Monday, July 17, 2017

Stop the Stigma

I haven't been great about posting in here, and sometime I think it's because I fear that I should "be over it" or that I am not deserving of the emotions that I experience. If I've learned anything in the last 6 years, it's that most of our society is anything but sympathetic to those who suffer chronically with their mental health.

But checking in, and sharing is part of the reason I decided to start this blog in the first place. For all the things that we tell ourselves we have to keep hidden, the tears that are withheld, in fear of the judgement that may be placed upon us by others. The shame attached to anyone suffering from one of the many forms of mental heath issues keep us quiet, and I for one am sick of it.

While it may seem simple to say "don't let it get to you" or "just get over it", there is often something much deeper hidden behind our tears and bad days. It wasn't until I started documenting my highs and lows after my Father's suicide, that I really started to find the hidden release in not holding back. But I struggled for years with not allowing myself to really feel what I needed to feel. Why? Fear of judgement, fear of abandonment, stigma. So much stigma.

I worried that everyone would label me as crazy. What's worse, is the people that did.

Why is there an age limit to being able to cry openly when hurt? Why is it that a 2 year old child can throw themselves on the ground and cry over spilled milk, but an adult cannot cry and grieve openly without it making people uncomfortable. When did we decide that our feelings had an expiration date?

We are quick to run to a crying child, to offer aide, and to smother them in affection in hopes of limiting their pain. But we don't offer the same to someone grieving the loss of a loved one, or someone who is battling depression and deals with sadness almost daily.

If we offered the same kindness to everyone, regardless of age or reason, imagine the impact. Imagine the souls that could be mended and the tears that could be avoided. While I may personally have no issue with discussing my struggles, the shame surrounding mental illness prevents so many from talking with friends, family and health providers honestly about their struggles. It limits the ability to teach and enforce prevention when those inflicted are weary of even talking to anyone.

We don't want to be treated differently, but we are. From the dodged conversations, the friends and family that stop calling, down to the way medical staff treat us once they read of an attempt, or hospitalization. The scarlet S for STIGMA is stitched to our chest for all to see, and no amount of treatment will erase it.

If you truly want to help, reduce stigma, and ensure that future generations can come forward with their feelings without fear of being branded, listen. Offer up your ear, and just listen. Free from judgement. Ask questions, be engaged with us. Show us that you care. Stop by with a hot meal on a bad day, send a handwritten note with a fond memory. I promise you the smallest act of kindness means the world to someone who is suffering.

If you see a stranger in a store and they look unhappy, smile and say hello. If you know an anniversary of a death is coming, shoot a text. Go donate time, board games, books or fresh flowers to your local mental health facility.

It takes very little to make an impact, an that impact can have a ripple affect that can and will save lives.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Now that the smoke has cleared

One of the biggest struggles along my path of healing after my Dad's suicide, is being able to see how badly it affected me and those I love dearly in so many ways.

Now that the smoke has cleared, and I am stable and happy, I am finding it important to take responsibility for the things I've done or said that I wish I could take back. 

Suffering through such a horrific experience really changed me. I became bitter and spiteful. I took everything personally, and I pushed a lot of people away. The depths of depression took years from me. Years where I was a shadow of the person I wanted to become. 

Before that day, I was strong. I was kind and I was someone you could count on. I listened and did anything I could to make someone smile or laugh. I worked hard and played harder. I smiled until my face hurt and my eyes leaked. I laughed until I snorted, and I loved with all of my being. I was a super mom and a ride or die friend. 

But, trauma and depression change things. It clouds your judgement and puts thoughts into your head. Telling me I was worthless and unloveable. It haunts you at night and rules you all day. It made me tired, and sad. Always so very sad. I could go back to that day at any moment. Like I had a film reel replaying in my mind. Hearing myself scream. It's just one thought away. I became so engulfed in the darkness that it took over. 

I just couldn't find even a single ray of light. I felt like I was always on edge and a second away from crumbling into oblivion. It was a black hole that surely no one could return from. Then it was just darkness. Years of darkness. I have gaps, conversations I can't remember, memories that seem to have been erased. It's so hard to even explain what it feels like to have a brain that is working against you. It's exhausting. 

I lashed out a lot, I pushed away friends and family that I grew up with. I wasn't mentally around enough for anyone. Let alone myself. It was just too hard to think about anything other than anger. I simply couldn't deal. It was all too much to handle. 

My Father, My Daddy, the most important man in my life chose to leave me. That's hard to swallow. Let alone see splattered across the backyard of the home you shared. Every precious memory I had of him overshadowed by the madness. 

I wanted him back. There wasn't anyone who could fill the void. Nothing made the pain better. I tried every medication a psychiatrist could prescribe, I have done enough therapy to pay for my kids to go to college twice over. I am the master of coping skills. I am very well versed in PTSD and depression and am always up for anything that betters my mental health. 

It came down to time. Patience, and a lot of mistakes. I hurt people I wish I didn't. I said things I would love to erase, but know life doesn't hand out that luxury. 

I hope that those that I have wronged can forgive me. I don't expect it, but I'd love to think that if they weighed the bad vs good, that the good would forever outweigh the bad. The darkness that clouded what once was good. 

I have changed a lot. I have grown, and I can finally say I am so very proud of the woman I've become. I am laughing again, I am singing and dancing and enjoying the simplistic joys in life. I have come to find a wonderful peace with my Dad. While the memories of that days will never be erased. My life, my brain, and my spirit are healthy and happy. 

It may have taken over six years, but I think the smoke has finally cleared.