Help With Mental Illness
Sometimes, we at the Band know that part of owning who you are is admitting it to the world.
It's one reason why we at The Band work tirelessly to break down stigmas and find the ties that connect us all, the ties that remind us that we are none of us alone. Please join us in standing tall and proud as we tell the world who we are.
What are you, The Band, The Face Of?
I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
You wouldn't think so, just by looking at me. Hell, most people in my daily life don't know. Surely you can't tell by looking at my home. It certainly doesn't look like the stereotype tells us it should. (Thank you, Hollywood.)
I have not always had OCD tendencies, I wasn't born this way.
I developed OCD as a coping mechanism for dealing with my untreated anxiety when I was a teenager.
In my family, we don't talk about mental illness. It's not okay to talk about needing help or that something might not be right in your head. I was raised that if the doctor said I had anxiety, well then, I just needed to pull on my big girl panties and deal with it. Having a mental illness meant I was just being a sissy.
So when my doctor did tell me that I had anxiety at the ripe old age of 15, my parents looked at me with exasperation and left me alone. There was no therapy or anti-anxiety medication. I was just supposed to deal.
I tried a number of things that failed before falling into a nasty neurotic spiral. I can't pinpoint exactly how it happened but I can distinctly recall spending an entire weekend deep cleaning my parents' house. I scrubbed the grout in the bathroom with an old toothbrush until my hands were blistered from the bleach. I cleaned the stove inside and out. I even alphabetized and cataloged all of our VHS movies. (We had over 500.)
Of course, no one said anything of my weird behavior. My family turned a blind eye as I tried vainly to exert control over my surroundings.
In hindsight, I know I did it because I desperately needed something I could control. My mind was spinning, reeling, and I was lost. Since I couldn't control my thoughts or the paths they took me down, I cleaned. I organized. I mated all the unmatched socks in our laundry room.
So why doesn't my house look clean and organized now?
A number of reasons, really.
I have RA, which makes deep cleaning difficult. I also have a lot of stuff. Or rather, my fiance and I have a bit more than our one-bedroom apartment should be able to hold.
But mostly, I have a slightly better grasp on my anxiety. I don't have huge tailspins anymore. Well, not often.
When I do? I have a few other coping mechanisms in my arsenal to employ.
I sing. I craft. I write.
But sometimes, I clean.
I am the face of OCD.
Depression can be worse at certain times of the year, especially around anniversaries and milestones.
This is is how it affects one person.
But March isn't really far behind, in my book.
Both months have been difficult for me for the past nine years. They're the anniversaries of my last nervous breakdown, which for the most part I have put behind me, except when the anniversary comes about.
Nine years ago, my life unraveled.
I was in New York, alone, dealing with a dubious relationship. My dad was dying, I'd just lost my job, mom was refusing to let me come down to Florida, I'd lost my disability and my apartment was a disaster. On April 23, 2004 I wound up going into the hospital, on the fifth floor locked ward (the irony of that being that there was a movie of the same name made in the '70s).
Amazingly, I can laugh about that now.
On April 27th, 2004, my dad passed. I wasn't allowed out of the hospital for the funeral. Nine years later, around this time every year, the guilt comes back full force. Even though I know he understood. Even though I went to his memorial service a few months later, when we buried his ashes.
I never really got to say goodbye, and I needed to. I suppose I'll always feel badly about that until I get to see him again and apologize in person. If I'll even get that chance, which is doubtful with the type of faith crisis I'm having now.
I've been told God doesn't give up on anyone. More credit to Him then. I feel like I'm a lost cause and I'm just waiting for Him to realize the same thing.
Bottom line, living with major depression is a bitch. I hate talking about it, I hate feeling like this, I hate everything about my life right now. The only thing that's changed in the past nine years is that I may just have better tools to deal with it. I use my sarcasm to make fun of myself. I don't lash out and alienate people as much as used to. I basically retreat from everyone, rather than cling on to people as much as I used to (for the most part anyway).
I channel the bulk of my crap feelings into writing, or going for a walk, or singing at the top of my lungs, managing to distract myself from the garbage for a while. I remind myself that I have the most awesome social media (and real) friends ever, most of whom I don't deserve, and two that I will never understand why they stick around, but they do.
And all this is good, I understand that. But the thing is, that I'm alone most of the time. I've been trying to remedy that for the past six months, and everything I've tried has fallen through. For the next six weeks, I don't know if I have the energy to try to do anything at all.
The other thing is that my year is rapidly developing into a series of doctor and dentist appointments, trying to get my sugar stabilized, trying to get my teeth fixed, trying to get my eczema under control. Most of the time I want to stay in bed. I'm longing for warmer weather, because then I'll be out more, walking, and feeling better. I know once my teeth are fixed, and I get on the right dosage of diabetes medication, and everything else, I'll continue to feel better.
But there are times, especially during these next six weeks when I just want to find someone - anyone - lay my head their shoulder, and cry until I can't anymore while they hug me as tightly as they can. I know this will pass.
It's the waiting that kills me.
Thanks for listening.
