For those that help carry the Darkness…#399

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My son Chuck has just posted it on his web page, I thought it was an interesting piece and wanted to share it with you.

What Can You Do? by Chuck Murphree

I have often been asked, “What can a family member or loved one do to help someone with depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation?” It’s a good question, so I needed to reflect on when I was at my low points, my darkest times, or the moments when I questioned if life was worth living anymore, what would I want someone close to me to do or say?

I have been talking with teen groups for the past several years, individual students, parents, friends, and relatives, and have been asked to come and talk with entire student bodies at high schools. I will say, I don’t have all the answers, and I honestly wonder why anyone is looking to me for advice. Well, that’s my schemas talking, those dirty little bastards. They make me question my worth. When I counter these intrusive thoughts, I realize that many are looking for answers, even the simplest response, in order to help someone they care about who is suffering. So, I offer my perspective, experiences, and stories of having trauma, depression, anxiety, and experiences with suicidal ideation.

My quick response to what can someone do to help a loved one who is suffering is the following:

Learn the symptoms of depression and anxiety. They can vary from person to person but in general, they look like this:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Irritability or frustration
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness, exhaustion, and lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite — reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain, especially sweets
  • Anxiety increases
  • Slowed thinking or even being physically slower
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, blaming yourself for things out of your control.
  • Self-shaming
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent mention of death, suicidal thoughts
  • Body aches, such as back pain or headaches
  • Numbness. Or the dreaded numbness of not feeling anything.

Everyone who has depression has a higher risk of being suicidal. Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “Everyone would be better off without me,” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
  • Getting the means to attempt suicide, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
  • Withdrawing from people, social media, and wanting to be left alone
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation, like you cannot get out of it
  • Excessive and increased alcohol or drug use
  • Changing normal routines, like sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things
  • Giving away belongings
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again

These are definitely not all of the signs and there are many more, but it is a few to recognize. Some people that kill themselves show no signs at all. Looking back on my friend’s suicide, I now realize that the signs were there, but I didn’t recognize them at the time. There is also the harsh reality, that when someone does decide to take their life and gets to their end, there is not a lot you can do. If they have decided to go through with it, they will. This was difficult for me to accept, which is why I carried around the guilt of my friend’s suicide for years, and still do at times.

So what can you do? Be mindful of the above signs. Educating yourself on what depression, anxiety, and suicide look like is a good start to being proactive and helping someone cope. Listen in an empathetic and compassionate way, but do not feel sorry for them. Listen without judgment and do not try to “cure” them or solve all of their problems. The person you care about may be judging themselves harshly, saying horrible things, it is a normal part of having a mental illness because they feel like they are worthless. Offer them positive reinforcement on the things they do offer or are good at. They may not seem like it but they are listening. Offer assistance, if needed, in certain tasks or things that they may be forgetting or not have energy for. They are probably exhausted. You can also offer them resources that may help them, like going to a therapist or practicing mindfulness. However, do not bombard them with resources or shame them when they do not take your suggestions. They will get help when ready but still offer support.

For me personally, when I am in those dark places in my mind, drowning in the stormy waters, I just need a gentle soul to be near me, never passing judgment, and understanding that I am doing my best. I am doing the very best I can at that moment so please do not give up on me.

You also need to take care of yourself and realize what is and is not in your control. This is difficult for many to accept and understand. You cannot “fix” someone’s mental illness. You cannot stop them from killing themselves. You cannot force them to seek help or practice coping skills. It’s a reality that many do not like to hear. However, the truth is, you can provide all of the support in the world, and do everything I mentioned above and more, but the person who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation, needs to do the work. They need to find the things that help them, put the coping skills into place, and build resilience. That is the important part. Resilience is key.

The best thing you can do, and society can do, stop the stigmas. We all have a responsibility to stop stigmas that are cruel, and false dialogue about mental illness and bring more awareness. It is a disease, not unlike cancer or any other disease. It can be a killer. Would you place a stigma on cancer? Would you tell someone with cancer that they need to just suck it up and quit complaining? Most likely not, or you would be a pretty horrible person. The same applies to people that struggle with mental illness.

