Newtown: When Pain is Left Untreated

© iQoncept –

Newtown is what happens when the right to bear arms and emotional pain left untreated collide. I read it all over Twitter and heard it all over CNN last night. To those who believe it’s a right to own a fire arm I ask you about the rights of the people around you, the toddler that might innocently come across the weapon, the one who might get caught in the cross fire or the ones sitting innocently in a classroom doing Christmas crafts? What about their rights?  I’m not saying this to sit proud on my Canadian high horse, we have violence, but you can significantly change the amount and severity of what can happen if you make guns harder to get. Then maybe in the case of Newtown there wouldn’t have been a shooter with access to THREE guns.

But my rant isn’t about gun control because I don’t know all the facts around it; I don’t live in that world. I’m simply enraged along with everyone else, with mixed emotions and just horrifying sadness for those children left behind who will have to deal with this event for the rest of their lives. What I do know is there was a twenty year old boy whose mental health was clearly untreated or mistreated for reasons unknown. What I do know is the current stigma of mental illness keeps and prevents people from seeking treatment. The shame of having to tell someone about their sadness, thoughts or deep dark secrets has turned deadly. Our society has come to point where a mental health check- up should be just as important as your heart, liver etc. I personally think it should be mandatory. The brain is an organ and probably the most important one, but when it gets sick and reaches the end stages of the illness, it can be deadly. Whether you blame it on circumstances at birth, tragic events in childhood or the stress of being an adult in today’s world, it is one and the same if left to chance.

We need better resources, less stigma and judgement and more motivation to seek out answers. Our doctors, nurses, police, and teachers (etc), need to be educated on recognizing the signs and knowing what to do about it. People have the right to be given basic information, phone numbers, direction, not just a prescription. Granted medication may be necessary but without knowing any background on the person in need it is a potential recipe for disaster…mix those drugs with illegal drugs and untreated pain…it’s a crap shoot. I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case, but clearly something wasn’t right and maybe it’s time we address it.

Please America, take away their guns and replace it with an education in mental health, your time and understanding of their pain, resources to help them get well and most importantly a safe place to go when things get bad.

I know it’s not a perfect world and there will sadly be people, who go off the deep end and harm themselves or others, education and understanding may not solve all the tragedies, but it could decrease them. Let’s focus on what comes next, some good can come from this, lives still can be saved.

Feeling Blue?

I’ve just finished a book by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, it’s a few years old, called Eating, Drinking, Overthinking. A more appropriate title would’ve been, Kelly, This Means You (with a big embedded picture of me on the cover). While not everything in it pertains to me specifically, a whole lot does. This makes me nervous. Not that I’m into outing myself with suffering from any psychological disorders (I don’t want to talk myself out of any party invitations here) but l’ve been known to go through bouts of depression and have had my midnight anxiety attacks that have landed me on medications, on a therapist couch and over the course of the last five years added 25 pounds to my frame. It all sounds so traumatic and horrible, but let me assure you, it’s all quite common in women.

Susan (since she wrote a book about me, I feel I can call her by her first name) calls it The Toxic Triangle, a vicious cycle of depression, eating & drinking. Doesn’t that sound frightening? Who wants to be caught in a Triangle? My parents used to go on vacation when I was a kid and they would fly over the Bermuda Triangle. I always thought, “Well, there they go, gonna fly over that triangle and get sucked right in!” (Gee, I wonder when my overthinking started.)

But, really Susan? Did you have to make it sound so harsh? Vicious? Toxic? There’s no cushion, just BOOM, you my lady are in a Toxic Triangle, what do you think about that? Well, not too good actually because one of those “sides” of the triangle I feared would be ignited right away. I would over think this. I’ll run it around in my head all day and night. I’ll find myself on every page of the book, then Google everything I can about it and tell myself I’m broken and in need of repair stat!

And so it begins.

What should I do? Besides relax (even I know that), but I’m not particularly good at it. My body? Yes. My mind? Nope. But, just because a person with a PH.D., (and a Yale graduate) is picking my life apart, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Right? RIGHT?!

