I wish I could say everything is OK and life is going great, but I cannot…
In some ways life is great, as the days of abuse I put on my children are gone. The whole family has changed for the positive, and we are finding new ways to cope with stressful situations. However, the demon of mental illness is still a struggle for my children and I. This is a very misunderstood illness that is often kept in the closet, and many times for good reason. If you have a medical condition like diabetes, it is understandable when a person says to the host of a party, “I hope you don’t mind but I brought my own sweetener as I am struggling with diabetes.”
Most people do not understand when I bring out my knitting in a lecture type setting. I do this because, before I learned to knit, I would pick my skin or bite my fingernails. I don’t pull out a big knitting project that takes up the whole room, but I do always have a small ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles in my purse. Usually I work on small projects like a belt, a change purse, or a bracelet. Because I already know the patterns, I am still able to concentrate on the speaker, and have found this method to be a very helpful stress reliever.
With mental illness comes many misunderstood comments, and I would like to focus on two that drive me crazy. The first is, when we have a bad day and a fit occurs, there is always someone saying my child is doing it for the attention. Believe me, if we could pick something that would bring us attention in public, it would not be these outbursts. As frightening or embarrassing as it is for you to see me acting this way, it is just as frightening for me because there is no other way to handle it. The embarrassment afterwards is even worse, and I just want to hide in a big hole forever. With medication and treatment I am finding myself more able to control the outbursts so that they are almost invisible. However, it can take a lot of time to find the right medication and treatment. With some medications, your body becomes comfortable and it is no longer helpful. Then you are back to square one trying to find the right fit.
Most medication also has side effects; some you can live with and others are more difficult. One side effect I deal with often is having crazy dreams at night. These I can deal with, and often I laugh at them, but usually I don’t even remember the dreams. Another medication I take is on as as-needed basis for high anxiety. It works well unless I know I have to drive, because the medicine makes me drowsy and knocks me out for up to two hours at a time. I have found it easier to just deal with the high anxiety myself, rather than taking a chance of falling asleep at the wheel.
The second misunderstanding is that we can control our behaviors without medication by just sucking it up. This has gotten better over time, but people still think it. Here is my come back – just as eyeglasses help me to see clearer because without them I am legally blind, without medication I cannot see through my emotions, and I become emotionally blinded when I don’t take them.
Yes mental illness can be a pain, but it does have a few good sides:
I am able to think outside of the box
I am able to be more understanding towards someone who is misunderstood
I am very creative, my children and I are always doing something fun and exciting together
As with anything, please remember to always focus on the good side of people, rather than dwelling on the bad.