Manic Monday: Support

I cannot stress how important Support is for a person with a mental illness, let alone any type of disability. The two sayings “It takes a village” and “Friends are your chosen family” are phrases that stress the importance of support.

Now, I do not wish to discount family. Family is important. So often, however, for people with mental illness, family is not able to understand what a person is going through, and often family is who receives the brunt of some of our really unstable times, the meanness that can come out, and the stupid choices and actions that we make. I know. My family has not disowned me, but I know I did things in the past that many other families would not have tolerated. The point of family is that they don’t get a choice. They will always be your family. Sometimes, due to past actions or issues, your family is not able to step back and disengage from what is occurring, not take it personally, and be able to continue to provide support. Whether the bridges have been burned with your family, and whether they are still supportive is what matters in being able to have family in your support group.

When it comes to developing your support group, or network, you have to choose people who are healthy for you. How do you know who you can trust, how do you choose those people to allow in your close circle of support? I cannot stress enough that people who exacerbate your illness, or make you feel bad for not always being well, are the people you should NOT be around. Don’t get me wrong. I have friends who do not understand my mental illness, who will never have a clue and would not want to understand what I have been through. But it isn’t all or nothing. I have friends that I would not go to when I need to pour out my heart, because I know they would not be able to listen without being judgmental, or without peering down their noses and looking down on me. However, those people are still friends. If push came to shove, those friends would be there for me. I may not spend a whole lot of time with them, as I don’t want to feel bad for being me, but we value our friendships.

There are those friends who I can speak to about stress and pour my heart out to, but I may not be able to count on when things got really serious and scary. There are many circles to my support network. The people I know that I can screw up with, that I can be honest with, that I can struggle and ask for help with, that I can be my eccentric self with and not feel ostracized for it… These are the people in that inner circle.

Each person is different, each person comes with their own imperfections, their own abilities and experiences. So, to try and narrow that support to one person is unrealistic. One person cannot be all encompassing (though my husband would like to think he comes close). My husband is an excellent support person, but he has not been in my shoes. He has never had a severe mental illness, been hospitalized for it, or had the life changing experiences that I have had. He doesn’t have to, to be a support person. He just has to accept me for who I am. He is extremely good at being supportive when I struggle. If he is not able to be, then I find other friends who can be there for me.

There is also a great wealth of comfort and support being with people who also have a mental illness. They know what it is like to be anxious, struggle with keeping thoughts together, and question their sanity. However, I found that for me I felt more ill, more unstable, more sick when I spend a lot of time around others who are not managing their mental health well. I pride myself on the positive choices I have made so that I can become a healthier me. I enjoy being able to help others that are struggling with mental illness as well. I am not, however, willing to compromise my mental health while finding that support. I choose, and will continue to choose, to be around others who may, or may not have mental illnesses, but are truly healthy and making choices to be healthy. An example: I was accepted and participated in the Governor’s Commission on Disability Issues and Employment for our state. With that I spent time with people who have many different kinds of disabilities and all are successful and well in their own ways. They are wonderful examples, and I try to be a wonderful example of mental health wellness. I count many of those I met in the GCDE as people I could count on for resources and assistance if I needed it.

So, the people that are in your support group are those you can trust to love you for who you are. They will accept you and not make you feel bad for being odd, eccentric, unique. If you screw up majorly, you can apologize and they will forgive you. They will love you for you. That is what matters. That is what is important.

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Best. Compliment. Ever.

Hopefully, you’re familiar with the feeling one gets when one receives a compliment. At its best, it can just about make your day, right? Ranging from comments in passing like “that shirt really brings out your eyes,” or the “Your hair looks great today,” to something deeper and maybe more meaningful, such as “I think you are a super role model for my daughter.” These can be a real pick-me-up. Today, I received such a compliment and for reasons that are personal to me and my situation, it pretty much made my year. Granted, the calendar year did just start, but being able to kick it off this way was/is pretty cool nonetheless.

