Sinead O’Connor Isn’t the Only One Struggling Alone With a Mental Illness

2k
2k
32

This week, Sinead O’Connor posted a video on her Facebook page. In it,  she said she felt alone, abandoned and like she was only living not to die. That the “stigma doesn’t give a shit who you are.” It’s an unbelievably raw video and one that hit me hard because, like Sinead, I too have bipolar disorder. And I too have felt the isolation, loneliness and fear that comes with the illness. And the facts are this: 1 in 4 people worldwide will struggle with mental illness at some point in their lives. The WHO states that depression is the leading cause of disability world-wide.

So why do people like Sinead still struggle alone and in silence? It’s mind boggling.

1. Mental health care is not a priority for governments.

The cost of treatment for mental illness is staggeringly high and the irony is, many individuals who are struggling with illnesses such as bipolar disorder simply cannot work. Social assistance barely covers basic necessities, if that. In my experience, treatment is an out-of-pocket expense, therapy costing upwards of 200 dollars per session, and even more if someone requires multiple sessions per week. You do the math. I’ve found many individuals who need immediate care are relegated to waitlists lasting six months to one year. The only option for many is the emergency room where they end up waiting hours, only to be either discharged or held in a facility which does not promote what the individuals needs most: love, care, support, kindness. It is simply to keep them alive until they are discharged back into the world. Alone.

2. Stigma kills.

The stigma surrounding mental illness is still a major issue in many communities. Homelessness, poverty and poor nutrition is a major concern for individuals suffering and we, as a society, have a responsibility to not only refrain from judgment, but to offer compassion and understanding. We have to educate ourselves, challenge norms, question policies and call out intolerance when we see it. By doing so, we help remove the fear many people feel when struggling with mental illness. Therapy appointments should never be hidden. Bad days should never be spent alone. And emergency plans should be implemented among loved ones and friends of those struggling. Mental illness is just that — an illness. It’s just like any other illness and no one is to blame for that. So let’s not.

3. Asking for help should never be scary.

Videos like Sinead’s are not the first and I’m sure they won’t be the last. But what if there was always someone to call? What if asking for help was as simple as saying, “Can you come over? I don’t want to be alone.” We often view asking for help as a weakness or a burden. But the weakness is refusing to offer help. The weakness is looking down on individuals who find the strength to ask for help. Asking for help is a terrifying experience because when we do ask, we aren’t sure how we will feel if we are denied. What will happen if we are left alone? It may make us worse and that is not a reflection of us, it’s a reflection of how we perceive weakness. Asking for help takes courage, but so does saying “I’ll be right there.” We aren’t asking you for a miracle — simply company. Be with us. Let us cry. Hold onto us. Love us and care for us for a while, just as you would with any other sick person.

In Sinead’s words, “if you have a family member suffering from mental illness, care for them, tenderness, love. Care for them. Visit them in the hospital.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead image via Sinead O’Connor Facebook 

2k
2k
32
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Why You Should Build a Support Network for Mental Health Recovery

38
38
0

Mental illness can seem a lonely place to be. Often, it is hard to see through the fog to find our support network and there are times that one does not even exist. Without a hand to hold, it can seem like a daunting road to walk down, but even the smallest of communities behind you can make recovery that little bit easier.

I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of a support network in tackling mental health problems. Throughout my journey in recovery thus far, I have gone through periods where I had next to nobody beside me, and the future consequently seemed dark. Without a network of friends and loved ones who understood and empathized with my struggles, real recovery seemed an impossible feat because the idea of fighting my battles alone felt overwhelming.

More recently, I have put a lot of energy into shrinking my inner circle and strengthening my support structure; this has been pivotal in my healing as I know have a group of people around me who truly do understand my needs and support me in my journey to wellness and, in turn, I always aim to be there in my best capacity for them in their hardships.
However, finding these support networks can be difficult, particularly if you are experiencing a period of crisis; at our lowest points, even taking basic care of ourselves can be too much, so to seek out connections and support from others can be a huge ask.

