Robin William’s death really puts a spotlight that can no longer be denied on the emotional pain that people experience as well as the depth of sadness experienced with symptoms associated with a mental health diagnosis. People need not suffer in silence and die feeling all alone. Emotional trauma and pain is so real and it can be life threatening when, as with any other internally manifested toxin, it’s left untreated.
I have a diagnosis of Bipolar and have lived through more than 20 years of an existence that consisted of suicidal ideation on pretty much a daily basis. My inner-dialogue was my Hell on Earth. A survivor of several suicide attempts, after finally reaching out for help I received a diagnosis and medication initially allowed me to find the balance that had never been there yet I was dying a little bit each day with a desire to feel the happiness that stems from it, rather than continuing to feel like I was flailing about in every moment of life.
Overcoming “Waves of Momentary Despair”
Rick Warren worded it so well in the statement made after his son’s suicide when he said that it happened after a fun night with the family and after a ‘momentary wave of despair’. For me, sometimes those moments merged so effortlessly together that the moments seemed like days and because they were such heavy moments when they happened, it was hard to tell myself that it would pass or that it could ever get better. Death felt like my only option during an experience when I felt all alone.
Many years later, addictions overcome and now medication-free for the past 6 years, the symptoms are managed through techniques of mindful awareness in any given moment about how I’m feeling. I’ve created a program called The Greater Peace of Mind program which includes these things I’m writing about and so much more. I live and breathe this…I LIVE and BREATHE this and I’ve seen the transformation in the lives of others after guiding them through this program. Noticing how the energy of words affect me has been HUGE. I no longer use the word “relapse”. Instead I use the word off-center or off-balance. The reason is simple but the results have been, and continue to be, both empowering and profound.
This is because, although I no longer use medication to manage the symptoms associated with the diagnosis…I still experience symptoms. And sometimes, I can feel as if it’s blind-sighted me when they show up. I still have waves of ‘momentary despair’. It doesn’t happen as frequently now but, when it does, it feels as if it’s sucked my breath away.
Creating New & Empowering Inner Dialog…
If I were to choose to look at those moments as ‘relapse’, then the toxic, venom-spewing, inner-dialogue that ensues would prevent me from being able to move from that place of scary despair and the clean version of that conversation would be, “Oh my God! Really, Havalynn?! You’re SOOO frickin’ stupid! Here you are… again! You are such a failure!” Because of how much shame is associated with a “relapse”, it made it much more unlikely for me to reach out for the support that was needed and would’ve been helpful in me feeling more centered and balanced once again.
However, being able to recognize when I’m not feeling centered, my inner- dialogue begins to say, “Phew! Okay, Havalynn, something’s going on and you’re not feeling very centered…what do I need so that I may find my center of balance again…my peace of mind? Do I need to reach out for support? What is it that I need?” This dialogue is loving, accepting and more conducive to promoting helpful action on my part.
And here’s an interesting thing about that, when doctors are working with someone in adjusting their medication it’s to off-set a chemical imbalance so, why not create consistency with the words used when recognizing that if someone begins to experience symptoms, whether it’s of an addiction and they’re using again or a mental health diagnosis and they’re experiencing emotional distress, it’s because something’s happened that caused a loss of balance that was there before and now it’s affecting their experience of life.
More than focusing on a ‘relapse’ why not address the fact that there was a sense of balance…and things were working for them…and now something’s occurred which created that loss of balance (whether medication or overwhelmed with things going on) and that necessary balance was lost so, let’s focus on what was working and what else is needed in moving forward.
It’s not about sugar-coating or minimizing the experience, it’s about recognizing that words have an energy that will either uplift how you feel or deflate you. Understanding this allows you to create an empowered language which creates an empowered experience and one which honors you and the challenges that you may be experiencing within your moment of life.
No More Shame…
Having a mental health diagnosis is something I’m no longer ashamed of. It’s not who I am. It’s one of the challenges I have which adds incredible character to the person you know and to so many people that I know and love as well. And, as with any kind of a challenge, it challenges me to grow, to become more, do more, want more and to be rewarded in countless ways for my efforts as I learn how to live with and embrace it.
It is so important for me to be mindful of the wording going on within my inner-dialogue. For it’s after those moments when I’ve lost my sense of balance…once I’m able to find that center of balance again…my experience of recovery is so magnificently deepened…and thus my experience of life. Not only have I found my center of balance but, I’m living way above it.
I remember some years ago, going in to see my primary care physician and in response to her question of “what are you here for today?” I said through an outpouring of tears, “I just want to be happy!” I threw my open hands down in front of myself and cried from the depths of my soul, “I’m just so tired of feeling like…THIS!” Although that was more than ten years ago, I remember it as if it was just yesterday.
Reunite with Moments of Joy…
Reach out. Ask for support. Begin a dialogue. Connect with someone you feel safe with so that together, you can begin to create other options for yourself.
Every moment of life is an opportunity for things to get better.
Happy is possible and although it may not be felt in the way you’ve previously known it…
…it’s possible to begin knowing happiness differently and in other ways that will also be rewarding and fulfilling.
I know that there may be some one to whom this speaks…know that there are always other options available…even when it feels like you don’t have any. There are ALWAYS other options that can be created so that you may experience a greater peace of mind. Please…reach out. You begin to reunite with moments of joy. Although you may feel alone…you are not. This life needs you and this world needs your unique presence within it.
Robin Williams physical presence in life will be greatly missed however, his spirit will forever be felt and his laughter will always be known. I feel that his choice of transition from this life created an incredible opportunity of awareness and positive transformation in how we begin to accept, transform and move from the visual stigma attached to words ‘the mentally ill’ and ‘mental illness’ to those of us who have a mental health diagnosis or a mental health challenge.
Words have energy and I feel that so much of the needed transformation begins with the wording when discussing mental health and wellness.
Welcome to another moment of life™.