41 Truths People With PTSD Wish Others Understood

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Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that will affect an estimated 7.8 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s a psychiatric disorder that can be caused by life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents or physical or sexual assault.

The Mighty wanted to raise awareness and spread understanding of this serious and often debilitating condition. So we, together with the PTSD Support and Recovery Facebook page, asked people who live with the condition what they wish others could understand about it. This is what they had to say.

1. “It isn’t just war veterans who suffer from it. It’s caused by being in any traumatic situation, such as mental, physical or sexual abuse. Car accidents or watching a traumatic incident can also cause it.” — Julianne Parker Jeppesen

 

2. “Some days are worse than others, but those good days don’t mean we’re ‘better’ or ‘over it.’ It’s really not a thing you can just ‘get over.’ Moving past it takes time and a lot of effort.” — Madison Dakota Chamberlain

3. “We don’t do it to irritate, frustrate or otherwise incur your wrath. If we were able to turn it off or not react the ways we do, we would. Believe that.” — Julie Anderson

4. “Telling me my greatest fears aren’t real or going to happen doesn’t help me. I understand they can seem outrageous at times, but prior to my traumatic experience, had I told you something like that was going to happen, you would have said ‘no way.’” — Monika Schneider

 

5. “I need all the support I can get at my lowest points because that’s when I feel [the PTSD] is winning.” — Tricia Hill

6. “I cannot just ‘stop.’” — Allison Hart

7.”It has many forms, not all of which look like what you see in movies.” — Carya Cunningham-Sloan

 

8. “Even though it may be hard to live with my moods and my strange ways of dealing with things, it’s even harder to be me and have to live with my moods and the strange ways I do things.” — Robyn Wright

9. “Even though it’s 13 years since [my sexual assault], when I’m having a panic attack, it feels like it was 13 days ago. It isn’t in my past. It’s in my every day.” — Helen Wilson

 

10. “I want to be my old cheeky self again, and it’s frustrating and upsetting that I can’t get there.” — Sarah Whelan

11. “Sometimes you simply just don’t want to talk about it.” — Jen Long

12. “I have lost my sense of safety.” — Rebecca Wood

13. “Choose your words and actions wisely. You never know when your words or actions will turn into somebody’s constant nightmare.” — Manda Ree

 

14. “Just allow me to cry and mourn, and I will regain my composure and be OK.” — Melinda Garner

15. “Don’t corner me and don’t touch me when I’m anxious. I can’t control this. It controls me.” — Cara Pair

16. “It could take you years to actually face what has happened. And numerous more to overcome it. PTSD is not easy to deal with, much less live with.” — Carol Sides

 

17. “I’m not my diagnosis. I have good days and bad days, but I’m not contagious. I’m just human.” — Patrice Caraway

18. “Many of my decisions today are affected by this condition. I live with bouts of anxiety and hyper-vigilance because of my trauma.” — Michelle Pawson Rotella

19. “He didn’t have to hit me to leave a scar.” — Allison M. Rockwell

 

20. “I did not ask for the things that I’ve been through, and I certainly did not ask my mind to paint and repaint the pictures in flashback form.” — Michelle Groth

21. “It’s disabling.” — Johan Asketill

22. It’s real, even if it’s hard to explain.” — Natalie Hyland

 

23. “It’s exhausting to fight a war inside your head every single day.” — Mickie Ann

24. “I fear everything — what happened and what could happen. I live my life with a constant slideshow of events in my head, and I still don’t know all of my triggers.” — Melissa Cote

 

25. “You don’t need to be afraid of me. PTSD doesn’t cause me to turn into a monster. When I’m triggered I relive my traumatic experience, but I’m still in control of myself.” — Crystal Malta

26. “It’s a never-ending battle. Sometimes you think you have it beat but then something else comes along to trigger it and you feel like you’re at square one again.” — Kristen Abbas

 

27. “Simple little things like a song or smell can be a trigger.” — Selina Bonser

