Categories
Family

The Key

A family all in together to support one another with unconditional love

Life..  it’s complicated and messy. No one gets out of here unscathed by the rigors of life. However, not everyone handles life’s obstacles in the same way; largely due to how each of us perceives our life and the lives of the people around us. 

I have always traveled down a difficult path, and some bad things have happened as a result. I am not the only one affected by my path because I have a family, and children who love me. 

When you are in a family, you love the members unconditionally, but unconditional love comes with a price. The often difficult task of understanding and loving the one with the ill mind.

Love can bring a lot of unpleasantness. The reason love can hurt us so badly, is our close proximity to the ones we love.

I wrote a post about perception several months ago. If you read it, you know I think our beliefs, morals, boundaries, goals, everything in our lives, varies, based on how we perceive events in our lives. It amazes me that because of perception, every member of a family can live through and survive the same tragedies, and yet, end up having completely different experiences.

We are hardest on our families. We have higher expectations of them because we feel being in a family has certain implications.

When family has expectations we can’t live up to, and then degrades our capabilities, we feel like failures.

****When someone in the family has been through a tremendous amount of pain, compounded by addiction and mental illness, it alters their life in a way no one can quite understand, unless you have been there.****

The sad truth is that every single person in my family can read the above paragraph and relate somehow. They either went through something horrific as well, battled addiction, mental illness, or they have been affected by a loved ones’ suffering. For me, I became a victim of my own mind, and felt alone, and felt no one could possibly understand. 

The stigma of mental illness and the stigma of addiction often go hand in hand. 

The battles are different for everyone. Some go completely off the deep end with addiction. They are the type depicted in films, books, the media, and unfortunately, so much damage occurs for everyone around them. Not everyone fits that category. 

Never in my life was I compelled to steal from people (especially family), violate, do physical harm, or sell my body for a “rock”, a bottle, or a shot. 

Episodes of mental Illness have not sent me running naked in the streets or caused me to hear voices telling me to chop up my family. People usually don’t know I have issues, until I tell them. 

Research suggests that the majority of people hold negative attitudes and stereotypes toward people with mental illness as well as addiction. Hell, I’m guilty of stereotypical views myself, sometimes. I didn’t realize I was being self-deprecating until I just snapped to it one day. My user name for many of my online profiles is, CrazyinOk82: Stigma was rearing its ugly head, and I didn’t even realize it. That’s how powerful stigma is. 

Often the negative stereotypes are perceptions that people with mental illness are dangerous. This perception is fueled by the media who usually paint violent perpetrators as “mentally ill” without providing the context of the broad spectrum of mental illness. 

What is “crazy”, is that ignorance is not the only thing causing this huge lack of understanding. It’s the damn healthcare professionals themselves. They often hold to the same stereotypes.

This is so frustrating because everyone, especially the mentally ill, look to the professionals for guidance, understanding and support. When their view of you is altered due to rampant stigma, you can’t trust the treatment you receive or stop seeing them. Who is everyone going to listen to anyway? The healthcare professionals, or the “crazy people”. Yeah, you already know.

As long as there is a grain of truth to a stereotype, some people are going to hold it as the gospel truth. 

Meanwhile, families are being torn apart. Misunderstanding and lack of effective communication can cause irreparable harm. Change doesn’t happen overnight, I get that. A great place to cultivate a foundation for change, is at home. 

It’s easier to give your friend a break, be empathetic and understanding, than it is to extend the same courtesy to someone you have been around your whole life. The issues hit too close to home.

Being mentally ill is incredibly lonely. I feel like no one gets me and never will. In everyones eyes, I am just a fuck up. I make bad choices, I’m selfish, lazy, full of excuses, and those are just a few of the lovely gems I have heard coming from “a loving place” in my lifetime. One of the worst things you can say to me is that drugs, alcohol, or my choice of partner are the cause of my issues. Those things are symptoms of a much bigger problem.

When we misunderstand mental illness — and its gravity — we do damage. Rather than give individuals our understanding, compassion and support when they need it most, we intensify their struggle. 


I read an article a college student wrote, likening mental illness to an iceberg. The part everyone can see on the surface: The impulsive behavior, mania, major depression, substance abuse, inability to get out of bed, suicide ideation, etc. 

Under the surface of the water, is a big part of the structure no one sees; obsessions such as; fear of abandonment, fear of causing harm to others and the feeling that something bad is going to happen. The loneliness and depression that is fought almost every day, make it impossible to see any light, sometimes.

It is very easy to focus on things that are superficial and visible, but it is what is anchoring these behaviors, that are the main problem – and this is what the general public should be educated about. 


