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 email@example.com
Here’s to hoping we can create a supportive and encouraging community!
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 theshoes 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.
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.
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.
I don’t like my story… and sharing it is something very difficult for me… BUT… I will share it because I want to be REAL and I need to be HONEST… If the purpose of this blog is to support and encourage those who suffer with mental illness… then it has to start with me.
I was born an unwanted child… and when I say that… I mean my mother did not plan me or desire to have me… I just showed up… As a result of this… I became and remained an only child.
My mother also suffered with mental illness and tried on numerous occasions to take her own life when I was very young. My mother was also an alcoholic and I grew up in a home where strangers came into my house to “party” on a frequent basis. Because of this… I spent most of my time alone and very lonely. I have often said that I raised myself… and that is basically true. Special occasions ( especially Christmas ) were always terrible… because mom was too drunk to pay attention to me.
My father did not appear to suffer with any mental health issues but he was also an absent parent. He was not often home due to work and/or night classes that he would enroll in to further his education. When I was 14 years old… I came home to a terrible fight that my parents were having… My father had my mother pinned to the floor and told me to call the police. The police came and took my mother away to a psychiatric hospital… Once they left… my father soon followed without even a good-bye to me… and he walked out of our lives. I spent two months staying with friends of my parents… and for me… that is when the real nightmare began.
For about a year… I waited for my father to return… I simply could not believe he had left me. I was stuck living with a “crazy” woman… and on top of her being mentally unstable… she had suddenly “found” God. I am not able to describe the sheer agony I went through for the following years… It was bad… really bad… I have no idea how I managed to finish highschool… but I did and I even went to College.
By the time I graduated from College… I was living on my own and life should have been wonderful… It should have been my time to spread my wings and fly… But… sadly… it was the beginning of another nightmare. Shortly after graduating from College… I discovered where my father was after 6 years of hoping and wishing.
I took a train from Ontario to Alberta for this long awaited reunion… I was sure that I was going to FINALLY get the explanation of what happened and why he did not come for me all those years ago… I will never forget my excitement on that train… I was bubbling over with such joy… as I was going to be reunited with the ONE person who actually loved me… and made me feel special. I quickly found myself totally DISAPPOINTED as he was NOT sorry he had left… I doubt he really even thought about me and he assured me that he was not interested in being a father.
From that moment on… my life took a turn for the very worst… I started to drink… I was so filled with RAGE… so filled with DISAPPOINTMENT… HURT… and ABANDONMENT… I felt ALONE… and so very LOST…
My drinking lasted for about 5 years… I can’t even tell you how many times I would be put in a cab and sent to DETOX… only to sign myself out and start all over again. It was HELL… but… I was on a mission to find LOVE… to find someone to LOVE me… and I was going to SHOW my dad… that I was loveable… even if he did not think so. I find talking about this very hard… and so without going into details… I will simply say that my father and I parted ways shortly after we met up again… I got notice that he had hung himself several years after that… and I did not attend his funeral.
Fast forward a few years… I finally got clean… but my life did not get better… I was sober but so very miserable… When I was 28 years old… I got pregnant… I had a son… and I suddenly found myself in a position of being responsible for another life. My son lived with me until he was 2.5 years old and then I made the decision to allow him to go live with his father… because I thought he would be much better off. Sadly… to this very day… my son will not speak to me… he absolutely refuses to believe I am sick… He simply thinks I am a terrible monster. I cannot begin to express the unbelievable guilt and shame I have carried around because of the hatred of my son towards me… It has consumed me and paralyzed me… and prevented me from being well… My son is now 30 years old… he has two children… and I don’t even know their names… We have not spoken in 12 years.
Several years later… I got pregnant again… and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I remember feeling such guilt… and more shame… here I was… still alone and about to be a mother again… except this time… I had no family to fall back on… I was all alone… When she was born I remember saying to God… PLEASE don’t make her sick like me… and PLEASE help me to raise her.
I am happy to report that my daughter is the one who raised me… LOL… She has been my saving GRACE… she has walked with me… supported me… and FORGIVEN me for all my mistakes… She understands that I am sick… and through all her own pain and suffering has become my biggest supporter.
This blog is about two people who have been deeply affected by mental illness… and we lived through it… I am so proud of my daughter… I am honoured that she would want to take this journey and also want to include me. Like I stated in my introduction… her story is very different than mine… but somehow… together… we are stronger and better.
~ Momma Bear
Lady D here….I would like to add a thank you to Momma Bear for all her hard work these last few years of learning to accept herself and love herself more. I am so incredibly grateful that we have a great relationship today, and that working on this blog has made me want to understand all mental health in a better way. To be able to encourage others who are struggling, and to bring a voice to those who are struggling. We are all special and unique in our own way, we all have our own stories, we are each different, but together we can help create dialogue in our “circles.” Let’s make mental health a “normal” topic, something that once can feel comfortable to share. We are all overcomers!
For those of us who suffer with mental illness… I think one of the biggest problems is that we do NOT know who we are… We are so busy trying to figure out why we can’t seem to fit in… and this takes up ALL of our TIME and ENERGY.
