One Day Too Late

Too Late

Have you ever been late?  Perhaps to a meeting or to an event where you’re running five or ten minutes behind?  Sometimes it’s because of the traffic to get to the place, holding you up even over that careful margin you added to ensure you wouldn’t be too late.  Maybe it was the kids dragging their feet out the door that made you late.  Or maybe you’re just one of these people who has almost no concept of time, running behind for everything.

Of all the things I regret the most, I do...I’m sure we’ve all been late at some point in our lives, but have we ever been too late?  It could be the theatre where the doors are closed five minutes before a performance.  Or it could be a one-off event like a wedding that we’ve missed.  Whether it’s our fault or not – uncontrollable things like traffic or maybe we just forgot about the event so missed it – being too late can be hurtful, both to others and ourselves.

Being too late is something I’m becoming increasingly familiar with…

Too Little, Too Late

I’m sure we all know this phrase.  Unfortunately, it’s one that is going through my mind more and more recently.  Whether it’s in reference to a situation one of my friends is going through, or surfacing in my thoughts when particular people get in touch, it’s something I keep thinking of.

To add some context, I used to be heavily involved in a particular group.  They shall, of course, remain unnamed for anonymity.  Since my depression hit, my involvement has stopped, as I found myself unable to continue with the commitments while I was struggling.  You would expect that people would then be chasing you, asking what was going on, how you were doing and so on.  Needless to say, they did, but it died quickly.  A few weeks of concern, then nothing for months.  Well, nothing but sporadic contact.

Now, people wonder what the problem is, why I get so frustrated with this and turn quite angry.  The problem is exactly what it says at the top of this heading: it’s too little, too late.

When you’re struggling with mental health, you need supportive people around you to help you get through it.  When people disappear, making you feel like you’re too much trouble to bother with, and then suddenly reappear later on, all caring and kind, it is a little too late.

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Cinderella

I’m reminded of a song that I really, really like.  It’s by a guy called Steven Curtis Chapman and it’s titled Cinderella.  The chorus quite simply says:

So I will dance with Cinderella,
While she is here in my arms.
‘Cause I know something the Prince never knew.
Oh I will dance with Cinderella,
I don’t want to miss even one song.
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight,
And she’ll be gone…

It's been a long day and there's still work to do, she's pulling at me saying: "Dad I need you."The song itself was written after Steven had been putting his two youngest daughters – Stevey Joy and Maria Sue – to bed.  The two girls had been stalling him all night by putting on their Cinderella gowns.  He particularly remembered hurrying them because he needed to go do some studio work.  After walking out, he felt drawn to write the song because he found himself remembering how he had rushed through some of the moments of his eldest daughter’s childhood because of his career.

Months later, his youngest daughter, Maria Sue, was killed in an accident in their driveway.  The song took on a whole new meaning for Steven, as it was a testimony of how quickly things can change, how frail life is.

Time To Act

Life is frail.  Life is short.  How often do we rush through things or how often are we too late?  We need to act now because who knows when it will be too late.  Those words we want to say to others, those things we want to do for someone…say and do them now.

With depression, suicidal thoughts can be a side-effect of the condition.  Some people do decide to end their lives.  What if, while you were putting it off, they did that?  What if you were one day too late?  Could you live with that?

So say the things you want to say, do the things you want to do!  Be there for the people who need you most.  Don’t do it tomorrow, do it today.

Because tomorrow could be one day too late.

'Cause tomorrow could be one day too late...

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Can the Quick Fix be good?

The Quick Fix

Everyone looks for that quick fix, don’t they?  Usually when problems arise, one of the first questions asked is: “what is the quickest and easiest way that I can solve my problem?”  Sometimes even those of us who might want to try the tried-and-tested longer method of solving the problem might want the quick fix.  It can be nicer to have a short and simple solution but is it all it’s cracked up to be?  Does it sometimes cause more problems than it’s worth?  That’s what I aim to find out.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

My Quick Fix Need

If you follow my journey then you will know that I use self-harm as a coping mechanism for getting through my struggles with depression.  As Theresa Larsen wrote in her article concerning her son’s self-harm, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be but it does work.  However, there are times when I know I’m in danger of going down that route and I don’t want to.  To avoid it, I need something else to pull me out of my cycle.

That’s where my quick fix comes in.

When I know I’m going in a downward spiral and I need something to pull me out of it, I turn to a variety of other coping mechanisms.  I’ve mentioned some before – gaming, music or simply reading or writing – but there is one that can sometimes work better than any of the others.

Talking.

