Pity party for one? How to keep it ‘real’ and suffer from a mental illness at the same time!

Having a mental illness can make you a selfish shit, but it is not your fault. Those chemicals bouncing around your brain misfiring or not firing at all can lead us to become really focused on ourselves and our own doom and gloom. Pity parties aren’t a lot of fun. But they are definitely thrown in this house when things aren’t going so well. That is why when you are well enough to look outside of yourself and read the news (I avoid the news when I am really sick, as I don’t need to continually worry about what North Korea is up to) or reach out to your friends and find out what is going on in their lives. You will without a doubt find out that people are worse off than you. You can use this to reality check yourself and keep it real.

Today I read about a woman who has three children and has incurable brain cancer. Yep, I’d say she has it worse off than me. She has to contend with chemo, and radiation, brain surgery, and little people. I just have to take pills and try and get myself out of bed. Hands down she wins. This is of course not a competition but a really good opportunity to be able to reflect and be grateful for all the good stuff that you have in your life.

I am grateful for:

My husband who is my tower of strength and my rock.

Having a warm, dry, comfortable home to live in.

A stocked pantry.

Not having to worry about bombs exploding when I walk out my door.

That I keep reasonable physical health.

Having savings in my bank account.

The good friends I have who want to hang out with me when I am feeling well (nobody wants to hang with me when I am feeling like shit…I don’t even want to hang with me)!

A part-time job that works flexibly with my needs and thanks me for my hard work.

A loving family.

Just to be clear this is not a gratitude journal we all know how I feel about those and if you don’t you can read about it here. This is simply an activity that you can do when you are feeling well enough to look outside of what is happening in your head. It helps lift your spirits, and you can go back and read it when you really have your back up against the wall or have someone read it to you.

What are you grateful for?

 

Why I choose to use humour when discussing my mental illness.

It’s not to everyone’s taste and I can be serious if I need to be. When discussing other people’s mental health I always do it with respect. But when it comes to myself I choose to use humour and a little sarcasm. Why? Because that is what I am comfortable with. From my experience, I also find that it helps other people feel less awkward and they are more likely to feel comfortable about talking all things mental health-related with me. Would I crack a mental health joke about myself to anyone? Of course not. First of all, I would get to know you and make sure you can handle my approach. Then it’s game on!

My mental illness is with me for life. Yes, it is serious and my use of humour is in no way meant to minimise how serious it is. But by putting a funny spin on it I can see the silver lining. Somedays a silver lining is the only thing I have to hang on to.

My husband also uses humour when discussing my mental health. As he too finds it easier to cope this way. For example, maybe I have gone a night without sleep. He will ask me “were you working the night shift last night?” or maybe he will refer to my medicine as my “unihorn suppressants”. If I am having a particularly hard day he will console me with “it is hard work being a unicorn isn’t it?” I love the metaphors and similes we use to discuss my mental illness. It takes the hard edges off it. Suddenly it seems doable, even laughable.

My mental illness is very much a part of me it is what makes me quirky, why I see the world differently, why I am so creative. It is also why I sometimes can’t sleep, get out of bed, wash, why I can’t eat. With the good, there is also the bad. So with the seriousness, there has got to be some humour.

I find that when talking with others who have a mental illness the best way to approach it is to take their lead. If they want to be serious then be serious with them. If they want to talk about it lightheartedly then do that. Most importantly don’t shut them down. If someone who has a mental illness has been brave enough to talk to you about it. Listen, be receptive, ask questions, show you care.

 

Having a mental illness isn’t all shit sticks, dark holes, and misery! Honest!

Mental health blogs can sometimes tend to focus on the ‘dark stuff’. It is fair to say that we mental health sufferers do have to battle with a lot of challenging stuff. This week alone has already started off as a real bastard for me. But want I want to focus on in this post is the cool shit that has happened to me because of my mental health. Some of it has been delightfully heartwarming, and some downright hilarious….maybe not in the moment. But on reflection, I certainly have some great dinner party stories.

The people I have met:

I have met the most extraordinary people on this journey. The ones that stand out are fellow sufferers. They are resilient, brave, honest and real. I have also met some real characters especially during my two visits to the Inpatient Unit….we got up to some funny shit in there. Nothing quite like opening your door in the morning to a fellow ‘inmate’ accusing you of looking like your family was stuck in the twin towers. Or giggling like school kids because another fellow inmate confesses to you that he has been sneaking off to the hospital cafe, helping himself, running away, and blatantly lying to the nurses about it….I can’t blame him really the food on the wards was pretty shit!

The unexpected kind gestures I have been shown:

There was the time a bunch of flowers arrived for me at the hospital from my work, the time a friend made me a whole week of meals because she knew I wasn’t feeling well. Once I heard a large truck backing into the yard and a kitset vegetable garden was unloaded – a gift from a friend. Once I booked non-refundable flights while I was unwell and booked them in the wrong direction but didn’t notice until weeks later. The company kindly refunded my ticket when I explained why I had made the mistake. A card, a gift basket, a phone call, all kind gestures that have been shown to me on my journey at some point. They don’t happen all the time and there can be large gaps between any kind gesture, but they have happened.

The new skills I have developed:

I can’t work full-time and can only work part-time when things are going ok. This means I have a lot of time to kill! I have learned to bake – like properly bake. Pastry, meringue, brioche….you name it I have mastered it.  I even once made a croquembouche. You should Google that they are fucking awesome! I took up photography and became pretty ace. I did my post-grad. Took up cycling. Can now make pasta from scratch. I have extensively expanded my dinnertime repertoire. Tried my hand at gardening (I sucked at it). Had a crack at painting (also sucked). Sucking at stuff is not the point though. The point is if I was still working the 9-5 (who am I kidding I was a teacher I was working the 7 until whenever I fell asleep over my marking) I would never have had the time to explore these areas of interest.

The experiences I have had:

Once again because I don’t work full-time I have had the opportunity to go places with people when normally I would have had to have been at work. Now I know some of my readers might be thinking…’you are clearly a rich privileged person’. I want to make it clear I am not rich. But yes I am privileged. I know this because I have been in an Inpatient Unit. If you can read, write, have people in your life that love you, a roof over your head, and food in your cupboards then you are privileged. We have some money but not heaps. So if I want to go on an experience I cleverly think about how I can pay for it, or do it on the cheap. For example, this year I went on a road trip with my Mum for two weeks. She paid for it because I did jobs for her and the money was put aside for that trip. I have done two campervan relocations which we paid $1 a day. We went to Rarotonga recently because I had a friend over there we could stay with. I explore my own backyard much more and I get to spend time with my husband when he has rostered days off. Which I never was able to do in the past. We have even taken up dirt biking together.

Being hit by the mental illness shit stick. Sucks. Big time. I am not trying to minimise that in any way. But being able to see the silver lining in any situation even if it is only brief is how we can move through those really tough times.

What cool things have happened in your life because of your illness? Someone you have met, an experience you have had, maybe a new skill you have developed. I would love to know.