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Mental Health Awareness Month

There is so much I want to say about mental health and the toll it takes on individuals and families. I just cannot seem to get them to come out right from my mind to the keyboard. Some of that is because I have mental illness and it can, at times make concentrating difficult. Even though I am in a good place with my medications, nicely balanced and able to focus on many of the tasks I need to accomplish, there is still that underlying trepidation that any given day my medication may stop working for me. I have been there many times over the last two decades, reaching a point where the medication just fails to do what it is intended to do. The only choice is to swap things up and spend 6 months to even a year, adjusting different medications. Unfortunately when that happens my life is still going on, still have a job to do and a family to take care of, that does not stop just because I am in trouble mentally. No, life has to go on and it is in those darkest moments, when my emotions and my thoughts drag me down that I feel totally alone in the world. That is a bad place to be, especially if you have a family and a job, I am lucky that I have a bit of stubbornness that keeps me from giving up.

There have definitely been many times in my life when I wanted to give up, where not living felt like it would be the better choice. Long stretches where my mental train was a roller coaster; top of the world to a bottomless pit. That is a scary place to be when those emotions are flip flopping multiple times a day, no triggers, just random emotional states, and when your high water marks are still deeply depressed it can be overwhelming to the point where you just want it to end. When I was in high school I cut and burned myself to feel something other than despair. In the pain there was clarity, in clarity there was purpose, in purpose there was safety. I also self medicated with nicotine and on occasion with alcohol, lucky for me the alcohol did not become an addiction. The nicotine on the other hand stayed with me for 20+ years, from the age of thirteen and into my thirties, I still crave cigarettes after 15 years of not smoking.

So I celebrate the fact that I have not succumbed to my mental illness, but I also understand the toll it can take and why people eventually give up the fight. I have come close but I do not look down on anyone who gave up, some say it is the easy way out, but I suspect those who do have not spent a lifetime in the trenches fighting against themselves trying to survive.

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