The month of May is Mental Health month, and I had read about which is a challenge to write a weekly blog about mental health/illness. I thought about it and I didn’t know if I could do one a week, so I committed to one every 2 weeks. I had no idea what I was going to write about, but as usual, the universe gave me the answer, for this blog post anyway.
I play golf, I belong to one of the local golf clubs here in the Comox Valley. Pretty much everyone I golf with knows of my mental illness and challenges and they accept and support me. They don’t make me feel different, or like a freak of nature, and many have come up to me and opened up about mental health challenges of their own, a family member or friend. Many ask me questions to try to help them understand me more, my illness and I appreciate all of this.
Last Friday night, was the 1st mixer of the season. It’s where men and women of the club get together to play a fun game of golf. It’s called “best ball,” which means just as it says. Players all hit their ball, and you pick the best shot, and all the balls are picked up and placed where the best shot is. We then all hit our ball from that spot. It’s a fun social event and never taken seriously.
As being that last Friday was the 1st one of the season, it was a good time to catch up with everyone because many of us had not seen each other since last September. As I was talking to someone they mentioned that I didn't make it to their anniversary celebration earlier in the spring. I told them I had not been doing well, and that it was a really hard winter and spring for me mental health wise. Their reply was “I thought you were all finished with that stuff.” My reply “No, my mental health is a lifelong issue.”
Now I'm not mad at this person. I knew they meant no harm and I suspect that they were saddened to hear that I was once again struggling. But it did show me how much misunderstanding is out there, even in my circles.
Now, not everyone who has a mental health issue/illness will have it for their life time. Some people may have one bout of depression and that’s it, but many of us will have more. Two people may have the same diagnoses, but it may affect each one differently. There is no cut and dry answer to this, no “one way” to help everyone and that is one of the many, many things that makes it hard for people to understand. It so very complex.
That is why we need to start talking.
I could have gotten upset at that persons comment, in fact in the past I probably would have. This goes to show you how far I have come. But I know they did not do it out of malice, they said it out of ignorance- meaning not understanding. And by giving the reply I did, then carrying on with where ever the conversation went, I hope I taught that person something. Not only do I think I taught them something new, but I created a welcoming environment for positive future mental health dialogue if they wish.
If I had gotten mad, and started yelling or made some ignorant snide comment back at them, it might have made me feel better momentarily, but in the long run, we both would have lost an opportunity to teach and learn.
When I was 1st diagnosed I would argue with people who said/wrote my “illness was not real,” “was something I made up to get attention” “would be fine if I just pulled my socks up” etc. etc., etc. But in time I learned that I only have so much energy, and I’m not going to waste it arguing with someone who is closed minded and didn't want to have respectful dialogue. In time I have learned to say, “I respectfully agree that we disagree.” And I am fine with that.
I don’t need to conquer the world. I started to choose who to speak to, and how much to say, and in time more and more people have listened, opened up and asked questions. As the old proverb goes “You can catch more flies with honey then you do with vinegar”
Or as in golf lingo “I choose to play the best ball.”
I am probably the healthiest I have ever been with my mental illness. I have come such a long way, it’s been a Hell of a lot of work but it is so worth it. I think back to the early days of a time when I thought I truly was losing my mind. A time where I thought I was alone in the world and the only one feeling what I was feeling. A time where I thought if anyone found out they would think less of me. I now know different.
Yes I will have good days and not so good days, and probably some real crappy days. And I will continue to play golf, have some good games, some not do good games, and some real crappy games.
But my golf game, like my illness, is not indicative to who I am as a person.
Those are my thoughts for today, I wish you are well in your journeys.
Cheers and be well