Tag Archive | support

The Importance of the Reason for the Journey…

Now I can hear some people saying… why is there even a question as to what the reason is for someone getting help for depression/anxiety/bipolar etc? Isn’t it simple? To not feel bad, to not risk suicide or cutting or whatever? To be “normal”?

Well… and this is from OUR circumstances… I am telling you right now, there are OK reasons to get onto the path to healthy… ones that are used and are a starting point but are not a good enough foundation to create a lifelong path to better days… They are a starting point, a trigger to begin but they have to lead to more… and then there is the key foundation reason to go on this epic journey, the one you may find through therapy and discussion or maybe even as an epiphany one day when you are simply trying to make it through the day.

This is not my first rodeo… in fact, in the span of time I have known/dated/been married to Ken I have experienced the lows of depression twice in person and once at the beginning of our friendship via the internet/phone. The first time (in person) he hit bottom it was the realization that he couldn’t leave US… that his thoughts and the behaviour that was becoming more and more acceptable added up to a situation where myself and the children would be without him. THAT reason pulled Ken from his funk enough to seek out help, to stop the cycle and to start anew.

Sadly there wasn’t enough. It was OK that he could sit there in group therapy and say, I need to be better for my family. He could look me in the face and say you and the kids are keeping me here. I know you need me and I need you. This was a start… an opening. But at the time the resources were not there to delve deeper. We got him healthy “enough”. And the help seemed to fade away. This led to years of stability… nothing epic either way, no horrible scary lows but the highs weren’t there either.

This status quo lasted us through Echo’s birth all the way to moving south and changing our lives in a substantial way. This last part triggered this current slide south. The reason, the foundation for his changes was there but it was external. His reasoning was all based on the situation outside his own brain. The kids, myself, the house, our future… all substantial reasons… but it wasn’t the BEST reason.

The BEST reason came with a new therapist and a determination to not repeat our nasty little cycle. What we have found is that to make changes that stick, to really embrace the process of creating a sustainable life plan and avoiding the greater chances of a relapse into depression. The main reason for becoming healthy HAS TO come from within. This time around Ken is getting better for himself. HE needs to be well, not because of us but because in becoming well we all become well. Therapy (and you know I love the idea of therapy) is a look inside at the history of your depression, at YOUR history, your issues, your feelings and insights. That internal appeal is the strongest foundation you can create. Just as the bad thoughts and feelings are inside of you so too must be the drive to change.

Your family and friends are also an important foundation but the most we can do is cheer and support, we cannot change the dialogue, we cannot know that those suggestions are surging or that you feel a certain way. That has to come from inside of you.

Those “OK” reasons are amazing… the knowledge that you have someone or something dependent on you that you don’t want to let down, that you have responsibilities and a burning desire to fulfill them. All these are powerful, but don’t let the external be the sole reason. Children grow up and move away, jobs end, animals pass away… look within. Find the reason within to be strong and stand tall and find joy in life again and that is an even BIGGER gift to those you feel a connection to.

Basically, it is important to find the foundation for your health the same way you find the foundation for faith, for love, for your future: from within. There is something to be said about the saying “you can’t truly love someone until you love yourself”… you cannot be healthy for others until you realize that you must first be healthy for yourself.

As always – for those who suffer and strive to be healthier WOW are you ever amazing! And those who help out along the way – what an amazing gift you are giving. If you need a shoulder on either side of this experience I am here as is my family. And as always comments, suggestion, etc are welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read this!IMAG2427

To Share or Not To Share…

That is a question that anyone faces who has learned they have a medical condition. Be it temporary or life changing. It is not a simple question and there is not a simple answer. I know, I know… after FIVE blog posts regarding depression and its impact on myself, the children and Ken as well it is a little like shutting the barn door after the horses have all gotten out to have this discussion NOW but what can I say? Anyone who knows me in person (and even on chat) soon realizes that what comes out of my mouth can sometimes read like a random stream of consciousness. I am told this is additionally hilarious at parties where alcohol is served REGARDLESS of whether or not I am even drinking at the time. 

And while I say it is a difficult question for many, for us there was only one answer – TELL. At first that was just to simplify our lives, to give a ready and open answer as to why at the time Ken may or may not be working full time, why we were curtailing our activities, why he was gone to so many appointments when people were stopping by (often to visit the kids in Canada in all fairness).

But it became more complicated when you look at the degree of openness… do we share that Ken is gone to appointments in a frantic bid to stop any and all suicidal thoughts and or intentions? Do we allow people to know that he was offered a voluntary entry into a hospital for however many hours because when he walked into the clinic he LOOKED like he was run through the wringer? Do we share that all those appointments are therapy and not just wellness checks? That he is looking at potentially a life long dependency (I hate that term…. maybe lifetime lifeline?) on a medication that helps correct the chemical imbalance in his brain? Do we share how close we may have come to losing one of the lynch pins in our family? Or do we just say “Ken is having a rough time of it so we got some help and are moving on”?

