Sunday, May 10, 2020

To be aware is the first step.

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Lift your chin. Square your shoulders.  Pull it together.  Nothing is wrong with you.  Work harder. Get over it. Go to church. Or, at least, keep it to yourself.

A community like mine was where there were no secrets and lots of gossip.  Whatever one said or did was under scrutiny, where it merited truth or concern or not.  It was the Midwest, after all, where values and commitment mattered more than any personal failure or need. 

What about those who could not lift a chin? Square shoulders? Pull it together?


I will tell you, since I know. 

Those people were given a fair amount of criticism and reprimands. Everyone has problems, everyone has suffered losses, but they deal with it in the Midwest way. The stigma of a mental illness reflects on the family, after all.  

I remember the very day when I was visiting home, we all were sharing a breakfast and a scheduled bus went up the road to the county seat.  Dad smirked, "There goes the silly bus."

Silly bus? These were people who had developmental problems which required extra services.  These were people who suffered mental problems and couldn't deal with life in general.

When questioned, Dad said, "In my day, they didn't need all that. They were taken care of at home. Those others, well, they should just get out there and work. Just work it out. Don't need help."

Didn't he know? Didn't he see me?  Didn't he see himself?

I have struggled through chronic depression all my life.  My "sadness" was deep. It has taken years of therapy, assisted by antidepressants, to reach a steadiness. God gave me what I needed, putting me in a place where I could reach it.

Dad? His father died when Dad was 9 years old and suicide was always on his horizon.  World War 2 pushed that into PTSD and opened a floodgate of his own depression. When he went into a spiral, we all felt its effects, God help us.

One day, many years after sitting at breakfast, my sister was home. Dad mentioned the silly bus, and my sister replied, "Dad, my son (with autism) would be on that bus." He never said it again.

But then again, autism and many others in the realm of developmental issues was not dealt with in Dad's era. My parents asked me (a teacher) if this couldn't just be whipped/beat/spanked out of him. I spent the next hours explaining exactly what children and adults experience with autism and what is known or theorized about it.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Never before has mental health been recognized as so important, impacting society in ways never imagined. Has that changed how those who suffer with such are been helped? Really good question.

October is Depression Awareness Month. The first full week of October is Depression Awareness week. Never before has Depression been recognized and diagnosed as a silent struggle so many experience and suffer. 

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. 

Lift your chin. Square your shoulders.  Pull it all together.  Nothing is wrong with you.  Work harder. Get over it. Go to church. Or, at least, keep it to yourself.

This post is dedicated to those who relate or can relate to what is written here. I posted it back in 2018. My sister wrote to me about Dad's comment and how he changed after she informed him about what is truth.




29 comments:

  1. I am so glad that your father could learn.
    Many cannot/will not.
    We are finally taking small steps towards helping people with mental illnesses. The steps are welcome, strides are needed.

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    1. "Strides are needed" is well said. I cannot add to that at all.

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  2. That was just the way people were back then. I think we have become better. Well, in some ways.

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    1. It takes time to break out of the mold of the past.

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  3. The stories are many.

    A lady who went to her pastor for help with her problems. When she said, "There have to be others in the congregation who have similar issues," he responded with, "There are. They just handle it better than you." So cold.

    The women at my church who blow off the major depression of another member with, "Well, I think it's just a lack of faith!" When i heard that, i wanted so badly to explode at them.

    My own depressions have been totally untreated because "There's no such thing as depression." At least that family member is now more accepting of the Asperger autism of another family member. It's not easy.

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    1. Oh, sweetheart, thank you so much for sharing this. In my midwest home town, women would go to get advice and comfort for this and all manner of mental struggles. My mom talk with her pastor about her marriage. He told her to just hold it up to God.

      So condescending. Also frees him from responsibility. Valium was readily prescribed during the 60s and beyond. No professional could provide help at that time.

      I appreciate your comment more than you could know.

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  4. My younger sister had the most severe form of Down syndrome. She had to be in a place where she got constant care. My dad could not handle it. My mom had to deal with it all on her own. We were not allowed to talk about her at home. It's a long story, you have given me something to write about on my blog. I'm so sorry about your depression and for all others who suffer and then suffer the prejudice too.

