I’m Sorry & I need your help!

Hey Everyone!

Lady D here…. I want to start out by apologizing to all of you. We just disappeared after I had said I was coming back in January and that obviously didn’t happen… I would like to start this blog up again, but I need your help.

What would you like to hear about?

What can we write about that would be most helpful to all of you? Is there anything specific?

We started this blog to help others and that still weighs heavy on my heart however, I just don’t know what you all want to hear about?

Feel free to either leave a comment below (I have to approve comments before they are posted) or send me an email at safehavenblogger@gmail.com

Here’s to hoping we can create a supportive and encouraging community!

xoxo Lady D

Unexpected Struggle

Hey Everyone!

Lady D here…..sometimes life unexpectedly seems to hit you like a ton of bricks and next thing you know you find yourself stuck in a rut. I struggled through November and December and I am hoping that January is the upswing. The tough part of mental health is that its often not predictable, and sometimes it knocks you on your feet because you didn’t see it coming.

I just wanted to write a quick post and say Thank you to all of you who have patiently waited, and I certainly hope to be able to get some content out in later part of January as things start to level out.

Just a reminder that you are NOT alone. You are beautifully and wonderfully made and Momma Bear and I very much appreciate each and every one of you who read our posts.

xo Lady D

Our Worst Enemies

Our Worst Enemies….

The worst enemies of anyone who suffers with mental illness are Guilt… Shame and Regret. 

All of these emotions are blood sucking enemies because they waste so much of our precious energy and they never let up… These three emotions have followed me all of my life…  up until NOW… I finally gave them all the BOOT in this last year… Since I am 56 years old… that is a very long time to have hosted these evil things that have held me hostage and abused me endlessly.

For me… it took coming to the end of my rope… I simply could not hang on anymore… I was tired… exhausted actually… frustrated… angry… and completely defeated… One morning I woke up and said… ENOUGH… I can’t take anymore… It has been a LONG process but one that I am so GRATEFUL I was actually able to complete. 

There is nothing wrong with feeling sadness about events and situations that have occurred in our lives… and it is silly to say that we should never feel badly or regret something we have done… but most people get over it… pick themselves up and continue on… with a brand new slate… that is simply how we grow and learn.

We all make mistakes… we all do wrong things sometimes… but hanging onto the feelings of anger or disgust with ourselves is a very BAD place to be… It robs us from STARTING over… and keeps us prisoner to a world with NO HOPE.

Forgiving ourselves and being gentle with ourselves is a very difficult process… at least it has been for me… and I have been a very slow learner… but it is the KEY to mental health wellness.

I have a friend who has experienced the same problem of carrying guilt… shame and regret… and in the middle of a terrible dark place that we were both in… I decided to make an imaginary solution… I told my friend that I baked her extremely poisonous muffins… and ex-lax coated chocolates to keep in her fridge to OFFER  her evil visitors the next time they came calling… we have often joked about this and little by little… we found a way to get rid of our guilt… shame and regret… by supporting and encouraging each other… It is not easy… but adding humour to our situation… gave us HOPE.

The next time guilt or shame come calling on YOU… bring out the muffins and chocolates… and tell them to have a nice day!

                                                                                  ~ Momma Bear

It Is What It Is

For me… the biggest light bulb moment has been accepting that I am who I am.. and it is what it is… By that I mean… right now… at this moment… I am ME… I can’t change a lot of what I am… but I am finally OK with that… No more hiding… no more going into my deep dark pit all alone.

I am so tired of trying to find answers to questions that don’t seem to have any answers… I suffer with SEVERE CHRONIC DEPRESSION and DYSTHYMIA… both of those illnesses together mean I am NEVER without pain and sorrow… I am always filled with such SADNESS… it is never ending and I have not been able to find the perfect medication to help… I have however been able to find a medication that helps me get a good sleep… and this has been a huge relief… Just recently… I have given up hope on finding that perfect pill… I have come to ACCEPT that this is “as good” as it gets for me… and I am OK with that… I have done my research and learned about my illnesses… There has been such FREEDOM in understanding that I am truly sick… It was not an act… It was not me being a drama queen… it was not something I have done wrong… It is NOT my fault that I am ill… BUT… it is my responsibility to live my life… in the best way I can. I think that is what has changed for me these last few months… is that I have finally ACCEPTED that it is what it is…. and NOW I can begin to live my life… one day at a time… just like everyone else. I realize that the above is easier said than done… but at least it is a starting point for me to begin. I have HOPE for the very first time. 

