The search for safety

Men­tal Health Aware­ness

The Victoria Standard - - Local News - CINDY MACRAE

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.

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