Disorders and Treatment
- Mental Illness
- Bipolar Disorder
- Mood Disorders
- Borderline Personality
- Mental Health Diagnosis
- Mental Health Treatments
- Alternative Meds
- Case Studies
Last week we met Gail Bentley, a PTSD survivor who decided to stop living her life in fear. This week she outlines the steps necessary to heal.
Waking up in the middle of the night with screaming terrors, mental health hospitalizations, erratic behavior, rage, fear, head banging, self mutilation….there are too many areas that are beyond almost anyone’s ability to confront. But for lives to be changed, saved, made meaningful again, we have to take some really hard steps:
There are many forms and levels of severity within the mental health spectrum. I am focusing here on PTSD but hope in time to talk about many aspects of mental illness. But look at the sheer numbers of traumas: how many hundreds of thousands of our young men and women watch or wait for death or dismemberment in combat? One in five women, regardless of race, religion, education or economic status are victims of domestic violence. How many people lose everything they’ve worked for to fire, or flood, or economic devastation? How many lose a loved child or spouse or parent? How many people have sudden random acts of violence, rape, or other violation? The truth is that scarring traumas happen all the time, to people all around us.
I am not suggesting that we become a society that wears our traumas on our sleeve and falls into endless self-pity over our losses and pains. G-d forbid we use our traumas as an excuse for giving up or becoming immoral, heartless people. But isn’t it ridiculous for us to keep hiding in shame? Is it possible that we start treating our mental health the same as we treat our physical health- regularly, diligently, seeking professional help when appropriate?
Twelve years ago I started and ran a 200 part program for the Mental Health Association of Central Virginia called “Fear Less October.” The goal was to reduce the stigma of seeking help for mental health. The event won two state-wide awards. It was covered by the press, and thousands of people participated, promoted as a great success. But in the end I think it was a failure. The program was dropped years ago, and twelve years later I still find myself (to my chagrin) preaching about the same idea– that we need to stop being ashamed and start seeking help.
But the reality is, that people will still lose their jobs if word gets out that they have some unmentionable illness that affects that affects their brain. Competent, responsible people are still mistrusted if people hear that they take one of “those” medications. But the really crazy part is that 90% of mental illness is treatable.
It’s not a lack of will or courage to get help. Getting help is the most courageous act a person can do. I am afraid to drive, yes. I drive every day. I am afraid something catastrophic will happen to my children, I let them go out into the world and live free and joyfully. And for years now I have been afraid to admit that I am afraid. I have been terrified that people will treat me differently or believe I am incompetent even though I have been able to achieve more inside and outside even with all we have experienced and lost. But if I don’t start being honest, who will? And with everything we have suffered and lost, I need it to matter. If helping one person know that they aren’t alone can make their lives better, then talking finally will be worth whatever real or imagined consequences I have. Because at the end of it all, mine is a story of hope- no matter what has happened, or how it has affected me, I get up everyday and try. And everyday I find more of my life that makes living my life matter.
Ten years ago as Gail Bentley she was on The Today Show, CNN, etc as CEO of Working Weekly. After her ex was indicted on 9 felony counts of child abuse and she had 4 back surgies, Gail ended up homeless with her 4 children. She is now focusing on making their traumas matter by speaking up about PTSD, domestic violence.
The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.
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