Recently, I was made aware of a group operating in my city. They’re called S.M.I.L.E – “Social Meets In Loving Environments,” a part of something called The Happiness Project. The project is headed by somebody who has himself experienced the struggles of mental illness. His goal has been to create a safe space for others going through similar troubles to come and find a supportive, loving network of peers to speak freely and openly about what they are going through. These events are held weekly and the intention is to eradicate some of the isolation and loneliness one can feel when in the grips of mental illness.

Especially within big cities, those with mental health problems can easily find themselves isolated and so the visibility of groups aiming to fight this loneliness is imperative. The point of them is not always to provide formal group therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or to act as a gateway to mental health services necessarily, but to allow people with mental health problems a place in which they can socialize and openly talk about their struggles without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. These sympathetic networks of like-minded people be can exactly what somebody needs at their lowest – a hand to hold, somebody to help lift them up a little and walk down the road to recovery with them.

Furthermore, these groups do not have to be formally organized or made up of official bodies or charities. They can simply be a couple of friends grabbing a coffee and giving each other permission to candidly speak in a safe space about their struggles.

Too often, people are afraid to speak up about mental illness because of the stigma and fear of judgments and discrimination. For a long time, I told next to nobody about my mental illness diagnoses because I was afraid of the prejudice and all too aware of the taboo nature of mental health. If we can open up spaces where everybody can talk candidly and freely about mental illness, I truly believe society will take a huge leap forward in fighting the stigmas telling us emotions should be bottled up, our burdens should be our own and mental health problems should be kept a secret because there is something shameful about the struggle.

I commend and admire anyone who participates in such spaces, be they on a larger scale like The Happiness Project, or be they two people who decide to confide in one another and support each other through their struggles. These are the champions helping to take us forward in the fight against prejudices. Though not everyone is in a position to be so boldly candid about mental illness, I believe that through these communities, we can get to a point where it is OK to be open, OK to struggle, and OK to experience mental health problems. Conclusively, I believe we must all strive to be a sympathetic ear, a non-judgmental shoulder to cry on, a loving hand to hold, and support one another in our struggles. I believe this is how we can start to forge a stigma-free society for mental illness.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via fadeinphotography

38
38
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What We Need to Know About Mental Health in Parenthood

91
91
1

“Spider! Spider!” Addy exclaims. Glancing over, I scan the room, quickly retrieving my shoe off my foot, ready for an instant squash if it comes to that. “Oh no.” Chills crawl up my spine, and I take a deep breath. It’s not a spider. I really wish it was. No, this intruder is at least three inches long, hard-shelled, crunchy, brown, has antennae and six legs — a cockroach. Damn. Two years ago, I would’ve screamed while jiggling my body about, shuddering away the inevitable. I don’t know why, but I know that’s what I would’ve done.

But she’s looking at me. And for some reason, she is scared of this “spider” and is waiting for Mama to fix it for her. Wrapping my shockingly steady arms around her, I lower myself to her level and calmly explain to Addy, “It is fine. Mama will remove it from the home. It cannot hurt you. Thank you for letting me know.”

Instantly, Addy visibly relaxes her shoulders and assuredly nods her head in agreement. “Mama take care of it.” I quickly gate off Addy in case the chase goes awry and trade out my weapon of choice for my husband’s loafer, which is lying on the kitchen floor. (Guess he should’ve picked up those shoes after all).

It was on. I will spare you the gory details, but “Mama took care of it” with a swift efficiency of execution I was unaware I possessed. Whew. Crisis averted.

This got me thinking though: how hard it can be for parents, constantly having to present our calmest self possible to our children? Once upon a time (pre-children), we only had to call upon our most put-together version during interactive work hours or social occasions. Personally speaking, I have a lot of “crazy” inside me, which comes out to haunt me at times in bouts of anxiety and mild depression. In the old days, when I was feeling off and not myself, I would hole up in my apartment, avoid social contact that weekend and binge watch television until I felt recouped enough to reconvene with the world. I no longer have that option.

