a bit too much, but she shrugged it off as typical college student behaviour. Sometimes she felt embarrassed by his often inappropriate intensity in social situations, but she shrugged that off too, accepted it as part of who he was.

She did start worrying though, when he suddenly stopped returning her calls. As if a switch went off in his heart, he went from Adoring, Dedicated Boyfriend to Arrogant, Cruel Jerk.

He seemed to have a headache all the time.

He made rude jokes.

He got angry at her if she said the wrong thing.

He hung up on her when she was in the middle of a sentence.

He went days without sleeping.

One day she came over and found him standing in his underwear on the steep roof in the pouring rain, hands stretched out to the sky, screaming.

He missed her prom and her high school graduation because he was lying in bed, unwilling and unable to get up.

She thought it was because he didn’t love her any more. She thought she had failed him, and it broke her heart.

If only she had known.

They had no idea what the terms “mental illness” and ” bipolar disorder” even meant.

If only they had known.

All the love in the world would never have been able to help this tortured young man.

Awareness and Education could have though.

Mental illness is not a feeling.

Mental illness is not a choice.

Mental illness is real. It rips lives apart. It breaks hearts. But it doesn’t have to.

Awareness, Education and Acceptence. Let’s keep striving for these things in the field of mental health. It very well could stop a heart or two from breaking.

******************************

Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

The Seed of Doubt

The seed of doubt has been planted, and you seem unable to dig it out. The roots have started to grow, have wrapped themselves around your heart. They tighten every time you take a step backward. Every time you think of moving forward, your breath gets a little easier, the grip on your heart gets a little looser.

Maybe you could starve the seed, plunge yourself into darkness until it’s dead. But what would become of you in that darkness?

Maybe you need to accept this seed of doubt, and listen to what it’s trying to tell you. But will its grip on you ever ease completely?

You had a vision of your life, of how it would all turn out. You see that path ahead. On the surface, it looks very easy to travel. It looks familiar. It looks safe.

But that path feels full of thorny stems, and gnarly roots. You would have to drag them along with you as you travel. You are not sure how long you would last.

There has to be another path, but it’s a path you can’t even see.

You can feel it though. It feels like jumping off a cliff. It feels terrifying, thrilling and completely foreign. It feels free. You would need an enormous amount of confidence to travel this path.

You can’t travel it blindly though. At least you don’t want to. Maybe you have to?

The seed of doubt doesn’t seem to want to leave you alone. It has grown and wrapped its roots around your heart for a reason.

You just can’t let it grow within you, because it will tear you apart in time.

You must listen.

You must learn.

You must be strong.

 

Seeds of doubt get planted when you stop being truthful.

Be truthful. In the end, the truthful path, however rocky and twisty and turny it may be, is the only one you should choose.

 

*************

Thank you for reading!

Be Brave and Talk

Your Lion On A Leash

Although nobody ever sees him, you walk this world accompanied by a lion on a leash.

Most of the time your fierce, ferocious lion is very well behaved. He saunters beside you, you hardly even notice he’s there. He’s your silent companion. He makes you feel safe, most of the time. He makes you feel beautifully, heroically tragic. He makes you feel unique.  He keeps you company at night.

You hold on to his leash tightly at all times. You cling to his frightening, but familiar presence. You need him. Even though every now and then he gets pretty darn mean.

Sometimes you lose control of your lion on a leash. His roar rattles you, his teeth glint in the sunlight and threaten you, his wild stare breaks your heart.

In these moments, you wish your lion and you had never met.

In these moments, you wish more than anything that you could figure out how to let him go.

But you remain bound to him with that twisting, burning, invisible leash. You struggle to tame his wild fury. Nobody else notices a thing.

In desperation, you feed him until he’s satisfied, and once again at peace by your side. You sigh with relief.

Nobody knows you better than your lion on a leash. He is your most intimate friend. He owns the most vulnerable parts of your soul.

You relish him. You love him. You fear him. You loathe him.

Whether his name is Perceived Failure, Heartbreak, Grief, Traumatic Life Experience, Regret, or Anger,

your lion does not belong bound to you on a leash.

He isn’t meant to be a secret, chained forever to you.

Your lion has taught you strength. Your lion has taught you courage. Your lion will forever be a part of who you are.

