Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Shore (Let's Talk)

Let's Talk ...

Today in Canada is Bell Let's Talk Day. It's a corporate fundraiser where Bell donates money for calls and text to support mental health initiatives. One of the goals is to fight the stigma that surrounds mental heath and the prejudice which is inspired by the assumptions that come with that stigma.

I understand the sensitivity about discussing mental health from a personal perspective, from an experiential point of view, because I've felt it myself. When I became physically disabled, I worried about loss of income and loss of status and loss of personal freedom. I was forced to deal with each of these things because you can't hide a two hundred pound piece of machinery attached to your ass and hauling you around. It's visible. And because of that I had to confront my own internalized disphobia and ableism while at the same time dealing with those twin barriers in my social and professional worlds.

When, however, I first faced the devastating effects of anxiety, the panic attack that led to my life shutting down, it was easier to hide. Silence, I became convinced, was the way to deal with the fact that I had lost control of my life. Fear pervaded everything. Finally, because I simply couldn't take it any more. I went to my doctor. I have never, ever, cried at a doctor's appointment. But I did that day because it hurt so much. The fear that gripped my heart hurt and but the pain of saying the words was even worse.

It was the best thing I ever did.

I didn't find judgement I found compassion. I found support. And most importantly I found help. I learned new strategies. I learned how to pinpoint the triggers of my anxiety. I learned stress inoculation, a cognitive strategy I use almost daily. And I was given the appropriate medication. I now take that medication only a few times a year, but having it, knowing it will help me, lessens my need to use it.

I got my life back.

Without question I know that this will be something I deal with for the rest of my life. But I also know that if I stay the course, I can live well and happily and successfully, if I actively work at maintaining my mental health.

I exercise for physical health.

In the same way, I work to maintain my mental health.

It makes sense.

Let's Talk ... let's all talk about life as it's really lived. Let's go behind all the happy pictures on Facebook, the public mask we all wear. Mental health affect us all in one way or another. Maybe breaking silence is the best way to reduce the stigma - if we're all in the same boat, let's all row towards shore.

7 comments:

Frank_V said...

In general, being less than "healthy" is a stigma in our society. If our illness, is not clear to others, it becomes an even bigger stigma.

BUT! Is it not possible that some of our NORMAL responses are caused by a very sick society, a society that has too many values in the wrong place?

The elephant in the room in regards to mental illness is: Who gets to judge what is "normal" and "healthy"? If you are 100% happy and unstressed by what you see happening in the world, well, good luck with that!


Yes, let's respect people who struggle with mental illness, let's support and love them. But at the same time, let's recognize and work on fixing the problems in society that blur the lines of cause and effect.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reminder, Dave.
clairesmum

Ron Arnold said...

I've been in the mental health and intellectual disabilities field for 32 (!) years now. What I've discovered is that the work is best done when there is no "us" and "them." There is only us. I got INTO the MH filed because I wanted to figure out what was going on with ME. (I think I got it now.) And now, when I am in a position to support people directly, a little honest self-disclosure goes a long way. Some folks may disagree, but if folks see that I am willing to allow myself to be a little vulnerable, they allow it too - and willing vulnerability is a fantastic place to start working together. I think the emphasis on / increase in certified peer supports in mental health is going to be the wave of the future.

The only way out is through. It's good to be helped by someone who's already traveled those paths.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

As long as we also fight for proper diagnosis as well.

My daughter was repeatedly let down by 'mental health professionals' who insisted her problems were a whole host of things it turned out they weren't: she had a major sleep disorder, ALSO misdiagnosed - and untreated - until she had to move home, WE observed her sleeping habits, and figured out what it was, a circadian rhythm disorder called Non-24.

We had to battle to find her the right care - and she's been able to leave home, and is setting herself up for life. And work, and whatever -

It isn't an easy field to get right, and the meds can be very hit or miss - and even wrong completely.

But yes, let's talk about it - as in many cases it can be helped, or even solved.

NicoleKatherineS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thank you so much Dave for your blog. It was an exciting experience for me when I pass through these posts. I was following your blog around fourteen days for my assignment. Your experiences help me move forward with confidence as a Dsw student. It was really an inspirational blog which helps me to improve my knowledge. I was really interested in reading your posts and your experience made me to follow this blog.
No one can avoid all negative feelings in their life and it’s not realistic to think you can always. But the happiest people somehow know how to block them by keeping life’s unavoidable disasters from spoiling the good stuff.
It was a pleasure to be a follower in your blog. Thank you so much for your posts once again and also your life experience encourages me to work in people with disabilities.


jincy.p. jose said...

Thank you so much Dave for your blog. It was an exciting experience for me when I pass through these posts. I was following your blog around fourteen days for my assignment. Your experiences help me move forward with confidence as a Dsw student. It was really an inspirational blog which helps me to improve my knowledge. I was really interested in reading your posts and your experience made me to follow this blog.
No one can avoid all negative feelings in their life and it’s not realistic to think you can always. But the happiest people somehow know how to block them by keeping life’s unavoidable disasters from spoiling the good stuff.
It was a pleasure to be a follower in your blog. Thank you so much for your posts once again and also your life experience encourages me to work in people with disabilities.