Well… let me tell you… YOU are SPECIAL… there is NO ONE else like YOU… You were created with your own unique gifts… gifts that the world is waiting to discover and see… This is not a commercial trying to sell you on buying something you really don’t need… IT IS THE TRUTH…. WE are ALL SPECIAL and UNIQUE… we ALL have things within us that ONLY US can do.
Learning to find our unique giftings is the KEY to finding our purpose… and I don’t care who you are or where you come from… YOU have UNIQUE gifts.
This world revolves around DRAMA… and the world is VERY JUDGMENTAL… There is so much pressure on all of us TO BE SOMETHING… and so many people fall into the trap of trying to be something they are NOT! There is STRENGTH and FREEDOM in ACCEPTING that we are who we are…. JUST AS WE ARE… with all the good… the bad… and the ugly… Everyone has all these sides… we are no different.
My challenge is to rise above all the labels that society places on me… and to SHINE MY LITTLE LIGHT… in my own little world… There is a saying… Bloom where you are planted… You may not be able to change the world… but you can change the world of someone you know… your neighbour… your family member… your workplace… your hang out place… all the places you belong to… You have a special invitation to make something nicer… happier… brighter… by smiling… giving a compliment… doing something nice… Small things matter… they really do matter to someone who is hurting… someone who is having a bad day… someone who is losing hope… YOU have the power to change a bad day into a beautiful day… Discover what you are good at… and you will find that it helps you even more than it helps someone else.
You just slip out the back, Jack…Make a new plan, Stan…You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus…You don’t need to discuss much…Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free. Song by Paul Simon
If you know and remember the lyrics to the above song… You will NOW have this tune in your head ALL DAY… ( You’re welcome! LOL)
Well then… I want to cover the topic of “coping strategies”… This is going to stretch my thinking because I have never really thought about this before… As I am just beginning to start writing for this blog… I am realizing…It is going to be a challenge for me to talk about a great many things because I am so used to going through my illness alone.
One thing I do know is that you need a PLAN… and that plan needs to be put into place BEFORE you get really sick…because when you are down and out for the count… due to whatever cycle you go through with your own mental illness… it’s too late by then to MAKE a plan… What I mean by this is… as far as depression goes… there are ups and downs… and then there are DOWNS… I am assuming that it is the same across the board for most… if not all mental disorders…
The purpose of making a plan is so that things become easier… and remain SAFER for the one who is suffering… It’s similar to wearing a medical alert bracelet… It lets those you are close to become AWARE that you are ill and this is what you need from them…( without having to explain… over and over again )… In the past… I have not had a plan… but I wish I did… and today… I am in the process of making one.
A plan should be written in something that is easy to carry around… ( a notebook… a journal… )… there needs to be a copy of it that will be easy for you to turn to when things get really bad for you. You can even write and prepare a list of things you want people to know and have it photocopied and ready to give out when the time comes. If you are like me and work things out alone… the list is not necessary… but the plan still is.
In another blog post… I will talk about how to make a complete plan from beginning to end… For now… I want to move onto coping strategies.
Oh my goodness… this is a topic that is so important… especially because so often… I feel like life SWEEPS me away without warning… That seems to be how quickly an episode of severe depression washes over me… I never seem to see it coming until it is too late… and BANG… I am out for the count… and UNDER.
It is at these extra low times that coping strategies are most IMPORTANT… they are often our life-line to keeping our head above water.
I am going to name a few that work for me… and I would like to keep this list going so it can become a resource of ideas for others to use.
Ok… so… here is my personal list..
Listening to instrumental music… especially soft jazz… I specifically listen to music without words because I can just listen to the music without paying attention… I usually lie down on the sofa with a comfy blanket and my dog.
Sometimes I even manage to fall asleep ( which is a very good thing ).
Note… listening to heavy metal or rap music ( or any other music that is loud and filled with negative energy ) is NOT the therapy I am talking about here. This is why I specifically listed instrumental… Many of the lyrics in these different styles of music are filled with anger… swearing and severe violence. This is counter-productive to the goal of coping.
Please don’t send me messages telling me BUT I like this kind of music… LOL… I’m sure you do or else you would not normally listen to it… however… this coping strategy is about relaxing and allowing your sick body to absorb healing… It’s not party time.. It’s relaxing time.
Laughing every day… as often as I can… This can be a very difficult task… especially when suffering with a severe bout of depression… so this is when that plan I talked about comes in very handy… Get a user friendly list of places you can visit on the internet that will give you a quick and instant dose of humour… this is no different than your favorite play-list of music… except… it is your play-list of laughs. I’m sure you have heard that laughter is like medicine… over the years of many very low times… I can testify that HUMOUR has been my “Saving Grace”. Whatever tickles your fancy… whatever makes you smile and laugh… do it… listen to it… watch it… play it again… By taking the time to do this… you will make your day that much easier. Even if you don’t FEEL like laughing… Just do it.