He isn’t you though.

You’ve got to stop feeding him. You’ve got to set him free, before one day his wild rage devours you whole.

You will never forget him, and he may never be fully done with you.

But never give up trying to set him free.

He doesn’t belong bound to you with a leash.

*************************************************

Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

 

 

10 Depression Symptom Analogies For Those Who Have Trouble Understanding

If others don’t believe you when you are certain you speak the truth, if you get blamed for something you know is not your fault, if no matter how many times you try explaining something the person just doesn’t get it, how does it make you feel?

Pretty frustrated, I’m sure.

Sadly, this is the case for many who suffer mental illness, like depression. Imagine being accused of creating your own illness with your negative attitude, laziness, or self pity. It’s pretty awful. Those with depression long to be believed, long to be understood. Depression is NOT a feeling. It’s a very real disease, and I’m going to attempt to describe it to you with some analogies below.

10 Depression Symptom Analogies To Help You Understand:

1.) Irritability (The Sandpaper Bed)

You stand beside your bed. It looks cozy and inviting. You climb in and are startled by the feel of the sheets on your skin. They are rough, like sandpaper. Your pillow is hard as a rock. You roll over, nothing changes. The sandpaper sheets hurt your skin, the rock pillow makes your head hurt. This is what irritability is like. You know you should not be bothered, but everything annoys you, angers you, makes you very uncomfortable. You wish with all of your might you could relax and feel peaceful, but it just won’t happen. You want to explode at everyone around you, but you hold it in as best you can. You press on, try to appear normal. Like a night spent in the sandpaper bed would be, it’s totally exhausting.

2.) Empty/Numb (The Worst Comedy Show Ever)

Depression frequently makes you feel…absolutely nothing at all. Imagine you’re at a comedy show, but you’re the only one who finds nothing funny about it. Everyone else cracks up laughing at jokes that evoke no response in you at all. You wish you could enjoy yourself as they are, but your heart and mind are void of all feeling, You throw back a few drinks, to try to ignite a spark of life within you, to no avail. You just want to go home so you can stop pretending you actually feel something other than numbness. Depression often makes you feel as though someone has reached in and ripped your soul out of your body. It’s not fun.

3.) Extreme Fatigue (the 500 lb lead weight suit)

Picture yourself wearing full body armour made of lead. You try to go about your daily activities, but every movement requires tremendous effort. You want to move. You try your best to move. It’s just completely exhausting. No matter how hard you try, you seem unable to take off your lead body armour. It only removes itself when it feels like it.

4.) Self Loathing (tied with a rope to someone you really dislike)

What if that person you can’t stand being around, that person you have a hard time finding good qualities in, that person you just can’t seem to like was tied to you with a 3 foot long rope for an entire day? “No way in hell,” you are probably thinking. Well, if you suffer depression, that person is tied to you permanently. That person is yourself. It is a very sad, but very true reality of depression. The majority of the time during a depressive episode the sufferer thinks very negatively about themselves, and they might even have feelings of self hatred.

5.) Guilt (A body covered in long whiskers that bug everyone around you.)

Imagine you walk through the mall, or attend a family function, and all of a sudden your body grows huge, prickly whiskers that poke at everyone around you. You’d feel the need to apologize an awful lot. You’d probably feel pretty bad. Guilty. Guilty for being your prickly, whiskery self. Depression doesn’t make a person grow whiskers of course, but it certainly brings on constant, tremendous feelings of guilt. It makes you feel as though you are letting everyone down, that everyone is annoyed at, or disappointed by you.

6.) Physical Discomfort (The Constant Hangover)

Headache. Body Aches. Joint Pain. Nausea. Dizziness. If it gets bad enough, depression makes you feel like you have a constant hangover. If you haven’t experienced a hangover, think of how you feel when you are coming down with the flu. Many cases of depression/anxiety are diagnosed only after the patient has sought medical help for physical symptoms.( I myself was one of those cases.) Those “Depression Hurts” commercials do not lie.

7.) Confusion (partially soundproof, translucent glass box.)

