By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column for the Nodaway News Leader
My mental health has taken a beating over the last year or so.
I have a physical illness that has really been taking it to me, and as a result, affecting my mental health.
I’ve been battling this physical ailment for half of my life. The beginning years were difficult. The middle years were much more tolerable. And the last couple have been the worst.
What makes it even harder for me is I feel I’ve lived two completely opposite lives. The first very active, athletic, outgoing and involved. Now mostly inactive, reclusive and disinterested. There are times when I really miss that first life.
A couple of summers ago, I wrote about my illness, obesity and weight loss. I said at the time, it was the most important thing I’d ever written.
But this might be even more important than that. Now, just a couple of short years since then, I spend most of my time in bed, I’m overweight again and have slipped back into old habits as I struggle to function each day.
That’s when the mental health beating really reared its head. It’s hard to be productive or stay positive or even feel like a human being when you can’t get out of bed.
(Side note: I’ve tried a lot of different treatments. Some have worked for awhile. Some not at all. I frequently get suggestions from people. In fact, I just started something new. And while I appreciate everyone’s concern, that’s not what I’m seeking with this column).
I’ve wondered why this is the load I am burdened to carry and if I will be carrying it my entire life. I mean, why do some people get cancer and some don’t? And even further, why do some people beat cancer and some receive the same treatment and die?
After spending much of the last year contemplating these types of things and feeling sorry for myself, lonely, sad and even angry, I decided I needed to try something different.
For the month leading up to my 40th birthday this summer, I decided to do a #30DaysOfJoy challenge, looking for simple joys in my life and posting them on Facebook.
It was a mostly positive experience. I made some really great memories this summer despite the illness. And I was reminded how much my family cares about me. They’ve really stepped up and took on more responsibilities. They also listen when I need that and are just there when I don’t want to talk. They love me through my nonsense, negativity and annoyance of everything and everyone.
Some days, though, were a real challenge to find any joy at all. I mean, just getting on Facebook and seeing everyone else’s happy, perfect posts made me want to throw up or throw something at the wall. Even worse, I had some really dark days that I’m frankly embarrassed by. Which is really unfortunate, because when I’m at my best, I realize how blessed I am.
But… I’m not always at my best. I’m not always thinking clearly or logically with this illness.
This is not something most of us feel comfortable talking about. Our mental health, I mean. And yet if we would just have the courage to do so, I think we would be far better off.
After someone dies by suicide, people ask why. I think I understand it more now. They’re worn out, tired, exhausted. They want an end to the pain, the hurting, to whatever the problem is. I don’t think most people want to kill themselves. Or hurt those who care about them by doing so.
They just want it to end.
I’ve been there. Even as I write this, I’m in the throes of it all. I don’t want to die. But there are times when I want an end. I want the pain to end. I want my old life back.
And then I realize my old life didn’t include my husband. Or my children. Or the memories we’ve shared together. Or the experiences I’ve gained over the last 20 years that make me who I am and how I am able to write this.
If you’re there with me, if you are just so very tired of it all, don’t give in, don’t give up, don’t quit. No matter how bad it is, just keep trying, for one more day or for just one more moment even.
Get help. Seek professional help if you need to. Or find an outlet like I have through writing.
Talk to someone. A friend, a family member, someone who will listen or just be there. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org where you can chat online.
If that doesn’t work for you and if you have no one else you can to talk to, contact me.
I will listen.
I’m not so good at the phone thing, but I text, email and message really well. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/jacki.wood.
In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wrote: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
That’s been true for me. After every single dark night I’ve ever had, the sun has always risen.