Perched up high #236

Disability, mental health and recovery are interchangeable and they shouldn’t be just measured by economic ideas only. It should just be feeling better, feeling hopeful, feeling valued and accepted – they should be the measures.

It’s been a long time since I posted and I want to apologise for that big pause. Right now, where I live, we are in day 236 of lockdown.

In the park near me the blossoms are slowly returning to stark and spiny branches. Earlier this week this park was dominated by overhead police helicopters and sirens and yells from the nearby union office. We had a 5.8 earthquake. I really don’t want to dwell on that set of events!

Pictured below is one of my local parrot population, perched up high on a top branch, well away from the others, just like I have felt for the last 2 years. Consciously isolated, part forced, part chosen.

So much has been shelved for me. This project has ground to a halt.

I got a brief respite with being able to perform 4 nights of musical comedy performance for the Midsumma Festival. But I’ve lost my comedy production business because it could not achieve any turnover and lost festivals and gigs meant it was best put on hiatus.

But I wanted to report, I’ve learned to play basic piano and this has helped with the mental prison of these lockdowns.

I am not experiencing frequent suicidal ideation, like 2020 presented for me.

But the only reason I could do that was because I was on WorkCover, after a workplace completely broke my mental health. Lockdown has slowed my recovery greatly, but also, probably helped in some senses as I couldn’t push myself too hard.

In my thirties I refused to acknowledge trauma and take time out to heal at all. In my forties, I got better at it, in my fifties I probably haven’t got a choice!

And what I am reflecting on today is just how many of us, carry trauma and untreated mental health, because the system means we can’t afford intense periods of therapy.

Or put aside recovery because we are too afraid of the discrimination we might encounter if we take stress leave or go on WorkCover when there is demonstrated mental injury.

Mental health is episodic. I want to copy and paste that a 1000 times down this page.

It’s not a death sentence, but untreated, it can lead to increased frequency of episodes, which become longer in duration and may lead to the topic of this blog. Suicide.

So, in the midst of what has been some terrible episode of community mental health for many; I’ve been able to access continuity of care, something I have not had for 48 years of my life to date (I turn 51 this year).

I am fortunate, but don’t confuse this with too much privilege. I manage 2 chronic illnesses and I’ve had recent diagnosis of one more of those that mean I have a long road ahead of me. But I don’t feel like dying as much as I did.

A sense of hope can be hard to find. But the bigger issue for me is still the war we must fight with shame.

So, if shame is weighing on you, move to higher ground (metaphorically). Concentrate on making yourself safe. Whatever that safety looks like.

I’m going to get real here. If your people in your life damage your mental health, if your life is plagued with put downs and gaslighting and other forms of abuse, put yourself first. That might mean really hard decisions, but you’ll be better for it.

A key stressor is often not just the mental illness that many of us have as a baseline, but how other people treat us. Some of us can’t escape that, and I acknowledge that many, particularly those of us managing disabilities, this becomes an almost impossible venture.

I used to joke, that “before you get diagnosed, just ensure you are not surrounded by assholes”. Of course this is flippant and not accurate, but it’s a good place to start. But a better place is both that and regular and continual access to quality therapies that work for us (whatever they may be).

Recovery isn’t a bad word. Disability isn’t either. But they aren’t some continuum or a binary or a competition.

Disability and recovery are interchangeable and they shouldn’t be just measured by capitalist or economic ideas only. Your worth, isn’t just if you can work again or not again, or if a career shift or change is needed (like I’ve had to). It should just be feeling better, feeling hopeful, feeling valued and accepted – they should be the measures.

Recovery can be partial or full. Recovery can mean being comfortable with what you manage from an overall health perspective.

Sometimes recovery can come out of times and places where we least expect it. So, even if we can only imagine having the room to fly and perch like this bird can, we can sure do our best to find time and space to heal…whatever that looks like.

And from my perch, I’m going to keep raising awareness and pushing back for more mental health services, so maybe one day we can all afford the kind of continuity of care we need.

Big loves to you all. Pandemics suck.