Trigger warning: Content you are about to read addresses the recent losses of public figures in the past week. This blog post will talk about my own personal experience with the likes of mental illness and especially as it has to do with treatment for sensitive topics such as self-harm or loss of life.
In recent years, there has been more attention paid to the importance of providing healthcare, support, and wellness management for those with mental illness. These topics have a very special place in my own heart because (long ago) one of my first career jobs ever was working at an acute care facility for crisis intervention and stabilization of a leading psychiatric healthcare institute.
(I even did a video about it HERE on my youtube channel if you are curious about what exactly it was like to work at a mental hospital.)
I'm speaking on this topic right now because of the great losses that have so recently happened lately with the loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week.
(Before I even go any further, if you or anyone you know/love is struggling, please PLEASE reach out for help because help IS available to you for as long as you need it and can muster up what you can to just reach out: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 800-273-8255)
It's ok to speak up, even if you can only whisper
Mental illness and emotional imbalance is a real problem that far too many try and manage but ultimately suffer from. This is because it feels like you have no other choice but to do just that. But here's the thing of it:
There. is. HELP.
Also? It's completely ok to want help, ask for help, and get help because every single one of us could always use a little helping hand whether we have it in us to ask for it or not. It's also normal to want help but not know how to get it, ask for it, or realize that it's there for you...
There is research that even indicates that suffering from mental illness (of all kinds) actually manifests itself in legitimate physical pain. This isn't to say that all those that suffer from mental illness will have the same symptoms. This more to say that unseen illness can literally be physically debilitating to you/someone you know and love suffering from mental illness.
Because I have had a long career in human services work (I was as a classroom teacher for over a decade and prior to that I worked as a mental health professional), I readily know the "tools" and resources available (both free and at-cost) for mental healthcare management. Something I used to do professionally was to help triage patients for services and rehabilitation, organize and run therapeutic groups (in a real clinical setting), do formal mentoring and daily 1:1 counseling. I would even develop and implement behavioral management plans with the help of a team of medical professionals.
Being mentally healthy starts with knowing you are worth it.
It's hard to know you are worth it when other thing seem to negate that truth though. If you are suffering from mental illness, your head is telling you differently all the time. Eventually your heart starts listening so much to your head that it's darn near impossible to believe anything different.
The things I once taught and helped others to practice for their own mental health care and wellness management has made a difference even in my life. It's enabled me to get to where I currently am. This is because I have actively used what I used to help others learn to do to make positive life changes happen in my own life. I also have used/use the working knowledge and experience for the positive benefits of my most favorite student and only daughter.
Something we actively do in our life for mental health self-case is our own "art therapy." We do it as needed and we don't have a "cap" or formalized schedule about how/when we do it. We keep it flexible so that it remains therapeutic. Our favorite things to do are paint and draw collaboratively and because my classroom teaching career was in visual art education, we are committed to learning, doing, and creating things classically...
|Standing Wooden A-frame Easel|
|Reeves Acrylic Paint Starter Set - 24 colors|
|Chungking Paintbrush Set for acrylic and oil painting - Starter set|
The most intuitive studio art form for most anybody is painting. It's not surprising that in the last decade or so, there has been a rise in popularity for paint you own canvas types of businesses! As a former professional art educator, it's so heartwarming seeing people want to step into an art studio even if/when they never have felt compelled to do it before.
I think the reason why creating - whether in a sketchbook or standing at an easel or using tools to build or even cook - is so appealing is because it gives you a tangible and immediate way to prove (to yourself) it gives a sense of accomplishment.
|Monarch butterfly in acrylic on canvas panel by my favorite student! She painted this from picture reference and I highly encourage practicing the art of painting from pictures.|
In a world that is becoming more and more intangible because of digitization, it makes sense that we (as humans) crave things that provide and require as much physicality as possible. More and more often our basic five senses - eating, drinking, seeing, smelling, FEELING - are not given the real opportunity to just be/do as they are because we are surrounded by screen after screen after screen. We are deprived of the very things that makes us feel most alive and awake - the activation of our basic senses.
It makes sense (no pun intended) that we need that physical input of real texture, smells (and even tastes) to help us feel truly alive. Perhaps because we have become gradually deprived of opportunities to actually feel things - that's why too many of us are "dying" inside of ourselves. Maybe this is what is heavily contributing to the actual loss of lives we are seeing happening around us and at alarmingly increasing rates. We have such an extreme need to feel something (anything) that people are going to actual extremes without fully realizing the true dangers of it all.
Getting help is a step-by-step process (like creating art!)
Now, all of this is not to say that if you "just" go and paint or "make some art" that mental illness management is just that simple. This is certainly NOT to say that you will be be cured of the unseen illnesses that regularly plague you (or others) towards worsening suffering. No way. It's not that easy at all.
All of this IS to say this: There are ways (included is art therapy) for you to have real HELP and relief. These things are available to you no matter how/what condition you feel like you are in. There is help even though the invisible illness can/will strip you of everything. Don't think that there isn't hope because THERE. IS. HELP. and with the help, you will be able to also regain hope.
Perhaps you (or someone you know/love) is at a different point of needing help for their mental health management. Maybe it's unclear what is wrong and a formal diagnosis would help you to find out the real options for help that you can have. There is help for that just as much HERE. It's true that "knowing is half the battle" and when you can figure out a little more about why you are feeling as you do? That's halfway to being able to understand how to not let that feeling completely overtake you.
The fact of the matter is - no matter what - how you might feel or what you might think, getting started truly can be the hardest thing to do and this especially applies to mental illness. It is hard to "make the call" in order to actually finally schedule appointments that lead to other things. It's overwhelming, for sure.
All the same, you don't need to feel like you are alone in the process EVER.
If you let yourself be in it with someone else? You might find that you can do it and there is hope and it's just a matter of truly opening yourself up to the truth that is you are never alone even if your head tries to convince you differently.