Reach Out and Hold On

If someone had told me I had an anxiety/depression disorder when I was younger, I would have explained it as just “who I am” and would have believed every word of that explanation. In fact, I DID believe it. I had no idea that the behaviors I had exhibited my entire life had a real diagnosis.

I wish I could say I came to the realization that I needed help in some intuitive fashion. The truth is, I came to understand that my anxiety and depression had finally gotten the best of me in a most unfortunate way. But that is of little import now. What IS important is that once I found my illness, I found my voice.
 
When I started to learn about my own illness I began to share the information. Talking about it in my own circles turned out be my own little social experiment. Like many, medication aided me in balancing my thoughts and behaviors. That process alone took months and I tried no less than four medications before I found the right one for me. I thank the heavens for a caring physician and an angel therapist. Talking about my mental illness, and the medication I needed to keep me from spinning out of control on an issue I couldn’t control, was where things got very interesting.

Once I had found my way to a good place, I used to say a thing that would explain the difference between the me before diagnosis and the me after: “Before I was properly medicated…” or “Good thing I’m properly medicated.” I rather enjoyed talking about my quest for good mental health in a good-natured way. I found that admitting having a mental illness and being willing to discuss it made people quite uncomfortable. I began noticing how easily it became to work the topic into a conversation. In time, I became quite skilled at acknowledging and owning my struggle. Then, as if I had called on the gods to point me to an amazing person battling their own version of mental illness, I found her…or she found me. I much prefer to think that we found each other.

Carling and I became fast friends and knowing her makes me a better person. From her I have learned the value of understanding all there is to know about this all too common illness. To quote the late Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

Carling authors a blog from which I have found many nuggets of wisdom, and it is with her permission that I share some of those with the readers of Kind over Matter. It is my intent to shine a light on this issue so that we may find compassion and empathy for others who battle this shadowed figure of mental illness.

From Carling I have learned the importance of:

Self-care: You need to find what it is that momentarily consumes you and leaves you cleansed and whole, and you need to do the hell out of that activity. Your self-care needs to include that as much as you need to feed yourself and shower sometimes.

Humor: Mentally ill people are people. Absurd thought, I know. In fact, and this is where it gets real weird, ALL people are people and deserve to be treated as such.

Honesty: Here’s the thing. I’m queer and I’m mentally ill. Guess which one I feel more stigmatized and ‘othered’ about? I started this blog to be honest, to break myself out of my own stigmas and push people out of theirs.

Temerity: I’m out because I’m in a privileged enough position to be able to be out. I can exercise that privilege to help other mentally ill people know there’s someone like them out there, and to educate non-mentally ill people on what our lives are like.

“Let’s reach out to each other, hold on to each other, help each other find out ways to go on.” – Carling Mars

No longer obsessed with finding misplaced items or dreaming up worst-case scenarios has opened up a lot of time for me to do the things I love - writing (one of my first loves) and appreciating all the joy I find in loving people deeply. Mental illness of any kind can be difficult to navigate. Today I am better through the magic of chemistry and the many lovely friends I've found along the way. Be good to one another.

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