Yet Again, I’m Blogging About Mental Health

Today is Mental Health Month Blog Day. Mental health – and illness – is a topic of great importance to me and something I’ve written about before. It’s importance has only grown as I’ve gotten older. My experiences with mental illness have led me to get involved in helping others through sites like Band Back Together and I try to speak about my experiences openly and honestly whenever possible.

Did you know that a quarter of Americans experience a diagnosable mental health disorder every year? It’s highly likely that you or someone you know (or SEVERAL someones you know!) is dealing with mental illness. And yet, “research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Vol. 41, No. 2) finds that 68% of Americans do not want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family and 58% do not want people with mental illness in their workplaces.”

Whaaaat??

This is why it’s important to talk about mental health!

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

I was diagnosed at age 15 with depression after I read an article in a magazine. Mental illness runs in my family – my dad, my mom, my brother, my grandmother, and cousins have been diagnosed with various problems – but I was one of the first to receive a diagnosis and treatment. Once I was diagnosed, a number of my family members realized they struggled with the same issues as I did and sought help. Our family life improved drastically after we got help.

Getting help was the best thing I ever did – for me and for my whole family.

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about depression by the time Jack was born, over 10 years after I was initially diagnosed, but then I experienced Postpartum Depression and PTSD reared its ugly head. I threw myself into therapy once again, this time taking a multi-pronged approach with group therapy, skills building classes, and individual therapy along with medication. I went through a variety of these intense therapies for about four years before I felt like I could take a break.

Treatment has been tremendously helpful. In many ways, I am a different person than I was before that very intense therapy. I grew up with so much trauma and while that is common, it’s not easy to cope with. I came up with some very creative ways of coping but the coping didn’t end when the traumas did. And because I was so busy coping, I wasn’t living.

But treatment alone would not have done it for me. I needed community. I needed friends and family. And as difficult as it was to reach out, I did. And my friends and family kept me going throughout my treatment.

Now my son struggles to cope with the challenges in his young life, partly due to genetics and partly due to his experiences with cancer. I am especially thankful these days that I took the time to help myself! I am strong enough now to help him. I can tell him that it’s okay to be sad and that he doesn’t have to just CHEER UP and GET OVER IT. I can help him grieve and move on so that his feelings won’t haunt him for years and years. And I can show him how to ask for help from family and the medical community.

He doesn’t have to be alone.

It is my hope that – eventually – no one will have to go through mental illness alone. Mental illness was something I struggled with by myself for a long time and it wasn’t until I got help from others that I truly started to find healing. It was 100% worth it.

I encourage you all to share your experiences and to reach out to others – whether you are the one struggling or you know someone else who is. Even if the results are small, they make a difference and can change a life.

Mental Illness In The Family

I filed a crime tip report on my brother today. At about 8:00am. What a way to start the morning, eh?

Back in January when Jack was diagnosed with cancer, my brother took a distinct interest. He started emailing me every day. Then several times a day when I didn’t answer. He sent me articles about cancer, “tips” about how feeding kids hot dogs could cause cancer, and then he contacted some ‘homeopathic healers’ on my behalf. I asked him to stop. He responded by sending more. So then I blocked him on Facebook.

After that, he posted to my Facebook wall by using my mother’s account (he borrowed her computer) and also sent me a message from her phone. Each time I informed my mother and asked that she not let him borrow her stuff! And asked her to please get him some help. I live over an hour away, have a kid with cancer to take care of, and do not have the medical history records that she does.

No luck. Actually my mom thinks maybe my brother was misdiagnosed as Schizoaffective…that maybe he just has depression. And that my pulling away from him is making him behave this way.

Ok, Mom.

My mom did call the police on my brother at one point because he was talking about slitting her boyfriend’s throat…she had been advised by his therapist to do that in order to create a record of my brother’s behavior. My grandmother (they live together) assured the police that my brother just needed to take his meds and he’d be fine. He wasn’t arrested at all.

Around March or so he got to Jack’s CaringBridge and posted the following message in the Guestbook:

“You’re really shitty parents and don’t know how to take care of kids so they get sick and get cancer and your treatment sucks.”

