Fired Up: Mental Illness is Just That

Interesting that after the support group I facilitate on Tuesday evenings some woman smashes into the barricades outside the White House and Miley Cyrus and Sinead O’Connor get into some crazy twitter feud. What is even more interesting is how fired up I was leaving group on Tuesday wanting to write something about my experience as a facilitator. These men and women who suffer from an illness, constantly have to fight a stigma, funny looks from their family and friends whenever they eat anything, and voices in their head telling them they are ‘crazy’ because that’s what the world tells them. Well world, stop it. Just stop.

Let me back up. I co-facilitate a support group at the Center for Balanced Living in Worthington, Ohio. I bet most of the central Ohio community doesn’t even know it exists: one of the top eating disorder facilities in the nation is in our back yard. I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half and I love it. Two Tuesdays in a month I sit down with my co-facilitator and listen as 15-20 men and women share their struggles with Bulimia Nervosa. Even more than that, beyond the eating disorder, they are struggling with life.  Who can’t relate to that? I bet that if we pulled the average person off of the street and let them sit in on a group, at least 80% of what these guys and girls go through would resonate with them.

Don’t believe me? I’ve been ‘free’ from my eating disorder for years and I still hear insights, problems, and potential solutions that amaze and inspire ME.  One of the biggest frustrations they feel is that people look at Bulimia Nervosa and ED in general as something you can just “turn off”. One of the smartest responses I’ve heard to that is “turn off your allergies, stop sneezing, stop your runny nose!”. It’s not as simple as that. And these individuals are working to do something about it. It can take years, a lifetime…and sometimes they may not ever truly recover but they are giving it a shot. I bet they spend more money and effort working toward recovery than the masses think about improving ourselves as humans.

So why am I fired up? This morning I heard a woman on the radio talking about the single mother who drove her car into the barricades at the White House. Apparently she was suffering from “Mental Illness” and she must have “snapped”. Okay, well it seems that the facts are she suffered from Post Partum Depression. Brooke Shields and hundreds of thousands of women have suffered from this mental illness…let’s not let the fact that she was suffering from an illness completely designate who this woman was. I’m sure there was much more to this mom than just being ‘sick’. Do I agree with her ramming the barricades of the White House? Absolutely not. Does it mean we should just define her as “that crazy lady who slammed into the White House” I don’t know. To me defining anyone as crazy is just too easy and too disrespectful of those who are suffering AND getting treatment. Maybe this is a better example of what I mean…

Miley Cyrus. Oh Miley, Miley, Miley. Aside from TERRIBLE music (sorry girl), you made an incredibly disrespectful move that (I guarantee) is harmful to young men and women who listen to you. Let me back up. If you’ve been on Mars the past few days, apparently Sinead O’Connor wrote an open letter to Ms. Cyrus telling her that the Interview Miley did in Rolling Stone (Miley claimed O’Conner was an inspiration for her most recent video) was pretty much stupid and gave Miley advice on how to be her own person and really empower women. (read it here) I didn’t really care about it when I heard about it yesterday…but then today I see a post on Twitter (don’t worry I don’t follow Miley on twitter, I read the news!) where Miley had posted a series of O’Connors tweets when she was suffering from Bi-Polar Disorder two years ago and proceeded to laugh her off into a category with Amanda Bynes. I’m sorry for you folks who don’t follow pop culture news but Bynes was placed on psychiatric hold twice this year and is now in rehab. So Ms. Miley who apparently has never had a bad day or understands heartache, pain or loss, throws this incident that O’Connor had 2 years ago out to the world. And apparently she is the judge and jury on  Amanda Bynes’ health as well. Well Miss Miley. I do hope your life continues to be full of positive and loving experiences because if you do ever suffer from depression or any sort of mental illness, you will be in for a world of hurt, self exploration where you’ll see all these music videos you did half naked and think, hmm maybe that “crazy” O’Connor came from a positive place when she sent the initial note.

So here’s my point as unclear and strange as it may seem being posted on an endurance training site. MENTAL ILLNESS IS REAL. It is. I’ve gone through depression. I’m okay with sharing it because in all honesty I bet most people have gone through it too at some point. It doesn’t make you or I weak. The fact that Sinead O’Connor went through her stuff and Amanda Bynes is going through her stuff – they are humans who are hurt for some reason and need to be helped. I sit down with wonderful, strong, intelligent, and overall AWESOME people 2 Tuesdays a month who share their heart and soul with a group of strangers. To flippantly use the term “crazy” “mentally ill” or to use those words in a manner to intentionally HURT someone whether you know them personally or not is NOT acceptable. 

Do I think that some Mentally Ill people are dangerous? Sure. Some of them are.  Do I know that there have been children who have been neglected and hurt by parents who suffer from Mentally Ill parents? Yes. Are there people you may work with who are difficult to manage or cooperate with because of some Mental Illness issue. I bet there are. And it is true that Mentally ill people have committed some of the most heinous crimes in history, absolutely. My point is by glossing over the entire fold of people who suffer from any form of Mental Illness (let’s say a mild case of depression to the most severe personality disorder) you completely negate who that person is as a whole. I guess I’m just tired of this culture of slinging shit (pardon the French) on others to expose a vulnerability. If you know someone who may need help – help them find the proper channels to get into treatment. Visit the National Institute of Mental Health for resources (www.nimh.com). If a friend or family member is being treated do your part to get educated and learn how best to communicate with them. If you yourself are thinking you need help remember that there is no VICTIM here you have a responsibility to get help for yourself. And it’s okay…there are channels for you to get that help 🙂

We are all vulnerable. We are all human. We probably all have a little bit of ‘crazy’ in us. And that is probably why people find you interesting 😉