Tag Archives: Understand

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

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.

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.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk