The best sensor we have is our body. When it tells us to slow down, we should listen to it. If we ignore it, we do so at our peril.
When it comes to mental illness, ignoring the signals that we need help is more than detrimental. It could be life threatening. Last week, Britney Spears checked into a mental health facility following her father’s health scare.
I admire her for getting help and not being afraid to publicly admitting that she needs to take time to take care of herself. The hardest thing that one can do when suffering from mental illness is to ask for help. It’s easy to pretend that your OK and try to go about your business. It’s harder to take a step back and say that you need to talk to someone.
I hope that her actions inspire others who suffer from mental illness to seek treatment. The more we speak of mental illness, the less it becomes a stigma and that will finally lead to an open conversation about this debilitating and deadly disease.
Mental illness affects millions of people around the world.
Mary Cregan knows all too well the pain that mental illness can bring. In her new book, The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery, she talks about her own bout with mental illness and how she was able to survive.
When she was in her late 20’s Ms. Cregan had it all: a job that made her happy, a loving marriage and a soon to be new addition to the family. The joy of a new child soon turns to grief when the baby dies two days after she is born. The death of her daughter plunges her into depression and thoughts of suicide. Years later, in writing this book she reflects on her deeply personal and heartbreaking experience with mental illness while talking about the history of how mental illness was viewed and treated.
One of the most glaring aspects of mental illness, from my own experience, is the feeling of being alone in the world. Ms. Cregan’s book reminds me that those of us who suffer from mental illness are not alone. We may not have asked to join millions of others who suffer from mental illness, but it brings us together in a way that allows us live full lives while grappling with a disease that will always be part of us.
I recommend it.
There are some illnesses that are obvious via physical symptoms. The various forms of mental illness are very often referred to as invisible illness because symptoms are not always obvious to the naked eye.
I have lived with depression for years. It often speaks for me when I cannot. The problem is that when it speaks for me, it does not speak the truth.
Courtesy of fanpop.
It speaks of my anxieties, my insecurities. It reveals that in spite of all I have worked for and achieved, I am still worth nothing. The people in my life are lying to me. I am worth nothing and the only place I should be is the grave.
If we have a conversation and my depression decides to speak for me, please pardon me. It is not me who is speaking, but one who has taken over my tongue and my thoughts. It is my depression.
Yesterday, I spoke about an experience at work that triggered my depression.
Today, I am happy to report that it was a better day. My depression will never fully go away, but at least the issue that triggered my depression was dealt with.
When one’s mental illness is triggered, it akin to trying to climb out of a hole made of sand or dirt. You try to climb out with everything you have, but all you get is dirty fingernails, complete exhaustion and feeling like you will never be able to get out of this hole.
I was surrounded by love today, which helped immensely. I was also given a hug by a young boy whom I have never met before. It felt like G-d was saying that I would be OK.
Today was a better day.
Not everyone is blessed with the ability to easily interact with others. For some of us, the scariest thing we can do is talk to people.
In the 2017 novel, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman, the title character, Eleanor Oliphant is not exactly a social butterfly. Awkward with a capital A, Eleanor often blurts out what she is thinking, has no social life and keeps to her regimented weekly schedule as if she was in the military. The only conversations she has are the most basic greetings with her colleagues and her weekly phone conversations with her mother, which are not exactly the most uplifting.
Then she meets Raymond, the new hire in her company’s IT department. Raymond is as awkward as Eleanor is. When they save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on sidewalk, something changes for her. With the help of her friendship with Raymond, she may learn to move on from her past and open her heart.
This book was recommended to me by a friend. It is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. From nearly the moment that I started reading this book, I knew who Eleanor was because I understood her. It’s nice to read about a heroine who lives with social anxiety, mental illness and emotional hardships that come with carrying the weight of those obstacles on your shoulders. I also appreciated that Raymond is not a paragon of perfection, a prince charming type who “rescues” the heroine by seeing her inner beauty.
I absolutely recommend it.
P.S. The book is being made into a movie. Reese Witherspoon is one of the producers. This is one movie that I will be waiting in line on opening weekend to see.
I want you to imagine the following scenario: You have everything you have ever wanted.
If you are single, you are enjoying the single life. If you are married or in a steady relationship, that relationship is going strong. Your children, if you have children, are happy and healthy. Your career is satisfying. Your social network outside of your immediate family is also thriving. But inside of you, there is a dark void. Nothing can fill that void and as much as you try to put on the mask of having a good life, that mask can easily crumble into your hands.
This is depression.
The new song Zero, by Imagine Dragons is part of the Ralph Breaks The Internet soundtrack.
The song hits the nail on the head. Depression is like an emotional wormhole that sucks out all of the good things in your life and leaves on the constant reminders of the bad things. It revels in your mistakes, your flaws and your anxieties. It reminds you how useless and stupid you are. Worst of all, it prompts you to take your own life.
The worst part of living with mental illness is not the mental illness, but the stigma attached. If this song helps one person to ask for help, then it is more than a song. It it a lifesaver.
Drug addiction is like any other disease. It requires a proper diagnosis and treatment for the person who is living with the addiction to be able to free themselves from their addiction.
The problem is that it is not treated as one would treat a another disease i.e. heart disease or cancer. Depending on the person who is suffering from drug addiction, they are at best enrolled in a detox program and at worst, put in jail.
Last week, singer and television star Demi Lovato had an overdose after being sober for a number of years. In addition to issues with drug abuse, she also suffers from mental illness.
Her overdose sheds a spotlight on the fact that drug addiction, despite being an illness, is not treated as an illness. For many (especially people of color), the common treatment is jail time. Ms. Lovato has the cushion of not only being white, but also being a famous performer. I’m not an expert in the law or addiction, but common sense tells me that instead of putting these people in jail, we should be treating them for their disease. Keeping them in jail only exacerbates the problem and makes it harder for them to return to every day life once they have completed their jail sentence.
I’m not a fan of Ms. Lovato, but I wish her well in seeking treatment for her disease.
It’s a proven fact that many who suffer from mental health issues have considered or have acted on suicidal thoughts. In the United States, suicide is quickly become one of the leading causes of death. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Writer Jennifer Michael Hecht knows all too well the pain that losing a loved one to suicide brings. Her 2013 book, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It, was inspired by the loss of two friends to suicide. In the book, Ms. Hecht examines how suicide was viewed in the past by different cultures and how these cultures argued against suicide. She also examines how attitudes in regards to suicide have changed, but the reasons to live remain the same.
This book was not only well written, but eye opening. Suicide has been part of the human experience for an untold number of generations. For me, living with mental illness, the most important reason for reading this book was the argument that life is worth it. Suicide is permanent, pain can and does heal.
I recommend it.
Depression is like a dark cloud that refuses to dissipate. Professional success, a solid marriage, happy children and supportive family/friends can often mean nothing when one lives with depression. The dark thoughts are insidious, invading the thoughts and psyche of the person suffering until for some the only way to get ride of them is take your own life.
Today it took another life, that of fashion designer Kate Spade.
Ms. Spade was found this morning by her housekeeper. While there has not been an official ruling on her passing, speculation is pointing to suicide caused by depression.
She leaves behind her husband, her teenage daughter, a fashion empire and many who will miss her terribly.
What breaks my heart is that she had every reason to live, but that was not enough in the fight against mental illness.
If you are suffering, please seek help. Whether it is through your clergy person, a therapist, a trusted loved one or another resource, please get help. You are beautiful, you are worth it and you are powerful. You deserve all of the good things that have come and will come your way.
The telephone for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. The life you may save with the phone call is yours.
She was 55. May her memory be a blessing.