The search for safety
Mental Health Awareness
I know a little about mental illness because educating myself on the topic has become important to me. I know quite a lot about Major Depressive Disorder, because I am a survivor. Yes a survivor. Just like someone who battled cancer and won. I had a mental/physical illness that robbed me of my confidence, personality, career, health and place in the universe as I knew it. Make no mistake, mental illness not only ruins lives, it kills people. I am one of the lucky ones. I recognized the problem early and received the proper mix of treatment and psychotherapy. I had a family which gave me a safe place to land and get well. I also had a few close friends who were patient and kind while I recovered.
So what is a safe place? In my case, it was a place to come and live without worrying too much about the bills piling up - many I could not pay anyway since I was too ill to work. More importantly, it was the support offered by close family and friends who provided gentle nudges to take those first tentative steps back into the grocery store, the workforce or a social situation. Now, more than 10 years after my diagnosis, the most important safe place is inside my head. If I feel safe in my own day to day existence, then it doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing. But being able to grasp that necessary sense of safety is difficult and sometimes impossible for someone fighting a mental illness. They may realize that it is not rational to fear walking into a grocery store, but recognition alone does not make the fear go away.
Having been well for a long time now, safety for me at this point means being on the alert for potential relapse triggers, and owning what happened to me as an illness. My illness did not own me. Crazy is not a diagnosis. Safety for me also means sharing my story with anyone who wants to listen. No one with a mental illness can feel totally safe until the stigma is gone from society, and the need to feel safe is perhaps the one thing everyone with a mental illness has in common. Volunteers with the newly-formed Baddeck and Area Mental Health Safe Place initiative hope to make that safe place a little easier for everyone to find.
Cindy Macrae is a Writer, Trained Mental Health Peer Support Worker, and a Stigma-busting Survivor of Major Depressive Disorder. For more information visit, bad deck and area mental health safe place. wordpress.com