We’re In This Together

Last week I attended a class presented by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  The twelve-week course, called Family to Family, is designed to help family members of someone living with a mental health condition.

I’m taking the course because my daughter and I have experienced panic attacks. I volunteer with NAMI and want to gain a better understanding of the programs they offer.

There was a mix of parents, spouses, siblings, grandparents, and other family members in attendance. They’re desperate for help, desperate for answers. Their loved ones have different mental health issues. Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and others.

One of the topics was how stigma affects us. Some shared how they’ve hidden their loved one’s problems and how they try to pretend the issues don’t exist. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness. Shame and embarrassment seem to affect us all.

As people spoke about their challenges, I noticed a common thread.

Their outward appearances didn’t hint to the deep turmoil in their lives. If I weren’t in that room with them, I’d never know they carried around so much pain.

I kept thinking how these men and women are in my community. If I met any one of them in the grocery store, out for a walk, or at a sporting event, I’d be oblivious to the suffering they endure.

However, I was just about to find out that I actually did know one of them.

As I looked around the room, one man looked familiar. But I couldn’t place where I’d seen him. During the break, he came up to me and introduced himself. Oh, of course, I know you. He’s a business acquaintance of mine and my husband’s. I’ve always thought of him as calm, happy, and easy-going. I’d never guess he’d been having severe challenges with a family member.

The thing is — we just never know. And all the more reason to be compassionate.

This meeting reinforced the fact that we’re not alone. Everyone has difficulties. And there’s comfort in knowing we’re in this together.

First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

 

 

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32 thoughts on “We’re In This Together

  1. The whole mental health stigma, a lot of people forget it touches more than just the person dealing with mental illness. I can’t even imagine how my own family would be treated. It can’t be easy. I can’t even imagine from the perspective of someone supporting a family member with some kind of serious mental illness. I’ve never been on that end of it. In my world, I’m the one with the problems. I just wish there were more options for support for family members and loved ones.

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  2. Jenny, I admire you so much for your volunteer work. You are an inspiration and show how recovery from mental illness is not only possible, but it is also possible to make a bigger difference beyond ourselves. This post was a very good and very necessary reminder to never judge others by outward appearances (or, better yet, never judge at all). It makes me think of one of those thoughtful quotes I saw once, “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

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  3. Good for you for seeking help and support. It took me years to reach out to NAMI because of the shame and ignorance surrounding mental health issues, which is pathetic, in this day and age! My beloved husband;s combat related PTSD impacted our life together in many ways. Going to NAMI meetings helped me deal with it. One of my siblings also has severe PTSD issues. I can no longer help my husband, who passed away in Feb. 2016. I hope I can use what I learned from NAMI to help my sibling cope with these issues. It’s never easy, but family is worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your husband. It must be a very difficult time for you. It’s good to hear that the NAMI meetings helped, and I’m sure you’ll be able to help your sibling cope. I understand what you mean about taking so long to reach out for help. It took me 20 years of living with panic disorder before I went to a doctor. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and absolutely certain that no one — not even a doctor, would understand. And it is terrible, as here we are in 2016, and there is still a lot of stigma. It’s better, but I feel we need to talk about it more, get the issues surrounding mental illness out in the open. Thank you again for your nice comment. Take care! Jenny

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great post, very informative and very brave. You often do not know if people are suffering with mental health issues. The more we learn the more we can help others and ourselves. I come across mental health issues at work ( I am a Paramedic) and feel that I am not able to help people as much as I would like. Your blog is knowledgeable and I am finding it insightful. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, your comment means a lot to me. I recently watched a film produced by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), that is a training film for those who work in prisons and for police officers. It’s aim is to help these workers know how to deal with situations when someone has a mental health issue. It was informative and eye-opening to me. Thank you for your work as a Paramedic. I can’t imagine what you must deal with on a daily basis.

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  5. Sounds like you are moving right along with your NAMI training! It’s so true, everyone is going through something. Recently Bruce Springsteen revealed he has mental illness; he said he gets depressed and has suicidal thoughts. He said he goes to therapy and takes medication. He also said it runs in his family. People would think why would he be depressed, he’s Bruce? We know it has nothing to do with money or status; it’s a malfunction in the brain. As Halsey says, “I think there’s a fault in my code.” She has bipolar and so does her mother. When I first heard that lyric, I thought Yes! There is a fault in my code! Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that, there’s a fault in my code! That’s a good way to put it. And yes, I recently heard about Bruce… I’ve loved his music for years, and had no idea about his depression. I’m always glad when famous people come out and say they have a mental health condition. It helps people know they aren’t alone, and that very successful people are dealing with it too. Thanks Traci! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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