Mental health is much more widely discussed these days…or so the media would like us to think; but how many of us struggle every day and see it as a normal part of life? A friend of mine and I discuss the loss of personal resilience in current society a lot and it is evident that there was a lot of time and a lot of public money spent on surrounding communities with support, but where is it now? With cut after Government cut, support networks have been shed at an intolerable rate; but worse of all is the lack of self-sustainability work that is evident from the lack of resilience we feel now. There is no way my Grandmother would have ever asked a service for help…it was always put up and shut up! She was an old school, no nonsense, just get on with it sort of person. I guess that’s where I get it from.
As a person with a disability, it is assumed that you will automatically get lots of help. When I was first diagnosed with RA 12 years ago, there was indeed an abundance of referrals to physio, OT, podiatrist, specialists, scans, x-rays and a helpline that responded within 24 hours. 12 years on and you have to ask for referrals (and that goes on the basis that you know what you are asking for), a helpline that doesn’t respond and no follow up on any x-rays etc. As you sit and think about how staff within the NHS are run ragged with little resources to continue the service, your mind turns to how you can help. For years these people have been running around after you, working double shifts and trying to make the best of depleting resources and all for free. So as your symptoms progress and you know deep down you need a bit more help, you stop yourself making that call again because you don’t want to be a bother or a continuous drain.
You devise ways of altering your work patterns, buy all the gadgets available and research alternatives ways to do things instead of speaking to a physio or OT. You can adapt to take care of the physical limits of the condition and rest when you need to (in theory) but the one thing you don’t put first is your own mental health and well-being. Even when you have been offered counselling there is that thing inside your head saying…just get on with it…it could be worse, so you gracefully decline so that someone more worthy than you can access the support.
The trouble is; by getting on with it, you don’t actually face anything. You just skirt around the edges or as a lovely lady said to me recently…’choke it down’! Opening that box known as mental health is scary…really scary. It feels as if once the lid’s off that’ll be it; no return! I guess writing these blogs for me is my self-sustaining therapy which has certainly had a massive positive impact on me. When I start to feel really shitty and sorry for myself I get the laptop out and chunter away…then you lucky folks get to read it (apologies to you all!).
What lies beneath any condition is dark, morbid and down-right depressing! The feeling of aloneness is horrendous and the fear of giving up is even worse. RA as with many conditions is a leach on your life; taking away opportunities, normality and independence. Draining you of any motivation and will on a daily basis. However…and there always has to be a however…you can either roll over and let it win or push through to find alternatives, ask for assistance and grasp life as much as you can. Every day is a struggle but every day there are moments of inner strength that are fuelled by the gritted teeth and determination.
All we can do is acknowledge what lies beneath, but reach in and grab those moments of inner strength. To laugh when we can and seek the positives. It’s ok to feel like crap and have those days when things are just too much…as long as we keep the horizon in sight and never lose view of the sunshine ahead. If help is offered…take it. If it’s not offered…ask for it.