Today, 10 October 2013, is designated World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organization (WHO). They have picked for the theme this year “Mental health and older adults”. This is an excellent topic, one I hope to read many posts addressing. It is also one I cannot address on a personal level, at least not in the way I think it is intended.
Thing is, I don’t really write posts unless I can write them with some amount of personal involvement. I could, but this isn’t like churning out a middle school essay. For me it’s much too intimate and important. So perhaps this one I can flip around a little, as the WHO has so kindly given me phrasing which is easily manipulated for my purposes. “Mental health and older adults”. . .
I’ve got three girls in my life with whom I have a continuous dialogue on mental health, and one has definitely hit that point where I can no longer look at her and call her a child, nor can I even waffle on phrases. The Artist (known here formerly as Babygirl) is a young adult, and not in publishing terms. She is an actual living, breathing, decision-making, soon-to-be-driving young adult. If the numbers don’t reflect it perfectly, the way she talks with me does.
So for the Artist, I am the “older adult” dealing with mental health. She knows of this blog, to my knowledge she doesn’t read it, but I’ve shown it to her because our header — that beautiful, bright, colorful image evoking a canvas on the top of each page — is a snapshot of a piece of one of her works. I think she was fairly impressed and proud to have contributed to this project, and I’m proud of her for that.
She is (thank God, The Universe, and all of the powers of the world) a happy person most of the time. Down deep, where it’s really going to matter through life, she has peace and she has strength. But not infrequently we speak about others who deal with mental illness, probably the most important of whom is me.
Last year on this day I relayed how my conversations on my own mental health with her began (link below). In the year intervening I have come to appreciate how the conversations I have with her can take absolutely every turn with no warning whatever, and what a wonderful thing this truly is.
I took her to a very special art exhibit last year to celebrate her birthday. And in one deep breath we had gone from me opining on my frustration about being hopelessly lost to me telling her about my having had electroconvulsive therapy in 2010. She didn’t know what it was, as no young woman of her age should (at least not in an ideal world), and she didn’t know how severely it had traumatized me and shattered my brain. One thing she found out on that particular outing was that it had taken from me my once flawless sense of direction, and how that sense had never returned.
One thing I found out on that particular outing was how invaluable her presence is to my recovery. Would you like to know what that little shit did when I explained the whole thing to her? She teased me! And would you like to know what I did when she started joking about the most traumatic incident of my life? I started laughing! For the first time ever, I laughed about it and joked back and didn’t feel the anger, terror, and anguish that had always bubbled beneath the surface when ECT was present in my mind before.
That girl helped me to slay the biggest dragon I have ever faced one afternoon on the way to the art museum.
Of course, we have had lots of other conversations about mental health: mine, hers, and that of others in her life. We talk about the best ways to try to understand and help a peer suffering from depression or other difficulties, how to be understanding and keep her own mental health intact when she is feeling hurt because a friend has lashed out from their dark place, a million different things.
And no, she would never joke or tease anyone else about any aspect of their mental health, or their treatment for mental illness.
She is extremely sensitive, and she knew to laugh at me because it was exactly what I needed from her. I know it more and more as time passes and I think about it. The one thing no one else in my life would ever have thought to do (nor should they have) was the thing I needed more than anything in the world. It conjures to my mind the image of the Artist and I dealing together with the boggarts in the Harry Potter series. She helped me to laugh and make ridiculous that which I was most afraid of, and it has held no power to frighten me since.
As we both become older as adults, I know more now the immeasurable value we will have in keeping each other mentally healthy. And happily for me, the Artist has an amazing sense of direction.
© Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.