A Mile In Other People’s Shoes

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I am definitely walking a mile in other peoples’ shoes. Yes, I realize this is a temporary condition for me. But it has opened my eyes to a new reality. And has made me appreciate what I have just expected and lived with all these years.

I now understand the Basics of life without use of one arm and hand. So many things were difficult if not barely possible for me. To name just a few of my discoveries, I asked other people, ex., waitstaff in restaurants, to cut my food (meat, pasta) for me, my hair didn’t see an elastic in Weeks, showering took some serious thought and prep, and getting dressed was an adventure dependent on gravity and quick, on-the-fly tosses and grabs. Lifting “light” things, unscrewing jar lids or lightbulbs, wringing out a towel or my hair, and tying shoes or a bandana were all hard or impossible.

I’ll go back to life as usual in a few weeks. First I have to get my body back to “normal”. This is sure to be a slow process. I am sure my wrist and its muscles have forgotten a few things. They will have to be (painfully) reminded.  Therapy awaits. I hope I get to use my new friend, ice, during this.

As I said, in a few weeks, I go back to a ‘normal’ life. Through this process, I am realizing that other people can’t. It is a humbling wake-up call about all the things I have taken for granted being able to do without difficulty, or pain. I will try to keep these in mind as I go about living from now on.

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Mental Health Journey, Pt. 2

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Life for a mental health patient is a journey, made somewhat better by medicines and treatments. Sometimes the “better” is marginal, sometimes it’s manageable, sometimes there’s a glimpse of a near-miracle. Medications are little slices of wonderful, if and when they work. There’s the issue for many. The ever-present IF.

With psychiatric medications, what works for one person may not, and does not, always work for another person. This is because individual brain chemistry is as unique as a fingerprint. Patients are often faced with having to try different medications to find one that works. After that comes finding the proper effective dosage that works for them. And with psychiatric meds, if A doesn’t work for you, you can’t just take one, stop and then immediately start taking B like you can a pain reliever or some other type of drug. There is a sort of “half-life” with brain chemicals when they are affected by psychiatric meds.

Because psychiatric medications have to build up in the brain tissue in order to be effective, if a drug does not work, you have to wean yourself off it before starting a new one. This can take time and is frustrating and, unfortunately, depressing for the patient. It often feels like you “roll the dice” when you try another drug because you truly do not know if it will work. In addition, you wonder how effective it will be or for how long.

And don’t get me started on the Side Effects! (too late)… With side effects of psychiatric meds, it can sometimes feel like you are experiencing the saying, “The cure is worse than the disease”. There is weight gain, or there could be weight loss. You have insomnia or you might sleep too much. You feel ravenous or have no appetite at all. There is constipation or diarrhea. Not to mention impaired coordination or memory, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, fatigue, and of course, sexual difficulties. You are dealing with many of these while you are trying your hardest to JUST FEEL BETTER!

The Mental Health Journey, Pt. 1

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Is it crazy if you see a therapist or counselor? Why that word, why “crazy”? Sometimes I think all those who do not think they need counseling in this life are the “crazy” ones. If you think you can make it through this life alone, without some sort of help, YOU are crazy.

Life is not easy, for anyone, and there are those who need a little extra outside help to get through it. And one should not be looked down upon or think less of oneself if one chooses to get such help. Those who think they do not need even a little help are not always helpful or understanding to those of us who do.

We’re often told, “It’s all in your head.”, or “You’re just lazy.”, “I have felt sad too.” or “Snap out of it!” As you may have guessed, none of these phrases are supportive or helpful. Think of some of the other words that are used to describe someone who is a little “off” and imagine what it would be like to be labelled as such.

For the millions among us who are living with a mental illness, we are thought to be crazy. I choose not to say, “suffering from” mental illness because I do not want to put more of a negative spin on it than already exists. This is due to the already unfortunate prevalent stigma, the stigma that says we’re crazy, among other things.

The rest of the world thinks we’re crazy, or dangerous, or lazy, or insert (mostly negative) adjective of your choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are often among the most thought-ful ones. There is a lot going on between our ears. Our thoughts are just not always the most positive or uplifting or constructive, for us personally.

Our attitudes are usually reserved for ourselves alone. Our judgments are most often inwardly focused. And we are our own harshest critics. We share this with others around us, also harsh self-critics. Unlike those around us, we often can’t easily escape the possible downward spiral such negative self-criticism causes. Therefore, we need to “get out of our own heads” which doesn’t always seem easy or even possible.

You’re Not Crazy, You’re Just Depressed, Pt. 2

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I’m sure there are people who think if someone is depressed, or claims to have a mental illness, they can just snap out of it or it will pass or they’re faking it. While sometimes this might be the case, most of the time nothing could be farther from the truth. Those who are dealing with any type of mental illness desperately wish they could just snap out of it.

Sometimes mental illness is situational. Sometimes it seems temporary but all too often it’s a lifelong condition. Sometimes there’s a biological or genetic component. However it arises, it can take a lot of effort & support to survive.

I’m not a psychiatrist nor am I a trained psychologist. I am simply someone who is in the trenches of depression. I’ve heard, “Snap out of it!”, “It’s not that bad.”, & many other responses when people find out I have depression. Like I said, you can’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t tell by looking who is or who isn’t depressed or otherwise mentally ill. I look “normal”, whatever that means.

Most of the time w/ medication & talk therapy, I & others like me do pretty well. Some days are better than others, just like they are for anyone. Like other humans, appreciate & enjoy understanding & support. We find it in groups, w/ friends, & through help from those in the medical profession.

You can’t tell by looking if someone is depressed or experiencing a mental illness. You don’t know their journey just as they don’t know yours. As I said before, not everyone who living w/ mental illness is psychotic or dangerous to others. For the most part, they’re just trying to get through, & get along, in their lives w/ some enjoyment & hard-won positivity. And w/ mutual acceptance, support & understanding from those around them, this is & will be possible.