Tag Archives: mental-health

Marie Gebhard

 

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Dear Agoraphobic sufferer of 2013:

As I sit, in 2013 here desperate for relief, desperate to live again, and fearing deep down I shall never recover, I thought of you. I hope so much that the state and society now understand Agoraphobia. I hope that science has moved on and found the cause of this crippling illness, and thus discovered a cure for it. I hope you feel the sun on your face and the sand beneath your feet. I hope you see your children run through tall grass, and spend your weekends punting on rivers. I hope that you are not blamed for your illness as we are. Doctors treat us with contempt, begrudgingly refer us to therapy, then because we cannot get to therapy they then wash their hands of us, throw us on the scrap heap, and leave us to rot. Due to this neglect, our conditions worsen; we become afraid of fear itself. Those fortunate enough to afford private health care stand a chance, but those reliant on the state do not. Nobody is going to help us; we are left to help ourselves. We fight everyday. We spend so long researching our conditions, the causes and the cure’s. We invest all our hope and energy into practicing ‘the tools’. Everyday we push ourselves harder and harder, facing our fear’s to no avail. It is like riding an exercise bike. We invest all our energy but get no where. Many of us become depressed, feeling alone; abandoned, helpless and hopeless suicide is often considered. I so hope this is not what you experience.
To make matters worse, our conditions are not understood. Everyone assumes it is about going outside or crowds. We have tried tried to explain that it is the fear of leaving a safe zone or person, and just because we can walk to the corner of our streets does not mean we can get to the next street. It’s like living in an invisible prison where people are blaming you for not being able to get out because they cannot see it. Many people think that when we are afraid, it is similar to their exam nerves, or first day at work nerves. Of course this is absurd. Who would stop living due to a trivial thing like that? If only people understood it is a feeling of terror, incomparable to anything other than a life or death situation. If only people understood it is not about the emotion of fear, but the physical reactions of fear, such as defecating, passing out, vomiting, trembling, disassociating, etc. The amount of times we have heard people saying ‘we all feel afraid sometimes, but you just have to carry on’ I would love to see them trying to carry on when they cannot see where they are going, cannot breathe, unable to walk due to the shaking and defecating themselves! I do hope you are still not enduring such symptoms or ignorance in 2013.

Recently, things have become much worse for us. We have been labelled skivers. People assume we are lazy and scroungers. We have become hated by the public, and judged as fakers by the welfare system. I have even heard such ignorance as people suggesting that if they take the money off agoraphobics, then agoraphobics will soon find a way to work. The insanity of such statements! I am crippled with arthritis and spinal deformities, yet I cannot get to the hospital for my own medical treatment due to my agoraphobia, if agoraphobics have to neglect their physical ailments due to their mental health how will a loss of money help? Sadly, it is clear people do not care. We have become the only prejudice socially acceptable. I am lucky, I am married and my husband works, I am not on any of these welfare benefits, so I know I will not starve and freeze to death, but those alone will.

It beggars belief that in 2013 people still think as they did in the dark ages. Mental health is not a choice. It is unbearable. Medically neglected, financially neglected and socially ostracised being a sufferer of agoraphobia today is cruel. I pray for the future generations of this illness, especially you, I pray you can do all those things we wanted to do, but were never able to. Please live your lives to the fullest, appreciate every moment you are living not just existing. Do it for us, ‘seize the day’.

Sincerely,
Marie Gebhard
CEO Time to Escape

 

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Photo taken by a woman who suffers from the mental health issues above, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar II.

About this photo: “This is a submission for both Broken Light Collective, and Unmasked, a project that encourages people to come out about their diagnoses to help fight stigma. It is hard for me to put myself out there in this way, especially with a photo, because there are elements of my diagnoses that I am still struggling to come to terms with. I admit that there are certain things that I erased from the board because I am still fighting with my own inner stigma battle, but I know that I want to encourage other people to fight stigma and put themselves out there, so I must therefore do so myself, even if it is one step at a time.

When things are at their worst, I feel like my diagnoses become me. It makes me feel incredibly confused, ashamed, and angry, in part because of the stigma. If I am what I am trained to think down upon, fear, and hate, then I therefore must think down upon, fear, and hate myself. But I know there must be more to me than these words on a chalk board, and that I must keep fighting for that something else. Fighting for my family, my remaining friends, myself, and everyone else who is fighting. There is no doubt that mental illness is the hardest battle I have ever fought. It’s a daily battle for life. As you see, the list of my battles is a long one, and this is only a partial list and doesn’t even include my many set-backs and treatments tried along the way.
One of the few things that can bring me a feeling of joy in my depressed state, or any other state for that matter, is photography. When I am feeling terrible there is little that I can do beyond trying to see my doctors and take my medications. Those times even standing up can be a challenge, but being creative is something small that I can do for myself wherever I am physically or emotionally, a distraction and a creation that is all mine. And sharing my photos in a supportive environment like Broken Light has been an amazing release and support. I hope other people will take my lead — not necessarily photographing yourself with your diagnoses, but doing a little something for yourself, creating something or finding your own way of fighting stigma. I know I am more than my diagnoses — my photography reminds me of that. WE, the collective, those who have suffered or are suffering, are all more than our diagnoses. Create, explore, share… Let’s do whatever we can to release their powerful hold.” 

Angela Meadows

Wonderful Angela is happy to share her story. Thank you so much!

During my first episode of suicidal depression, I spent every waking moment thinking about the best way to kill myself in a manner that would inconvenience other people as little as possible. It was cold, unemotional, and almost clinical. They haven’t all been like that. A few years ago I had a different experience – a maelstrom of emotion: howling tears, huge waves of pain washing over me, terror at having to endure any more of it. The reason I didn’t follow through that time was my husband. Not because I felt I had anything to live for, but because I knew the devastating effect my death would have on him. And I hated him for it. I hated him for loving me so much that I couldn’t end my misery. That was probably my all-time low point.

I’ve generally been very open about my illness, because that’s all it is. When people have praised my bravery for speaking out, I thank them for their intended compliment, but note that they wouldn’t have said that if it was diabetes. Why shouldn’t I talk about it? It’s a disease, not a character flaw. There were times, in some work situations, where I wasn’t sure of the response I would get and struggled on in silence. The effort of having to hide your difficulties in coping, and to maintain appearances and performance, just adds to the sense of failure and hopelessness. More recently, I’ve told coworkers when I’ve been struggling, or going through a medication change, when I’ve had cotton wool where my brain should be, and asked them to bear with me while it passes. Not having to keep it secret, and allowing people to give you the support you need, is an enormous weight off your shoulders. Trust people – they may surprise you. And if they don’t, it is their problem, not yours. You are entitled to ask for and get support when you need it. And for many, it may be the first time they feel able to talk about their own or their family’s problems with mental illness – lifting the burden of stigma all around.

The other reason that I wanted to take part in the Unmasked project, is to stand before any of you out there who are suffering now, and promise you that there is an end to it. You can get through it. Ask for the help you need, keep trying if it doesn’t work to start with. I am still on antidepressants and probably will be for life. I fought against taken them for the longest time but they probably saved my life. There were times I wished they hadn’t. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and I have had to change medication several times over, each time accompanied by a major breakdown that cost me months or years of my life. But I have never been happier than I am now. I have suffered some major life setbacks this year, but have handled them all with calmness and aplomb – the way that I used to, before the depression. I am me again. I love my life and I’m thrilled to be living it. There is hope.