Why is red hot and blue cold? Why is green considered calming and yellow uplifting? Somewhere along the line we are trained by society that certain colors mean certain things, even if we learn that red stars are cooler than blue stars.
I have a new therapist - who I am loving, by the way. He does what a therapist is supposed to: he gets me talking, doesn't judge, and helps me work through my issues. I saw him for the third time just the other day and we ended up having a fascinating (at least for me) discussion about color.
We were talking about the usual stuff and I mentioned I had managed to paint one painting that week and I had put it on my wall because I found it very calming. I showed him a photo of it on my phone and it started a fascinating discussion on perception and color.
You see, the painting is red. Pretty much blood red. In the photo it is still wet so it is glossy and pretty much still dripping. Once it dried, I sprayed it with a high-gloss finish so it would still look bright and shiny. I guess most people don’t see blood red - especially dripping blood red - as calming unless they have a history of self-harm, which I do. So he started asking the usual questions regarding if I feel like hurting myself, etc.
The truth is - and what I told him - is the color red doesn’t calm me because it makes me think of blood. It calms me because it looks cooler to me (as in temperature) and that the wavelengths are slower. So it is calming. Blue can make me agitated because the wavelengths are faster and it is hotter. Green is OK, because it makes me think of plants and growing things, but it isn’t as calming as red.
Somewhere in my schizophrenic brain, I have broken the cultural preconceptions on color and I didn’t realize I was doing it. Red is the root chakra, the earth, the coolest-burning stars. It is the slowest of the visible colors and leads down to infrared and other deep, cool, slow, calm places. Blue and purple - at the other end of the visible spectrum - are hot and fast. They have their place, but if I am already agitated or stressed they just make it worse.
I didn’t even mention to him how the different colors sound. I think I’ll work him up to it slowly. We don’t want to freak out the therapist after only three sessions; I rather like him.
We all do so much for other people. But do we do enough for ourselves?
Let's take a break for ourselves.
How do you take care of yourself, The Band? How do you manage to do the little things when life feels overwhelming?
It’s never quiet. Not for me, anyway. Whether it’s a bustling mall at Christmas, my seemingly quiet office, family meals, or my own mind.
I’m never in pure silence, especially when hit with overwhelming stress and anxiety.
Noise surrounds and engulfs me. The hum of the A/C. The whirring of the computer fan. The squeak of my desk. The voices of coworkers. Buzzing phones. Sniffling. Slamming doors. Coffee cups clinking. The faint sound of music. Cats meowing. Keyboards clacking.
The sounds move through the air and hit me like a wave crashing against the rocks. I try to stand firm, but it takes me out. Always bearing down. Never ceasing.
I always seem to forget what meditation can do for me. When I remember to take a few minutes, I close my eyes and my vision goes dark. But there are flashes of green, red, pink, and copper. The long, deep, steady breathing is calming. Moving into the darkness, the silence overtakes me, shooting through me like an electric current. It’s warm and soothing, not cold and frightening.
Here, I float in glorious silence.
Something awful happened yesterday.
Suddenly looking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds I found out that there had been several explosions at the Boston Marathon.
Explosions. Injuries. Fatalities.
Unfathomable situations to consider.
Social media is incredibly informative. We learn news in the blink of an eye, but just as quickly we can receive misinformation and find ourselves giving out incorrect details because we want to share and we want to help.
Social media can also be terribly triggering when it comes to disasters such as these. Sometimes we cannot handle what is happening in the world. Stories such as this horrible tragedy in Boston trigger dark thoughts for many of us. We get stuck in that mindset and can't push it down.
These are perfectly normal reactions to a tragedy such as this one.
But it's also totally okay to WALK AWAY.
We want to remind you that it is perfectly acceptable and often REQUIRED to walk away from the news stories. YOU are most important here. Yes, it's a horrible thing. Terrible. Emotional. Anxiety-provoking. But you need to know that if you are overwhelmed with the news you do not need to watch it, read it or listen to it.
Don't look for it. You'll hear it all eventually. It's not critical for you to know immediately what is happening.
Nobody will judge you for not participating. Nobody will ask you if you watched the Anderson Cooper show or read the latest AP News information. There will be no quiz here.
Social media IS amazing. But sometimes people just jump feet first without actually thinking or researching. And pictures that do not need to be seen get tossed about. Horrible. What for? Nobody needs to see that. Especially you.
If you are a parent, you are probably protecting your child(ren) from these things. There's no harm in protecting yourself, as well. I would recommend you do it.
I remind you, because I know that in times like these we often forget, that taking care of you is most important here. Avoid triggers. Close the laptop. Take a walk. Play with your kids. Eat something chocolatey. Dance around your living room. Sing your favorite song. Buy yourself a fancy coffee. Cry if you think it will help. But don't hole yourself up with the footage. It's not healthy and it's not necessary. Because we want you to take care of you. We want you to remain safe. And we want to help keep you that way.
If you find yourself looking for answers or resources, please consider reviewing some of these Band Back Together resource pages. And if you need to, reach out. We're here.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Resources
Emotional Shock Resources
We, The Band, keep the people of Boston in our hearts today and in the coming days as they face the aftermath of these horrible events.
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