Hi everyone. Thought I’d take a few minutes to say hello to you all and talk a bit about supporting loved ones when you yourself have a mental illness. As I mentioned in my “about” page, I’ve battled mental illness since I was a young woman. Back then my moods were chalked up to normal teenage swings and there was never a discussion about mental health.
Flash forward 25 years and not only do I discuss it, I tell EVERYONE about it. In doing so I believe that choosing to be open and honest about my illness and my struggles, I’ve earned respect and compassion. I’ve also become a beacon for others around me who themselves are now struggling in their own journey.
Case in point: I am in the middle of acting as an advocate for a dear family member who is just about to begin her first round of intensive group therapy next week. I’ve been able to attend her initial interview sessions with her, with the last one being this morning on her “intake” interview. She’s scared and nervous, but I believe having me by her side each step of the way is moving her closer and closer to beginning her own recovery. It feels good to know thAt sharing my own experiences is helping her.
Second case: a young person reached out to me asking for help. She was feeling low and depressed, having trouble sleeping and yes, having some suicidal ideations. I was able to get this person to the ER, sit with them through the anxiety of waiting, convince her that nobody was going to think she was “crazy” and finally get started on a treatment plan for her. Triggers were going off all around me, but using my own DBT skills enabled me to be there for her without sacrificing my own health. We have a long road to recovery ahead of us, but together we will get through this.
And finally, by opening up at work and sharing my honest struggles, I’ve brought compassion and understanding into my life. My coworkers ask how I’m feeling and they in turn share some of their own struggles with me. It’s true that once you knock down a few “stigma” walls, it opens a new world.
So I will continue my advocacy. Not only for others but for myself as well. Never stop asking for help – you never know when the right person is listening. And if you are healthy enough to talk about your own battles, share this with others. You never know when the opportunity to save a life may come along. And being able to give back inspires me to want to give more.