Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Personal Finish (and a bit of language)

Today's Friday Finish is not a quilt.  This post is about a topic that's very personal to me and I have to warn you there is a bit of language here (although I've blurred and bleeped where appropriate.)


Depression and anxiety (and other... idiosyncrasies) have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Since I was born, I suppose.  It has been a part of every moment of every day of my life.  As I've grown I've learned better and better ways of coping, but it hasn't gone away.  If I'm having a good day -if I look "normal" to you- that's because I've had the time and the resources to do all the things that I do to keep my mental illness in check and they're all working well today.  You see me walking around, doing my job, talking and smiling. You don't see all the work it took for me to be able to do those things. You don't see what it costs.

Things have gotten somewhat better for people with mental illness in the past decade or so as awareness has grown. It's still something of a taboo topic, but it's better than it used to be.  Of course there has been push back.  My generation (Millennials) has gotten a bad rap for being "special sensitive snowflakes" with our trigger warnings and safe spaces and etc.  I'm not even going to go into a rant here about what BS the snide comments about those things are. I'm just going to say that if you were educated about mental illness and what trigger warnings and safe spaces actually are you would think it was all perfectly reasonable and logical.


And I'm also going to say that I know America has a long  and venerable tradition of dealing with mental illness by just "toughing it out," "quit being such a wimp," "pull yourself together soldier" and coping by becoming a sulky alcoholic, watching too much TV, and slapping around our family members when no one's looking.  I know that's how we've always done it, and it was good enough for our grandfathers.  I'm just saying, as one of the people who 50 years ago would have just had to "deal" with this quietly and wound up an alcoholic filled with self loathing, that maybe if trigger warnings and safe spaces and talking about feelings and access to medications is what it takes for more of us to be salvageable, to be functional, then maybe that's worth trying?


Anyway, the reason for this rambling post is that I've been very fortunate. My illness is relatively mild, I grew up in a supportive and loving family who took me to a doctor, I have the social and financial resources to get help, and the medications work for me.  Very few people are so lucky. Many live on the verge of suicide or in such intense mental distress that I doubt very much someone without mental illness could comprehend it.  One of those people is a very good friend of mine.


When you have mental illness, as with many chronic illnesses, every day is a battle and every mundane accomplishment (like getting out of bed and leaving the house) is a struggle.   Every day. Every time.  But she does it.  She has a killer job and doctorate from a good school and she looks totally put together and fine to the casual observer.  I don't know HOW she does it. I'm constantly in awe.   Because of her illness she only sees herself as a failure when she's the bravest, toughest, not to mention smartest person I know.  (Yes, YOU. I know you read my blog ;) )


I made a sash to remind her what a BAMF she is and sent it off in a goody pack along with her first medal, of many.  Because people who live with this disease, and keep going anyway, are amazing. Everyday.

Linking to Crazy Mom Quilts Finish it Friday.

Listening to... a song that (to me) is about a woman with depression who fights for her life every moment, and no one knows.

17 comments:

  1. Kat thanks for the great read and the reminder of what many are going through. You are right looks good from the outside, but no one know what it takes to keep the "normal" look.

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  2. Thank you for this post...it is a hard battle. I have told myself, get up, get dressed and put on the "face". This is not being a wimp or a snowflake, it is a chronic illness to be dealt with.

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  3. I love, love, love your comments on trigger warnings and special snowflakes and snide comments. I have to confess, when I first heard about trigger warnings, I probably made some snide comments myself. After my college age kids explained it to me and gave me examples, though, I, too, think it's all perfectly reasonable and logical. I think my generation got the idea introduced to us in a very biased way, so I applaud you for your efforts in setting things straight.

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  4. I struggle deeply with mental illness. I'd say more but I'm too paranoid. I guess I haven't found any of those safe spaces yet. I hope younger generations have it easier.

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  5. Kat, you are wonderful, brave, honest and so fabulous! I have 5 boys and several of us in the family have suffered from this and more over the years. This week has been one of those times when it feels like you can reach out and grab the anxiety in the air. One son is currently home from college for the semester. He wasn't able to manage far from home and has now been diagnosed. I am certainly not in anyone else's shoes to know how they feel, but I have "seen this movie way too many times". I understand what an incredible friend you are to make your pal a sash. It is adorable, humorous and so very powerful - all at the same time. Feeling alone and isolated is perhaps the worst part of suffering from depression. How amazing that you have support and are able to give back love and cheering to your friend as well. No wonder you inspire so many quilters like myself. No wonder you are giving back with your abundance of quilts with your charity. You are an amazing and special person.

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  6. Fabulous finish, and important words to read and think about.

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  7. Heroes exist in many forms. Keep on doing the best that you can to get through each day and create some beauty for the world.

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  8. Thanks so much for this post. My son tried to commit suicide 2 years ago, and we'll be dealing with this for years to come. I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's going to be an ongoing, never ending battle. I try to support, but in the end - it's up to him. I love hearing from those who still fight, that it's all worth it in the end. Bless you.

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  9. I love the sash and medal!! You're a great friend and a BAMF, Kat. I know what it's like to sit with my feet dangling over the edge of the bottomless pit, so you're singing the song of my people.

    Thank you for this post.

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  10. Bravo! Your words have done a great service today. I'm glad the millennials have these coping skills today - it's a start. Fighting the battle with you - nice knowing I'm not alone.

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  12. As an almost 60 year old woman that has dealt with bi-polar, major depression as well as chronic illness for *decades* I appreciate your candor on the reality of MI. However, I do have to disagree with you somewhat on the "snide remarks" regarding triggers and safe spaces. While I can relate to the well in managing my own issues, I can't help but think that much of the Millennials have just adopted these 'catch phrases' as a way of everyday life... there *is* a whole lot less accepting life as it comes now than there was when I was young myself. Life is what it is, and what comes my way is just a challenge for me to deal with it the best I can, not appoint blame for it. There are many who succumb to MI, I understand that; there is an equal or greater number that put up a good hard fight every day for a lifetime.

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  13. Really great post! My daughter (age 37) is bipolar, and falls in line with those statistics. She also has lupus, another mostly invisible illness. Even close family members think it is mind over matter. One of them even has her double major in Psychology!
    My gripe has always been that, apparently most people don't consider the brain to be part of the body! Nobody would not try to be understanding of an outwardly visible illness, yet the brain supposedly can somehow heal itself, or snap out of the state it's in. Ok, done venting. Thanks for the outlet, though!

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    1. I have also found through life experience, that there are a LOT of people that will *say* that they understand types of mental illness...such as depression, bi-polar, etc. but in reality what they know or understand about it would fit into a thimble. All mental illnesses are very complex and often multi-faceted. Unless one deals with it first-hand with a loved one, or even a friend they care enough about to do their homework, and keep at it searching for answers, most people's reality of understanding is what they have gleaned from TV and movies.

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  14. I agree, unless you've been through it personally or with a loved one, people don't truly understand. I really didn't either. My youngest brother shot himself Dec 3rd. Such a misunderstood and sad thing for anyone to deal with. Hugs!

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  15. This is such an honest post. Thank you for sharing. It is a reminder that no one is truly alone in their struggles.

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  16. What a good friend you are to have created this sash to celebrate your friend's daily accomplishments!!

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