As a society we treat physical pain with compassion and understanding. When we see someone on crutches we hold open the door. We offer assistance. We all understand physical pain and there is no stigma toward physical injury.
With emotional pain, with illnesses affecting the brain, that same compassion is not always evident. Instead of holding the “door open” the person struggling often feels “the door shutting.”
We have to realize it is the entire being that makes up the person. The brain is vital to the body functioning. A fine tuned machine works best when everything is working together. When we take care of our brain, when we take care of our thoughts, when we take care of our mental and brain health – we function at our best.
Addiction to drugs and alcohol, un-diagnosed and untreated depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, any number of brain related illnesses greatly affect the way we live our lives. It is often what determines whether a life is well lived or a life is lived in despair without the health, wellness, and sense of security that person deserves. It affects our physical health.
We have to embrace the concept and be powerful advocates in stressing that we treat illness affecting the brain with the same care, compassion, consideration, support and urgency as we do with illnesses affecting the body.
We have no idea what emotional pain or trauma another person may be carrying. So often those smiling on the outside are crying on the inside. We do not walk in anyone else’s shoes. We may not know what our loved one’s journey has been. We can’t know if feelings and experiences have been kept in secret out of fear of being judged or shamed or embarrassed.
Our best hope of leading healthy lives is taking the same care and consideration of our mental health, of our brain health, as we do with our physical health.
When we realize our loved one is struggling, the kindest thing we can do is show compassion and a willingness to listen, to encourage and to support them in getting the help they need to be able to live the life they deserve.
When we allow and encourage our loved ones to talk about their emotional pain – it doesn’t have that same hold any longer.
Sadly, all to often our offer of help is dismissed. But, don’t give up. Just let your loved one know you are there when they are ready to talk.
If emotional pain has been caused by trauma – we have to remember we can’t un-see the things we have seen. We can’t un-hear the words that were spoken. You can’t un-feel what you have felt. And we as parents, as family members know our loved ones deserve every opportunity to work through those emotions with support and guidance.
The life they are meant to live is waiting for them. But that window of opportunity is to often very small. When someone we love who has been struggling is willing to acknowledge and accept help – that help must be immediate. They and we don’t have the privilege of time. Time delayed means a crucial opportunity will be missed.
We must continue to speak up and speak out for the immediate services those struggling with addictions, with mental health concerns, which very often go hand in hand, deserve.
We would never accept being put on a waiting list if we were having a heart attack. We would never be put on a waiting list is we just had a stroke. And why is that? Because waiting could cause further damage and possible death.
Those struggling with addictions, with mental health issues, perhaps with thoughts of suicide, face that exact same situation. Waiting means further damage and possible loss of life.
We have to keep speaking out that those health issues affecting the brain should and must be treated with the same level of urgency as conditions affecting the body.
While we are going through this horrific Covid 19 health crisis and all that goes along with it – overwhelmed healthcare system, loss of income, of jobs, we can’t allow the health crisis of addiction, of mental health issues get pushed to the back burner by any level of government. We are seeing more overdose deaths and death due to suicide because of despair, because of isolation and these numbers will only increase without proper supports – we can’t slow down – our fight for those we love and care about is not over.
In the meantime, I hope you take time each day to remember the importance of taking care of yourself. So often our own needs can be pushed to the back burner when someone we love is struggling. Please remember, you matter, taking care of yourself is a necessity.
Take care. Stay safe. Be well. I truly care.