If You Are Burdened…

I loved my Kate Spade handbag.

It was practical and stylish, two words common to describing her designs. I was lucky — I got it half-off, something the snide sales person had no problem disdainfully pointing out when I paid for it (a story for another day). Never mind him. I had my Kate Spade handbag.

I carried it for years, until the wear and tear made it too embarassing to use any more. That’s my sole connection to Kate Spade. But when I heard about her death today, I was moved to tears. The story is coming out that she committed suicide, and that breaks my heart.

A friend who was at one time suicidal described to me what she felt in this way:

“It was like there was weight on my body, an outside pressure that made it hard to breathe. All the sorrow and pain I’d felt in my life was trapped inside of me. The only thing I wanted to do was break away from it, and death seemed like the only option.”

She made a phone call and followed the advice of a professional. Later she had to work her way through the physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Today she tells me she no longer struggles with those feelings and their burden, but it took her some time to deal with the issues that caused them, including physiological factors.

I am not a professional, nor in any way am I trained to advise someone who is feeling suicidal. If you are suffering with those feelings, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


Image Credit: ©eyetronic – stock.adobe.com

 

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Know the Truth

On my way home from work, I heard the news. Another shooting, unknown numbers dead.

My first thought was a prayer for those whose hearts are breaking tonight, and I think most of you probably responded in a similar way.

Hot on the heels of this rapidly evolving news story was the comment by one politician: “we’ve got to get serious about mental health.” A statement made before anything is known about the shooter’s state of mind, his motive, facts we can seek our teeth into. The assumption was this eighteen-year-old was mentally ill. Maybe. I don’t have the story, and neither did that nitwit congressman.

I’ll agree, we’ve got to get serious about mental health. And here’s where you start: know the facts.

  • Mental illness does NOT make you violent.
  • The majority of violent crimes are committed by people with NO mental illness. NONE.
  • People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse is far more likely to lead to violent crime than the most severe mental illness.
  • One of the strongest indicators of potential violent behavior is being a young male with a troubled childhood.

So let’s get serious about child abuse, domestic violence, and drug & alcohol abuse. I’m not saying don’t pour money into caring for the mentally ill. I’m saying, when you do, know what your money can accomplish. A better life for a highly stigmatized population, but probably not a serious reduction in the kinds of horrible events that flood the news.

In the next few days, countless reporters and politicians are going to contribute to the ignorance of the American people by going in front of the camera with trite words and misleading information. Take it upon yourself to dig deep for the truth. Write to those who spread the lies. Post, tweet, and cry out for fairness.

At work, at school, at church, you may be sitting next to someone with mental illness and never know it. They aren’t crazy, and there are a lot of options for those who seek treatment.

So let’s get serious. Let’s tell the truth.

And peace to those who suffer tonight — and all the nights to follow.


Image Credit: © babaroga — stock.adobe.com

Muddled and Down

For some time now, I’ve been depressed. Not serious, suicidal-type depression, but a low-level unhappiness that has manifested itself in several unhealthy ways.

The most obvious is the stress eating. I hate to say it, but chowing down a share-size bag of Peanut M&Ms is satisfying (share-size, my butt). It makes me feel better. The problem is, I can’t eat like I used to without gaining weight. I’m finding it more and more difficult to fit into the clothes that used to flatter me so.

It’s not that I’ve gained a ton of weight. I’m about eight pounds heavier than I want to be, although truth to tell, eight extra pounds on me somehow looks like twenty extra pounds on your average woman. I guess I gain it in my face and tummy first, which gives one the appearance of bulk. Extra, unsightly bulk.

I’m working on changing this, everything from using the ladies’ room on the far end of the building to (yes) cutting down on the M&Ms. I’d like to cut them out completely, but I’m afraid my eventual response to that kind of deprivation would be binge eating.

My depression hasn’t stopped me from pursuing goals, but it’s slowed down things like writing for and participating in blogging. I don’t see glorious hope in the future. I don’t deny the problem; I’ve dealt with serious depression before. I have to wonder about all the people out there suffering from the same thing, whose lives are muddled by vague thoughts such as, “if I died today, no big deal.” Perhaps they don’t know it’s depression, it’s an illness, it can be treated.

Depression can be circumstantial, but it isn’t always. For me, circumstances are getting better, but I’m still down. I’m getting help, I’m taking steps to change.

But the struggle continues.


If you face these same problems, please seek help from a licensed professional. It isn’t something that can be helped by motivational speeches or a determination to push through the sadness. While these are difficult times in the world without sound leadership, that’s not the problem, either. There is hope, even though believing that may have to be an intellectual exercise for the time being. 

One Step

When I find myself overwhelmed with all I face in the day ahead, I tend to stop, and do nothing. Nothing at all. There is too much, I can’t take it all in, so I do nothing.

One step forward…I feed the cats. Another step or two…take a shower, brush my teeth, pull together the day’s clothing. Is everything clean? Yes. Does it still fit? I think so. Check my purse, make sure I have my wallet, my phone and my keys. And my lipstick.

