Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Real" mental illness is, in many ways, worse than grief, at least as far as I can tell. With grief, even overwhelming grief you've got severe disability for a few years (usually 1-3) and then modest disability for a few more (3-5) and then lingering pain and memories that people come to terms with (no, they never "get over it," but they do reach terms with themselves and God).

But mental illness, the real kind (and I'm using "Real" above to emphasize that it is real rather than as "scare quotes" to diminish it) continues without benchmarks and often without clear resolutions.

Sure, you can do some things. You can get aerobic exercise, if nothing else, sneaking off to a local university or school track and running for forty or fifty minutes a day. You can regulate your sleep and engage in cognitive therapy.

But the medication is usually not perfect (they all have side effects), your body changes as you age (so what worked last year, may need to be adjusted next year) and the very problem you are trying to deal with robs you of the ability to deal with it.

Grief is rough, and it can break coping mechanisms (usually, each child that dies breaks a method of coping, lose two or three and you can be a mess), but physiologically based mental illness can rob you of all your coping mechanisms.

On the other hand, especially in the modern world and in the United States, there is real hope of a kind that the world never had before.

Someone noticed that I posted about the baby Dallas matter (there is more than one) and other things *after* they were in the local newspaper and the only details I had were the reflections on my own life.

Well, my wife worked those nights, but she doesn't talk. So I post about the things I know. Sorry I don't have details.

If you have some free energy, drop by The Celibate Blog or Pie Polar Bear and leave them a kind word and say a prayer for them.

In times of great disasters people always want to know what they can do. The answer is simple: you can find a person and help them. One person at a time you can help people.

Peace and grace attend you.


Sarebear said...

I am humbled, that you would take the time, effort, and thoughtful pondering to consider the issue and post your conclusions on the subject.

It is not a LITTLE thing to me, that someone would take time out of their day, and spend some mental and maybe emotional and spiritual energy, and trying to put themselves in the shoes of one such as me, or other sufferers of mental illness, and really try to feel what it might be like. Really try to picture what the reality of it could be like for us.

In reading your post, I hazard a guess that there has been some small effect that my writings may have had upon you; that some thing or things that I have written may have touched you in some way.

It is humbling to think that I may have been able to convey a portion of what it is like, to someone who was open to trying to understand. And that someone like you DID understand.

It is so encouraging to me, to read your post and know that such kindly-spirited persons as yourself exist. "Kindly" doesn't even begin to describe it, but for once, words are failing me.

I am not able to describe what your post for today means to me, only that it means the world.

I get so weary of the constant struggle, and just when you have a big victory over one aspect of things, another unexpected aspect comes rising from the deep and throws a heckuva punch.

You, and your kind comments on my blog, and the kind comments from others, and especially your post of today, really are a balm for the weariness I feel, and help strengthen me for the endless struggle I fight.

Thank you. From the depths of my heart, Thank you. To you, and anyone who tries to understand.

Anonymous said...

The mental illness that runs in my family isn't manic depression, but I have friends who are bipolar, and it can be devestating. The illness that runs in my family is schizophrenia. Both my sisters, an uncle on my father's side, a cousin on my mom's side, all schizophrenic. One of my sisters does fine with medication. The other one, the one who died, couldn't live on her own because she'd go off her meds and then end up trying to kill herself. She was in and out of halfway houses and her husband's parents had to raise her kids (her husband was in prison).

I'm so used to mental illness that I forget other people may not have much experience with it. So yes, thank you so much for this post.

annegb said...

Stephen, I usually have to ponder your posts, and this time was no exception.

I know James's suicide ruined my health, for many years. Now it is almost fourteen years and I think I am starting to recover physically.

Mentally, emotionally, I will never be the same. I have been in despair,that black night of the soul you describe, so many times.

But in another way, I think I am refined, in some way, this awful gut wrenching grief has rendered me into a person of deeper understanding.

Twenty years ago, I was a much more rigid, judgemental person. I thought I could control my kids and I didn't understand why others didn't. I thought the letter of the law was the answer to all problems. I was preachy.

I'm no saint today, but I paid my dues in pain, and I am at place where I can consider, not do, but think about, using my pain to help others.

As you did much, much sooner.

Sara, Susan, it is very difficult, I think almost impossible, to comprehend your level of emotional struggle unless you've experienced it. I think we who do struggle need to also be compassionate and patient with those who simply do not understand.