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You Are Not Alone--Mental Health Awareness Month

May 24, 2016 09:23 pm

You Are Not Alone
Mental Health Awareness Month
by Kristy Acevedo

Let me first say that people suffering with mental health issues are wonderful people. They can be the most loving, creative, thoughtful, sensitive, supportive, intelligent people you could ever hope to have in your life. My life would not be as vibrant without them in it.

I serve as a mental health advocate. I have several close family members who suffer from various mental health issues, ranging from mild to debilitating, including general anxiety disorder, panic, social anxiety, agoraphobia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, paranoia, dissociative identity disorder, bipolar, and chronic depression. I will not be naming people or specifics in this blog post, because I feel those are their personal stories to tell.

Throughout my life, however, I learned how frustrating and hopeless it can feel when you don't know how to help. I learned what not to say by saying the wrong things. I learned how to apologize. I learned how to forgive. I learned not to encourage or argue with irrational thinking. I learned patience. I learned not to take it personally.

I learned how to recognize triggers and patterns.  I learned to watch for red flags. I learned to hover. I learned not to hover. I learned to be co-dependent. I learned to think for myself. I learned when to put their needs first. I learned when to put my needs first. I learned coping mechanisms. I learned how resentment builds. I learned that caregivers have a high risk of developing depression and anxiety themselves. I learned to seek counseling myself for stress management. I learned never to cover for their mistakes. I learned that my love cannot cure them.

I learned to advocate for them. I learned to create boundaries for myself. I learned to vent with close friends. I learned how to deal with crisis. I learned that they are often victims trapped by the trauma of their past. I learned how much labels can hurt. I learned that they are not their illness. I learned how to deal with shame. I learned that people have different needs, and by respecting their needs, they can thrive. I learned to hold them accountable for unreasonable behavior. I learned when to push. I learned when to hug. I learned empathy. I learned when to let go.

I learned that the mental health community is hugely underfunded and understaffed. I learned that not all counselors are created equal. I learned how difficult it is to find a psychiatrist. I learned that medical doctors can prescribe psychiatric drugs, but they shouldn't. I learned how a good day can turn into a nightmare. I learned that the wrong medication can set people back for years. I learned that many psychiatric medications have terrible side effects that exacerbate symptoms. I learned that medication can often be a lifesaver and life-changer.  I learned that medication is a personal, case-by-case choice. 

I learned that sometimes people turn to alcohol and other drugs to cope. I learned to give them what they need and not what they want. I learned to let people hit bottom despite how much it hurts your heart to watch. I learned the path to stability is never linear. I learned that I am sometimes hated for being hopeful. I learned how much I am loved for doing what is difficult.

To those loved ones out there who serve as caregivers, supporters, spouses, parents, family, and/or friends of people suffering from mental illness.

You are not alone. 

You are amazing.

A big thank you to Kristy Acevedo, author of CONSIDER, a sci-fi story that explores the depths of anxiety disorder in an apocalyptic situation. Jolly Fish Press is proud to uplift and present the world with authors who give a voice to the voiceless and show the world the importance of lifestyles outside of the norm.

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