Backyard header

I make a list. Call her, email him. Prepare this, revise that. Look for the paperwork lost long ago…it has to be here somewhere. Make a decision. No matter how long my list may be, it is shorter than the endless loop of duty and worry that goes through my head.

I am a little less overwhelmed.

Pour a bowl of cereal, no, today I need a more substantial breakfast. It will take a little longer, but this morning I have the time. Do I have juice? Yes, thank goodness, just enough for one glass.

Add juice to the grocery list.

I feel a little more in control.

Autumn - Old bridge in autumn misty park

Start to tackle that list while I’m waiting for breakfast. Just one or two things if I can. The email I’ve been putting off so long…but I’m glad I waited, I finally know just what to say. Once I finish that message, I must send another, to someone else, to confirm my intentions.

Maybe today I should stop by that office and get my questions answered. Yes, I could call, but I know how these things work. They will give fuller, more detailed answers to someone standing right in front of them., someone who isn’t asking idly, someone who is a real person, not a disembodied voice, or worse, one more email to sort through. Yes, I should stop by.

Oh, the list is so long! And even without it, I have plenty to do. I could stay home all day and never have an idle moment, but that’s not a luxury I’m allowed.

I eat breakfast, I check my makeup, my hair, I grab my list. I need to return that book, drop off…whatever that is. I gather it all together.

“Later, kitty gators. Be good,” I close the door behind me, push the button on the key and hear the familiar click as the car door is unlocked.

Wait, I forgot, I need my allergy medicine or I will be suffering.

One Echinacea Flower Under The MoonI run in, race out, get behind the wheel. Sitting there, I am so overwhelmed, I can barely move the key to the ignition.

When I find myself overwhelmed with all that I face in the day ahead, I tend to stop, and do nothing. But nothing is not an option, so I start the car.

Move forward, take the next step.

One at a time.


Image Credits: (Bridge) © Gorilla — Fotolia; (Echinacea) © Melpomene — Bigstock

Misunderstood

A friend of mine has been battling obesity for a long time now.

It’s affecting her in a multitude of ways, physically and emotionally. Recently she made the difficult decision to address her problem surgically. That means a series of tests before the surgeon would consider her case, including a psychiatric examination.

The conclusion? She wasn’t a suitable candidate.

She was deeply disappointed, but still determined to fight her battle with her weight. However, she wanted to address the issue of her mental or emotional health one more time, so she went back to the psychiatrist who had made the diagnosis.

Turns out, it was a clerical error and didn’t reflect the psychiatrist’s opinion one bit. In fact, my friend is considered to be someone with a high level of probability for success, both short- and long-term.

What she came to realize through all of this was the bitter treatment people with mental illness face. After this mistake was made but before the error was discovered, she found herself being treated harshly by the staff who once were so kind to her. When her chart was corrected, they returned to their friendly behavior.

clipboard smIt reminded me of a close friend’s experience with bigotry after she had a liver transplant. Nurses and others on the hospital staff were abrupt and, on occasion, downright rude. Finally, she asked her doctor to please note her transplant was necessary due to an auto-immune disorder, not because of substance abuse. The doctor wrote AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE in big letters on her chart, and the staff turned around in their judgmental attitudes. Jean was disgusted.

Mental health and substance abuse remain stigmatized in our society,

even among medical professionals who should know better. They presumably have accurate information about the nature of these diseases, and after all, haven’t they committed themselves to a profession of compassion and empathy?

It brings me back to singing a familiar tune: you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s easy, and convenient, to judge another’s behavior. It gives us a feeling of control.

But it’s dangerous, and a crutch for the foolish.

EyesI respect those who are gracious enough to give those with mental illness the room they need to deal with their disease. One of my closest friends has two sisters diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at different levels of severity. The oldest sister has a difficult time functioning in society. With the help of family, she’s chosen to live in a halfway house in a remote area.

The other sister, after years of destructive living, was able to get a handle on her disease and maintain both a job for herself and a home for her son. About every seven years, however, she had a severe relapse. Her son would live his with father during that time, and her employer would give her a leave of absence for as long as she needed it.

The time came when that company was sold, and she decided to apply for disability, knowing that odds were another employer wouldn’t be as kind about her mental health. The courts agreed, and at the age of 56, she was granted disability. She still makes a valuable contribution to society through volunteer work, and her son is healthy, happy and completely supportive of his mother.

Her volunteer work is with mental health awareness, and people listen to her. How they apply what she has to say in their own lives is, of course, an unknown, but we can only hope they open their hearts and listen to what is unsaid.

Because we are often best understood by what is unsaid.


Image Credits: (Woman in Despair) © Bigstock; (Medical Chart) © GraphicStock; (Eyes) courtesy of Pixabay.

Better Days

Is there a balance of pain?

Do people with chronic illness, loss of the precious, or injustice in their lives get a break elsewhere?

