Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Let's Talk About *Mental* Health and Wellness

Today is the day. Let's talk about mental health openly and honestly for a minute.

Let's be honest. And when I say honest, I mean opening a window of fresh air to the stale and stilted air that is still subtly threatening to stifle community ...

(alliteration was one of my daughter's spelling words this week...ha.)  

Robin Williams. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Kurt Cobain. This is the society we live in.  I share the following with those who know that they are living in the same world as these people. I share it with people who see society as a reflection of themselves, not an "other" that they don't understand. How many people do you know who have diagnosed mental illness? In my book, the more the better.

A few times in the past 9 months, I've had to call a friend to get wise counsel about some of my personal, or more internal, struggles. I'm not talking about sins or merely marriage problems. I'm not talking about sugar crashes, and I'm not even talking about hormonal swings. I'm talking about my mental health.

I call one friend in particular during these times because like me, she is on medication for depression. When I'm really struggling, I need to reach out in order to find the peace of mind and the hope that I know is possible. I don't call the friends who seem to have it all together; I don't call the friends who wouldn't touch the topic of mental health with a ten-foot pole. I call one of the wisest, dearest people in the world. I admire her up to the hilt, and she happens to be on medication for depression, like me.

I say that because I've honestly shied away from this topic on my blog for a long time. I have felt a decisive backlash against the idea of mental illness in my close circles of friends. When my own thoughts spiral down into the abyss, I need someone to talk me back to a safe place. I need to talk to someone who can let it all hang out for a hot second. But then why- why?- is the thought of looking inward, the thought of one needing medication or needing a counselor- quite frankly- not something we discuss? Why don't we don't discuss it frankly, with openness and honesty?

I've shied away from it. I haven't brought it up much in conversation or on the blog, because I didn't know how to approach it. Guess what? That's a bad thing. :0)  I have caved to the temptation to allow mental illness to become taboo. Within these circles I have also felt a decisive unwellness in the wake of the apathy.  I've *literally* seen friends' marriages fall apart. I've seen people - in conversation with me- admit and then consequently brush under the rug their own struggles with you name it-- depression, anxiety, panic attacks.

My concern in these situations is actually quite grave. Recently I was sitting with some friends, sharing a cup of tea. I heard some things that literally made me stop and say, "Really?!" When I hear someone I love say, "Mental illness actually runs in my family...my aunt and my cousin take medication for anxiety and my brother-in-law has panic attacks," and turn around and say that "I'm fine," it worries me.

Why does it worry me? I say this because I want to help that one person who is struggling, but is scared shitless to admit it.  It worries me because undiagnosed mental illness ends up with trouble. Undiagnosed mental illness ends in divorce. Undiagnosed mental illness ends in suicide. Undiagnosed mental illness ends in hospitalization.  I don't think this particular friend is in this deep, but we all need to be a little less scared.  We all need to get a little more open and a little more vulnerable. For once, consider: stop riding on the popularity train for the sake of your dear and precious reputation. Health is more important. It will bear no fruit to stay stuck in a bad cycle for fear of a little rejection. It will produce no growth to go on in dishonesty.

I've seen this stuff, I've seen this cycle, and it is very ugly. It ravages lives.  It may feel humiliating to admit you need a drug, but how much more humiliating and defeating are these other things?! Divorce, suicide, and hospitalization.  {What about isolation? Many live this lifestyle as well.}

I shared my own journey a few years ago. This is serious and personal stuff! I do not share this with the healthy in mind, but with the sick. Jesus didn't come to heal the well, but the sick.*  As I wrote in that post, I *don't* have it all together. My panic attacks have gotten better since that time, but my thought patterns in some cases have gotten worse. I get panicky and while it doesn't always turn into a panic attack, a lot of times my thoughts are not in the least bit logical. Stephen, my husband, and my children have to bear the brunt of my illogical feelings and depressive moodiness most of the time, and it isn't pretty or cute.   I don't share my story to help bring healing to those who think they're mentally healthy. I share it with people who see society as a reflection of themselves, not an "other" that they don't understand.  If you can't partake of the brokenness, don't  come knocking on my door. Don't come to my doorstep, don't step through my threshold if you've got it all together.

“Community is the place where are revealed all the darkness and anger, jealousies and rivalry hidden in our hearts. Community is a place of pain, because it is a place of loss, a place of conflict, and a place of death. But it is also a place of resurrection.” 
― Jean VanierFrom Brokenness to Community

I say that because community is the result of humility.  Pride is of the Enemy. When undiagnosed mental illness (not sin-- that's different) goes on haunting a person for very long, eventually if it is not treated or acknowledged, it blows up a person's very existence.  It will come to the surface as panicky thoughts that cannot be tamed. It will show up as fear and darkness that oppresses its victim and swirls around, manifesting as thoughts of suicide or hurting other people. It comes out in a shout at the victims of those who live with the person struggling.

We can go to the saints. We can pray about it and seek wisdom and devotional advice. But in the midst of all this self-improvement, we need community more than a starving man needs food. We need to get help and we need brokenness about mental illness more than a homeless person needs shoes.  We need the right way forward out of the cycle of bitterness, into resurrection, like flowers need water. We need to show grace to others and grace to ourselves like the roots of a tree need rain.

Now is not the time to burn with regret. Now is not the time to toss aside these thoughts, angry or upset because there is nothing to be done. Now is the time to be humble. Jesus died so that we could be humble. He took our sins so that we could move forward with healing.

Even when the mountain of sin, regret, loneliness, and anger overwhelms us, we need to acknowledge that pervasive depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can and should be treated apart from sin patterns. We should stop and pray to know the difference between sin and mental illness. Likewise we should stop and pray to know the difference between the problems "out there" and the problems within us.

How do we go about finding full mental healing?

1. Get Right With God.

Go to Confession. Get rid of bad habits. If you are living in sin, get back to the Church and to the teachings she gives us as a guideline for our lives.  Satan may be responsible for spiritual attacks. Figure out where you can do better.  

Now you can move forward. ;-)

2. Recognize that mental illness is never *anyone's fault.*

I am not an expert.  But depression isn't your fault- you didn't cave to some sin in order to get where you are.  I am in counseling, and my counselor is a professional. She has a list of objectives for my counseling sessions, and with each meeting she tries to help me reach those goals.   Come out of the darkness and find healing. Get a therapist, and tell your family and friends about your struggles when and if it's appropriate, and when you're ready.

3. Get Support and *Real* Community.

If you are that person today, call someone you know who is in the same boat as you. You shouldn't feel defeated, and you definitely need to know you aren't alone. Find like-minded people, and surround yourself with other people who know and admit they are broken. This is all we can do: regularly open up with those around you and those in the same boat as you.  Don't end up letting undiagnosed mental illness prevent you from a swift healing and full recovery.

4. Get the medication you need.

For a swift recovery, medicine is not required, but it is highly, highly recommended. The reason I wrote the e-book on depression was so that people in a situation like this would feel less alone.  That's why it sits on my homepage for all to see. Because there is a real darkness in this world.  And medication is one way we can step forward in humility to fight it and defeat it.

Treated depression is depression ended. Treated mental illness? Same, same. Send mental illness back to the dugout where it came from. It shouldn't even be up to bat. Send it to the grave. Let it die, let it be done. 

Let's all get well. Together. In community.

*Matt. 9:12, Luke 5:32
Linking up with Tuesday Talk
Cross-posting at the ACWB
Adding my link to Catholic Mommy


Dara @ Not In Jersey said...

This is so important! Mental health is part of overall health. We all need extra support sometimes too.

My thrift store addiction said...

Tacy, thanks for your transparent post on such an important issue. I know it will help many people, because even though not everyone who reads may struggle personally, they are probably close to someone who does. Thank you.

Tacy said...

Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate them. Someone on FB mentioned that addiction is also a result of undiagnosed mental illness. I wanted to mention it in case that hits home for anyone. ;)

God bless and peace. :>)

Ashley Newell said...

Good for you for writing this post! I despise that mental illness is considered taboo. Why is it any different than needing heart medication or thyroid medicine? I hope that one day we can break the stigma and people can get the help they need!

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Sew Sarah R said...

Thank you for sharing this! It is definitely not talked about enough!

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