Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Letter.....

I didn't post last week because I was working on this post. Not because I had writer's block (as I sometimes do) but because I wanted this post to mean exactly what I wanted and needed it to mean and to represent something that I dearly wished someone had said to me in the beginning, when I was first diagnosed. It would have been a help to know that life was going to go on and that I would be able to handle whatever mental illness threw my way, even when many times I was not sure of that fact. Maybe this is but a small window into my life but also maybe it could help anyone else struggling to make sense of their diagnosis and all of the unknowns that follow when you live your life under the label of being mentally ill.

Dear self,

When you are first diagnosed with a mental illness, there are some adjectives you are going to hear that are unflattering and a tad bit scary. You will wrestle with whether or not these adjectives are true. It will be hard and humbling and frustrating. It will be an eye opener to how differently people treat you with your diagnosis instead of how they treat you if you had something physical happen to you like a heart attack. There will be those that do not understand and shun you. There will be those that pity you or fear you. It is almost as if your diagnoses has changed who you are in their eyes and they are blinded by the words "mental illness" and unable to see you through those words. It won't be everyone in your life (thank God) but you will see it. Then and only then, will you come to understand the stigma that surrounds carrying around the moniker of being "mentally ill".

Not to fret, we all have walked down this path and learned which winding roads to avoid and which ones are safe to cross. We have all heard the negative adjectives describing our umbrella diagnoses and we are not impressed. We know them to be false and about as scary as two years old's favorite teddy bear. These adjectives are not based in reality and are completely created by ignorance and apathy. We are not bad, or dangerous, or freaks. We are not weak, or lazy, or attention seeking. We are not broken, or ugly, or damaged goods. That is the stigma talking and we need not listen to it's lies and unfair and untrue accusations. It doesn't matter where it comes from or whose mouths it pours from. We are none of those things. You are none of those things.

Having a mental illness is not something to beat yourself up about. It isn't your fault or because of something you did or did not do. It is not something you can help or something that you choose. It is not indicative of your strength as an individual.  It does not speak for your personality. It does not mean that you have all of a sudden become weak, less than, stupid, worthless, or undesirable. It changes nothing about who you are as a person. All it means is that you have a different struggle to deal with.

Yes, there will be times you are on the floor balling your eyes out and wiping away the snot with sleeve of your sweater wondering ,"What the fuck am I doing? What good am I to the world? What life can I possibly lead? What is the point in all of this?"

There will be times when you believe the negative adjectives stated above because it is so much easier to believe the bad lies about yourself rather than the good truths. Because you now doubt who you are, now that you have a label placed upon your head like a two day old ham hock or a discontinued piece of Tupperware. And there are always ignorant people willing to step on you further when you are already down....be weary of those that trample on you and use your diagnoses as an excuse to treat you like dirt. You deserve better than that.

I can not tell you that life is going to be easy or that you will come out of being mentally ill unscathed. That is not reality. Reality is, that you will struggle against the tides until your arms ache and your chest hurts and you are out of breath. You will try and try and try and fail. You will pray and beg and plead and get discouraged. You will.... and then you will get off your ass and up off of the floor and slowly and deliberately carve out a life for yourself because you deserve a good life. Because you are strong. Even though you can't see it yet. Even though you doubt the validity of that strength. Even though, right now you look in the mirror and fail to see yourself as anything but weak and broken. You will prevail. You will one day see that you are never broken and are incapable of being something as paltry as weak. Because being mentally ill doesn't define you anymore than being diabetic does. Because you were never a quitter and failure is not an option. Because struggling against stigma makes your muscles stronger and your responses wittier and you always have liked a challenge. Because you can only see what you are truly made of in the face of adversity.  Yes, you will struggle....but you will also learn who you are during that struggle. You will learn what is important to you and how much courage it takes to be someone with mental illness and still be present in your own life. To still be who you are in the face of stigma and ignorance. To still be compassionate and kind and brave and honest and open. Because mental illness can do many things but it can not change who you are deep down and neither can other people's judgments and stupidity.

So, don't fret. You are going to be fine. No, you are going to better than fine, you are going to be strong. And you are going to realize that you have a purpose with mental illness. It could be to have your dream job in spite of your struggles, or raise happy healthy kids, or to go back to school and learn something new, or to advocate and fight for others that are just like you. And all of those purposes are just as good as any other purpose in life.   Because, fundamentally, this is your life and it is you who gets to decide just how much you are willing to surrender to stigma and bias. Only you can stand up for you. It doesn't matter if you are in a room full of other people that believe in you, if you don't believe in yourself, it will never work. So believe in yourself, because you can do this. In fact, you already have.

