survivingmiddleage

the ups and downs of life

Archive for the tag “Illness”

Long Time Gone

I was gone too long from home. Going back to Alabama this weekend was just what I needed. I cried so much this weekend but it was cathartic. Many of those tears were tears of joy.

I went home because my aunt almost died last Wednesday. She rallied and is better. She is still nowhere near 100%. She is very ill and she is elderly. It’s not good. But she was talking when I got there and she knew me. She was confused, though. She asked me was I still married. No. I have been divorced 16 years. She laughed and said good. We all laughed at that.You find the humor where you can. She said some funny things in her confusion which was also really sad. But you focus on the good of it.That’s all you can do in hard times.

I had lost all of my childhood pictures years ago and another aunt was generous enough to share hers with me. I cried like a baby. I have pictures of me with my parents and other family members that are so precious. It broke my heart and made me so overwhelmed and overjoyed at the same time. I made everyone cry because I just couldn’t stop crying at first. The first pictures I saw had me sobbing.

I saw cousins and aunts and an uncle I hadn’t seen in over a decade. I was blown away with how much love a heart can hold. It was amazing. I knew I loved them, but my heart was overflowing with love.

This morning I met with one of my oldest friends who I haven’t seen in 23 years. He is one of my biggest cheerleaders and the one of the very best men of my generation I have ever met. I’m glad to have him as my best male friend. We got to meet for a quick breakfast and the only change in him is that he has gotten wiser and kinder with age. He told me I was still pretty and I actually believed it for a minute. I hugged him today for the first time in forever and it was like a time machine. I didn’t want to let go. It was as if I had gone back in time and hadn’t made all of the stupid mistakes in life, still had all of the people in my life that I had lost and I felt loved and safe. Who would want to let that go? Unfortunately, I had to. And thankfully for him, I only teared up a little. I couldn’t watch him drive away or I would have burst into tears. I had already cried so much that I just couldn’t do it.

I hit the road and drove through my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama and just soaked it in. I thought about the what-ifs of never having left and all of that. I love that place. My heart ached as I drove east towards Chattanooga. But I kept driving. It was an easy drive. I was happy to see the signs for Asheville, North Carolina, though. I have missed my mountains and my precious cats. It was good to get home here but I do miss home there.

Praying I can make another trip this summer or fall. I need it.

Home

Home. Nostalgia. I think of You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe. Can you? Is home ever the same?

It seems I only go home for death and funerals. I had a trip planned with my ex where we were going to visit my family for fun. Instead, this weekend I am going home because of my sick aunt. I am very worried about her and sad. It brings up a lot of memories.

I haven’t been home in several years. I haven’t had the money or time off from work. Now I do.I need to go. I think I need it not only for my aunt but for me. I need to clear my clouded head. I need to feel love and support from my family. I need those familiar people who know what a screw up I am but love me anyway. Those people who will hug me and laugh and cry with me at the same time. Who understand my tears. I have so many. I am a crier and they know it. I can cry on a dime. They know I’m a tender-heart and admonish me for it but know it is who I am. They know all of my hurts and know that I’m scarred and blemished and that is what makes me Amy. And I can’t help it.

I need home right now. My heart needs it. My head needs it. My soul needs it.

I think that while everything will always change, home will always be home.

In Defense of Mental Illness

My wife reading in bed. And it wasn't because ...

Mental illness…two words that scare the hell out of some people. It scares those who have never dealt with it. It scares those who remain ignorant to it. Do  you know what mental illness is? It is an illness that affects the mind. It can range in severity. It can be something so simple as a chemical imbalance, which only means that your body isn’t producing enough of a certain chemical to make your brain fire “normally”. Or it can be so severe that you are a danger to others. The range is VAST!

I bring this up because frankly I consider diabetes to be something of a chemical imbalance as well. Your body is  not making the amount of insulin necessary. That’s a chemical imbalance isn’t it? People who suffer diabetes generally aren’t told how terrible they are for having diabetes. No. They are told to go to the doctor and to get treatment. And a lot of times treatment is affordable and their medications and appointments are covered by insurance. This is not always the case for people with mental illness.