Oftentimes, people speak of the struggles of parenthood in terms of lacking “sick days.” Simply put, you can never check out of being a parent, even if you are sick.

But there is a different type of “sick” that we don’t often talk about in parenthood — one that is not only depleting but all-consuming. I fear a parent’s mental health can be one of the most neglected aspects of his or her life. The conversation is beyond the advocated “self-care” type of “spa day,” “golf day” or “night out.” The issue lies in the patterns created to mask symptoms every waking moment.

It is normal to experience periods of self-doubt and to just have a bad day. Truth is, some days I tell myself I’m awesome, and some days I tell myself I suck. And the truth is… some days I am kinda awesome, and some days I do kinda suck. So that’s fair. But what happens when we are constantly flushing away our internal dialogue without really acknowledging the root of the issue? Well for me, anxiety happens.

Last Friday, I had a bad day. Just “one of those days.” Nothing in particular happened — a small fight with my husband the night before, which we hadn’t had time to resolve before he went to work, followed by an unexpected heap of social anxiety and feelings of worthlessness. What went wrong?

The cockroach went wrong.

All those lovely self-doubts crept into the cobwebs and slowly but surely infiltrated my thoughts. “What am I doing with my life? What will my children think of me if I have nothing to show for myself? I am different. I talk too much. I am desperate. I am not a good person. I am not a good mom. I am not enjoying my children enough. I yelled. Oh my God, I am writing unpaid articles no one one even reads.” You know, the usual…

But I push everything down, put on my smile and dance for my daughter. She has seen me cry. I even feel that it is appropriate for her to understand people have ranges of emotion, but she has only seen me cry when I am sad about “something.” I have never let her see me sad “just because…” because I don’t know how to explain this ambiguity to a two-year-old. So, day in and day out, I filter out all I don’t want her to see and put forth my best brave cockroach-fighting strength.

This last Friday, when I was on the job as a parent (because I am always on the job as a parent), a stampede of unprocessed negative thoughts and emotions swarmed me into an oblivion. Sitting in front of me was a hungry baby I was shakily trying to feed, and clinging to my leg was a jealous toddler who wanted “Up! Up! Up!” As she tried to climb up my leg, while I was spooning food into her brother’s mouth, she crunched the styrofoam plane she was holding in her hand, and her sirens roared. “Fix it mommy!” she sob-begged.

My heart started to race. The room span. I knew I had to “pull it together.” My children need a fully functional mother. So I did. I just shut it out. I bent over to my daughter as calmly as possible, and softly explained, “We cannot fix what you have broken sweetheart, but look, you made it into a butterfly!” Her sobs slowly softened to a high-pitched purr while her lips spread upward slightly, almost resembling a smile. I exhaled and went back to feeding Henry. Usually, this parenting ingenuity would warrant a self-high five, but not this time. I was still feeling “off.”

So I forced the three of us out of the house into what turned into an incredibly overwhelming outing. But it was all I knew to break up the escalating chain of negative thoughts and self-doubt. I needed to completely focus externally on parenting, and figured I would have to wrestle out my internal dissonance when I found some time later. This is parenthood. There are no sick days here.

We are all broken. I have yet to meet someone who is not a little broken in some way. I truly believe it is the essence of our humanity and connectedness. But I worry about the mask we put forth in parenthood, where there is no space to be “sick.” Sometimes I wonder: Do we mold into the confident, assured personas we present to our children? And other times I worry: Are we just putting casts on broken bones we have yet to properly set?

Follow this journey on musclesandwine.com

Thinkstock photo via Hemera Technologies

91
91
1
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To Anyone Struggling With Mental Illness Who Finds Summer Challenging

38
38
0

Summer is here and it feels like everyone is lighting up their BBQ, making their way to the nearest beach or pub garden, putting on their summer wardrobes or inviting their friends over to enjoy the lighter, warmer evenings.

For some, summer brings out the light, bright, relaxed version of themselves. But for others, summer can be a little more challenging. That doesn’t mean to say it is not enjoyable, but it can create some hurdles to jump over.

Unfortunately, mental illnesses don’t receive a kind little note from summer asking them to stay at home to let us enjoy a much needed, sunshine filled, carefree break. Instead, they have a tendency to stick around like an unwanted visitor, no matter how politely we ask them to leave us alone.

There are various challenges that summer can bring that may go unnoticed by many. While some people may be able to pull on their shortest pair of shorts or bikini excitedly at the prospect of getting a tan, others might dread the idea of a summer wardrobe and the issues it can potentially uncover. Body image worries, self-harm scars or eating disorders are just a few of the mental illnesses that may be struggling with this.

For others, even simple acts of self-care, such as keeping our bodies hydrated and nourished, looking after our hygiene or getting adequate rest can be challenging enough, never mind the additional unspoken summer pressures to have “perfect” hairless bodies, smooth, tanned skin and painted toenails. Mental illnesses like depression or anxiety may make these things more difficult than they were already.

Summer can be a time of freedom and fun, but also a time of intense worry and insecurity.

The pressure of what we “should be” doing in summer is another difficult one. We may feel that we “should be” sitting outdoors, sunning ourselves and making the most of the glorious weather. If we want or need to stay indoors, sometimes other, or even ourselves, can make us feel guilty with the idea that we are “wasting” the day or the weather.

There are also summer “should’s” around socializing. When the sun comes out, many times, so do our friends and family. We might feel even more pressure than normal to attend events because it’s such a nice day and everyone else is out in the sun, so why shouldn’t we be too? And if we turn it down, chances are we might be sitting at home watching the sun rays beam through the window as we beat ourselves up about not going.

We need to remind ourselves that struggling with mental illnesses won’t just disappear or fade into the distance as then sun comes out. We still need to be gentle with ourselves and allow ourselves room to grow. Taking care of our body and mind is always going to be important, no matter what the season.


We can still set boundaries and limits, and we can still make time for us. There will be many other days that the sun will shine, so let’s not feel guilty for doing what our minds and bodies need us to do.

Here are some suggestions for surviving summer:

1. Don’t be afraid to say no to things that you don’t feel up to. Stop saying yes to things when you really want to say no. Saying no to something does not require justification and should not be a reason to feel guilty. It is not selfish, it’s essential.

2. Don’t compare yourself with others. It won’t make you feel any better about yourself, and the truth is that when we compare, we become preoccupied with our flaws and deficiencies instead of focusing on all the wonderful things about ourselves.

3. Take a break from technology. Switch off your phone or laptop for a few hours every now and again. Allow yourself some time to be present and reconnect with your surroundings and refocus on what you really enjoy doing.

4. Be honest and reach out. Ask for help if you’re struggling, it is not a weakness – it is actually really brave.

5. Stop negative self-talk. Nothing good ever comes from listening to your inner critic. This often leads to low self-esteem and disappointment. We have no control over what other people think of us, but we have full control over what we think of ourselves.

6. Set aside time to practice self-care. Schedule some “you time” into this summer. Having a day or even just 20 minutes to yourself to indulge in the things that you love can have a positive effect on your well-being and health.

7.There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself.” ― Brian Andreas

With all of this said and done, let’s try and be mindful around those who turn things down this summer. And those who do make it? Let’s celebrate with them and keep the judgement at bay — you just don’t know what struggles they may have fought in order to show up today.

Love,

Ellyse xoxo

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via MariaDubova

38
38
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Rachel Bloom Reveals Her Character Will Get a Diagnosis in Season 3 of 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'

199
199
9

Like many shows, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” addresses mental health without giving its main character, Rebecca Bunch, an “official” diagnosis.

Although the word “crazy” in its title is supposed to be tongue and cheek, much of the storyline revolves around how Rebecca’s mental health affects her life — like when she dumps out all her prescribed medication after moving to West Covina, California to start her new life, frustrates her therapist by only hearing what she wants to hear and self-destructs whenever something goes her way. We watch Rebecca swing from anxious to depressed, but it was never clear if the show was going to address her implied undiagnosed mental illness.

