A pair of sunglasses for mental health

 

Keeping your sunglasses on during conversation.

Asking to move the conversation into the shade.

Changing position to keep you out of direct sun.

 

Each of these actions may be considered rude in other contexts but they are all accepted tweaks for the comfort of others.
We know that Brisbane summer is bright and hot, so we are generous with one another.
We know that Brisbane winter is bright and hot, so we are generous with one another.
We let people move around at a table, we tolerate squinting and sweating, we give them water and shade when they ask for it.

But when it comes to mental health, we are uncomfortable or forgetful. We are not gracious with one another. We often don’t ask for help, and this is partly because our requests are often treated as surprising or unreasonable.
Try thinking about mental illness like sunlight: it comes and goes, sometimes it’s worse than others, and it’s not under our control. It can be scorching. If someone with mental illness manages to ask for help: please be supportive and make it a safe place. Recovery is hard and we need your support.

Here are some examples from Felicity and Jonathan:

I find it hard to judge how formal my clothing needs to be at parties.
You can detail the dress code in advance.

I find that vase of dice unsettling because it is not ordered.
You can let them order it.

I find salad and stir fry hard because I feel compelled to eat vegetables in order.
You can prepare the food so that vegetables are clumped.

It’s uncomfortable and scary to ask for help. Instead, we can think about people in advance so they don’t even need to ask for help. And when someone does express a need or preference, please be gracious.

Balancing forces of instability

It’s been three months. It must be time for another health update.

I’ve been longing to achieve a place of stability, where everything is calm and settled. But these last months I’m slowly coming to terms with the reality that my life is really about balancing forces of instability.

The last two years of medication, therapy, changes to environment, wise choices, and support from family and friends, have stopped the extremes of my condition – there is less see-sawing.
I’ve levelled out a great deal, but I’m still constantly seeking balance. It’s about noticing the things that may cause me to wobble, noticing when the wobble has started and acting to restore my emotional balance.

Study
I’ve enrolled to study one subject – John’s gospel. I’m quite nervous having not had any academic thoughts for over 12 months. In preparation, I am trying to read some related topics. The aim has been to read 40 mins a day. I don’t always make it and I’m exhausted afterward. Next week I start classes – three hours in a row (with a 20 minute morning tea break).

People
I continue to be overwhelmed easily. But I am also feeling a little isolated.
I know friends have been gracious in stepping back and giving me space to recover, but now the gap has been long.
I wonder if we are still friends.
I wonder how they will respond if I reach out.
I wonder if I have the energy to take initiative to contact them.
I wonder if I have the energy to lead conversations the way I have in the past.

Indulgent
It’s been 12 months of no work, no study. Just recovery, re-learning, relaxing.
Am I just being indulgent?
I’m financially supported by others, I’m free of responsibility.
Should I just ‘get over it’?

Keeping my balance is hard work!

Please support me:
contact me – text messages are my jam guys
allow for my exhaustion in social contexts (my brain is working hard)
remind me that my value is not dependent on my capacity

13 Reasons Why (Not)

If you missed last month’s release of Netflix’ 13 Reasons Why … you have been under a boulder.
Yesterday they announced season two.

I haven’t read it.
I haven’t seen it.
And I won’t.
There won’t be 13 Reasons Why Not from me.
I don’t want the characters or images in my head.

Others have written:
is it a positive step for addressing teen mental health?
is it quality viewing?
is it a good book adaption?

Please don’t binge watch alone.
Please talk about it.
Please use the topic raised to build support for teen mental health.

Check out this American high school’s response.

Here are my previous 5 resources for teen mental health.

How are you going Milika?

Sometimes people ask me this. My response is usually a sort of smile, an utterance of ‘the same’ and then the conversation skitters away.

What do I mean when I say – ‘the same’? I mean my bipolar is still not stable.

I am so grateful my depressive episode Aug – Dec has lifted.

What is better?

  • I get dressed everyday
  • Most days I clean/cook/organise something my house
  • I watch Brookyn 99
  • I eat most meals
  • I take my medication regularly
  • I converse with Stephen most days
  • I have a weekly routine
  • I continue to post on the blog
  • I go to a cocktail bar alone – OK, that could be a negative but it’s a demonstration of confidence.
  • I see friends
  • I look forward to fun things
  • I like my psychiatrist
  • Sometimes I can articulate my emotions with words or pictures
  • I appreciate looking at new people – from a distance
  • Text messages receive responses within a week

But I am still thrown by uncontrollable thoughts and emotions.

Continue reading

Am I worthy?

 

Last week Felicity send me a text. That included a compliment. About me. Not a thing I do, but me. It completely threw me. Suddenly my mind was whirring.

“I’m just me. I was just being me. Surely that’s not worth complimenting?”

I didn’t realise how low my self worth was.

I wanted to dismiss it, to play it down.

  • she didn’t really mean it
  • it’s just her observation
  • she doesn’t really know me
  • I’m not a likeable person

I didn’t want to acknowledge a good thing about me – about the essence of Milika.

Then my friend asked me to do a thought experiment – think like it was true, just to see what would happen. Sneaky but effective.
Then she dared me to say thank you and accept it. Revolutionary!

So I did. And slowly I’m coming to accept some people like me. Even the ones the who see the real Milika, uncovered from layers of fear and fakeness.

Not for any particular reason, or any special skill or ability – they just like me. And I should accept it.

Whilst I pondered these things, two friends wrote wonderful blog posts on related topics.

Kamina – How ‘body positivity’ is screwing our self-image

Lucas – Cover letters and the doctrine of justification

Review: Marbles – Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me

Marbles – Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me

A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney

2009

 

You have bipolar II. And then it was my 30th birthday.
Words – I needed words to explain, to understand, to cope.
But instead I found pictures as well. And they were even better.

Ellen’s memoir leapt into my hands. You have bipolar I, and then it was her 30th birthday.
I love it. Every few pages I see part of my own struggle expressed clearly, or notice a panel I want to share.

MA rating: sex, drugs, nudity, adult themes, heart wrenching truth.
My first reading gave me words and images to frame my own experience. My second reading gave me space to laugh and cry. My third reading gave me enduring wisdom and courage.

Summary:

The first half chronicles the early years of her struggle:

  • trying medication
  • working out her moods
  • exploring her personality
  • adjusting her understanding of the past
  • figuring out how to speak with people.

The second half explores the link of creativity and bipolar.
Does stability prevent creativity?
Is balance a crushing of opportunity?
What about famous past creatives?

What did I learn?

  • I am not the craziest person.
    I have never had psychosis – that stuff is even more scary.
  • How to take a handful of pills in one swallow.
    Put some water in your mouth, throw in the pills and swallow. Fast, efficient and tasteless.
  • Articulating emotions and thoughts help process and tame them. Ellen provided easy descriptions for my catalogue.
  • Helpful ways to describe bipolar for friends and family
  • Supportive things other people can do
  • Stability is better than manic energy
  • There is still the funny and delight to be found in the mess

Thanks Ellen – I’ll be reading this again.

Five Things: Resources for Teen Mental Health

Scary statistics in Australia right now – in 2016 one quarter of 15-25 year olds struggled with mental health.

So I tried to write this post the other week and ended up lost in sadness for a few days. Oops.

Here are five online resources…

  1. Project UROK – Funny & meaningful videos to support teenage mental health. Even though you are struggling – You Are OK!
  2. headspace – Aussie info and support available focused on teens… also they have a space in Woolloongabba
  3. MentalMusic – Brisbane State High students’ podcast on teen mental health topics
  4. beyondblue – Aussie info and immediate support
  5. Melody Pool‘s interview about her anxiety & depression and stepping back

Life Event: Anxiety Reflections

One of the most talented and capable people I know sent a message – “I am having debilitating anxiety, I can’t do anything today.”

What do we learn or notice from these Life Event interviews?  There is a lot going on in the brain of an anxious person.

Anxious Person
Breathe
Use your coping strategies and be honest in using them.

Tell someone.
Letting someone know when you are struggling, or likely to struggle, means they can support you.
Sharing your experience encourages others to speak about their mental health.

Anxious Person’s Friend
Give space to churn.
Don’t expect them to manage all the emotions and thoughts or be able to unravel their thinking for you.

Be a safe person to tell.
When you know someone is anxious or is anxious in a particular situation, take on that knowledge, be helpful but keep your mouth shut.

Read the Interviews.
Life Event: Anxiety and Life Event: Anxiety cont’d

Life Event: Anxiety cont’d

Here are two other descriptions of anxiety’s effect.

Agnes
What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school?Why did you like it?
I particularly enjoyed reading and rereading The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the idea that you could be so close to a magical world without realising it and I liked how the children played such an important part in the action of the stories. My sisters and I very enthusiastically liked to act out exciting scenes.

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
I struggle with anxiety and social anxiety. It comes in waves, sometimes weeks apart, and I am surprised at how I can go from being confident and calm one moment to be fighting hard to hide from people that I am having an anxiety attack.

What’s it like?
It depends, but I often feel my heart rate go up, I can feel physically sick and weak and I can find it difficult to speak without crying. I just want to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.

Continue reading

Life Event: Anxiety

I spent the last day of 2016 wrapped in knots of anxiety and guilt. I struggled to process thoughts, to make sentences. I couldn’t calm myself. A high pitched buzz of internal intensity surrounded me all day. I had to choose not to be at my family gathering. How pathetic. I love them and I miss them. Do they know I love them? Did they notice I wasn’t there? When will I be well enough to see them?

In light of that pain comes our first Life Event interview. Life Event interviews are short anonymous responses to a particular season or moment of life. I am seeking to give us all a broader view of these situations, and an awareness of how they may affect people. Today two women reflect on their anxiety and its impact.

Agnes A

What is a book or tv show you enjoyed in primary school? Why did you like it?
My sisters and I used to love this show called ‘Children of the Sun’ which was set in South America in the conquistador era. It was all about hidden treasure, and prophecies, and clues, and medallions that were keys to secret entryways, and amazing machines (like a giant golden flying condor) and three kids trying to outwit avaricious adults!

Give us a quick overview of the details in your life event?
In my first year of Bible college I had some very stressful life circumstances and I found myself utterly at the mercy of crippling anxiety and fear.

What’s it like?
It was impossible to think optimistically – I could only believe that the most terrible things would happen.  Optimism seemed like the most ludicrous self-created delusion.  Pessimism seemed utterly realistic.
It caused insomnia – never sleeping more than two hours at a time, waking up, and as soon as there was the slightest awareness of consciousness all my fears came rushing into my brain like a flood, waking me fully up.
It caused nausea, diarrhoea, and then, naturally, weight loss.  I had to force myself to eat, because I knew you needed to eat to stay alive.
It was like being in an aquarium.  Normally when you are in an aquarium you can see all the sharks and stingrays and jellyfish, but there is strong glass between you and the water, and between you and the sea creatures.

Anxiety is like being in an aquarium and all of a sudden the glass dissolves and you are drowning in water, and surrounded by danger.

Continue reading