I secured the CaringBridge site and blocked him from that. I told my mother not to give my brother any of my contact information. I was done with being stalked and harassed, especially after finding out he’d been trolling a friend’s website and emailing my family members to see if THEY could see my Facebook. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t send me messages anymore.

A couple of months later I was speaking with my mom on the phone and she let me know that my grandmother had been sleeping with a knife because she was afraid of my brother’s behavior. When I asked if my mom had taken my brother to a psychiatric hospital yet, she said yes and that he’d been turned away because he didn’t want to be admitted and “they were full.” I spoke to my therapist, who then called Elder Care on my grandmother’s behalf.

Unfortunately nothing resulted from the house visit by Elder Care – my grandmother doesn’t want to leave the house (she has legit reasons). I encouraged my mother to keep trying the local psychiatric hospitals – to INSIST that they take my brother in. He needs specialized care and my mother is not equipped to give it to him. My mother has been dealing with a lot of health problems, though, and has not gotten anywhere with getting help for my brother.

This morning I got an email from my sister. She had seen on my brother’s Facebook wall that he was threatening to kill our cousin. His exact words were:

“If I see him I will fucking kill him I want to beat him so badly I fucking hate that shitty guy.”

There were two posts related to my cousin, and then a third discussing bullying:

“I hate those bullied people. I can’t stand them. I support everyone in hurting them. I will support the bullies to be extra viscious to those annoying bullied people. Get those bullied people to kill themselves.”

There was a lot more than this, but I’m sure you get the point.

My brother is not well. He is unpredictable and violent. He’s broken into a house, he’s destroyed property again and again, he hallucinates, and he’s told my son to go drink battery acid. He has not physically harmed a PERSON and he has not threatened to commit suicide, so police and the psychiatric hospitals will not take him. He is an adult (27 years old) and therefore in charge of his own care, and he feels that inpatient care is not for him. He’s fine – it’s everyone else’s problem.

I don’t know what to do. I love my brother. I miss the guy he can be when he’s not buried by his mental illness. I wish he could get help, but as time goes on it looks more and more like he will end up in jail. At this point I worry that he is going to be the next guy to shoot up a school or theater. There is no doubt in my mind that could happen. There was a time where I didn’t think he was capable of any crime, when I thought he harnessed so much potential for great things. Unfortunately that time has passed and now I just mourn the loss of a real brother.

So I filed a crime tip this morning. I encouraged my cousin to file a police report. I sent a follow up message to my mother, via cell phone, because she apparently didn’t get my sister’s e-mail. My fingers are crossed that during their visit together today to attend my great uncle’s memorial service, nothing goes awry.

My brother is sick. There seems to be nothing we can do to help him, and there seems to be nothing we can do to protect our family from him.

***

If you have any ideas at all about avenues we might not have tried, please, please share them.

Delayed Reactions

Jack’s out of the hospital. Thank goodness. Today he is at his first Cancer Clinic appointment getting an infusion of chemo. I’m looking forward to him coming home, and hope he isn’t too sick afterward.

I keep trying to tell myself the worst has past – that the prognosis is good, that so many cancer cells have already been zapped by the chemo, that the disease won’t progress. I know these things in my head. Still, my heart aches. I struggle to get out of bed in the morning, to eat, to do anything to take care of myself. When Jack isn’t here I don’t know what to do. What was life like before this diagnosis? What did I think about when cancer didn’t fill my every waking moment? What if Jack isn’t one of the 90% of kids cured?

I keep thinking about how all of this almost went undetected. I almost didn’t take Jack to the doctor. We almost didn’t opt for a blood test to “confirm” anemia. It would have been so easy to dismiss all of his symptoms as a combination of fighting off a cold and returning to school after a long break. It serves no purpose to think about these things but they are invading my mind nonetheless.

I am very much shell shocked. I got through the crisis period without completely freaking out, but I didn’t escape the freak-out – it’s just happening after the fact. My brain and body are not cooperating. I can’t think straight and I feel tired and/or sick to my stomach all the time. I started getting angry at the piles of boxes in our house – not that I don’t appreciate everyone’s thoughts and generosity but I just want to go BACK. I want to NOT need any of this stuff. I’d much rather have someone take this nightmare away. So when I look at the boxes and think about what they are for, I have this irrational anger…and then I get angry at myself. 😛

I can keep myself busy some of the time. My friend Kurstan ventured out to Target with me this weekend and I bought storage for medical supplies and cleaning products. I came home and organized a bunch of the house, put away the laundry my friend Katie graciously washed while we were away, and started washing items we brought home from the hospital. I’m back to work this week, as well, but I’m having trouble focusing on the simplest of tasks. Maybe I need more coffee.

All of our friends and family (and even strangers!) are being so awesome and loving and kind to us. I really do appreciate it, despite this cloud over my head. I haven’t once felt alone since this all started – I feel a community of support behind our family. I just wish the occasion hadn’t arrived where we need this support…

I am blogging for mental health

May is Mental Health Month and today in particular is Mental Health Blogging Day.  I am a longtime sufferer of mentalMental Health Blog Party Badge illness and an advocate for awareness and support through the community support website Band Back Together.

I think days like this are important to let others know that they are not alone in their struggles with mental health issues.  Whether you are a sufferer, a friend, a family member, or an acquaintance of someone with a mental health issue, you can educate yourself and others and help make the world a more compassionate and supportive place.

My name is Crystal and I deal with mental illness on a regular basis.

Sometimes I don’t act like ME because I suffer from chronic Depression (diagnosed at age 14), Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DES-NOS, specifically).  I attend weekly therapy and take medication to help me manage these issues.  I have difficulties managing my response to stressful situations and memories due to the way that my brain processes information/stimuli – multiple traumas throughout my life have impacted the way I view and experience the world around me.

Despite dealing with these issues for so much of my life, I can still live a normal life – I am not ‘crazy.’  I have a wonderful relationship with my husband and son.  I have a great job at a place I’ve worked for the past 3.5 years.  I have friends and hobbies and many of the same worries that others out there have.

Most days I am a very high functioning individual.  Sometimes I need to step back from my responsibilities a little bit and focus on taking extra care of myself.  There are those days when I can’t get out of bed – on those days I need help from my support network of family and friends.  I have fantastic people in my life who have helped me even when they don’t know it.

*****

I have heard various awful things said about those who suffer from mental illness over the years, even from people I love.  The stigma of mental illness still leads people to state that they wouldn’t vote for a politician who was known to have a mental disorder, or that those with a mental illness should not have children.  It’s disheartening to hear these things and I’m hopeful that as we speak out, the stigma will lift more and more.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, please take the time to educate yourself about the symptoms and effects on their life.  If you would like to reach out to a community for support please visit Band Back Together.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Truthiness Day 8: Flowers in the Attic

Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.

Absolutely the first person who comes to mind is my grandmother.  When I think of my grandmother, I think of the grandmother from Flowers in the Attic.  Do you know who I am talking about?  Here’s a picture.  Lady is hella creepy.  I’ve seen that same look on my grandmother’s face.

My grandmother babysat my siblings, my cousins, and me while we were growing up.  WHY anyone let her near children is still a mystery to me.  She had untreated Bipolar Disorder and an obsession with bacteria and illness.  She constantly thought one kid or another was sick – we received lice treatments monthly (for which I finally figured out was just dandruff), my siblings got prunes daily for supposed constipation, and my brother was spoon fed expectorant and benadryl EVERY DAY.

She is a horribly negative person.  I once told her I wanted to be an artist when I grew up and she told me that artists only make money when they are dead.  Actresses?  Well, they sleep their way to the top.  She was manipulative and constantly talked about how she needed to find a rich, old man to marry so she could take all of his money when he died.  Because men?  Only good for money and all they want from women is sex, so it’s perfectly appropriate to use them for monetary gain.

She did not hug us.  She screamed that she hated us.  She called me anorexic (while I was eating dinner).  She made up horrible stories about everyone.  She slapped my brother’s hand when he was learning how to write because he used his left hand.  She threw my toddler cousin across the room by her hair and physically punished both my sister and me when my sister accidentally fell off a swing set…

I could go on and on.  I haven’t seen her in years and I refuse to go to my mother’s house now because my grandmother lives there.  She is pretty much the devil.

Oh look, I found a photo of my grandmother on her birthday.  Doesn’t she look cheery?

Enhanced by Zemanta