Monday, March 04, 2013

I'm one of them

I had an exchange of emails with someone at work who was asking for resource assistance. The way her email was worded, it sounded like a provider, so I asked if she was.

She wrote back a kind of snippy reply, chastising me for my "assumption," and then she made one of her own: "I'm one of them, not one of you."

And then I had an email exchange with a volunteer today, agreeing that we really need to highlight the fact that our events aren't just about raising money, but about changing minds. Not "raising awareness." Changing minds. Blasting stereotypes out of the water. 

Every year I write a post to ask for donations for an event I'm in charge of at work, and the point isn't only to raise funds (and thank you for all of you who have donated, and for those of you who can't, thank you for the good wishes), but also to write on the off chance that someone who reads this might not feel so alone.

I'm one of "them." The one in four American adults living with mental illness. We're your neighbors, your coworkers, the people serving you at Starbucks - but most of us don't dare talk about it. So the upshot is that many people don't get help.

I have been very lucky in my life. I didn't know how lucky until I came to work where I work. I've always had support of family and friends, and, for the past nearly 9 years, a wonderful partner, during my tough times. I've always been able to afford, or have family help me afford, the treatment I needed.

I know when the nightmares happen, I'll have someone to hold me until I fall back asleep. When the days hit where I don't see the point of getting up and putting one foot in front of the other, there are people telling me I can do it.

So many people don't.

So many of them have no one.

So many of them can't afford the care they need, or if they can afford it, they can't access it.

Humorous posts aside, this is why I do what I do. My organization runs on a shoestring. We don't charge for any of our programs or services. We have tons of volunteers helping us out - many of them with their own mental health ups and downs, or family members' ups and downs - because we want people to be able to talk about it. And we want people to get the help they need. This can only happen in the context of a broader social conversation.

My walk team is named in memory and in honor of a friend of mine who never got the help he needed. He was shuffled through the Medicaid system and died of a preventable illness.

In short, he was treated, like many people in the system, like a throwaway person.

Adults living with mental illness die an average of 25 years before the rest of the adult population, mostly from preventable illnesses - just like my friend. And suicide is the second-leading cause of death of young people in my state.

It still blows me away. Such big numbers, so many people affected, but as a society, we don't talk about it unless something terrible happens, and mental illness is suspected as the culprit. So many suffer silently.

So we walk, although some days we feel like pounding the pavement, or even hitting it.

And that is why I ask for help, if you can. Whether that's a donation or simply giving people our information if you think they need help.

The conversation starts with you.


The Elephant's Child said...

And so often people are seen as weak in asking for help in coping with mental illness. FFS, it is an illness. We don't expect a person with a broken leg to 'hop to it', but do expect people with a mental illness to 'pull themselves together'. Which pisses me off. Prejudice helps no-one.
And yes, I battle the demons myself. As does my partner. And we are among the lucky ones.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Powerful! Both this post and you, Riot Kitty!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

A very powerful and important post, my dear! And so well said! I'm with you 100%!!

Granny Annie said...

You are indeed the ideal spokesperson for this cause.

LL Cool Joe said...

I have several friends with mental illness, so I know how important the work you do is. Excellent post.

Betty Manousos said...

excellent post, riot kitty!
and i am with you 100%.
i so admire you, my friend.
god bless you!

big hugs~

Charles Gramlich said...

Too many "Haves" treat others as throw away people. I don't know how they manage to do so and sleep themselves.

Rock Chef said...

I had no idea. I am glad that you have the support that you need.

I have seen a lot of mental illness in my life, both in my family and in friends, some coping better than others. Sadly this area is one which does not get the funding it needs - good luck with your fund raising!

Lynn said...

I am much more aware because of you and your information that you've given on us on posts like this. A worthy cause! And so sad about your friend.

Claire said...

I'm with Annie. Way to go, Miss Riot Kitty.

Cheryl said...

I agree with Charles Gramlich, we have to many "haves" that treat others as throw aways. I am honored to donate to your cause. It is an important issue that should have every one attention and participation.

Riot Kitty said...

Thanks so much everyone! And Cheryl, will you send me your email so I can thank you properly?

Ileana said...

Chica, please send me your address in an e-mail: I'll be happy to donate.

Riot Kitty said...

Thanks so much, chica! I just did.

A Beer For The Shower said...

I don't have a lot of money, but I was happy to donate even just a little. No one should ever fall through the cracks and die of something that's completely preventable. In this day and age, that's just unacceptable. Good luck!

Riot Kitty said...

ABFTS: Thank you!!

DWei said...

That is amazing work you're doing there. More people need to take abnormal psychology courses and understand that these are legitimate illnesses.

Hopefully more programs and help will be given to those who need it.

Wiwille said...

That's some amazing work you do and we should all be envious. Good luck in changing minds.

Riot Kitty said...

DW and Wiwille: Thanks!

Birdie said...

One thing I don't understand and it makes me very sad is when someone commits suicide nobody wants to say that person killed themselves.

When my mom got sick and died from cancer there was no shame in it. In fact, when people die of cancer they "fought valiantly" and "bravely". When someone has a mental illness and dies as a result (suicide) nobody wants to talk about it. Most of the time the person doesn't even get a funeral or even a damn obituary. That is so WRONG. The person was sick and died! To add insult to injury the family is left behind with what is considered a shameful legacy. It breaks my heart. I hope one day that there will be better treatment and possibly a cure for mental illness. If that does not happen I hope that one day when a person kills themselves (after years and years of "fighting valiantly" and "bravely") we will be able to say that they were sick with a mental illness and committed suicide. I hope people will understand it was not about wanting to die but just not being able to live anymore as a result of a disease.

PS- Have you read "Shoot the Damn Dog"? Another blogger recommended it to me and I am now telling others. You can get it cheap at Abe Books online.


Birdie said...

PS - I am very happy to say that I live in a province where medication for mental illness is fully covered for anyone that cannot afford to pay for it. I would love to see this happen everywhere. For years I could not afford my medication and it was always paid for. Now I have extended benefits through my employer but I really don't think I would be alive to write this today if it were not for that medication.

Riot Kitty said...

Birdie: I will check out the book, and I wish we had the same kind of coverage here. And I agree with you on the obits. I have found that most people don't want to talk about it when someone takes their own life, which is not helping prevent the epidemic.

Riot Kitty said...

Birdie: I will check out the book, and I wish we had the same kind of coverage here. And I agree with you on the obits. I have found that most people don't want to talk about it when someone takes their own life, which is not helping prevent the epidemic.