The majority of what you all have heard about this new job I have is the training we went through.
Tonight I figured I’d let you in on the alternative to a mental hospital. The alternative that is severely underfunded, understaffed, and few and far between.
I took you all through each day of that. In fact, the last post I published on the subject matter of IPS, which you can read here, was noticed by the organization and they published it on their Facebook page.
Somehow they found my identity. I’ll worry about that later.
What I think I did not mention, was that it wasn’t so much of a training as it was a chance to experience a different way of connecting with people, a way of personalizing your time with someone, a way to establish mutuality where both people involved learn and grow with each other.
It’s something not prevalent within the mental health system (I.e, Hospitals), I’m sure we can all agree on.
If you’ve read my past blogs, you’re familiar with the fact that I’ve spoken often of, and started this blog on the concept of STIGMA. Particularly the concept of SELF-STIGMA.
The concept of “I’m so sick, I’m broken”.
The concept of “I’m so broken, I can’t be fixed”.
The concept of “being fixed”.
Whatever any of that means.
But most importantly, the concept of self-advocacy. The idea that you are both your worst enemy and best friend, and that no one understands you better than you. That if you don’t put the work in, if you don’t take a step back and see what part YOU play in your behavior, your actions, and your thoughts, than nothing is ever going to change, regardless of your diagnosis.
As you know, we often stigmatize ourselves and each other within the mental health community, sometimes more often than those on the outside do. I read a great post on this issue by a fellow blogger over at A Schizoaffective Story, and if you’d like to read his post on this issue, click here. I think he does a wonderful job of being concise but illuminating some of the main struggles of this stigma within the mental health community. I hope he doesn’t mind me linking this post.
This is where a respite house comes in.
Let me explain how this respite house works.
- We do not restrict you. In doing so, we are giving you a lot of freedom and are being vulnerable to manipulation. In that openness, we invite you, tacitly, silently, to also be open. Usually it works. I notice how trained some people are coming from hospitals and the county where they have to ask to do everything: “can I use this dish? Can I color before I go to bed? Can I sit outside to eat?” And being bombarded by these questions saddens me. “Can I color before I go to bed?”
- We are 18+
- We are free, via government funding. Small government funding.
- We have 6 available beds.
- You can go for a walk whenever you want. You can come and go as you please, as long as you are home at night so you can stay overnight.
- We take field trips.
- We do not take care of your medication, we do not handle your food, we do not answer the guest phone, we do not treat you like a child. We do not lock you up, medicate you, or shout at you.
- Most importantly, for God’s sake, We are your peers. We have been suicidal, we have attempted suicidal, we have been depressed. We have heard voices, we’ve seen hallucinations, we’ve road the roller-coaster of Bipolar, and the sudden terror of PTSD. We’ve had panic attacks, we’ve had anxiety, we’ve struggled with Ritualistic OCD, intrusive thoughts, and serious mental pain. We are NOT clinical. We are not doctors, we are not psychologists, we are not therapists or social workers or counselors. When you tell us you want to kill yourself, we don’t shove a needle in your arm. We don’t pound a diagnosis on your head. We take you out back under the tree where the birds are chirping and we say: “That’s heavy. I’ve been there. What’s been going on?”
- We are support. We’re not your parents. We’re not your doctor.
- When you ask “what should I do?” We don’t act like we have the answer if we don’t. In fact, we say “I’m still struggling with that. To be honest, I have no clue. But . . .let’s try and do this together”.
What we do is create a community of people. We’ve all struggled, we are all still struggling.
When I interviewed for a job at this place, I was a little off put by the manager. When he read my cover letter (I believe I included the anxiety, depression, and schizotypy), he said we had things in common. He speaks very softly, but packs so much authenticity and meaning into one word I was momentarily dazed. He told me I wasn’t alone and that we were all in this together (something along those lines) and I didn’t know how to respond.
In all honesty, my first thought was “what the fuck is this? You gunna fatten me up and cook me or some shit?”.
In response to true kindness and understanding, I went on the defense.
Because that’s not the treatment a lot of us are used to. We’re not used to support. We’re not used to people relating. We’re not used to connection on that level.
We’ve gotten used to the idea of “help” being someone trying to fix us, someone trying to give us the answers to our never ending questions, someone we speak to in order to up our medication dosage and spend 10 minutes asking us how the medication has been acting lately.
And then we wonder why we keep ending up in the same places over and over again.
This concept of a respite house is the future of mental health. This is the direction we need to go. This is what funding needs to go towards. Community, mutuality, support.
Not a traumatizing moment of being smacked onto a bed and strapped at the ankles and wrists.
Not a person of authority to tell you you’re broken, or to reinforce the sense of helplessness you already feel.
We’re here to tell you you’re not alone. We’re here to be vulnerable too: to cry with you and tell you how frightening and uncertain things are. We’re here to be human towards you.
This is the program, alongside IPS, that isn’t talked about. It’s not advertised. It’s not given as an option to many people.
And that needs to change.