I Wear a Red Bra On My Head When I Vacuum.
The Psychiatric Merry Go Round
Just got release from the Psyche ward...again. Third time is the Charm? Somehow I doubt it. Mental Illnesses are manageable but not curable. The trick seems to be to keep the ride going, but not so fast that I get thrown off. Falling off the rails of life hurts. A lot. You can't see my scars, but believe me, they are there.
Coping Skills. that is the phrase we hear so often from doctors, therapists and on TV and in magazines. I am an expert at coping. That is why I am writing.
But here I am in my late 50s. That alone is an accomplishment. If I didn't have some skills, I would be dead by now. They won't let a person into a hospital these days unless he or she is a danger to someone. My someone is me. I can be a danger to myself. Sounds like a song.
The fact is, I can't cope anymore. I don't want to cope anymore. I want to live an emotionally healthy life. Or as healthy as a man like me can live. Its all relative. Sometimes coping IS enough. When I am struggling hard and hanging on by the tips of my toes, coping may be all I can muster. The rest of the time...most of the time, I want more. I CAN do better.
I am a man of many diagnoses. My first official one came in 1994. Dysthymia with severe episodes. I've been told that I have Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Bi-polar 2, Bi-polar with psychosis, Attention Deficit, that I am just plain crazy and am sure I have been called an asshole more than once. I am sure that the asshole part is true. I can be very difficult when my illness gets the best of me. I have isolated any people and lost many friends because of my unhealthy mental status.
I am tired of "coping." My vow is to live healthy. I hope to take you with me on this journey.
If not for my skills, I am sure that I would be dead or possible worse. Yes, I believe that there are worse things than death and anyone who has considered or attempted suicide, as I have, knows what that belief feels like. The feeling of preferring death to the pain.
It takes a lot of strength and will to get to the other side of pain. Then live it again. Then to get to the other side. Then to live it again. Then...well, you know.
The suicide rate for men in my age group is extremely high. Many people associate depression and suicide with adolescence, and it certainly is a problem in that age group. Yet, suicidal tendencies, attempts and successes are at a high in middle age, especially among men.
I trace my disorders back to at least the age of six. Some of my problems are genetic, some are from life lived, from circumstances I did not choose. But I can choose to be and be the best I can. I strive to live life not just endure it. Sometimes, though, enduring and surviving is the best I can accomplish. Is it worth it? Yes.
There are people who love me and need me. Perhaps tomorrow I will meet someone who needs that little something that I can bring into his or her life. In some small way, I am important to this world, or at least to this little space that I inhabit.
I have found, though, that I must discover a reason to exist for myself, not just for others. "Think of your kids." the staff at The (looney) Bin say. I love my four children dearly, but in that time of suffering, I needed a reason to live for myself. I had lived for others all of my life.
So here I am writing this series of articles. I think these will be different in that you will find some humor and lots of personal testimony. There is information plenty on the causes and treatments of mental illness. This will be a little different. I will share the ways I have found that will help us Live a full, healthy life.
What qualifies me to write about coping? I certainly am not an expert from the traditional point of view. I did work in a behavioral health agency for a few years. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development and Family Life. Those experiences have afforded me a certain amount of knowledge.
Each of six siblings has and is dealing with their own struggles with emotional wellness. My mother, although I don't think was ever officially diagnosed, obviously had severe depression. My father was a very "high strung" person. My first wife has severe clinical depression and to date, two of my four children have psychological diagnoses.
Much of what I am compelled to share with the world comes from the experiences I have had from fifty years of anxiety and depression. By society's standards, I am a failure, or at least a big under achiever. My apparent accomplishments are few in comparison to my apparent potential. But for those who know, those who understand the difficulty of living with the severe pain of mental health issues, my accomplishments are profound. I am here and living a relatively happy life. I have been a good father to my kids. I have managed to work most of 34 years. I have a few friends left. The best friends are the ones I have pissed off and have forgiven me.
I am a laugher. I like to laugh and I am pretty good at making others cackle a bit.
I make people cry. Really. But in a good way. I find myself, sometimes, standing in the produce section of Krogers listening to a stranger sob as she tells me about her deceased dog, Lucky. I think I have listened to every widow on my side of town.
My grandkids like coming to papa's house because I have so may toys. I love toys. The McDonalds Happy Meal type. I am kind of fun in that way.
So here I am laying it all out there with you, strangers, family, friends and all of those in between. With social media there are a lot of people in between these days. But I regress.
I am afraid, embarrassed, and excited about writing my "stuff" down. (George Carlin said the real reason we have homes is to have a place to keep our stuff, but I regress, again...Is this what ADD is?) I am going to try to be as honest as I dare in my writing. There is still a big stigma about having a mental illness, especially among men. Please be kind.
I believe strongly in good therapy and appropriate (prescribed) medication. I also know, that for many of us, it is therapy and meds are not enough for us to survive and not enough to thrive.
What I write in these articles will be suggestions. This is by no means meant to be an all inclusive cure for anyone. What works for me may be very different from what works for you. Still, my hope is that my sharing will stir some hope and recognition so that you may achieve as wonderful and blessed life as I have.