Neurotic Nelly

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


           May is Mental Illness Awareness month! I am glad that mental illness is being more openly talked about because to get help and eradicate stigma we have to be more open and be more in the spotlight to further awareness of all that we go through.

And while we are talking about ways to be more aware of things like mental illness, I wanted to touch on a topic today that isn't directly about mental illness but often times has a negative affect on those of us that suffer. I read comments on news stories often. I play video games occasionally. I am on the internet almost everyday and I have noticed a trend that highly disturbs me.

Apathy is rampant. In this country and in this world, there is a great amount of apathy and that bothers me. It has gotten so bad that I felt the need to sit my twelve year old son down and have a discussion about apathy, not because he is insensitive but because in a world where so many people are I want him to be able to see it for what it is. I want him to be able to pick it out so that he never becomes apathetic to someone else's suffering. Because pain is pain and no one is immune to hardships. Something that I think is paramount to keeping all of us connected and to remind us all that we are all human.

I can not tell you how many times I have read comments about how mentally ill people should all be rounded up and put somewhere like an asylum. I have read comments calling for the sterilization of all mentally ill people. I have read indifferent posts about how mental illness affects it's sufferers but also their loved ones. And my son needs to understand that when people negatively talk about mentally ill people they are talking about me and my mother and my grandmother.

I can not count how many times I have read stories about drug addicts overdosing and read comments that say it is a good thing or that the person deserves it. I have even read a few where people have said they don't feel anything about it at all. And that bothers me because all loss of human life due to drugs and or violence is a tragedy.

It is a shame to me that I have to have this conversation with my child so that he doesn't do what many children have done and just slowly accepted the apathy of the world towards other people and their plights. Not because they mean to or are inherently bad people but because they simply know no better. Whether it be because of race, religion, age, social status, mental stability, life ideals, sexual orientation, or upbringing we are all subject to comments and opinions by those suffering from a bad case of apathy. There is a lack of responsibility for what people say because those that are apathetic hide behind the excuse that it is only the internet and the internet is where such things are acceptable. And that is a bullshit excuse in my opinion.

We live in a world where just stating an opinion or playing a video game can get you bullied or threatened. And often times, it is ignored by those that hear or read it because they feel vindicated that it only being on the internet makes it okay to do so and to not stand up for that person being victimized. In a world full of keyboard warriors, people have become apathetic to the things that are said and that is wrong.

So, as I sat there talking to my child about apathy and bullying I had to find a way to explain that bullying on the internet and those that turn a blind eye to it, are just as guilty as people who would bully you at school or at work. It is the same pain felt as it would be being attacked in person. Because words are words there is absolutely no difference between hearing them and reading them. They have the same affect to the person they are wielded at and we as humans need to recognize that.

I find that people are more prone to being rude and mean online because they sit behind a computer screen and do not have to face the person they are hurting. So, it feels acceptable to them to do harm to others and live behind an excuse that is really no excuse at all.

And to make my point clear that apathetic people often times do not even realize that what they are doing is wrong at first, I used an example.

The horrors of the Nazis did not start over night. If it had, people would have never accepted what was happening to their neighbors and their friends. It started with ostracizing and little yellow stars sewn into innocent people's jackets. Making them stick out and become something to be seen as different. Then it was the removing of their personal property and destruction of said property and propaganda claiming such things were acceptable. And then it was moving them to the ghettos where many saw them starve and die and yet many felt nothing because they were led to believe such atrocities were not only acceptable but the way things should be. And then it became the mass murder of those innocent people whose only crime was that they had been judged to be different....and yet still many were indifferent to their plight.

All of this was allowed due to apathy. Because indifference causes excuses and lack of responsibility. Apathy propagates misinformation and ignorance. And when no one takes responsibility and no one refuses to be indifferent to other people's pain, it is the same as condoning those actions and that is wrong. Apathy is deadly and it must be seen for what it is and never accepted as the social norm.  Even on the internet. Because apathy is apathy and it makes no difference what device spreads it or what source it is written on.

And in truth, we will never truly eradicate ignorance and stigma of any issue as long as apathy is accepted.

