“Our job is to excavate the unsaid. What is the thing that’s not being said? And that requires courage and vulnerability.“- Brené Brown, The Call to Courage
As you may or may not have noticed, I have been MIA for the last couple of weeks. WHO DOES THAT?!!! Excitedly, passionately, launches the first episode of her Podcast (on mental health and self-care to boot) and then disappears. Yes, that is me you see raising my hand. ME, I did that; a human being that struggles deeply, at times, with depression, anxiety, mental health, and the less than linear journey of healing and recovery. In the words of my dear friend, “A major setback, YES. An opportunity to RESET, BIGGER YES!” So, I graciously and gratefully return to you, to continue to share my personal journey and to inspire real conversation, real resource, real community; around mental health awareness, suicide prevention, and the absolute necessity of self-care. And to say I have learned a lot, in this most recent round of hospitalization, well, that would be a ginormous understatement.
Firstly, the humbling reality that despite 18 months of diligent, grueling, exhausting work- including extensive counselling, both individual and group, self-care, breathing, meditation, yoga, walking, talking, teaching, carving out possibility, creating and inspiring a kickass life- THERE IS STILL MUCH WORK TO BE DONE. Ugh- sucker punch. I must also acknowledge the profound impact of my personal battle upon loved ones; those relentlessly journeying with me through the ups and the downs.
GENTLE REMINDER: The path to healing and recovery is circuitous, oh, and take your foot off the gas pedal, it does not have to happen all at once- this one is a biggie for me! DEEP BREATH. RESET.
Secondly, the medical system, despite what I would like to think has the best of intentions and is doing the best they can, with the resources available, is not even close to meeting the magnitude of the mental health care crisis we find ourselves in, nor does it have the capacity to effectively provide care to those in need. Case in point, I spent my first night sleeping on a chair (to be fair, a recliner) in Emergency. I was not the only one. There were no beds available. I witnessed others sent home and told to come back the next day; Human Beings, suffering and in crisis! Was I then grateful for my luxurious, chaise lounger in Emerg? You bet I was. Of note, I had also requested a transfer to another hospital, where I had received previous care and this was concurrently being addressed, whilst I waited for a bed “somewhere”.
A day and a half later, I was moved from Emerg to a smaller ward in the hospital (a bed, at last) and what I would describe as a “holding place” for those awaiting transfer to the actual Mental Health Care Unit. Again, here, Nurses doing the best they could with the resources available, run off their feet by the needs of their patients, in turn, advocating, fairly so, for care, support and solutions. Honestly, it was like watching dance partners trying to execute choreography, each to a different soundtrack; yep, nonsensical and beyond frustrating for all involved. I witnessed a couple of my fellow patients, at long last, move “up” to the Mental Health Unit, and I saw others (struggling more than I was and that’s saying something!) discharged and sent home; not ready to do so, fearful. For me, I was eventually told that transfer to the other hospital would not be possible; still no bed, it had been a very busy weekend and there would likely be no bed in the immediate future. In terms of staying where I was or moving “upstairs” the only difference would be having a window to look out. Say what?! It was then made very clear to me, in conversation with the attending Psychiatrist, that this hospital did not offer the same services, as the hospital for which I had requested the transfer. And even though I felt I needed at least two or three more days in care, I was promptly discharged. WTF? DEEP BREATH. RESET.
Third learning. I found myself sitting on my hospital bed, across from one of my significant relationships, listening, receiving, as they gesticulated skyward and said, “That Julie” (hand swinging, dismissively, in an all-encompassing circular motion), as in That Julie that has battled fiercely for the past 18 months to find her way, stand on her own two feet, take ownership, albeit, perfectly-imperfectly, the one that got real, chose to be vulnerable, transparent, share story, inspire conversation and community, be of service, find purpose, and live – “I do not wish a relationship with That Julie, I wish a relationship with the Julie sitting here in front of me, on this bed.” To which I respond, “So, just to clarify, you wish only to have a relationship with depressed, anxious, incapacitated, immobilized, hopeless, helpless, tortured Julie?” Response: “Yes.” OH. HEART. STOP.