If you spent an hour surrounded by glass that was hard to see through, hard to hear through and tried to go about life as usual, things would get pretty darn confusing. Depression often feels exactly like this. Focusing on anything becomes very hard. You find yourself holding your head in your hands all the time. Your vision literally blurs, and you have a hard time understanding what anyone is talking to you about. This confusion just increases other symptoms, like irritability and fatigue.

8.) Strong Desire to Hide (avoiding a telemarketer who is always callng)

You know that feeling you have when you see a telemarketer’s number on the call display? Someone with depression feels this way pretty much all of the time. They don’t want to answer the phone, or the door. They don’t want to go get groceries, they don’t want to go to your party. All they really want to do is hide under the covers and stop pretending everything is alright. They want to hide away so they can be depressed without fear of judgement, or feelings of guilt.

9.) Dread (a colonoscopy is looming, every minute of every day)

I think it’s safe to say nobody out there looks forward to the day they need a colonoscopy. When you suffer depression, you always feel like something unpleasant lies in the near future. Dread. Dread for reasons you can’t explain. In fact, knowing the dread was caused by an approaching colonoscopy would probably be an improvement over the nonspecific, sinking, scared feeling you often wake with, eat lunch with, go to bed with when you suffer from depression.

10.) Hopeless/Trapped (drowning)

Imagine you are trapped in a tank of deep water. You tread water for a long time. You start getting tired. You aren’t sure how much longer you’ll be able to keep your head above water. You try to stay afloat, try to conserve your energy and pray someone will come along and help you. Time ticks on. You are so tired. You sink below the surface, hold your breath for as long as you can. Nobody is coming to save you because nobody notices you need help. Desperately, you pull to the surface, gasp for air, sink back down again. You aren’t going to make it. You have lost all hope.

Depression is a very lonely, often desperate battle to feel alive.

But it doesn’t have to be lonely.

It doesn’t have to be hopeless.

There is plenty of help available for those suffering depression. They just need to feel comfortable enough to seek it out. All of the stigma, the fear, the lack of empathy and understanding toward mental illness in our society needs to end.

The best thing you can do for someone with depression is let them know you believe them, and you are not afraid to talk with them about it openly and honestly.

You can be that arm that pulls them out of that tank of deep water with a few powerful words.

“I am here for you.”

“I am listening.”

” I believe you.”

 

******************************

 

Thanks so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk.

How To Support Someone Suffering An Eating Disorder (from someone who has made it down the long, hard road to recovery.)

She runs frantically back and forth in the basement. She hopes she is being vigorous enough. The 3 big bowls of cereal she just ate must be burned away. A cramp pierces her side, she presses on angrily.  She despises the bloated feeling in her stomach. She hates herself for being so disgusting, bingeing like that on sugary cereal. She must have taken in at least 1000 calories. She feels the fat filling into her cheeks, visualizes the double chin that must be forming.  She speeds up, swings her arms harder, lifts her knees higher. She glances at the clock. 45 minutes to go. At least. No music plays as she does this desperate exercise. This is not for her enjoyment . This is for her punishment. Her motivation doesn’t come from a desire for health. It comes from fear. Fear of gaining weight. Fear of losing control. And anger. Anger that she lost control by eating all of that cereal.

She won’t be eating anything else for the next 2 days.

The cramps in her side get sharper. She cries out in pain, but doesn’t stop. She must finish this 2 hours of calorie burning. She hates her body for trying to stop her. The cramp twists up toward her rib cage. She speeds up in frustration. Tears stream down her face. She hurts. She is thirsty. She is soaked with sweat. She is exhausted. She is desperate. Desperate to maintain control. She was doing so well, for so long. But she got too hungry. She gave in. And now her disorder has control of her.

5 Ways To Support Someone Suffering / Recovering From An Eating Disorder:

1.) Be There: Help them break the habit of secrecy.

When someone has an eating disorder, they are extremely secretive with their behaviours. Counting calories, any eating they do, bingeing, purging behaviours all happen when they are alone.  They might hoard and hide food, dispose of it in sneaky ways. You can try to help break through the secrecy by offering to be there. Offer to eat meals with them, offer to go with them on calm after dinner walks. It’s really important to offer without forcing the issue. Putting pressure on will drive them further into their secretive behaviour. Ask how they are doing often.  Try opening up to them about something in life you are struggling with, and it might help encourage them to start talking. If you are lucky enough to get them talking, listen without judgement. Eating disorders come with feelings of self loathing and shame. Compliment them on their bravery in opening up, and just listen.