It makes me sad to have to have this discussion with my child because in a perfect world he would see these things as being bad and hurtful and yet in this world he sees it everyday. So much so, that people become oblivious of it and blind to it. And I do not want him to ever be blind to someone else's suffering. Because one person's suffering should affect us all and should make us all strive to be better people.

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity" - George Bernard Shaw

To be human is to feel. To be inhuman is to turn away and do nothing. The real question is which one are you willing to be?
Neurotic Nelly

Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy Mother's Day to One and All.....

This Sunday is Mother's Day. I plan to sit around my house and garden, which is one of my passions. I love flowers. I love to plant flowers. I love to stop and smell the flowers. I just love Spring gardening in all of it's dirty, mulch covered glory.

I have to say, and I say it every year, that the women in my family are what made me who I am. Literally and figuratively. I mean, the OCD I have came from my grandmother and the red hair too. She also gave me her stuborness and compassion for others. My mother gave me her wisdom, her kind heart, and her love of all things old and antique. She taught me how to be a caring and loving parent. I get my creativity from the women in my family. I get my strength from the women in my family. Pretty much, anything identifiable about me is because of these wonderful women in my life and I am so very grateful for them. They played both the roles of my mother and my father. My Aunt Patti taught me things about make up and to never be afraid to chase your dreams. She taught me where to apply perfume and about hair products. My sister taught me how to stand up for myself and to be proud of who I am. My great grandmother taught me how to snap peas and shuck corn and the importance of doing for oneself. My great aunt taught me how to love myself and to not accept anyone treating me like crap because I deserve better. My aunt Nick taught me how to love with all of your heart. My dear old family friend Mrs. Jewel taught me how to be silly even when you are old. My wonderful friend Noel has taught me that family is who you love and not always who you are related to and that conversations with the ones you love mean the most and are the best. My sister from another mister S. taught me that time may pass and people may change but a best friend is a best friend for life. Through thick and thin. Always.

All of these amazing women have helped mold me, helped shape my life, and in many ways saved me more than they will ever know. I love them. I owe them everything. I am blessed and I know that. So, this is my way of remembering the amazing women I have lost and also the amazing women I still have in my life. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for being you.

Happy Mother's Day to my loved ones!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there and also to all of the aunts, grandmothers, family friends, sisters, and women of the world! You all are important and you all shape the world we live in.

Neurotic Nelly

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Facebook Test....

Sorry for the absence last week. I have been recovering from being under the weather. I am recovering, albeit slowly and with great determination.


The Facebook Test...

I was minding my own business on Facebook and came across a "how OCD are you" test. I clicked it to see just what ignorant things are supposed to bother me to make me "so OCD". Ya know, because I don't already know what my OCD triggers are. And it was just as I expected. A bunch of things out of order and color coded incorrectly and dirty dishes. Because to people this is all OCD is and it is infuriating.

I took the quiz and because most of things were just asinine and about cleanliness and organization of other people's things, they don't really bother me. Apparently according to the test, I am not so OCD.  Phew, what a relief! I guess I can stop blogging now and stop getting therapy because Facebook thinks I am not a severe OCD sufferer.

And  friend had shared it and I don't want to be as ass but this stuff really pisses me off and it is so inaccurate. Ugh!

And then when I made a comment about how angry these things make me and how they are extremely insulting, I am told by the person that posted, that she too has OCD. And I am so "what the fuck" right now. I mean if you actually had it then why would this be acceptable in any way? How does this not piss you off because it pisses me off to no end. I was asked if I couldn't have been nicer about it, and I guess I could have been but then again sometimes I am fucking sick and tired of being nice about something that I fight to live with everyday. Sometimes I am just tired, and frustrated, and down right pissed. Yes, it is a free country and yes it is Facebook, and yes people are allowed to post whatever the hell they want. But if you are going to post such stupidity then expect for someone to call you on it. Expect someone to get pissed. Expect someone to stand up and call you on your shit because there is nothing funny or amusing about mental illness. Nothing. And my friend said something that really touched me. She said she just has learned to smile through it. And I had nothing to say about that because how many times have I plastered a fake smile over my face and just smiled through it like it wasn't bothering me? How many times have I left things go because I didn't want to upset anyone even though they were really upsetting me? How many times did I let things like these stupid and stigma producing tests go by and acted like they weren't affecting my mental illness in a negative light to others, and I was perfectly okay with it. Or even worse, maybe found it amusing? How many times have I helped to spread the stigma and bias that surrounds all mental illness because it was the easier thing to do? To not stand up. To not rock the boat. To not speak out. How many times have I done that? Too many times to count.

