Recovering from your “worst day”

At any given point in our lives, we all experience crisis. It’s the absolute worst case scenario, rock bottom, our worst day.

What comes to mind? Maybe a car accident, a heart attack, a horrible diagnosis, or a major loss. It’s easy to rationalize a physical, tangible illness or a visible, gaping injury.

But what about when the enemy comes from inside the house?

Someone who’s in a car accident needs immediate care, needs long term care, needs support systems and a planned, strategic rehabilitation plan. Someone with a cancer diagnosis needs the same; and they rightfully get that care, little judgement or questions asked.

Why are serious mental illnesses treated differently? Why is there a stigma behind reaching a mental-health crisis point?

We know the stereotypes, the misinterpretations; a child with ADD is disruptive and “bad at school.” A depressed person is lazy, good for nothing, a sloven leech. A schizophrenic is a raving, mad, rabid. An “addict” is an addict and will always be an addict. A crazy person is a crazy person and will always be a crazy person.

Challenge that toxic narrative. People are people, regardless of illness or injury. They were a person before they suffered, and they’ll be a person once they recover.

Although it’s easy for your brain to convince you otherwise, you are not your rock bottom.

If you were to judge me, forever and perpetually, on who I was when I was sent to a psychiatric ward at Saint Mary’s after an unsuccessful attempt to take my own life, I would never recover. Recovery depends on rebuilding, gathering the resources needed to become stable.

Five or so years ago, I encountered a man having clear signs of some sort of a mental crises in a supermarket; muttering to himself, talking in gibberish, stumbling around.

What did that man need? Probably not the judgment of other shoppers, myself included.

Stigma accomplishes nothing. It locks us into thoughts, convinces us that we can never reach out. Tells us that we’re broken, unable to be “fixed,” whatever the hell that means.

We’re all trapped on this spinning rock together, and we all owe it to each other to help those in crisis.

Journalism has gradually become conscious of how we report on the mentally ill, and for the most part, society at large has become conscious of the silent struggles anyone can face. We strive to go beyond the stereotypes, move beyond the labels, treat people as people. But there is still work to be done, barriers to be broken.

A mantra for those wishing to support: reach out. Ask questions. Be supportive, do the research, use your intuition. Be there.

Anyone who may be at an absolute low, through substance use, or mental health. You don’t have to grin and bear it. You don’t have to keep it a secret; you don’t have to be terrified, feel the same fear I felt when I arrived at my personal worst day.

People want you to get better. Strangers, even.

I’m privileged enough to have a large support system that came from all directions to help when I needed it. I consider that a privilege.

Substance use disorders and mental health are sometimes equated to a moral failing, a problem that can be fixed if you just put in more effort. Sometimes, that’s true; walking and exercise can help lift you out of a dark hole. Accountability and sponsorship may help some overcome the compulsions.

Imagine a man who just broke his foot. Would a doctor tell him to think positively? Would a doctor tell him to change his attitude, try some essential oils or crystals? No. He’d get medical care.

If you’re having a crisis, you need to stabilize. Then you can work on managing.

If you’re anything like I was, you know something is not right. You have probably reached a point of un-manageability, of darkness, and I am sorry you feel that way. Here’s a truism: no one should have to feel like that.

I’m sorry the chemical imbalance in your brain is blocking reality, convincing you of things that are not true.

There is help. There are networks and supports that will help you recover and remain. Don’t be afraid to dial a crisis line. Rock bottom wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought; it was the best case worst case scenario.

Since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health America’s Mental Health Month. I don’t believe that initiatives should ever take the place of person to person conversation and professional intervention, but I believe that coordinated campaigns can provide people a platform for people to feel comfortable sharing their struggles.

Fall into a habit of caring; learn to care for yourself, and learn to be there for others when they need someone. There are resources on both sides.

Recover, remain, and do good work.

Journalist and occasional essayist. Fumbling, bumbling, stumbling along.