For the nearly 35 years I have been battling this disease of mental illness, I have heard many people, including family and friends, use the term “snap out of it”, or, “I thought you were ‘all better’ now?”. Early on, I would not know what to say. Now days, I stand up for myself and tell them; “I can only try to control it…there IS no cure, yet."
My battle came to a head in 2010, when after losing a job, and going through trouble at home, I spiraled even further down and lost hope. Hope is the one thing that can keep someone trying, no matter what. But once its gone, or seemingly gone; that’s it. I found myself deciding that enough was enough, and planned to commit suicide.
I didn’t have the guts to do it myself, but clearly, unmistakably, KNEW I wanted to be dead. So, much like the person who cannot stand to receive a "needle”, or, “shot” at the doctor, but knows they MUST get one, I decided to commit suicide by cop. The rationale, much like the vaccination, being; I would turn my head (so to speak), and then what I wanted would be done for me. I wouldn’t need to worry about having the guts, nor going through with it, once the process began.
The details and too graphic and not necessary for this particular story, just suffice to say, that in the process, I ended up not only almost getting my wish, but I hurt my wife physically in the process because I was extremely intoxicated. Since I had planned it for some time, I drank and took way too much medication, because I knew that I was going to be taking a bullet that night, and I was not going to do it sober. This led to me being not only uncaring, as I knew I would be dead in a matter of minutes, but extremely violent, and to be honest, why would I care; I was going to die soon. All my anger came pouring out.
In the midst of the incident, I had a moment of clarity, where everything seemed to stop for an instant, and I thought of the people I would be, and already did hurt, by going through with it, and I surrendered to police.
Unfortunately for me, I was charged with menacing and possession of a firearm. Even with doctors testimony to my years of mental illness, I was sentence in accordance with the “mandatory sentence” of 3 years in prison, of which I served two and a half. I had never been to jail in my entire life and it changed me
It was during that time that I made a conscious effort to not just sit in my cell watching TV or eating, but to take an honest look at my illness and what I could do to change how it controlled my life. That was when I began to do the hardest thing there is and that is learn that it CAN be controlled if you learn the right tools and coping skills and never deviate from what works for you.
I was always of the school of thought that medication was NOT right for me and fought being on it to the point of never staying on a regiment long enough for it to work. Side effects were horrible, even after years and years of trying different drugs. Since then, I have changed how I look at that aspect and I have luckily found the right combination to help my illness best as it can.
But medication alone can’t control it for long. Just as with say, diabetes, medicine has to used with other tools to control the disease.
Keeping a routine, exercise, eating right, plenty of water, etc., are some of the physical aspects of coping. The other important thing is your support system.
Going to your therapy appointments to talk to a professional is so important. Its not about them FIXING you, as much as it’s about you talking and admitting the things that keep bothering you about your illness that counts.
Environment, and home are important as well. Support systems don’t stop with the professionals. They include friends and family, and it your friends and family do not help you, or, as in my case, prevent or sidetrack your recovery; AVOID THEM WHEN POSSIBLE and find people you can talk to that understand. Keep at it, and don’t stop trying to look for these people. One of the saddest and yet most important things is when your own family seems to not understand. They will say things like, “just take your medicine, and stop thinking that way”.
Well, there is no “stopping” it. Not completely. Only controlling it the best you can. You have to stand up for yourself and not allow peoples ignorance to stand in the way of your recovery. Would these same people tell a diabetic to just take their meds and snap out of it? No, because that would not work, and it won’t with mental illness either.
The road to being “better” is never ending. You have to learn what works for you and DO IT! Not for anyone but yourself. If you are in a bad place, LEAVE it. If you have bad people in your life, DUMP THEM. Whats more important; your circle of friends, or your life?
Stigma unfortunately, I believe, will never completely go away, no matter what is done. There can only be ones own resolve to control their illness the best way they find, and stick with it.
It has to be our primary focus. Getting better is not just a “sometime” thing. If it becomes anything less than one of the most important aspects of our daily life, you will not control it well enough to stay “better” for very long.
Talk, shout, scream. But never put your recovery aside for ANYONE or ANYTHING. And never EVER lose hope. If you do, you need to drop everything and find someone to tell, and get help fast.
Its never ALL better. But it CAN be controlled if you do the things that you HAVE to do, to have better days, and deal with mental illness, more effectively. Your life may well depend on you finding how to do this so don’t wait until you find hope is gone. Start now.