I wish they understood …

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I spend a lot of time at the moment trying to decide what I should write about next on my blog. I have about ten almost finished articles saved, but I’m not quiet ready to push publish. I am always conscious of what one of my blogging idols, Brooke McAlary from The Slow Home Podcast once said. I am paraphrasing here, but she pretty much said that the internet is full to the brim of information, some of it useful and some not. So why contribute to the clutter out there unless you are going to add value. This sits well with me, so I pull the breaks on posting if I feel what I am writing about is too similar to other content out there.

When I think about it, really think about it, it’s simple. Yes there is so much I wish was better in the area of mental health. I wish I could get into an appointment with a doctor, councillor, psychiatrist or psychologist when I needed it. I wish that I didn’t have to travel between 2-6 hours to get there and pull my kids out of school for a day or two. I would love it if I had a psychiatrist that didn’t say to me that he is really guessing when he is trying different medications to see if they work on me. Plus OMG how great it would be if I could have energy again and not live in a constant feeling that I can’t do the food shopping as that trip to town will push me over the edge and I will need to sleep for the rest of the day. But, none of those are what I really wish for more than anything else.

What I wish for, and I am sure many others wish for, is to be understood. Like, REALLY understood. A number of things have happened in my life in the last few weeks that have left me feeling like I am hanging by a thread, I know how dark and horrible it will be if the thread breaks and I fall into the deep dark hole again so I am trying everything I can to stay hanging on.

I used to think (just in my general life, nothing really to do with mental health illnesses) that if I could get the chance to speak to someone, one on one and given time, I would be able to express my feelings on a particular issue and then they would understand where I was coming from. I think I naively thought this would end in a peaceful existence of unicorns and rainbows. Obviously, I now realise that this is completely ridiculous.  There are some people that due to their own experiences in life or lack of exposure to certain situations will never  truly listen or understand. To a degree I have a sense of peace with this, it has taken most of my adult life and a lot of tears and feet stomping (the feet stomping mostly in private) but I am coming to terms with the sad realites around relationships and adulthood.

But when I am feeling the downward pull of depression and anxiety and I can’t get anyone to understand, it honestly makes me feel like giving up. It is so difficult to explain to people how sad you can feel. The best way I can describe it is:

You are in a state of panic because you are drowning in the deep, dark ocean.  You keep calling to passers by on  boats to help, but all they do is smile and wave, then keep going. You hope they are going to get help for you, but deep down you know they are just getting on with their day and don’t really notice you sinking. 

Since slowly beginning my journey of ‘Climbing 2 Contentment’, after my breakdown around the start of last year, I have really tried to explain my situation to people. I do this for two reasons. Firstly, I guess selfishly it is so they don’t judge me so harshly for all the activities of daily life I can no longer do and secondly so they gain an understanding of mental health issues from the inside.

In order for me to improve (and although sometimes I feel like I haven’t, I have) I have learnt I need to guard all aspects of my life and set boundaries. I have set my days up so that I can hopefully get what needs to be achieved done. I have a routine and I need to follow it to feel some control of life. However, obviously some days life throws a curve ball and it can be the smallest change to routine that will just be too much for me. I get total mental and physical fatigue and in a dream situation I would sleep. But this often isn’t possible as I still have kids, a husband and a business that all need attention. I will literally be a walking emotional zombie sometimes, but not let myself rest as I don’t want the kids to get home from school two days in a row with a mum in bed.

Now despite explaining this to you here, I am aware many of you ‘won’t’ get it. I know it sounds ridiculous. I would actually love to do more research on the physical affects of depression as I am sure there must be heaps of information out there. But for now please believe me that our mental health can affect our physical health greatly. For me the biggest thing is the exhaustion.

Those that knew me prior to the last 2 years would know that I would be eager to travel anywhere and everywhere all the time. It would not be unusual for me to take a half dozen interstate trips and an overseas trip every year. Plus go the 6 hours to Adelaide every few weeks and the 2 hours to Port Lincoln every few weeks as well. Now? Well now I have no interest even going the 35min drive to the local town. I have already asked my Mum if she can please take my daughter to her doctors appointment in July in Adelaide and I honestly would love it if I never left the house again. Why? Well I am overtaken by debilitating exhaustion so often and so quickly I don’t know if I will be able to get home again. This all circles around the ‘being understood ‘ heading of this article because how do you honestly explain to someone at school or at the supermarket that you have hit a wall and you can’t ‘parent’ anymore as you are so exhausted? Yep, no easy answer is there.

