There Is Nothing Wrong With Having Mental Health Issues

This past weekend brought up the conversation of mental health issues in a number of ways for me; from hearing about Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna speaking publicly about struggling with anxiety, and not feeling himself, to conversations I’ve had with family and friends. I feel like it needs to be said again, and again, that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues. I’m going to be repeating this often throughout this post, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

I think Roberto Osuna’s decision for opening up about what he is struggling with, which is no doubt much more common in baseball, and sports in general, than is reported, was exceptionally brave. It isn’t easy to open up about something so personal and something that can be subject to judgement, criticism, and misinterpretation.

Mental health is absolutely vital to our well-being. Without it, we are open to literally falling apart. Mental health is just as important to our being able to function and cope as physical health is. In fact, there are a number of situations where mental health may be even more important than physical health.

The dozens of disorders and diagnosis that encompass mental health are never something to be taken lightly, no matter how, where, when, or why, a person finds themselves struggling with them. Whether it’s a disorder that has been a part of your life since childhood, or whether it’s something that pops into your life in later years, it is always, repeat always, something to be taken seriously. And at no time is it ever a reflection on what kind of person you are, nor does it ever mean that something is wrong with you.

Admittedly, you may need treatment, you may even need medication, but that does not mean you are broken, or flawed, or weak, or a bad person. It doesn’t mean you should be treated differently nor does it mean you should be shunned, judged, ostracized, or criticized. It means that you need help and support, encouragement and compassion, and understanding and patience for a difficult situation or period in your life. That’s really all it means, that you need help. And there is nothing, NOTHING, wrong with that.

I can understand that there are people who have not struggled with mental health issues and may not be able to fully grasp what it means but that is no excuse to treat someone with mental health issues any differently than had they been struggling with something physical that can be seen or quantified. People struggling with mental health issues are still people.

You don’t have to have mental health issues to be compassionate.

I think it’s great that the conversation of mental health is fast becoming more mainstream, and less a “closeted” discussion, saved only for professionals. With places like CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), here in Canada, CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), also here in Canada, the annual Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and several sports and television personalities opening up about their own mental health struggles has made a HUGE impact in people starting to realize and understand that mental health is something that can affect anyone, in any capacity, or social standing, and that it is NOT something to be ashamed of.

I firmly believe that places like CAMH and CMHA are leading the fight in bringing awareness to mental health, bringing the discussion to the masses, and especially with bringing help to those in need. Addressing mental health openly has come a long way in starting to lose the stigma that has been attached to it for so long. But there is still more work to do. And it starts with us, talking to someone when we need help, and not feeling ashamed about what we are going through.

I’m not saying that you need to speak about what you might be struggling with to everyone you know and everyone you meet. It may mean only sharing it with one person, it may mean sharing it with a group of strangers at a support group, it may mean sharing it only with a professional. It isn’t about who you choose to share it with, it’s about owning that you are struggling right now with mental health issues, and that is nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I’m going to repeat that, “struggling with mental health issues is NOTHING to be ashamed of.

Life is hard. Very hard. This is not new information for anyone. Sometimes trying to handle all that life throws at us, and coping with difficult situations, emotions, and difficult people can be more than just a challenge at times. It can be something that permeates your whole being, and for some, it may also mean using more destructive than constructive methods to cope. It can be something that filters down into your relationships, your work, your interests, your family and friends, and even your ability to function at a basic level. Mental illness can grip you like a vise and twist itself around you so that you feel like you can’t breathe. It doesn’t care if you have the time, or the space, or whether you’re ready or not, it can come on without warning and take you over, or take you down. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you work etc, you could be someone who finds themselves struggling with mental health issues just as easily as anyone else.

Mental health isn’t selective in who it affects. No exemptions or discrimination here. Mental health is an equal opportunity assailant.

I don’t want to compare mental health to physical health because I don’t think they really can be compared. The each have their own struggles, symptoms, treatments, and perspectives. But I will say that with as many differences that lie between physical/medical issues and mental health issues, there are also a number of similarities between them too. There a lot of physical illnesses or disorders that can often strike at will to whomever, whenever, without warning or cause, and mental health issues can be just as arbitrary and random in who becomes affected too. There are a number of physical/medical issues that cannot be seen just by looking at someone, and that cannot be measured with a blood test or x-ray, just like not being able to tell just by looking that someone is struggling with mental health issues.

