My parents have since told me that, at that time, Howie was telling them both things that sounded fearful to the point of paranoia, and that he was frequently agitated and depressed. I remember sitting with my parents at the small, round, cluttered dining room table and asking them, “What’s going on with Howie?” They told me that they honestly weren’t sure, but knew that he was suffering inside emotionally. They told me that they had made an appointment for Howie to be seen by a child and adolescent psychiatrist. I remember them looking perplexed, exhausted, and seemingly helpless to what was going on. It was exactly how I felt.
It was hard to accept my diagnosis. It’s been hard to accept recovery. This is something no one can prepare you for; you have to find out on your own. No one talks about it. The subject is virtually taboo. So I’m turning myself over to my community; we have a stake in the silver linings department. It may be a little early to put out the welcome mat, but homesick or not, I’m already home.
I want to belong to a culture that accepts a person living with a mental illness for who they are rather than opting for stereotypes. Those hackneyed institutions need to be challenged, and who better to do that than us, the people with the diagnoses? We have a voice. Let’s use it.
On the other hand, I can focus like never before. All of my ducks are not only in a row, they’re driving the bus and, for once, I’m not under it. The disordered mind has had a makeover. Complete sentences form in my head, lined up one after the other in a nice, sequential fashion, just like real people only more so. Train of thought not derailed? Unheard of until now. Full steam ahead. And listening? Following along? Gotcha covered. I’m all ears. Making me spectacular date material. Nobody “Friend Zones” a good listener.
What we say and how we say it isn’t just about talking in the safety of our friends who agree with us. It’s about putting ourselves out there when the time is right, when the situation will benefit from it. So go eat something healthy, take a nice walk, and keep those conversations alive. The future of change is in our hands.
So we find ourselves in a difficult place sometimes. How brave do we have to be? I’d say the answer lies in how much humanity we have within ourselves. Getting past the symptoms and the stigma is one thing; reaching out and bonding is another. Both are necessary to move us further along the path to self-awareness and support. Let’s keep those conversations going. Initiate the change with one kind word.
Besides taking the best care of myself that I can, sharing that awareness with others—both those living with mental health issues, and those who love them—actually helps me stay in the saddle. I use the tools at my disposal: experience, strength, and hope. Those of us who’ve been down these roads are the ones who’s voices should be heard first—we’re in the unique position of having something to share from the inside out.
I wanted to be alone, except that I didn’t. I didn’t want anyone to contact me, except that I did. I didn’t want to isolate, but it was all I knew to do. So I stayed in. A lot. No one to talk to—no texts, no calls, no social media, no contact. The blandness of it staggers the imagination. And I didn’t want any of it.
To put things into perspective, it’s been twelve weeks since my last breakdown. That’s eighty-four days since I was admitted to the psych ward, seventy-two since I was discharged. Just a little over ten weeks of being on my own in the New World of a daily anti-psychotic/depression/anxiety medications cocktail. To put it mildly, I’m still adjusting. This is not a game for the impatient.
A lot of people complain for trite reasons about the things they can’t control, they gossip about the things that are alarming and they judge people for the things they do, but if they lived with mental illness they would realize that pretty much any of that is worthless. It serves no purpose other than building them up from a place of insecurity.