Let’s Get P.C. on MENTAL ILLNESS!

When is society going to start getting politically correct when it comes to mental illness? When are words like “crazy,” “nutter,” “looney ” going to become just as offensive and disgusting to use as the words nigger and fag? When someone utters those words everyone stops and stares–it defines that persons way of thinking. But when someone refers to a person with a mental illness as a “looney” no one even bats and eye. As a friend said, “its much more acceptable to be an alcoholic than mentally ill.”

We have a friend who is a paranoid schizophrenic. He refuses to get real help, even though several people have talked to him about it. And yes, sometimes he is a bit much. He has rants and conspiracies–talks to otherworldly beings etc. (and as a Shamanic practitioner–I do not doubt that he does!). His reality–what he sees — is not our definition of reality. His reality is defined by his illness. The schizophrenic mind does not agree with reality. It is a psychosis. And, he cant help that. He is a good person with a good heart who is very intelligent. He cant help having a mental illness. No one knows what deck of cards they are going to be handed when they are born into this life.

Yes his behavior can be erratic and yes you do have to constantly redirect him during conversation. But he is not a bad person. He recently has been kicked out of a cafe for his rants, and has had altercations with other folks. In the past, he has had the shit kicked out him from police and people in society who don’t understand the simple fact he is sick. I am not saying that he should get away with every little thing–and that his behavior is always justified. But he is ill. His angry outbursts are not out of malicious intent; he can not help what is brain does. Outbursts and angry rants are par for the course. Its part of the illness which is schizophrenia. And like cancer or any other physical illness, schizophrenia varies from person to person.

What upsets me, is the reaction people have about him. Not compassion. Not empathy. But utter disgusting hypocrisy and hateful words. For example  (and these are direct quotes):

” I can read a loon as soon as they open their mouth to speak.”

Ask the alien race hes hangin with…they might be able to shed some light on the dysfunction.”

a0549a470e6a7b35b59c09ae5c61cc5a

“Loon”—“dysfunction.” Would you say this about a person with cancer? Parkinsons? Would you tell them they are full of shit? Would you call them names? Absolutely not–because its WRONG.

And yet, when it comes to mental illness…people say whatever they want about the person because they think, “well,  they are just crazy.” And that is why society can be a disgusting hypocritical beast. Its not OK to use racist or bigoted words, but it is OK to use hateful mean words to someone with a mental diagnosis? How is this acceptable? And people who find it funny, should be ashamed of themselves. No matter how a person is reacting with mental illness–no aspect of it is funny. No one makes fun of mentally disabled people–Asbergers, Mental Retardation, Down Syndrome….because they can SEE the disability. Well guess what–mental illness is no different!

I cant tell you how many times I have been called “crazy,” “emotional,” “full of shit,” “faking it.”—And you know..that used to really hurt me. It hurt because no one understood the battle I deal with every single day of my life. When I am a happy person and and yet my brain is full of despair and anxiety. Now, I get pissed off. And I get pissed off when people in my tribe are called these things because society thinks its okay.

Its about time that society start getting PC about mental illness. People should think about their words before they open their mouth about someone who is mumbling to themselves on the bus, or crying all the time, or fearful of going out to go shopping because their brain is on constant fight or flight–or any of the other mental illnesses out there that appear to be “crazy” to society.

 

Advertisements

The Dark Side of the Light Keepers

Living with depression is not easy. I mean, no chronic illness is easy to live with; but depression doesn’t always show “physical” symptoms. So when you tell someone you have an illness, they are looking for obvious symptoms. It’s not always easy for me to tell people when I am feeling depressed. I have been masking it most of my life, its what I have become used to. I mean, sure, I will tell someone “hey if I seem quite or off its because I am going through a bad bout of depression,” and they either get or they don’t. I have gotten so good at crying in the bathroom at work, or pretending my contacts are bothering me when people ask me if I am ok because my eyes are puffy and red from secretly crying. I have become so good at telling people I am not feeling good when I get asked to hang out because telling people that my brain has decided to crap out on me is easier.

I have been fortunate enough that my last two employers understood what was going on and allowed me time off when I just…well…when I just couldn’t. When I felt that getting out of bed wasn’t worth it. When all I wanted to do was sit in my pj’s on the couch and cry my eyes out for no goddamned reason.

But it still doesn’t make having depression easier. I have become really good at hiding the darkness within my light on a daily basis. I have depression all the time, but some days…or weeks…its worse than others. But I try, damned hard, to push the light through. Its hard for people to understand….that there is a dark side to the light keepers.

I have one of the most bubbly, cheerful, happiest personalities. I LOVE my life. I LOVE myself. I worked hard to get to where I am…and now that I am finally here…I could not be happier. A great partner, awesome family, great job, beautiful home, a great wellness practice, my dancing, my coven…everything I have dreamed of is now a reality. But that reality includes the fact that I live with a mental illness. An illness that sometimes, despite KNOWING I am happy, makes me feel like some dark storm is enveloping me and will not  GO AWAY.

th

I AM A LIGHT KEEPER. I hold the love and bliss that the Universe has given me deep within my soul and heart. But sometimes its hard to keep the darkness at bay. People have a hard time understanding—depression makes you sad FOR NO REASON. Despite being a light keeper…..my brain likes to let the darkness in. Its like fighting a battle of good and evil on a daily basis…and sometimes the good will come and last for weeks. Other times, the darkness wins and eats the light until the light can finally get enough courage to battle again.

And its EXHAUSTING. I am constantly exhausted. In addition to the depression–the anxiety that goes along with it!? Imagine being in a grocery store and having to leave a full cart of food in the middle of the aisle because you are having a panic attack so bad you feel like your heart is going to come out of your throat! I have!!!

But through it all…I still manage to hold onto the light and push forward. This was the deck of cards I was handed and its the deck of cards I am going to play with for the rest of my life. And if I have learned anything, its that Light Keepers have a pretty good poker face when it comes to playing with depression.

The Dark Side of the Moon: When the Light Fades

There is always a light and dark side to everything in life. And for those of us with depression, the dark side tends to be the most prominent. I have battled depression most of my life, with an attempted suicide at age 14 followed by panic attacks later in life and then several shrinks. I finally found a therapist I liked and from 2009-2013 I saw her and a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner during the darkest hours. I am very open about having clinical depression because I have to be the voice for the thousands out there afraid to talk about because they are afraid of being judged. In 2014 I was doing great—so great my social worker decided that she only needed to see me on as needed basis and my NP tapered my meds. I was feeling on top of the world.

 11109263_10205794143425678_124443065777238698_n

Then, I recently, and abruptly had a life change. Within two weeks, my boyfriend and I were packed up and heading to Arizona. There we were on a Saturday night enjoying some wine and sake listening to some old school tunes in an apartment I lived in for 15 years to suddenly packing boxes on Sunday, renting a U-Haul and driving 2300 miles away from the only place I had called home. It happened so fast I had no time to comprehend what the hell just happened. The whole cliché of having the carpet pulled out from under you—is serious shit.

Here we are in Arizona and the adjustment has been difficult. We went from a major city to a new town. We know no one. Have np physical support system here and are basically fending for ourselves. I have to find a job pronto to make sure we can pay rent which means finding meaningless work to pay the bills.

And what happens but that the dark side appears. I woke up one day in tears. I was crying to the point where I couldn’t stop. My depression had returned. YES—the move was the TRIGGER—but not the reason.

People who don’t have depression don’t understand what it’s like. Imagine that you are just moving along a bright sunny day when suddenly someone throws a pitch black can’t see shit bag over your face and never ever takes it off. It’s like that. A dark cloud that just doesn’t go away. And thoughts-bad thoughts come in your mind. And YOU CAN’T HELP IT. It’s just there.

I have had so many people tell me it’s the move. To give it time. To find joy in the things around me. Believe me…I am trying. We have gone to canyons, creeks, walked, enjoyed the beauty of the place—but my lack of happiness isn’t with where I live…it’s chemically going on in my brain.

10341402_10205794146785762_8517411146470775220_n

I think that’s hardest thing about depression–people think it’s an external thing that can be “fixed”–when it’s a chemical thing that can’t be fixed just “adjusted”….and I appreciate everyone’s helping…. but depression can’t be fixed with a walk or giving my move time…if it were…I would be walking all day every day and loving every bit of Flagstaff. It’s hard for people who don’t have a clinical diagnosis to understand that depression is not always due to outside circumstances. I appreciate everyone’s kindness and offerings of advice during times like this, but want I everyone to understand that it’s not going to “fix” what’s happening inside my head. I can’t just flip a switch and “be happy”—nor can I flip a switch and decide that all the chemical mishaps in my brain will fix themselves.