For me there has been so much FREEDOM in discovering what it means to be clinically depressed… It is something that took me years to understand… I ignored it… I avoided it… I blamed myself for it… and now… FINALLY… I am simply admitting that IT IS WHAT IT IS. 

~ Momma Bear

All About Momma Bear’s Diagnosis

I am 56 years old… The funny thing about that is up until a month ago… I forgot to remember that I had a birthday and so for 6 extra months… I remained being 55… HAHA… I cheated the system… but now… I am just 56.

I was first officially diagnosed with depression at the age of 20… When I say officially… I mean… I was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward for the first time. 

This is when I first began my journey with mental illness… 

It took another 26 years before I received another diagnosis on top of severe depression… In 2009 I was given the dual diagnosis of dysthymia and chronic depression. 

I never understood what it meant to have dysthymia… It has only been these last few months that I have dug deep into the definition of both my disorders…

I have discovered that the dysthymia is what causes me to REMAIN in a constant state of sadness… all the time… I am never normal… I am never FREE from sadness and distress… but learning this has been a huge KEY to my understanding of it all… It has allowed me to accept that I am sick… without dragging a ton of guilt and shame with me… I truly am SICK… but my illness is INVISIBLE. 

The creation of this blog is in so many ways a BEGINNING for me… a NEW BIRTH… an acceptance that I have HOPE to carry out the rest of my life with DIGNITY and GRACE… I am NOT a terrible monster… even though I have often felt like one.

I am here to share HOPE and ENCOURAGEMENT to all those who enter this blog space… no matter what your diagnosis… I am here to PROCLAIM that it is OK to be where you are at… I am here to say that YOU can get through whatever it is you are going through… and there is POWER in NUMBERS… YOU are NOT ALONE… You are SPECIAL and UNIQUE… no matter how others have made you feel in the past… no matter if you FEEL misunderstood and judged… no matter if you are exhausted beyond understanding… THERE IS HOPE… and there are pockets of JOY along the way for you to grab onto… There is laughter… there is beauty… there is LIGHT…. at the end of the tunnel… One day at a time.

It is my hope and my purpose to WELCOME all who enter here… You are SAFE here and you have permission to BE WHO YOU ARE… WE will take you EXACTLY as you are…. the good… the bad… and the ugly.

It is my daughter who suggested starting this blog… she has her own journey… and it is different than mine… She is the survivor of being raised by someone who has been deeply affected by mental illness… and it is her FORGIVENESS to me that has allowed me to continue this painful journey called LIFE.

I must say… for me… this comes at the perfect time… as I am finally READY to share my journey with others… For 35 years… I have suffered in silence… trying to keep all the broken pieces of me in a neat and quiet pile… so that others would NOT SEE how very difficult things have been… I have carried guilt and shame like pieces of clothing… stuck to my skin… It is time to rip them off and begin living with purpose…

I am honoured to be here… and I am grateful to be here.

~ Momma Bear

**Lady D here! I am so sorry to all who look forward to these posts each week, I got a bit behind the last few weeks and I am trying to get back into a schedule. We are not stopping anytime soon. Thank you for your continued patience as we continue to find our ways.**

Helping others where they’re at

I put this in my list of how to help someone who is suffering… I called it “Accepting Someone Where They’re At”…  This my friends is the turning point where rubber meets the road… and it makes all the difference between truly helping and NOT helping at all or even harming. 

Meeting someone where they are at “emotionally” perhaps seems like an impossible feat… especially when they are hurting deeply… HOWEVER…I believe there is indeed a way to communicate with someone… even in their most broken state. I don’t know when or where I learned this… I don’t think anyone taught it to me… I think I just learned it from dealing with so many broken and hurting people over the years. 