So what did we do? How did we decide? Well it wasn’t like we woke up one day and said HEY, let’s lay it all out! Rather it was a gradual opening up… That Ken was depressed was a no brainer… depression doesn’t only affect us… it affected everyone around us. And people were worried about us… we owed those we loved some sort of explanation now that we had it so they too could understand. And that is where it all began… we wanted people to understand. To this day all I want is for everyone to UNDERSTAND. This is because with understanding we can bring about learning and once people are educated on mental health and know the signs, know the harm ignoring it can cause, they can help. 

Illness is not something that makes you an island if you don’t let it. How do we deal with cancer? We create a support group, we pray for the person, send positive thoughts, offer help and a shoulder to cry one. How can we deal with depression/bipolar/anxiety? Funny enough, the exact same way. But… and this is a big and scary BUT… if we cannot open up and share the diagnosis, share the fragility of our soul and our health, share the fear of something so profoundly life changing… well how can the support system begin?

I say all this being married to a man who can come off as a bit of an extrovert, but is, in his soul of souls, an introvert. It was no easy feat to sit there and say… life has come to a halt… we have circled the wagons and changed our lives for something so huge and scary as an illness that we see no true end to. It will never be easy to meet a new friend/family/associate and know that if we want this relationship to grow and prosper we have to make a few honest statements… 

  1. Ken has a hearing disability (we use disability as the key term as it is quick and easy to grasp) so if he doesn’t seem to follow your conversation and it is noisy (say the pool at the YMCA where we love to be) it isn’t him being a jerk…
  2. We are currently dealing with mental illness. He is doing terrific but it is a process and as such we have a HUGE knowledge of the local mental health and wellness resources. In fact, I often share how blessed we are in our county.

Now not every acquaintance is given the second statement, work associates not so much, someone at church… no… but to make good friends we have to open ourselves up… to admit to weakness is truly a way to show strength… and I believe that wholeheartedly. Those of us who appear the weakest hold some of the greatest reserves of strength and growth. I want you to know our struggle because in knowing it you assist us, you give us the strength through acceptance and interest to educate you, to share with you and to possibly give you some of the tools to see others in the same situation and pass along the help to them.

I think we fear mental illness… we truly know so little about our brains in the overall grand scheme… how they work, how they break, how we utilize them. There is still so much to learn, to adapt to and to grow. And that is GOOD! That means there is hope for those who suffer, a future for those who wish to change and a present for us all to try and utilize more of. 

So do we share? Do we stand up and say… we may not look sick but we are? Do we share and say, “Hey I am dealing with depression” (either personally or through contact with another) and see if maybe, just maybe the other person says.. “Hey me too!”? Do we open up a little bit of ourselves to the public that is scary and sad and maybe a little shy and see if we can reach out to another? Do we stand up and admit we need help, we seek help and maybe in doing so we can give others help? 

I really hope the answer is yes. Do not feel like you are weak, you are strong. You have survived so much. Be it directly or indirectly we have all survived. Ken has found new ways to be the best he can be and in doing so opened some dialogues with others. I, myself have found that in talking openly about my experiences, about the diagnoses and about my feelings about it all I have heard stories and felt support I would never feel otherwise. It is scary and it is huge and at the same time it is small and it is but a step forward. One of many I will continue to take in order for my kids to see it is truly ok to not be ok right now. Because… we WILL be ok later… 

So once again… for those of you who suffer… don’t feel you have to be silent. I and my family are here to listen, to try and understand and maybe, just maybe, say ME TOO! And for those of you who support… THANK YOU! You are life changers and miracles and crucial to the process! 

If you want to read the other posts I have written on this topic I will link them here. They will open in new windows and there are 5 of varying topics THERAPY, FAMILY, THE HEALTHY ONE, THE CHILDREN, and PROGRESSIMAG1016

Therapy… A Safe Place To Be

I know I have brought up therapy before in passing in previous blog posts regarding our journey to healthy living. I don’t know how I can every emphasize enough that medication without therapy is not the optimum solution. It is proven time and time again that you need a full body/mind/soul examination to get on the road to becoming healthy on a LONG TERM BASIS. I can tell you right now, I speak from experience. Not the personal experience of a person unwell, but of the person standing there wishing they could do more but watching while an unbalanced plan simply falls to pieces.

