A psychiatric service dog is trained to specifically meet the needs of the handler by such things as: identifying what’s real; creating a personal space barrier; calming anxiety; blocking an impulsive, panic driven movement of darting into oncoming traffic; guiding back to safety. There are several wonderful, dedicated organizations that provide the training, resources and funding to connect service dogs with those in need.
When I was all of about 7 or 8 years old, my mother decided that she wanted my two-year older brother, Howie, and I to finally meet her older sister, Phoebe, who had lived for years in upstate New York. She also told us that Phoebe had some health issues. Bless my mom’s heart, but based on cultural, familial, and generational issues, she did not forewarn my brother and I that her sister actually lived in a sanitarium.
I am speaking out today for all the children who should never have to watch their moms fall apart and feel like they don’t matter… As a child of a woman who wasn’t strong enough to deal with things on her own, but didn’t have anyone to lean on. I am speaking out today, as a child of someone who SHOULD have had support. I am speaking out today because my mom lost her life to depression! She missed my graduation, she missed my wedding, and she will never see the smiles on her grandbabies face.
I’m proud of BringChange2Mind for helping to end the stigma of PTSD, which has lingered in my family long after my grandfather’s death in 1967, when I was a 7 year old boy. This is the first time I, or any of my family as far as I know, have ever shared this story outside of our family inner circle. It has hovered over us in many, many ways and still exists. End the stigma!
I have always viewed myself as a strong person. I was the one that people came to when they sought advice, when they needed a shoulder to cry on, and when they cried for help. I took pride in my “role,” it was something that was in my nature (and something that I am pursuing in post-secondary). But, what happens when the person who does the consoling needs help? That was a question I became faced with very quickly.
In both of these situations a huge double standard exists. Private and public insurance companies consider it cost effective to treat psychiatric illnesses utilizing clinicians with limited knowledge and training. And they are NOT willing to provide comparable access to care provided by those who have a deeper knowledge, specialized training and skill sets. To me that is analogous to saying that broken bones should be treated by a family practitioner rather than an orthopedic surgeon.
That lesson is that no matter how small the world around you may seem and no matter how many perfect smiles you see, that behind closed doors we are all human. We each have stories. We each have known pain. There is no shame in being human nor is there shame in having a mental illness. Sometimes it is in opening the door and showing our true selves that we allow the world to open it’s arms and embrace us.
So today, I feel sadness, anger, heartache and relief. But I will not feel fear. I have a healthy fear of fear because of its ability to stifle and constrict me and those around me. I will not fear that illness will rear its ugly head and sideline any of my children as they chase their dreams. I will not fear that acts of terror will strike them down. I will not allow fear to keep me and those I love from living life to the fullest. I will not allow a fear of mental illness, or terrorism, to put arbitrary limits on us. I will not allow fear to win.
Taking the time to listen to my daughter empowered her to be an active part of her treatment team. She learned that she could say ‘hey, I don’t like the way I feel on this medication, can we try something else’? She learned that by explaining to her family and to her psychiatrist what she was experiencing we could all better support her in our common goal of wellness and stability.
In reality, it is BECAUSE of the really difficult, unimaginably painful times that the good times feel heavenly. The words that come to mind are healing . . . forgiveness . . . appreciation . . . living . . . recovery . . . growth . . . strength . . . acceptance . . . love.