LETTER: Sharing stories of mental healthYou know me. You see me in church, the grocery store or library. We talk on the phone and volunteer together. You might not know that I have a serious and persistent mental illness unless I’ve told you.
To the Editor:
You know me. You see me in church, the grocery store or library. We talk on the phone and volunteer together. You might not know that I have a serious and persistent mental illness unless I’ve told you. You might not even know when things are getting rough, but believe me, I have an incredibly painful and life threatening illness.
Life has its ups and downs (literally – I have Bipolar II disorder).
Sometimes, especially in the spring, I become too busy, compensating for the low energy, poor self-esteem of depression. I become less flexible and feel like I will break.
I’ve been declared disabled and don’t currently work. I need ongoing help with medical expenses (medications are very expensive) and I sometimes require other community supports to function well and independently. Unless you remember the group homes and multiple, long-term hospitalizations, you won’t know how far I’ve come and how much better my life is.
An article in the April, 2012 DISCOVER magazine, revealed that 90 percent of a group of students, followed closely for 10 years, had signs of a diagnosable mental illness at some point during the study. Why is it so unexpected and unacceptable that many of us have biological brain disorders? The brain is just another body organ and things can go wrong with it. Dr. Amen, of public television fame, states bluntly that anything you do to improve your heart or sexual health will benefit your brain. A healthy brain requires good blood flow, good food, exercise, sleep and managing stress.
When my arthritis acts up, I need to review my self-care plan, see my doctor to review my medications and think about restarting therapy (PT). Likewise with my depression. I may still need hospital services for either problem.
Overall, I’m happier, healthier, and hopeful - recovering but not cured. There’s a difference between recovery and cure. People recover. Diseases are cured (sometimes). You can recover without being cured – or even without being “sick” (like the friend who went through the difficult divorce.) We travel unique roads to recovery, but regaining belief in one’s self is common to all. Hope is crucial to recovery, and a powerful motivator. I lived a long time without hope.
My present journey includes sharing hope and support with peers through the Castle Center. Join us next Monday, May 14, at First Lutheran Church for a free workshop that introduces the journey model of recovery. It’s for persons with any serious, chronic illness - (mental or physical); addiction or disability –and is designed for a mixed audience of consumers, families or friends and providers. (Experienced consumers and staff from the Division of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Service and Disability Rights Wisconsin are leading it.) Contact email@example.com oor 714-410-7032 for details.
Westfields Hospital, New Richmond, is also celebrating Mental Health Month with a free public presentation at noon on Wednesday, May 16. They’ve asked NAMI-St.Croix Valley members to present a program called “In Our Own Voices.” Maybe by sharing our stories and talking about our journeys to recovery, we can dispel the myths surrounding mental illness, reduce fear and eliminate discrimination. We all need and deserve hope.