2.) Invite Them Out Often: Help reduce their isolation.

Eating disorders are very isolating. Sufferers often turn down social invites to spend time obsessing, compulsively exercising, recovering from binge eating episodes. Try to reduce this isolation by inviting them out often. Keep on inviting them no matter how many times they reject you. Dont give up on them. Try organizing team sport events with friends, or invite them for a yoga class. The exercise might appeal to them, and is much healthier than the compulsive exercise they do alone.

3.) Choose Topics Of Conversation Wisely: Avoid perpetuating their obsession.

Someone who suffers with an eating disorder is haunted by and obsessed with food, calories, and body image. When they are with you, you can help them be a little less preoccupied by avoiding ALL discussion of these topics. Ignore any comments they make about their body, redirect the conversation. Even telling them you think they are “too skinny” is a bad idea, because it can motivate them. It’s like positive reinforcement.  Refuse to feed into their obsession. This means no talk of dieting, “fattening” foods, body weight and size, even if you are talking about yourself.

4.) Help Them Feel A Sense Of Control

Someone suffering with an eating disorder longs for control over their lives. Eating disorder behaviour is an attempt to gain control over their body, but ironically the eating disorder ends up controlling them. Even though you are concerned and just want them to eat, never try to force food on them, or tempt them with food. This will only increase their desire for control, and make them very unlikely to admit they are suffering. It’s also very important to avoid investigating them, or accusing them of abnormal behaviour. These things will only drive them further into isolation and secrecy. Instead, encourage them to be honest by saying you are there for them whenever they might be ready to talk. Say you are concerned and ask them what you can do to help. This turns some control over to them, and might help them feel more ready to talk. Ultimately, the decision to seek help is entirely up to the sufferer. You will never be able to talk them into it. What you can do is offer to go with them, to be there for them when they decide on their own to open up and seek help.

5.) Have Realistic Expectations: Be aware of how serious the fight for recovery will be.

Realize that recovery from an eating disorder is not a matter of simply deciding one day to eat normally. Getting better is a long, hard, physically and emotionally painful fight. Eating disorders are very powerful addictions and it is almost impossible or overcome them without professional help. You can help your loved ones by making sure you have realistic expectations. Take it one day at a time. It will take them a long time to recover, and there could be many relapses on the way. Praise their brave efforts, let them know you believe in them. Be there, to listen , to hug, to show empathy. Never give up on them, and hopefully they will never give up on themselves.

******************************

Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

If All Illness Was Treated As Mental Illness Is

If all illness was treated as mental illness is; with prejudice, with lack of empathy, with frustration and fear, how very sad and lonely this world would be.

We’d have T.V shows that make freak show spectacles of sick people. Perhaps we’d have one for people with arthritis and call it “Shakers.” Or one for men with prostate cancer called “Urinators.” How about one for those with A.L.S called “My Strange Condition”?  Just like in the real shows, “Hoarders” and “My Strange Addiction”, the audience would sit back and laugh, judge, be entertained by the suffering of others.

Similarily to when some call those with mental illness “psycho” and “crazy”, they’d call people with cancer “mutants” and those who have suffered strokes “deformed”.

They would have the same level of insensitivity for those entering palliative care as they do for those entering psychiatric care, and say they were sent to the “death house” and the “nut house”, respectively.

If someone were to splurge and eat too much sugar, they’d say “go inject yourself with insulin ” the same way they tell people who are upset to “take a pill”.

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, we’d have a hard time believing that anyone actually gets sick. We’d accuse them of seeking attention, of being weak, of making excuses.

We’d yell with frustration at someone with multiple sclerosis, “Just stop sitting in your wheelchair and walk!”

We’d roll our eyes if someone called in sick for the flu. We’d whisper to each other that they need to toughen up. Suck it up. And if this person with the “flu” was a man, our reaction would be even stronger. We would think he was downright pathetic.

If all illness was treated like mental illness is, we’d be baffled every day by deaths we just didn’t see coming. After living months, or years hiding symptoms, pretending they didn’t feel pain, loved ones would succumb to suffering we likely would not have been able to handle or understand anyway.