Someone struggling with a physical/medical issue is as important to address as someone struggling with a mental health issue. One issue is not necessarily any more urgent to address than the other. Of course I understand that there are some serious medical issues that can be life-threatening and are important to treat as soon as possible, and that there are some mental health issues that are not as urgent in the moment to treat, but they are still important enough to treat, regardless.

Someone struggling with mental health issues may be able to wait a few more days for help than someone requiring urgent medical assistance, but it doesn’t mean that the person struggling with mental health issues should be dismissed or indefinitely delayed in getting treatment.

All issues that can befall us, whether physical, emotional, or mental, each have their own urgencies or not, in how and when they are addressed, but the important thing to remember is that they ALL deserve addressing.

Repeat: THEY ALL DESERVE TO BE ADDRESSED.

I would like to close this by saying to all those struggling with mental health issues, please seek help if you need it, don’t wait. And please don’t be ashamed or feel less than because you need help. Talk to someone. Share with those you trust in your own time. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, nor do you owe anyone an explanation. You are struggling and you need help. Please remember that. You are struggling and you need help.

For those who have a loved one struggling with mental health issues I would encourage and hope that you give as much time and space to your loved one as you can for them to deal with things as they need. Be compassionate and patient. You don’t need to understand someone to be kind to them. You don’t need to have experienced it to have patience for it.

Your loved one may be struggling to live at some point, and this is NOT a weakness, nor is this something to be taken lightly. Anyone feeling like life isn’t worth living anymore should ALWAYS be taken seriously and at their word. They need help. Please do what you can to help them get help.

Most importantly, for all, please remember that there is nothing wrong with having mental health issues.

 

*TW* Like Ripping Off a Bandage

I just want start this off with a disclaimer here because I am well aware that how BPD manifests for any borderliner could be very different than how it manifests for me. As a rule Borderliners tend to be very high functioning for day-to-day activities however we aren’t always able to maintain that functionality for extended periods of time. It’s our personal lives behind closed doors that are a chaotic mess. And it is only a matter of time before one spills into the other and we are not so functioning anymore. This might not be how another person struggles with BPD, is this is how I struggle with BPD.

For me, I sometimes have to work to get to functioning. It’s not easy, and it can take me weeks or months to finally get to a baseline of just doing the best that I can. Which is a minimal level.

This usually involves a lot of meds having to be administered in order to get myself functioning. If I’m lucky it will involve therapy of some kind at the same time as taking the meds but until recently it was either one or the other. There was no balance. There was no equilibrium. I either could take the meds and just do my best not to fall backwards. There was no support, not the way I needed it. Or I had the support and the meds weren’t really doing it for me.

Doing the meds cocktail, for anyone struggling with mental health issues, or mental health disorders, knows that it can be an exhausting, tiring, and frustrating journey. And it is a journey. It can take months and years; dozens of medicines and dosages, mixing anti-psychotic with anti-depressant, uppers with downers, meds to get you to sleep, meds to keep you asleep, meds to allow you to think, meds that stop you from thinking. Finally finding the mix that works is daunting. It took me three decades and finally a diagnosis of BPD to get the mix that is currently working for me. Although because I’m still struggling, I am still developing the right mix for me. It’s a work in progress.

So I have to choose therapy or meds, if I’m lucky, I’ll get at least one. And it will help me. Because I usually end up back at the bottom of life, I also feel abandoned, rejected, alone, and angry.

Except the anger would be directed at myself. I was a failure for not being able to magically fix myself when I was broken. I was to blame for not having the support I needed. I was to blame that the drugs didn’t work. I was to blame that therapy didn’t work. I was to blame for everything in my life going so wrong that I would end up feeling suicidal. And suicidal was where I stayed until I either tried, or I was able to find my way out.

Having BPD is tough. Every day feels like a battle. Every interaction feels like a wound that starts out bandaged but within moments can be ripped off by either telling me I’m too sensitive, that I need to get over it, that I am being difficult, that I am causing trouble by not letting anything go, that I am making matters worse for myself, or if I feel abandoned or rejected, and just that fast the bandage would be ripped off and my wounds would be exposed, and I would be open to pain and hurt and suffering. Again.

I want to be able to keep the bandage on long enough so that I can heal. I want to be healed enough that it won’t feel like I’m exposed and vulnerable. I want to feel like I can take what someone says or does to me that doesn’t send me spiralling out of control into bad and dark places.

I am fighting to keep my bandage on right now because I’m terrified of having my wounds exposed.

Dear life, please give me time to heal.

