Need Help? Go On and Ask for It

Mental illness sucks.

That’s the summation of my thoughts, usually after a depressive spiral. It’s what I think when a good friend loses a job because of a schizophrenic episode. It’s my answer when another friend hits the low part of his bipolar cycle. It’s the phrase I mutter in response to people’s suicidal thoughts, lack of desire to do anything, or expressions of overall sadness.

Not only do we all experience the side effects of our mental issues, we also get no support whatsoever from our own minds. When enveloped in the venom of negative thoughts that mental illness supplies, we hear things like:

You’re a terrible person …with specific reasons.

No one likes you …complete with names.

Whatever you try fails …including examples.

No one can help you. No one wants to help you.

All of these Wormtongue-spoken messages are not true. In fact, the last one is the most not-true. There are plenty of people who can help. Heck; there are strange people who voluntarily went to school and paid a lot of money in order to listen to others’ mental health problems all day.

Weirdos.

I speak of counselors or therapists. I speak of psychologists. To some extent, I speak of psychiatrists as well. They have all chosen a career, voluntarily, to listen to crazy people like you and me.

Uh-oh: negative-thought brain is talking again:

They don’t really want to help you. They’re just doing it for their job …with examples of friends or relatives who’ve complained about a bad experience.

It’s impossible to find one who’ll be good …with reasons why your issues are a special case.

You can’t afford a counselor …with a list of your expenses.

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Guess what, brain! They really do want to help you. Granted, there must be therapists who are terrible. There must be some who are in it for the money. If you ask around and/or read online reviews, however, you’re likely to weed out the bad ones. After all, these weirdos did choose their job. In my experience, they did so because they wanted to help people.

Plus, the costs might be manageable. Depending on where you live, some of those strange people who can and want to help are cheap or free. Some are covered by job insurance plans, others by government programs, and still others by ecclesiastical assistance.

Don’t be afraid to ask around, get a good listening ear, and get going on your life!

You are important. You are worth any cost.

I promise.

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Photo Credit: Pexels
Matheus Ferrero
Dan Meyers

What’s the Make, Model, and Year of Your Mental Health Struggle?

Hi, I’m Chelsea. I drive a minivan.

I didn’t want to drive a minivan. When people learn that I do drive one, they start assuming other things about me. They also assume: I drive slow, am distracted, have no taste in vehicles, have children, will make a bad decision whilst driving because I’m probably turned around yelling at said children, and that I shop at Costco every day.

Now…. some of those things might be true. But, guess what? am not the minivan. I just drive it. am a person. My name is Chelsea. I am not slow, distracted, tasteless, children, bad decisions, or Costco. I am a human and I am also worthwhile.

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When you go out into the world, what sort of vehicle do you drive? Van? Jeep? Truck? Bicycle? Bus? Sedan? Train?

Are you large, difficult to turn, and roomy like that van? Are you fun outside but hard on the joints over speedbumps like a Jeep? How about pushy and a bit too high off the ground like a truck? Maybe you can’t really afford much in life or are environmentally conscious like a bicycle.

Our mental health struggles are our vehicles.

Say that you go out to the workplace after a difficult morning, only to snap at someone because they echoed a mean thought your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder chugged and chugged and chugged. That wasn’t you, though. That was the OCD you have to take to work.

What about the night that Depression was your ride? That dark interior, battered trim, and iffy transmission was only how you got to the party, not who came inside.

And let’s not forget the lunchtime meeting you had with Anxiety. Your mechanic still shakes his head over the number of ‘strange noises’ you swear it kept making, the sudden stops, and its refusal to even start when you were at a traffic light.

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Thinking about mental illness as a vehicle might make you say, “Well, then, why can’t we just get another car?” Money, mostly. Circumstance. What your insurance will cover. What you need for your size of family, parking space, parking expenses, and (again) budget.

That’s not to say you’re stuck forever in your quirky transport, nor that you can’t address some of its more-limiting issues. In fact, you really need to address them.

-If you are repeatedly blocked from getting the engine to even start

-If you are constantly arriving late

-If you cannot seem to ever get out of the seatbelt when necessary

It’s time to see a mechanic -er, a therapist or mental health doctor of some sort.

No matter the age or condition of the vehicle, they can always help. No, your car will not be the same as when you first unknowingly signed that crappy contract and drove it home -but, do you want it to be?

And, sometimes, you do get a different ride. Sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse. But, the car you drive is still not you.

You are you. Most importantly, you are always the driver. Never forget that.

Photo credit:
Rodolfo Mari
Pixabay
James Sullivan

Voice for the Voices

I have an older brother who is just under a year older than me.  My mother always reassuringly tells me how she felt suicidal when she found out she was pregnant with me when he was that little.  That never mattered to him or I.  He used to come and lay down underneath my cot, tap for my bottle, take a sip, and pass it back.  When we got a little older, “we” levelled up, and he would go and exchange the milk for guava juice.  When we went to pre-school, he boisterously protected me on the playground, sealed my juice bottle after lunch, and dutifully sat me down in my row when the bell had gone.  But that was a very long time ago.

Since then, we’ve both been diagnosed, and tried to live with our mental illness, as best we could.  Sometimes it wasn’t best.  But I think what’s common is that we both didn’t know how.  No-one in my opinion has written a definitive guide on how to deal with scary hallucinations, voices, moods, anxiety, and all that other glorious stuff the mental illness Pandora’s Box throws your way.  Oh yes, and then there’s that practical thing of needing to eat chocolate, cigarettes and food (in that order) which you have to pay for, with a job, with mental illness.  And neither him nor I are able to do that at the moment for very, very different reasons.

He is currently in prison for a crime, well, he so painfully regrets that he cannot sleep, eat or be himself anymore.  I walked into the prison waiting room, and saw him there, saw my little brother with the badly knitted cable jersey my Mom had made, ready to close my juice bottle – and he shouldn’t be in prison.  Not him, not anyone with mental illness.  I asked him a little about the conditions and his eyes glazed over slightly.  What he did tell me was a refined version.  Was a version that I could not stomach, but that he had watered down for me.  I think tried to water down for him.

He has access to a psychiatrist once every three months, a psychologist once a month, and a social worker who monitors his progress (but with a view to discussing whether he is eligible or not for parole).  He has access to medication sometimes.  And that medication makes him sleepy which means that he cannot protect himself at night.  So they take turns to keep watch in the cell and hopefully so thwart some of the impending violence that looms every minute, of every hour, of every day in prison.  They are allowed access to sunshine once a week if at all, and even then it’s for a few hours.  Exercise is walking around the cells for a while, and even then you have to be on alert.   Supper is six slices of dry bread, and if you can get money from outside, you can buy meat (from the Government supply) and hopefully go to the tuckshop.  It’s not guarenteed though that you will actually eventually consume what you buy.

And all this screamed to me that it was not about rehabilitating him,  It was not about promoting his mental health and goodness knows the human rights of any and everyone in that prison.  If people really understood mental illness – I can almost naseously laugh – they would know that we need no other bars, no other punishments, no other deprivations.  In closing, I saw an awesome picture.  It said: “You don’t have to be a voice for the voiceless.  You just have to pass the Mic”.  And I thought Yeah!!  After having seen my brother, understand what he and others go through I’ve changed my mind though.  I’ve got news for you.  Where they are – where I am – where people with mental illness are who are discriminated against and hurt – there is no voice, and there is no mic, there aren’t enough eyes, ears, and hearts that are dedicated to stopping what is happening.  Please help me change that.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.