Age 1-4: Develop as a mini human being. Make messes, be silly, discover how disgusting healthy fruit and/or vegetables are and how delicious candy that looks like fruit and/or vegetables are. Generally allowed to make bathroom mistakes without being whipped with a belt across the back.
Age 5-10: Introduction to education (and the system). Learn (or don’t learn) how to communicate with peers. Get labeled weird if you don’t. Get labeled annoying and inattentive if you do. Learn you are what label you’ve been given. Live up to label. Beg your parents for a cell phone because “everyone else has one!”.
Age 10-15: Get bricked in the face by puberty. Live up to the label you were given or prepare to be ostracized. Think about what you might be interested in as a job. Perhaps get a job if you have THOSE kind of parents. Convince yourself your popularity and status in high school is, like, the only thing that’s really important because, like, isn’t life about networking? Get excited about a driver’s permit. Get excited about driving. Realize you need money and a job to own a car. Rock in the corner for hours after realizing you can’t be both lazy and rich until you’re actually rich.
Age 16-19: Fuck labels. Stupid conformists! See working a job as another way to kiss the ass of The Man, see NOT working as a middle finger to The System. Identity makes attempts at stabilization, and fails many, many times. Worry you have every listed disorder in the DSM because you’ve just never been able to do this, or that, or this and that and it’s all in the news that parasites from cats cause this thing called Schizophrenia and your mom has two cats who used to lick your face when you were a baby. Apply to colleges. Start college. Immediately, and simultaneously, like it and hate it. Smile because you might be on a good path now.
Age 20-onward: Find an awkward, unbalanced point between “fuck the system” and “submit to the system”. Smile because you realize your path is way more unpredictable than you intended.
I’m in the latter category. The category of internal and external exploration and a heaping pile of “OhShitOhShitOhShit”. That’s how I would describe my personal experience with being in the twenty-something category.
For those who are unaware, I lost my mind for a good two weeks, and I am grounded once more . . . at least, more than before. Within this time frame I’ve spent at least 500 dollar or more on things I’m surprised to find in the mail, I wrapped packing tape around certain limbs of my body for a couple nights to keep away the cold that the demons were causing, I got a few pages of unintelligible rambles, and I’ve probably gained a couple pounds eating way too much chocolate. I have a feeling much of this had to do with the worse peak of the withdrawal from Effexor. I have been this way before, but usually from anxiety, stress, being overwhelmed, over stimulated, not sleeping enough, e.t.c.
I spun into a hole of wishing sweet Miss Murder would swoop from her perch on the tree of Freedom and take me to a new Kingdom away from this earth, then bounced into a world of sweet treats and happiness and ideas and the realization that the entity which follows me was the cause of my sudden depression. That spun me into a whole other world of psychedelic colors and Cheshire cats and voices laughing at me because I couldn’t get to sleep. One of the bitches mocked me for four hours because “she can’t sleep–look at her, she can’t sleep“.
Straight out of her mouth. Hoe. If she were a physical being, I’d knock her out cold with a “left, right, right, left, she’s toothless”.
I finally got up a bit of courage to explain some of my mindset to a real human being in a live conversation over the phone (i.e, my wonderful boyfriend), and let off all of that pressure, things subsided a bit–enough to where I could at least sleep at 4:55 a.m instead of 6 a.m.
That helped. A lot. And I got a bit disappointed when I woke up the next morning realizing one of my largest struggles is that I don’t reach out. Then I realized I don’t reach out not necessarily because of anxiety, but because I don’t know how. I really don’t.
It’s a skill you have to learn, almost, and mostly from your family environment. You learn you can trust your parents or cousins or whoever so that whenever you have a problem, you can go to them and they won’t tell you “suck it up” or “that’s just the way it is” or “you’ll grow out of it”, e.t.c , e.t.c–invalidation, that’s called.