Just the other day I had a phone call from a mental health nurse as she needed, I guess, to assess if I was worthy of an appointment that I was after with a psychologist (this sounds harsh I know, but you would not believe how much I have been put through to get help). So I answered my phone as I always do ‘hello’ in my naturally vibrant and happy voice. This lady wanted to speak to Sally and was very surprised when I said that I was Sally. She then stated that my doctor had written a referral and mentioned the words used on it ( you can imagine the tone of the referral) and was very questioning and doubtful that I could possibly be struggling that much. So yet again there I was confirming all the information to this lady. To then be told ‘ok, well you will hear from us when an appointment becomes available’. Clearly she did not understand at all how I was feeling and that I had been through this exact experience over a dozen times this past 18 months. To her I was just a name on a bit of paper for her to ring and then tick off her list.

Now in contrast to this I have had asthma since I was two years old. In those 32 years of having asthma not once have I been quizzed as to if I had really had an asthma attack and did I really have trouble breathing? Not once have I had to go to the doctor to get a referral which I didn’t get to see, wait two months and make 4 phone calls to get the asthma specialists nurse to call me. Not once did they then quiz me over the phone about how bad my asthma really was and then tell me I will hear from then when an appointment becomes available. No, it has never, ever been that hard. I am pretty confident that my mental health posses a much bigger risk to my health than my asthma does.

Oh to be understood…………that is what I truly wish for.

With the tiny slip in my depression over the last few weeks I have had little snippets again of the despair I have felt in the past when I was at a very low point and couldn’t get anyone to understand. The memories of lying on the shower floor for hours in tears wondering what to do and if things would ever get better. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. (DISCLAIMER: to my lovely friends reading this, I am ok, had a rough little patch, but all is ok).

In reality, I don’t know if we can ever really understand someone else emotional state. But I do know that we can all take the time to not judge and if you are in the situation with a close friend or family member please really try to understand. If you are a health care worker of any description I know how overworked and tired you are. But I beg you, people are more than just names on a page and statistics in your reports. LISTEN, CARE and ACT.

Love and Peace.

Sal

xxx


p.s If you want to live a life that focuses on the important things, the simple things that really matter. If you want to enjoy time with your kids, but feel overwhelmed by life and the daily grind, then I highly recommend checking out

http://www.slowyourhome.com

Brooke and her husband Ben are Australian and have two kids. They have made big life changes and enjoy testing out all different types of ways to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. I have found them so inspirational over the years and love listening to their podcast.


 

3 thoughts on “I wish they understood …

  1. Jana says:

    Well said Sal. The world can be a very cruel place for people with mental health issues, especially in regional areas. I still remember trying to call Lifeline and Beyond Blue on a really ‘bad’ day during my first bout of PND and I couldn’t get through! Then I was on hold forever before I finally got to speak to someone who wasn’t that helpful anyway….I know these people are just trying to do their best with the resources they have available but it shouldn’t be so damn hard to find someone who understands and can help. You are doing an amazing job by speaking out. Don’t stop xoxo

    1. Sally says:

      I know Jana! People say to ring the numbers and get help, but it is often not that simple. I have had bad experiences too. I do believe there are good people out there wanting to help, they are either hard to find or overworked. It was very sad to realise when I was in Adelaide getting help in hospital how half the patients were from a health care background. Many are not taught the self care techniques to be able to sustain such a emotionally taxing job and they burn out, we are all only human. A lot of work needs to be done to create reliable pathways to getting the help needed for those not just regionally, but in particular those that are still a long distance from major towns as well. Thank you for all your support over the years xxxx

  2. Mum says:

    What a passionate, insightful and giving writer your are Sally! It is lovely to see the beautiful rainbow picture that Oscar did, and remember your excited reaction the first time you saw it.

    No one can ever truly realise how someone else feels or what they are going through, even though our intentions are very sincere. Your blogs are enabling those of us who care, to gain a deeper understanding of the debilitating effects of depression. It is ongoing learning for us who have not experienced depression.

    I know each of your blogs has helped me to continue to build on my understanding of your journey and empower me with more knowledge, so that, one day I may REALLY understand your journey. With this knowledge and understanding I want to be an advocate for and talking about reducing the deplorable stigma that surrounds mental health.

    Wishing you a lifetime of contentment.

    Love you heaps and so proud of all that you do. xxx

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