Thursday, May 28, 2015

Perspective

If you had approached my bedroom window fifteen minutes ago, to take a look at the weather, you might have seen three bright yellow goldfinches dart away.  You  may have taken a look at the finch feeder and seen a bright yellow goldfinch having a leisurely lunch.

But here's what I saw.

I love goldfinches.  We used to get them at our feeders way back when we first moved into this house, when A was 3 and B wasn't here yet.  I haven't seen goldfinches at our feeders since we moved back from California in 2003.

This last week has been difficult and tumultous and last night I slept about an hour.  I went back to bed after Brad went to work and managed a few more hours of fitful sleep.  As I was getting ready to go to my class this afternoon, I walked over to window and a flurry of bright yellow caught my eye.  I looked down at the feeder with tears in my eyes and watched the remaining finch calmly eating his heart out and heard God whisper "I see you."

This morning I am praising God for finches, and for the blessing that needed a twelve year wait to reach its full power.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Think, please, for five seconds before this comes out of your mouth, ever.

The conversation goes like this:

Person A:  Yes, I was sexually abused as a child.

Person B: I suspect your abuser was also abused.

Person B is very well meaning.  Person B is alluding to the "well known fact" that abused kids become abusers.

Person B is clearly not thinking about what they have just implied to be true about Person A.  Person B is not meaning to put Person A into that "abused kids become abusers" equation, but I can promise you, Person A is doing it.

Just don't say it.  Ever.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I Have Some Things To Say.

Mental illness vs let's say, cancer.

1.    Consider the differences in these two statements:

a.  I am mentally ill.
b. I have cancer.

From now on, I choose the second phrasing.  I have a mental illness.

2.   Interesting statistic, that has something to do with how stigmatized mental illness is, in this society, but also, to be fair, a bit to do with how weird Facebook can be. 

I post a link, on Facebook,  to a blog entry talking about Brad's cancer.  48 people "like" it, 5 people comment.

I post a joke on Facebook.  25 people "like" it, 3 people comment.

I post a link, on Facebook, to a blog entry talking about  the mental illness that I have.  9 likes,
9 comments.

3.  Brad and I were ill at the same time.  No-one ever suggested to Brad that my mental illness might be a "nice distraction" from his cancer.

4.  No-one ever suggested that Brad try not to think about his cancer so much, or that he was suffering more than he needed to because he was letting treatment take up too much space in his life.

IS THIS THE BEST WE CAN DO, AS A SOCIETY?

Perfectly lovely, well-meaning people who love me and want the best for me have said these things to me.  I have been urged not to talk about my mental illness because I will get hurt.  I have been encouraged to take up new hobbies, to stop thinking about it so much, to pray for guidance as to how to move on.

THESE ARE NOT HELPFUL THINGS.

I have to say - I am beyond fortunate.  I am surrounded by people who care about me, who listen to me when it gets weird, who will answer the phone and know I am not myself, and have a conversation with a traumatized 5 year old part if that's what's needed.  I have a long list of friends I can call when I'm struggling, who will not bat an eye, who will drop everything, who will circle the wagons for me.  And I have those, partially, because I have awesome friends, but also because I'll talk to anybody about anything if I feel like I'm being prompted to, and because I think I know more about mental illness than I did five years ago, and I feel like more people need to understand what it's like.  I spoke up about my illness because that's who I am.

But what about the people who can't speak up?  Who are too ashamed to admit that they're not okay? 

And why did I just write an entire paragraph defending myself for talking about the mental illness that I have?  Why do I feel like that's necessary? It shouldn't be.  The dialogue around mental illness should go like this:

You.  Depressed person.  Suicidal person, who is convinced your family will be better off without you.  Your brain is lying to you.  You are not fatally flawed or irretrievably broken. Some people get cancer, a horrible disease, to be sure, but one that people understand, at least somewhat.  Some people get a mental illness, an ugly messy invisible torment.  You didn't do this to yourself.  Find a way to talk.  There will be less judgement than you expect.  One word, one sentence - ask for help.  Write it down if you have to, and slip it under someone's door.  Suicide is a tsunami of torment for those left behind.   A recurring tsunami.  Your spouse will think they are to blame.  So will your children.  So will your parents.  Sure, it's going to be hard work to heal, but you don't have to do all that work today.  All you have to do today is find a way to say "help."

And help will come.