Well, invalidation is all I know. This may just be the root of my distrust, and why I’m so off-put sometimes by kindness. It might be why I’m so prone to paranoia about being mistreated, about being watched, about being followed. It might be that my brain turns my feeling invalidated into a feeling of otherworldliness, of being constantly mocked both in this world and in a spiritual world.
I’ve noticed that with a lot of families, particularly ethnic or mixed families, that “problems” are not always seen as struggles to be overcome or understood, but weaknesses to get over or to hide or to, at the very least, never speak of again. That’s how I grew up.
And that’s the direction I want to take my program. Because of whatever factors are in my family’s past, I was never taught or encouraged to reach out, other than “if someone offers a drug and you wanna do it, bring it home first”. Because I’ve never reached out, I’ve never known about resources.
As I mentioned in my last post, there’s this weird middle ground in mental health categorization between “moderate” and “severe”. Those who are “moderate” often seek a therapist and try coping methods. Those who are “severe” often learn of resources through inpatient (and most often involuntary) hospitalization. So . . . where are the rest of us?
The rest of us are where I am. The rest of us are all different ages. We struggle reaching out, we struggle knowing about resources and therefore are the most silent group of mental health consumers. We’re the ones most abundant in online support groups. This isn’t a matter of knowing they existed and not going because of anxiety–this is a matter of actually NOT knowing.
The anxiety can come later, when we find out resources exist.
This is a matter of not knowing where to start, how to start, or what to expect. And that is what I’m developing this program for, geared towards those of us with ethnic, cultural, or family issues interfering with our ability to take care of our mental health. Because, within the last 24 hours, I have found over ten resources I could have been taking advantage of, had I known they existed–excluding the peer respite house I work at now. The peer respite I learned about through chance too–a fucking post on some obscure job website that got recommended to me in email.
And sometimes it’s not as simple as googling “support groups” or whatever. Because those of us in this category don’t know how to reach out, it’s not always anxiety that keeps us from these things, it’s the prospect of having to make a connection and being unable to know what that even means. Those of us in this category sometimes need a little extra support.
I’m developing a type of outreach program that supports people in finding resources who perhaps are new to this “mental health” thing, or new to a hospital (which would have been nice when I went there). A type of outreach program geared towards–but not solely focused on–ethnic groups. A type of outreach that offers not just a relay system of “here’s a resource, go here”, but also a peer approach that recognizes “wow, you’ve been through a lot, tell me a bit about it”. That strikes up conversation, eases anxiety and builds connection–and then resources. A type of outreach program that keeps in touch with people, that is a consistent support, not a brief one. A type of outreach program that works with those same individuals with finding volunteer opportunities, vocational opportunities (or, at the very least, a place to go to find vocational opportunities) and other community opportunities. A type of outreach that doesn’t just reach out to the “mentally ill” (ugggg, I shudder whenever I type that now), but also to the rest of the community, that builds relationships with other programs and schools and hospitals. A type of outreach program that reaches just a little farther than most.
To accomplish this, I’m having to overcome many things as well–like my fear of reaching out. I’ve found so many support groups and peer classes to get involved with, even more than I’d known about through my work place. Through the connections I make, I want to be able to develop a solid pitch and perhaps even a small team to present to the fellowship I mentioned before.
I’ve been in college for almost four years now. I came to a startling revelation that one of my main goals toward becoming a psychiatrist was being able to interact with my peers on the “highest” level possible. Being able to interact with people who struggle the worst sometimes–i.e., voices, mood swings, e.t.c, and I knew often those kind of people don’t seek therapy, but psychiatrists. I also thought that was wrong; I wanted to be a combination of a therapist and psychiatrist.
Tonight I realized I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to already and more. I’ve been doing it for 8 fucking months and it’s taken me this long to realize it. It’s taken me almost four years of college to realize I don’t need college. That’s the reason I’ve been so unmotivated and depressed this semester: I’m not doing what I need or wish to. I’ve been frustrated because I can’t “be a successful student” like the other students.
Because I’m not like the other students.