So, from my perspective, there is so much not right about this. Firstly, in less than thirty seconds, my healing and recovery efforts, since November 30, 2017, were significantly diminished; negated, in fact. And, I absolutely abhor this statement, but it is so blatantly accurate here; there goes the baby with the bath water. That somehow That Julie is not real, authentic. As if these two parts of me are mutually exclusive. Now, let me ask this question? When is it, that we decided it was ok to see each other in fragments, pieces, and parts? As in; healthy versus unhealthy, functional versus dysfunctional, lovable versus unlovable, stable versus unstable, whole versus broken…you get the idea. My friend describes it perfectly, “It’s like choosing only to love your kids if they are getting straight A’s, scoring goals, winning, and kicking ass in life. Not when they are being little buggers, making poor decisions, and falling flat on their faces.” When does this shift happen? The conditional love? The judgement? When is it that we stop perceiving, respecting, and accepting one another as perfectly, imperfect WHOLE HUMAN BEINGS (I too, guilty as charged)? For goodness sake, we are not All-You-Can-Eat Buffets, we do not get to pick and choose what parts of each other are worth love and then discard the rest! Alternatively, we need to encourage one another to get real, unmask, be whole, and then we need to learn how to show up for one another; no matter what.
GENTLE REMINDER: Just because we struggle with mental health, does not mean we lose the right to joy; to heal, recover, dream, create, seek love, to rise back up and into inspired, functional living and equanimity…yes, even in the case of attempted suicide. DEEP BREATH. RESET.
What does this mean for me, for us, and The Real SELFCARE Collective? It means I still have critical healing to do. I need to slow it all down and hold space for myself to do just this. It means, more than ever, I remain committed to inspiring dialogue, to creating a safe space for sharing story, to connecting us in community, and in accessing real resource and insights from Health-Care Professionals. What I have also come to realize, it is not enough to simply converse around mental health or to encourage those of us currently suffering in silence to unmask and courageously unveil. We also need to advocate for a medical system that meets adequately the demands of what, without doubt, is a Global Health Crisis. According to WHO (The World Health Organization):
One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders. Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect. – World Health Organization
What we also require is a harmonized (scientific, alternative, holistic) approach to Healthcare, one that treats the Whole Being; physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, and soulfully. Think of it this way. Our bodies and our minds are inextricably linked, and, in the beginning, they whisper their discomforts and imbalances. If left unattended, the volume gets turned up, and if we continue to ignore these powerful messages from within, full on screaming ensues; manifesting in mental health challenges, addiction, self-soothing and destructive behaviors, chronic pain, disease (cancer, diabetes, heart attack…this list goes on and on), or a combo special. Eventually, the decision is made for us and we are literally stopped in our tracks. We are forced to deal. Self-care, therefore, becomes the PREVENTION piece and thus remains an integral cornerstone of The Real SELFCARE Collective initiative.
It is imperative we come together, not only in conversation, but in ACTION. We first need to learn how to show up for ourselves in the not-so-glamorous, oh-so-messy, downright ugly bits of life; authentically, kindly, compassionately, patiently, and lovingly. We then need to learn how to show up for others in their struggle; authentically, kindly, compassionately, patiently and lovingly. This is the PRACTICE piece. We then need the support of a system that shows up for us all, robustly, effectively, treating the Whole Being; authentically, kindly, compassionately, patiently, and lovingly. This is the INTEGRATION piece; this completes the puzzle and invites WHOLENESS.
What’s next you ask? Well, this girl is DUSTING HERSELF OFF (big time!), taking a DEEP BREATH, and RESETTING. And then, what do you say we get back to work? Let’s collectively HEAL THE WHOLE, let’s inspire REAL CHANGE, let’s make REAL MAGIC happen, and, yes, let’s do so authentically, kindly, compassionately, patiently and lovingly.
I wish you well, I wish you whole. We are STRONGER TOGETHER. With deep gratitude and love.