THE BASICS OF MENTAL HEALTH IN THE FORM OF AN EMAIL




Hey Jes--

So today while reading the latest on 'the Militant Baker' I read something that I've probably read before but it didn't register. "Jes spends her work week coaching adults with mental illness on how to re-enter the workforce through on the job training. She specializes in the forefront of behavioral health services through peer support, offering assistance as someone who has experienced mental illness herself. She offers new and inventive ways to engage in successful recovery from neurological imbalances and has also has written a state funded curriculum that teaches those with diagnoses how to become peer support professionals themselves."
I know it's your job, and I hate asking friends to do for free what they do for money, but could I really pick your brain for some advice? My husband is battling an addiction--which is hard enough by itself--but he is also bipolar and has a complicated past that has left him with a ton of abandonment issues and no sense of real world consequences. ON TOP OF THAT, he is super smart. Too smart for his own good. Too smart + depression + manic episodes + a;slkjfd;alkjdf. Point is, we are having such a hard time finding/agreeing on working solutions to making him feel WHOLE again. If he ever felt whole at all. I feel like I've hit a wall looking for resources. He says he'll join NA, but then talks himself out of it because he doesn't like people and all it will do is depress him to be around people who are half his IQ. Humble, right? I know your time is highly sought after these days, but any little tidbits I can scrounge would be so appreciated. No hard feelings if you can't; mama always said it never hurts to ask.       
Thanks for what you do,
Leigh
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Hey Leigh,

This is what I’m here for; this is why I write:)
I’m honored you asked me, and I can offer what I know and hopefully it helps even a little. I guess the first thing for you to know is that you’re not alone in this. So many people have this issue, all of us fall somewhere on the mental health spectrum and by virtue of this, some of us struggle with it more than others. The second thing is that when someone has a serious mental illness (SMI) and they are not balancing out the physical glitch, they turn to self medication. Which is what his addiction is. He’s coping the best he can, and what NA doesn’t do is offer a physical replacement for that need. And I totally know what he means by the meetings being droll. I tried an SLA meeting a few times and couldn’t hack it; god, it was rough. But that aside, know that this attempt to brain soothe is where the addiction comes from, and that makes this a whole life healing situation. This may be something you already know, but it’s also something to never forget;)
So really, in order to address this you have to recognize that it’s multifaceted. If he has been correctly diagnosed with Bipolar, he needs medication. There is nothing wrong with this, and when your brain literally has a chemical deficiency, no amount of “thinking yourself out of it” will work. One of my favorite images is the one above of a story high advertisement that says "Depression is a flaw in chemistry not character."

There are no truer words. When we stop equating neurological deficiencies with weakness, we will realize that those who live daily with these diseases are in fact, warriors. It's not a fault, but rather a need for balance that only chemicals can offer. Now, there ARE some mental illnesses that can be significantly reduced through therapy (Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD) but even then, to be able to function and get through therapy sometimes medication is needed. We are so fortunate to live in a world where psychotropic meds are available!
He could also use one-on-one therapy. It might take a little bit to find a therapist that he likes (don’t get discouraged if this takes a few tries) but he needs someone to guide him through the past and now. This also isn’t a bad thing; if I had my way we would ALL have licensed therapists as part of our health care plan because life is shitty to us all.
Abandonment issues are so difficult to navigate alone because they stem from our internal core that was created in infancy and we have since built our entire life around. But we have to address them if we want to progress in life. Let him know that when he does this, he is showing incredible strength. Not weakness. This shit is hard, and I’ll be the first to congratulate him when he starts;)
The smartest people, like us, have the most difficulty approaching this subject. Just support him to the best of your ability. But know that you’re NOT a therapist, and you’re not required to be one. The most important thing YOU can do is take really good care of yourself… when you do this, you will have more strength and energy to offer him and those around you. It may feel counterintuitive, but it’s absolutely necessary:) Love yourself, pamper yourself, draw boundaries for yourself. Doctor Jes’ orders.
So support him. Love him. Do all that you feel is healthy and possible, and then allow him his own journey. Ultimately, I can make all the recommendations in the world, and you can relentlessly ask for him to participate… but only he will be able to do the work. And when he does… it will be beautiful.
I love you dearly and am here for you always.
Best of luck, Jes
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Feel free to leave any mental health questions in the comments and I'll answer or link you to the best of my ability! xoxo

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