Last night I watched Beyond Silence, a documentary about living well with mental health disorders executive produced by none other than my gal Demi Lovato and there were a few things that stood out for me. The half-hour feature follows Jeff, Lauren, and Lloyd in their journey of recovery and maintaining a healthy life despite the diagnosis of a mental health issue.
Lloyd in particular said the first thing that stood out to me: “Study yourself”. This made an impact for a number of reasons. Mostly, I think it’s important to reflect and have a deep and thorough understanding of our situations and what got us there, even if the reasons are things completely beyond our control whether it be trauma, an imbalance in brain chemistry or other. This is essential to finding the cure for our ailments. We need to know the root cause of the problem in order to eradicate it. I think I try to ‘study myself’ and this blog is definitely a testament to that. I often go back and read my own posts and reflect on my words and their impact. I can personally vouch for journalling. It has been one of the most eye opening experiences for me in how far I can come in just a short period of time and it helps to have a sort of “log” as to how we’re feeling.
The second point was about self-harm. Before I was ever diagnosed, when I was 18 years old I remember thinking something was wrong with me. My counsellors at school would tell me to go for a walk with a friend and point out the squirrels that I saw. I understand her encouraging me to connect but I knew that something was deeply wrong. I had lost my mum a year earlier, and had a pretty serious cannabis issue and I would do things like try to strangle myself with a scarf, pull out my hair, try to drown myself in the bathtub, and even once threatened to jump off the balcony of my apartment. I remember years later when I was 24 and on steady medication and well for sometime talking about it to my roommate. I remember sobbing in my definition of what depression was like for me and taking my left hand to make a slashing motion over my right wrist: “See how much this hurts?!” I screamed. For me it was so difficult being a healthy young woman on the outside but feeling so sick in my head. There was a disconnect between my body and mind and people saw a healthy girl but couldn’t see the daily torment going on in my brain. I just wanted people to have a visual representation of the pain I was experiencing. People self-harm for all sorts of reasons, but this was my experience of it.
The third point I wanted to bring up was something Jeff’s girlfriend said in the documentary. She says she is a social worker for people ‘suffering’ with addiction issues. This was eye-opening to me. For years I have described those with addiction and mental health issues as ‘struggling’. Suffering is really what is is though. It’s not a struggle. I mean, maybe for some people it is, but it is an affliction that they can’t control and most are suffering from a disease that is out of their hands. I am very picky in my vocabulary. I really don’t like the term ‘mental illness’ and try to swap it for ‘mental health issue or disorder’ or ‘mental wellness’. I will make a conscious effort to adapt my vocabulary to include ‘suffering’. It validates the issue in a way that ‘struggling’ just does not. The connotations are so different.
The last and final point I just wanted to touch on was Lloyds biking. He says for him it is a type of ‘public isolation’. While I was training for the half-marathon this very concept was pretty relevant to me. I was out running on the bike trails, communicating with pedestrians and drivers yet in my own world. I think it’s important to get out and enjoy the world even if we are in one of our own. You don’t have to make small talk, you can put on your headphones and do your own thing. I miss running and it was very therapeutic to me, almost like a meditation. There are many other coping mechanisms in the documentary including pet therapy and yoga and I encourage you to get involved in one. These three individuals show that you can live well with mental health issues. It is your journey and yours alone, but you can reach out for help. You can watch the 30-some-minute documentary here.
Love you babes,