Being supportive is awesome. Being able to just be there—and listen—is even more awesome.

A Road For the Spirit to Pass Over

As most of you know, I consider all people with mental illness part of my Tribe. Suffering from a major depressive disorder and anxiety–I know the pain of the darkness. With love, support, therapy and psychiatric assistance–I have been able to move past those dark days. But some in my Tribe cant. And while its not always the case, most people in our Tribe have suicidal ideations….We think about the “S” word—often–but doesn’t mean we would do it….Some people have no idea what that’s like. During my last bout in the dark, when my meds stopped working, I was thinking about what it would feel like to just not wake up. I am open about my illness. I don’t pretend and I refuse to hide it. I am open to everyone about my battle. I am not ashamed. Now I am new meds and starting that fun roller coaster ride again……..

20121120-hermit-x306-1353426879

Sadly, while the majority *think* about suicide in our veil of darkness–some in our Tribe find it the only way out of the shadows. When a member of our Tribe dies—whether it be by their own hand, natural causes or whatever else–it hurts us all. When a member of our Tribe, whether we knew them personally, whether they were famous or our neighbor, departs this realm, all of us in the Tribe feel it differently than those who don’t suffer. We get it. We really get it. We have been there.

I will say this though, I do not believe suicide is a selfish act.  I believe its an act of desperation. When you cant see beyond the veil. Nothing forward. Nothing back. Just a wall. I never blame the person who commits suicide.

In 2011 a coworker, who seemed so happy, left work early, went home, and shot himself. I remember the grief counselor coming in to talk to us. My coworkers all sat around the conference table and everyone had to talk about how his suicide made them feel. I was the only person who said I was angry. While everyone said how selfish he was, how he did not matter anymore.  I was angry–I said it was because it did not need to happen if people were not so afraid to talk about mental illness to begin with. If my coworker didn’t feel ashamed–if when you asked him, “how are you” — and he gave a real answer–not just one to end the conversation–he may never have made that choice.  My other coworkers didn’t quite get that. When I said that I had tried to kill myself when I was 14, they all gave me that judgmental “she’s a crazy” look.

I am going to state these statements–and they are based purely on my own feelings and thoughts towards suicide and mental illness:

1. Suicide is not selfish: Nor can it be ignored. People who take their own lives do so because they see no other option. Suicide is part of a much larger picture. Suicide isn’t something somebody does because “so and so” needed attention. Actually suicide doesn’t need to even occur. If the stigma about talking about your feelings wasn’t so blatantly destroyed in this society, less people would feel the only way out was taking their own life.

2. Suicidal talk is not just talk: If someone says, “I am thinking about ending my life,” the WRONG response is “well don’t talk about it, just do it.” When I told friends when I was in high school that I wanted to end it all–that was the response I got. Looking back-they were not my friends. The CORRECT response would be, “lets go and talk.”

3. Don’t blame the person: Blame the society we live in. Back in the 1800’s, people in my tribe were locked up in asylums and never spoken about. Why? Simple. Self preservation. How horrible would it be if Mrs. Smith divulged that her daughter was locked away in a “looney bin”? What a shame it would bring about on the family! So in the act of self preservation, our Tribe has to be made to feel like outcasts. Keep our feelings in less be judged. If a person decides to take their own life—its because they felt there was no one or no place to turn to. Imagine what that loneliness feels like.

4. No one dies in vain: I truly and honestly believe that death–any death–happens for a reason. Whether a still born baby–an elderly person from natural causes–a murder victim–and a suicide victim. The Universe does not take away without giving back--even if that giving back is hard lesson. And with suicide, most times, the lesson is about the stigma surrounding mental illness.