28. “I wish society would stop using it as slang. No, you don’t have PTSD because you saw a spider and it bugged you because you saw ‘Arachnophobia’ too young. It’s not something to be trivialized, and by using it in that way you’re diminishing the struggle so many of us face in getting actual treatment and support for this disorder.” — Tia Maria

 

29. “I wish [others] would understand it’s not their fault and they can’t fix me. And it makes me worse when they get upset or angry about what caused my PTSD.” — Courtney Jade

30. “I hate being touched, but sometimes I’m beyond desperate for a hug.” — Nikki Vee

31. When I pushed people away it was actually when I needed people the most.” — Cindie Anne

 

32. “I have scars you can’t see. I have feelings you can’t feel. I have thoughts you could never understand. When you look at me you see the same person as before, but when I look at me I see a completely different person.” — Pam Berry

33. “I’m not being overly sensitive, looking for attention or making it up. I can’t control how certain things affect me. If I could control it, believe me when I tell you that I would.” — Melissa Goodman

 

34. “I already hate myself, so putting me down for not being normal and judging and criticizing me because I can’t do certain things or can’t control myself does not help not even one bit.” — Jessica Turner

35. “I’m not lazy. I’m just exhausted from fighting my way through every single day.” — MiMi Love

36. “It’s hard to stay here on Earth, but I do for my daughter.” — Nicki Chapman

37. “I’m not angry all the time; I just like to be left alone. I wish there was a magic pill that gave me my patience back.” — Vikki Ob

 

38. “I’m not being manipulative.” — Angie Rigby 

39. “I wish people would be more sensitive. If they cringe at the thought of my experiences, imagine how I feel, having survived it and reliving it whenever my brain deems fit… I wish people would understand how terrifying it is to attempt to find help. The thought of telling your story is instant panic.” — Sandy Burkey

40. “It’s a daily battle that seems you can never win. But you have to keep fighting.” — Chris Dayy

41. “It has nothing to do with you.” — Susan Leona Winder

 

For more resources on PTSD, or for more information about getting help, visit Mental Health AmericaIf you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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A Letter to My Children About My Mental Illness

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To my children,

You may have wondered why I’m not quite like other moms. I get tired easily and haven’t always been there to play. I haven’t taken you to many places. I don’t know what else, but I apologize

When you were very young, I had a psychotic break. That’s when you lose touch with reality. I was thinking strange thoughts, seeing things and hearing voices of people I know weren’t there.

It seemed like it came out of the blue. I kept to myself and didn’t say anything. I was going to work, your father was at home, but no one seemed to notice. People at work asked if I was OK and why I was sad, but that was it.

It wasn’t until Aunt Kim called. You know she’s a nurse practitioner. She recognized I wasn’t making sense and told Dad I needed to see a special kind of doctor called a psychiatrist. He prescribed me medication.

I went to the hospital for a short time. Leila, I know you were worried when I was gone. I’m sorry for about that. I want you to understand so you won’t have to worry if I go to the hospital again.

I have a mental illness. You may be familiar with other words people use like “crazy,” but I’m not crazy. I need medication for my brain to work right. Now, I don’t have those strange thoughts or voices.

I thought I would answer questions as you asked them, but you didn’t ask much. Leila, one day you helped me make a poster for a National Alliance on Mental Illness class. You asked why I was making it and I told you. You just said, “I didn’t know that,” and went back to playing. That was years ago. I don’t know if you remember.

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Recently you made me a friendship bracelet that says DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance). I thought you might ask something when I asked for it, but you forgot what letters I asked for. I do love my DSBA bracelet.

Jonah, I know you’re well aware of my medication. I take you to the pharmacy sometimes. I don’t want you to worry that I’m physically ill. I recently tried to explain this to you, but I fumbled my words. You didn’t want to hear any more.

I want to say how proud I am of both of you. Leila, you are so smart, talented and pretty. Jonah, you are so athletic, funny and hard working. I always worried I wouldn’t give you enough, that somehow having a mentally ill parent would inhibit you. But you are the greatest kids.

If you have questions, please ask. I know you can imagine things worse than the truth. I want to be honest with you. I don’t want to keep my illness a secret from you.

Love,

Mom

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A Message to My Friends, From a Nervous Wreck

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View the original here.

Dear Friend,

I wasn’t always this way.

I didn’t always hide away from the general public for months or weeks at a time. Once, I was quite confident. Occasionally, I felt happy. I had a full-time job and could face customers with no concern. I would chat to people over the phone, make an effort to see friends, be interested in daily life. I could cope with negativity. Overcome it, even. I wouldn’t let anything bring me down because I had something inside me that made me keep going out there, into the world, facing it all.

But sometimes, Friend, things happen. Sometimes just one thing. Sometimes many things. The courage to face these things is strong at first, at least stronger than now. But depending on luck, or coincidence, or fate or opportunity, eventually the voice of that courage for some people becomes quieter. Weaker. And sometimes, silenced completely.

It’s not your fault these things happened. And if you hear the tales of what they were, you’ll likely think you know what could have been done or said to resolve it. But your experience in this life is not the same as mine, Friend. No matter what we have in common, we can never share the exact same perception. Please make sure not to confuse your perception with mine. We are different.

Sometimes I need a break from people. It’s usually the people I don’t know completely, but like, and with whom I want to hold some kind of friendship. I’m already tired of feeling anxious and sad and don’t want you to grow tired of me feeling anxious and sad. I’m sure you care and would be happy for me to confide in you, but I’ve confided in friends before and have been burned and heartbroken in return. I can’t bring myself to take that kind of risk again.

I’m afraid I won’t be good company. I’m afraid I’ll burden you with my emotions which I don’t feel would be fair to you. I’ve heard of your struggles too, Friend, and would like to help you, but I can’t. I take all struggles as if they were my own and my load is already far too heavy. Sometimes my whole world is devoid of any good news, and any conversation we could have would be very quiet on my end. All I can really do is listen, because if I speak I might burst into tears. But I don’t feel strong enough to pretend to be holding myself together right now, so I’d just rather not.

I’m sorry you feel I’ve been avoiding you. You see me comment on social media but I ignore your messages. This is because commenting on social media is usually not personal. It’s a distraction. It’s a way to have adult conversation without the spotlight being on me. I can do it in my pajamas and without doing my face to look prettier than I feel on the inside. I don’t run much risk of having to answer the question, “How are you?”

…because I don’t want to lie to you. That would make me feel anxious when I’m already feeling anxious. I don’t believe in lying to people, especially people I care about. So for that reason, I can’t run the risk of being asked this question.

You may see me posting an update about a group I went to, or am going to go to. Maybe I invited someone along, even though I still haven’t answered your messages. This does not mean I’m feeling better and have purposely skipped you. This doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. My doctor told me to do things in the community so I don’t completely shut myself off. This is what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get myself back into the habit of being seen in public for reasons other than running a quick errand. I’m trying to quell the self-talk in my head telling me everyone hates me and thinks I’m weird. Sometimes when I meet new people and they smile at me, I think perhaps I’m not all that strange. “I can do this… I can do this…” I say to myself.

You see, Friend, with a head full of thoughts like mine, there is no invisible ticket machine. In a perfect world I would answer all messages and requests in order, and you’d be able to know when I’m going to call your number. But that’s not how this works. There’s no ticket, no number and if I can’t shut off the feelings inside me, I might never get to you. Or I could respond to you tomorrow. I really have no way of knowing.

To expect I give you attention specifically is just unrealistic, and I’m sorry. The nature of this beast is that I can’t gain complete control whenever I want to, and give people all the attention they want or deserve. You may be lonely too, and I’m sorry. But I’m training myself to take care of myself and my needs, and to give myself all the attention I deserve. That’s what is supposed to help me recover, or at least cope.

