Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting out of the bubble...and thank you Patch Adams

I wish we did more about mental health everyday.

I wish I didn't only talk about the seriousness of my job to a few people and the fact that in my work I see kids -- kids! -- who are hurting enough that they sometimes feel like the best solution would be for them not to be here.

Suicide is not a foreign word that I only hear about when something happens to a beloved celebrity.

Still, my heart hurts for the loss of Robin Williams as I know many others do as well.

It seems surreal and the world only looks more broken from the outside looking in.

What about on the inside looking out?

What if talking depression and suicide and taking kids to the hospital and safety plans was a normal day? I don't talk about my job like it's any more sacred than anyone else's. I just wonder sometimes if God has graced me with a burden for something that runs deeper than seeing headlines and causes me to ask a lot of questions.

The whole thing scares me, honestly. I knew Robin Williams struggled at times throughout his life, but I've never been one to follow the personal lives of famous people much. I always loved him as an actor though. His wit and unashamed humor was mysterious to me, and I secretly aspired to be him, his Patch Adams persona that is.

Ironically, I'm getting to live out that dream a little bit now, but it's not all clowns and story time. I never actually thought it would be. I knew if I worked in a medical setting and regardless of where I did counseling, I would still see people who struggled in all kinds of ways. My goal isn't to make them laugh, even though like Patch, I use humor to heal. I mostly want them to have space to grow and be encouraged that things can change.

It's so hard for so many. And the continuum is so large. While I don't think I have experienced depression in a clinical way or to where my life has been severely altered, I've experienced times where it's been an offshoot of other things going on. I can remember a season of my life where I didn't laugh. Me, who loves to laugh, above most things.

The continuum is large, people. We need to get out of the bubble we're living in. I don't talk about this much. But it's important, and it's worth struggling through with the people in your life, it's worth asking hard questions, it's worth listening. It's worth staying when you want to go.

Whether it's in your job or your home or the corner of a coffee shop with your closest friend, every day, not just a day we hear about it in the news, should be a day that we ask how things are going. And sometimes, the best thing we can do is to not have all the answers but be willing to walk alongside someone who is struggling.

There are no quick fixes to make the pain go away after such a death. It saddens me. I am not minimizing it. I am thankful for his life and his work even if I did not know him.

What I can do now is think about those in my life and not wait until the next time the headlines we fear are local news.

When someone comes and talks to me, one of the things that concerns me most is what their support system looks like. How have they gone this long without talking to anyone? There are so many more complex issues about mental health problems and yes, we all know the stigmas. 

But, in my own experience, it took that one person, one friend willing to step out when things were bad, before they got worse, to say this couldn't go on.

Can we not just pray or talk about it, even though these things are great. Can we meet with people? Can we help pull them out of the pit even if they say 'it's all fine?'

It can't just be a counselor who sees you every week. That is a start and a first step for sure but it can't be the end.
It can't be the end.

Be reminded, if you are hurting, that when you feel trapped, there are people who want to come around to surround you. This is a good post when we want to look past just the words. And this one. You see, friends, because real people struggle or have struggled. There is hope.