Alcoholism and addiction are progressive diseases. THEY GET WORSE OVER TIME. Alcoholics didn’t just decide to chug a gallon of vodka one day because everything is so right inside of them. Addicts don’t start out with a needle in their arm. No. Their first drink or drug was the same way it was for you! With friends having a good time! 

I have never met someone who out of the blue, woke up one day and said, “You know what I need? A bag of heroin and a syringe.”


When I tried to speak from my heart about what life is like for me, my sister and Mom became irate and the interpersonal skill of communication, was nonexistent.  They thought I was being self- absorbed because I had been writing a lot instead of paying attention to the family. I validated their feelings , understood, and put my phone away. It didn’t matter.

They don’t understand that sometimes I need to be in this cocoon. Especially, to stay safe from my sister’s powerful energy. She is so angry and internalizes everything. She is also very powerful. When she feels any kind of way, you know it.

The content of what they are saying to me is not helping me. It’s hurting me. Trying to make me feel like less than a human being, or a person undeserving of decency (treatment I get from my sister) and the ever present guilt trip my mother puts on me when I cannot do the simplest things she wants me to do just gives me more feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness when no one understands. 

The link below is what I was attempting to talk with them about, while referencing the importance of my work. Instead of being met with support, I was devalued and told everything I have to say is shit, even when I sat there and took it, agreed with them, anything to make it stop…

Do you know what helps? Not feeling alone or isolated, being validated, supported and loved unconditionally.

According to data from the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in five Americans — 43.8 million people — live with mental illness.    

Luna Greenstein, marketing and communications manager at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says, 

“Storytelling accomplishes more than most probably realize,”It helps people feel less alone, and it cultivates empathy and compassion. “Additionally, it’s a great form of education for the aspects of mental illness that are hardest to understand.”

The only way out of the hole of loneliness with mental illness is understanding from others. 

All I was trying to say to my family is this is why what I’m doing is so important.

I might not ever get through to my sister and mother. That’s a shame because as far as a support system goes, I am seriously lacking. Since I don’t fit the mold they have for mental illness, they don’t get me or realize how debilitating my illness is. I found my voice finally, it only took about 38 years. I know that I am on the path I am supposed to be on. 

My kids will get this, even if not right away, they will. The reason they will, is they’re smart, empathetic, and they have a dad and step-mom educating them and allowing them to form their own identities separate from theirs. It’s exactly the way I wanted to raise my kids. We might not always see eye to eye and that’s ok. Simply aiming for understanding is awesome, progressive, and supportive. I truly hope they know and understand how grateful I am. 

This is not the life I wanted, yet here I am. I’m sorry to anyone who has ever been affected negatively by my words, or actions. Please know, it was never my intention.

Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, its it’s not for them.

Joubert Botha
Watch this TED Talk about Dual Diagnosis. Very eye opening

***I do not want to give the impression my family is horrible. I am simply trying to show the other side of these scenerios. No one ever thinks people with mental illness know how we affect everyone around us. Trust me, the mentally ill get it. ***

****Also,this communication issue needs to be resolved. If you would like more information about loving someone in your family who is afflicted with a mental illness, please click here.

Categories
Mental illness

Fighting Mental Health Stigma

What You Can Do


Photo by: Theresa Carriveau

The Problem


There are so many issues as a result of mental health stigma. At the most basic, stigma discriminates and alienates people who are pretty rough on themselves already.

On a national level, we have a fragmented healthcare system which further alienates the mentally ill. We lack adequate mental health care professionals, and the ones we have are poorly distributed. With the baby boomers aging, medical staff are unprepared for the inevitable rise in the need for behavioral health services.

People of all ages are suffering and often don’t seek help. Their reasons vary from ignorance, lack of resources, fear of discrimination, and some are simply too ill to inquire about mental health care or assistance programs that may be available. This needs to be a problem of the past, and quickly.

The ACE Study shows how childhood trauma affects the course of a lifespan. The more trauma a person experiences as a child, the more likely that person will have serious physical and mental health problems as an adult.

The results of the ACE Study make healthcare for the mentally ill imperative since we know some health problems might be preventable if treatment begins at an early age.

It irritates me that it’s 2019 and much of society and our government view the mentally Ill as dangerous, criminal, and unable to live peacefully among everyone else. However, I understand the main problem is ignorance and lack of understanding.

Many people are suffering in silence due to fear of what will happen to them, how they will be treated, lack of resources and funding.


What Can We Do?


The solution is people working together to reach very attainable goals.

How do we achieve these goals?

Educate. Teach society what mental illness is and what it isn’t.

