"Almost" because having a mental health issue is still a stigma. Like being abused. Someone who overcomes alcoholism or drug addiction is strong, a winner. But someone who is touched by the issue of "mental health" or is trapped in an abusive situation somehow seems like a passive participant. In our minds, those people don't muster their inner strength and overcome the demon in the same exemplary manner of the ones who are side-lined by alcohol or drugs.
The very words "mental health problems" easily conjure up images of institutions where the crazies were locked up so they would not be a menace to society. We are more enlightened today, but there is still misinformation on the parts of both the person afflicted with the illness and those who care about the person.
For the last few years, I've been wandering in the Wilderness of having brain chemicals that get out of balance. It's a frightening experience to find yourself in the clutches of a dark pit of depression and feel almost helpless and unable to climb out on your own. Friends and family make suggestions: "Cheer up; you have such a great life. Volunteer somewhere; give back. Get a hobby. Read a book. Clean out your closet." But of course it is not that easy.
Then the brain chemicals have the apparent ability to make a u-turn and you feel great. Filled with strong desires to reach out and communicate with people, and to make the world a better place. To use your talents to fix things or "correct" perceived misunderstandings, sometimes making quite a public splash on the local scene or on social media sites. Then having to back-peddle, apologize or otherwise deal with the fall-out of taking personal hits from strangers (or even friends) who feel offended.
It has been my experience that neither extreme is controllable by the person with vacillating emotional states. And I can say with utter conviction that neither extreme is the place I want to be.
In the last century, medical folks performed lobotomies or shock treatments on incarcerated people with mental illness issues. Now, doctors treat patients with a whole range of drugs. Drugs that affect the brain chemistry of the patient. In some cases, these drugs can be successful. A genuine life saver. In other cases, some of the side-effects of these drugs can be as terrifying as the original symptoms in completely different ways. My personal journey through The Wilderness involved drug therapy. It was hell.
The purpose of this piece -- the first I've been able to write in almost two years -- is to express enormous appreciation for those individuals, friends, and family members who do not abandon someone who is caught in the grasp of a mental health issue. Those understanding and accepting people seem to have a special capacity to be patient with and accepting of another person when the person mysteriously drops out or doesn't respond to emails, posts, or invitations.
To those who have understood and cared - whether or not you knew anything at all about what was going on with me - thank you! And I'm sure I can speak for more people than just myself.
I am back ... I hope.