I’ve pretty much always had a passion for Mental Health, and while I’m addressing it last in my Passions Profile Challenge, I would say that it is certainly the passion I give the most time to now, and it is probably the thing I have been passionate about longest. Long before I had any inkling that I would dive deep into my own mental illness, I was interested in helping other people achieve their own mental health. Actually in high school I did a big English assignment about institutionalisation, focussing particularly on people facing this in the mental health area. Times have changed since then and institutionalisation isn’t as favoured as it was then, but my interest in mental health has never waned.
I don’t know where the passion was born, it just was. It wasn’t until I was 28 that I had to face my own failing mental health, and as a child, while I can now see sometimes when I was perhaps depressed, there was no diagnosis or treatment. But I can’t deny my late father’s input. He always had a strong concern for people who were disadvantaged by a variety of things and as children we certainly weren’t sheltered from seeing the hardships faced by some people he worked with. Christmas Day regularly included being involved in running Christmas dinners for people who had nowhere else to go, and I guess many of those people would have had mental illnesses. That was just normal Christmas Day tradition in my family. From around the age of seven I can remember my family helping out on a rostered basis at the local City Mission dinners. I doubt I was really that much help. I can remember clearing tables and that’s about it. But I felt comfortable with the people who came for the meal and somehow I knew, even at that age, that not everyone was comfortable with them.
My Mental Health First
There are three parts to my passion and the first is a passion to see my own mental health returned. To be honest this passion is a new thing. While my mental health has been in tatters for a long time, I had little interest in life and so recovery was to some extent just what I was supposed to work towards. But I couldn’t see any point. I was so badly depressed that I could see no point in living, let alone striving to return my health. I was simply still alive because there was someone I just didn’t want to hurt.
Don’t get me wrong. I was working like I was told to. I was in therapy, I was trying to get my eating disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) under control; but really all I was doing was trying to get through each day. I couldn’t see anything beyond that. It has only been in perhaps the last 12-18 months that I have started to want recovery. Amazingly it has come at a time when really I couldn’t have been blamed if I had completely fallen apart. Life has been very stressful and traumatic in that time. I still can’t entirely explain how the turn around has happened by I know that the psychotherapy I do has a large part to play.
Therapy is hard work. I have an excellent therapist who I have been with for a while now and I think the most important thing is that I trust him completely. I know he will take care of me whatever I go through in therapy, and that makes a huge difference. Unfortunately therapy is expensive though. I get little government help (they consider therapy should be over in six sessions) and none from insurance. I could have given up because of the cost, but I’ve made it my priority as I know that it is the one thing that has actually worked. It’s one of the reasons that I have decided to give up smoking this week. I need to put the money into something that works.
The Mental Health of Others
Like I’ve said, the mental health of other people is important to me and always has been, far before I stopped to think about my own. Now I have been through this journey (and I in no way expect that it is over yet) I want to be able to help others. My original plan when I went to university, as an adult student, was to end up working as a Mental Health Social Worker. That hasn’t quite worked (yet). Maybe one day.
Meanwhile though, I now run two on-line support groups for people struggling with mental illness. They are small groups but I like it that way. One group is for people with BPD and the other is for adults trying to recover from self harm. I haven’t mentioned them before because I think it’s important to keep the groups and my blog separate. The last thing I would want would be for group members to worry I was going to write about them here. I won’t be doing that.
The groups are really my priority at the moment. Not been able to work (because of Fibromyalgia) at the moment means I have the time to commit to this and I love it. This is also the reason I do not post here everyday. There is a limit and I am learning that.
It’s interesting though because my involvement in the groups has highlighted the issue of stigma in terms of mental health. Several people warned me off getting involved because “those types of people are pretty hard to handle”. Actually “those kinds of people” are so loving and rewarding to work with. I am one of “those kinds of people” and I would never want to be any less. Sure there are hard times, and occasionally I can feel like I have been let down but it’s still worth it. People who have been through extreme suffering (and I would put many with a mental illness in that category) have a unique way of looking at life that I love. They also tend to be very compassionate people. Often mis-understood by the world, but definitely worth knowing. I am fortunate to have these people in my life.
Mental Health Stigma
You may have noticed, if you are following my blog regularly, that I talk about stigma a lot and devoted one post of my Passions Profile Challenge to stigma across a number of areas, as well as several other general posts about mental health stigma. It has disturbed me for a long time about we hide our mental illnesses because of the type of reaction we expect to get from people if we admit to having a mental illness or needing treatment. This is so sad that still now, it is necessary to hide. Only this week I became subject of some vicious accusations because I spoke out on the topic.
Regardless, I have personally come to the conclusion that it is time for me to stop hiding because I believe that until we can be honest about our struggles then the stigma will never go away. It is only through people being open about something like homosexuality that the stigma has started to reduce. It was hard for those people to put themselves on the line but I think they are teaching me a lesson. We can tell the world that one in four people will suffer from mental illness but I don’t think that means much until it is personalised. Until people realise that people around them (that they know) suffer. It has to be more than some anonymous statistic and maybe a celebrity waving the mental health flag.
Of course I know that this is a tough call for anyone, and I’m not saying you need to do this too. Rather I just want to say what I am doing, and that this is really what my blog is for. It’s not easy to write some of this stuff knowing that friends and family might read it, but I realise now that I need to put it out there if they are to understand that my experience is actually normal, and shouldn’t be stigmatised.
“Lunatics are similar to designated hitters. Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can’t go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside. Then, depending on how the rest of the family is feeling that person is kept inside or snatched out, to prove something about the family’s mental health.”
― Susanna Kayson, Girl, Interrupted Screenplay based on book
- The Passions Profile Challenge (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Mental Health versus Mental Illness… a Stigma Issue? (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- A Man Named Jason… And Why I Cried (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Normal (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- How We Treat Our Mentally Ill (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Mental health: How three people are falling through the cracks (recoverynetworktoronto.wordpress.com)