Part of the reason I got into this mess is because I put everyone else’s needs before mine. And they took and took and took some more until there was nothing left, because I was so willing to give. I regret being so naïve. I love to see people happy, but I forget I need to be happy first. You might not be one of those people of whom I speak, but that’s unfortunately irrelevant. I can’t handle any of it yet.

Maybe we struck a friendship during a time when socializing wasn’t so daunting. Maybe you think it’s uncharacteristic of me to be silent and that surely you must have caused offense. But Friend, understand this condition is unpredictable and the best thing you can do is just wait.

There’s no forcing a friendship with me. I need time. I’m grieving that part of me that no longer exists and that bright future I thought I was going to have.

As part of my anxious predicament I’m regretting so many things. Things that are long since dead and buried, things that happened yesterday: The way I reacted to something, the person I shouldn’t have trusted but did, the thing I said that surely must’ve made me look like an idiot. The fact that I feel this way in the first place. The fact that I can’t make it stop. The fact that I’m hurting my friends by accident by apparently turning my back on them. The fact that I don’t have the strength to be what my loved ones need. The fact that I can’t talk to you about this in person because it’s too hard. The fact that I can’t have friends because I can’t talk to my friends and therefore none of them can begin to understand why it’s hard for me to keep friends. The fact that I’m so alone I don’t know when I’ll ever be less alone. The fact that there are people depending on me, who deserve better than a version of me who is afraid of so many things I can hardly function.

I’m trying, Friend, and I’m so sorry if you’re hurt by me. If you want to walk away I understand, but please don’t convey to me the disappointment that I’m not what you want me to be, because I’ve got enough disappointment in myself for the both of us. Just send me positive thoughts as much as you can spare in the hopes that maybe, one day, I’ll be on the other side of this. I’ll be so grateful you were so patient and understanding. When that day comes, I’ll be able to call you a “Great Friend.”

Sincerely,

A Nervous Wreck

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10 Ways Parents and Teachers Can Work Together for a Child With Mental Illness

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Our son Cody began presenting signs something was “wrong” at a very young age. The first “red flag” went up when he was just 18 months old. By the time he was 2 we were becoming more and more concerned, but as new parents we assumed our “Terrible Twos” were just exceptionally terrible.

But the “Terrible Twos” turned into the “Horrible Threes” and the pre-school years were even worse.

Exhausted, we decided to enroll Cody in a pre-school program. As an only child, we thought interaction with other kids would be a good idea. We found a reputable program and signed Cody up. We were thrilled.

But almost immediately, I began receiving phone calls.

“Cody is in trouble.”

“Cody didn’t follow directions.”

“Cody was aggressive.”

“Cody wasn’t able to be still during story time.”

“Cody was written up again today.”

“Parents are complaining about Cody.”

And finally….

“Cody can no longer attend our program.”

And so we tried another school.

And another.

And another after that.

We got kicked out of every one.

I was constantly being told was how difficult Cody was and that I had no control over my child.

But they couldn’t control him either.

I began to internalize the criticism and before long was convinced I was a terrible mom. All the other kids behaved. Why couldn’t I get it right?

My self-esteem was shot.

I can only imagine how Cody must have felt.

I knew Cody was a challenge. I lived with him. (Believe me, I knew!) But I needed respite and I needed help! If I couldn’t handle him and the professionals couldn’t handle him, what were we supposed to do?

Twelve years and multiple hospitalizations later, Cody is now 16 years old. He has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and ADHD, he is oppositional and defiant and he has sensory processing issues. Cody is a sick kiddo, but he is also very smart, very mechanical, incredibly loving and kind. He is artistic and has a great sense of humor. We adore Cody.

And over the years, as we’ve navigated our nation’s failed mental health care system and worked with educators to help our son, I’ve learned some important lessons. Thankfully, I no longer hang my head in guilt and shame. In fact, I am proud to say I’ve learned to effectively advocate for my child. With the help of our school district, we have finally found some success.