We all face good times and bad times in life. Some have chronic problems, others have temporary, albeit serious, challenges. It’s hard to view the latter as temporary, however, when the consequences can stay with you for years, decades, a lifetime.

BalanceLife isn’t always fair, and you may be faced with more dark times than others around you. The balance, as I see it, is in part how those times change you and make you a better person.

Yes, I’ll say it, the people who have been refined by fire are better people. More compassionate, more accepting, wiser and perhaps, if they’re lucky, more content, regardless of circumstances.

But in the middle of the storm, it can be difficult to face the day when you know it will be a challenge. The choice to escape, in whatever way is available to you, becomes an overwhelming temptation.

Those escapes sometimes bring their own problems. Watching television instead of taking action might drag out the time you will be facing difficulties. Drugs or alcohol, well, I don’t have to detail what they can do to you, robbing you of everything you hold dear.

Motivation becomes its own challenge. The chipper platitudes don’t always work when times are tough. It takes experience to know there will be an end to the loneliness, fear and sadness. For me, the quotes that acknowledge my pain, yet hint (at the very least) at hope are the most meaningful.

It’s darkest before dawn.

Maybe it looks like you got more than your fair share of bad times. I can’t promise there will be enough good times to offset those days, but I do believe there are better things ahead.

bigstock--137999819

We are told “life is good,”  “make lemonade” and “don’t worry–be happy,” but sometimes we have to acknowledge a sorrowful time in life. If you don’t do so, you likely are compounding the problem.

But once you do, you are free to do two things: address the pain, and truly believe the sun will rise.

It may rise slowly, but one day you will look up and there it will be, high in the sky.

That’s the hope of better days.


Image Credits: (Rainbow) © Pellinni — Fotolia; (Balance) © frender — Fotolia; (Balloons) © Bigstock

Don’t Pull that Thread!

I know the warning signs.

I know when I’m on the edge and about to explode — or implode — emotionally. I’m close to that point now and doing everything I can to ward it off. It’s part of being bipolar, I suppose, and it’s not a fun part.

bigstock-concerned-woman-retro-clipar-34339379-convertedThe good news is I’m aware of what’s happening and I know what steps to take to help myself. It’s not a perfect system, and I’m still at risk of losing it. But it’s better than it used to be.

My job isn’t helping the situation. I’m working as a tax preparer, and of course, this week is crunch week. The deadline for filing this year is April 18 (the 15th is on Saturday and Monday the 17th is a holiday in Washington D.C.), so I’m pushing my limits everyday except Sunday (we have Easter off) for the next week. It’s not a good thing when you have a mental illness.

My co-workers are great; the other woman in the office I’m assigned to is just about the perfect co-worker, and my supervisor somehow has managed to keep her cool and a good sense of humor despite the fact she’s worked every day since December. Without that, I don’t know if I’d be doing as well.

But there’s always a thread that might cause everything to unravel, and that thread was pulled today.

It started last Thursday, when the local trash collectors picked up my garbage can for alleged non-payment, and I very nearly lost it. I had paid my bill two weeks before, well before the due date. The lady in customer service, who was very nice and professional, did her best to get the container back to me by yesterday, so I’d have it for trash pick-up today.

Trash ContainerIt’s important to note here that the garbage company provides the trash cans, and we’re required to use them. No personal cans allowed.

They didn’t deliver. Heather, the customer service lady, had told me I could use my own container, so I thought, at least there’s a way they’ll pick up the garbage. I was forced to drag out my old, personal trash can from under the back porch in my townhouse, and haul it up a very steep hill, where I slipped more than once, sending that container down the slope. I was frustrated and angry and doing my best to keep it together.

But events conspired against me, or so it seemed in my agitated state. One team from the garbage collection agency dropped off my seized garbage can today at 1:55. My personal garbage can had already been placed out front for collection, and I wasn’t about to transfer all my trash from one can to the other.

So the pick-up team shows up at 1:58, and refuses to pick up my garbage because I did have one of their assigned containers, which we are in general required to use, but I hadn’t used it.

Are you kidding me?

I called customer service again, and thankfully, Heather answered my call. First, I apologized for directing my anger toward her the week before.  Then, because I knew the thread was being pulled, I (relatively calmly) told her I was even angrier today. That acknowledgment helped me keep it together with her.

If you think things got better after that, you are sadly mistaken, but I have already written too much about my garbage. Suffice to say, that garbage collection company is on my list.

AdobeStock_106268046 Young Woman Retro SmBut here’s the thing: I’ve been taking care of myself by getting enough sleep & exercise, as well as employing little tricks I’ve learned that help me keep my cool. I didn’t completely fall apart. I’m still feeling on the edge, but I just might make it.

It takes more than one pulled thread to make me unravel these days.


Unravel


Image Credits: (weaving) courtesy of Pixabay; (Retro Woman, Garbage Can, Retro Happy Woman) © Bigstock.