People with mental illness can’t always afford their illness. It isn’t always covered by insurance. It is sometimes covered under a special umbrella. There are limitations. There are limits on visits. There are limits on who they can see. There are limits on medications. There are limits on lifetime benefits.

Most people with a true mental illness aren’t instantly cured with a few sessions. It is ongoing. It is painful. It is their life. Just like type 1 Diabetes affects patients for a lifetime, mental illness can affect patients for a lifetime. Sometimes there are situations, such as dealing with a situation, where a person will only need temporary help. The limitations on insurance might be effective for those types of situations, but for people with chronic, on-going issues, it is not helpful.

It pisses me off and pains me when I hear people speak so negatively about people with mental health issues. I feel like people just don’t get it and just don’t care to get it. They feel holier than thou and prefer to stay safe in their bubble-wrapped glass houses. They feel they are untouchable by something that has touched so many. I feel sorry for their ignorance and yet disdainful for their judgments. They are so ignorant to think that the perfect storm couldn’t cause the same situations to affect their lives and so judgmental to assume they could or would handle things differently had they walked in another’s shoes. You can’t look at one aspect of a person’s life and think about how you would handle something (i.e., suicide); no, you have to look at all the pain, losses, grief, etc. they have endured throughout their whole life and see that they went through that while dealing with mental illness. Sometimes they are only in dealing with something that is situational. Other times they are dealing with something that has affected them from the time they were conceived.

Why do I have such a strong opinion on this? I have dealt with mental illness from the moment I was born. I was surrounded by it. I was around people who had it. I have it. My loved ones have. My loved ones had it. It has hurt me in ways I can’t describe. I have had it shape my life. I have worked in it. I understand it. I don’t understand it.

I suppose those answers are confusing. I have dealt with depression for just about as long as I remember. I am not going to discuss all of it. It is personal and it is mine. The severity of my depression has ranges. When my personal life was a wreck and everything was falling apart, I will admit I wanted to die. I didn’t want to just die for a moment. No. I wanted to die. I really wanted to die. But I wanted to live more. I prayed and begged God to help me and He did. I was and am grateful God loved me enough to get through to me. He kept pointing out to me the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This did give me hope at times when I had none. This gave me strength to reach out and get help. I was blessed and lucky. I was able to get help.

I do not consider myself any better than anyone else. Some people can’t hear God because they are too deep in a pit of despair and depression. Some people don’t turn to God because they feel He is the reason for their despair. Because of this, they may do a variety of things to try to feel better. It’s a form of self-medication. When  you feel bad, don’t you try to feel better? Most do. They have probably tried various methods and they’ve failed. They probably feel like a failure. If they don’t kill themselves then they start doing something to numb themselves or make life tolerable. They take a pill or drink something. It can lead to more and more. This can lead to addiction. I’m not saying it is a good way to medicate. But it is often cheaper than going to the doctor. You don’t have to make an appointment. You don’t have to fight with your insurance company to do it. You can just medicate. And it is readily available. (Unless you live in the South and have Blue Laws.)

Mental illness isn’t just one type of illness. As I said, there are many types. If you want to learn more, you can visit NAMI, which is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. You can look up information specifically about mental illness and get answers. You can also look for support and/or programs that might be beneficial. It is a little easier to understand than DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is the book that psychiatrists and psychologists use as their bible daily.

I ask anyone reading this to please consider how you could easily be affected by the disease of mental illness. It is a disease as much as diabetes and other things are. You should treat it as such and treat the people afflicted with it with the same respect you would with any other illness or disease. Don’t condemn them. Would  you want someone slinging hateful words at you for something that is consuming  your life that you didn’t ask for and were born with? Try having mercy. I ask others to please remember that you still could be affected by mental illness. If you have a brain, which I hope you do, then something could affect it at some point in your life. My hope is that it doesn’t. But if it does, I hope you have support. I have lived through times where I felt there was no support. Those are the hardest times of all.

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