I thought I’d share a short video I found on the Facebook page, The Mighty. I think it gives a very powerful and succinct insight into what it’s like for someone who suffers with anxiety.
This morning I read about Ronda Rousey, someone many of you probably have never heard of, but she is one of, if not the most famous woman in mixed martial arts and is the current female bantam weight champion.
Last week Thursday she hinted in a MMA article that she may retire early and possibly have a baby. A simple consideration for a young lady in her twenties, but many of her “fans” didn’t take it that way.
Many of her “fans” were irate and took to Twitter angry that she could even be thinking about retiring early, when she is still in the prime of her fighting career, and even more so, to retire and have a baby as if even thinking about a life outside of fighting was a sin.
She fought back on Twitter with her own angry comments and disappointment that even her talking about, thinking about retiring had her receiving backlash. She went on to say basically that she isn’t going to continue doing something if she feels like she’s accomplished what she set out to accomplish and/or doesn’t enjoy doing it any more.
That got me to thinking about a lot of things, including how we are affected by other peoples expectations for us and plans for us. You see, many of her so-called “fans” had put Ronda into a box and couldn’t even imagine her stepping outside of that box until they were ready for her to do so.
People will always have expectations and plans for us and a lot of times those expectations and plans will go against our very own expectations and plans. As long as we are living up to other people expectations and plans for us and our lives (living within their box) then things are very copacetic, but once we go outside of those boundaries, then things can get complicated and even heated.
We know this from being children, especially teenagers and young adults.
Maybe your parents expected you to go to college to be a doctor, but you decided to follow your dreams of being a fashion designer. How did that work out? Did your parents still support you or did they show their disapproval the way Ronda’s “fans” have at her decision to not fight until she is physically beat to a pulp with no life outside of fighting?
The same thing comes with friends and relationships. Maybe your husband expects you to stay at home with the kids, but that’s not what you want for your life? Is he going to support you in your decision or is he going to make you feel bad for even considering working outside of the home?
Most of us are influenced to some extent by other people’s expectations and plans for us and often times we don’t even know it. When we make plans for our own lives that go against what other people already had planned for us, it can send across waves of anxiety, even amongst those who are supposed to have our best interest at heart.
Take for example if you and all of your friends are stuck in a dead end job, but you decide to go back to school, switch jobs or are given a promotion. These same friends may resist that change, try to prevent you from making it or have animosity towards you for doing it.
One reason is that when we do something for ourselves that goes against other people’s plans and expectations for us, it causes them to reflect on how that change will effect them and forces them to think about themselves, their lives and about what they are and are not doing.
That’s why you can’t always expect your friends and family to encourage or celebrate your changes and accomplishment because your new direction may cause them anxiety which usually causes people (instead of focusing with in) to lash out either by not supporting your decision, plotting against it or having bitterness towards you for something as simple as buying a new car or getting a new hair-do.
When you do something that is different, they have to ask themselves, “now what for me?” and/or “What does this say about me?” Does your new car make them wonder what are they doing wrong so that they can’t afford a new car? Does your new hairstyle make them wonder why they can’t be as courageous as you are (instead of looking inward and recognizing that unconscious thought, they are likely to “dislike” your new hairstyle and try to make you dislike it too).
So, when making plans for your life, I think it is good and healthy to expect some resistance from those who are supposed to care about you the most. Hopefully all you will get is support, but don’t be surprised if you meet resistance or what some people call “hate”. Don’t get frustrated by it or allow it to distract you. All it is is a mirror being reflected back on them that makes them have to question their life and that is a good thing when they use it for motivation instead of “hater-ation”.
She explained to me that her friend had bipolar disorder, something she had been suffering from for years and had a long history of self-injury and suicide attempts.
According to my friend, this person was currently in a deep depression and posting dark posts on Facebook including some alarming ones such as wanting to give away her pets (giving away possessions is often associated with suicidal thoughts).
She wanted to know what should she do or say to her to make her “feel better” and I told her that there was no magic word or act she could to that would just bring her out of her current mental state. It’s like trying to help a friend who has a serious medical condition. You can help alleviate the pain, maybe make them feel more comfortable, but there is nothing you can actually do that will just cure the person of the condition.
Many people think they can or should be able to, and thus get very frustrated with themselves and/or the person they are trying to help when the reality hits that it’s just not that simple. The best thing you can do, and what I told my friend to do is to be a support system for her friend and show her love. Let her see that she has a friend who is going to stand by her side no matter what.
People suffering from a mental illness often feel broken, unlovable and fear that people will abandon them if they can’t keep it together. The best gift you can give them is showing support and love. There are no magic words or acts, but you may be surprised how a simple walk around the park talking about nothing in particular or just being present with that person, can have huge positive effects.
Many people who want to help someone they love who has a mental illness often don’t do that because as simple as it sounds, it can actually be quite difficult to actually sit with and be present with someone instead of lecturing, ordering and dictating to them what they should or need to be doing. That’s why actually just being with them, showing love and support can be such a precious gift.
Also, you may need your own support system to help yourself while helping someone you love and that’s okay. There are many support groups tailored towards supporting loved ones of people with various illnesses including mental illnesses.
You may also need to make appropriate boundaries so that you don’t become overwhelmed and exhausted. Don’ try to be a superhero, you are only one person so do what you can when you can, but don’t feel obligated to do everything.
However you choose to support your loved one who has a mental illness is a blessing. They may not be able to tell you that or appreciate it right away. Your support doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be effective You are doing what few people do, which is showing support and love instead of ignoring or stigmatizing.