And I have been wrestling with being totally honest lately. I mean, I am honest to a fault but with OCD I tend to not be honest on things like Facebook when I see these tests. I let them go and say nothing. I do things like not explain my mental illness when people find out. I sometimes just go along and pretend that they know how it works and I just let it go. And that is a problem for me because I preach honesty in my blog. I say that silence is condoning the ignorance and yet here I am willingly allowing ignorance to pass before me and I am allowing myself to be afraid of other people's condemnation. Because I am a people pleaser. Because I don't want people to think badly of me or differently about me.  And it has to stop.

I have to stop these tests and explain why they are bad or ignorant or both, every time I see them because it hurts us as sufferers and it promotes stigma. I have to stop being afraid of what my neighbors think, or what the people I went to school with think, or what strangers think about me simply because I take not only a stand but a passionate stand and refuse to be silent. I have to because it is not about me. Not really. It is about all of us. All of us that have this shit handed down to them everyday under the guise that OCD is amusing or fodder for jokes. I have to stand up every time because just as it is about me and you it is also about my youngest son who also has OCD and HE DESERVES BETTER. We all do and the first step is to stop condoning by being silent when we run across things making sport or are spewing ignorance about our disorder. I have to stop wrestling with how much I should say on Facebook and just take the plunge. Let the chips fall where they may and if someone doesn't like it or can't handle the truth then they can just unfriend me because if they can't handle the real me then they don't really deserve to be my "friend" anyway.

Because life is not a Facebook test. This is life and I want my life to stand for something. I want my life to help others and to maybe make life just a tad bit easier for other OCD sufferers. I want my life to help, in some small way, pave the road to a future where we are taken seriously and treated equally. Because all I have is my life and I refuse to allow fear to overcome my truth of what OCD is and is not. No matter how unpopular or uncomfortable that makes other people. Because we are all uncomfortable everyday and maybe it is time for everyone else to suck it up. Maybe it is time for the people that promote this garbage to put on their big boy pants and cowboy up like we do everyday. Because I depend on truth, we depend on truth, my son depends on truth to get better. And that means way more to me then a few people getting upset at me for being honest.

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

10 Ways You Can Help Your Child/Teenager/Loved one With OCD.........

I read an article today that really bothered me. The author wrote about the suicide of her teenage daughter due to OCD but it seemed to me to be very one sided. It read to be more about how much the treatment for her child's OCD cost the author, how long the drives for her child's treatment were, how her child's OCD destroyed her marriage, how it took and took and took from the author. I read this and as a sufferer from severe OCD for over 32 years, all I could think of was the teenager. What about all that she had gone through? What about all that she lost, because I can tell you from personal experience it was a hell of a lot more than the author did. After all, she lost her life to it.  It bothered me that it seemed to be more of an itemized list of things that affected the author and inconvenienced the author but without it really touching on the absolute agony OCD is. This article bothered me for many reasons, but the biggest reason for me was the inability to get on the same level as the sufferer. Don't get me wrong, I believe the author loved her child very much. Maybe she was just unable to understand the immense pain and guilt that OCD causes. Maybe she was pressured for time and just wrote how OCD affected her personally and not how it personally affected her child. I don't really know. What I do know is that the article made me angry and sad all at the same time and it just clarified for me how most people just really do not understand Obsessive Compulsive Disorder very well.

To rectify what I read and found to be almost offensive, I wrote down 10 things that helped me when I was younger and still continues to help me today. This is not advice as much as it is  MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION.

1. Don't say that your loved one's OCD tore your family apart and destroyed your life.
Not everything is about you so do not try and make this about you. A person's mental illness is just about them. You suffer because they suffer but make no mistake, your suffering is no where near the suffering we are going through. If you feel OCD is tearing your family apart, just imagine how much devastation it is causing us. Now imagine being told you are the one tearing apart the family on top of all of that devastation. You can't say something like that and not have the sufferer think it is their fault and that they are somehow responsible for having it. It only makes us feel like more of a burden to you. OCD is different from other mental illnesses, in that, we can tell that our disorder is negatively affecting our families and lives. We do not need you to point that out and make us feel less than because of it. Our OCD isn't something being done to you, it is something being done to us. We feel guilty that it affects you as well but it is not our fault we have OCD and saying something like only makes us unfairly blame ourselves just that much more.