Rachel Bloom, the show’s star and creator, told TV Guide that in order to diagnose Rebecca, she sought the guidance of a therapist, adding:

We went through the steps [with the therapist] and the more we thought about it, there was one particular diagnosis [that felt right]. And not to say that everything’s cut and dry. Almost every diagnosis has shades of other diagnoses… But we realized that we, in writing a character based on the most extreme versions of ourselves and also based on other people we just met, we inadvertently fell into this certain diagnosis. So that was very interesting.

We were fixated on the diagnosis, but what the therapist said is, you know, therapists care about diagnosis, but what they really care about is treatment. What’s going to help this person feel good, whether it’s the kind of technique that we’re going to use in therapy; if they need to go on medication, what kind? So it’s not as cut and dry as ‘you are your diagnosis. You are the thing.’ And I think Rebecca is someone who has defined herself by outside labels her entire life, so I think that giving her a diagnosis is very interesting because that’s going to give her an identity, but also mess with her identity.

The topic of mental illness is a personal one for Bloom. She’s written an essay in Glamour about her anxiety and recently participated in the Child Mind Institute’s My Younger Self campaign, giving advice to her younger self about living with anxiety and depression. In comedy routines, she’s joked about her obsessive compulsive disorder, using humor to talk about what she called the darkest time of her life — proving she’s no stranger to mental illness or its treatments.

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” returns Friday, October 13 at 8:00 PM ET on The CW.

Do you think it’s important for Rebecca to get an official diagnosis? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

199
199
9
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The 13 Eye-Opening Observations I Made After Being Hospitalized for My Mental Health

209
209
4

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

One year ago, I was close to being released from an inpatient program in a private psychiatric hospital. When I was admitted two weeks earlier, the lovely nurse asked if I had been here before. I smiled through my tears and said, “Yeah, but it was just to visit a friend — she was ‘crazy!’” He gave me a rye smile and continued on with his questions.

It was such an eye-opening experience for me. I was absolutely terrified when I was admitted, but when I left, it was almost sad to say goodbye to the place I had started to feel so safe in. At the time, I still felt ashamed of being admitted to a mental clinic. I was ashamed of my anxiety and depression. But now I look back at the experience with a thankful spirit.

Being there did not make me “crazy.” Being there made me, and all the other patients there, brave. These are a few of the observations I made about myself and about getting help while I was there. I hope they might help others who are in similar circumstances.

1. Nothing prepares you for entering a mental health facility. 

It is truly a shock to realize you have reached such a low point that your last hope is to accept hospitalization. Nothing prepared me for the shock of being away from my family and living with strangers — it was quite frightening.

2. Even professionals sometimes think I am “fine” because of the mask I wear.

I noticed that while other patients received extra attention from the nurses, I was left alone except for the hourly knock on my door or glance in my direction to check if I was still breathing. Putting on a mask each morning hid the extent of my illness. I am sure that most of the professionals there questioned my psychiatrists for having such a “healthy” patient admitted to the facility. It made me realize that to get the help, I needed to become more vulnerable and open.

3. I had to realize that I wanted to get better and it’s pointless being there if you don’t do what the professionals ask of you.

Most importantly, it really is totally pointless being there if you do not do what is asked of you and work to get better. I was asked to promise that I would try not to self-harm. I was asked to go to daily therapy groups and asked to see my doctor twice weekly. They were all things that were really difficult for me to do, but it seemed that I would be wasting time and money if I was not going to at least try to start to heal by taking advantage of the things offered to me.

4. It is hard to sleep when you’re on hourly suicide watch.

It is really alarming when you know that someone opens the door and watches you sleep for a few seconds every hour. I was really quite afraid and felt terribly vulnerable, but I also learned that it was possible for people to be trustworthy too. Not once in those two weeks did anyone overstep boundaries and try to harm me or take advantage of my weakness.

