Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should we fix it?

I'd like to say Thank You to those who've visited my blog and made comments both here and on the Minds on the Edge page on Facebook. I appreciate your thoughts, concerns, offers for help.

"Help" is part of what I'd like to address in this post. Also, to state again the intention of my blog. My blog is intended to let others know what it is like to live with "Mental Illness" and the struggles and frustrations that entails. It is intended to open the eyes of those unfamiliar with the struggle. It is not a cry for "help" on a personal level.

hmm.... I'm not getting my point across the way I want... I don't want to sound unappreciative of people's offers to help or their recommendations, and I would certainly never advocate that anyone not strive to move forward.

When I write of the frustrations of living with mental illness and the problems of the current "systems", I'm not doing so simply to criticize them. I'm doing it to call attention to the issues and the often "Catch 22" nature of the entrenched modes of thinking and doing things that make the systems ineffectual and keep things from changing for the better for all.

I'm not new to the mental health issues that concern my life, I'm just new to giving public voice to them. Depression has been part of my life since age 30 (20+ years), anxiety all my life, and Beth's Schizophrenia since she was age 20 (10 years now). We haven't exactly been sitting on our hands all this time, but we have ourselves perpetuated the Stigma - by not speaking out, by being ashamed, by ignoring and denying and by harboring the thought almost constantly that we needed to fix ourselves.

I feel the stigma of mental illness has kept us quiet, ashamed, and hiding because mental illness is often identified as an imperfection in the person ('there must be something wrong with him'). The voices we hear (real and imaginary) are very often critical voices - or interpreted as critical voices. It's important to be gentle - on both sides.

Unfortunately, it was what seemed to be the "go get help" voice/sound-bite that threw me into the tailspin of depression for the last few days. Again, please understand that intellectually I can rationalize that those words were not meant to be critical, but emotionally... I guess I can't... or couldn't, yet again, this time.

I have found over the years with Beth and myself, that sometimes no matter how hard we try, understanding the depth of the difficulty for the other can still escape us; we don't always understand just how hard the other is trying. Sometimes we don't allow that the fix might not work for them like it did for another, or maybe not at this time, given all the circumstances.

Maybe some things can't be fixed, and maybe some things don't need to be. They, and the person, just need to be accepted, as they are. To me, accepting the person, means erasing the negative connotations applied against that person because they have an illness. As others have said: We don't call a person with cancer "cancerous".

For example: I've spent 20 years going to Psychiatrists, Therapists, Counselors; on various medications; I've read (seems like) every self-help, spiritual philosophy, and each new "program" for "healing" my "emotional problems". I won't say I haven't learned from them, that my life is not better for them, or that I haven't gained from them. But when all is said and done, I am still here, as I am, anxious, reclusive, easily upset. The physicality of my issues affects me much more directly and quickly than it ever did... having progressed over the years. I accept that I'm probably not going to get "healed" of this, given the various circumstances of my particular life.

Depression is not "me" but it does affect many aspects of my life. The idea that you choose the thoughts and attitudes you have is not lost on me. 'Just change your mind.' 'Think positively'.

Once my son said he believed that I "liked" my depressive thoughts and emotions, and thus I perpetuate them. That idea is in itself very painful, has led to many guilt-ridden days and nights. The psychiatrist that Social Security sent me to for evaluation diagnosed me as a depressive personality. He gave the technical term, but my psychiatrist explained it as a person who always sees the glass half empty, it's just their natural attitude, and psychiatry does not normally treat for it. I took it as the first psychiatrist's way of siding with Social Security, to keep me out of it. But Social Security must have agreed with my psychiatrist's view of the illness as having progressed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after years of stress and crisis after crisis. Now there is a prevalent, predominant, physicality to it that cannot be denied.

Since the first diagnosis of depression at age 30, I have spent 20+ years trying to use my mind to change my mind: 'Think positively', 'Change my attitudes'. That takes a tremendous amount of time, focus, and work. Invariably I would end up in the depression cycle again.

It used to be that I was predominantly "happy", healthy, looking forward to life, enjoying my life. I walked through my days pretty much okay, until a crisis or difficulty imposed upon it. Either I didn't handle those crisis es well, or there were too many of them. Who knows?

Now I am predominantly "dull", unhealthy, have no belief in any future, accepting what is. Anxiety is triggered by very minor events, which is why I am so reclusive... less stimulus, interaction with others, less anxiety; there's safety in the corners of my home and little place else.

Major depressive events such as the last four days are fewer of course, there's less to trigger them. Maybe you could say I'm just terminally depressed. If you look forward to nothing and have no expectations, just waiting for the days to pass; you may have no life, but at least you're not riding the roller-coaster of extreme emotion.

Being in this state I don't have the physical strength (health) or consistent enough motivation or desire to change it. I used to 'push' myself, 'force' myself to try, to do. It's very tiring. Sometimes I still do that, when I absolutely have to for some reason. I see those reasons as few and far between now, or I feel I just don't have the capacity any longer. Now I accept it.

I don't look to "fix" me anymore, but accept me and my life as what it is. It doesn't really help me feel any better about "me", but it does keep the thoughts at bay, which allows the Peace I need. Peace is a wonderful thing.


PJ said...

i think acceptance is the right way to begin. i also think that this blog is going to be a great outlet for you. much love my friend...

Anonymous said...

I really liked this post and I loved the last paragraph. It is so true...peace is a wonderful thing. :) Have a wonderful weekend! :)