I guess before I start… I should define the difference between sympathy and empathy… They are similar but not quite the same.

sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters. 

empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. It is a deeper level of emotion… It is what allows someone to  “hurt and weep” with another who is suffering… It is literally FEELING THEIR PAIN. 

I’m not sure what the world of psychology has to say about this… but I do not believe the emotion of empathy can be taught… I believe it is a gift. It is a gut instinct that occurs when you are in the presence of someone who is suffering. The ability to feel another’s emotions is sometimes a very overwhelming experience… I have often called my sensitivity to others a curse… so when I say a gift… I mean it was given to me…but… I did not ask for it… and sometimes I don’t WANT it…LOL 

I need to qualify that I am NOT an expert on this subject… and so I may stand to be corrected. I am simply stating my opinion on the matter. 

Suffice to say the world needs both sympathetic and empathetic people… It’s what makes the world a better place… One is not better than the other… it’s just that one is more effective when dealing with the suffering soul. 

The ability to love someone where they are at means that you are usually able to accurately assess the condition of a person’s “mood” and their needs… and act in such a fashion that does NOT offend or irritate the person who is sick. It is not a science… and it is not fool-proof… there are always exceptions to every rule. I have mis-read certain situations when I worked on the streets… some mental illnesses are much harder to read than others… What I am focusing on is helping those who are deeply depressed. Again… I am not a professional… and my help has never included giving medical advice.

The use of empathy as a tool to help others is simply the realization of what that person needs without having to ask… It is an automatic response… which is why it is not usually offensive or irritating to the person who is not feeling well.

It is the most beautiful thing to be able to help someone who is truly in pain…  empathy and sympathy are certainly precious lights of hope… that can brighten the life of someone who is drowning in darkness. The ability to love someone where they are at simply means… taking a big old comfy blanket and wrapping yourself and a loved one inside.

About Medication… If a person refuses to take medication that is proven to help them or has helped them in the past… or is not on any medication because they are not yet diagnosed… there is not much you can do to help…especially if the person is experiencing hallucinations… paranoia and/or hearing voices that are encouraging them to harm themselves or others. 

Ensuring the safety of that person and yourself is perhaps the only thing that can be done in situations such as this. Sadly… some people think that when a medication is working and they have been on it for awhile… they are BETTER and are able to go off their meds. A chemical imbalance in my experience means medication for life. Getting the proper medication for mental illness is a PROCESS… and demands PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE. 

This is from an article in Psychology Today Magazine and it basically says what I have just stated above.

Denial About Illness

One study found that 55 percent of people who refuse to take their medication do so because they don’t believe they’re actually sick. In some cases, people who get better on medication become convinced that they’ve been “healed,” failing to recognize that the medication did the healing. Jul 31, 2014

Also… I will take the opportunity to add this… and I will NOT apologize for it… it is the reason we made the joint decision to make this blog a NO RELIGION ZONE. There are certain religious groups ( especially within Christianity ) who will boldly claim that medication for mental illness is of the devil and that people don’t need it… they just “need Jesus”. 

Let me tell you… I am a Christian myself… and I DO NEED Jesus… BUT…  I cannot begin to express… how OFFENSIVE… APPALLING and DANGEROUS this belief is.

The anger that boils within me over this issue is not describable with words. I have walked away from many so called believers over this topic…. Don’t get me started… LOL. 

MEDICATION is not a cure all.. It’s purpose is to help with chemical imbalances in the body and to help obtain and sustain proper balance so that someone who is suffering from mood disorders can function in a “normal” manner without the extreme highs or lows. There is no difference taking medications for mental disorders than there is taking an aspirin for a headache.                                                                

  ~Momma Bear

Helping someone who is suffering

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.             

                                                                Albert Camus

Forget everything you THINK you know about being helpful…I’m just going to be BLUNT here… I can almost guarantee you…what you THINK is being helpful… will NOT help one bit… and quite likely… it will just make things worse. 