Today, I was visiting my counselor and my ARNP. We were discussing my sleep, or lack thereof, as it relates to Sunshine-care. I happened to mention that I was going to be joining a MOPS(Mothers of pre-schoolers and this is # 6 on my list of new years resolutions- Woot!) group on Thursday and that I wanted to network and create more opportunities to get out and socialize. Perhaps it is that I am trying super hard to remain healthy and connected to people when I tend to want to stay holed up in my house with Sunshine and isolate. *sigh*…social anxiety sucks.

At this point, my ARNP stopped me and said, “You know. You are like a mom living without a mental illness.” She went on to explain that I am healthier than I have ever been (in her eyes), and being that I have been visiting her since 2006, this is quite significant to me, as well as flattering. She mentioned that perhaps this is the best job for me to have; being a mom, that is. She also spoke about how situations related to work most likely have had a negative impact upon my mental illness due to my anxiety, perfectionism, and having had some pretty crummy bosses/supervisors.

Depending upon your own perspective/experience, maybe you’re scratching your head and wondering how this might be a compliment. Well, you see – when someone says “You seem almost normal to me” when in the past I have felt anything but that, it gives me a boost of confidence to know that I am caring for myself well, and that this shows. Taking into consideration that which I know to be true about myself of late, I DO feel that I’ve got my crap together. I am super observant of my emotions and where they are taking me, so upon reflection, this seems pretty much spot on.

With this exchange having further cemented my decision NOT to return to the workforce at this time such that I might experience the joys of mommyhood full-time 24/7, I now get called to interview for a job that I would absolutely LOVE to have. *ARGHH*

Were I to accept an offer for this position, I would be working at a college teaching students with disabilities and helping them find internships. This is what I am good at. This is what I love to do. Can I take this on and still be a good mommy? Still maintain my mental health? Can I miss out on all the learning Sunshine will do, as she is so close to walking and possibly crawling (yeah, I know backwards but she is an ambitious little gal). She is engaged in learning new things each day, and I am not so sure I want to miss that.

The dilemma for this lovely day is to decide whether I should interview or not. I do not wish to take up this organization’s time if they are unable to accommodate me. I do great work. I am good at what I do. I say this while looking back upon the work that I have done during my career and this gives me the confidence to go and interview. I would be worth their time. However, I hope that if I am offered the position that I could ease into it somehow – I’m not sure how to get used to the whole “Sunshine and me apart for more than 3-4 hours” situation. She will be 8 months old tomorrow, and we have not spent more than 4 hours apart. I know that working will be hard on her, and incredibly hard for me. This Saturday will be her first time just with dad for the whole day while I attend a choir retreat. This will be really hard for me (and for the Orbs), but as absence makes the heart grow fonder, the return home to get my Sunshine hugs will be just that much better.

I also need to be realistic. She is still not sleeping through the night. As in, waking up about 9-10 times between 1:00- 7:00am. Plus we are still co-sleeping with her. This equals not so much sleep for me. Being a SAHM, I currently have the flexibility to sleep in a bit longer with her, or to just take it easy . This may be a significant factor as to why I am doing so well mentally/emotionally. Signing me up for a rigid schedule and book-ending it with a pretty hectic commute…well, maybe that’s not so fun or easy on my sanity and well-being. If we are still not getting good sleep during this next step in my professional career, at least Sunshine will have the option of sleeping during the commute. I will be jealous at times, I’m sure.

This is going to be a hard decision for me. We could use the financial stability. We could use the peace of mind knowing our bills were getting taken care of, and outstanding debt has been eradicated. On the other side of the coin, we could have the peace of mind knowing that Sunshine is with a parent, me, and I get to spend time watching her grow. I may also be giving myself the best chance at mental stability. Yeah. Not such a tough decision now, is it? *sigh* As my hubby observed, “It’s Murphy’s law. When you don’t want something to happen or don’t care if it comes around, it will do just that. When you do want something and the timing is right, it won’t work out. The perfect job just doesn’t ever seem to come at a perfect time.” No kidding.

“It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion, such as the production of a magical effect for the first time in public, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Whether we must attribute this to the malignity of matter or to the total depravity of inanimate things, whether the exciting cause is hurry, worry, or what not, the fact remains.” (Murphy’s Law; Wikipedia)

Well, at least I can bask in the glory of the compliment I received for today. My ARNP thinks I am pretty normal. Considering where I’ve been, this is magnificent indeed.