Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guest post: Mental illness

I have a dear friend who is fighting some mental illness issues. She has taught me so much about courage, dignity, strength and the value of small things. Yesterday, in her own blog, she wrote about how hard it is to feel alone and how much she appreciates those who are still by her side. I read this and thought that these were words more people needed to hear. No one, no matter their illness, deserves to be abandoned.

To protect her privacy I've reposted here with her permission. If you'd like to contact her please leave a comment or send me an email; I'll make sure it gets to her. More importantly, reach out. Our lives are too short and the world is too big to leave each other behind.


Mental Illness?
By J.

I remember when I started slipping this time around it wasn't just me who slipped. It was my friends and family; they slipped away one by one!

First, it was the dinner invites (thank heaven), then craft days (sad), gym dates (sadder still) and finally phone calls and emails. Until I was left, alone, with this power in me - no, scratch that - this power OVER me, that reminded me that I was worthless and deserved every evil thing I did to myself. Every meal skipped was punishment, every mile logged a reminder that I was far away from being someone who was cared for or, for that matter able to be cared about.

***I am going to stop myself here to interject that I do have a husband who stood and continues to stand by my side.

I DID and DO have a couple friends who reached out and, when I couldn't reach back, came and strode beside me.

I also still have a couple friends who, to this day call and come over and probably know of nothing being wrong because my job to them is to be their friend (a role I am okay with so don't think this is pitiful).

I do have friends I have made in ip and at resi who daily amaze me!

I want to touch on a couple of these before I get to my point here.

Hubster = great guy who REALLY doesn't see evil in this world, so to him I'm not sick and it is not something we discuss.

Friends who have reached out and supported (Laura & k) me = there was a period where I thought that they hated/were ashamed of me. That was the eating disorder talking and for a year I was convinced hook line and sinker! A single hug from k (aka the world's best hugger and the only person who has permission to hug me whenever) and a gentle invitation from l with honesty and kindness for thanksgiving broke those walls for me (okay that and they think pupster is cute!)

Friends who never know = this is a hard one for me, part of me loves it and then part of me gets to the "where is the back and forth in this relationship?"

And lastly new friends who only know "crazy joy." I often wonder if (when??) I get better, will they still love me? Or is our desire to injure our bodies, minds, and souls our bond? I believe with a couple it is but I am pretty sure at least 2 (l and n) are for keepers!

This brings me to today! Today, I sat in a church and cried silent tears while in the company of 4 others. Let me repeat that: 4 OTHER PEOPLE! as my cousin Joe was laid to rest!

Joe was wonderful, and sweet, and literal, and loved to dance (he has been taking ballroom dancing for years) He truly lived the simple life, he had childlike virtues and gentleness. You couldn't help but love him! Joe was crazy, he was, I guess you'd say, clinically insane.

As I sat there I was brought to my own funeral - would the handful come? Probably. Would those who had been my "best friends" for years? Or would the stigma of loving someone like Joe, like me, maybe even like you, keep them away? I don't know and honestly, I don't want to.

I started out being very sad with these thoughts and the turnout and then a little bit of Joe reached me and I decided that those people he has danced with for years? Well, this week they'll dance for him. And his girlfriend? Well, I am sure there's a smile or two that will leave her face and land on his. And my sisters? Well, shame on them, I hope they remember that nobody chooses insanity. But I still hope they can send a thought, a prayer, a laugh or a kiss up to an old friend with a child's light!

So I leave with this request: if you have someone in your life with a mental illness (including yourself) please remember them. Cards, phone calls, emails and visits are relatively cheap and yet priceless!

(c)2011 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Laura, thank you for posting this. I think I'm like a lot of people: what I fear, confronted by someone with a mental illness, is that I won't understand anything that's going on inside them -- and so I won't say a good or useful thing, I can't relate to them genuinely. My tendency is to avoid contact so I don't actually do harm.

    This post reminds me that avoiding contact itself can be the biggest harm. Thank you.


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