Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well! I know it’s been a while since my last blog. We have had a lot going on in my family, and I would like to talk about that in my next post, but today I would like to talk to you about May being Mental Health Awareness Month. This is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I am a Warrior of Epilepsy, but I am also a survivor who experiences depression and anxiety from all the years of having Epilepsy and the outside effects of that as well. I have overcome many battles. Losing my ability to drive, losing my career, which caused me to lose my home, just to name a few. All of this over the years caused me to break, and unfortunately it was the day before my daughter’s 18th birthday, and on the day of her party. This is something that I continue to work through.
I tell you this story because I know I am not alone. I know there are many individuals that struggle with severe depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses along with me. I often see posts on social media in many different groups that make me question, why are we not getting the help we need?
In my opinion, we need specialized help that understands the true complexity of mental health and I just don’t see a lot of it out there. Telling us to take a walk when we are sad is not the answer when we can hardly get out of the bed from a hard seizure or migraine from an oncoming seizure. My attempt to take my life was not a cry for help. I meant for it to happen. I was searching for a deep peace; one I had craved for so very long. Luckily, I was not granted that, and I have never been more thankful. But the truth of the matter is that our community is in crisis.
After my attempt, I spent 9 days total in 2 different hospitals. The first 3 days in a regular hospital and the last 6 in a mental health hospital. It was no vacation, but I viewed it as a job I had to complete to get well again. I got a lot out of it and had a lot of work to do.
So, what can you do to prevent from getting to that point of despair? These are self-care steps that are currently working for me along with very specific medications monitored by my doctor:
• Dancing – In the kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc. With or without music and when/wherever the mood may strike me. You have a song stuck in your head? Sing it! You have no idea how good this feels!
• Exercise – Everyone tells you to do this, but it’s true. I have an elliptical machine that I get on almost every morning. I have even earned a t-shirt for doing 100 days. It still hasn’t come yet, and I now on 130 days. I haven’t lost a pound, (too many ices cream sandwiches I guess-LOL) but I love starting my day that way.
• Laugh – Laughter has been the key to keeping the depression away. Laugh when things are funny, when there scary, and when there sad! My sister and I have always said it’s better to laugh than to cry. We have gotten through some rough times by finding the irony and humor out of situations. Life has a way at throwing some crazy stuff at us, so just keep holding on, and riding through it.
• Gratitude – This is something I learned while being in treatment. While I was there, they really reminded me to humble myself and be grateful for everything again. It makes such a difference. I am so very blessed for everything I have. My life could be so much worse. Try to find the good things in your life that you are thankful for.
• Find your tribe and reach out to them – Not everyone is blessed with a family that understands and supports them the way my family does. So, find your tribe, whether it be your friends, co-workers, church members, or other people with epilepsy, and lean on them in your times of need. In addition, be there for them in their times of need. Feeling needed is just as beneficial as having your needs met.
• Find your passion – What do you love to do? Put your time into that. I was a social worker for 14 years total, professionally, but I truly believe in my heart that I am still and will always be one without a name tag. It is who I am. Advocacy is my passion. My passion and purpose right now is advocating for those of us with mental health needs and Epilepsy. We deserve better treatment. Find what you love to do and put your energy in that. We all have something we are good at and love to do, find yours!
• THE TIME IS NOW- Make plans to do something you really want to do with a loved one and do it. Don’t stop dreaming and setting goals, just because you have a medical condition. There might be limits and guidelines, but don’t let that stop you from living your best life!
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please get help right away through one or more of these resources:
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.
- Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, a spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
- Make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional.