Fighting the good fight with mental illness
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Springfield, Ohio — I hadn't considered the strategy.
But Bill obviously had a good suggestion.
I met him in the gym at McKinely Hall, the site of a consumer forum held by the Springfield Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Michael Jones, who had invited me to speak, was a little disappointed with the size of the crowd.
But to me, the showing of 120 seemed decent.
A show of hands indicated they all were dealing with mental illness of some sort.
Two more shows of hands indicated most were taking medications and going to counseling.
That and their attendance identified them as people who are trying to fight the good fight.
When told the number of pills some of them have to keep track of each day, I confessed at having trouble remembering to take my one pill a day.
Immediately, someone handed me a pill organizer that had been passed out to everyone attending.
In the course of a half hour, we talked about many things.
All confirmed that mental illness is an equal opportunity ailment, knocking on doors in every neighborhood.
A woman with schizophrenia said many people wrongly think that all people who have it are violent.
Another piped up with this: She's the only one in her family with mental illness, but that doesn't mean she's the only one with problems.
I thought to myself, hmmmm.
And while doing so, I remembered something I'd seen on the national NAMI Web site (www.nami.org).
"A key concept," it says somewhat bureaucratically, "is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process."
So I asked the folks there a question: What do you do to help yourself out on a bad day?
That's when Bill spoke up.
He keeps a checklist.
He doesn't need it every day, but he looks at it every day.
That way, when bad days come, he has it in front of him.
With it in hand, he then reaches for discipline needed to work the list.
That spoke volumes to me about how serious he is about taking care of himself and about how much work it can be.
Others chimed in about the things they do to help themselves out.
Some knit. Some crochet or do latch hook. Some listen to music.
What tumbled forth was mostly a list of hobbies and activities that had one common element: They produce a feeling of accomplishment.
On my bad days, getting anything done seems to help me even more than beloved caffeine.
So I'm thinking about making a list like the one Bill has.
When I have a bad day, I'll take a look at it and find something to get me in motion.
Like the woman at the forum said, even those who aren't mentally ill have problems.