Parents and teachers, this is for you. I want to encourage you. You all play a significant role in the lives of children affected by brain disorders. Your partnership is critical to the success of the child. Here are a few of the most valuable lessons I have learned.

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To parents:

1.  Admit there’s a problem.

Parents, if you have a child with special needs of any kind, but especially if your child has a mental illness, the best thing you can do for your child is admit something is wrong. So many parents walk in such grief, guilt and shame that they refuse to admit there’s a problem. By walking in denial you are hurting yourself but more importantly, you are hurting your child. There is no shame in having a mental illness. If your child had cancer, you would do everything you could to help them. Mental illness is no different. Don’t let it be different. If your child has a brain disorder, love them, grieve for them and be honest about it. Help is hard to come by, but it is available. Admit there’s a problem and seek help.

2. Partner with your teachers and administrators.

Once you have determined and accepted there is a problem, your school administrators and teachers must become your best friends. Be kind to them. Encourage them. Talk openly with them about your child. Ask them how you can help them and ask for their advice. Work together. They are your team. You need them and they need you. Most importantly, your child needs you all. Work closely with your school.

3. Remember you know your child best.

As parents, we naturally want to put our trust in the “professionals” and the “experts.” We rely on them to know what is best for our children. But over the years I have discovered even the most well-intentioned professionals do not know my child as well as I do. Listen and heed their advice when it seems appropriate, but if something does not feel right or sound right, remember, you are an expert too! In fact, you are the expert when it comes to your child. Be kind and professional but speak up confidently. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and concerns.

4. Be patient. 

Working with the education and mental health care systems is a process. Mental illness is not treated like any other illness in our nation and as a result our school districts have become responsible. This is wrong. But for now, it’s the system we have to work with. I sincerely believe in most cases, school districts really do try to do what is best for the child. However, they have a process they have to follow, which includes a lot of hoops and red tape to jump through. Follow up with them, but be patient. Work with them, not against them. Earn their trust and let the system do its job. In the end, they have a responsibility to provide a free and appropriate education for your child. Stay on top of them, but be patient and kind. If you work with them, they will work harder for you.

5. Say thank you. 

Teaching is a thankless job. Teaching kids with special needs and mental illness takes thankless to a whole new level. Be sure to thank your teachers. Praise them when you see they’ve gone the extra mile, bring them a Starbucks to start their day and let them know you appreciate them. A simple “thank you” will go a long way.

To teachers:

1. Thank you.

Teachers and administrators, you are overworked and underpaid. Your job is thankless and I know you sometimes feel like a babysitting service instead of professional educators. Your classrooms are overcrowded, sometimes un-air-conditioned and at the end of the day you still have to go home and grade papers. You are important and valuable and while it may not always feel like it, you are appreciated. Thank you.

2. Join our team. 

Teachers and administrators, we need you! Our children with mental illness learn differently than other kids and their illness makes things very difficult at home. Caring for our children will require a team approach. We need you to be on our team. Be gentle with us. In many cases we are living in 24/7 crisis. We are scared, ashamed and we feel alone. We may make your life difficult sometimes, but it is only because we want to help our children and the system does not make that easy. We need you, but more importantly our children need you. You play a vital role in our children’s success. Please join our team!

3. You make a difference, please know the difference.

Teachers and administrators, you’re on the front lines with our kids. Your help is critical when it comes to caring for our children with mental illness. Mental illness is real. Perhaps you know this, I hope you do, but I need to say it again anyway: Mental illness is real. It’s not just a behavioral problem or something the parents are doing wrong. It’s an actual medical condition that requires medication, just like heart disease or diabetes. I cannot begin to tell you how often I have been berated for bad parenting when my child actually has a diagnosable mental illness. Your willingness to understand and know the difference between behavioral problems and actual mental illness is critical to our families. Please help us help our children. Be aware and know the difference. If you don’t know, then talk with us or ask your superiors to provide additional training.