- Learn about their illness. It’s easier to help and support someone with any illness when you have some information and insight about what they are going through. My friend who wants to support her friend with bipolar disorder actually had no working knowledge of the disorder.
- Let them know that they are not broken or defective and that they are the same person they have always been, they are just suffering from an illness, but they are NOT their illness.
- Help them if you can to get to their appointments, make sure they are taking their medications and actually talking to their doctors and/or other mental health professionals. That help can come from driving them to their appointments to simply reminding them to take their medication or to go to their appointments.
- Show and tell them that you love them and that you are there for them through thick and thin.
- Ask them what they need. Don’t just assume. The person who is sick generally knows what is best for them. They may need you to help clean the house or bring them dinner if they are too sick to do so.
- Check in with them, make sure that they are okay and following their treatment plan. This not only helps keep them accountable and responsible, but it also serves as a reminder that they have someone who cares about them
So far I have about 43,000 words so I am on track, but that wasn’t so just a few days ago.
Just a few days ago I was behind by about 7,000 words and had almost thrown in the towel. With the Holiday, friends and family, and just the normal stressors of life, my motivation was starting to wane and giving up would have been a lot easier than plowing through my train wreck of a story.
Thank goodness for something called nanowrimosprints (https://twitter.com/NaNoWordSprints) on twitter. It’s a twitter feed that challenges you with prompts, but most importantly, time specific writing frenzies to really pump you up and get you to writing.
It breaks up the monotony of feeling like I am working alone when I am being challenged along with thousands of other participants.
Write-Ins do the same thing, where writers meet up and write together, challenging each other to increase their word count and stay motivated and focused.
Writing can be such a lonely hobby and knowing that I am not alone in this journey really helps, and that’s what pulled me away from throwing in the towel and helped me to get back on track.
That got me to thinking about the importance of having a good support system.
Working in the psychiatric hospital, it was easy to see that clients who had good support systems usually had a better prognosis than clients who didn’t.
Clients who’s family and friends were involved in their care usually had less relapses (and less severe relapses) and shorter hospital stays.
Working in the school setting, it’s not very much different. Students who have good familial support, good friends and supporting teachers/adults, usually cope better with whatever issues they are facing, compared to students who do not.
It’s important that we all have a good “team” around us. When we don’t have anyone to be accountable to or to lean on for support, it’s easy to give up.
A lot of times we think we have to do things on our own, and no doubt, often we can and have to because no one can do the work for us, but it is very important and beneficial to have a supporting team who can help keep us accountable, honest, motivated and on track. And we can do the same for others.
Think about who is on your team right now, who would you like to be on your team in the future? Family members, friends or professionals are all viable candidates. Sometimes we don’t think about these things until we are in the middle of an issue or crisis.
Think about when things were really great. Who did you have around you that supported you?
Maybe right now everything is good and you don’t really think you need a support system and that’s great, but it’s always a good idea to know who you can turn to when you need help.
Your support system can help remind you to stick to your diet, exercise, take your medicine, stay away from bad people/ situations, save money, etc.
It’s ultimately up to you to accomplish your goals and live the life you want to live, but having a good support system goes a long way in making those things achievable.
The other day I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with a former client’s mother about her experiences dealing with her now 19 year old daughter, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 8.
This girl from what I knew of her was extremely unstable, as could be expected from a teenager suffering from bipolar disorder.
Unlike other people suffering from bipolar disorder, teenage girls tend to be even more fickle when you factor in the normal hormones of teenagers as well as social pressures that make even some non-bipolar teens act and feel erratic.
This girl was prone to bouts of depression, mania, impulsivity and explosive anger.
At home her mom had done everything she was supposed to do to support her child including psychotherapy, family therapy and medication, but her daughter was still a hand-full.
When she was in her manic states she tended to have anger directed towards her mother and would at times try to get physical with her and had to be hospitalized several times for suicidal/homicidal ideations.
Her mother tried all she could to pacify her daughter, including painting her room the pretty purple she wanted, only to come home one day and find nearlyevery inch of that wall covered in permanent marker with words directed towards her mother such as “bitch”, “whore” and “I hope you die”.
On top of that she was extremely needy, wanting to be up under her mom 24/7 to the point that she got angry whenever her mom left her and would tear up the house or refuse to go to school.
When she was depressed she would self-mutilate and attempt to kill herself. Her mother would be afraid to leave her alone.
“My biggest fear, even today, is that I will come home and find her dead”, the mother told me.
The biggest thing this mother did that made the most difference was getting educating herself on her daughter’s illness and counseling for herself and joining a support group.
Support groups are invaluable resources that often aren’t utilized enough by those living with or taking care of people with mental illnesses or substance issues.
Through counseling and the support group she learned that she was not alone, that many other parents were on the same roller coaster ride she was on.
She also learned how to change the way she had been dealing with her daughter.
If what you are doing isn’t getting you the results you desire, you have to try something different.
She started accepting that her daughter was going to have good days and bad days, and sometimes within the same day. She also had to understand her role and limitations as the mother of a child with bipolar disorder.
She had to accept that some days she might feel like giving up, or not care when her daughter threatens to hang herself, and that doesn’t make her a bad mother, but it is a sign that she needs to take a break, regroup and seek support herself.
At the end of our reunion I was happy to see that a mother, who just a couple of years ago who was so flustered, angry and exhausted, had turned into a woman not only surviving, but thriving with a daughter suffering from bipolar disorder.
Her and her daughter are doing better, but they are still taking it one day at a time.