2. OCD does not just pop up overnight.
 We may have less obvious symptoms. Mine started at the age of four. My parents saw it and knew something was off, they just didn't know what. No one wakes up one day and just randomly starts touching door knobs twenty five times. Their symptoms may be more obsessional and less compulsive. Less noteworthy than others. It is not like catching the flu. The signs are there, hidden as they may be.

3. Please DO NOT say that you just wish they would be normal again.
 That is a loaded statement. Once a person has OCD, normal is no longer a possibility. There is no cure. There is manageability. There is learning to live with it. There is having a good life and being OCD although, there will always be both good and bad days. The "normal" part of that person is a fun house mirror. A parlor trick. An illusion with smoke and mirrors. There is no normal, only normal for him/her. Drop the "just be normal" crap. It causes guilt we don't need and only further makes the sufferer feel bad about themselves. We aren't normal and we can learn to live with that fact. It is you that is holding on to an illusion when you say those things. It is your problem of accepting our mental illness, not ours.

4. Being a "tough love" parent is not always a good idea.
 OCD is an anxiety disorder. When we are suffering from anxiety, the very last thing we need is to have more anxiety thrust upon us because you are frustrated. We are frustrated too. Frustrated that we suffer. Frustrated at the pain and agony that accompanies our suffering. And frustrated that clearly you have a lack of understanding of what we are dealing with here. Listen to their doctors/therapist's advice on dealing with your loved one's anxiety disorder even if they point out that something you are doing is wrong. Even if it isn't what you want to hear. Again, this is not about you. Nothing says "I blame you" like yelling and pushing the OCD person to do something they feel they can't do with snide comments or condemnation in your tone. You push them gently, with many supportive discussions. You slowly egg them on with love and affection. They will have to do things they are very uncomfortable with and your job is to be there for them. Not lording over them with judgment on as to why they are failing at it and with contempt in your voice. You do not simply badger and belittle OCD away. It does not work that way and if anything it can make it worse.

5. Stand up for us.
Stigma is real and there be will people who do not believe we have what we have. They will say derogatory things to us or about us. They may try to trivialize or minimalize what we go through. They may make remarks about us being over dramatic, lazy, and or looking for attention. They may be friends, coworkers, or even family members. They do not understand but that does not give them the right to assume they know anything about our disorder or how it works. OCD is very complicated with, often times, several different symptoms. To support us, you need to stand up for us to these people. Educate them if you can. Tell them to fuck off if you can't. No one needs to be accused, discriminated, badgered, judged wrongly, or stigmatized further when they are already suffering from something that makes them feel bad about themselves. This kind of thing can make a bad situation even worse and make a toxic atmosphere for both the sufferer and the one's that love them.

6. Stop rationalizing.
OCD has no rational components. Someone who is afraid of germs may have issues with one place or object deemed dirty to them and not with another. Some one might fear being touched by a white cat and not an orange one. Someone may have to open and close the front door ten times but not the back door. We are aware it makes no sense. That does not make it any easier for us to deal with. Case in point, I am a germ-a-phobe and I hate grocery stores. I don't like to touch shelves there or sometimes even the products I want to buy. I, however, have no issue with the shopping cart even though, I know that the handle of the shopping cart has all kinds of germs on it. My OCD is not triggered by this one object but triggered by other things in the same store. There is no rhyme or reason for our fears. Don't rationalize as to why one thing bothers us and the other things don't. Just accept that the fears are what they are.

7. Educate yourself.
OCD is a mental illness and as such has many different symptoms. There are also varying degrees of severity. Some may be more text book i.e. excessive washing, fears of contamination or germs, touching, counting, checking. There are also less talked about symptoms i.e. fears of being homosexual (or if you are homosexual fears of being straight), harm fears, medical fears, reassurance. There are outward compulsions and inward mental compulsions and just when you think you have your symptoms figured out they can and do change around on you. Unwanted intrusive thoughts and images often plague the OCD sufferer. There is an over abundance of guilt and shame. There are phobias and triggers to panic attacks. Some people do outward repetitive actions to calm their anxiety and some do repetitive compulsions inwardly in their minds. No one is exactly the same and no one's fears are exactly the same. So, what freaks one OCD person out may or may not bother the next OCD sufferer. To help, you should be familiar with the behavioral therapies that tend to be helpful with OCD and also the medications prescribed for OCD. You can educate yourself easily with websites, books, blogs, and doctors. Basically, if someone you love has been diagnosed with OCD then you should be educating yourself to how OCD works. It is so easy to find out more about OCD in this day and age that there is absolutely no excuse for walking around being wholly ignorant about it.

