Tag 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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

 

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Thanks so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk.

Do You Experience A.S.M.R? ( Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)

Although my grade 7 French class was often the most chaotic part of the school day, with students speaking out of turn and generally taking advantage of our kind, soft spoken teacher, for me it was the most relaxing time of day.

As the other students flirted, doodled in their notebooks, did anything but pay attention, I zoned right in on the lesson. This wasn’t just because I was ultra respectful, I must admit.

It was because the gentle sound of our teacher’s voice, the soothing way her delicate hand wrote on the chalkboard, her incredible focus despite all the disruption going on all made me feel profoundly relaxed. My scalp would tingle, and my shoulders would feel like I was getting a massage. Had my grade7 French class been longer than 40 minutes, it very well may have put me to sleep each day. Not because it was boring, but because it was blissfully peaceful and relaxing.

I didn’t tell anyone this of course. It seemed too bizarre. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a weirdo, getting pleasure from observing a sweet old lady write on a chalk board and talk.

It wasn’t until years later that I got my first opportunity to discuss this strange phenomenon with someone, and realize I was far from alone in my experience.  I suffer anxiety, and before I started taking medication I often had a lot of trouble falling asleep.  One night as I sat up surfing the Internet at 3 a.m. I noticed my brother was awake and online too. I started up a chat to complain about my insomnia, and he offered me amazing advice.

“You’re probably going to think this is really wierd, but try watching this. It’s super relaxing.”

He sent me a link to an instructional massage video by a lady called “Lita”. As I started watching, I realized my brother was right. The sound of her voice,  and watching the calm, focused manner of her massage gave me the same tingly, relaxing feeling I used to get during gr. 7 French class. After my brother and I exchanged a few humorous messages making fun of ourselves for enjoying watching someone else get massaged, I read through some of the video comments, and realized many others were experiencing the same sort of thing.

ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is defined as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or cognitive stimuli. So feeling tingly when someone brushes your hair, or whispers in your ear counts as ASMR. Triggers for ASMR vary slightly between those who experience it, and not everyone does experience it.

There isn’t a lot of scientific data available on ASMR yet, although a quick internet search will show you there are many anecdotal reports of it out there.

What interests me the most is how it can be used to help relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. First of all, if you are lucky enough to experience ASMR, you will realize that when those sensations are being triggered, you automatically become mindful.  You totally focus on what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, because it feels so darn nice. Unpleasant feelings of sadness or anxiety are pushed away.  Watching videos designed to bring on ASMR can give great relief to someone suffering mental illness.  I think it’s a worthwhile place to start trying out being mindful for someone new to the practice.

I also do not believe its a coincidence that many common ASMR triggers involve someone giving some sort of care to another.  To be cared for is a universal need among animals.  It is also something that lacks in the lives of many who suffer mental illness. Perhaps indulging in some ASMR could encourage sufferers to put more effort into their own self care, or even to seek out care from others.

My goal for this article is to bring awareness to the topic of ASMR. It’s a real thing.  Although it’s not widely recognized, if you experience it, you are not strange, you are fortunate! I encourage you to explore how it can help you feel less anxious, less lonely and how it can help you relax enough to fall asleep. Check out the links below to see if ASMR can benefit you. Unlike alcohol, drugs, or other potentially harmful methods you might use to cope, this is 100% safe. It is certainly worth a try!

http://www.last.fm/music/ASMR

http://www.tingle.fm/mobile web/channels/

http://www.asmrlab.com

http://www.m.youtube.com/watch?v=UedaJPNGzoo

Also search “Disney Collector”  videos on You Tube.

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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.

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Thank you so much for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

What Social Anxiety Feels Like: “The Grocery Store”

I lie face down on a sunny patch on John’s man room carpet.  I massage my forehead, to try to relieve the dull ache.  Dora The Explorer plays upstairs, as Megan enjoys her quiet time. Over the baby monitor, I hear Tara roll over and sigh dreamily.

My whole body hurts, as if I’m coming down with the flu. I’m so tired of feeling like this, I really need to call the doctor about adjusting my medication.  I’ve been telling myself this for weeks now. Maybe on Monday I will be brave and actually call.

“So are you ready to go?” John crouches down and rubs my back. I blink back tears. He doesn’t notice.

“Yep.” As I struggle to my feet, my thoughts flash from a facebook “some cards” joke (Motherhood: when a trip to the grocery store alone is like going on vacation.) to a vision of stabbing myself in the stomach. I am so incredibly weak, and so pathetically selfish. (What is wrong with you? You have two beautiful daughters, a loving husband. You better start enjoying them, start enjoying life, or something is going to happen to take it all away. Grave illness. Car accident. Divorce. And you will deserve it.)

I slip into my coat, put my hands in my pockets, grip my hand sanitizers. One for each hand. They give me a brief moment of comfort.

“Have fun,” John chuckles and kisses my cheek.

“Thanks,” I manage a smile, and head out into blinding white.

In the car I turn the music on full blast, because after all, I can. I sing along. I take deep breaths. I mutter a few prayers that the girls will be safe while I’m gone.

As I drive into the parking lot, my stomach sinks and my heart starts beating faster.  I feel angry, and at the same time I feel guilty for feeling angry. Saturday. Far too many people here. I contemplate going right back home, but I cant. We need food, damn it.

