Funerals and Mental Illness

Lauren Kocher

This week’s submission to Stigmama

When you have a mental illness is like perpetually being at a wake for a funeral. I am sure many you are scratching your heads because you cannot fathom how the two are alike. Trust me. It makes a lot of sense. If you having ever been a part of the receiving line at a funeral for a loved one, you are approach by two kinds of grievers: “the aunt” and “the date”.  The first kind, “The Aunts”, are the ones who are the true grievers. These are the people who probably knew the passing party on a close personal level. These might be siblings, close cousins, maybe a family friend, these people really knew who this person was. When they come up to you in the line, they know how to approach you. You can see and feel that they had lost also. You…

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Anxiety Wins Again

Since my therapy session on Friday morning my anxiety has been absolutely ridiculous.  Normally I have somewhat of an on and off low grade general anxiety and a very high social anxiety.  Then there is the panic attacks associated with my PTSD when I have a flashback or nightmare or something of that sort.  Since Thursday night/Friday morning though, I have had intense anxiety. My heart has stayed at a high rate, I cannot seem to sit still, I actually feel incredibly exhausted from it all, and I am feeling somewhat depressed and have cried off and on.

My therapist told me to go walking as I used to do this quite a bit for my anxiety to get the energy out.  I tried to do this on Friday and Saturday.  Friday I just broke out into tears about 30 minutes into it.  I wasn’t just slowly walking either, I was going in intervals of walking/jogging.  But the energy and anxiety just wasn’t leaving me.

I recently changed anxiety medications.  But my previous one wasn’t doing anything at all.  I am not sure if this new one is making things worse or therapy is just bring up new emotions.  I also just came back from the family reunion which was quite difficult for me and I think brought up a lot of memories too.

Getting through this weekend has been incredibly hard.  I cannot wait until tomorrow morning when I can call my psychiatrist and beg him to raise this dosage or give me something to get through until the next appointment, or make the appointment earlier.  This anxiety is really getting to me!  It doesn’t even seem like my coping skills are helping me anymore.

If anyone has any insights into how they deal with anxiety when their meds aren’t working or if they don’t use meds at all, please let me know because I could really use the help.

The Mask We Wear

Throughout my life I have suffered with depression.  I remember the first time I really felt depressed I was about 10 years old in 5th grade.  I was sitting on the swing set, I had quit playing with my friends at recess, and I and just couldn’t find the joy in anything anymore.  Despite this though, no one knew anything was wrong with me.  I was attending a Math, Science, Technology Magnet school, I had amazing grades, participated in extracurricular activities, and overall I appeared to be very social within the classroom.  This continued throughout middle school and high school for the most part.

While a few people new about my severe depression and during my senior year of high school it did begin to show quite clearly to a few teachers, for the most part it stayed well hidden.  For those of us with mental illness – we are pretty good at hiding our feelings.  We wear what many of us refer to as a mask.

We cover up our emotions.  We don’t let anyone see how we really feel.  We are afraid of letting people in for so many reasons.  Or I have been anyway.  I have been afraid of how people would react.  I was afraid people would leave me and not want to be my friend.  I was afraid people would think I was crazy because of the stigma.  I was afraid people would not want to help me and yet I was also afraid people would overreact to how I was feeling.  I didn’t want people to see how vulnerable I was. I didn’t want people to know how hurt I was feeling either just because I felt like I needed to be strong and I had a personal stigma that being depressed meant I was weak.

I finally had to take the mask off though.  I needed help and I had to just let me emotions out.  It was the most freeing thing ever!  Wearing a mask is a coping skill.  In some ways, it can be a health coping skill.  But it is not a healthy one when it is done all the time.  If it is done all the time, then you avoid feeling your true emotions and avoid letting people in to help you.  I had to learn new coping skills so I could take off my mask.  I had to learn how to accept my feelings and ask for help.  I had to learn to express my emotions in new ways.  I am still working on that quite honestly.  And I am still working on asking for help.  I still do wear a mask a lot, but not all the time.  I only wear it in front of certain people where I know it is healthy for me because of certain reactions I might receive.  But for others, when I know I am in a safe place, I know I do not need to wear the mask.  Taking off the mask allows me to face my challenges without a barrier.


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