We are taught how to be strong, but we aren’t taught how to be human. Weakness is seen as a bad thing. Loss is glossed over.
We are lying to ourselves and to each other.
In our lies we are killing ourselves.
Sometimes the death is dramatic – A school shooting. A suicide.
Sometimes the death is slower – Fifty years stuck in a job, a marriage, a life that doesn’t fit, doesn’t feel real.
In our desperation to conform, to put on a happy face, we lie to ourselves and deny our basic humanity.
One thing I try to tell people when I visit with them in hard circumstances (a death, a divorce, a dismissal from a job) is “It is OK to say ‘This sucks.'” Invariably they take me up on it.
I think this is what we all need – permission to be honest about our feelings, which is at the core, permission to be human. We spend so long putting on a happy face that we stop knowing what our real face is anymore.
I just found out that a friend I knew from high school has killed himself. Things hadn’t been going well but nobody expected him to take his life.
A few months ago a lady told me that her teenaged stepdaughter had committed suicide. She was distraught over being dumped by a boy.
My father attempted taking his own life several times in my childhood. His grandfather was successful, if you can think of killing yourself as something to succeed at.
These losses are all holes. We are lesser because they are not with us.
I wish there was a better answer than calling the police or the shrinks when someone is suicidal. I envision an intervention, an escape, where people are retrained how to take care of themselves. Not medicine and shock therapy, but true healing. I envision a vacation, a spa for the soul.
I committed myself twice. Twice I knew that I wasn’t well and I sought help. Twice I was in a mental hospital. I didn’t learn anything useful in either one. It was only when I got out and started reading about bipolar disorder for myself that I started to get better.
I wasn’t “healed” when I left the hospital. They let you out when the insurance benefits stop.
I started to heal when I started to take care of myself, but I feel that I should have been taught some of these skills in the hospital. It is hard to look out for yourself when it is your mind that is the part that is broken.
The best medicine is self care, and prevention. I’ve learned that there is a fine line for me for how much I can deviate in my routine.
The basics? No caffeine. Limited (or no) processed sugar. Drink lots of water. Avoid all stimulants. Regular exercise. Creating, in one form or another, every day. Making time to be alone, and time to be with friends. Learning to speak my truth, and set boundaries.
Sure I take my medicine. But I need a lot less than many people because I don’t get as off balance.
When I stop doing what I know I need to do to take care of myself I feel that I “have let my flame get low”. All I have to do to build it back up is to start doing those things again.
These are the skills that mental hospitals should teach. These are the skills that all hospitals should teach.
But until they get the clue, it is time for us to teach ourselves.
Mental health is not an accident. It is a lot of work.