Laughter can come from many places… your favorite cartoon… your favorite meme… your favorite comedian… your favorite silly song… your favorite joke… your favorite funny memory… It truly is an individual thing… It is proven that a good belly laugh releases the “happy” twins ( dopamine and serotonin )… These guys are our FRIENDS… Seriously… these are the guys you want hanging around… LOL
Sleeping… Sleep is my #1 friend when I am down low… and thankfully the medication I am on ( quetiapine fumarate ) gives me a good solid 10-12 hour break from suffering… Not everyone can afford this luxury but I tell you… un-interrupted periods of sleep are very important during the process of healing… It strengthens us… restores us… and allows us to get re-balanced.
I strongly believe that emotional trauma and lack of sleep are key reasons that many who suffer with mental illness SELF MEDICATE… ( alcohol… drugs… shopping… pornography… gambling… etc… etc… ).
Avoiding Drama… I avoid drama at all costs when I am feeling well… but when I am sick… I absolutely lose patience with a great many things… ( I know this about myself )… so… I simply shut down on the NOISE level of life. For me… this means staying away from SOCIAL MEDIA… including the news… It saves me so much stress… This might not be the answer for everyone… but it certainly is for me… When I am at my lowest of lows… I simply shut down… on everything that is NOT important… or necessary.
Our i-pads… i-phones… lap-tops… can be wonderful and most convenient… but they can also be very time-consuming… emotionally consuming and energy draining… When we are sick… we are in need of preserving our energy and RE-CHARGING… just like our phones… Our minds need to rest.
I realize my list is not very long… but those are the things that work for me…
I would like to add that there is one VERY IMPORTANT thing that is NOT on my list.
Sadly… I have never learned to depend on ANYONE for anything and so I truly have suffered alone for most of my life…
I am talking about having that ONE person or small group of persons… who you can be totally honest with about where you are AT… This person is someone who will instinctively know WHAT you need… they will respect you for where you are at… and will “in love” make small decisions for you during your dark times that will be for your good. Things such as coming over to check on you… even if you say NO… Ironically… you will notice that when these people do come over… they are NEVER a burden or bother… they never come in judgement… and they never come demanding something… They simply come to make sure you are ok… and have everything you need.
If you are lucky enough to have one of these people… I encourage you to just LET them IN… They are PRECIOUS. I say this because this year… I actually experienced this for the first time ever… between two people… I was checked on and ensured that I had everything I needed…It made a huge difference in the comfort of my life… and I am most grateful for both these people in my life… Also… it is important to THANK these “angels” in your life once you are feeling better.
Please let’s keep this list going… Share what coping strategies work for you. We want a pool of resources here for people to have.
There are two sides of forgiveness… Those we NEED to forgive and those we NEED forgiveness from.
We are only in control of those we NEED to forgive… I can testify very painfully that there is nothing I can say or do to convince my son to forgive me… This blog is something that comes from my daughter and I learning to understand each other and to FORGIVE each other… For as much as our story has a happy ending… the story of my son and I does NOT… and that is a reality that I have had to work very hard at accepting. Sometimes I think I have arrived and other times I know that I still have a long way to go. Anyways… I have placed this pain I have in a box… and I try NOT to look at it… I have however dealt with it BECAUSE I had to… in order to move on with my life… I had to FORGIVE myself.
Forgiveness is sometimes misunderstood… It does NOT mean we have to forget… or pretend that nothing happened… and it does NOT mean we even have to allow the person who hurt us back in our lives… It simply means we AGREE to BEGIN the process of letting go of all the pain… It is not an immediate action… or I should say… it does not have immediate results… Forgiveness is a process… very similar to grief… time does heal the MEMORY… but we have to be WILLING to let it go.
The reason that forgiveness is so important to mental health is that it FREES up much needed energy… For anyone who suffers with the pain of NOT being able to forgive someone… they will tell you… IT consumes a lot of time… we spend a lot of time dwelling on the fact that we have been hurt… Not because we want to be victims but because it quite simply HURTS… and we often cannot understand. Let me tell you… I have been there… many times… and I still have trouble with forgiveness… I think it is because I am so sensitive… and when I get my feelings hurt… they seem to stay hurt for a very long time… Another thing that happens is that I totally shut down and completely remove myself away from the person who has hurt me… That is fine when the person lives in another town or city… but when the person is close… it makes for a difficult existence. I have also been there.
In this last year… I have come to truly RESPECT the act of FORGIVENESS… I now see it as a VITAL part of my emotional well being… I no longer feel the need to hang onto and cling onto things that other people do to me… or say to me.
I’m not saying it is easy… but it is getting EASIER.
The hardest person to forgive in all honesty has been MYSELF… Oh my goodness… that has been a very long and difficult journey indeed… and I STILL have a very long way to go in that department… however… I am on the right path… and I know this because I am beginning to live without guilt and shame.
Forgiving someone sets us FREE… so that we can move on and continue growing.
Lady D here… Forgiveness is indeed the key to being free, it most definitely is not easy at times, but it is imperative for us to learn to forgive in order for us to grow and thrive. As Momma Bear said, forgiveness does not mean you need to allow the person back in your life, though sometimes forgiveness allows you to, depending on the circumstance. I truly feel blessed that Momma Bear and i have been able learn to love and accept one another, it wasn’t easy at times, but we did it, and I am so incredibly blessed to have Momma Bear in my life, and I am so glad we are able to do this Blog Journey together.