Posts tagged ‘National Mental Health Awareness Month’

May 2, 2014

Beautiful Minds

 

Many of us do daily battle with addictions, disorders or diseases invisible to the eye.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

In October of 1984, my pediatrician referred me to Strong Memorial Hospital. I was 17 and was to begin treatment for anorexia nervosa. My  first appointment was scheduled on Columbus Day. 

Years before I had an eating disorder, I knew something was wrong. My parents didn’t. It wasn’t until I literally began disappearing that I flagged their concern and protection. 

On the same day of my appointment, in the same hospital, my older brother died from a motorcycle accident. As loving and strong as my parents were, despite their overwhelming grief, they couldn’t save me from what was coming. Any more than my brother could be saved. As much as they tried. 

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” — Robert Frost

Fast forward through an 11-week inpatient program for eating disorders/major depression, college, career, marriage, children and divorce. Breast cancer. It wasn’t until I was I treated for breast cancer in 2012 that I understood that not only was my depression biological, it was the bigger threat. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer and scheduled for treatment, I found myself at the center of my family’s love, among friends, neighbors and medical professionals. Others worried; I didn’t

 

 I never worried that I wouldn’t survive breast cancer; with the support around me, I never felt more alive. 

 

After my final surgery last June, my circle of support dispersed. I crashed in a way I hadn’t since the initial months following my brother’s death. Somehow I knew that if something were to destroy me, it would be depression, not cancer.  It would be slow. It would be isolating. It would be humiliating. 

My parents who had been so relieved that I dodged the breast cancer bullet, were devastated when they recognized I was in trouble. I knew I needed help and I was transparent with them. In the weeks and months that followed we engaged in an ongoing discussion about my experience of depression.

Be You Bravely

Depression creeps, then blindsides.  

I binge, my emotional equivalent of hitting Life’s eject button. 

Shame strikes.

I retreat into isolation.

 It takes a leap of faith to emerge from self-loathing. Reentry begins with a phone call. I express myself. I find my breath. I brighten.

 

The hardest part of emotional pain is seeing it through when every instinct cries: DUCK!

 

My parents shared with me that at times they felt like they lost two children. Over the years, they lost me intermittently. They celebrated my ups, felt helpless during my downs. They grieved when I withdrew. They have been unflinchingly present, unwavering in their support, eventually accepting that they couldn’t fix it for me.

 

It has taken me a lifetime to realize that I need not be ashamed. 

 

Learning to be in full acceptance of myself is the only way through. I’m resilient. I’m creative. Every day I am grateful to be alive. I have people to turn to, a faith that catches and redirects me. I have daughters to adore.

 

Yoga is so much more than the best antidepressant available. It is my practice for life. 

 

The brain is a vital and powerful organ. The more I learn about mind-body connection, the more I understand and accept that all illness, physical or mental,  is a call for medical intervention and ongoing wellness strategies. It is a call for self-care, not self-blame. It is a call for community.

 

 

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Hope lives in communities with open minds and open arms. 

Connection is the ultimate healing. 

 

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