Picture a younger version of yourself on one end of a seesaw. Now pretend there is a baby elephant on the other side. Let’s assume you are about the same size (you guessed it, the seesaw represents your state of mental health). The seesaw can go back and forth because you are relatively balanced. As you grew, so did the elephant, and things were pretty equal for some time, for 25 years to be exact. And then WHAM! The elephant hits a growth spurt and overnight, you’re stuck at the top of the seesaw with this giant elephant weighing the other side down, totally out of balance.
“It was good talking to you. I look forward to the meeting” his text said after my phone call with a potential support group participant. “This is really happening,” I said to myself. I was so grateful to [Nick] who had referred him. We just had our first evening support group the Thursday prior. After wrestling with my own mental illness, I am finally at a place in my life where I am able to constructively help other people. These days I often say to myself, “It’s a beginning.”
A lot of people with mental illness are looking for a safe place and having trouble finding it. This is a series about building a safe place from the ground up.
My sister’s wedding was soon approaching, and I was the maid of honor. I helped her plan and celebrate with a bachelorette party that I did not attend because I was in the hospital for a psychotic break. I hosted her bridal shower, but it was a struggle with my continued mental health treatment, and so our mother helped me out. As the month of the wedding came, I noticed my depression associated with my schizoaffective disorder had been progressively worsening. The happiest time of my family’s life became overshadowed by a suicide attempt. And the most unhappy moment for me was waking up in the ICU at the hospital, realizing I was missing my sister’s wedding. Suicidal thoughts are frightening, and my depression mixed with abuse of alcohol led me to act on them. I am choosing to take this failed suicide attempt as a blessing for my life to be fully lived. Not just for my family and loved ones, but for me.
No one had ever told me that recovery would be easy. I was told that therapy would cause me to feel worse for a while because I was confronting things that I had been avoiding. I would be tired. I would feel intense emotions that I had been suppressing. But in time, I would learn to acknowledge these feelings without them knocking me out. They would no longer be a threat. Sure, they were unpleasant, but they weren’t permanent. Realizing that nothing is truly permanent is the tool that has helped me to recover and improve my mental health more than anything else.
Michael Buble’ s Feeling Good.
“…It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good …”
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said:
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely
and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
When I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, the hardest part of coming to terms with it was the difficulty of managing the voices that come and go. Medication plays a large role in keeping the auditory hallucinations at bay, but much of the work comes from the therapeutic ways that I cope with it on a daily basis. Having a thought disorder comes with a lot of stigma, and telling people that I am hearing voices initially made me feel vulnerable to being seen as “crazy” or “nuts” or “psychotic”. However, by using humor, coping skills, a strict medication regimen, and being honest with my treatment team, I have learned how to quiet the voices.