Trying to Understand Myself

I am trying to work towards a better day for myself. It’s on a daily basis that I work for this because to be able to just wake up and face the world, or meet the world, is not something that I can just wake up to. It has to be worked for.

Today for example I am aiming to try and be out for as long as possible, to be out of the house, functioning, and just not cocooned on my couch where everything would surely get worse.

Except I am sitting here, unable to be productive, and thinking of turning to destructive behaviours. I’m not sure why. I feel very restless and very chaotic in my mind. I feel like I won’t be able to accomplish anything.

*TW* So all that I can think of right now is walking over to the store, and knowing they have Easter candy on sale, getting me a bagful of goodies and going home and stuffing myself until I feel sick.

I’m not hungry. But I am frustrated and feeling restless so I know that my thinking of food is all emotion mind. I can’t even really afford to buy anything since I’m broke but I’m moving money around in my head and finding ways that I can get what I want.

I wish I knew why I was falling to this…

Afraid

 

…going through some of my self-help books has led me to feel jumbled in my thoughts and emotions. A combination of the last few months, the last few days, and the last few hours, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel like I need a rest. I need a break. A break from work, life, my thoughts, my emotions, my worries, my fears, from everything.

I feel like crying. I feel torn. I want to run. I want to scream. It feels like life is passing me by. I feel over cluttered with emotional and mental baggage and objects. I feel like I could explode. I worry that my stress will make me sick and if I were to get sick what would that teach me? If everything happens for a reason, then what will be my moment and will I see it? so many bad things happen to everyone, why wouldn’t I be one of them? how can I let go when it is only a matter of time before I am cut down by something bad? Pain is inevitable right?

If I die having let my dreams pass me by, will it really matter?

If I die having been known what will it matter. I will still be dead.

Life feels so pointless. If I go my whole life and do nothing more, will it really matter?

If I do what I believe is my dream and it turns out that I am wrong?

If I fail then I am right back where I started.

If I end up full circle will the fact that I tried really matter?

Honestly?

There’s no fulfillment in trying and failing.

There’s no peace in starting from the beginning again with nothing to show for it.

I believed that if you found your path, your destiny, that the universe conspired to help you.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

If it is true then I guess I don’t really want what I thought I did.

If what I thought was my dream, my calling, and I am wrong, then what is my destiny?

I’m crying and I’m not sure why.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of trying.

I’m afraid of failing.

I’m afraid of being wrong.

I’m afraid of not trying.

I’m afraid of moving forward.

I’m afraid of standing still.

I’m afraid of who I am.

I’m afraid of who I am not.

I’m afraid of not knowing.

I’m afraid of being lost.

I’m afraid of being found.

I’m afraid of being alone.

I’m afraid of being close to someone.

I’m afraid of the unknown.

I’m afraid of not being seen.

I’m afraid to raise my voice.

I’m afraid of being disappointed.

I’m afraid I will disappoint.

I’m afraid I will miss something.

I’m afraid I will do it wrong.

I’m afraid I will be left out.

I’m afraid that I will be forgotten.

I’m afraid that I will be too late.

I’m afraid that it is already too late.

I’m afraid to keep it.

I’m afraid to let it go.

I’m afraid that all I know to be wrong about me will actually be true.

I’m afraid that I will deserve what I get.

I’m afraid that everything I get will be bad.

I’m afraid that I will be a statistic.

I’m afraid that I will be one of the people it happens to.

I’m afraid that “it” will be only pain and fear.

I’m afraid that any happiness will not last.

I’m afraid that any achievement will be false.

I’m afraid that any good fortune will be lost.

I’m afraid that I will always have to fight.

I’m afraid that I will lose the fight.

I’m afraid that there will never be enough.

I’m afraid that I will never be enough.

I’m afraid that I will never be somebody.

I’m afraid that I will never matter.

I’m afraid that I will be invisible.

I’m afraid that no one will listen.

I’m afraid that no one will care.

I’m afraid that I will never realize my dreams.

I’m afraid that what I know is wrong.

I’m afraid that I will always be torn.

I’m afraid that I will always be broken.

I’m afraid that I will always take more.

I’m afraid that I will always be misunderstood.

I’m afraid that no one will want to be my friend.

I’m afraid that I will never be beautiful.

I’m afraid that I will never be adored.

I’m afraid that I will always be hated.

I’m afraid that this is it.

I’m afraid to admit that this isn’t enough.

I’m afraid to admit that I want more.

