How do we make someone with a mental illness feel seen and supported?
Through On a Dragonfly’s Wings, I post almost daily on FB and IG resources, tools, best things to say, what not to say, motivation and support, love, and as much information as I can to educate those of us in a support role and those who are struggling.
It’s just not enough.
I have a friend who struggles every day of her life to get out of bed, to put one foot in front of the other, to keep going day after day. And even with all that I know, it’s not enough.
I love her beyond the stars and back and I don’t know how to help her.
That’s the thing about mental illness, no matter what we say to the hurting person, their brain will tell them the opposite. We know all those things are awful, but to the person struggling, it’s their truth.
Nikolai used to say all the time how stupid he was. No matter how many bazillion times we told him he was so smart, he just didn’t believe us.
The Real Depression Project recently posted some of the best things to say to someone struggling with mental illness:
1. Your mental illness does not define you.
2. You are strong for fighting an invisible illness 24/7, 365.
3. Your struggle doesn’t make you weak.
4. If all you do is survive your dark days, that’s enough.
5. Don’t feel guilty for resting – it’s essential for your well-being.
I’m pretty sure I’ve said all of these statements to one person or another, including Nikolai, including my dear friend. It’s not enough.
I have zero answers.
Today my heart just hurts so badly for those who live in a mind that speaks lies to them.
Words don’t seem to matter today. All I can do is wrap her up in more love than I can almost bear and pray that it is enough.
Join me today in praying for all those who can’t see their worth, who struggle with thoughts of suicide. Please God cover them in light and love.
“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” – Dave Hollis
Have you really given this any thought – this return to normal and what it looks like to you? Are you going to jump back into “normal” with two feet? Are there things about the stay at home lockdown that you enjoyed and if so how are you going to incorporate those things into your life moving forward?
I have discovered a lot about myself in this lockdown period. I have been working from home since March 13. I was just told this week that I will be required to come back into the office to work on Monday. I have spent the better part of two days now crying, worrying and becoming more bitter by the minute because I realized a lot of somethings over the last 63 days of being at home… there isn’t any place I’d rather be than home, other than missing my friends, these people I share my house with are the people I want to spend all my time with, this puppy we got is the exact therapy I needed, these daily walks and out loud prayer have lifted my soul, and I’ve realized that my passion lies elsewhere. Going back to this daily office job is not my passion and I realized I’m dreading putting my all into something that doesn’t make my heart sing.
So today I have made the decision to quit crying and worrying and swallow the bitter pill. I have decided to take all that negative energy and turn it into a plan of action for my life and the things I am passionate about and the people that I love. What kind of impact do I want to have? What are my goals and dreams?
I don’t want to return to “normal”; although I would love to go to my local coffee shop on a Friday morning and hug all the people like the good ole days. I don’t want to return to the normal daily grind of working for someone else on their time and in their way, for their cause. My life was made for more. I think deep down, I knew that the day Nikolai died.
This quarantine has taught me quite a bit; however, what has really hit me square in the face is that the one thing that has affected ALL of us, yet been talked about the least, is mental health. I don’t think I am scientifically off when I say that more people have and will suffer from mental illness during this time than any physical ailment. I am not trying to be insensitive to those impacted by this virus (my husband had it), but at least we are talking about it. At least there are actions surrounding prevention, spread, cures. What about mental health? What have we put into place for those suffering from mental health?
This lockdown has brought most of us mentally to our knees at one point or another. Watching friends and even strangers struggle makes my heart hurt. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are also on the brink of a mental health pandemic – neither of which we are equipped to handle.
A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 45% of U.S. adults said the pandemic has affected their mental health, with 19% saying it has had a major impact. A majority of Americans (57%) also said they were worried they could be exposed to COVID-19 since they couldn’t afford to miss work and therefore couldn’t stay home. (US News source)
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, roughly 1 in 5 Americans experienced a mental illness within a given year, with some 10 million adults having serious thoughts of suicide. And these are just the adult statistics. What about our kids and the affect this is having on them?
And while we are discounting and even eliminating insurance barriers and costs associated with physical health right now because of coronavirus, we aren’t making these same concessions for those suffering from mental health. Insurance coverage, or lack thereof, is the greatest barrier to most people seeking mental illness assistance. We need to take a hard look at providing lower cost options for people to find help and we must focus on both prevention and recovery, teaching people how to navigate through the different stages in their lives.
The teaching part is so important because it’s clear that we have all struggled this quarantine season. While we as humans are not equipped for lockdown or how to handle it – if we had the tools to navigate mentally through tough times, maybe, just maybe we could weather this storm better.
Because whether you are an essential worker, working from home, working from home and also teaching your kids, students, graduates, elderly, living home alone – whatever category you fall into, I see you. We have good days but we also have bad days. Those days when we feel like we just can’t do it anymore. We are at our wits end. We are lonely. We need human interaction. We need the world to not be so scary. We need empathy. We need kindness.
And so I ask again – what part of your new “normal” are you rushing back into? Has this quarantine changed you or the way you think? Has it given you a new perspective on life and who you want to be? I encourage you to take this time to find yourself. Find your passion. Be kind to yourself and to others.
And if you are struggling, please reach out for help.
I choose joy has become my daily mantra. Do I wake up every day feeling joyful? No. That is a hard and fast no. However, I get up, get dressed, pour my coffee and make the choice to live joyfully each day.