5. Don’t scurry around the issue: Nothing pisses me off more than when I hear: “X was going through a divorce so X was feeling really depressed,” “X had a severe drinking problem and went to rehab because X was depressed,” “X’s friend is in therapy so X just wants attention,” “X just moved to a new school so X didn’t feel like they fit in.” Lets not skip around the issue. All of those “things” X was going through—-the key word is X was DEPRESSED. It has nothing to do with mommy and daddy issues, the wife bailing and taking the dog, the asshole boss. Depression, believe it or not, typically has NOTHING to do with what is outside the person. Being put in a new situation, life stress, drinking, divorce–those can exacerbate the depression–but major depression, just like most mental illnesses are biological. People in my tribe cant help what they feel. Its like your happy as hell–your life is amazing–but your brain is telling you the opposite. Imagine a constant tug of war between your brain and your heart. Rationalism and non-rationalism. All the time. Non-stop. We cant rationalize what our brain is telling us otherwise because somewhere–our brain chemistry is on overdrive.

6. (I am going to take heat for this) There is no cure for mental illness: We can have studies up the wall. We can make members of our tribe human lab rats. But the truth is, Big Pharma knows it racking in the dollars–hell I am participating in their gas guzzling pill creating industry every time I pick up my Celexa, Valium, Ativan and Wellbutrin. Just like AIDS and cancer–if there is a cure—we will never know. Big Pharma likes the money they can make from our tribe. Whether we want to admit it or not. And Big Pharma’s know, that every drug they make–if it works–at some point people will be desperate enough to drop thousands of dollars on a medicine their insurance will not cover because its “experimental” ~ so what is the CURE. TALK. OPENNESS. When someone asks “how are you feeling”—REALLY give them an answer. Not just “I am fine.” No. Say, “I am depressed and I need to talk.” And if they really care, and if they really want to help break the stigma…….then they will listen.

No one needs to be the next Freud or Jung. All they need to do is LISTEN. Break the stigma by learning how to ACTIVELY LISTEN to how someone is feeling–don’t jump in and tell them “get over it, its ok,” or “your life is perfect.” No. 

Just Listen.

I am writing this post obviously, because of the passing of Robin Williams…a member of my Tribe. May he open the roads for the spirits to pass over……

Time for change is NOW.

robin-williams-quotes-1

Stop the Stigma: We EXIST!

Have to say, I am really numb/hurt/angry/pissed at hearing about the death of Robin Williams. It hits close to home. I have depression.  He was a member of my TRIBE. In my darkest moments I cant say that suicide never crossed my mind. I had a co-worker commit suicide a few years ago–he had depression. He never talked about. I am angry. Not because he killed himself-that was not his fault. I never blame people who kill themselves. Its an act of hopelessness. No. I am angry because people are to ashamed to talk about being mentally ill for fear of judgment. Because jokes like “stop acting bipolar” or “you’re such a schizo” or calling someone a “psycho”—-or comments like “get over it”- “you have a good life,” ~ “take that little pill to calm you down” ~ are the reason why people who suffer from depression wont talk.

If someone has cancer-no one makes jokes. No one tells them to cheer up. But if someone has depression–well, damn–“just take your meds,” “you are such much better on your new meds,” ~ who would say that to someone with cancer???? No one. So why say it to someone who is mentally ill? Here is thought for the day…Just because you cant physically see an illness, doesn’t mean someone isn’t suffering from one.

stigma-chalkboard

 

Maybe people need to stop acting like mental illness doesn’t exist because they cant see it. Or because talking about it is “shameful” to family and friends. Because you know what–we feel it. We feel it in the pain, the sadness, the darkness…and we keep it hidden. We keep it hidden because people are to afraid to talk about. Well……..lets talk…….Lets start talking so more talented amazing people in this world don’t have to resort to taking their life because its to shameful to talk about. Its not the 1800’s anymore where “crazy” folk get locked away and forgotten.

No. We are are real. We are here. So stop acting like we don’t exist. Acknowledge that your friend, sister, brother, mother, daughter, father etc. has a mental illness. Lets start the conversation. Now.

Mental Illness: Its Not Shameful!!!

I am writing this post because of the frequent comments I have heard about how open I am about having a depression/anxiety disorder. How I shouldnt be so open. How other people will “judge” me for posting about my battle with depression. 

Well, this is a post dedicated to all the other members of my Tribe: The schizophrenics, bi-polars, personality disorders, and other tribe members with a mental illness.