The worst thing we can do is not talk about mental illness and suicide, ignore it, and brush it under the rug as if it doesn’t exist. Yes, the conversations are difficult, but we are in desperate times where anxiety and depression are on the rise. We need to normalize talking about it. There is no other choice and we can no longer wait. There are too many people, especially young people, that are experiencing depression and anxiety, that are taking their lives. Silence isn’t an option anymore.

We are entering a time in our existence as humans where anxiety and depression are at crisis levels. There are not enough psychiatrists, psychologists, or counselors to help the increasing number of people that need assistance. That is why we need to make mental illness and suicide a part of our conversations. We need to be transparent and not be afraid to speak up or feel shamed and silenced by stigmas. We need to learn from other people’s experiences. If it helps you, I will always be transparent about my experiences with trauma, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. If I can help one person cope, become more resilient, and survive, then I have fulfilled my purpose.

#Mental Awareness

Toxic People…#398

Dear Followers,

Over this past year, I have shared with you that I have been diagnosed with Stage 3 Multi-Myeloma. I have tried to stay focused on writing a memoir, and I have taken from those written pages and created posts on my blog. Cancer is a teacher; cancer changes one’s way of thinking; cancer humbles; that is my description of cancer.

Some time back, I posted about removing toxic individuals from my life; cancer has taught me to value my time. My time is precious and short; I cannot give the time that I don’t have to people who are toxic, greedy, and thinks of only themselves. I should have done this fifty years ago, but it took cancer for me to realize that it was I that needed to consider a different way. 

We all have people who come and go during our lifetime, a scattered few walks and talk within a cloud of toxicity, conversation and actions. Removing them is like being tied to a tree with a noose around your neck. You cannot remove the rope; the noose tightens around your neck. Toxic people live in a cloud of lies, and you may be unable to escape in writing what may be my last book, filling the pages with things that I could have changed. Cancer has taught me, too late, what really matters. The pain located in my spine humbles me as well. It shames me that I have allowed parents that did not love me to keep me from returning. Being hurt was better than nothing at all. In the last three years of my mother’s life, she finally told me to stay away.

An entire chapter of my memoir focuses on my birth, which was not what my mother wanted. She hoped that I would die at birth. My daddy being under her control, rarely won a battle with her. I was raised by my aunt until the age of three; it was then that my daddy brought me back into a house filled with unhappiness and hate. I learned from his gentleness and love when he was allowed to show it. After marriage to a man I did not know, another southern thing that should have been outlawed, I keep returning to that house hoping to see a measure of love from anyone. My sister, raised until the rules of our mother, rebelled.

My mother loved her unconditionally but wanted to control her, which she never accomplished. My sister left, returning years in-between. I kept returning year after year, hoping to break through that bearer. I was filled with love for family. I did recognize that there was no love and that I was unwanted, but all those years of knowing taught me nothing.

She, by then, had brought another child into her life, an adopted one. I believe that it was an effort to “do over.” What she did not accomplish with my sister. That entire family of daddy, mother, and sisters lived within a cloud of toxicity that would last them all their lives. I was finally told to not come back several years after my daddy died. I never returned until her death three years later. However, those left behind kept the toxicity alive. My relationship with those left after their death was on and off, the greed shown at my mother’s death was so outlandish I sometimes wonder if people would believe it.

Multi-Myeloma decided to attack my spine. It was undoubtedly brought on by stress, a lifetime of anxiety that I allowed to get into my mind. This mental pain I have lived with all my life finally turned into a physical one. My first mistake was to continue to live within a family of greedy people; the second was to stay. I am not saying that these toxic family members caused my cancer, but their actions have not helped it throughout the years either.

They continued to live as entitled individuals and soon discovered no one would continue the entitlement after their mother died. I cannot see that they have learned anything; their mother continues to live on their shoulders, dictating the rules from the grave. Greed was their life, letting someone else carry the burden of their living expenses. I doubt they ever learned anything; my family’s life still belongs to someone in the grave. When the “giver” died, the individual turned more toxic than ever before and appeared to have no clue how to live. I continued to go back when allowed; I, too, had learned nothing all those years. The relationship was so damaged by their fear it could not be repaired. It is always a mystery how money can break apart people you thought to love you and that you did love. Cancer taught me a new way of living, one of truth. I never wanted anything but their love; they all withheld that too.