Not long after their passing, we’d start making comments about how selfish they had been. How could they do this to us? How could they just up and die like that?

If all illness was treated as mental illness is, how (even more) sad, lonely, cruel this world would be.

******************************

Thank you so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Holidays Aren’t Happy For Everyone…And That Should Be Okay

Waking before dawn, sneaking into your siblings’ room to whisper excitedly about what special treasures you might soon find hidden downstairs.

Snuggling on the couch with a full belly, surrounded by the comforting sound of loved ones’ laughter.

Photographs flashing.

Wine glasses clinking.

Wishing time would pass just a little more slowly, so you could take it all in, relish it, savour it.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But for some, this coming and going can’t happen fast enough.

Waking before dawn, your stomach sinking with dread as you remember the day ahead will be filled with forced smiles, the hiding of shaking hands, and drinks taken in secret.

Clutching your blankets, breathing deep to hold back the nausea, as you long for the comfort of your lost loved one’s laughter.

Photograph avoiding.

Wine glass refilling.

Wishing time could just skip over this day, so you wouldn’t have to put on an act, so you could avoid the guilt, escape the pain.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But there are people out there who would rather the holidays didn’t come at all.

Perhaps it’s because they grieve a great loss which only gets highlighted when the holidays arrive. But they endure it with a smile so they don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

Perhaps they suffer anxiety in silence and feel overwhelmed and exhausted by pretending they’re okay throughout the flurry of family activity.

Perhaps they suffer depression, and attend holiday events out of obligation. Expectations to enjoy and be happy force their face into a smile, but inside their feelings of guilt and self loathing only grow.

Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if those who are unhappy come holiday time didn’t have to pretend?

Of course we have the best of intentions when we expect and encourage full, enthusiastic participation in holiday events, when we wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”,  we certainly don’t mean to make anyone feel bad.

We just need a little more awareness.

We just need a little more acceptance.

We just need a little more openness and honesty.

Although we’ve made progress, our society still feels rather uncomfortable being open about things that aren’t sunshine and roses, and this is especially true at holiday time.  And what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We judge, we avoid, we ignore. This makes things much harder than they have to be for people who are grieving or suffering mental illness.

Pretending is exhausting. Pretending is lonely. Pretending makes you feel ashamed of your reality.

Let’s take the pressure off holiday happiness.

Let’s ask honest questions about how loved ones are feeling.

Let’s extend invitations that are truly optional, and come with alternative plans for later.

Let’s acknowledge our loved ones’ struggles with respect and empathy.

Although we can’t make things all better, we sure can make the holidays easier by being real. Not everyone loves holidays. And that is okay.

*******************************

Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Protection Or Freedom?

Your mind only remembers every once in a while.  But your heart never forgets.  It happened. It affected you. It affects you still.  It was the kind of thing that when it’s taking place, you have a hard time believing it’s true.  The kind of thing that belongs in movies, or a novel, or broadcast on the news.

Your mind only remembers every once in a while, in silence, you keep it locked within. It’s the kind of thing that if they knew, you would hang your head in shame.  The kind of thing that would make them squirm, or leave, or think you’re the one to blame.

So you bear it alone. You do the appropriate thing. You carry on, you are strong, it’s behind you. Look how far you’ve come, look how much you’ve grown.  The past is the past. It’s locked deep within.

It’s for your protection

from judgement, from fear of rejection, vulnerability and shame.

It’s the appropriate thing.

There’s nothing more to be said.

But why does your heart feel such dread?

Outside you shine on. Face the day now, come on! Be your best you. Do the appropriate thing. It’s for your protection.

But more importantly,  it’s for their protection.

Their protection.

You follow the rules. You avoid. You pretend.

No drama. No truth. At least not the awkward, painful kind.

Your mind only remembers every once in a while. But your heart never forgets. It happened. It affected you. It affects you still.  It’s the kind of thing you shouldn’t have to carry alone, shouldn’t have to deny it is true. The kind of thing that can heal if it’s set free, and if others help carry it with you.

It’s for your freedom. You need it to find peace.

Truth. The only appropriate thing.

It’s for your freedom. And theirs.

Be brave. Truth can set your heart free.

 

******************************

Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk