I originally posted this a couple years ago, on my http://Chelise.Typepad.com blog.
Time has passed, but so much stays the same.
The open letter, remains:
Begin a new post. (Originally posted, August 2007.)
I love the fact that when I start a new entry in this blog, I click on a link that says:" "Begin a new post." That is like the story of my life, this month.
I am literally consumed lately with all the apologies I have to make.
In the meantime, I've written an open letter for all of you who have been following my blog:
An open letter to those who understand mental illness, and those who don’t:
I am starting to feel better. I know this, because I am not so anxious. I still owe 100 apologies and things are backed up and back logged and confused and overdrawn, but I can begin to tackle the mountain of “I am behind” without the crippling anxiety I was experiencing.
I am starting to feel better. I know this because I am awake and lucid and can remember yesterday and know too that school starts for my children next week and I don’t need meds to get through the day without contemplating death or how worthless I am.
I am starting to feel better. I know this, because when I type “contemplating death or how worthless I am”—I cringe inside, because I know that these thoughts do not belong to me, they belong to my illness, and I wish, oh how I wish, my illness would go away, and stay away.
For those of you who understand, you know this already. For those of you don’t understand, all I can do is hope that my words have an impact, and that you will consider them with new eyes:
My illness does have physical ramifications, it is primarily mental and emotional in nature. This disease is hereditary. My mother died from mental illness and that intermingled with the undeniable fact that I am similarly afflicted breaks my heart for myself, my family, and my children, a thousand times over. My mother’s disease went untreated, but mine does not. This brings me some comfort. Treatment, especially now (unlike when my mother was my age) offers an amazing amount of hope.
My particular illness is severe. It is chronic, but not constant. I have months and sometimes (more recently) years of relief in between episodes. Treatment has given me and my family these gifts of lengthy interludes between flare ups. When I am in the middle of a depression, however, it nearly always starts out the same - in this sense: I don't want to admit it. I don't want to accept it. A combination of pride and denial conflict with responsible actions such admitting that there are commitments I will not be able to keep.
I don't care whether you have a cold, a broken bone, or are severely depressed - most of us do not want it to be happening, and then - we don't want to admit that the situation will impact our productivity or reliability. Certainly, I am that way.
Here, in the aforementioned area - I need a great deal of growth, and will aspire to get there. The only way I can think to start is admit right now, that it is true. Many things have fallen through the cracks, and my responsibility was to admit my incapacity before it affected others, and I did not handle that well. I am particularly saddened by the way that my actions have impacted Altered Art Obsession, and Paper Whimsy. Two incredible art groups that have graciously allowed me to participate in art swaps and round robins with other incredible artists, and whose members have had to pick up the pieces I dropped, because I didn't head off the issue at the pass.
My disease requires physical and emotional therapy. I am not required to walk a certain number of steps a day or squeeze an exercise ball., but instead my job is to issue explanations, and apologies, and to figure out how to take responsibility and be forgiving of myself, in equal measure. There is pain and frustration involved in my physical therapy, and I often want to give up. My pain does not resemble that of a muscle or bone coming slowly back to life, the ache and burn of torn ligaments encouraged to act anew. My pain is identical to the gut wrenching, self defeating place we call shame. My job, in physical therapy, is to walk through the shame, communicate and fix what I can—and put enough faith in myself and others to believe that I can back to where I was or even find a better place.
The largest misconception about mental illness, is this: That the person suffering can change it, turn it around, or banish the illness—through strong moral character or a shift in thinking. The only shift in thinking that has ever had a significant impact on my illness was the endless journey (which I still walk) towards ~ “I deserve to be alive.” Those of us born with this disease begin to feel that we are born with and at—a deficit. For over twenty years I believed I had to work harder, be a better person, look prettier, give more, do more, and—in general—be a different person—in order to deserve love, and happiness.
As many decades of therapy, fervant prayer, recovery programs, and few crisis oriented hospitalizations, a medication merryground that finally proved effective, and here I sit. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Still breathing.
A thousand apologies to go - and for those of you who "get it" and to those of you don't, but are willing to give the disease of mental illness your consideration - thank you for reading this, and thank you - for your understanding.
xo - Chel
PS - Here are some places you can learn more: