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Mental Illness. Legit Shit

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

I know, I know.. it seems no one wants to talk about (reduced to a whisper) 'mental illness'. It seems to have always taken a bad rap. If you know someone who has it, you don't want to get too close and catch that sh*t. If you have a family member with it, you try to understand and be supportive, but in reality you don't want other people to know that your family is infected with "crazy". If you see a stranger on the street with it, that messed-up sh*t belongs to them- But can getting too close actually cause you to catch mental illness? Does seeing a stranger on the street, making eye contact with them, maybe even offering just a smile... make you catch their messed-up sh*t? If you didn't hide the truth of mental illness in your family, would you actually lose the people you are so worried about impressing- or is there a chance that someone in their family, possibly even them, may deal with mental illness on a personal level?

Mental illness has a long history of being misunderstood- yet so many people have been directly touched by it most of their lives. Depression is a big one. Most, if not all, people generalize depression as someone feeling down, sad, and withdrawn. And most often, the combined theory to kick depression's sad ass is to get more sunshine, to be more active, and to just snap out of it because, ya know, depression is a choice- much like whether or not you should take a shower or if you should end a relationship. And maybe there are those fortunate few who do dip into surface depression like that, and to them- in those long moments it may feel like a very numb, detached, isolated place to be. (Hugs to you!). Depression is also so much more than that. Depression can steal your desire to get out of bed. It can draw you back under the covers and convince you that you can and should sleep for days. It can keep you from wanting to be around people, even your closest friends and family members. It can keep you bound in this dark place in your heart and mind where you feel frozen and unable to break free, and even if you could find the energy, you just resolve to stay there. Depression can cause these little ripples that start in your deepest being and spread like slow moving tar sucking the air and the desire to breathe right out of you. It can make you sit in the dark, stay in the dark, belong to the dark- and convince you that in this dark place you are safe and you are loved. Depression can silence your words, slow your heart rate, take captive your mind, and make you forget that time and life exist around you. Depression can take you to such a dark place that you just want to not feel this, what ever 'this' is, ever again. Depression can steal your days. It can rob you of memory-making moments. It can make you want to give up on yourself and those people that matter most in your life. It can make celebrations like birthdays and holidays too painful- or completely numb. It can make beginnings feel insurmountable, endings unbearable. And it has the power to convince you that life is not worth living. Your life. Your beautiful, lovely life. Depression is a liar. It wants to pull you into this permanent darkness when all you really want is to just not feel this pain anymore.

There was time recently that depression, once again, made its grand entrance into my life. Oh, it wasn't a surprise visit on any level. Over the couple of months prior I could feel a shift starting to take place. It began with feeling just a bit more tired than usual for me. Instead of having a normal level of energy, I found myself setting out to run 'quick' errands that easily turned into three hours of mindlessly roaming store aisles leaving with mostly empty bags and a whole lot of pissed-off for wasting time I wouldn't get back. Instead of wanting to go to bed at 9:00 pm like I try to do, I would either keep myself awake until 11:30 pm binging on Netflix convinced that I would miss those extra hours of my life, or I would find myself having a hard time keeping my eyes open at 7:30 pm. There was zero balance. I would find myself eating the foods I try to so hard to stay away from since they are known trigger foods that cause joint pain and headaches. And I would isolate. I didn't go out, didn't reach out, didn't invite anyone in. I just marinated in this deepening depression. What did all of these tell-tale signs lead to for me? A complete absolute breakdown. I just couldn't keep the dark walls from closing in on my life. I will admit, over those previous months I would find myself lingering on thoughts of what it would feel like to just not be here anymore. Those thoughts occupied my morning get-ready-for-work routine. They sat in the passengers seat conversing with me on my morning and evening work commute. They would be laying right there next to me in bed at night trying to convince me how much easier it would be to just not wake up. And they were swirling in my brain as I wandered aisle-to-aisle-to-aisle losing precious time and sanity. Is depression real? Absolutely. Is depression lonely? Scary? Comforting? Disabling?... without a doubt. Are you less of a person or weak-willed if you struggle with depression? Never, not for a second. Is there hope when you fall into depression? Always! You should never feel ashamed if you need to talk to your doctor, or see a therapist, or take a needed supplement, or start taking anti-depressants (even restart if you need to). The best thing you can do is to take care of you. And to be gentle with yourself. Our world holds such a stigma when it comes to mental illness. [Stigma: mark of shame or discredit; a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something]. I cannot even count the number of times I personally have heard others say that 'if your faith is strong enough', 'if your God is BIG enough', 'if you are healed enough', 'if you are a truly good person'... 'then you won't deal with depression, or have sinful thoughts of suicide, and you certainly won't have to take medication'. Well, I call bullsh*t on that! You do what you have to do to get through it- alive. And if it isn't you, but rather someone else, that comes to your mind when you read this, pick up a phone and call... don't just text. Grab your coat and car keys and head across town- leave your watch behind. Buy those flowers. Take that walk. Book that joint pedi appointment. Give that hug. Put your phone on silent. Be willing to sit in the dark with them for as long as it takes. No one, not one single person, deserves to feel like they have to battle depression or suicidal ideation alone. It's really easy to hit Share on social media to heart-felt 'You Matter' quotes and images. It's a lot harder to pick up the phone and call... or to just show up. But if someone matters to you, really matters, the time, distance and effort it takes will not deter you.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences a mental health condition in a given year. That's 46.6 million people per year. With the stigma connected to suicide, it is not openly talked about. Those who suffer from suicidal ideation (or mental illness) feel like they can't open up about the thoughts and feelings they are having due to the shame attached. Shame promotes silence and prevents those who suffer from seeking help. Suicide Prevention Month helps to destigmatize mental illness and promote open conversation. It is a time for family members and friends who have had to navigate the tragedy of loss (often called 'suicide loss survivors') to openly share stories and resources to shed light and increase awareness. Help to promote awareness by sharing images and graphics on your website and social media accounts. Use hashtags like #Stigmafree #SuicidePrevention or #SuicidePreventionAwareness. Light up social media to honor those who are struggling. To honor those who fought the hard battle and lost. To honor those who live with that loss with nothing more to cling to than memories and some personal belongings. They matter <3. You matter <3. Don't fear the conversation, one conversation can change a life.

Know the 12 suicide warning signs:

* Feeling like a burden

* Being isolated, withdrawing from activities

* Increased anxiety

* Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

* Increased substance use

* Looking for a way to access lethal means

* Increased anger or rage, aggression, acting recklessly

* Extreme mood swings, irritability

* Expressing hopelessness

* Sleeping too little or too much

* Talking or posting about wanting to die

* Making plans for suicide, giving away prized possessions

Know the 5 steps to help someone at risk:

* ASK (are you planning to end your life?)

* Keep them safe

* Be there

* Help them connect

* Follow up


National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

NAMI Helpline 1-800-950-NAMI

Text NAMI to 741-741to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line


NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

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