All That I’ve Lost

I am inspired to write to you today, again on the topic of mental illness, because of a Vlog my friend posted on YouTube. Her blog answered the question lots of people seem to ask a person with a more or less permanent mental illness: Why Don’t You Get A Job? I started to comment on her blog and realized I had a lot more to write on this topic and related issues to it.

First, it is essential to realize that anyone who has had any type of long term illness wakes up one day from the dream they called their life to the realization that they are a sick person. Accepting that you are sick can take a long time for some people and a shorter time for other people depending on the outlook of their sickness. Facing death I think would be extremely hard for some people to face, but facing mental or physical disabilities can also be a difficult sentences to live with. I have not resigned myself to the fact that I will be sick forever, but the possibility exists – I could always be this sick. But then you learn to live with your life the way it is and you blossom and grow into life no matter what your situation. But there always certain things for a person with long term sickness will have to give up, ways of life other people may very well take for granted.

Physical illnesses can have terrible effects on people such as when my Grandpa became very sick with emphysema he had to go around everywhere with an oxygen tank. He could no longer walk even a little distance because his lung capacity was so greatly diminished. So he gave up his ability to breathe on his own, his ability to walk around on his own, and his energy levels were greatly decreased because it took a great effort for him to breathe. But for a person with mental illness, what they are giving up in their lives just to get through life, may not be as visually apparent.

In my case, since I can only function between 3 to 5 hours a day and not every day I have given up everyday practices that most people wouldn’t think twice about doing. I cannot do more than one or two activities in a day and only for a shortened amount of time. I can barely manage to go out 2 days in a row and usually only in summer and spring when there is more sunlight in the sky and I have more energy due to this fact.

I have lost my awesome memory and have trouble remembering things that were immediately mentioned. I have given up memorizing things 2 nights before a test, it usually takes me a week or more now to commit information to long-term memory for a test. I gave up driving because I was not a safe driver on the road because cars around me felt as if they were going to fast and I do not have the same reflexes and ability to pay attention that I once did. In addition, I often cannot take the bus both ways because energy and motivation wise I cannot handle the noisy bus. Especially on the way to somewhere, the bus wears me out.

I have also lost the ability to shut out every little noise and just concentrate on what I am doing. I am better at this then I used to be but sometimes the lull of voices or sounds in a space can be become quite painful and overwhelming. I no longer have the ability to physically exercise and work out hard. I loved the endorphins I used to receive from exercise but I just cannot do it anymore. I am not lazy, I get sick or worn out all day. I have also given up the idea that I will be able to stay a strong fit woman, one day I know this life without exercise will catch up with me even though I eat a portioned healthy diet.

I have lost a life of ever feeling energetic. I never feel energetic. I am fatigued when I get up in the morning and I am greatly fatigued when I go to sleep at night. Most of the time lately, I am tired too and this feeling of tiredness never goes away either. I also gave up being able to trust my moods as an indicator of how I am really feeling. Sometimes I am feeling down because of my depression and not because I am sad or having trouble with something.

Additionally, I have at least for now, given up on the idea of living on my own because I cannot do all the things I need to do on my own doing such chores as grocery shopping, cooking supper, and cleaning well because of my energy levels and low motivation. I also cannot afford to live alone. I think if I live on my own I will have to be married or in a relationship. I have also given up ever thinking I will be able to make a decent income in my life. Although, I am blessed to have Disability through insurance and many disabled people don’t have that, all I will ever make is $23 000 in a year and I think even if I manage to work half time some day, I don’t think I will be able to make more than that as my disability will claw back what I make at work.  And really, if I am honest I have lost the ability to have a job because I cannot work even half time every day or 3 hours twice a week even. I’m stuck even when it comes to volunteering.

Now I don’t mean to complain. I’m just telling you the realities of my life and perhaps, the realities of many people on disabilities’ lives. My only hope to make money would be able to work at home and structure my job around the times I am feeling well – that’s one reason I would love to be a professional writer. But even the times I feel well change according to season and day and week. I am content in my life and I hope you are in yours, but if you ever wonder why someone with a disability isn’t working or contributing more to society, now you have some idea of why.

It is especially important to have empathy where people with long term illness are concerned. We all get sick in our life at one time or another. Some of us get sick a long time, sometimes our entire lives. It is not a perfect world and as long as it’s not, people will be sick and some people may not even seem to be sick such as myself or my friend who Vlogs.

In to To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee Atticus Finch says: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” We all read this book in junior high or high school but I think we forgot to take the important message away from it’s pages. No matter what any person can do or can’t do, no matter what color skin they have, no matter who they are, we need to empathize with them and get to know what it feels like to be them inside. Only then can we break down the walls and the stigmas people have with mental illness and other important issues in society.



Criticism Maybe Good for You, Just Write Anyways

I have struggled with my writing the last few days. Maybe it is because I have jumped down from that Cloud where I think ” I was an English Major with a 3.7 average so there! “The truth is in the real world your not the only one who gets to critique your work and sometimes constructive criticism hurts. It is not the fact that I am getting criticized, I know in writing it is great to have friends or editors look at your work and I know from critiquing others when writing is not sounding right. But sometimes it still hurts, you’ve done all this work only to find that this has to be changed and so does this, and do not look now, someone has a different insight into your writing then you did when you were writing it etc.

Mostly, I do not mind but expect people to be clear to me on what I am writing for or about and what format or style of writing they are wanting to see. And I really get tired of talking about my mental illness at times. My situation is pretty unique but I guess every mentally ill person would say that. I want people to treat people who are mentally ill better and to be more understanding to them; one of the ways people can do this is by knowing that mental illnesses are physical problems in disguise. Some synapses in your brain or chemicals become imbalanced and this is purely a physical reaction on your brain with mental symptoms. But I have said this before in articles and to people it is just that when it comes to going deeper inside someone’s experience with mental illness it is difficult and right now I am tired of it; it was a very personal time for me. But I say yes to giving a mentally ill person’s view point because I want other people to become aware of what I just told you, to share knowledge, not because I want to tell all most of the time.

As a writer I want to get as far away from this topic as possible right now. I will write about a lot of things but not that. But I have learned a lot that I have forgotten in writing such as saying things more concisely and simply, playing with sentences until they are perfect, proof reading many times not just a few, and reading aloud your writing to listen for mistakes. I forget how many times a writer must revise and sometimes I am so sick of writing something I do not care to fix it. i think let editors do what they want, or I’ll fix it in a few days. But that’s a problem because it’s my work and I set high standards for myself which I have to learn to keep but also sometimes to lower. My work is imperfect and sometimes needs to be left a day before I turn it in to reword, edit- out, revise, and catch mistakes. This does not make me a bad writer, only a human one and I suppose an inexperienced one.

But what has really become clear to me is that to be a writer you just have to write, good or bad days, or any day really. The point is just write. And then you start to learn to do all these things instinctively and perhaps if you are lucky you will be able to reach your own expectations or adjust accordingly. I think those of us who write are born with the talent to write and that we are self-made people; however much we write and what we write about determines our success; that and the people, our audience, that we are trying to appeal to. So maybe we are not self made, maybe we are just lucky? But I think either way we continue to write because it is a need, it is like breathing, something that does not stop inside of us, until we are dead. That my friends, is a certainty.

The Doctors Office

I am sitting here in the newly renovated waiting room of my doctors office and cringing. For some reason waiting rooms make me very uncomfortable and I try to maintain my distance between me and the other patients carefully. It’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that this whole place makes me tense up. The doctors office carries the fear of sickness and unusual behavior of certain people. Often, it is dirty carrying the dust off the street not to mention the stench of unwashed people. Now, there are some good and some bad things about the newly renovated waiting room. For instance, the waiting rooms cold dingy white floors have been replaced by pleasant modern wood floors; yet the walls painted a modern tan are strikingly bare. The chairs are new and comfortable, they no longer sink when you sit in them and are arranged in a new more functional way. Everything looks modern and warm, yet somehow to me it feels like a waiting room still – cold and smelling too clean now.

But it is the people in this waiting room that disturb me most – clean or dirty. Some of them are very sick, unwell inside their heads; they wail and moan, rock back and forth, talk in loud deformed voices, socially they cannot handle themselves. Some pathways in their brains just do not run the way a healthy person’s brain does, or at least not at the moment. But I am ashamed to feel this way, these very ill people cannot help that they are how they are; they require compassion. They just want to be treated normal yet that is a really hard thing for people to do for them. I was a little like them once.

Some of the other people I would consider normal I guess. They are relatives of the patients or people who are able to handle themselves in public – who care for their appearance, are quiet and polite, who wear fashionable clothes, put on makeup, bathe often, just have that well cared for look. I consider myself one of these people now. But thinking about all this, my uncomfortableness in this room, it makes me think what a hard life it is for some people – to have a mental disability. One that sets you so apart from other people by your behavior, actions, appearance, and sometimes intelligence. I only know what it is like for me and my small disability. But for some people who have to live penny to penny on AICH, who cannot communicate properly or effectively, who are often alone in their struggles. It must be a very hard life. Another thing to consider a lot mental illness are not cut and dried, and often not curable. Each bipolar person experiences the illness in his or her own unique way with unique symptoms, some similar to others, but still unique. And Lithium does not suddenly cure you, that’s not how it works. So I am sorry I hate the waiting room at my doctors office, but that will not change. I have compassion but I cannot help how I feel. I am relieved when my doctor takes me to the calm of her office, even more when I can leave this awful place. At least they tried to make it nicer, renovating it, but to me, it did not help.