Leah Farmer

Personal perspectives on faith, literature, and life.

Please describe your mental illness…

Dark and early this morning I took my ass (and the rest of me) to have a first appointment with an Acupunturist. This was not the community acupuncture that I love and rave about but a regular one-on-one visit with a new practitioner. I am using acupuncture, massage, diet, and exercise as part of a program not only for my physical health but to aid in dealing with the anxiety that arises when I’m in therapy.

For those of you who don’t know, I have recently been seeing a therapist again to deal with some recurrences of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My therapist is amazing and we are doing some super interesting and healing work. But doing this work brings anxiety up and I then house it in my body…primarily in my lower back and chest. I hope to relieve some of this pressure through acupuncture, massage, etc.

This morning, the Acupuncturist was reviewing my medical history, asking me questions, looking at my tongue, etc. As we started to talk about my PTSD, I was reminded just how difficult it can be to discuss with a stranger. And if it is difficult or embarrassing for someone like me…who is a relatively open book when it comes to her past abuse and trauma…then Lord help those who are shy, shamed, or not even sure what they are dealing with.

You see…it’s not that I’m embarrassed to talk about the trauma or having anxiety. I rarely have to say more than “I have PTSD from some childhood abuse and trauma” to get my point across to a physician or specialist. However…you try explaining what you mean by “I often get a sense of dream or impending doom” or “Well, I wake up and run through a few rounds of hyper-vigilence before I can go to sleep” or “Triggers? Um…yes. Family, work stress, holidays, dating, health problems…those are some of my triggers.” (Hello, I think we call those things LIFE!)

You hear yourself saying things like “Yes, the doom happens when it’s dark. But no, I am not afraid of the dark.” You shake your head while you say almost apologetically “I have to check the locks on the doors and windows 4 times and then usually I can go to sleep but sometimes not until I push something up against the closed door.” My favorite from today was “I knew I needed to go back to therapy when I found myself losing hours to spacing/zoning/numbing out.”

I tell you all this not because I need sympathy. Anyone who knows me knows…I’m locked and loaded and doing my work.

I tell you because mental illness or trauma or stress or anxiety or depression manifests itself differently for different people. And sometimes the conversations you have to have with a physician, a therapist, an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, can be so stressful because though you know that for every question they ask you trying to ascertain how to help you, you may not have an answer or you may have an answer that only makes sense to you.

If you are dealing with this shame, take someone with you who can help. If you can’t, trust the process and push yourself to get the help. If the practitioner makes you uncomfortable, own your right to excuse yourself and leave…but for the love of your own health…try again.

If you know someone who is dealing with this…offer to go with them. Help them ahead of time to form the words to explain what they are struggling with. Be a sounding board, a helper, a shoulder, and an unconditional supporter.

Do what you must…and do it soon. We deserve to live in the light…push yourself to step out into it! I speak on behalf of the entire world when I say…WE NEED YOU!

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