4. Listen to us.

We recognize you are the professionals and the ones with the degrees. We value your input and we trust you to help us help our children. But just as we respect you, we need you to respect us. We truly know our children better than anyone else. Our insights can be a huge help to you. Please listen and take our concerns seriously. Most parents are genuinely well-intentioned. Let’s work together!

5. Don’t give up on our kids. 

The teachers who stand out are the ones who gave Cody a chance. Kids who have mental illnesses are difficult. Believe me, as parents we know! But our children with mental illness are important too. They deserve a chance. So even though your classroom is overcrowded and you’re tired from all the state testing, don’t be afraid to think outside the box to find ways for our children to participate. And most importantly, focus on the positives. Give our kids praise. Give us praise! Your kindness and encouragement will go a long, long way.

To parents and teachers:

Please be willing to admit some kids just need more help than parents can provide. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not the fault of the parents, the child or the school. The child has an illness. Let’s treat it that way. Your willingness to work together and to encourage and support one another is crucial for every child’s success. When a child has a mental illness, there are no easy answers. But together, we can work better and smarter to ensure that every child has a chance.

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Cody’s program completion from residential treatment in Utah.

A version of this post originally appeared on Bold Faith Ministries.

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I Was Left in the Dark After My Son's First Psychotic Episode

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My son did not wake up one morning and ask to have a brain disease. Yet, like unwanted weeds in a garden, this illness took root in his young teen years and overtook the fertile soil of our sweet son’s growing mind. 

When my son had his first psychotic break at the age of 18, we were shell shocked and devastated. How do you prepare for psychosis? Who do you call for help? What is psychosis in the first place, and what is happening to his brain? In our son’s mania, he ran through our neighborhood singing and knocking on neighbor’s doors, scaring them. Eventually he darted out onto a busy street with oncoming traffic. The police had to be called, and I will be forever grateful they subdued him before something tragic happened. Even after he pushed an officer down, they brought him to the hospital instead of jail because they recognized his illness for what it was. 

The very next morning I phoned the hospital where he had been involuntarily admitted by police. I wanted to check on him and speak with a doctor. Naive, I thought his illness was the worst thing we’d have to face. Then, I was met with an ice cold greeting from a staff member: “Ma’am, your son is a psychopath. Give him the number to a homeless shelter and pack his bag.” I hung up the phone and my heart plummeted into a dark pit of despair.  

Through a heavy fog, the next few days were spent immersed in information about mental health courts, involuntary treatment (something not available in all 50 states and counties in the U.S.) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which addresses patients’ rights to health information privacy. Because our son was legally an adult, doctors would not speak with us about his treatment, diagnosis or medications they were prescribing. Neither did they ask us information about prior history. We eventually learned we could give them information, but not one staff person explained this upon his intake.

18. That magic number. Culture and laws tell us that our kids are adults. By the stroke of a pen, 18 is legal. The invisible divide between your parent’s apron strings and freedom. 

Serious mental illness changes almost everything, but not love. No, you can’t change that. Not even when your kid turns 18.

Even though the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has clarified that Health Care Providers may communicate with, as well as receive information from, family members, especially if it is in the best interest of the patient, no such reasonable attempt was initially made with us. We were terrified for our son and completely in the dark.

For example, our son had a rare autoimmune disease as a child. I wanted to request tests and engage in a discussion about possible connections. No such dialogue was sought or welcomed unless our incapacitated son would sign a release of information. As our son was transferred to a third hospital because his psychosis was difficult to treat and stabilize, finally, a kind doctor called my husband and I after his work hours to discuss our son’s prognosis and answer our fearful questions. 

I raised this son. Held him. Stayed up many sleepless nights. Taught him how to read and learn his multiplication tables. Kissed him. Read to him. Played at the park with him. Took him to church. Went to his ball games. Took him to the doctor. Got him all his vaccines. Laughed at his jokes. Corrected him when he needed it. Apologized to him when I blew it. Washed his clothes. Dyed Easter eggs on messy countertops. Stayed up late wrapping Christmas presents. Watched movies I didn’t like. Wiped his sloppy tears and icky nose. Went to his DMV races. Prayed for him and with him. Hoped for him. Cried over him.

