Today is the day. The day where people talk about mental health to end the stigma behind it. My hope is that one day, hopefully not too far in the distant future, that we as a whole will accept mental health the same way we have come to accept things such as diabetes. Mental health is not a choice because I’m pretty sure if it was nobody would actually choose it. Today I figured I would take the time to talk about the mental health issues in our life, but from the families side of it, these people that deal with it all day every day suffer and struggle, and so do the families that love them.
Our journey with mental illness kind of just crept into our life one summer afternoon, one day after work my fiancé came in from work, it was just like any other day, we had a pretty normal routine, shower, get supper going, talk with the kids, then go for a smoke together, he headed to the mudroom which is where we smoked and I would follow along shortly. When I got there he was pale, told me he wasn’t feeling so good, that he just kind of felt something come over him, a very uneasy feeling, he said he felt anxious and worried. It kind of stayed that night, and the next few days, he couldn’t seem to shake it. This is where are rollercoaster really began, over the next few weeks it started to happen more, and with intensity, so we spent hours at doctors, and doing bloodwork, and just trying to figure out what it was. He was given Lorazepam for the anxiety, Synthroid for his thyroid, and antidepressants for the depression that had shown up, oh, and a referral for a sleep clinic as he couldn’t do that now either. In a very few short weeks it had got so bad that he had to take time off work as just the basic things were beginning to be too much. This is when Mike had his first trip of many to the hospital for his mental health as he started to be talking about how death would be easier on us and was having now suicidal thoughts. They changed his meds to Wellbutrin which is an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer and send him on his way, fingers crossed I guess. Well it seemed this had done the trick as he started to get up and live his life again. A few weeks and he was ready for work again, it was then that we started talking about options, options that would get us not just caught up as we had now started to fall behind but options that would get us all caught up and then we could start planning the wedding and save for the house we wanted. We decided Alberta was an option and he applied, within days he had an offer for employment that was just too good to turn down. Spoke with his doctors and was given the go ahead and all refills he would need till he got back. And he went. I stayed here with the 4 kids and the plan was he would come home when his hitch was done and it was his days off. Not long after he got there I noticed a difference, and I’d ask if he was using his sleep machine and taking his meds, and he would reassure me I had nothing to worry about that he was “fine/good”. He came home for a week, seemed different, distant, distracted, but same reassurance, he was “fine/good”. He went back for his next hitch. This here is when what I call “The Snow Globe” effect happened, it’s when you are just living life and then something traumatic happens, totally out of the blue, totally unforeseen and not a damn thing you can do about it, but it’s life altering and you know this immediately, like a snow globe, just sitting there all pretty and someone walks by picks it up, shakes it all up, and walks away like it was nothing. Yes, life does this. So, this is where our snow globe happened. I called him just like any other day, except today there was definitely something wrong, he of course said “fine/good” but this time I really pressed the issue and then bam just like that he said “I slept with someone else”. This was not my Mike, I can honestly say that the thought of him straying never crossed my mind, not once, not even when he was going provinces away. My Mike would never do this to me. I told him to get on a plane and just come home as I knew something was very wrong, and he said he couldn’t, that this was going to change us forever, and he just couldn’t. Now this was how I knew for sure that something has changed, because Mike could never not come home to us, his kids, never. This ordeal lasted two months, he did come back twice but left with two or three days both times, once on Thanksgiving. He left his dream job and moved in with her. I found out through him ad her over that time that he had stopped all his meds, and had started to self- medicate. Needless to say after a very long hard two months on myself and my kids he called and wanted help, he said he knew he needed help and he knew he needed his family. We let him come home. We got him back on his meds, sober, and into see a psychiatrist so he could talk to someone. Mike was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD) and Bipolar 2. It took us months again to get him on meds that helped as the depression hit hard when he came back around and realized the hurt he had caused.
The thing with mental illness is it’s a long hard painful road. Getting them to see they need help is a challenge, the help available is limited and with mental illness on the rise and more people needing services, it now takes a bit more time to go through the whole process with doctors, councilors, and psychiatrists. These people can try to get help but nothing is immediate relieve, which means this journey they walk their families are on it with them. And when they do receive the help they need such as meds that work, their brains flip again, because they are now feeling better and out there living again, so they feel they no longer need meds to do it, and stop their meds. This happens often. So then you are back at square one, and this circle continues, to families and individuals daily. We sometimes suffer for weeks at a time until we realize what’s going on, get him to acknowledge it is what it is and to want help for it, get him back in to a doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist, then to the psychiatrist and then take the meds and wait for them to kick back in. It is hard, for him, for me, and for our kids.
I want to take a minute and explain that well all this is going on as a family and as individuals we have things going on in our lives as well, things that our important to our own mental health. I was attending College, my 4 children watch their Dad not be their Dad, watching him change before our eyes, watching him cry, and listening to all the self-hate and all the things we had worked so hard for just slipping away.Listening to all the anger that it all comes out in, usually hurtful and hard to hear. All well they were attending school, and making the honor roll, getting awards, exams and tests, during driving lessons and graduating. This is the most frustrating stuff, the learning how to juggle it all, well keeping life as normal as can be for the children, well keeping a clean home, breakfast, lunches, dinners and daycares pick-ups and drop offs, school concerts, now at times all alone because my best-friend disappears, he is there but not there. Families who live this life face daily challenges that unless you live it you just truly don’t understand. And these episodes that come with it can happen within minutes, I have literally left to go to the store and kissed him goodbye and get home to a different person who at times can stay for weeks.
We need to talk, we need to listen, we need to step up and do something! We should not stand by and suffer alone and we should not be okay with knowing people are suffering and that we are not doing enough to solve the problem. Talking is the answer, it’s how we solve problems, and come up with solutions. Open your mind, and your heart. Try and be understanding and compassionate, and educate yourself on mental illness With 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing some form of mental illness this should be something we all take very seriously, as the odds are not in our favor, chances are we all know someone suffering. I lost 3 friends to suicide, 2 last year, as far as I’m concerned that is 3 too many. We need to demand changes from those in charge, changes in how we relate drug addiction and mental health as they are one in the same, changes to the help available, the delivery of that help, save places to go that understand them, the support for those who care for them, and well we are at it some rights that allow us to help them when they are sick and not themselves, but without stripping them of their own healthcare and human rights. And lastly don’t judge, because who really knows what a person has been going through, maybe a listening ear is better than a running mouth.
To all the mental health individuals that fight this fight, keep doing it, keep fighting, your worth it. And all the wives, husbands, kids, Mom’s, Dad’s, friends, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, teachers, doctors, nurses, and anyone else who is right there with them, keep it up, remember you are not alone, fight when they can’t fight for themselves, be loud and get heard, love them even when it’s hard to, hear them, but most of all forgive them, as they did not choose this it chose them.