I’m afraid to admit that I feel ashamed for wanting more.

I’m afraid to admit that I want better.

I’m afraid that I will hurt everyone I love.

I’m afraid that my flaws outweigh my strengths.

I’m afraid I have no strength.

I’m afraid that I will never be the best.

I’m afraid that I will be alone.

I’m afraid that I will deserve it.

I am so very afraid.

I am so very tired.

 

 

*TW* Trying to Return to DBT

So the last several weeks have been hard for me. Last couple of months? Hmm. So more time has passed than I previously thought. I don’t really know if it’s my BPD, depression, or anxiety…actually that’s not true, I do know, it’s all of it. The whole mess of chaos and confusion that lives in my head and in my body, pinning me to the floor, or pushing me into a dark hole. One just egging the other on until I am a puddle on the floor.

The good news is, during this time I have been continuing to attend all of my weekly DBT Groups, and all of my weekly DBT Individual appointments. So I have a wealth of DBT information on backlog. I’ve wanted to start posting those again but I just didn’t have it in me. I thought I could squeeze them in but it didn’t work out that way.

Despite the backlog of posting any DBT skills, there were a few days the DBT stuff helped me with my stress, anxiety, and distress. Some days, I admit, DBT didn’t even enter my brain let alone my practice. And there were a few days I did think of it and it didn’t do squat. But there have been a few moments when it did help, a lot, and I think a lot of it can help others too. Especially the Distress Tolerance, which is unfortunately the most recent module taught, so it will be the last ones to be posted.

Either way, if it can help me, then it has a chance to help others too.

My goal is to now get back on track with posting the DBT stuff again, and in the midst of that, I am going to still try and climb my way back to my normal. “My normal”, for those of you wondering, is a place where I don’t wake up every day wanting to sink into a deep, dark place and be left completely alone. *TW* Maybe or maybe not, considering if I’ll wait for death, or if I’ll walk right towards it. And where every day feels like moving through tar, in body and mind.

I hope to get back on track within the next few days. Wish me luck 🙂

If Wishes Came True

When I was a little girl I used to pretend that I was an actress. I gave myself a stage name and I even had an imaginary manager, and secretary. I drew posters for my movies, and I even released some albums as a singer. And I would draw the album covers too. I would play for hours by myself as an actress slash singer in my room until it was time for bed. I didn’t even like stopping for dinner, or anything else. It was all about me and all the great things I could do. I would have loved to continue playing after it was time for bed but at the time I had to share a room with my brother and he really crimped my style.

But during the day, when my brother would go out, and my mom would be busy or sleeping, I spent hours, days, weeks, and months just playing my imaginary role. Sometimes I would bring in other imaginary people to play secondary roles, like friends, or boyfriends. It was very elaborate. Everyone had a role and a background. Not that I knew what to do with a boyfriend at that age. I imagined that basically he was just the guy there, and that eventually we would end up married and have kids. He played a really small role. Mostly I just had lots of friends, and lots of admirers, and lots of fans. In my imaginary world, everyone loved me. And everyone wanted to be friends with me.

I believed that I was special. I believed that there was just something about me that everyone liked, and people would gravitate towards me, and they would all want to be in my life. I was like this shining force that people loved. I was the person they turned to when they needed a friend, and I was a great friend. I was the one they would always want to call. I was the one they all wanted to spend time with. My time was so valuable to everyone that it was like being mobbed by fans to find time for all my imaginary friends.

It was a great feeling, to be loved, and admired. I felt like I was this great, special person. I was this important person to all these other people. I was one person they thought of often. whatever party, or event, birthday, or celebration, it didn’t matter, my “friends” always made sure to invite me. It wasn’t a party without me. My imaginary friends would be heartbroken when I had to say no to their invitations. They would beg and plead for me to be there. Me being there was what would make it great. And that feeling, it was so nice. I never wanted that feeling to end.

But then, one day, it did. Because I grew up. We moved, and I got my own room, which was great for helping to build the imaginary world, but slowly my imaginary world started to change. Real life filtered in a lot and it was getting harder and harder to maintain my magnificent world.

And then one day I stopped believing that I was special.

I don’t remember what happened, or the moment it changed, but around the age of 13 or 14 my world turned from sparkly to dark. It went from full of friends to no one. I went from being the important one, to being the forgotten one. It went from everyone likes me, to people not seeing me at all. Not only did I not see myself as special anymore, but now I was starting to believe I was never special in the first place at all, and that I wasn’t worthy of living.