That’s right, talking can be a valuable quick fix for my problem.  Sometimes all it takes is for someone to ask what I did the day before, something as simple as that, to start pulling me out of the spiral.  It doesn’t make the problem go away, nor does it do anything to solve my overall condition but in that black moment it helps.

Other Quick Fixes

In many respects, self-harm is also a quick fix.  It’s a temporary solution to an ongoing problem that alleviates immediate symptoms but does nothing long-term.

Which is exactly what we need it to be.

Therapy, counselling and medication are some of the longer-term fixes and they are important but sometimes we need something that will simply get us through the moment.

These quick fixes come in many forms.  For some, drugs or alcohol abuse are the prevalent ones.  A number of people will talk about how they turned to substances and alcohol to cope with their depression or their anxiety. Those people who need a drink to steady their nerves or those who want the euphoria of certain chemicals to bring them out of their darkness.  Whatever their choice is, the effects are only temporary, making them nothing more than quick fixes, just like self-harm

So you might be wondering at this stage what good a quick fix serves?  If it doesn’t have the desired long-term effect, is it a good idea to start down that path?  Or is it necessary?

There Is No Real Quick Fix

Realistically, the term “quick fix” is a misnomer.  No such thing exists.  In reality, it’s a quick alleviation to our problem, it fixes nothing.  If anything, it can make the problem worse.  With alcohol comes the hangover, with substance abuse you can get withdrawal symptoms and addiction and with self-harm you get the guilt and the pain later.  Whatever quick fix we try, it doesn’t fix anything.

When it comes to recovering from mental health, there is no quick fix.  It’s the long-term therapy, medication or other things such as encouragement that is needed.  Without them, there is no getting through, no getting better.  They are the pillars upon which recovery is built.

There are no quick fixes.  Not ones that will actually fix things.

However, sometimes the quick fix is necessary, even if it isn’t a fix.  Being able to temporarily alleviate the symptoms can be a valuable coping mechanism.  In exactly the same way that you would treat a broken leg with a splint or cast instead of immediate rehabilitation therapy, you treat mental health with a series of “quick fixes” alongside the traditional long-term term treatments.

The quick fixes are vital.

They can push you through those dark moments and enable you to face up to the long-term fix.  They are the splint to the mental broken leg.  Ultimately they don’t mend the problem but they give you that short-term stepping stone to get you through.

The Answers

I don’t know why you visit this blog.  Maybe you come for the encouragement that I write.  Perhaps you come for the insights that I share behind mental health and different ways that it can affect people.  It might be the interviews or it might be for my own personal journey and the look behind the iron curtain I put up as my mask.  There is the possibility, though, that you come here for answers.

I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you.  I have no answers.  There are no quick fixes, no immediate solutions.  All I can do is provide you with my experiences and the experiences of others and let you do the trial and error.  None of what I write is necessarily an answer or a solution, it’s simply signposts for you to follow as you walk your individual journeys or walk someone else’s road with them.

Even though there are no answers here, continue to read.  See where the signposts take you.  You never know, it may surprise you!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

How to Help Friends and Family

There are times in our lives when we are called upon to do things that we never imagined. It is during these times that we find out just how strong we are.

That time for me came when my son fell into a deep depression and began to self-harm. Parenting can be difficult enough if your child is healthy, but if they have a mental illness it can be life altering.

When my children were young I read parenting books; the ones that explained how to train your child to sleep through the night and offered strategies for dealing with temper tantrums. When my children entered adolescents, I studied parenting books that demonstrated how to talk so they would listen and how to cope with angry outbursts while staying calm and maintaining my sanity. When my son suffered from severe depression and starting self-harming, I couldn’t find parenting books that provided me with skills, practical information, and therapeutic tools to help him. I felt frustrated, alone, and helpless.

It took a lot of time and effort to find the right course to help my son, and along the way I was able to help myself and others.

So, how can you help friends and family who are living with a mental health disorder?

Know the signs and symptoms

Knowing the warning signs for mental illness can help you to be a better parent and friend. There are multiple signs such as: excessive worrying or fear, feeling excessively sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks, extreme mood changes, prolonged irritability or anger, changes in sleep and eating habits, extreme difficulty concentrating, reckless behavior, and trying to harm or kill oneself. [i]  This is not a comprehensive list and some of these might be subtle, but knowing this information could be the difference between life and death. 

