There are two people in my life who are battling difficult health issues. If the health issues aren’t enough of a challenge, they are both also having a tough time with anxiety and depression as a result of the uncertainty of their physical difficulties. Besides my knowing that they are spending many days not feeling well, I understand that it is not easy to move oneself through and past the concerns and fears, as well as the unknown future that permeates their daily life. The confluence of all of these issues can be paralyzing to a person.
As a result of this traffic jam of situations, a lot of what occurs in their daily lives is beyond their control. They simply have to deal with all the day to day issues that go along with negotiating the impact of a serious illness. They are committed to doc appointments, the fatigue, the loss of mobility, the side effects of medications, etc., etc. As the saying goes, they are living with “new normals” and it ain’t easy. It would be nice to see them retake control over a little piece of their lives, starting with the paralyzing anxiety. One of the two people is in fact trying very hard to keep a positive attitude, and that helps reduce the anxiety. Of course, each day brings new problems, and he is trying to stay on top of those challenges with as much support from external resources as possible. He is definitely open to asking for help and is overcoming the stigma attached to reaching out for help. The other person, not so much.
But everyone should be open to recognizing the benefits of a positive mental outlook in healing the body. Perhaps relaxation exercises are your thing. Or maybe imaging would work for you. There are many options to consider. Whether one does relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga, imaging, or any one of a myriad of other self-help programs, taking steps towards developing and maintaining a positive, proactive demeanor may go a long way in helping someone become a partner in the healing process instead of a victim of the disease.
Make each day count. Try to make each day better.
I believe that it is important to live each day completely and enjoy the richness that is our lives. However, there are times in the life of someone who battles mental illness when living each day completely is simply impossible. There are days when nothing feels right. Nothing provides a feeling of happiness. Nothing provides positive energy. The inability to function in a normal way results from the feeling that a huge truck is parked on our head. As I think about those excruciating days, I keep seeing a tiny person with HUGE feet trudging through a bog of mud, lifting each foot with great effort, and whomping them down again into the muck. Imagine this tiny person with huge feet lifting and whomping and lifting and whomping over and over and getting nowhere. One becomes frustrated, exhausted, and even paralyzed from being unable to take action.
Take a moment and try to imagine this kind of pain and how it might feel. Take another moment and imagine plodding through and moving past that pain. Imagine that you want so desperately to be whole again, but the stigma of mental illness keeps you from acknowledging the issue. Imagine ignoring that stigma. Imagine the benefits of getting the needed help. Imagine a day without sadness. Imagine a day without anxiety and fear. Imagine a day with a clear mind. Imagine feeling happy again. Imagine life with a smile. Imagine.
On May 1, my mom had a stroke. As sudden illnesses typically do, it took us totally by surprise, especially since this 93 year old woman was driving, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning her own apartment just a few hours earlier. As one of her three progeny, I was helping to gather information, make decisions, be an advocate for her care, and participating in the cheerleading squad working towards her recovery. The picture was bleak, and my sister and I were stretched thin.
I am not writing to tell you about the amazing recovery of a determined woman, but to confide in all of you that I was scared. I was scared, not only for my mom, but for me. I was afraid that the intensity of this medical situation would weigh heavily on me, and I would end up in the depths of another anxiety event. That scared me more than the prospect of dealing with all the details of a hospital stay and the accompanying decisions.
Although I did have some anxiety issues, I was able to easily work my way through these reminders of my illness. This recent episode is also a reminder that this illness is a lifetime commitment that can be managed with the appropriate tools.
Below are a few organizations that can help you find the appropriate tools.
While I was doing research online for my blog, I discovered quite a few organizations that were established specifically to speak to the issue that is so near and dear to my heart. GET RID OF THE STIGMA THAT SURROUNDS MENTAL HEALTH DISEASE. There are more advocates speaking up about that stigma than I ever imagined, and I happily read their websites for hours, truly excited about finding this treasure trove of validation.
Brandon Marshall, in conjunction with his wife Michi, started Project 375, an organization whose sole purpose is to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health illness. Marshall himself had shown signs of erratic behavior, but thought he needed to tough it out and remain stoic in the face of his problems. That stoicism was not working. In 2011, Marshall, a highly respected NFL wide receiver, had a decision to make. Either get the help he needed for his erratic behavior, or Michi was leaving. Devastated by the possibility of losing his wife, Marshall checked himself into a psychiatric hospital, and there he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. He spent the next three months at the hospital getting therapy, during which time Marshall realized that being stoic was not the same as being strong. Instead, he found that it took strength and courage to own his illness and get the help that he desperately needed. After a period in therapy, his personal and professional life began to stabilize. As a result of the progress that Michi witnessed, Michi and Brandon reunited. Marshall and Michi now speak out about his disease, their journey, and the mission of Project 375 to eradicate the stigma of mental health disease and disorders. Project 375 is making a particular effort to reach out to the male population that is resistant to owning any mental health issues. Through their programs, Brandon and Michi are trying to educate men to understand that it takes strength, not weakness, to seek the help needed to learn how to live with a mental health disorder. I was very impressed with this organization and its goal of promoting healing through understanding, and promoting the principle of speaking out and speaking up – of coming out of that old stuffy closet. Continue reading Speaking Out And Speaking Up