Talk about it.

Those of us with mental illness need to talk about our experiences. We need to get out to the voting booths next fall. We need to advocate for those suffering from mental illness so they can get the help they need and deserve.

Learn of bills being written or voted on in your area concerning mental health, then write letters to your legislators.

Mental Health stigma is a problem that has gotten better, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Let’s help people… WAKE UP!

Categories
Mental illness

It’s Not Really About Me


I find myself in an all too familiar battle. With me.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m unsure of my purpose. Like I said, it’s familiar, but (whiny voice) I hate it!

Most people can be satisfied by simply conforming to society and cultural norms. The outline is get married, raise a family, work hard, go on vacations, try not to get divorced (although about 50% will) birthdays, graduations, retirement, and then the sweet bliss of death.

Most people find their purpose in there somewhere. They might have their purpose instilled in them through religion or what they have been taught.

We live in a culture that puts children’s needs above everything, so it makes sense that most mothers feel their purpose is their children. Not to mention the human instinct to provide, care, and nurture our babies.

Some might feel their purpose lies in helping others and spend their lives doing acts of service. Some folks live their entire lives only indulging their every want.

My purpose has always seemed relatively clear to me, with the exception of this particular phase of my life.

As a kid my purpose was clear. Be a kid, go to school, get good grades, hang out with friends, make out behind the bleachers.

At 19 I became a wife, and at 21 a mother. At that moment I knew my life was no longer my own. I lived and breathed for my son. Then along came my daughter 2 years later. I thought I had it figured out.

I was wrong…

Through a series of unfortunate events, addiction, mental illness and a nervous breakdown, my now ex-husband was awarded custody of my babies. I was so lost. What was my purpose now?

I met Keith.

It was love at first sight. We were inseperable all but 3 days a week when I stayed with my Mama to give him a break from me. I’m not even kidding. Apparently I’m exhausting.

His struggle with mental illness was conspicuous from day one. We had that in common, but we ended up balancing each other out. It worked.

I could never remember to take my meds, but he reminded me. If I was having a particularly hard time, he set them in my hand.

Keith needed a lot of care and I could always seem to take care of him, even when I couldn’t really take care of myself.

Both of us couldn’t remember our own appointments with our psychiatrists, but I always knew his and he knew mine.

He pulled me back down to earth and I intermittently pulled the stick out of his ass. You get the idea.

When Keith and I began seeing each other he told me he was drinking himself to death like Ernest Hemmingway. I just said, “Well, if that’s what you want. Who am I to interfere with your death plan?”

Eventually, he saw his purpose was to be a good husband to me and mine was to be a good wife. We got sober. We had the kids every other weekend and for the most part, life was pretty peachy.

Mental illness won its battle over my poor sweet husband and he took an early exit. Since his death I have had 2 prevalent phases of “what now”?

The first phase was my “Blue Period”. I was sad. I was so lost that I literally couldn’t breathe. It was like I had to learn a new way to inhale and exhale to remain conscious. Just, lost.

The 2nd phase is my “Pissed Period”. One day I was sad, and then I started thinking about Keith making the choice to check out early, and it filled me with rage. How dare he? He made a promise to me and he broke it. He didn’t simply leave me, he left the fucking planet. He left me to fend for myself and I was suddenly so alone.

I’m coming out of that phase now but still struggling with my purpose. I can’t accept that my life is to be an endless array of fucked up occurrences sprinkled with slivers of joy. Sure, the joyous moments although few and far between, keep me from checking out early, but I need to believe it gets better. I need a reason to want a late checkout with a continental breakfast.

I love my children more than anything, but they are with their Dad and awesome step-mom and although they love me, they don’t need me. That’s a fun fact I had to learn to accept.

So, my purpose? YOU.

I think I need to tell my story and to a lot of people. I want the stigma surrounding mental health to disappear. I’m gonna talk about it. I’m going to talk about the real deal.

No sugar, no bullshit.

If I talk to 5,000 people struggling in silence, and 50 of those people begin to feel someone understands and then 25 of those people ask for help, I have succeeded.

I will never stop. I found it, my purpose.

If you are one of the many suffering with depression, mood swings, mania, OCD, schizophrenia, or have no diagnosis but don’t feel right, please reach out. If you don’t want treatment, there are alternatives. You don’t have to live like this, and suicide causes pain you can not imagine to everyone stuck here. The world is not better off without you. That is a lie your mind has made up. If you truly feel you have no one, or that no one gets it, e-mail me.

sarah.jones@bipolarlivingtoday.com or
inside.my.manic.mind@bipolarlivingtoday.com