There are people in the world you love like crazy and it sucks when they let you down. Whether it's a selfish behavior, a condescending tone, or just not having your back, these behaviors can leave an already wounded person confused and at a loss for where to go.
I've been very busy, had a severe break from reality, and have been working on art pieces that deal with mental health. Today I had the opportunity to do a much needed pattern interrupt. This would have been at no cost to me and come with a host of benefits: vitamin D, a change in scenery, ability to complete my photography homework, etc. This was important to me and I did not get to go. Before I go into what happened, let me explain about pattern interrupts and about people who leave long term mental health care.
A pattern interrupt is just what it sounds like. It is something to break up the monotony of routine. This is a device especially useful for people suffering bouts of depression. When a pattern is mindless, it allows people to dwell and inadvertently exacerbate their depression. Changing one behavior forces the brain- and thereby all the chemicals- to adjust. Even if it is still the wrong chemical, the change on chemicals can help lift one out of a depressive and emotionally vulnerable state.
How did I learn all this awesomeness? I spent seven months in a long term treatment facility in 2011. When I left, I compiled a wellness recovery action plan or WRAP for short. The plan was given to three people who were even verified by my doctor and signed the document upon receipt.
In the plan are many useful tools for helping your friend or loved one during serious phases of mental and emotional distress. This includes doctors that have cared for them, medicines that work, medicines that don't, triggers, warning signs of behavioral changes, diets that help, calling techniques the person has successfully used, smells, pictures, so much information...
So, I live with one of the people who has a WRAP manual. I generally count on this person to have my back, support me, help me when I need it. I have been in a very dark place these past few months. I have been on the verge of suicide. At one point, I even asked to be driven to the hospital in my car because my hallucinations were bad and I was too afraid to drive. I was told to sleep it off.
I have been informed by another WRAP owner, that this person has never read the book. This person, whom I care for dearly, didn't even bother to learn about my illness and the warning signs. Okay, I know what many of you are thinking: you're a grown up, help yourself. Why don't you just feel better? Aren't you responsible for your own health?
Fair questions. Let me respond.
Yes, at the very root of it, I am responsible for my own health. Part of me being responsible was letting people around me know the warning signs. I liken it to a diabetic having her friends notice her shaking and telling her to check her insulin levels. Noticing one thing could potentially save someone you love. Letting my loved ones know was my attempt at securing the help I need even faster instead of waiting until it was too late. You would help someone who broke their leg, right? I had a break from reality.
And contrary to popular belief, mental illness is real. People with asthma can't think their airways clear, people with cancer aren't being dramatic, people with the flu aren't doing it for attention. Quit saying that about my brain. It is also an organ and capable of sickness.
So, back to today.
I had a friend of mine offer just what I was needed (see pattern interrupt above) and I said yes. Person one decided I couldn't because we always have the same plans Thursdays and I can't just cancel. There was even a mini guilt trip. Okay. This is important to you. Fine. I'm confused.
It's okay. I won't commit suicide today and I have my tattoo to thank for it. I have to believe every single day that I'm going to be okay.
I had a stranger walk up to me Tuesday evening and said she saw that I looked lost.. I wasn't crying or pouting, I was standing next to my car. She gave me a hug. She said, "it's okay."
I was shocked. This stranger reminded me that there is hope. We can help each other. We should help each other.
I believe I will move on.
I believe I will find a group of people that care about others instead of just taking from others.
I believe that mental illness can be treated.
I believe that we need to talk about it more and educate people about early symptoms.
I believe I will make it out alive.
My illness doesn't define me but how you react to my illness says a lot about you. Educate yourselves. It could save a life.