Do not be ashamed. To have someone tell you that you shouldnt talk about it–makes it sound like there is something shameful about it. Like its a deep secret that should be locked away with a bunch of skeletons in a closet. The reason why they dont want you to talk about your “illness” is because they are AFRAID to talk about. Mostly, and mainly, becuase they know jack shit about it—so its better to be ignorant and play pretend. Mental illness doesnt exist–it doesnt exist if we dont talk about it. So lets not……

Hate to break it to everyone, it does exist. Some in my tribe have it worse than others. I am fortunate to be on the lighter end of things. I have lived with depression since I was 14 (propably even before that, but I cant remember). I tried to off myself then. I felt alone. I was in a dark place. I found spirituality (thank the Gods and Goddesses as it saved my life) and saw a therapist. Then I denied everything because again—we dont discuss things like this. Then in 2010, after several serious anxiety attacks which led to multiple ER visits—-I decided that I really need to be in regular therapy. It wasnt until the end of 2011 that I was diagnosed with biological depression and anxiety disorder (oh yeah–lets throw insomnia in there to because they are all connected!). Naturally because I initially felt “ashamed” I adamantly refused to go on medication. Only crazy people go on medication. But after much talk with a man who is now my biggest supporter and a member of the Tribe, I finally decided to go on medication. Zoloft first…..then Zoloft and Wellbutrin—because going on psych meds is like playing Russian Roulet. You get a lot of blanks until you get the right bullet. Now, after several increases in Zoloft and feeling like shit, my meds again have changed and I am, aside from seeing my regular therapist for talk, I am seeing a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. 

tribal2

When people make someone with an illness feel ashamed–it makes that person feel even worse than they already do. Mental Illness is no different than any other illness—-so why be ashamed of it? There is no shame in admitting that sometimes–life is a bit darker than we want it to be.

 Oh, and by the way, to my Tribe…..we actually are considered sacred in most indigenous cultures. In most indigenous cultures, people with mental illness are viewed as deeply spiritual people because of their ability to have access to the Other Side. People with mental illness become great healers and shamans—because you can not, after all, help someone else deal with their pain and darkness unless you can see both light and dark. We are also considered deeply creative. So next time someone calls you crazy, tell them you are actually a deep keeper of healing power and creativity. 

 And for those who think its funny to make jokes about people with mental illness—-you know using words, “crazy,” “schizo,” “bi-polar,” —even to people who dont actually have those illnesses—or making suicide jokes–like telling someone they could jump off a bridge or hang themself. Or better yet–saying things like, “get over it,” “everyone has depression,” “cheer up,” —- really!?!? Its not that easy. If it were that easy do you seriously think we would be spending hundreds of dollars a month to see shrinks and get medications that play with the chemicals in your brain????? Shit, if I could just “get over it,” —-well I cant. Its chemical. Its biological. 

To say mean things to someone with mental illness–is no different than being a racist or bigot—your are just as ignorant. Would you make fun of a cancer patient? And AIDS patient? A child with down syndrome? Mental Illness is…….. an Illness….so why not talk about it? You talk about everything else??!!

 My Tribe is full of successful, talented, creative, amazing, beautiful  and HAPPY people. Yes HAPPY. We are happy—its just our brains sometimes dont want us to be. So our brains are a little tweaked, but we didnt ASK for that–its just the deck of cards we were handed. Don’t assume we are not happy people.  We are Wounded Warriors–who wear our scars every day. We are Wounded Healers. We are Empaths. We are Creationists.

So next time someone tells me or anyone else in my Tribe, not to talk about having a mental illness, you can bet this successful talented woman with depression will say something.

I am not ashamed and no one else in my Tribe should be either. 

The Art of Limitless Love

Image“The rule of unconditional love; it is in the giving that you make the other person realize.”

This is a love story. Not a typical love story. But I love story about unconditional love and the soul’s ability to see beyond what is seemingly in front of you. Love isn’t blind. Love is what makes it possible to truly see a person, no matter their faults. And yes—it’s the longest of the blogs I have ever written……..

I met Paul unofficially in April 2013 via friends of friends on Facebook. I was in the midst of struggling with deep depression and anxiety. In only the way the Universe knows how, Paul became my guide and teacher. He is bipolar. He understood what it felt like to feel swallowed in darkness. We chatted everyday on Facebook.  I officially met him in June 2013 at a show I was hosting called “Dancing the Wheel.”

Did you ever have a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a long time? And when you saw them, you just couldn’t stop hugging them? That’s how it was when we met in person. I just couldn’t stop hugging him. In a strange way, he saved me. He was the one, who after years of struggling with anxiety and depression, finally convinced me to go on medication. I was at the time, married, albeit despondently and I only saw Paul as friend. My husband was supportive of me, but tended to take things personally when it came to my depression and anxiety—and it was hard for me to deal with that. When you suffer from depression/anxiety-it’s usually irrational;’ people just can’t take things personally.

Our friendship did a bit of 180 when our roles were reversed. I met Paul over coffee and we went for a walk. Shortly after, Paul’s illness exacerbated and he became very depressed. Ironically—I became the one coaching him. After years of therapy and finally being on meds—I changed. I changed a lot. I became a completely different person. So coaching him was easy for me—because I saw myself in him.

A few months before this, my marriage started falling apart. I was changing. I became more independent—something I hadn’t been in years. And for the entire time I was hand holding—I know in my heart that I got married for the wrong reasons. I was afraid of being alone, I needed to prove a point—and my husband and I just drifted. It’s no one’s fault when a marriage ends—sometimes people float apart because of growth.

My friendship with Paul was just that—and remained that for many months—a friendship. I didn’t find being around him difficult, even though he insisted he was. Bipolar is one of the illnesses where you as a friend or family member—need to learn to step back and not take things personally. Moods fluctuate like night and day—and if you are not able to step back and realize that it’s the illness and NOT the person—that relationship will never work. Sometimes we just hung out and watched movies—other times I would let him vent and cry or do whatever he needed to do. I was his friend—I wasn’t going to give up on him and I wasn’t going to let go. When a friend is in a state like that—you don’t just walk away. Whenever he needed me—I would be there. Depression sucks. It sucks badly. It’s hard and people who don’t “get it” don’t understand what it means to have someone there to—well—just be there. When someone can just listen and not expect anything.  The whole time—I always reminded Paul that I had him—“I got you.”

When my marriage finally ended—and I filed for divorce—I still remained friends with Paul. And then one day-after months of friendship—and shared endings and beginnings…and a mutual understanding of what it feels like to feel depressed and anxious and not have anyone “get it”, he told me he was falling in love with me. And I found that I had fallen in love with him. It wasn’t out of sympathy-and it wasn’t out of trying to save him-and it damned well was not because my marriage had failed and I needed a rebound. It was because, unequivocally -I saw myself in him and him in me. And that’s that.

My therapist was very watchful of me—she told me that being in a relationship with someone who is bipolar is not easy. I can tell you—that’s not true. In fact, since we have been together-I have had no issues whatsoever dealing with the ups and downs of what comes with Paul’s illness. It’s not hard being with someone bipolar if you can separate the person from the illness—and that’s not the easiest thing to do. I need to sometimes, walk away and remind myself, when he is grumpy or moody—that it’s not me. We know when we need our “personal” time—and if he gets to overwhelming he does not get offended when I grab my book and hide in our meditation room for some quiet time.

You also have to be an amazing listener—with a great filter. When hypomania kicks in and the rambling goes on—you need to be able to filter. It doesn’t mean that you are not given the person your un-devoted attention—it just means that you know they are experiencing a different state of mind and will talk about EVERYTHING. You can’t get annoyed. You can’t tell them to shut up. You just need to put a strainer on your brain and let things go.

You also have to be able to be a major support—and by that—I mean being able to take care of yourself so you can support your friend/lover/family member with bipolar when shit hits the fan. You need to be able to be strong enough-that when you hear things from them that may hurt (like discussing suicidal thoughts) that you can handle it and know what to say and how. And that is not always easy.

The most important part about being in a relationship with someone who is bipolar—is that you need to be able to have 100% unconditional love for that person; that you accept them as they are. They are not broken. They are especially not broken if you are able to be that extra puzzle piece they need to push forward and not give in.

I am so proud of Paul—everyday……having a mental illness is not easy. He makes me proud every day.

This is the first time, I can say, ever in my life—that I truly know what it means to love and care for someone completely. Despite his illness-he brings out the best in me—so much so that my friends, family and coworkers have noticed how much I have changed.

No one is obligated to love you. And you are not obligated to love someone. Love can only last a lifetime if it’s unconditional. Love is not governed by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.