We are privileged to share blog postings from our Ambassador Jessie Close, Adrienne Gurman, Henry Boy Jenkins, and other guest bloggers. Please visit regularly as our content will be updated often.
If you care for a person with a mental illness, how can you help? Begin by listening without judgement, as you would to anyone else. Refrain from attempting to correct the convergence of ideas that their neural pathways create. Just listen. Is there an urgency to the message? You can sense that. Are they showing an emotion you can recognize, despite the nature of the words, the cadence of their speech? Listen actively, without reason. Bring your shared history with you. Bring love.
So, in the light of day, I had to let go of my fears, and hang on for dear life to the only hope left. And that required me to let go of my daughter, to entrust her care to strangers who could hopefully do what I could not. Save her life. Not just in the literal sense of keeping her alive, but also in giving her back a life that she could cherish.
The reasons for self-injury are as varied as the individuals who share this widely misunderstood symptom. People living with bipolar disorder, PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder are all at risk for self-harming behavior. If this is you, take heart. You are not alone, and you can get help.
We have a rule in our family. If you get a song stuck in your head, you are NOT allowed, under ANY circumstances, to share that song with anyone else in the family. Because, of course, that will cause said song to become stuck in said other family members’ head. Of all the rules we’ve had, tried or tossed, this one has been a keeper. Until now. Because I’m going to break that rule, not with my family, but with all of you.
Today, being able to invite my three children and my grandbaby into my home, with nothing to hide, is the most precious gift I have ever given to myself and to them. I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of my children. We have come through the fire of addiction and mental illness and we’ve come out on top.
It is human to offer support. It teaches us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, to let go of ego and give meaning to life. We learn about borders and boundaries, as opposed to fences and defenses. Caring for one another is our collective responsibility. It is a defining component of wellness.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I hope to reveal my mental illness to strangers more than usual this month. I’ll start the conversation by saying, “Do you know that this month is Mental Health Awareness Month? I have a mental illness and I’m so very grateful that we can at least talk about it this month, aren’t you?” Or, if you want to be more brazen, ask “Is there mental illness in your family? There is in mine…”
Let’s get out there and start the conversation. Begin by talking to neighbors, taxi drivers, store clerks, EVERYONE!!!!