Mental Wellness

Angel Russell

(This was written during a recent hospital stay where I was suffering from food poisoning and a sinus infection, because I have ulcerative colitis they had to keep me in the hospital for days to make sure my digestive illness wasn’t having a flair up. During my stay the doctors were completely unaware of why I had my symptoms which were extreme vertigo, diarrhea, and severe stomach pain. Though I am grateful the hospital staff worked hard to find out what was wrong with me they ultimately sent me home unsure of what was wrong. While I was there I had a panic attack and one of the doctors upon realizing that I have PTSD told me perhaps all my symptoms were being cause by my anxiety.

To be honest here. I am so entirely sick of mental health stigma, ESPECIALLY when it comes from those in the medical profession. I may not have a doctorate but I know a hell of a lot about my condition. PTSD does NOT mean that I am unable to retain information, understand diagnosis, cause psychosomatic physical manifestations of stress on demand, especially fevers, diarrhea, nausea and vertigo. (yes I know long term stress can lead to illness) However, until you know what it is to be treated differently because someone sees your mental health truth, like in a big way, you can’t know this discrimination; the cautious look in people’s eyes, the pause before speaking. I was triggered before an operation because someone grabbed me from behind to push me into a wheel chair while I was being transferred. I very adamantly said, “DO NOT GRAB me.” I explained I have PTSD from physical trauma. I apologized. I very clearly showed that I understood the situation and made it clear it was a trigger for me. Since then I have been left in the dark about my diagnosis. I have been here for days. I have been under suspicion for some crazy infectious disorder, isolated, had brain scans, stomach scans, EKG, colonoscopy, etc. I want this. I want them to scan all possibilities. I know many disorders can be caused by stress, but I also know I was doing fine emotionally before I came here. So to be treated differently because I was triggered is so entirely frustrating. I have seen this before. I have had people tell me I am too much to deal with. What people with mental health issues need is compassion, understanding, and empathy, NOT fear, stigma, and isolation. I honestly believe if I had not been triggered I would not be treated differently because I wasn’t until then. Don’t let fear rule you. I above all know this. Learn, ask questions, don’t belittle, dismiss, degrade, or reject.

You know what I’d like? And I guess it’s terribly liberal, or what not of me, but I’d like to be called DIFFERENTLY ABLED, NOT MENTALLY ILL. Yes I know we need labels to understand diagnoses etc. But the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) turns people into cogs, not the multifaceted human beings they truly are. It’s good to have a guide (and I absolutely believe the brain can and does function in a way that can cause difficulties) but to think that the human mind can be forcibly shut into a small behavioral box is a bit irritating AND makes complete sense to me. This can go wrong, however, when doctors, psychiatrists, etc. (people on top of any field) use these diagnostic tools too rigidly and that it in turn closes their minds. For example, younger kids who show an inability to focus are often misdiagnosed with ADD when they may in fact have anxiety or are being traumatized at home. And think about this! They are prescribed SPEED!! Lumping the human brain in this way is both needed and somewhat wrong. A non liberal example would be the Pharisees growing so concerned with the law ordained by God that they lost sight of God. There are truths in every ideology, construct, and formula, and many times these truths force us into boxes that close our outlooks and perspectives. This happens in the government, currently with Liberals and Democrats being so right or left they are both WRONG. We become so closed off into our own ideologies and truths that we loose sight of God as the Pharisees did, truth in the shades of grey, and the fluidity of differing truths and perspectives. This is the sad problem of intelligent minds closed down by their own egocentric aptitude. 

Therefore, please, see my mind and other minds like it, as differently abled, not ill. My quick thought processes ultimately begun by anxiety help me to think quickly on my feet, my hyper-vigilance helps me to see problems in work and my surroundings well before others do, my years of developing coping skills, help me now to cope with many stressful events at once which has in turn formed me into the perfect business manager. These strengths came from what we call illness of the mind. How limiting, defeating, and sad. How terrible for each new young soul to be told of this sort of limiting ILLNESS, a diagnostic coffin nail in an already fragile mind. Teaching being differently abled instead of this illness we prescribe will help others like me see the glaring strength in their own tempered weaknesses.


