When Someone You Love is Mentally Ill

It’s difficult when you have a story to tell that has enlightened you, but it is so deeply personal that it is difficult to share. Ironically – those of us with mentally ill friends or family members need to share our stories and find support from each other. It is CRUCIAL, or we end up feeling alone and powerless. A very gray despair can take over. So please, if you are a parent, spouse or whatever of someone you suspect or know is mentally ill… reach out to me. Everyone should use a different name so they feel safe.

The stigma and shame of mental illness makes it so hard –  we want to protect our loved ones from that stigma so we remain silent. But WE need support. If you know of good resources for caregivers of those struggling with mental illness,  contact me. I would like to start an online support group for us. If there is enough interest I will eventually divide it into three groups – partners – parents of adults and parents of children. Or if one’s already exist – I will post links here.

People have NO idea how hard this is. Well meaning friends minimalize it in an effort to make you feel better “oh they have meds for that, she’ll be fine.” In the end, I have found, that the caregiver is the person who is judged, and the person who is ill ends up not receiving the help they need.  It’s time we join together and help one another. Are you with me?  – donandlolapt@gmail.com

 

How to Save the World?

My own invisible illness currently has be down for the count – not sure when I will be writing again. But wanted to share this lovely post – please read!!

Julia B. Hebner, author

“Start where you are.

Use what you have.

Do what you can.”

Arthur Ashe

Before I got knocked flat by the “yuppie flu” (now more respectfully, if still problematically, titled Systemic Exertional Intolerance Disorder) I was an ambitious person.

In high school I answered the call from a favorite AM Radio DJ to collect money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I organized other kids to collect donations door-to-door and street-by-street. We covered the whole town. At the end of the day, our kitchen table was covered with neatly stacked bills and columns of coins. As a reward, participants took a chartered bus to Cleveland to a live concert with the popular DJ.

While I was pregnant with my third child I organized other volunteers in Scioto county, Ohio’s largest county, to collect signatures for a state-wide ballot initiative. Collecting enough signatures for a bottle bill turned out to be relatively…

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Endings

It was the tail end of one of the most brutal winters New York had ever seen. Dirty drifts of snow that were once pristine, holding promises of sleigh rides and snowmen, now lingered stubbornly. It was not the best time to pick to move. It made leaving our family home all the harder, logistically and emotionally. The grayness and hopelessness hung in the air.

Leaving is hard. But for me, that house  held so many bad memories, was such a burden financially, I had no other choice. Plus, the New York real estate market was plummeting; I wanted to walk away with something to show for the hell that had gone on in the past ten years. For my son, however, it was the end of his childhood; heaps of bikes laying in our driveway, sleep overs, block parties, happiness. I, his mother, was ending all that in one swipe of a pen.

Everything changed that day. I left the empty house one last time, on the way to the closing, dodging puddles and mounds of snow. I was late, of course. My son pulled up next to me in his truck. I examined his face. My boy was becoming a man, a new driver. Somehow though, he looked oddly misplaced behind the wheel, as if he should be racing his BMX up the hill that was once our driveway. I looked deeper into his eyes. They were ice cold. “This is a hard day for  him,” I thought.

I didn’t know it at the  time, but that was the day my son became lost to me. Words, gestures, love, nothing would fill the chasm that had somehow grown between us.It was if those big dirty mounds of snow were glaciers that left broken earth in their path, separarting us forever. I tore him from his childhood, unhappy as it was, into uncertainty. He would never trust me again.

There are certain things that we, as parents, steadfastly believe. One is that our children will always love us, that no matter what, we will always find our way back “home” to each other. I believed this with all my soul. Sadly, it’s not a given. Of all the truths I have had to face in my life, this has been the hardest.I feel like those big ugly piles of snow; no more sleigh rides or snow men, just waiting pitilessly to melt.

PHOTO CREDIT – She Knows

 

 

Faults-

This is beautiful and haunting and exactly how I feel –

Randoms by a Random

image.jpegI chase the things,
I cannot have,
I want the things,
Out of my grasp….
For all my life, i’ve been this way.

I hide my truth,
Behind a smile,
I write to live,
Bleeding inside,
For all my life, i’ve been this way.

I love- beyond,
Limits and bounds,
I give my all,
Emptying out,
For all my life, i’ve been this way.

For all my life,
I’ve lived not thrived,
Watered my loves,
And wilted out,
I was this way, for all my life
It’s time to change, for the life I can have…

The above image is courtesy of Abbide.com

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Change is usually preceded by chaos

Your life seems to have been sucked into the path of a tornado. You try to grabs at bits and pieces of your belongings as they fly through the air, all the while thinking, “I’m going to die.” Your mind races to put things in order. “What did they say on the news?  Get in the tub!” You watch momentos crash and memories crumble. You know nothing will be the same again. Will you even get out alive?

Life feels like that sometimes. Hopeless and chaotic. But often, things need to be broken down to be built up again. I always think of the line in a Steely Dan song “any minor world that breaks apart falls together again. When the demon is at your door, in the morning it won’t be there no more.” Try telling that to yourself in the milddle of a tornado!

Change is painful. They say that people who are able to embrace and enjoy change are the happiest, which makes sense since life is continually changing. This is where I am in my life. I try to look at it like a clean slate to paint a whole new future. But I am just too tired and the tornado is sucking me in.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Spiritual Self Transformation Blog – Please visit them!!

Suffering and writing

I have been using writing as an outlet since I was seven years old. I got my first poem about spring published in our school writer’s booklet. I felt so proud to see my words written under the title and best of all, my name. I felt proud! And it was OK.

As I got older and closer to puberty, I started writing for comfort; things that only I would see. I felt like I had been dropped off by aliens to a house that I did not fit into. Writing was my ally and comfort for many years, until I allowed someone to take it away from me about thirty years ago. They violated my privacy and in an effort to regain control, I tore up all my old diaries, ones with some precious memories of time spent in Brazil, that I wish I had today.

