Saturday, June 30, 2012
We get by with a little help from our friends...
Mental illness runs in my family. Along with a variety of other disorders, diseases and conditions. Thankfully, most of the worst have bypassed me, and landed in the laps and doctors charts of super close family members, and those more distant.
Although there was that brief moment in time when I thought I might have needed medication to deal with the turmoil and depression of my life, I have never been prescribed anything stronger than a sleeping pill.
Seems to me, that some people have an innate ability to bounce back from darkness and chaos, while others need a little more help to shed light into dark corners. Some people only take medication for a short time, and others take it for life.
And then there are those people who need medication and refuse to take it at all. They ignore the diagnosis from their doctor, and convince themselves that herbal remedies, and natural products* are all that they need to sort things out. Or that there isn't anything wrong with them in the first place. As if the roller coaster of emotions, self-doubt, feelings of perceived rejection and replacement, anxiety and depression that they are on is perfectly normal.
I have only ever been witness to these types of behaviours as an outsider looking in. And it is hard to watch someone you love go up and down, into and out of dark places, lash out in anger, break down in tears, and then push away those who love them unconditionally. I have watched it ruin relationships, friendships and marriages.
I remember being in that outside position a few years ago, and my best friend at the time finally went to the doctor and got diagnosed as bi-polar, with depression and anxiety as well. He knew he needed help, and he wanted to be more capable of handling everyday life, but he hesitated for a really. long. time. before he considered taking the medication.
It became harder and harder to watch him struggle against himself, and when I finally asked him what he was waiting for, why he wasn't taking the doctors advice... he told me that he felt ashamed to need drugs in the first place, and he was afraid that if he took the medication, he would be losing control over himself and his life.
From where I sat though, taking the medication was the last thing he hadn't yet tried as a way to be in control of his life, himself and his emotions. And I told him that it was time and there is no shame in needing help. Ever. Too many years had passed with those dark clouds following him, getting in the way of great relationships, and limiting his best and most peaceful existence. I spoke with no holds barred, because that is the only way I know how, and I believe that is what true friends do.
He started taking his medication, and things began to improve for him - more light in dark corners, happiness moved in where self-doubt and sadness had lived before. Fear and confusion left, so that strength and happiness could move in.
When I was leaving Newfoundland to move away to Ottawa, he told me I was his hero. I laughed uncontrollably in response.
Who? Me? Why? Because you're my friend and I loved you enough to tell you the truth?
Dude. I was just doing what any good friend would do....no?
*I have no doubt whatsoever that natural approaches do work - when used consistently and properly. Along with exercise, proper balanced diet, plenty of sleep and a concerted effort to do the things that keep your time managed, and your emotions in check....