I’m writing this post on May 1, the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month. The irony does not escape me that yesterday I wrote that I decided I’d take more breaks from bipolar & other mental health-related matters. I spaced out about May being Mental Health Month! The bombardment of Mental Health Month announcements that are appearing on my Facebook and Twitter feed won’t let me forget about mood disorders. Oh well. This could still be as good a time as any to stick to my plans to detach.
Except “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” as the Scottish poet Robert Burns surmised, don’t they?
The triggering began last night. I almost missed the top headline that popped up on my local internet provider newspage. The title caught my eye: “Helicopter Crew Spots Missing Woman” I felt compelled to open the link because I thought there was a chance I might know her.
I was right.
It was someone I knew over a decade ago . I’ll call her Elana. Elana was a close friend of my husband’s, and they shared some other mutual friends. My husband was friends with her husband who I’ll call John. Elana and John attended our wedding, and they invited us to theirs as well. Elana was beautiful, accomplished, and driven. I envied her ambition, her career plans, and her family.
The internet article stated that Elana’s friends said she made comments implying that she intended to hurt herself. She was located by an aerial search on a beach in “dire need of medical attention”. Somehow she had driven to that area in an unstable condition for over thirty minutes. She was attended by medical personnel and taken to a unnamed hospital near that area.
This situation triggers me on certain levels, and not all of these levels are “rational”. Writing helps me to deal with my unnerved feelings, and if you are reading this, thank you, because it helps me to know that someone out there is reading this too.
The period of time when I knew Elana took place long before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My job back then as an office assistant was unfulfilling and stressful. I wasn’t paid very much, plus I had no benefits. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do with my life. Moreover, despite the fact I was finally in a healthy, loving relationship, I was still depressed.
I felt insecure and to top things off, I was way too controlling of my husband’s friendships. I loathe to admit it, but if I can’t be honest in a blog, what’s the point? I was jealous regarding my husband’s friendship with Elana. There was absolutely nothing to fear whatsoever. He made it crystal-clear to me they were just friends, and that he was in love with me.
Before I met Craig, I was in a longterm relationship in which my boyfriend had been “just friends” with a woman and you know the rest of the story…it had a bad ending. That contributed to my insecurity and my jealousy of my husband’s friendships with any woman. So, yes, I discouraged Craig’s friendship with this couple. I’m not proud of it, but that’s what happened.
Then, I became ill with bipolar disorder and Craig spent all his time taking care of me and our children. He let his close friendships go for good. Between Craig’s taking care of me during my seven hospitalizations, caring for our two little girls, and working, he was burned out. He couldn’t foster his friendships. As I had fallen apart, I couldn’t reach out to anyone on his behalf, and I had let all my friendships fall to the wayside too.
Suffice it to say I’m feeling very unnerved this morning. As I write this, Elana is in a hospital somewhere, and I hope the unit is a lot better than where I was hospitalized. T
I told my husband about the article. He was upset, of course. I encouraged him to get in touch with Elana’s family and send her a card or anything – preferably while she’s at the hospital. This is going to sound a little weird, but I think it’s SUPER-important to send someone a card or small gift when they are in a mental hospital or soon after they are released. I’ve written about that issue at the beginning of this blog.
Even if the patient couldn’t care less at the time, I guarantee you that down the line it will really matter to him or her that you cared about what they were going through. When one is hospitalized for mental illness, there is still shunning by some family members and friends (yes, there is!) and the patient becomes a pariah. This happened to me.
Very, very few people reached out to me during my hospitalizations. Whenever I discover that someone I’ve known is in the hospital for mental illness, it tears at me. It just does. It doesn’t matter that she’s not my friend. I can relate to her experience all the same.
When I told my husband to please get in touch with Elana or her family, and to do it as soon as he could, he saw I was about to break down and cry. He knew what I was thinking. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t spoken to her in years.
He said, “Of course I will.”