Loving someone with a mental illness is like riding a broken roller coaster. The beginning is wonderful. There are no signs of the catastrophe that is looming in the distance. Like the coaster, the sufferer is often the most alluring, fascinating attraction in sight. At a distance no one would ever guess that such a glamorous structure could in fact leave them holding on the edge of their seats and fearing for their lives. The ride begins and you experience a euphoria that is unlike anything you’ve ever known. Here in this moment, the world is just as it should be. Though it is a brief moment, it will feel as though it will last forever. You reach the first loop and this is where signs of trouble begin. Something is out of place and the ride begins to shake. The ride then speeds up, on to the next straight away, and the sense of normalcy arrives again. The fear dissipates and you are able to assure yourself that the previous feeling was just a fluke. After all, how could something so well constructed have a flaw? You adjust yourself in your seat to ensure that the safety straps are secured, but feel safe in your decision to continue down the track. From out of nowhere a curve emerges that you never saw coming. The shaking intensifies and out of the corner of your eye you notice that a bolt has fallen to the ground below. It is at this moment that you begin to wonder if this ride was what you signed up for. Something is definitely off, and you question if you will be able to get off without being severely hurt or damaged. Up the last hill and into the last loop of the ride, a pit arises in your stomach. There is a continuous rattling and parts are flying everywhere to the ground. You could have never known that this alluring ride would turn into your worst nightmare. There were no warning signs encouraging you to run the other way. If you would have known of what was just ahead, you would have picked a different ride. Mental illness does not have to look like a screaming man in a strait jacket. It does not play fair and it can often be found within those we love. When we choose to ride the roller coaster, it is impossible to jump out during the middle of the ride. Those struggling with mental illness do not get a choice either. When loving someone with a mental illness it is imperative to remember that they did not choose to live this way. Ultimately if you find yourself loving a “broken roller coaster”, you do have the option to get off at any point. It is an option that many loved ones will choose. There will never be a smooth ride on a broken roller coaster and for some it will be too much. This is not to say there will not be happy moments on the broken coaster. Mental illness often has the ability to go unnoticed for long periods of time. Regardless of how ominous the ride may get, at one point in time, the rider was attracted to the roller coaster. The ride will contain highs that will be wonderful, but it will also contain lows, and dips. These are the times when it is essential to protect the needs of the rider at all cost. The rider will most likely want to repair the damaged coaster in any way possible. The rider will believe that they have all of the tools necessary to get the coaster back to normal with a few quick adjustments. In some cases this may be possible, but for most coasters the repair will be lengthy and complex. Somedays the rider may not be able to risk the repercussions associated with riding the roller coaster. There may be times when the coaster seems as though it is all put back together again, and there may be times when it seems as though no hope remains for the coaster. Anyone who chooses to be a rider of broken coasters is a brave and heroic spirit. Not everyone can be a rider, and even those who attempt will often fail. Despite the rider’s best efforts, not all broken roller coasters can be fixed. Roller Coaster parts are extremely complex and take excessive amounts of study to be understood. In order to be repaired and fully functioning, there must be an intense connection between the coaster and it’s riders…. Oh yeah… guess I skipped something… A broken roller coaster needs more than one rider to get it up and running again. There is a correlation between the number of riders and the number of reformed roller coasters. I just made that up, but all jokes aside the more people a person has in their support system, the more likely they are to heal. Everyone has ridden on a broken roller coaster at some point during their lives whether they have realized it or not. Most everyone will deal with mental health issues at some point in their lifetime. It may not be a full blown mental illness, but it will be significant enough to impact your life. Realizing you are a rider, or the broken roller coaster itself can be extremely frightening. Coasters are afraid to seek help with repair, and riders believe they can handle the coaster themselves. There will never be a broken roller coaster that doesn’t deserve a chance at a normal ride. The repair will not be easy, but it will most definitely be worth it if we manage to get back on track. As for the rider, somehow fate determined that you would get to ride this coaster. Where you go from here is up to you. No one will force you to keep riding the coaster. It is completely up to you to decide how much the coaster means to you. The easy route is always open, and at times will be so much more alluring. Trying to repair a broken roller coaster is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks a human being could choose. No one wants to find out that someone they love is suffering from an illness. Trying to repair a broken roller coaster requires a special kind of love and devotion that is found in the hearts of special individuals. It will never be an easy ride on a broken roller coaster, but without the rider, the coaster would have no chance at survival. Here’s to the brave ones that continue to ride and continue to believe in the revival of the broken roller coasters. Without you, there would be no getting back on track… And here’s to the broken roller coasters who despite their highs and lows refuse to shut down. May you all be able to rebuild from the wreckage and return stronger and better than ever.
Not That Sick
This is the rebuttal you will offer to anyone who claims you have a problem. After all there are others who are much worse. Those emaciated skeletons who are visibly ill. At a glance no one can tell there is anything wrong with you. How could someone who looks so healthy be struggling with a life threatening mental illness? Years and years of suffering with an eating disorder and yet I still manage to convince myself that I do not belong in treatment because my disorder is not really “that bad”. Despite the fact that loved ones have repeatedly voiced concern, I sometimes feel like a failure on the eating disorder spectrum. Even when it comes to mental illness I cannot manage to make a commitment. For the past nine years I have boomeranged between starving, binging and purging. Instead of fitting into a nice diagnosis of Anorexia or Bulimia, I get to be the indecisive one. When someone doesn’t fit into the cozy criteria of these disorders, professionals refer to it as an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). Never have I been the skeletal goddess with a thigh gap, jutting ribcage and 00 jeans. After nine years of abusing my body I have yet to reach this desired level of “sickness”. I know this probably does not make much sense to anyone who has never had an eating disorder. If you have never had an eating disorder you are probably asking yourself “why on earth would anyone want to be consumed by a disease”. There are parts of my story that I am able to articulate very clearly, but this is not one of them. Recovery is for those much sicker than me. If I needed help then I would look much worse. The scale would be a reflection of my disease. The ones who say otherwise are clearly misguided. These are all excuses I tell myself, because the alternative is much worse. If I am sick enough to get help then I have been lying to myself all along. What do you believe when you cannot even trust yourself?