8. Be Patient.
There is no one all to be all cure for OCD. It does not go away over night. It takes years of therapy and finding the right medications to help the sufferer cope....Not months, not weeks, not days but Years. Be patient as we figure out our triggers and work tirelessly to get over them. Be patient when we have set backs, because everyone does. Be patient while we learn how to stand on our own two legs to fight the monster of our nightmares (anxiety). Be patient when we look for reassurances, repeat ourselves or our actions, get upset with something because it doesn't feel right or takes too long. We know these things are frustrating, they are frustrating for us as well, be patient. Be patient with the drug side affects that can make us cranky, bloated, exhausted, or weak. Be patient when we have to do therapies that push the borders of our comfort zones and we freak out. Be patient as we repeat this cycle over and over and over and over and over again. We can't help it and we are working really hard to be more functional.

9. Silence is not golden, it is deadly.
OCD is often thought of something humorous or quirky. In reality, it is a devastating mental illness that brings with it self doubt, frustration, immense pain, shame, and guilt. It can lead to other mental illnesses or coincide with them. OCD needs to be treated, listened to, and talked about. It is just as deadly as depression or any other mental illness. The weird things we do may seem funny to others but they are agonizing to us. They are painful to us. We need to talk about them. The deadliest thing about OCD is silence because if we remain silent we do not get the help we need nor do we help erode the reality of the stigma and bias that surrounds it. Shame keeps us silent. Guilt keeps us silent. Fear keeps us silent and silence is a killer. Let us talk. Listen to what we say. Continue to discuss it with others. Continue to educate to the masses. Never, ever remain silent.

10. Remember we are people too.
Sometimes the anxiety seems so all consuming that people can forget that we are more than just our mental illness. We are people too. We like to do things. We like to be happy. We love, we laugh, we play. We are not just OCD, we are also human beings. We are still the person you love even though we struggle. That never changes.  Remember that although we have a mental illness, we are not just our diagnosis. We may need help but we are strong and resilient individuals. We are productive members of society. We are doctors, lawyers, moms, and dads. We are children and teachers and bus drivers. We are bloggers and authors and painters. We are factory workers, retirees, and mailmen. We are everywhere. We can be anyone. We are humans with dreams and desires and families. We are loved ones who have loved ones. Remember that we are not just OCD people. We are people who just happen to have OCD. And everything that applies to being human also applies to us as well because although we suffer, we are people too.

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We All Are...

My youngest is just like me. He is sweet, intelligent, sensitive and he has an anxiety disorder. Lately, his aversion to going to school has gotten worse. He now has anxiety attacks, just as I did with school.

But he has a chance that wasn't available to me at that age. Now, they actually treat children for anxiety disorders. Thirty years ago they did not. So, while my OCD is firmly ingrained in my brain.....we may be able to really improve his. We may even make his anxiety much less or much more manageable. To do this though, he will have to be in situations that make him extremely uncomfortable. Like going to school.

Last night he was crying as he thought about school and I went through a long list of people that love him. I told him how wonderful he is. How important he is. That he can do anything in this world that he wants if he really wants to. And that these feelings that he has are called anxiety. That they feel yucky and scary and they seem impossible to overcome. But just because something seems impossible doesn't mean that it is. I told him that mommy has the same issues and then I explained to him that anxiety is an emotion that is not based in reality. That whatever he is afraid of when leaving me is not the truth. That the scariest thing at school is a possible paper cut or the cafeteria lunch that smells funny and that he can certainly get over those two things easily. Then I reminded him that tomorrow's day at school would be like all of the other days at school and that just like all of the days before it, he will come home and we will do it all again the next day because if he stays home, the anxiety wins. And it can not be allowed to win because it can make him unable to do the things he wants to do and that is unacceptable. Anxiety doesn't get to have that kind of power over him. It can only be powerful if you let it become powerful.  I told him that we have to be warriors and that warriors do the scariest things in the world. They stand up. They fight for what is right. They never back down. They are scared when they do these things but they do them anyway because they have to. We are warriors because we battle everyday and sometimes we will not win, but we will always get up the next day a try again because that is what warriors do. They fight. They never give up. They are always battle ready. They are always fierce.