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    1. You are so kind. Your poor mom. That is a lot to handle on her own.

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  5. Very much on target. Also well written with a challenge. I had an uncle, Uncle Ralph.In his 20s he played cars with me at 5-12. When Grandma died, Ralph, such a sweet guy, stayed on and off with all his 12 brothers and sisters, but most of the time at our house. Yes that challenge is in many places and many families.
    U B sweet to plant seeds of understanding.
    Sherry & jack

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    1. Uncle Ralph was fortunate to have such a family, especially your home. He was loved.

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  6. It's time for the stigma of it all to go away. There's nothing wrong with getting help. In fact, that's probably the healthiest thing to do.

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    1. Getting help is the hardest and most necessary of all.

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  7. Thank you for sharing this necessary message, Susan. Your candor is refreshing. My DIL has worked in Montgomery County's mental health system for 25+ years now and is often frustrated by the public's lack of education and empathy.

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  8. Many of homeless are veterans who have mental illnesses. Now with so many veterans returning and no place to go, this tragedy increases.

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  9. A very important post. The culture that I grew up in was different from the midwestern cult culture that you describe but mental illness was still stigmatized. Society has progressed on this but there is still a ways to go. It actually says a lot about your dad that he was able to change his attitude on this. There are so many people out there who would never be that flexible.

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    1. When my sister addressed this to him, he cried when he called her with an apology.

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  10. My sister is one who would have been on that "silly bus", but she was cared for at home until she was sent to a home where others could teach her how to care for herself in order to be able to manage living on her own, which she eventually did and still does. My husband handled his PTSD by being permanently drunk, a functioning alcoholic who held his job and never had a car accident. Second husband, also alcoholic, has mental health problems and now has a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a regular doctor all looking out for him as well as me. So I can relate and wish more people would think before they say things like "silly bus".

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    1. You are one precious, brave soul. Thank you for sharing your struggles. And thank you for sharing how you and yours are dealing with the mental and emotional needs.

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  11. Education is the answer, as it is for all examples of ignorance.

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    1. Education is the answer. In high schools, bullies make life miserable for one who have an mental issue at all. Last year 3 bullies beat a boy who had struggles. Students used cell phones to record to share online. They did nothing. The boy died after being in a coma for a week.

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  12. I had an uncle I never knew because he died many years before I was born. I had been told he died in a home for juvenile delinquents. At my father's funeral for some reason we were speaking about me having epilepsy. My aunt then informed me that me uncle had been in a facility for mental defectives. He had epilepsy and died from a seizure. It was preferable to have a "bad boy" than to have one with a medical problem. Sadly things have not entirely changed.

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    1. I am so sorry, You are right. One being diagnosed with any mental disability then was never seen as redeemable.

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  13. So many people needing special prayers.

    God bless, Susan.

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  14. It is good when one can learn and change about it. Sadly, many still do think it can just be pushed through.

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    1. It is easier to ignore and deny any problems.

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  15. Like many aspects of mental health, it follows a spectrum from mild to severe. Your lovely story points out how the world sees ALL who have some form of mental illness, regardless of the severity. This was a very brave story to tell and one I'm glad you shared. Just like much disinformation we are receiving during this lock down, so goes the ignorance of any community who offer poor and disheartening "advice."

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    1. Looking back on my teaching time, knowing what I do NOW, I can see students who struggled with some degree of developmental problems. I do not know what could be done with my lack of knowledge. Have feelings of guilt, even though I don't know what I would have done.

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  16. Thank you for this post, Susan. I'd like to think our opinions and ideas about mental illness and developmental disabilities has evolved over the decades and in many ways it has -- but not to all. So things like this are excellent reminders. I have dealt with clinical depression personally although quite some time ago. Our oldest is continually dealing with depression and his bi-polar issues. He seems on a good period now (thank goodness for a good doc and meds). But in the past we've had concerns about suicide, which is terrifying. Rick mentors a man who is schizophrenic and I so admire him (RIck) for sticking with it, because it's not always easy. But mental health is critical.

    During this lockdown I worry about those who are either challenged in such ways or don't understand. I fear they will fall through the cracks.

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!