Depression, PTSD, & You Are Not Alone

October 4, 2018

We are all experiencing mental health issues or supporting a family, friend, or colleague in their recovery journey. Mental health conditions are showing up with young children to seniors in part due to loneliness for both. There are many opportunities to be of service in helping in the fight against mental health stigma and improving access to care.

I was saddened for Jason Kander and his family today. I’d recently met with two of the mayoral candidates; Phil Glynn and Jason to discuss what is Kansas City could and would be doing to help those who suffer from addiction and co-occurring mental health issues. I understand and empathize the weight and stress mental health disorders put on a family because there usually isn’t a fix, it is not a broken arm that gets set, takes a certain amount time, heals, then life goes back to some normal. The symptoms are typically complicated and erratic, with self-diagnosing and medicating a path taking my many early in the disease. It’s just really hard to see those you care about struggle.

I’m also extremely encouraged that another person in 2018 chose to recover in the open about mental health challenges. It’s hard for millions suffering in silence with mental health disorders to move forward in healing and with treatment in something so difficult to understand. I’ve written and continue to write about recovery from addiction and other mental health disorders that upwards of 40 million Americans suffer from today. Yes, I just wrote 40 million of us are recovering or chasing recovery; that’s a significant voting constituency if ever organized, food for thought if you’re running for office.

In recovery, I’ve heard hundreds of stories about those suffering in the shadows, emotionally drowning in shame, and fear as they’re seeing mental health carrying a stigma of weakness and disparagement around them. The announcement today by Jason Kander former Missouri Secretary of State, Army Veteran, and mayoral candidate for Kansas City Missouri about ending his campaign to focus on depression, post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), and overall mental health require a ton of courage. I wish him and his family the best as they start the journey to learn what is needed to manage, treat, and support his mental health conditions. To the Kander family if there is anything I can do please don’t hesitate to ask, I will do all I can to support you. Supporting each other is what our community is all about.

What immediately comes to mind are two sayings: “we do recover and we do survive”. I had the honor of hearing these two phrases at least a hundred times on my recent trip to the Pawtucket Rhode Island to the first ever Sober Music festival. It was named Recovery Fest by Above The Noise, a music festival with 8,000+ participants from around the country converging on the Providence area to spend time together sharing about recovery. Those attending were in recovery from many, many things (drug & alcohol use disorder, depression, sexual abuse, PTSD). We rocked the evening with advocacy, talks, celebrating the remembrance of those whom we have lost, and lastly feeling and seeing gratitude from those who’ve survived. Governor Gina Raimondo and her husband stopped by for a few minutes to encourage everyone to continue to fight for themselves and others in recovery. Rhode Island experienced a decrease in overdose deaths last year. – Festival was kicked off with Livingston Taylor’s amazing version of God Bless America.

Personal Photo credit – Bryan Wempen, Livingston Taylor, Recovery Fest 2018

I’m sharing about the festival because it was incredible and OPEN RECOVERY by anyone takes an incredible type of courage. Open recovery is basically asking for help from and to everyone. This demonstrates a willingness to be vulnerable by pulling down the curtain and sharing what is going on the inside. There are some who don’t know what to do with this request for help even if it’s indirect, so they pull away. This doesn’t feel good when it happens but it does frequently, my experience is those who pull away are ill-equipped to handle the emotional requirements or they’ve simply become overwhelmed and retreat until they feel safe enough to re-engage again. This is why a support network is important for those requesting help, we need many to support you, me, and us.

The more we suffer and recover in the open the more it gives those in the shadows hope that “normal” people need help too, and how someone appears on the outside doesn’t accurately present what happening with the whole person. We all need help from someone, please ask for help.

Here are some resources:

United Kingdom