But now, because he is over 18, we’re treated like we’re not on our kid’s side.

And we’re OK with this?

I don’t want your sympathy, I don’t want your money. What I would like is your attention, please. This system is horrifically broken. Let’s start here: No one knows my son like my husband and I. And no one loves him more. Turning 18 didn’t change that. The assumption that we merely want to lock our very sick kid away and go on with our merry lives needs to be the exception, and not the rule. 

Yes, we need help from our state. We can’t do it alone. But we also won’t let you do it without us. We’ve seen how that’s been working out. No thanks. 

Homeless shelters are not acceptable. I won’t pack my son’s bags. I drive around my state’s capitol downtown and see the men and women living in the underpasses and eating out of garbage cans. I speak with parents who are the only thing standing between their son or daughter being sent to prison, shelters and yes, maybe death. 

We’ve got to do more than talk and read blogs. We’ve got to support legislation that addresses our hostile mental health system and focuses meaningful change that helps the most seriously mentally ill. In my opinion, The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act addresses the misuse of the HIPAA law by medical professionals and institutions within the psychiatric system of care.

It’s time we used resources to empower those who are some of the best advocates available: the parents.

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The 3 Things I Do When My Anxiety Comes Back

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Any of you anxious peeps will know that when anxiety comes to visit, it’s hard to get things done. Tasks that are normally super easy and short become complicated and drawn out. Decisions take longer to make, and your head and your whole being becomes wobbly and noisy.

It’s vital that you seek help for anxiety and that you learn to manage it as best you can. So what do you do when that old friend is in town? Well, here are three things I do when my anxiety comes back:

1. Accept it. My goodness, this one is hard, isn’t it? But it’s not going to go away just because you are willing it to. You have to accept it.

Two years after I was diagnosed, I spent several intense and exhausting months workshopping acceptance with my psychologist. I hated it because I had to really deal with some feelings and, well, feelings. Plus, I had to be comfortable with my life the way it was. Without changing it. Just accepting it as it is. But once I got through the tough parts, I felt heaps better. So when anxiety comes back to visit, I accept it quickly and acknowledge that, yes, my unwanted bed fellow is indeed present.

Acceptance doesn’t mean merely to tolerate but to embrace life. It literally means taking what is offered. So let it in. I don’t always want to let anxiety in, but when I do, I’m without a doubt calmer. This doesn’t mean that I like where I am right now (I’d love to be even more free from anxiety) nor does it mean that I intend to stay in this space, but if I more freely accept the reality of my situation, I have more of a chance of being able to take action to change it. Acceptance of the here and now is key to this for me.

2. Empty my head by writing things out. I recommend starting to write lists. Even if you aren’t a list-maker or even if you don’t want to adhere to a list, it might help to get that noise out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Sometimes it seems less stressful when it is on paper. The inside of your head can get filled with so many other emotions and little thoughts that the enormity of what actually needs to get done becomes completely overwhelming. So write it down. Get it out. Let it out.

You can also meditate to help empty your head, and this is especially powerful after writing a list. Try the Smiling Mind app to guide you.

Anna Spurling the mighty

3. Give myself time. Then I move on. When I’m having a particularly gray period, I have a little chat with myself. I highly recommend you do this somewhere private because people will look at you oddly if you are just chatting away with yourself over your latte. Once I kind of get an understanding of what’s at the core of my worry and unrest, I give myself a set amount of time to deal with it. I may decide that I can have a day to wallow (this is a guide and is completely fluid, depending on your own head space) and then two days to take action on it. After that, I try to move on and put it behind me.

My management of mental illness requires a great deal of resilience. It is often challenging and always exhausting, but if in the end I feel better, it’s worth the discomfort of a bit of acceptance, list-writing and time.

A version of this post originally appeared on Colour Me Anna.

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