An Open Letter to Mental Health Organizations:
I am writing regarding the use of the term Consumer when referring to a person with mental illness. As a person who has battled depression for 16 years, I find this term baffling and offensive. I ask you to discontinue using it when referring to people with mental illness. I am not a consumer.
According to Merriam-Webster a consumer is: a) a person who buys goods and services, or b) an organism requiring complex organic compounds for food which it obtains by preying on other organisms or by eating particles of organic matter. How does a person with mental illness fit into either of those definitions?
Why are we hijacking a term typically used for Wal-Mart shoppers to label people with mental illness? When did patient become a four-letter word? Why is referring to me as a person with mental illness pejorative? I am not a consumer. I am a person with mental illness.
My mental illness is a biological, treatable brain disease. It is no different than a biological, treatable pancreatic disease like diabetes, or a biological, treatable heart disease like congestive heart failure. Yet while it is acceptable to refer to a diabetic as a person with diabetes, and it is normal to refer to a person with heart disease as a patient, it is somehow unacceptable to refer to me, a person with depression, as a person with mental illness or as a patient? That doesn’t make any sense.
Consumer, used in an attempt to destigmatize mental illness, actually increases the stigma by separating persons with mental illness from those with any other type of biological, treatable illness. It highlights difference. I am not different.
When I am hospitalized, I am not there to choose between a green gown and a blue gown. I am there because my symptoms have gotten worse, and I need specialized medical care to manage my illness. This is true whether I have appendicitis, diabetes, or depression. Each is an illness that may lead to death if I do not allow myself to be treated, to be a patient.
I ask you again to discontinue using the term consumer. It is inaccurate, stigmatizing and offensive. Concocting a term to classify people with depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder rather than speaking directly about mental illness only furthers the stigma we already face.
Depression Marathon Blog
- Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!
Sunday, October 30, 2016
An Open Letter to Mental Health Organizations:
Monday, October 24, 2016
Two weeks from today I will hopefully be waking up stiff, sore and smiling in a hotel room in New York City. A shiny new finisher's medal will be on the bedside table. If I don't wear it to bed, that is.
I don't usually think about the day after finishing a marathon because the marathon guarantees nothing, especially a finish. But this has been a four year odyssey of hurricanes, hospitals, and injury, each of which prevented me from getting to the starting line in New York City. If I make it to the starting line this year I can't imagine anything keeping me from crossing the finish line. Hopefully the fourth time will be the charm and two weeks from today will be a very happy day.
My training should have me prepared to get to that finish line. I completed my last long run yesterday. Jet and I ran 15 good, sunny miles. I felt great. It was a nice confidence building run, which is just what I needed out of my final long run. Now it's time to taper.
And my taper has officially begun. I'm taking today off. The rest of the week I will be running about 40% fewer miles than usual. I generally enjoy the first week of my taper, but by next week, when I'll be running even less, I'll be itching to move more than I should. Instead I'll have to trust in my training and relax. Easier said than done.
Once I board my plane to New York City my focus will be on staying present and having fun. I doubt I'll ever run the New York City Marathon again, so I want to make sure I take it all in. I plan to enjoy the marathon. I'm not going to race it. It's too crowded for that anyway. Instead I'm going to try to keep my head up and enjoy the show. Of course, I'll enjoy it more if I run well, but like I said, I'm really going to try to keep my focus on the whole experience.
I plan to romp around and experience New York, too. Since I'll be alone in the city, I can do whatever I want without concern for someone else. I guess that's one advantage of going alone. Besides the 9/11 museum, I haven't decided what I'm going to do in the days following the marathon yet. I've already been to most of the tourist places, so I'd really like to get off the beaten path (if that's possible in New York City). I'm open to suggestions!
I'm doing well. My mouth is healing. My Achilles is holding up. Work is going smoothly. Life is good right now. I'm trying to relax and enjoy that, too.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
I'm frustrated. I'm going to New York City in a few weeks, alone. My Minnesota Lynx are playing in game 5, the final game, of the WNBA Championship in a couple of days, and I want to go. But if I go, I'll go alone. There's a fabulous concert coming up I'd like to attend. I'm not going. I decided not to go because I don't want to go alone.
