On Mental Health Awareness Month

One thing I always wonder about is what people think of me once they friend me on Facebook. I meet them in person, and we get along well enough to at least want to stalk each other on the internet, and then they come on Facebook and there I am–not hiding my struggles in the slightest.

That’s another reason I haven’t been posting as much–I’ve been meeting people, and for a time I was worried about how they would react. But it’s almost the end of Mental Health Awareness month, and I haven’t done a goddamn thing, and that’s not okay with me.

You see it all the time–those posts that say “The brain is an organ, and gets sick just like every other organ!” And this is true. The false part is though, that its not just an organ–it’s ourselves, in a squishy mass of gray matter. And this makes it more personal.

I saw a statistic today that I disagree with in a big way–“1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness.”

Everyone is affected by mental illness. Maybe not to the same extent as others, or for the same duration of time, but everyone is affected.

You’re affected when you hear about suicide rates, and wonder how anyone “could be so selfish.” You’re affected when you judge people as selfish, or not, for their actions. You’re affected by mental illness because you’re in contact with other people, and have a brain. You’re affected by mental illness more than other illnesses because of its nature–because it’s not just a gene mutation, or a virus (though they may certainly play a role in risk and cause). Mental illness is a fleeting thought turned pervasive and detrimental. It’s good intentions turned bad, and the belief in falsities.

Mental illness exists because people exist, its potential exists in all of us because we all have thoughts, and we all have beliefs and we all try to do what we think will get us where we want to go. We are all at risk for mental illness, and this terrifies people.

But instead of being terrified of the mentally ill, and trying to distance yourself from the notion of being so, do your best to be aware, and supportive. Don’t judge, but recognize that someone who can’t get out of bed truly feels certain that they can’t get out of bed in the same way that you feel certain that you can’t climb Mount Everest: it may be possible, but it isn’t happening anytime soon. Use the commonalities between people as a source of understanding, rather than a source of fear of comparison.

The thing about Mental Health Awareness is that it (like all the other months of awareness) needs to be more than a month of good intentions. It needs to be an accepted practice.

And to all you who may read this who didn’t know about my mental illness before this, I’ll say this again: while I hope your opinion of me isn’t affected by my openness, or by my mental illness, and my past, if it is remember that before you read about it explicitly I was in your mind no different from you–no less normal.

Mental illness affects us all, and is all around us, and it’s time for the stigma surrounding it to drop.

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Peaks and Valleys and Imperfect Recovery

So I go to a school that runs on trimesters–this essentially means a semester of school packed into ten weeks instead of the 15 that I believe a regular school runs on. One thing this changes is that we take only three classes typically. So what did I decide to do as I work a part time job and spend hours in groups every week? Add a class of course!

I’m still trying to figure out if this was a mistake, but I’m really enjoying it so far. For the first time in a year my worries are “normal!” That’s to say that they’re about school, and getting my assignments done, and getting to work on time, instead of stuff like whether or not to go to the hospital.

What I’m finding though (and what other’s I found out last night in group are finding as well) is that when you’re distracted from the bad stuff, and not concentrating on it as much, its much easier for it to creep back in on you until suddenly, “What the fuck, I haven’t thought about this in months!”

Example A: I’ve been doing pretty well with the whole not bingeing thing. The other day though, I was passing my student center before a class and I suddenly thought, “Wow, I have money on my card. I could go and buy a shit ton of candy and eat it all instead of going to class and no one would have to know.” Know what I did? I went the fucking long way around, where there was no chance of both making my class and going to the student center, and ended up making my class and not getting those bags of candy. But you know what else? I bought two candy bars that night and ate them in my car.

And you know what? That’s a fucking success story, because things don’t have to end up perfectly in order to be successes. I delayed my binge for about twelve hours. And that’s eleven and a half hours longer than I could have two months ago.

And also, that’s recovery right there. Getting the thought, recognizing it as just a thought and fighting it, and maybe losing the fight, but most of the time winning. And I’m finally at the point where I’m comfortable enough to say that I’m in recovery without wanting to figuratively throw myself back under the bus, so you bet I’m going to scream it. I’m recovering, and I’m basicallyalmostalways okay with that, and not only that but proud of it too.

This turned into a sort of rant, but I’m okay with that. Because I think too often we think that we’re the exceptions that are going to “do recovery perfectly” (I certainly did) and we forget that its the upwards trend that’s important, not the minute peaks and valleys of the graph. I’m constantly reminding myself of this and I hope you are too.