Lingering Thoughts From PTSD


I have had writer’s block for about a year now. I can’t write because I can no longer be honest with myself. I always made it a point to be brutally honest to myself and those around me. I didn’t want to be disillusioned. I wanted to face reality. I wanted to have a clear understanding of the events that got me to where I was. Somewhere along the way the timelines blurred together.  I realized I wasn’t being honest, I was just trying to absorb one shock at a time. If I gave way to all the things that were raining down upon me, I would sink like a rock down to the bottom of a lake, the lake that made up my life. Events like water flowing in from various places in my world.  Rivers of events beyond my control came together, creating the ebb and flow that is my life.

I have merely been a child floating on a dinghy, looking over the edge wondering what the murky depths hold. Sometimes I’d be courageous enough to dive in, but I could only see a few feet in front of me.  Sometimes I’d go fishing, feel a pull on the line, the fight would ensue. If I won, I’d pull up something sparkling, shiny, slippery, and wet. I’d feel bad watching it as it gasped for air, so, I’d throw it back in; another in a long line of fleeting memory, too hard to hold.

As I said, the timeline is blurred. I have been trying to pick a place to start. A place that I could say “And this, this is the beginning”. I’m afraid there is no such point. A life is not a timeline, has no point A to B, birth to death. This is not what makes up a life. It’s the events in between that create a life. Not from where the rivers run from or go to, but the mass of water that collects in the process.

About a year and a half ago, I fell in the lake.  I was slowly drowning, memories choking me.  I would claw my way to the top only to sink back under with the surge. For months I fought, until my last ounce of strength gave out, I let darkness take me, its grasp cool and calm. And then something miraculous happened. I awoke. There above me was an angel, or what I thought was an angel. He spoke to me; his words seemed far away and foreign.  I looked back to the murky depths, fear began to take its hold, and then he did something I never thought of doing. He forced me to surface and to look up. I saw the sky, the birds; I saw into his eyes…and held my gaze there for a very long time.

Then,  creeping into the night. One drip at a time, the memories flooded me. Things I thought I had forgotten, haunting me. The very thing I thought I had escaped came back to torture me when I thought I was finally safe. How do I dispel such an enemy? An enemy wrought from my own past, attacking from within my own mind. It’s easy to ignore the depths looking up, but I’m afraid I might go blind looking at the sun.

So where does a person go from here? How do I make a balanced view of both the light and the dark? How do I exist within the yin and the yang, without getting lost in one or the other? Where do I begin to look, within the shadows or the light? Both surely make up the person I am, but I can’t seem to focus, or understand. What exactly am I made up of?  I lose myself in the paths I take, only to find myself naked stranded on a beach gasping for air. When will they let me go to swim freely once more? Is life just this endless questioning until we either burn ourselves out or go insane? Is midlife crisis just when you realize you still have no answers?

I have fantasies of myself wondering. Just getting on a plane and not telling anyone, just going.  I picture myself winding up in some temple meditating, walking through ancient forests searching for ancient voices to lend me some wisdom, to point me in a direction, any direction. I would find and old man, sitting on his porch, he would do nothing but simply raise his hand to offer me a seat; we would sit there until the sun sets. And in silence, he would teach me what I have been so long searching for, my Siddhartha. An old man content, not wasted forgotten in some home, but content with all things, in harmony with nature, one with life and death.  There’s wisdom in his smile as ancient as life, and even before that.

If only nations would employ the wise to be their leaders.  More often than not, we ignore the wise.  We put up an ambivalent air to truths we know to be self-evident. We care not.  Life’s to short, live fast and die young, burn up our credit cards, burn out our tires, there’s always more where that came from, consume faster, lest someone else consume you. We are like parasites feasting on the corpse of our host, mutated and spreading; but that’s beside the point I suppose. Perhaps I should just pick a point, like on a map when you’re deciding where to take that road trip and go; stop staring at the sun, or into the lake, and just look ahead.