There must be exercises I can do to rescue me from this triangle of terror. I finally found them near the back of the book and felt a bit of relief. At least I had a plan. There is a way out. Except part of the plan is meditation and we all know how well I did with that. (See last post).

Okay, maybe like the book says, I’m just over thinking everything. I take a deep breath, relax my shoulders and pour myself a glass of wine. Wait. Drinking is another side of the triangle. That’s two out of three. Oh hell, it’s one glass of wine to calm me down. What is life if you can’t have a glass of wine once in a while? Or two? I finish that glass as I contemplate this. Then I take my second glass of wine and continue reading, but suddenly I’m hungry. I put the book down and go into the kitchen, stopping to scrutinize myself in the mirror. This is the same mirror I’d past just hours before and berated my chunky reflection swearing to never touch another carb again, but now, two glasses in… I look good enough for chips.

After the chips (and some cheese and crackers), all hell breaks loose. How could I have eaten all those? Why am I having wine on a Wednesday? Then I continue to stuff myself with anything not nailed down as I clean up from dinner. But all is not lost, because I did leave one glass of wine in the bottle so I could tell myself that, “at least I didn’t drink the whole thing.”

I wipe the crumbs from my chin as I carry my bloated body up the stairs where I lay in bed thinking, “‘I’m three out of three. What if I never get out of The Toxic Triangle?”

And, I’m back to overthinking.

I think I’m starting to get it now.

How do women get into this mess? The answer is simple says Susan, The quieter problems of woman don’t bother other people nearly as much, so they aren’t dealt with properly.”

Meaning, we take everything internally. If we could just hit something like men then maybe we wouldn’t be tearing the cupboards apart looking for a year old King Dong. We don’t tell the whole story, scared to death of judgement, so doctors tend to only address one of the issues (depression) by throwing prescriptions at us and tell us to be on our way. The meds work, but they’re only a stepping stone to the underlying issue and they’re only addressing one side of the triangle. They clear our heads enough to see how we feel, think and talk about ourselves, to ourselves, so to speak, but it’s what you do with that information that’s the way out. If you just take the medication and wait, not addressing the internal problem you’re just sitting idle, stalled in your own life. Who wouldn’t want to fill their face with beers and chicken wings?

I don’t want to bore you with the statistics, but let’s just say that there are a good number of us challenged with one or more of these “sides”. The stigma associated with any type of mental illness doesn’t make it any easier. People with depression don’t walk around like Eeorye with a big cloud over their heads. They hide it well because they’re scared to be judged by their peers when chances are; their peers are hiding something of their own. Isn’t it silly?

Okay, one statistic; 1 in 4 women will suffer a severe depressive episode at least once in her lifetime; 50% experience mild symptoms of depression. Most have repeat episodes time and time again because they don’t have the tools to stop it. And they don’t have the tools because they’re too proud to seek help. And no one notices because we are women and we are trained to shut up and keep going so we don’t appear weak.

Don’t you think this statistic could be better if we just freaking talked about it? We’re so scared to be open, to be judged or God forbid someone think we don’t have it all going on that we hold it all inside. I mean, it has to come out somehow right? I hate to bring it up again, but kind of like a fart in your pantyhose, sooner or later it has to make an exit.

We have to learn how to take better care of our mental health. Getting rid of the stigma of depression or any mental illness is high on the list. It’s like Maya Angelo said (and Oprah repeats over and over and over again), “When we know better. We do better.” And I want to do better for my children because the probability of them ever having to deal with a period of depression is high. So I want them to be prepared, be educated and not feel like they have to hide it like it’s some nasty sexual transmitted disease (another awful stigma). It’s a fact of life and if we give voice to it now, it will be easier in the future to nip it in the bud and move on before the issue even resembles a triangle.

Then again I could be just over thinking this and reserve the right to delete this post out of shame and embarrassment.

If you’re interested in the book, here is a link to Chapters online.