The woman next to me at yoga doesn’t usually take the Boot Camp class, but it was so nice to see her there. Before class started, we talked at length about our children and tattoos (two of my favorite subjects). It’s always nice to chat with her; she looks me right in the eyes. We were in the back of a very full studio, and she kept up with the class like a champ! In normal conditions, it’s difficult, it’s “Boot Camp” after all. What is truly inspiring is that she is deaf. She comes to yoga, enjoys her practice and keeps up with the class without a single auditory cue. She puts herself out there and while it may be “normal” for her, for me, it would take a considerable amount of courage. Thinking about this brings to mind the quote,“Do one thing everyday that scares you”. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Each day, I read stories, blog posts and tweets from people who are experiencing mental illness, are supporting someone through their illness or are bringing awareness to the diseases associated with mental illness. Everyday these people, from all around the world, share their very personal stories and for some, it must scare them to do it, but they still find the courage to put their stories out there for all to see. It scares the hell out of me each time I do it, but I find the courage as well, even though sometimes I have to dig deep. I have found this “thing” that scares me and I’m doing it. Everyday.
There are many times that I find myself in situations, supporting my son through his illness, where I am truly scared and want nothing more than for the situation to go away. Yet, I find the strength to do that one “thing” daily, sometimes many things daily that truly scare me. In doing so, I have learned that speaking up for what is needed is critical to the support and appropriate care of my son. It can take a substantial amount of courage because at times, it truly scares me. What scares me more is not asking the right questions, not pushing back when I don’t feel comfortable with the answer (or at least don’t understand the answer) and not challenging the system when it feels appropriate. Failing to do those things could be the difference between higher levels of care, insurance funding, proper medication or program support for my son.
While I am grateful for the expertise that doctors, social workers and other members of the treatment teams provide in support of my son, I believe that if something doesn’t “feel right” in a particular situation, it should be questioned and discussed in further detail. Since we are all human, there is always room for error or misinterpretation that could lead to sub-standard or incorrect diagnosis, medications and treatment. In the five plus hospitalizations my son has experienced, each doctor and treatment team made a different diagnosis, had different medication recommendations, and had differing opinions of treatment options.
It took considerable courage, at times, to question the “experts”, and I wasn’t always received with warm embraces when I did. However, by feeling the fear, finding the courage and questioning the opinions and ideas, I felt that my son did and does get a better level of care than if I just go along with everything that is initially recommended. This idea of finding the courage to speak up was further solidified for me when I differed with a doctor’s opinion about my son’s readiness to be discharged from the inpatient unit; I felt he wasn’t safe to come home, the doctor’s chose to discharge and four days later there was a suicide attempt.
From that point forward, I learned to find the courage to ask the tough questions. I listen to what is needed or proposed and see how it feels to me. I ask myself if I feel good about the plan or if it creates a feeling inside me that pushes me to ask for more information and alternatives. It can be really difficult to tune into your feelings when in the middle of crisis, but the more you practice it, the easier it will become. And if you’re not sure how you feel, find that “thing” that scares you and ask the question anyway. You’ll be glad you did!
No matter how your fears show up daily, whether through being in an uncomfortable or challenging situation or needing to find your voice when it would be easier to stay quiet; face the fear, do the “thing” that scares you. You may never know the full impact on the people whom you inspire, encourage or support, but believe me it will have truly positive impact!
Thank you all for your support, your stories and your feedback! Please feel free to email me your thoughts and recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always send me an email with any questions regarding this information or any other mental health system question/inquiry.
I’m also on Twitter @farfrmparadise