This is not my first rodeo as they say… In the span of my relationship/marriage to Ken this is the SECOND time we have experienced the severe lows of full blown depression. The first time (which is years ago now) we began on the right path. He took himself into the doctor to explain things just weren’t right, he was put on medication (Zoloft or some sort of like brand has, and still works best for him) and taken to a counselor. This is terrific, we were able to stop the world and get him help. BUT in Alberta at the time, this was a stop gap. Said counselor would then (on the psychiatrist’s recommendation) find him some sort of group or continuing therapy within the confines of our location and basic healthcare.

The reality of this is that not all locations are equal. Not every area has enough therapists, or even psychiatrists. I have had friends who simply saw their GP for all medical managing. Ken was placed in an AMAZING group therapy program that worked wonders… for a time… and then the doctor in charge was transferred and the rug was pulled out of the program. Job done, keep seeing your GP, maybe a psychiatrist and we will hope for the best. The reality of that is that it was NOT the best… When someone has not seen a therapist or entered into some sort of counselling program, while the medication may be helping and the severe thoughts quieted, that person is NOT healthy. They are on the path but just like a long hike has signs and tour guides… you don’t drop a depressed person an a stack of pills and say… Cool you be good now.

Left to their own devices are they going to take that necessary medication? Without dealing with the issues that have led them to the horrible compulsions and thoughts do you really think they are just going to poof away because they alerted one doctor (or maybe more) that something isn’t quite right?

We don’t expect cancer patients to just become healthy after a treatment, there is follow up. We shouldn’t expect people suffering from anxiety, depression, bi polar disorders to struggle alone. And that is where therapy comes in. Now I am all for sharing with friends and family. As Ken says – Sharing is Caring… (and then we all groan and I have to hold myself back from decking him), but when you share with a loved one or a close connection there is the risk of holding back (for their benefit and your), the fear of rejection… therapy comes without those stumbling blocks.

Not everyone, as I mentioned before, can afford/access therapy. BUT there are options… if you are religious (or at least open to religion) there are many churches where the minister or someone else within the church who can be your sympathetic ear. That is what they are there for. I, myself have talked to my fair share of ministers throughout my life. They have been a support and a safe place for me during many tumultuous times. Often you can go into your county offices… public health in Canada… they will have posting, pamphlets or even a knowledgeable person who can work out your options. We have found many therapists actually have a sliding scale according to your wage and circumstances.

More and more people are trying online or e-therapy. I do not know much about this version of therapy other than it is a way for people who simply cannot make it in person to carve out an hour and skype and interface with a trained therapist over the computer. Talkspace.com has an explanation with the main reasons why someone may chose this option HERE. In the end what is important is a connection on some level with the person you are talking to. If you can find that via Skype and that works for you, job done. There is further discussion at the bottom of the page linked about TEXTING therapy. I do not know anything about that, nor have I done any research, but I stand by my statement… the form that works for you is SUCCESS not what works for the other people around you.

There is no shame in asking questions. NEVER feel ashamed for working within your own resources to get the very best help you can get.

Of course there is more to therapy than just finding an office. You really do need a good connection with your therapist. We really lucked out with Ken’s she is accepting of his rather, unique humour… she acknowledges and supports our homeschooling and has even worked to implement it into his therapy (creating a deeper connection and healing some of the wounds inadvertently made as he fell into a deeper depression previously)… the connection he forges with her allows him total honesty and in turn we have seen him accept her direction fully and work to truly create a sustainable lifestyle of new patterns and coping skills. This is all possible by a COMBINATION of medication, therapy and the WILL/WISH to be well.

I really want to emphasize this… all these measures, medications and external support are going to come for naught if the person in question does not WANT to be healthy. Therapy is a vehicle to get you on your way but you have to put in the effort (gas) and steer yourself. It is up to the rest of us to work hard to remove the taboo and the fear and disgust some people still see as attached to the idea of seeing help from a professional. I believe it is up to us to educate ourselves and our children on how amazing and productive this choice is. There is nothing to be embarrassed about when you have the strength and the will to seek help. Instead we need to embrace these individuals, celebrate the step and share our experiences. I have seen time and time again when we mention our love of Ken’s therapist that others feel they too can open up or even ask where he goes. It scares and saddens me to think that there are people out there suffering in silence because they don’t feel that they can seek help.

So let’s see… sum up… medication alone is not the optimum way to treat mental disorders… therapy is an amazing tool… there are many versions of therapy and many providers… find what works best and is most affordable for you and RUN WITH IT… therapy is something to be proud of (you have made a huge step and sought help)… this is something we need to teach ourselves and our children…

And as always… our home is open, our love is here and you are NOT alone. Take heart, the journey may feel long and difficult but you don’t have to travel it alone. We love you! Please feel free to share information or suggestions in the comments. I try to check them as often as I can. I could not resist sharing this little meme… There is work to be done and not just for those who are suffering… we need to learn to acknowledge the struggle and not expect them to just… snap out of it.13087730_1891558407737461_5681903751797484645_n