To and From the Safe Place

The days in front of us can get hard.

Small things appear to be the largest mountains.

Larger tasks are impossible to complete.

Lists are the last thing you want to deal with. Getting out of bed would be a good start.

On these days, surviving the day is the main task. Eating, bathing and hygiene are the most crucial things you need to achieve. Just about everything else can wait.

Energy levels can be extremely low, so go at a pace that works for you. Don’t let anyone rush or shame you. This is your battle, not theirs.

At the end of the day, bed can be a safe, soft place. Tomorrow is another day to try again.

Book Review: “Girl, Interrupted”

This month’s book review is for another movie/book combo.

Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts at wraemsanders@gmail.com.

I’m not sure which I like more- the book was intriguing, but the movie is a bit more in-depth. I guess it depends on whether you are more of a book or movie person.

**TRIGGER WARNING** This book review does briefly discuss suicidal thoughts, attempts, and similar topics. Please read at your own discretion.

Book cover

Title and why I chose this book:

“Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen

It’s not often that people tell their story of mental illness- at least not from the time frame that Susanna does. This book was based on her story in the 1960s when it wasn’t acceptable to tell anyone you had a mental illness, much less write a book about it. I think it’s interesting to look at a person’s story from another angle, even if it’s a different time.

Who do I think this book is intended for?

If you aren’t familiar with what it was like to be a patient in a mental health facility during this time period, Susanna’s story will give you a peek into it. Many of us are a bit curious about that, myself included. I think it’s because of my work in similar facilities. I’ve read quite a bit about facilities in the past and how patients were treated, and it wasn’t always positive.

What did I like about this book?

I like Susanna’s honesty. She breaks down her thoughts and the events that occur in the story so that the reader can understand exactly what is going on. Some of those events may be a little hard for us to comprehend because we weren’t there to witness them, but she tries her best.

What didn’t I like about this book?

I thought that the book could have been a little longer, I think it ended a bit abruptly. Everyone has their opinions on this, so maybe it’s just me. The tone of the book was a bit formal for me, but I had to remind myself of the time the book was set in.

Plot:

Susanna is hospitalized at McLean Hospital in 1967. Her hospital paperwork is actually included in the book, with some things blacked out. This wouldn’t have happened today, thanks to HIPAA. I’ve seen this in other books, but it still astounds me.

She is hospitalized following a suicide attempt- I won’t include details, but she does detail the attempt and events that follow it. She also discusses suicidal thoughts and means.

I had a laugh while reading her description of “maximum security” and McLean’s checks system. This is the way that mental health workers (“orderlies” in the book) are able to assess patients on a 1:1 (constant), 7.5, 15 or 30-minute basis for their safety. Try doing 7.5-minute checks while hugely pregnant. I did this while pregnant with Lily and it was a bit challenging.

Susanna signed herself in voluntarily and thought she would be there for two weeks- this became almost two years. She got along with her roommate and the other patients around her, and after her release, was able to find two of them. She was released after she was offered a proposal for marriage.

What was Susanna’s diagnosis? I won’t spoil that for you. It’s in her paperwork.

I’ll let you find it in the book.

Quote that I liked:

“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified.”

Just because you’re broken inside doesn’t mean you’re “crazy”. Everyone’s a little broken, right?

Come back next month for another book review!

Picture courtesy of Google

Are You Okay?- A Conversation Starter

Three words can help a lot more than you realize.

“Are you okay?”

This question can start a potentially life-saving conversation or start a complete shut-down- but it’s worth trying.

If you’re asking someone this question, there’s likely a good reason, maybe more than one. Think carefully- has he/she been quieter than usual, or have you seen changes in their personality? Other changes?

If so, good move.

You may be on the right track.

The Infinite Struggle

Some people, however, are not good with expressing that they need help, or even talking about their feelings when they really should. These are the people you may want to be gentle with after asking if they’re okay.

I am one of these people. It’s a struggle. I worked on this in therapy and still, it’s a struggle. Let me explain- I know that I get stuck in my own brain, which is not a good thing. My thoughts can get pretty bad. I also know that I need to talk to someone about those thoughts. Don’t freak out, because I don’t have suicidal thoughts or anything like that, but stay with me.

I just freeze up when it’s probably time to reach out.

Why?

If we remember that horrible time in which I cried constantly and drank my pain away, I probably got on everyone’s nerves. That’s how I saw it. My former therapist explained (very patiently) that people were there for me because they wanted to be.

Okay, then.

She went on to say that if they were truly tired of all my crying and sadness, they would have left me alone at that point.

Once I felt a lot better about my life, I began to feel as if I didn’t really have a right to burden people with my problems anymore, because I’d run out of people’s patience. I have friends who will listen to me anytime I need them to, but I don’t always talk.

I really need to work on this.

The Next Steps

So what do you do if someone says, “No, I’m not okay?”

  • Listen. This might be the best thing you can do for them.
  • If they say they need some extra help, do what you can to help them get it. If they need emergency assistance, call 911 or take them to the nearest ER.
  • Ask “What can I do?” This might sound super simple, but you may be surprised at what might help someone during a rough time.
  • Don’t tell them that this will pass very soon, etc. Time can feel like it is slowing down during a depressive/manic/other episode, or even speeding up. Saying things like that can make the person feel trivialized or otherwise like a burden.

What if the person says “I’m good, thanks,” but you feel like they are not quite okay?

This is a hard one. As someone who falls into this area, all you can really do is wait it out. Give the person some space. We have our own reasons for not talking, and we may do so on our own time. Unless the person is an immediate danger to themselves and/or others, there’s not a lot you can do. Just watch out for the person as much as you can and give gentle reminders that you are there for them if needed. My best friends do this quite often.

If the person says “No, I’m fine” and becomes angry and/or aggressive:

Absolutely back up. I don’t advise taking this any further because someone can get hurt trying to push the conversation. Stop what you’re doing immediately and get to a safe location.

The Conversation Continues

Talking about our mental health isn’t a bad thing. We need to check in with ourselves and each other. Every day. Every week. Every month.

The stigma is still present while many of us fight the battle daily. We go to therapy, take meds, and do other things to make sure that we remain stable.

If you know someone is struggling, reach out to them. You may be helping them through the darkest hour of their lives. If you’re the one that’s struggling, you’re worth it. Take a minute and text someone you trust.

*picks up cell and texts bestie*

#SpeakNow #ForMySuperman

Do you struggle with talking about your feelings?

Photos courtesy of pexels

A Small Reminder

Pink and blue

Everyone has bad days.

This is okay. Adulting is rough. Feelings are big and events occur that challenge our capabilities to deal with them.

It’s also difficult to live life like you’re putting on a show for everyone around you- every day isn’t sunshine and rainbows.

When you continuously put on that show, it feels like you don’t have the ability to have a bad day. You can’t show emotions and that isn’t good.

I try to stay positive as much as I can but some days suck. That’s pure honesty. Maybe I’m having a bad pain day, overwhelmed, or something else.

I don’t sit in the sadness for long. This can be difficult, but I try anyway. I know that it’s okay to be sad, but I don’t like sitting in it.

It’s okay to not be okay. Take care of yourself and feel all the feels.