After that I started writing again when my son was born. But I was guarded. I wrote all about him and the delights of what he would accomplish or learn every day. I wrote because I wanted to sear this happy time with him into my brain, and also edit out the ugly sick parts that involved his father. So it was a tool for me in a different way.

Once the internet emerged, a new outlet for me, I started writing again, for newsletters and such, but nothing real. I never felt safe again until after my ex-husband was dead. Once he was, I started a blog, but still being a bit paranoid, it was hidden with all sorts of passwords. I wanted it to be read, but not by people I knew. I wanted to be connected with kindred spirits. And again, I was violated. The details are irrelevant, but a quote I found said it all. “A jealous woman does better research than the FBI.”

So basically, I allowed others to take away my greatest joy and purpose. Over the years I have become a very good researcher and really enjoy writing about self help topics and natural health, which are safe in my mind and won’t elicit a lot of judgement. I HATE being judged. When I got diagnosed with adult ADHD, and saw how many people struggle with this stigmatizing diagnosis, I created this blog and started writing again in earnest. I somehow found the nerve to go public. For a new blog it did very well, but then I became ill and could barely move let alone think or write. So sadly, the blog went to the waysides.

Trying to find help for my illnesses that were growing exponentially, I flew to Chicago to see a functional medicine doctor who had put her own Hashimoto’s disease into remission. I had three visits with her. I did not talk extensively about my life, yet on the third visit she told me, “you do not have ADHD, you have complex -PTSD, and sometimes there is an overlap of symptoms. The ADHD meds are burning out your adrenal glands and that is why you are getting worse.” Well wasn’t that a kick in the head. Not only did I painfully “come out” about this affliction – turns out I didn’t even have it! Symptoms of it that needed to be managed, but that was not my root issue. SO embarrassing, I couldn’t even talk about it for a while.

So NOW I had the shame of having to recant all that. What a hypocrite! I had been trying to transition this blog into something else, when suddenly, my life totally fell apart and I realized I needed to write; that the greatest writings of my life all came out of suffering. These are very sad days for me – but I come to the keyboard every day with ideas bursting forth quicker than I can type them. Suffering is something I never wanted to share, but I don’t care anymore. If my suffering can help YOU, then so be it. Let the judging and shaming begin!! But honestly, it doesn’t matter, cause the judgers and the shame find me in the end anyway so I might as well write.

 

The Myth of the Tortured Artist – and Why It’s Not a Myth  Huffington Post Article

 

 

 

 

Hello c-ptsd. Who the hell are YOU?

When I was three years old, the day after the last happy Christmas I ever remember, the world went black. It was bright and brisk and my father stood in his gray tweed winter coat, off to get groceries. I was the outcasted baby. “Daddy, they won’t let me play with the track set!!” His eyes twinkled. “Aw come on guys, let the little one play!” He gave me a snuggle and off he went to do my mother’s bidding. That was the last time I would ever see my father upright.

My older brother and sister continued playing with an incredibly cool racing car set; cutting edge for 1964. Why were there only 2 cars??? I went up to my parents room. My mother was not such an ally. Concentrating on her paperwork as I lamented the injustices that an almost four year old, youngest child must face, she basically ignored me. Suddenly, my brother, ashen faced, came running up the stairs and my mother was down the steps in a sprint. If words were exchanged, they eluded me, but even a three year old can understand urgency.

Downstairs, in our foyer, on a mustard plaid tufted couch, that I would kill to find on craigslist today, lay my sweet, crumpled father. I stood in the doorway with my sister as we watched my mother kneeling beside him, not quite sure what she was doing. I could hear my terrified 12 year old brother as he fumbled with a rotary phone, desperately trying to reach the operator to get an ambulance. I felt bad for my car hogging brother. “Is he going to die?” I whispered to my sister. The words left my lips, even though I had no idea what they meant.

My father’s relatives came; stoic stern figures, nothing like my always jolly, playful, daddy. My mother was whisked away in a white ambulance. Dusk had turned to night. It was as if my father took the glow of day with him, forever, and I was left with these odd, cold, people who had apparently hosted us 24 hours previously. Us three kids were in our rooms, sent to bed. In my crib, I heard hushed tones in the hall outside my room. It was dark, it was bad. I fell into a fitful sleep and never slept a dreamless peaceful night again.

Five months later, it was spring. I heard the mail slot clink and ran to pick up a pile of letters.. I brought them excitedly to my mother. I am not sure what was in that pile, perhaps a hospital bill, or a Social Security check, maybe nothing, but something made me ask “when is Daddy coming home?” My mother was shocked. I supposed she had told me already, that he died that night, the day after the best Christmas ever. If she did, I didn’t remember. Somehow, in some sort of brain glitch, for many years my mind believed that in that pile of papers lay the horrible truth that my father was gone forever.

It’s funny what kids think when they don’t know the truth about anything; trying to piece the world together from snippets of random information. Years later I found out we weren’t told till after the funeral that my father had had a stroke; not particularly fair for my 12 year old brother, and not particularly enlightened for my Dr. Spock reading mother.The word “closure” was not not in use yet, but I am reasonably certain that we didn’t get any. And so, that is basically how my life began.

Twenty years of therapy unearthed the notion that maybe, just maybe, this is when my horrific sleeping problems started. I can pretty safely say that in the middle of the 1960’s when I lost my dear sweet father so suddenly, who I would never truly know, my complex – ptsd began. But no such thing existed back then. If a mental “wound” develops before we know what it is – is it sort of like when a tree falls in the woods?

Hello C-ptsd – I wish I never met you.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Atlantic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Counseling