Mental Health Awareness Week: Why is awareness so important?

I came across this blog post earlier today. It struck a chord in me. Perhaps I’m too sensitive, or cynical, or both. It’s been my personal experience that those who really and truly need to “get it,” are the ones least likely to ever open their minds.

I struggle with depression. I don’t know – or care – what came first, my physical or mental health issues. What I do know, is that despite living in the Information Age, people are often willfully ignorant. Look, I don’t want or expect people to know the minutiae of the challenges I face each and every moment of every day. What I do want – and wish I could expect – is for others to stop expecting that it’s okay to dump their beliefs and expectations on me.

If I do share with you that I’m having issues when outside my home, it’s generally just a courtesy on my part. It means I’m sharing in the hope of less judgement than I normally face. I don’t want people to think I’m intoxicated when my balance goes or my words start to slur, so if I’m out with folks I don’t know that well and I notice something is about to go wonky, I state then and there that I have MS. It is not – let me be very clear – an invitation or cue, for anyone to proceed peppering me with questions, sharing the so-called medical wisdom, or to pass judgement. It is not a case of my pulling the sympathy card. I just want the people around me to know that I’m not plastered or high.

If my depression gets the better of me while out in public and you don’t live the expression on my face – or in my case, lack thereof – it does not give you, family, friend or stranger, the right to go off on me. Period. You don’t like the look in my face?  Here’s a tip, don’t look!

p.s.  And please, stop comparing me or my case to other people.  Believe it or not, I am fully aware that literally billions of people have a much, much harder life than I do.  And I know that many of them still manage to put on a happy face and be an inspiration.  Guess what?  I am doing the best I can.  If that’s not good enough for you, then it’s your problem. Not mine.

#BlackDogRunner

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. For those who spend much time around me, this must sound rather exhausting. Barely a week goes by where I don’t moan about my symptoms, complain about stigma, or behave in a generally ‘mental’ way. Rather than another week of raising awareness, I suspect many of my friends would prefer a Mental Health Ignorance Week. Where I’d be induced into a state of quiet normalness, and the rest of the world could continue… Well… pretty much as normal.

"Ignorance is bliss" “Ignorance is bliss” (This is one of my favourite pictures on the internet – I don’t know the original source)

And – if I’m fair – I’d have sympathy. For a start, I know how boring I can get when I feel motivated to speak. It’s like a terrible episode of Question Time, where the most annoying…

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Multiple Sclerosis: The First Two Years.

Valariamsouza hits the ball clear out of the park describing her first two years after an MS diagnosis. She very clearly states what it feels like when your own body attacks itself…when it eats you from the inside out. And what it feels like to be utterly abandoned in your time of the most need.
I’ve already thanked her, but I’m going to say it again…THANK YOU, Valenciamsouza, for giving us and this horrible f***ing disease a voice!!!!

It's complicated.

What I remember most about the first two years of MS is the hunger. I remember lying flat on my mattress, hungry. Close your eyes, go back to sleep.

I’m hungry.

I’m tired. No: I’m decimated. In this game of rock-paper-scissors, tired always wins out over hungry. I close my eyes. I drift in and out of sleep. Four hours pass. I wake up and think: I’m so hungry. Sleep. Eight hours. Still hungry. More sleep. Twelve hours. So fucking hungry. Knocked out again. Sixteen hours. Twenty hours. Sometimes twenty-four or more. Still hungry. Still fucking hungry.

Each time I awake I briefly contemplate getting up, foraging for something to eat. But the walk through the living room, past the bathroom, into the kitchen is long, and I am weak. The thought of opening the fridge or a cabinet, of microwaving something, is beyond me…

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Opinions. Everyone has One.

You know what they say about opinions right?

For the most part, I’m a huge believer in free speech and will defend anyone’s right to have their own opinions.

But you know what’s not alright?  Cramming YOUR opinion down other people’s throat.  Especially when you have no actual facts whatsoever to back up the ill-formed opinion you’re busy cramming down your target’s throat and regaling your loyal entourage with.

Lemme ‘splain,

From one standpoint, I am relieved to finally have a diagnosis.  But here’s the thing, I naively (apparently) thought that once I received it and let folks know, it would finally shut them up.  After all, how do you argue with scan results that show your brain closely resembles a slab of Swiss cheese?

And with not just one, but two neurologists who specialize in diagnosing and treating Multiple Sclerosis?

Well, apparently you can!

As it turns, I AM a lazy, whining, anti-social cow.  Or at least that’s what I’ve been told, repeatedly, by both portions of my family and that of my husband’s, acquaintances and even strangers.

Yes, leaving the workforce at the ripe old age of 32, was a well thought out career move.  Who needs a pension plan?  Eating cat food sounds in my golden years sounds like a great idea. Yummy!

I’ve had ever so much fun having my once busy work and personal life slowly shrink to almost nothing.  I love being in constant pain. I eat a bucket full of pills every day because I want to.  It’s a choice, really it is.

It’s been an absolute blast to watch my once spotless house transform into something you might see on an episode of Hoarders. I simply adore having to walk very slowly like a little old lady (at 44), eyes to ground, carefully scanning for stray pebbles or cracks in the concrete that might trip me up, resulting in yet another face plant or a cracked tail bone.  After all, who needs speed?  Don’t we all moan and whine about needing to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak?

Descending stairs without firm railings to hang onto?  No problem, sliding down them on my ass or back makes me feel like an Olympic athlete! Wheee…

And my absolute favourite thing of all?Having total strangers walk right up to me share their opinions with me!  And doing it loudly enough that the CSIS, the NSA or Paranoid Putin need not waste their resources trying to get intelligence on my latest nefarious plans.

Like I said, everyone has an opinion.

But if you’ve got any (more) opinions about me, my MS, or anything at all to do with my personal life – which includes my husband, our two daughters, and our pets – and it isn’t complimentary, then do me and the world, one small favour…KEEP THEM TO YOURSELF!

Go find yourself a life and stay out of everyone else’s business.

New Body Please

Excuse me sir, could you direct me to correct aisle for new bodies?

What’s that, you’re running low at the moment? Oh, just on the younger, hot looking models. That’s quite alright. I’d be more than happy for a female model that appears in her mid-forties, wrinkles, grey hairs, a few extra pounds and all. I just want one that works like any other relatively healthy mid-40s woman should.

No, I don’t particularly care about race. Sure, switching from a relatively colourless one like my current, broke down model, will take a bit of adjustment, but I’ll adapt. After all, my husband’s been telling me for over 20 years now that he loves me no matter what I look like!

Aisle three, you say? Splendid!

Pardon me? You also have a free Delivery Service and for just a small fee they’ll even assemble it for me? Wonderful!

Lead on, my good man, lead on.