I have nothing against being alone. I spend most of my time alone, and that's actually how I prefer it. I choose to run alone 99% of the time. I frequently travel alone. I go out to eat alone. I've even gone to movies alone. But sometimes it is nice to share experiences with others.
The problem is I'm not all that social. I really only have a few, okay 3, close friends. And while I love and value my friends, having so few friends is not conducive to finding a companion for outings. At least that's what I've discovered recently. It doesn't help that I'm single and all of my friends are married with children. They've already got busy schedules and in-house companions. Even if they'd like to socialize, it's often difficult for them to find time.
So despite asking various friends to accompany me on outings lately, it hasn't worked out. I'm frustrated. It would be fun to share New York with a friend, to attend the WNBA Championship, to go to the concert with someone, but I've not been able to find anyone free to join me. I'm not frustrated with my friends. I'm more frustrated with myself for having such a small circle.
My frustration has led me to question my current path. The self-analysis has not been kind. I must need more friends, I think, but that seems like a really tall order. Why is it a tall order? Why don't I have more friends? Is there something wrong with me? Do I have trust issues? On and on I go. It's not pretty.
I don't know the answers to the questions, and I'm trying not to spend a lot of time contemplating them. While I wish I had companions to accompany me at my whim, that's obviously not reality. I love and value my friends. I love and value them regardless of if they can attend a basketball game or not. And while I'm frustrated with my lack of playmates, I'm apparently not frustrated enough to change it (i.e. develop more close relationships) yet. So I guess I should stop complaining now...
Thursday, October 13, 2016
I must have been 16. I stood on that cliff high above Lake Superior, right there in that park just down the street from my high school, for what seemed like hours...and maybe it was. I was so, so miserable. I had been struggling alone against the depression for at least a year.
Home was chaotic, dismissive and abusive. My father was a self-centered ass in an on-again, off-again, move in, get kicked out, physically and psychologically abusive relationship with my wicked step-mother. She hated me, especially after my step-sister was killed. My dad had been beating me since my earliest days, but I didn't know any different. When I sought out respite from a teacher after one particular beating the police took me to emergency foster care. I was forced into therapy with my father. Angry, confused and dismissed, I barely said a word. My father had no trouble speaking up. He was a model patient. I, however, was a "moody, angry, rebellious" teenager.
The depression was so severe, but I still got straight A's and starred on my sports teams. Uncharacteristically, I also wore all black, over-sized clothes, struggled to maintain relationships, and began binge drinking. A suicidal gesture, an overdose of Contact, was ignored. I slept it off at a friend's house. Her concerned mother phoned my dad and step mother to tell them what happened. They never mentioned it to me. I was so miserable. My world didn't make any sense.
I stood on that cliff high above Lake Superior. I loved that park, those cliffs, the crashing waves below. It was a place that gave me respite and peace. I went there often. But on that day, I knew I wouldn't come back. I couldn't leave that park and go back to my nonsensical world. I was done. Just as I shifted my weight forward, a small group of young boys appeared, out of nowhere, off to my right, far below. They were climbing on the rocks, playing. I stopped and stepped away from the edge.
Many years later my youngest brother, who would have been 11 or 12 at the time, told me he was one of those boys. They had noticed me, he said, and thought I was about to jump. I don't remember if I admitted he was right.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
I'm getting a little restless. I'm waiting for my mouth to heal enough so I may resume running. You'd think this little 4 day break would be nothing for me. After all, I sat out 15 months for my Achilles. I think that long break is making this little break feel more indeterminate than it actually is. I'm anxious to get back to my training.
I've had to be very quiet since my surgery. Any jostling to my mouth could slow or even stop the healing process. I actually tried to run today, but I began to feel soreness at my surgery site so I stopped after one mile. I went to the gym and rode an elliptical for awhile instead. I don't want to do anything that may jeopardize my mouth healing and healing well.
My mood has remained good throughout this little break. I was concerned the surgical pain, the days off of work, the inability to run, and the extended downtime would negatively impact my mood, but so far so good. I'm relieved. Relieved, but a bit restless.
