25 February 2013

Mental Health Awareness

There is a lot of health issues in my family, physical and mental.
We are definitely not the poster family for perfect health, but we do our best to maintain some semblance of sanity.

My biological dad had schizophrenia.  He worked so hard to keep level-headed, even with moving a lot, and changing jobs a lot, the two things he tried to make certain of were:
That he took his medication regularly, and that there was food on the table.
When my biologic mother left, he stuggled, and had to give my little brother up for adoption in order to be able to afford to continue taking his meds, and keep food in my stomach.
He was also an alcoholic.  Functionally so, but still.  Its kind of a family thing.  He was never violent, or anything, but its something I remember.
My adoptive sister, my older sister, is Bipolar.  Also having a history of PTSD, related to childhood abuse, you'd never believe it all, seeing her when her meds are working.
Recently, her meds have failed her, and she has been in a pretty manic episode.
My nephew is staying with us for a while, so that my BIL can focus on helping my sister.  My niece is in school, still, so she stayed behind, but she is thoroughly occupied, between school, dance, karate, soccer, and piano.
Got a call from my mom saying my sister has been admitted on a 72hr hold, after an incident requiring a visit to the ED.  And they are hoping she will agree to an inpatient treatment program, until her meds can be figured out.  My Mom is struggling, not being able to be there for her, because she doesn't have anyone to hold down the fort (my parents are in the midst of a divorce, and my father has kinda gone off the deep end of "midlife" crises).
Fortunately, my BIL has a great support network, and he has someone who is able to help with my niece, for now.  He is spending his time either at work or at the hospital.

I have expressed to several people, here and in real life, my disapproval of how people treat mental illness these days.  And how those with mental illnesses playup their own victimization.
I don't accept anyone putting others in danger, or harming others because they refuse to seek help.
And I have cut people out of my life who are unwilling to own up and take action to help themselves.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.  And there is no point dying of dehydration in the process.

My Mom is in therapy now, for the first time in her 50+ years.  She is seeking to focus on herself with as much energy as she has spent on others.  She is sorting through the issues entailed in a 30yr marriage ending, in the years she has put herself second, and the 14+ surgeries she has had in the last 25 years, along with the chronic pain she has had that entire time, and coming to terms with what her abilities are.  She has been Superwoman too long, and its taken its toll.  Her last surgery, a week after I deployed in 2009, took 18mo to fully" heal:

Now, I need to put it out there that I am not one of those "Never walked a mile in your shoes" advocates.
I had a LOT of attachment issues growing up, and they still effect my ability to trust people.
After my daughter passed away, and needed to get away from everything, and by no means had the ability to do so.  After selling a bunch of things, just to cover the debt from the funeral services, I went and joined the Army (this was right after 9/11), with no questions asked.
I know that it wasn't the healthiest thing to do, but it was what I thought was best at the time.
A week after I finished my training, I had deployment orders in hand, and within a month of that, I had already seen enough battlefield trauma to last a lifetime.
The 18mo I spent in Iraq matured me, and opened my eyes.  They let me put aside my problems and focus on something else.  They also multiplied my issues.  Upon returning, not only did I have to deal with my daughter's passing, I had to deal with the deaths of 6 of my soldiers, and the deaths and injuries of many who passed beneath my hands.  I came back, and was left to my thoughts.  Alone.  Nothing to avoid them with.

Those 18mo did make me better able to handle what had happened, but it didn't help that I'd put off everything that had happened.  I was dealing with 2yrs of heartbreak, tragedy, success, and failure, all at once.  And it was overwhelming.  I was a 22yo kid, who's life plan was supposed to be law school, not returning from a deployment, and having already lost my own child.
I broke, or more so, I finished breaking.... I'd been cracked for a while.
I took to drinking, first to steady my nerves, then to fill a hole.  That "helped" me cope for only so long, before it felt like what was left of my life was crashing down upon me.  I finally hit rock bottom, and I reached out.  My sister drove 12hrs straight, leaving her newborn at home, to come help me.  Detox was not a wonderful experience.  Living on caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, etc), liquor, and nicotine, and then going cold turkey is NOT recommended.  My sister was there for that first weekend, until my mom flew out to be with me.  There is nothing like having to face your mom in a situation like that, and the praise you give the Lord above, when you don't see judgement or disappointment in her eyes.
She kept me alive, on a diet of sandwiches and water (no sugars, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or anything addictive), through to purging and the withdrawal.  She woke me up from the nightmares, and helped me keep touch with reality.  She got me the help I needed, found me a support group, and we found meds to help my anxiety, and to help me sleep (sometimes).  She got me connected to those around me, something that can be hard to do, coming back from a deployment.  And she got me back to a routine, and some of my hobbies.

I hated the process, and what those things had done to me, and how badly it scared my family.  I knew I never wanted to do that to them again.  And I never wanted to do that to myself again.

 I don't have the greatest self-control, by a long-shot.  I am blunt, and speak before considering my audience.  I diddle-daddle, and can't keep still longer than a minute.  But I still manage to keep straight with my treatment and keep myself in check.  I am an alcoholic, and I've learned to control my drinking, and I only drink in the company of someone trusted, (Wife, Mom, Sister, BIL) who will ensure that I stay within my limits (always do).  I have some mood swings, still, but they are managed, through therapy, meditation, exercise, positive activity, and medication.
I see a Psych doctor every month, see a social worker every 3 weeks, and am currently learning about an osteopathic-type meditation-type treatment for anxiety/PTSD, and I go to group sessions.  Next week I am attending a pilot program (I am one of the test subjects for the new program) which aims to help soldiers vent, and discuss issues related to deployment and the processes, and ways to cope with redeploying, and to  give feedback on things that need to change.

Refusal is not an option in my book, especially when you have people, kids, depending on you to be alright.
I've recently had to deal with a friend who is aware of their diagnoses, but has let their illness take control, and has put their entire family at risk, going so far as to almost causing physical harm to one child, and DEFINITELY causing emotional damage to all their kids.
It is selfish, and abusive, to put innocent kids through what they've gone through, instead of taking a step back, and getting the help they need.

I've gone through these scenarios before, and they always seem to end badly, when there is no proper intervention.
I've had to deal with more suicides than I'd care to admit, and (as a CASA and foster parent, and even having been a foster kid) I have seen the horrible long-term effects these situations have on kids.

Its like watching a ticking time bomb, and I refuse to do that.  And I will be blunt as hell about it.

Mental Illness does not make someone weak, worthless, or an invalid.
You can live a full, happy life with mental illnesses, if you take care of yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. I'm glad you had people to step in when you couldn't help yourself. Beyond that, I'm glad you've continued to take responsibility for your own health.


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