And then I took out one of those rectangular pink erasers that you use for school testing and I drew a large "W" with a sharpie marker on one side. Then I wrote his name on the other side so he could take it school in his pocket and if at anytime it seemed like the anxiety was taking over, he could hold it in his hand and it would remind him that  he can do this. He can make it one day at a time. Because he is a warrior and warriors will always prevail.

Everyone has a story and everyone gets the chance to be the hero in their own story. He is the hero of his and in no small way he is also the hero in mine. Because if an eight year old can conquer his greatest fears with the courage of full grown adult armed with only an eraser with a "W" written on it, then I can too. The only thing holding me back is me and my fear and that is also unacceptable because deep down I too am a warrior. We all are.....we just have to stop and remember that sometimes.

Neurotic Nelly

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Truth Is......

It seems to me that whenever a tragedy happens people rush to judgment. They rush to make excuses for one's behavior. They use words like mental illness to describe what could have been the possible culprit. I think it is to make a gap in humanity. To make it seem like normal people could never do what these people have done. I think it is to make others sleep better at night. To label someone who has hurt others so that they don't have to look at themselves and the possibility that they could do something like that as well. It isn't a diagnosis to understand what has happened. It is a diagnosis to separate themselves from those that have harmed. A label. An umbrella word. Infecting everyone who has a label even though it is unwarranted.

The man who drove the plane into the mountain and killed 150 people was labeled depressed. Yet he was on anti-psychotics. Depression isn't psychosis but most people don't know that there is a huge difference. That anti-psychotics are given to psychotics not typical depressed people. The media seems oblivious as they spread out the might be's and why's someone might do such a horrid thing. Someone said depression and now even though, we have no actual proof of his depression, depressed people are getting the side eye. Now, everyone with depression is suspect of being a possible mass murderer. Not because statistics support such a bias claim but because the media and ignorant people are in such a rush to make an excuse for inexcusable behavior. It wouldn't happen if he had a heart problem but because it was a mental problem, it is okay to publicly speculate.

Calling someone's diagnosis something that it is not, is like calling someone's toe cancer, finger cancer. Yes, they are both cancers but they are different cancers. Just like calling someone's mental illness diagnosis  by a different mental illness diagnosis name. They are both mental illness but they are different mental illnesses. It is not one size fits all.

This happens every time some person does the unthinkable. Adam Lanza murdered innocent children and teachers and before the investigation was even finished he had a label. Aspergers. No actual documentation of his disorder and yet it was spread over the news and media as fact. Why? Because it made people feel safer that his evil had a name. A name they put on him to make it seem like his actions were because of an illness.  It did not matter that Aspergers is not violent usually. It didn't matter that the statistics don't support what the media claimed. All that mattered is that it sold more papers, got more views, and riled people up against mental illness. All that mattered is that there was a label to assign. And so they did.

And in doing so, such a label brought a great deal of discomfort to good people that suffer from Aspergers. They were all looked at like they were capable of such horror. They did not deserve such judgment.

There seems to be a great deal of speculation as we reel with emotions of such horrid events and yet what seems to be lacking is a great deal of truth. Truth that sets people straight. Truth that sets people free.

The truth is, people suffering from mental illnesses are more than twice as likely to be victims of a violent crime rather than to be the person committing one. The truth is, that depressed people are far more likely to be a danger to themselves rather than to others. The truth is, that the media slanders the mentally ill anytime something tragic happens because it fits the general consensus that it is us against them and that we are somehow dangerous or different. The truth is that bad people can and do bad things and not all of those people did bad things because of mental illness. Sometimes they just do what they do and no one else with any diagnosis that may be similar has anything to prove. We are not the monsters that go bump into the night. We are just people. We are not dangerous anymore than anyone else.  This isn't our shame to bear. It's their's because they did the unspeakable and devastating things, not us.

The truth is, that mental illness is promoted in falsehoods, quoted with misconceptions, and wrapped in a cloak of invisibility and stigma. If we want to get people the help they need, than we have to stop labeling people that hurt others by their diagnoses. Which only promotes more ignorance and stigma. We have to see that these people did an unforgivable thing but in no way does it mean that other people with those same diagnosis need to be suspect or feared. No one deserves to be punished by other people's actions and no group of people should be sullied by the horrid acts of the few that do not represent us. And I urge you to remember that, as the media continues to peddle it's misconstrued propaganda and sensationalism of our illnesses.

Neurotic Nelly