Tag Archives: mental illness

 My friend is in trouble. What can I do to help?

When my friend was in trouble, I spent a whole lot of time thinking and wondering how I could help her and her immediate family. I cooked for us and for her, but how could I tell her that that I wanted to help without offending her? So, I spent time trying to solve my problem  and this is what I came up with. I prepared some questions to use when I next saw her and here are some I came up with.

Has your cleaner returned from her vacation yet? If not, allow me to send mine over just this once.

I have so much food left over from lunch today. I would like you to have it.

I have no idea how you are feeling but I want you to know that I will always be there for you when you feel like talking.

I am not busy today so if you need help folding your laundry, do let me know.

Tell me one day what it’s like to be ‘you’ for 24 hours. I want to know.

I bought flowers to cheer you up. Is it okay to bring them over and put them in a vase?

white roses in a vase

What we found in our late son’s notebook

Scan0001After our son’s tragic death, here are some of his thoughts he put down on paper in a large, tatty notebook:

Spring is drawing near. Soon the trees will bud. Spring, I am waiting for you.

Life is difficult sometimes, but we have to find the small flashes of light to lessen the depth of the gloomy darkness which gets more profound with the ticking of a clock. And that gives us the dimension of time. Those points of light arre vague during the day, barely visible, so one may ask: ‘Is it worth living for two or three minutes a day?’

My friends are having fun; one abroad, one recently returned, all living lives. Only I am incarceerated in a crazy cage without a past, without a future.

We’ve tried to help you, my doctors claim. But, they set a trap for me. I fell into a bottomless pit that they dug for me.

They enter stealthily in the dead of night. The storm inside of me turns to fear. What do they want from a pauper? Peace, peace, peace. I pray for peace of mind.

You’re the one I can’t get out of my mind. I’ll dream of you day and night. You’re so far away and I’m so lonely and so cold and so bitter. It will be good when you lie beside me soft and innocent, pure and clever, as pure as the soul of a new-born babe.

I never thought I’d be so dependent; as dependent as an innocent lamb depending on its mother’s milk. I am dependent on the charity of good people and bad people, but to date, I haven’t met anyone who can help me. Certainly not my parents. I’ll dance on their graves.

When I discussed the last sentence; ‘I’ll dance on your graves’ with a professional, I was told that it is  natural for such a sick person to blame those near and dear to him. But, it took years before I could  get rid of the sound of my son’s voice saying; I’ll dance on your graves. It reverberated ….

Profiling people with mental illnesses

When a celebrity chef was caught shoplifting from his local supermarket, he expressed regret and cited stress and overwork as the reason. Yet, his behavior baffled him so he sought a therapist and asked; Am I slightly sad, slightly bad or slightly mad?Psychologists are concerned about the use of diagnostic systems that classify behaviors like the above as illnesses. There seems to be a tendency to medicalize behaviors that are simply upsetting or distressing; this might even be encouraged by medical insurance and drug companies. Yet, I believe that most insurance companies have the following written in a small font: if mental illness develops for any reason, this policy does not cover that person. (I used my own words here)

There has been extensive coverage in many newspapers about a Canadian woman who was denied entry into the USA because she’d been hospitalized for depression a year ago. She was told that until she obtained medical clearance, she would not be allowed to enter. As if stigmatizing a mental disorder isn’t bad enough, stigmatizing the treatment of that disorder is what is happening now!

When the H.I.V. crisis broke out, for more than 20 years the USA prohibited people with H.I.V. from entering that country. I read that New York City uses solitary confinement for a high percentage of people with a mental illness. Even for people with no history of mental health issues, prolonged isolation can cause hallucinations. So, for a person who is already ill, solitary confinement accelerates existing psychiatric problems and often leads to suicide.

profiling of mentally  ill people

Do you whisper to him?

Have you ever walked along thinking about your shopping list when someone you know who has a mental illness almost bumps into you? Do you whisper  to him because you are afraid to excite him or cause him to become violent? OR do you speak more slowly than usual as if he were unable to understand what you are saying?

How about trying to treat him as a person instead of as an illness? Snap judgements can be incorrect. There is no way of knowing whether our car mechanic, a co-worker, a neighbor or the cashier of the supermarket is dealing with a mental illness.

Somehow, people in general tend to assume that a person with a psychotic disorder does not have the slightest idea of what is best fom him/her. I know that if you are in the company of one and he gets upset, it’s a good idea to ask whether there is anything you can do to help and then do as he requests.

If we want to show basic human courtesy and a respect for human dignity, we have to remain open minded, curious and be willing to get to know people without judging them. This goes a long way in respecting human dignity.

Can I reduce that stress?

  • wavesWhen life became unbearable, I had to learn how to reduce stress so I swam, walked and exercised. I went to a concert or a play, a movie or any place that helped me escape from my house filled with mental illness. Home again, I searched for a quiet place where  I could get away from it all and do some writing. I no longer got upset if a cake flopped or if a guest did not enjoy my food, and I cared less about dust on our furniture. If I had the time, I always drove to the nearest beach where the waves breaking on the shore calmed me. I started doing voluntary work but not simply to pass the time, but because I believed in the cause I’d chosen. I wrote down all the things that were upsetting me; about everything.

My husband taught me to search for the positive things in my life so I made two lists; the positive aspects and the negative ones, and the positive side actually outnumbered the other. So, I became a bit more optimistic and tried searching for the half full glass . I realized that my anger was not doing me any good so slowly but surely, my attitude changed. It didn’t happen overnight of course.

Please treat us as equals

People with disabilities are human beings, you know. They need to be kept safe from malice and abuse. When we meet a person with a disability, we all need to remember that he/she is a unique human being with knowledge, interests and talents like the rest of us. They may do things differently from the way we do them but, they are able to achieve the same outcomes. The way we behave, demonstrates our respect for that individual.

Nobody likes to be pitied. In fact, I have learned many of life’s lessons from people who are disabled in one way or another. When I meet a person who has difficulty hearing what I am saying, I realize that many of them learn to lip read, while others use sign language, so it’s a good idea to ask how they prefer to communicate. Or, write a short note.

If I meet a person in a wheelchair, I try to place myself at eye level which makes us both feel more comfortable; equal somehow.

I have been told that a person who has been disabled since birth likes to be described as someone with a congenital disability while someone with Cerebral Palsy prefers us to say, ‘He/She has cerebral Palsy. The word cripple is offensive so an option when describing that person could be; He/She is a person who needs mobility assistance.

Instead of using the expression a deaf and dumb mute, I prefer to say, a person who is deaf and does not speak. Rather than use  the word, deformed, use the expression someone with a physical disability.

Rather than say mongoloid, use the expression Down Syndrome. Retarded is so offensive, so we could use the term, a person with a cognitive disability.

Midget or dwarf ? Rather describe that person as small in stature or a small person while someone with a hunchback is an individual with a spinal curvature.

Emotional disability sounds far easier to hear than emotionally disturbed, doesn’t it? So when talking to someone with a cognitive disability, it’s a good idea to try and use short, simple sentences. And, when I know that a person is mentally ill, which is one of the hidden illnesses, I have learnt how to be patient; very patient. I always seem to come back to mental illness, don’t I? Rather than use the words insane, deranged or deviant, it’s far less offensive to all the people with mental illness out there to describe that man or woman simply as a someone with a mental illness.

A wheelchair bound person or one confined to a wheelchair could be described as someone who uses a wheelchair.

So, what do we call a ‘normal’ person? Maybe a non-disabled, able-bodied individual? But, are any of us  ‘normal?’ What is ‘normal?’

wheelchairs