I'm anxious to get back to training because my training for the New York City Marathon has been going very well. My Achilles seems to be holding up well, and I'm feeling like a runner again. I had 3 great runs in the days before my surgery. My second 20-miler is scheduled for next Sunday. It's all downhill until marathon day after that. I've purchased my plane ticket and reserved my hotel. I'm ready to go.
Yes, I'm ready to go. Now I just have to hurry up and heal.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
This morning I sat in a Mayo Clinic dental specialty chair for 2 hours and 15 minutes while two doctors cut, drilled, scraped, hammered (yes, hammered), and sewed a high tech new bone slurry into place. It was the first step in what will hopefully turn into new, supportive bone in my jaw in order to allow placement of a canine implant at a later date. Now it's up to my body, and all I can do is wait. Prayers please that solid new bone forms within the next 5 months.
If new bone does not form, I will have to undergo another procedure and wait another 5 months. I'm hoping to avoid that result, but ultimately I have no control. What will happen will happen. I'm hopeful my decent physical condition and overall good health will be of benefit right now. Like I said, if you've got a direct line to a higher power, feel free to use it and use it often. Thanks.
The surgery itself was uncomfortable and long, but it wasn't terrible. They had to re-numb various parts of my mouth at least 3 times. At one point I could feel the stitches being stitched into the roof of my mouth. That wasn't so fun. I tried to tune out and listen to some music, but my phone died about halfway through the procedure. Oh well. The doctors were wonderful and did their best to keep me comfortable.
I've been home for several hours now, and I'm doing better than I expected. I'm taking antibiotics to keep away infection, steroid pills to control the swelling, and of course, pain pills. I have stitches in my gums, my palate, and in between my teeth which run from canine tooth to canine tooth. It's a large area. But so far the pain and swelling aren't too bad. I'm surprised and grateful for that.
It's going to be a long weekend. I can't do any physical activity or eat anything that requires chewing for 4 days. I bought some protein powder for smoothies and some potatoes for mashing. And since the doctors say rest, that's exactly what I'm going to do. It's a good thing I have 3 new movies to watch and a host of football games to keep me occupied this weekend. I certainly don't want to do anything that may jeopardize my healing. I'll practice being a good patient. This too shall pass.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
It was kind of a big week around here. Seven days ago I ran my first race in 23 months, 7 days, and it went well. I was thrilled to be back racing. I was happy with the result. And I was grateful to do it without re-injuring my Achilles. It was a long, long time coming. I'm so glad I was able to persevere.
On Thursday, I jumped out of an airplane from 13,000 feet, and fell through the air at 125 miles per hour for 60 seconds, before floating back to earth. The experience was more amazing than I can put into words. It was everything I had hoped for and so much more!
I've wanted to skydive since I was 7 years old. It was a bucket list item, but I can honestly say I haven't completely crossed it off the list. I will definitely do it again! And if I can swing it, I plan to go through the training to jump on my own. I did add a link to the video of my jump at the end of my previous post. I've watched it, and re-lived the experience, about 50 times myself. I rarely give advice here, but if you've ever considered jumping, just do it! You won't regret it.
My seven day stretch of big events ended today with a 20 mile training run. It was my first 20-miler in 2 years. It wasn't one of my best. It was, actually, really hard. I even considered cutting it short at 10.5 miles. I worked a lot of hours this week, including almost 9 yesterday, and I think my legs were tired. Nevertheless, I pulled out my perseverance card and played it. I kept going.
It took me almost 3 hours and 40 minutes to get back home, including about 8 pit stops or water stops for both Jet and I, but my actual running time was only 3 hours, which is 9 minutes per mile, so I'm satisfied. I'm glad I continued running even though it wasn't easy.
Life, like running, isn't always easy. Don't we all know that? As simplistic as that sounds, I do think my experiences hanging tough in training help me hang tough when faced with life's challenges, too, whether the challenges come from my work, my health, my finances or my illness.
Speaking of my illness, my mood has improved significantly. The med changes we made a couple of weeks ago have certainly made a difference. Racing, jumping out of an airplane, and running 20 miles probably helped a bit, too. It was kind of a big, successful week around here. And I had fun. How cool is that? Carry on, my friends.