Perceptions – Break the Stigma

I had a conversation with another staff member at work this week. I do this often. My workplace is enjoyable and the people I work with are nice. I like my job and I like the people. But this conversation gave me more to think about than I’d expected.

A chance remark made by this person, about another we worked with made me think about the stigma of mental health.

A whispered remark about someone having had treatment for a mental health condition.

An expression on a face that spoke volumes.

A concern over fitness for working in their profession.

The biggest thing I took from this conversation was that there is still such stigma over depression and mental health issues.

I can excuse the words of another by way of their youth, and the fact that their experience of life is different than my own. But I cannot accept that people should still be judged for having sought treatment for themselves in relation to mental health.

Surely having treatment, in any form, is better than going through life at the whim of changing moods and emotions, anxieties and fears. Surely, having treatment should be praised, rather than censured.

Having had post natal depression twice, and seeking counselling for a traumatic event, I know how much bravery it took to admit that I had problem, that I needed help to deal with it. I have so much praise for others who seek help for their mental health issues. I have, more than once, suggested people seek counselling for themselves, because it was so beneficial for me.

Maybe I should have tried to challenge the perceptions of the person I was chatting with, open their eyes to something that they obviously have no experience of themselves. But I did not. I never mentioned my own experiences, or said anything to normalise the experience of the third person about whom whispers were circling.

Did I feel the stigma? Yes. Did I feel I would be judged for my experience? Maybe. Did I think it was my place to comment on someone else’s personal experience of which I knew nothing? No.

I will say, now, that perceptions of those of us who have struggled with our mental health isn’t helped by the whispered comments. No matter that we may now function normally, there is always the constant monitoring of emotions, the meditations and down time, the scheduling and planning that comes with trying to keep ones emotional balance. There will always be the quiet, behind closed doors part of me that will be ensuring I get enough sleep, that I’m eating right, that I’m getting enough exercise and sunshine. I will always be monitoring myself so that I don’t slide back into that place filled with fear and dark.

It takes bravery to own your past, good, bad and indifferent. It takes bravery to own that you’ve needed help. It takes bravery to crawl out of the hole and find the help. Knowing that I’ve faced those things with courage, maybe next time the topic comes up, I’ll own with courage the fact that many people have needed help, and I am one of them. Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough to help break the stigma.

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Six different kinds….

It’s complicated. I don’t want to discuss it. I’d rather everyone didn’t know. It’s not something I like to bring up. Just don’t talk about it.

Life is a complex bowl of muesli. It’s got some good bits, the bits you like and are happy to eat. Then it’s also got the unpleasant bits, the bits that get stuck in your teeth, the bits you’d rather spit out. But it’s impolite to spit out your food, so we swallow it, good and bad, because you don’t always control what goes into the big ol’ cereal bowl of life.

And sometimes, just like muesli, life can be six different kinds of f****d up.

So what do you do? That’s the big question isn’t it? That’s the question for which, if we knew the answer, we’d be rolling in puppies (or money, your choice).

In my experience of the ‘six different kinds…’ the getting through it is all a variation on the theme ‘suck it up, princess’. Sounds harsh, I know. And some of the stuff that we go through, to suck it up and soldier on is not the easy answer some people seem to think it is.

It might be ‘suck it up, going to the shrink is not going to kill you’, or ‘suck it up, someone has to feed and clothe these kids’, or even ‘suck it up, go to the authorities’.

Sounds simple? It really isn’t. Anyone who has dealt with mental illness, divorce, widowhood, the death of a child, family violence, terminal illness or any other traumatic experience is changed by it. And the change can be fundamental, not only in the way we view the world, but in the way we view ourselves.

It’s an old adage, but it’s true, you don’t know how strong you are until you have no other choice. I know because I’ve been through some ‘six different kinds…’ moments that completely changed how I interact with the world around me.

I’ve become more sensitive to mental illness because I’ve suffered from post natal depression.

I’ve become more accepting of difference because I love a kid who lives on the spectrum.

I’ve become more solid because I am the stable place my children need to feel safe.

I’ve become more open because I refuse to be closed off by anyone again.

I’ve become more giving because I’ve had so much taken from me.

I’ve become stronger from having had to walk through fire to do what’s right.

So when some ignorant tool belt tells you to ‘get over it’ or someone who just doesn’t understand tells you ‘at least you’ve got your health’, you can tell them to get lost (even if only in your head).