I wish I could pinpoint where it crashed. Or why. Maybe then I could re-trace my way back to feeling special. Maybe then I could have some friends back. Maybe then I would be seen and I would be important, to someone. But I have a sinking feeling that path is long gone, never to be found again. I miss the days when I felt special, and that everyone liked me, and everyone wanted to be my friend.

Now I believe the total opposite of every person I know. Whether they are already in my life or not. That no one likes me. No one thinks of me as important. I am not special. Sometimes I feel like a fool for ever having believed it in the first place. I am not special.

I wish I was though.

Everyday People

When I have to go outside it takes me some time and effort to make my way out. Some days are easy, where I don’t have to prepare myself. I don’t have to work up to anything. I can pretty much just go. And some days are hard, where I need a lot of time to work through the anxiety. When I need to somehow ease the anxious feeling in my stomach and chest. I need to ease my urge to hide and avoid, and often either slow down or soothe a panic attack. Those are the days I may not make it out but I still try because sometimes the tips work.

When I am outside the anxious feeling doesn’t really go away. It stays in varying degrees of intensity from when I leave my home and it doesn’t ease until I’m back home, and even then it doesn’t totally disappear. The time that I am out I am hyper-aware of my surroundings and how long things are taking. I am aware of the people around me and I am aware of the length of time I will be in any given place because I am almost counting the minutes until I can finally go home again.

I have to be very careful about this state though because if it gets pushed too far, and the anxiety overwhelms me, it can push me into a numb, dissociative state. Where I am on automatic pilot and I am sort of aware of my surroundings but it’s a blur and most of the time I can’t recall where I was or how I got there.

When I’m on the bus I watch the people around me. In part I do it to be aware of who is where, what they are doing, and are they posing any threat to me in any way? But sometimes I find myself almost mesmerized by them. I’m mesmerized by their mundane ways of sitting or standing on the bus. I watch them play on their phones, or read a book, or talk to someone they are travelling with, or just staring out the window, and I find myself feeling envious of them.

These people, just normal people, they get on the bus and choose their place to sit or stand and they settle in for their ride. Without a second thought they are just taking the bus and doing whatever they need to do to pass the time on the ride. And they look normal. They look calm. They look bored. They look complacent. And I envy that.

I envy that these people can just walk onto a bus without sizing up the world they’re entering. I envy that they sit down or stand like they own the place and they aren’t thinking of anyone or anything around them let alone if they’re wondering if something is a threat. They aren’t surveying the scene from moment-to-moment. They don’t look like they’re counting anything at all. They look and act so normal. And then I briefly think of how many thoughts I have had in the short time I’ve been on this bus and how many worries and fears I’ve had and I feel jealous that they sit there like normal, everyday people.

I’ve wondered if anyone has looked at me and thought of me as weird, or thought of me as unworthy to take up space on the bus, or any other kind of thought. I’ve wondered if they are judging me or making assumptions about me. Are they thinking I don’t belong here? Are they thinking I shouldn’t be here? Are they thinking I’m a fraud? Are they thinking I look like a bitch? Are they thinking that they hate me?

It makes me feel like a freak. It makes me feel like I’m a nutcase. And it makes me feel alone.

These people go about their day, seemingly without a care, and they work, and live, and function. They go out. They do things. They talk to people. They interact. And I think of my own day that has been filled with anxiety, panic attacks, fear, worry, and shame, and all that races through my mind from the moment I step outside my door to when I step back inside my door and I can’t help but wonder, “how do they do it?”

How do these people leave their homes so easily? How do these people just walk to their bus stops and subway stations like it’s nothing? How do they get on the transit and they’re only concern is if a seat is available and making sure they catch their stop? How do they manage to just take the bus? How do they manage to be around other people as if it’s nothing? How do they sit there and wait for their stop like it’s no big deal? How do they not worry, and wonder if this will be okay? How do they not worry what others are thinking? How do they not care? How do they not feel anxious if they will be okay? How do they not work to hold themselves up enough so that they don’t pass out? How are they able to sit there so complacent and not have a panic attack? How?

My excursions are plagued by any number of worries, thoughts, anxieties, and emotions, and sometimes it’s bad enough that I can’t even leave the house. But these everyday people, they seem to have none of that. They live and function normally. But how? How are they able to function without a thought? How do they function without anxiety? How do they get up and go about their day without worrying about everything?

I wish I could be an everyday person. I wish I could just go about my day and that’s it.