Thursday, February 26, 2009

I May Feel Depressed but...

I may have been feeling extremely depressed today, but this evening I feel really good about what I accomplished despite, and in spite of feeling so bad I want to give up.

Recently I have been volunteering some of my time to help others with mental illnesses learn about, and apply for a disability savings plan and tax credit that has become available to people with mental illnesses in Canada as of last year. I applied for it myself and found it to be so difficult to both understand the process, the eligibility, the criteria to qualify, the steps needed to open an account and to apply for an investment and to finally apply for the government portion of the savings plan.

Luckily I used to be a banker so I managed to get through it because I had a pretty good idea about how the banking system works and how investments work. When I finished doing it for myself I thought others not as well groomed in the mysterious ways of the finance industry, others trying to apply for themselves, or their family members might have an incredibly hard time doing so.

With that in mind I have volunteered my knowledge and set up an information session to help people make sense of, and get started on the process of applying for and opening an account. Tonight I offered to speak at a local mental health team's "Family Support Group" meeting. I was there to help people who had family members who may be eligible for this government program learn how to help their family members.

When I first got there a woman asked me what organization I was with. I said, "the organization of me", (I thought that was pretty funny!!) and explained I was doing this to help myself recover and gain confidence again. She was dumbfounded that someone would do this. I stayed and spoke and helped them with questions and information for about 1.5 hrs. About mid way she said to me, "but you are not like others with mental illnesses, you can do all these things. How are people who are really sick going to do this? (Ugh!)

I looked at her and told her I put a great face on. I could come do these sessions, and then when I left the building I struggled to want to be alive. I told her I was one of those people with an invisible mental illness. Ill inside, and well, to most, on the outside. Many of us are like this. She was a bit annoyed with me...but I felt it had to be said. Not everyone with a severe mental illness is recognizable as that. In fact I bet most of us are invisible to the world. Anyways...

At the end the only man in the group looked at me and said he wanted to say something to me.

He told me my talk was so helpful, and that I was an inspiration for all people with mental illnesses and to all their families. He said I could be an advocate for people I was so good at it. He went on and on...of course I couldn't hold back the tears. I felt really good about contributing to the community and helping others advocate for themselves and others. It felt really nice to have someone express that what I was doing was valuable.

On the way home I stopped at an expensive grocery store and spent my money frivolously on premade organic meals; a reward to myself for what I had accomplished. As I walked out to go to my car a man had his cap out asking for money. I glanced the other way, feeling guilty for doing so. As I looked away I found myself staring at his old, frail and grizzled black lab just sitting on the pavement in the cold waiting for his owner to take him to the next corner.

Something about the lab woke me out of my stupour. What I couldn't feel for the man as I passed him, I felt for his dog. As I felt for his dog I began to feel for the man. I put my grocery bags down and walked back to the man and gave him $20.00 and smiled and told him to buy himself and his dog some food. The man looked twice at the money I gave him and then looked up at me in disbelief. Thank you so much he said. I felt good about reaching out to someone who I could tell really needed an act of kindness at that very moment.

1 comment:

BeautyisTruth said...

Im one of those people you speak of who has a few mostly invisible mental illnesses. Because it is not seen, but for the eye who sees, I suffer alone an agony that threatens to annihilate me. Along with the darkness within me, there is a light too that shines bright, and that is the Light I turn on mostly when I'm at work and school, so that no one will see. So that I could succeed at my career and have a life. But when I walk out of these places, I melt in tears. Are there more of us out there? I'm young, Im beautiful, I'm funny, but I hate myself with a poisonous vengeance.