Sharing mental health issues is crucial to healing our relationships: Because I’m a woman and because I can
I was sitting in the pub last evening having dinner with my son (who is now legally old enough to drink, crazy!) and two men sat down next to us. One started talking and said, “So she told me that she couldn’t be with me anymore unless I got some help. And she left.”
I expected him to say, “She’s full of s**t,” or something along those lines, but instead he said, “So I drove to the nearest hospital emergency and checked in.”
I admit, I was impressed. Most people who need mental health help don’t go get it, or even admit that they need it. And he went to the emergency voluntarily and got the help he needed. Bravo to him!
I think we get to a certain point in our life where we realize we need help. That the dissolution of our relationships is not healthy, and our behaviour is at least partially responsible. That somehow we’re adding to the dysfunctional cocktail that’s mixing up our private lives. And sometimes not just our life at home either.
Some people can remain fairly “normal” at work and then unload the ugliness when they get home. Others unload it in every aspect of their lives. And that causes a lot of problems.
As he went on to talk with his friend, I overheard snippets of words like “bi-polar disorder,” “personality disorder,” and “I was admitted immediately.” I was very heartened that he got the help he needed right away and by seeing two men (who were obviously good friends) talk about a topic that can carry so much stigma.
I think for men it’s even harder to admit that they’re not strong, resilient, capable. But facing who you are and doing what you can to help yourself, and therefore everyone in your life, is being strong, resilient and capable.
And I know admitting that you need mental health help is not an easy thing to do.
It’s very frightening and revealing. You worry that you’re actually “crazy.” That you won’t be able to look after yourself and your loved ones and will end up wandering the streets or something.
My maternal grandfather was hospitalized three times with “exhaustion.” That’s what they called a breakdown in those days. He lived in the UK during WWI and fought in WWII, so after he came to Canada he was carrying all that within him. He became a minister and loved preaching and being the centre of his flock. But he fought with depression throughout his adult life.
Thinking back on it, for my grandfather to be hospitalized it must’ve been pretty bad. He was always a go-getter and liked being busy and doing things. He was social and dynamic too. Not the typical depressive personality. And likely a Type-A personality like a lot of my mother’s family.
I see bits of that depression in various family members and some may be bi-polar too. There’s a certain mania about some of them, and my grandfather may have had that as well.
I didn’t find out my grandfather had depression until after I had my breakdown. At least I don’t remember hearing about it before that. Maybe I did and just didn’t pay attention. I have found that my awareness about myself has increased greatly as I’ve gotten older. Also becoming a mother taught me a lot about myself too.
Everything you do as a parent affects your child. You can’t “hide” who you are from your children because parenting puts you at your most vulnerable. I have never felt more broken open and helpless than when I was looking after my son.
I have also never experienced so much joy or love either. Parenting takes you to extremes. And as Robin Williams said you can’t turn around and say, “Now it’s time for daddy to throw up on you.”
No when you become a parent you have to put your big girl panties on (or big boy panties on as it were).
It’s doubly hard to be vulnerable when you’re a parent because you feel you have to be a rock for your child. I used to feel like that too. But I couldn’t “hide” my breakdown from my son. And I realized he needed to know that we can fall down and pick ourselves back up.
That responsible people do it all the time and that sometimes it’s necessary to get the help we need.
We all carry different burdens within us for very personal reasons, and they’re not always easy to share with others. That’s why I was so impressed with the man sitting next to us.
I believe that if women and men had more conversations like that our world would be a lot more open and a lot healthier place.