Guest Blogger: Debi Exley
Silenced words – Let it be heard.
Words spoken often never heard. THE STIGMA, labels, barriers and the walls on Mental Illness prevent us to speak out. You may have or are suffering from Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, Bipolar, MPD, or Schizophrenia. Whatever it is you are suffering from, mild or severe, it is time to stand tall and be brave. What are we thinking? When our lives spin out of control, beyond our control, losing all that means so much to us, all that we have worked so hard for, our family, our finances, our jobs, our control of thought and self, our normal day routines…so much loss, too much loss – more than anyone could or should bear. What are we thinking while you are judging, and asking “what is that matter with you, why are you acting like this?” This is what we are thinking…
I am not different. I am not weird. I am not a loser. I am not insignificant. I will NOT disappear. I do cry, a lot. I do hurt, all the time. I do feel intensely. I suffer more than the norm for reasons unknown to me. I sometimes live in darkness, and sometimes wish it would all just end.
I AM SCARED
I need LOVE. I need HOPE. I need to BELIEVE that I can rebuild my life. Please know that I AM STILL HERE – the happy, loving, smart, capable, full-of-life person you know is STILL in here.
WHO AM I?
I am the person you ask, ‘How are you’ and responds, “I am fine – and smiles – but the smile never reaches my eyes” – for really, I am dying inside and am barely hanging on.
I am the co-worker who for some reason was once your best employee, but can no longer keep up with my workload, and now makes mistakes, simple mistakes that are out of character – but I’m too afraid to say anything because I NEED this job…I have lost everything else.
I am your best friend, who has for some reason has stopped returning your calls, has become isolated and no longer attends any events, when I used to be the social butterfly. I don’t want to be a burden to you, or seem different and or worse, lose your friendship if you see me this way.
I am your spouse, who is no longer attentive or communicative, and who has now lost interest in you as well as taking care of myself. Everything just seems too much of an effort…even taking a shower.
I am your grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, best friend, co-worker, boss.
I AM YOU.
Mental illness can happen to anyone at any time, and whether it is severe or minor it is debilitating. It not only affects the person who is suffering from it, but all those who love and interact with that person on a social and business level. The added fear and stress of “I will lose my job if they know I have this” or “what will people think”, and the non-stop self-doubt literally halts the healing process, blocks all understanding and all development that is needed for the one who suffers to get on a healthier path. In fact, it often adds more stress and trauma to this person. Mental illness is simply the opposite of mental health. Mental illness is in fact that, it is an illness of the mind. Understand this, educate yourself and those around you on this, train others on how to handle all situations and scenarios including how to react and how to cope during the difficult times, is the only way to change this stigma and create a safety net for all who have a mental illness so that they feel they can voice their issues and deal with them openly. Once the individual is on the right track and starts to feel better with any therapies recommended by a medical professional (i.e. Medical Prescription Drug treatment(s) and/or Psychiatric Counselling/CBT), then the mind can return to a healthy state and all the capabilities and qualities the mind had before can be put back to use. Companies and staff need to understand that an employee is still a valuable asset.
Let me say this again…mental illness is simply an illness of the mind. Once the person suffering has been treated, and returns to a healthier state, all capabilities and qualities will return. Realize that the initial person you hired, respected, and admired is still there, and is still a valuable asset.
Training must be provided to staff. This is also true in the individual’s personal life, as it affects the work environment in the same way as it affects the family life. Training must be provided to bring education and understanding on how to handle, cope and live with someone who has a mental illness. Training is needed to teach people how to cope and how to react to difficult times in order to get through the process until the individual is on the mend to better mental health. Once we break the silence, break the barriers, and are no longer afraid to say…”I am suffering from depression, anxiety, panic attacks or any other mental illness disorder”, we can begin to work towards a much healthier society. Looking at this from an employer’s standpoint – if employers offer help, guidance, and support, the result will be very thankful, grateful and DEVOTED employees filled with gratitude who will be loyal to you and the company when they return.
Here is a twist on the relationship between employee and employer to review and provide your feedback: Society says, communication and understanding are keys to a successful marriage…full disclosure with no secrets. When decide to accept an offer for a career, within a company, are you not hoping to build a lasting and promising career? To grow within that company? To have stability? Is this not a “marriage” in the business environment? Communication and understanding, full disclosure, trust, and respect are all keys for this to be successful too, are they not? It goes both ways, and only then will you have loyalty. Tell me what company would not want this?
Many changes must be made, and this it will not happen overnight. It will not happen by being polite either as this is a serious, in-your-face matter. If we begin now to start voicing our thoughts, tearing down all these walls, and JUST GET RID of all this JUDGEMENT, we can start the process towards a win-win society all around – the big picture needs to start being seen.