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



Momma Bear’s Story

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!

DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

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. 

~ Momma Bear

Welcome to Safe Haven!

Hello Friends, Lady D here…… I want to welcome you to our Safe Space.

I am just a regular 27 year old Canadian Gal who thrives on helping others.

For years I struggled to accept the fact that I did indeed struggle with anxiety, and periods of depression, however once I was able to accept and embrace what my mental health journey had become, I was able to work on learning how to live a productive life despite what struggles surfaced.

After having numerous conversations with close friends, I realized there is still NOT enough discussion or education surrounding mental health, and I want to help change that!

Safe Haven was started out of the sheer desire to share stories, and create a support system for those who are struggling or know someone who is struggling with various forms of mental health. Our goal is to encourage and spark conversations about mental health and to normalize the conversation.

I hand selected my wonderful mother whom has struggled most of her life with severe depression, among several other diagnosis, and she has learned to live her best life despite all the struggles. She is extremely gifted with not only writing but with loving and encouraging others.

Our stories are very unique and different from one another, but throughout the journey, we have seen much healing, love and learning and we are so blessed and excited to begin to share our stories with you.

It is our hope that sharing our journey will inspire others in some way.

We want YOU to know that you are LOVED, you are WORTHY, you are SPECIAL & UNIQUE and you are WELCOME HERE!

Let the journey begin!