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