I worked hard to keep the relationship alive, but I apparently did not come to the rescue financially, and communication ended. I believe it was thought that I had money. I worked to make a living all my adult life; my mother thought I had money. She never felt anything else and asked that I continue taking care of what she deemed to need. She did not want me, but she did want me to step in her shoes when she died. She asked that of me many years ago; however, in those final years, hours she had me banned from the room until she breathed her last breath. I was told it was all the family, but who knows, and now who cares?

This has been a long time of teaching me to not run after those who do not care unless you extend a hand filled with money. Toxicity, the poison that ran through my family, was not love; it was simply greed. Finally, I have become a student over this past year of dealing with cancer. So many years wasted; however, better late than never learning anything. I have removed the toxic people from my life. I felt the weight lifted from my shoulders the moment the decision was made; it was easier to breathe.

I have written about this in “The Last Chapter,” and I want to share it again. I still care deeply about those who have hurt me. Yet, I cannot go back to listening to their lies and claims to always walking in the image of God or asking for prayers. Their actions do not show that they need any help financially or otherwise. To the world outside their other toxic associated group, they no doubt genuinely believe they are the ones that need help. When they show their lifestyle, it clearly represents someone who has more than most. It is almost kin to a “scam.”

After more than 50 years, I finally cut the relationship. I could not change what they do or act; they are believed to be correct and do not see their own faults. They manipulate people and situations to their own advantage. My health cannot be subject to unhealthy ways; it is up to me.

©2022.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

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#Cancer #Mental Health #Toxic People #Anger #Writing

Time to Relax…#397

August 2 thru 4 was spent with my two sons. It had been planned for some time and I prayed that I would be able to go. The pain was unbearable at times, but this did not stop me from enjoying every minute. Sometimes we must push through the pain in order to get into the realm of laughter, togetherness, and love. I had trained all my life for this very thing and the time was beautiful.

Cabin at Indian Trails Campground…

Inside the cabin…

It was a beautiful setting, surrounded by a fence, which took away from the “campground” effect. We arrived on a Tuesday. It took some time to get everything settled, then darkness came on quickly.

I had a walker which was difficult to maneuver over the gravel road. However, I also had my big battery-powered wheelchair that could tackle any road and win. As I look back, I can barely remember doing a 5K with Chuck and Karen only a few years back. Walking 6 miles every day and eating “right”.

That was with heart surgery and many other complications that “old age” will throw at you. Then, it all ended when I fell and broke my back! One year and three months ago the big “C” was a diagnosis that I did not ever want to hear. The days go and come with me fighting it every step of the way. Over this past year, I have gone from cane to walker and wheelchair. Thus, this brings me to today.

I did go to Door County, a big attraction here in Wisconsin. If I was going to wait until I felt better…that was not going to happen. Three days there with my granddaughter and my 10-year-old great-grandson. That was not a vacation, but a few days of seeing how undisciplined he was most of the time.

So, the three days in the cabin were something I needed badly. What a peaceful time.

Here are the two that made that possible and what a joy to have time without drama. I must tell you that I have two of the most wonderful sons. They took time out of their busy lives to give me those days.  We went to an Amish Bakery, you have not lived until you have baked goods from scratch, with no preservatives. I laughed more than I have ever laughed and felt nothing but respect and love. The tallest is Carl in management with a large company. The shorter one is me! The other boy is Chuck a special education teacher. Chuck is also a writer as is his mother. He has published two books on mental health, and he is a speaker in mental health as well.  

We pushed all we could into those short three days. We vowed to go again next summer. My wish is that I can, and if not, I had them promise me that they would get together every summer, just the two of them.

Have a great weekend, and I hope to return shortly.  E.

©2022.elizabethannjohnsonmurphree

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