5. Hospital food is extra terrible when you have half a dozen food allergies.

I still remember the day the fill in cook tried to tell me that the pizza for dinner was fine for me to have. One look at the cheesy, crispy gluten-filled dish made me shudder. I’m a very sensitive celiac with a dairy allergy, peanut allergy and banana allergy, plus a few intolerances that I try to ignore. There were a few nights where I retreated back to my room and nibbled on the rice crackers that my husband had brought in for me. I lost a lot of weight in those two weeks because I was terrified to eat.

6. Medication is not the enemy.

I had so many bad experiences with medication in the past, including suspected serotonin syndrome, which cause me to go cold turkey off my medication. I was unwilling and incredibly frightened to attempt to find an antidepressant that would work because I was quite sure that there was unlikely to be one. But this time was different, my doctor started me slowly and worked up to larger doses. There were barely any side effects and I started to feel more alert and balanced within a few days. Just because one, or even ten medications, have not worked in the past, does not mean that all hope is lost.

7. Art therapy is very effective.

It was not exactly high on my to-do list, but since it was expected that I would attend at least two to three therapy sessions each day, and I wasn’t keen on going to the relaxation group or yoga, it was essential that the art group was attended. But what I found was that it was rather enjoyable and soothing! The mindfulness and focus needed to repeatedly draw lines and curves to make an image appear was very therapeutic, and something I have continued to do over the past year at home.

8. Mental illness affects all types of people and professions, and addicts are not what I pictured in my mind.

There is no rhyme or reason to who is attacked by mental health issues, and addictions are, in my opinion, simply the result of self-medicating to try and feel better. I saw old and young, male and female, professional and blue collar, and mothers and fathers who were all battling the same things that I was. We were all unique, and yet, the same. Mental illness takes many forms and causes many symptoms. While many of us had the same diagnoses, the forms our symptoms took were so different and varied. I think we all felt lost and alone, I think we all needed help to heal.

9. Doctors can’t help you unless you let them.

Newsflash: your doctors can’t help you unless you let them. You have to be open and honest with them. I had not disclosed my past abuse issues with anyone previously, but after my release from the hospital, I knew it was important for me to do so. Doing this was a big step for me to be able to start healing, because it meant my doctor could understand the reasons I feel like I did. It opened the door to be able to get effective treatment. As much as they probably wish they were, doctors are not mind readers — they can not help us unless we let them.

10. Sometimes you find “therapists” in the most unusual of places.

The first day I was there, the cleaning lady came and gave me the biggest hug and assured me that everything would be OK. I got a hug almost every single day from that beautiful lady. It was something that I came to really look forward too. Her warm empathy and assurance helped me get through and made me feel seen and understood. Even now, a year later, I still think of her and smile. She was a light in the storm.

11. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

Mental illness can sometimes be caused by long term stress. There might even be physical changes to the human brain when it has been exposed to stress, anxiety or depression for a long period of time. These changes make it impossible to “think positive,” or “move on.” It is like you are stuck on a roundabout that you can not get off. There is nothing to be ashamed of because there is often little you can do to control this without help. If you are getting help, you should be proud of yourself for doing so because it is one of the hardest things to do.

12. I felt unprepared and scared to go back to my real life.

At the end of 2 weeks, I had become reliant on the routine of being in the clinic. It felt safe and I was actually frightened of go back to my real life; a life where I needed to be more self-reliant. Thankfully, my dear husband was able to take some extra time off work to help me to readjust, and that helped me to acclimate, but it wasn’t easy!

13. Hospitalization is a stepping stone, not the final destination.

Being hospitalized was not a cure or some magical final destination — it was just a stepping stone toward the right direction. There has been a year of hard work, both from myself and from others, and a lot of pain, heartache and dedication to get to where I am today. Hospitalization gave me a chance to reset, start medication and rest long enough to be prepared to do that work, and I am so grateful that it was an option for me.

If you need help, please reach out and take it from wherever it is offered. Don’t be afraid of hospitalization or medication. Seek out a doctor who you can trust and be vulnerable with. Be prepared for hard work and painful realizations.

You are worth the effort it takes to heal!

Follow this story here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead image via contributor

209
209
4
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.