But when someone tells you to ‘suck it up, princess’, you can choose to take it in a manner they probably didn’t intend. Choose to overcome, choose to ask for help (or beg if you have to), choose to be open about your losses, choose to be the bigger person, choose to do what’s right. Sometimes there’s really no choice at all. Life throws, and sometimes you’re catching the shit end of the stick.

But sometimes something that starts out ‘six different kinds of f****d up’ can eventually be something that helps to create something beautiful.

 

Todays’ Treat

My kids are like any others, they love a treat, but I’m a frugal crunchy mum at heart, so I try to make treats I feel good about giving them.

Tonight we had a pizza picnic party sitting in the lounge watching Family Feud. And my kids loved it! For them, homemade pizza is fun and tasty. Yes they still request Maccas on occasion, but it’s neither in the budget or locality.

I’m still working on getting the refined sugar and processed foods out of our diet, and I don’t know that I’ll ever give up my caffeine or chocolate entirely. But that’s OK with me. My kids deserve a treat sometimes, and heck, so do I.

Take Some Time

I couldn’t tell you how many people I know that don’t take enough time for themselves. My ‘me time’ only happens when the kids are in bed. I know others whose time is taken up by second jobs, looking after ailing parents, or looking after grandkids. I know people who fall asleep as soon as they sit still because they are constantly doing things. It worries me. And it tells me a lot about how we view ourselves.

‘Me time’ is practically a buzz word. We should all be getting some, taking some, making room in our schedules for some. But is it just talk? Do we look back at our parents and grandparents and say “where was their me time?” I can cope because they did. Do we look at our children and say “they are growing, they need my time more than I do”. Do we think it is just a hippie way of avoiding doing the housework? Or is it actually necessary?

I’d encourage taking some time for yourself. I know my mum didn’t have much until we were older, I know my grandmothers barely had any. I know my father and my grandfather’s time was taken up with work and family. They didn’t take much time for themselves.

But here’s the kicker, me time looks different for everyone. Some people tinker in the shed, others potter in the garden, play golf, have a cup of fancy tea, read a book or watch a favourite TV show. You don’t have to take a full day at the spa, or even spend an hour listening to devotionals or meditating. Just a little bit of time, that’s about something you WANT to (not need, have to, or think you should) do.

So there’s my opinion. Take some time. You don’t have to meditate, or even be alone. Just do something for you, that’ll make you happy. Or just fall asleep on the couch at 11am and catch up on some lost sleep. Looking after you is just as important as everything else you do.

Natural Crunchy – Bi-Carb

In some ways crunchy works well for me. And in others, it just doesn’t. So I mix and match what works for my family.

My biggest crunch is also pretty old school, but thankfully becoming more common. It really comes down to bi-carb. Bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, is a staple in my house. I buy it in bulk because I use it so often.

  • I use it to wash my hair
  • I use it to clean the bath
  • I use it for baking
  • I use it in homemade laundry detergent
  • I’ve even used it my homemade deodorant experiments (more on that later)

 

You can use bicarb in many different ways around the home, and it’s a cleaner, greener and more frugal alternative to a lot of commercial products. Yes, it actually requires a little elbow grease, but a little cleaning cardio isn’t a bad thing.

My biggest change has been using bi-carb to wash my hair. I tried going ‘no poo’ but it didn’t work for me. Then I tried bi-carb in place of shampoo and I haven’t looked back. I save on shampoo and I don’t need to use conditioner at all, so I save there too. My dandruff situation has improved and I haven’t had to use my straighteners at all.

The oddest thing I noticed was with hair fall. Usually I’d condition my hair and lose a lot in the shower. Now it’s a matter of losing hair when I brush it.

 

The process I use is as follows:

  • Wet hair thoroughly in the shower
  • Use 2-3 tablespoons of bi-carb and make a paste with some water
  • Spread it through hair and massage it into scalp and hair
  • Leave it in hair until it turns from gritty to slimy
  • Rinse thoroughly

 

And that’s it. You can follow it with an apple cider vinegar rinse, but I find it isn’t necessary for my hair. For me, this works well, but other people may find that it differs. I wash my hair once a week, and it feels fantastic, and I can style it the same ways I did when I was using shampoo.

 

So. Bi-carb soda works for me in many different ways. What other uses have you found for bi-carb?