I know from experience that people ( even though well meaning ) usually ALWAYS missed the mark regarding “helping” me when I was really down… I eventually learned to keep quiet when I was in my downhill spiral… and I learned to cope alone. To this day… I find it difficult to open up about my struggles.

First of all… I will talk about the things NOT to do… That list is probably just as long as the list of things TO DO… But… it is equally important to cover… In all honesty… doing the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing at all. It just adds frustration and unnecessary stress onto the person who is already feeling down and out. 

NEVER tell someone to just get over it… OH my goodness… that is like spitting at… and slapping someone across the face at the SAME time.  Honestly… if this is all you can come up with for a QUICK FIX of “SACRED” ADVICE… PLEASE… I beg of you… STAY HOME… and SHUT UP!!! ( sorry if this sounds rude… but seriously…. I will buy you the duct tape… just call me LOL ).

All joking aside… telling someone to get over a mood or episode is not only NOT HELPFUL… it is actually HARMFUL to the person who is suffering… because it causes extra stress and adds a ton load of guilt and shame. I could go on and on about this… but I think you get the picture… It’s just NOT COOL.

DO NOT ASSUME your help is wanted. Yep… you heard me… If you come into a situation THINKING you can fix everything… STOP!!! You are entering this with the wrong perspective… It is NOT you who is ill… it is someone else… Often times we try to force others to take our own medicine… Do not touch those curtains to let the sun in… don’t put on the tv so they can get their mind off their troubles… don’t tell them to get dressed or out of bed. This kind of “helping” is simply being a BULLY… and again… NOT HELPFUL.

DO NOT YELL or SCREAM at someone who is suffering… If you are losing patience with someone… WALK AWAY. This is not the time or place to be pulling rank on someone. 

Do NOT NAG… The definition of nagging is repeating something over and over again. It is annoying and again… USELESS. 

You can’t fix it so don’t even bother trying. This is not your job… or your responsibility. 

Ok… so…. Moving right along… These are the things that are actually HELPFUL.

ACCEPT that the person you care for and are wanting to help… is SICK… the same kind of sick as someone who has cancer and is lying in a hospital bed. Because mental illness is invisible… it is often mis-understood and mis-treated. 

BE KIND… BE COMPASSIONATE… BE GENTLE… If you enter into a situation with this kind of desire… you are at a good place to actually be helpful.

***REMEMBER*** If you are privileged enough to be entering into a private glimpse of someone at their worst… you had better be worthy of the position. If you enter in with judgement and disgust… you have absolutely FAILED your mission and lost the right to be there. 

ACCEPTING SOMEONE WHERE THEY’RE AT… EXACTLY where they are at… whether in a dirty bed… on the floor… on the couch… dressed in pyjamas… in a dirty apartment.

Take a deep breath and join them… sit with them… sit beside them… climb into the bed to be beside them… and just BE THERE… I will talk about this in another separate post because it is important. 

SILENCE… Sometimes silence is the most beautiful thing. JUST BE THERE with them… at their level.

( I learned this valuable lesson working on the streets with the homeless… My favorite thing to do was simply to pluck myself down on the sidewalk beside my  little “pet” drunk… and just sit with him… on the ground… sometimes he would rest his head on my shoulders… we would just hold hands and watch the people walk by. ) 

HELPING OUT AT HOME… If you desire to help someone with household chores that need to be done such as dishes etc… ASK FIRST… helping someone with cleaning can be a gift indeed… but again… this is a delicate matter… If you are visiting someone who is sick… and they don’t mind your help… then do a few things before you leave… it will be appreciated. 

PAMPERING THE SICK ONE… Bring cards… flowers… meals… gift baskets…. BRING it all… It may not seem like this is appropriate or even appreciated… but do it… THIS is the time to pamper someone… whether they want it or not… I assure you… they absolutely NEED the ACT of CARING… 

BE YOURSELF… Bring the patient… caring… gentle and kind version of YOU.

LEARN TO WEEP WITH SOMEONE… There is nothing more beautiful than someone who is moved by another’s pain… and allows themselves to FEEL IT.  

Part 2 coming Friday!

-Momma Bear