I speed walk into the store. I try to breathe slowly, to relieve my increasing dizziness. As I frantically manoeuvre my cart through the produce section, flashing polite/ apologetic smiles at the other shoppers, I realize I am much better off when I bring the girls with me.  They help me stay focused. They help me see through the fog that now clouds my brain.  They give me someone to talk to. They make me brave. Right now, I am scared. Scared I will run into someone with my cart. Scared the women with highlighted hair and stylish boots look down upon my Joe Fresh jogging pants. Scared I will catch a disease from opening fridge doors.  Scared everyone can tell I feel like I’m going to pass out.

As  I race for the aisle with the laundry detergent, I long for my precious daughters to be here with me.  Saying hi to the old ladies and making them smile. Dropping stuff on the floor. I wish I could breathe in the scent of baby shampoo from their hair, kiss their foreheads. Ironically, this would be for my own reassurance.

Mercifully, I make it to the checkout line without losing consciousness. I take some deep breaths, silently say a few prayers for protection against the grocery store germs as I wait.

A pretty blond woman and her two teenage sons are waiting in line behind me. They see someone they know the next line over and start chatting. Everyone else around us who waits seems impatient, or perhaps it is just me.

My turn comes. I catch my breath as the service clerk who helps bag the groceries goes on break before helping me.  There are a lot of people waiting behind me. I must get my groceries bagged. Fast. My hands tremble. My armpits sweat. The cashier starts helping me bag the groceries, and for some reason this embarrasses me. The pretty blond lady and her sons, preoccupied by their conversation, have advanced too far in line, and block the interac machine. One of the teenage sons hovers over me as I clumsily stuff groceries into bags. I am on the verge of panicking.

I awkwardly ask ask the mother with twins to back up so I can pay. I’m so dizzy, it’s as if I am drunk.

“Hey, no problem at all. It’s all good.” The teenage boy who had been hovering gives me a sincere smile. He’s a lovely young man, and he’s my undoing. I stare through my tears at the pin pad.  It takes an eternity for the payment to go through.  I want to smile at the pretty blond woman and her sons as I leave, but I fear my tears will overflow. I look down, and briskly push my cart away.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

You’ve Got This

The alarm goes off, you slap at the snooze. You must stop that sound, so startling, so intrusive, so irritating. You roll over and stretch as memories of yesterday, of the week that has just passed come back to you.  You’ve been having a very tough time lately.  Days have been mere obstacles to drag yourself through.  Every action has been a chore, every smile has been hollow and forced. Chaos has seemed to spontaneously build all around you. You’ve been trying very hard to chip away at it, but mostly it has just overwhelmed you, made you want to give up.

The alarm makes you jump again, you knock it off the bedside table. Your hands are ice cold despite the layer of blankets that cover you.  You curl into a ball, grip your knees to stop your shaking. Please, please, please start coming out if it today.  Please, please, please let that spark of light come back on today. Please, just grab on to something to stop this free fall into darkness.

You need your soul back.

Depression is torture, depression is a thief. Fortunately, it has mercy on you every once in a while.

So you rise out of bed and pray today will be the day. You splash cold water on your face to clear the grogginess away.

You’ve got this.

Today might be better, it also might not be.  You did not choose this brutal opponent, you did not ask it to steal your soul.

But one thing you do choose each and every day is to fight.

You are the most mighty kind of warrior.

Your muscle is your heart.

Your weapon is your will.

You’ve got this.

Your opponent has made you strong.  Sooner or later, you’re going to win a round.

You’ll see the beauty of the world around you once again. The relief will be enormous. Your smile will run deep into your reunited soul.

Depression is torture. Depression is a thief.

But when it leaves you, it leaves you with the gift of gratitude.

Keep fighting. Your turn to win is coming.

You’ve got this.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Suck it Up

“There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need counselling. You just need to start eating. Stop being so stupid. ”

“Yeah, he’s on stress leave. Pathetic.”

“Maybe you should stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

“If she’s not going to call us back, whatever, forget her. I don’t care if she’s depressed, calling someone back is pretty simple. She needs to stop making lame excuses.”

“You’re doing this to yourself. Stop being so negative.”

“I’ve been through worse in my life, but I’m not depressed. It’s life, you just accept it. Suck it up.”

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This moment, countless people suffering mental illness are hearing these kinds of statements. Perhaps this makes them feel like it’s their fault. Perhaps they feel weak. Perhaps they feel guilty. Perhaps they feel inadequate.

Definitely they no longer feel comfortable talking.

Talking is the most affective way a person with mental illness can help themselves.

Talking is their best hope.

Stigma steals that away.

Mental illness is real. It gets diagnosed by doctors, just like diabetes, asthma, the flu.
Mental illness can destroy relationships and families.
Mental illness can leave a person living on the streets.
Mental illness can kill.
Yes, mental illness can kill.
Technically I suppose, suicide is a choice a person makes. But it’s a choice they make because the inner torment they suffer is too much, and they see no other escape. Suicide is a symptom of mental illness.
Suicide is a symptom of complete isolation.

Isolation made far worse by stigma.

“You’re doing this to yourself.”

“Stop being so negative.”

“Suck it up.”

Nobody would ever dream of saying this to someone with cancer. Why do so many of us think it’s okay to speak like that to someone with mental illness?

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“How are you feeling today?”

“You are so strong for fighting this battle.”

“He’s on stress leave. It must be really bad. I can’t imagine what he’s going through.”

“It’s okay to cry. I’m here for you. Im here to listen if you’d like.”

“I believe you. I also believe you can beat this.”

“Don’t give up.”

These are the kind of words that fight stigma.

These are the kind of words that give hope.

These are the kind of words that can save lives.

Thanks for reading!
Be Brave and Talk
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