Set clear boundaries

Setting clear guidelines, rules or limits with friends and family can keep you from becoming overwhelmed. Make sure that you take time out for yourself. Be aware of enabling or repeatedly “rescuing” him or her, this can lead to a codependent relationship.  When my son was experiencing depression, I did everything for him because I wanted him to feel better and this over-protective parenting led to an unhealthy relationship. During that time, I often felt helpless and without a choice. After speaking with a counselor, I realized that my bond with my son was no longer safe or healthy for me. I slowly let him handle decisions for himself, allowing him to feel pride in what he did, and then I could validate and praise him. Over several months our relationship changed from an enabling one to a nurturing one.

Know how to make symptoms better

There are many ways to help with the symptoms of mental illness. These range from traditional (cognitive behavioral, group, and medication) to non-traditional (art, pet, meditation, music, and movement) therapies and everything in between. The most important thing to remember is to choose a positive method.  My son chose self-harm to help with his suicidal thoughts and depression. The self-harm worked in the moment, but it did not make symptoms better, in fact, in the long run, it made things worse.  The earlier someone living with a mental health condition seeks treatment the better the chance of recovery.  Include your friend or family member in your plans, help them stay positive, and encourage them to follow their treatment plan.

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Talk about it

Not only is it important for treatment that someone who lives with a mental illness talks to others about it, it is equally important that friends and caregivers talk too.  Parents, caretakers, siblings, and friends want to discuss the mental illness in their lives. They want to know that others are going through similar difficulties; they want to know that they are not alone. If those who are directly living through the mental illness of a loved one would be willing to talk about it, then maybe those who are physically experiencing it would be inspired to seek the help they need. If we take away the shame that goes with discussing mental illness and understand that it is an illness like any other, we open a door to real progress and improvement for mental health care.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. It’s scary, I know I kept the secret of my son’s mental illness hidden from just about everyone in my life. Why? Fear, shame, and embarrassment, all words surrounding stigma. Looking back now, I wonder why I was so afraid. Since I have “come out” about my son’s mental illness everyone I know has been supportive and encouraging, but such is not the case for many. I remain in the lucky few. It wasn’t easy for me to discuss my son’s illness. There were many awkward conversations, but the more I talked about mental health, the more comfortable I became and the more people I found who understood, empathized or were going through a similar situation. And these individuals wanted to talk about it openly and honestly. They wanted information, guidance, or just someone to listen.

Remember to validate

Validation is one of the most important elements to learn before helping anyone.

As humans, we want to “fix” problems. Often the best thing to do in a situation is to validate feelings, not diminish them. Validation does not mean you agree with someone else’s choice or even their feelings, instead it’s telling them that it is okay to have these feelings and that you still care about them. This will help your friend or family member feel seen, heard, and accepted and to know that what they say matters and is understood. Everyone deserves to be accepted without judgment.

Help to reduce stigma and take action

Each and every one of us has the power to help eliminate the misunderstanding, lack of acceptance, and the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. [ii]

Share links to resources on social media. Don’t stereotype or label others. Use people first language. Wear a mental health awareness bracelet-this can be a great conversation starter. Become a volunteer and a mental health advocate.

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This is nobody’s fault

There is a propensity in society to blame people for their mental illness, as if they had a choice in the matter. We also tend to blame the parents for the “faults” of their children.

 You wouldn’t want this for yourself, your child or another family member. Do not blame yourself or anyone else. Mental illness is just an illness of the brain. It is just like any other physical illness. Mental illness is no one’s fault.

 

The daily energy spent on helping someone who lives with a mental illness is enormous. Don’t give up hope, savor the good times. If you are struggling and drained of energy and life-force you can’t help anyone else. It is impossible to do it all yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help in your community.

It takes a village…. The time-honored African proverb speaks of the importance of community. Some say it originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture and proverb Ora na azu nwa, which means, it takes the community/village to raise a child. [iii]

So, use your village or community and get the help you need and deserve.

[i] https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Know-the-Warning-Signs

[ii] https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-Programs/NAMI-Ending-the-Silence

[iii] http://www.coseealaska.net/files/alaska/Ittakesavillage.pdf

 

Theresa Larsen graduated from Florida State University with a degree in elementary education and a minor in psychology. She taught school in England, Wales, and the United States for over twelve years. She is a trained presenter and coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Ending the Silence”-a mental health awareness program for youth. She is also a writer and her writing credits include a Welsh children’s book, an educational article published in the Cardiff Advisory Service for Education, parenting and mental health articles published on Yahoo,  PsychCentral, The Mighty, The Stigma Fighters Anthology Volume 2, and her award-winning memoir, Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother.  

Learn more about Theresa at http://www.theresalarsen.com/

Cutting the Soul at Amazon  https://www.amazon.com/Cutting-Soul-journey-illness-teenager/dp/1502933101/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496436594&sr=8-1&keywords=cutting+the+soul

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.