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.

Getting Lost With Ghosts

I wish I had better things to say. I wish I could say I’m doing a great job of handling everything that is going on right now. I do have good days and bad days – the bad days are taken over by anxiety attacks and depression, while my good days are still filled with weariness and worry. I’ve been burying myself in television and books to escape err, cope.

I haven’t been sleeping well. I look at the calendar several times each day to remind myself what day of the week it is. I forget to drink my coffee. Most nights I skip dinner. Last night I ate peanut butter cups.

My house is a disaster. And it smells. My cats ran out of food last night but I got home too late to get to the pet store for more. They are surely pissed off today. I need to fix the flat tire on my car, too. Oh, and go grocery shopping…

I took a day off last week sometime. I stayed in bed all day. I knew I had to move my car or risk getting a ticket. I went back to sleep instead. When I woke up, I peeked out the window and saw a ticket on my car, but I still couldn’t find it in myself to care. The idea of getting a second ticket didn’t even push me out the door…not until I realized David would be upset about it (we’d JUST talked about our expired parking permits a few days prior).

Things are a little better when Jack is with me. It gets me out of my head, I suppose. When he’s not here, I think about his treatment. It’s a few weeks until he starts the phase with eight different meds…it’s been a while since he’s spent time with kids his age…he needs to go to the dentist…we need to draw blood on XYZ days…I need to take a day off for his next treatment…when will he lose his hair…how will he handle it…is he doing too much activity…when will he end up back in the hospital…

It’s only been three months since his diagnosis – how long can I do this? I’ve been trying to think of ways to destress. Obviously this all has lit a fire under my PTSD. Usually when I’m stressed I take a trip, get away…but now I’m terrified to be away from Jack. Every time I try to make plans I just think about all the uncertainty ahead and how I’d rather just sit on the couch watching movies with him and snuggling under a blanket. I need to be here in case something happens.

I’m mad at myself for feeling this way. Jack’s been doing great. There have been no set-backs. Side-effects are few. In so many ways he is a normal kid. There will be an end to all of this. The end is three years away, though, and there will likely never be an end to my worry…

I need to keep going. There is so much that needs doing. I just need to stop getting lost in all of it and leave my ghosts behind.

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. :P

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.

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Truthiness Day 26: Giving Up

Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?

Yes, I’ve thought about giving up on life a lot over the nearly 30 years I’ve been alive.  I doubt there is a month that goes by when it hasn’t crossed my mind.  I’ve called the mental health help line.  I’ve been taken to the emergency room.  I’ve taken too many sleeping pills after an argument.  I’ve asked people to keep an eye on me because I didn’t trust myself.

Why?  I have Major Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I have been on and off meds since the age of 14 (I’ve been on for the past two and a half years now).  I’ve had many instances of my mental illness flaring up.  Sometimes there seems to be no reason at all.  Sometimes there is a reason – like a miscarriage or painful memories from childhood that feel too overwhelming.

So yeah, I think about it.  But I also think about my family when I think about giving up.  I appeal to the part of myself that can’t help but take care of others.  I remind myself that giving up would be the opposite of taking care of Jack or David.  Sometimes I can’t care about myself, but I can *always* care about others and the people I care about are my lifeline.

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Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month.  I attended a WEGO webinar earlier this week to learn how to participate in spreading awareness, so you will likely be seeing some informational posts and/or tweets from me throughout the month.  I’d also like to let you all know that if you have any questions about mental health, particularly in relation to the things I am intimately familiar (Depression, Anxiety, Dissociative Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress, Post-Partum Depression), please feel free to ask.  I have been dealing with these issues for over 15 years and have no problem sharing the wealth of information and resources I’ve collected in the mean time.  It’s important to continue talking about mental health issues to battle stigmas.  [Note: I do have a post written up about a lot of these issues but it is password protected for my family's sake.  If you would like the information to access it, please send me an email.]

While I plan to be involved in the activities to spread awareness throughout May, I am (appropriately?) enmeshed in a depressive episode and my posting may be sporatic.  Depression often creates some brutal writer’s block for me, which is…depressing.  :P   I’m trying to pull back from commitments where I can to focus on getting back on track mentally.  In the mean time, I appreciate your patience and hope that you continue to engage when I *am* around.

If you are looking for mental health resources, the National Institute of Mental Health and WEGO Health Mental Health Community are two great places to start.  In addition, a dear friend of mine Sarahndipitea is a community health educator with WEGO and also writes a weekly column on Savings.com called Balanced that focuses on simple and inexpensive ways to maintain your overall health.

Now, if you wouldn’t mind sharing – how have mental health issues touched your life?  What is your perspective on helping others who suffer from mental health disorders?