I have a lot of things to be sad about right now – don’t we all? But what happens when you focus on all the sad? All those negative emotions spiral you into a black hole that is very difficult to escape. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be sad – it absolutely is; however, don’t unpack there. Cry for a minute. Grieve your losses. And, then choose joy. Because when we choose joy, when we choose to look at how blessed we are, it changes our outlook and allows us to be more content with our situation.
I have five days “off” from work. This wasn’t ideally how I wanted to use my PTO; however, I’ve decided to use it to further my dreams and goals. I’m choosing to refocus my energy these few days into projects that light my heart on fire. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I can’t think of anything more important to focus on right now than that. It has always been extremely important to educate about mental health; however, these days it has become even more important. People all around us are struggling with one thing or another and how they are able to handle those things will determine much in their lives.
I made it my mission the day Nikolai took his own life to do whatever I could to help educate our community on mental health and suicide. I decided that day to make sure that as many people as I can affect know that they are enough – they are strong and courageous and we need them and the impact they are going to make on this world. Nikolai’s death transformed me in a million different ways. I grieve the loss of my child, yet I have found my purpose at the same time.
Nikolai lived joyfully. I believe he struggled with mental health all his life; however, he always chose joy. The last few years of his life, he desperately fought for that joy. The week before he died I asked him ‘where his joy was’. He said he didn’t know. He couldn’t find it. That was hard to hear. This is when I knew things were bad, really bad. For someone who lived for joy, saying those words was his last ditch effort at this mental health battle. He lost the war.
So when I say I CHOOSE JOY. I choose it for me and for him and for all of you who are battling finding your joy every single day.
Use this time to find your joy – whatever that may look like to you.
I have sat through three suicide prevention trainings now
and each time I take away a little bit more. While these trainings are amazing
to teach us the skills to have a real conversation with those we think are
struggling, for a parent who has lost a child to suicide it has become the
laundry list of all the things I didn’t do right.
These demons have been with me since the night of June 20
but to hear them spoken out loud is hard. The guilt is so heavy. I’m working on
not beating myself up with all the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s but it’s a real
There were so many signs along Nikolai’s journey and I
dismissed many of them to just being a moody teenager. Dropping out of sports,
purposely failing school, disrespecting his family and his teachers, and becoming
withdrawn. This was him literally crying out for help.
This is what it looks like parents. It can also look like a
million other things too. We communicate with our kids but we aren’t really
present with them. We have allowed being busy to take center stage of our lives
and we have stopped giving importance to the real things. It’s become more
about running our kids to sports practice, homework, who is spending the night
at who’s house, video games, cell phones (theirs and our own), trying to fit in
dinner, late nights, last minute projects, and the list goes on.
We sought the help of teachers, counselors, and a therapist. None of it was enough. His pain ran so deep that literally he thought his only way out was to take his own life. But maybe, just maybe if I had hugged him more, sat down and really listened to him, not been so busy. When all is said and done, I will never really know. But what I wouldn’t give for another chance to do it all again knowing what I know now. That is why I believe with absolutely every piece of me that God has set my compass to helping others see the pain in others and reach out.
Therapy is definitely helping me cope with the guilt. I don’t
think that will ever go away; however, recognizing that reliving every wrong step
with Nikolai is not serving me is what I have to say to move forward.
Since Nikolai died by suicide on June 20, there have been
three more teens in northern Oakland County that have taken their lives. We
have to figure this out. Maybe we start with just being present with our kids.
Today I had an exceptional day. I had coffee with two amazing women who are
helping me fight the good fight, building awareness for mental health and
suicide. We are doing exceptional things and pushing things to a new level of
advocacy and I am so excited about all of it. Today, I feel like I am
conquering the world in your honor.
Nikolai, I want you to know that I am finding more of my
days to be like this. And what makes it better is knowing that this is what I
am supposed to do – this is God’s calling for me. These women were put in my
life at the exact time that I needed them. At the exact time WE needed them. To
help us get the hard work done. The important work.
I do all of this in your honor and to impact the lives of
people I may never know.
Some days though the heartache of losing you hurts so deeply. And some days I feel as if I’m not doing near enough, fast enough. I get tired and sad. Some days I have to take a step back and quiet myself.
Many days I experience both in the same day, like last Thursday. We educated so many, yet it was so very, very hard. This morning was fantastic. Tonight is very reflective. I suspect this is how it will go for a bit.
But we have a humongous tribe of people advocating for us
and with us and the impact we are and will make I pray is enough to bring great
change. I take heart in knowing we are making a difference.
I recently read an article that asked readers, “if you could
share one word that describes your grief journey today, what would it be?” Many
posted words like scared, broken, foggy, lost, fragile and lonely. And, not
that I don’t feel any of those words, but none of them seemed to fit an overall
description of how I feel on this journey. Until today.
Hopeful. My word to describe my grief journey is hopeful.
This may seem like an inappropriate or strange word to
describe my grief; however, for my journey it seems a perfect fit.
I am hopeful that Nikolai has found his “happy” again – that
he is running around in Heaven meeting and hugging all the people. I am hopeful
that he has finally met his grandma and grandpa Miller who he never knew. I am
hopeful that he has been reunited with my grams and gramps, who loved him and
his energy so very much. I am hopeful that one day my heart will not feel so
completely broken and that I can get through a whole day without breaking down.
I am hopeful that someday I will see him again as we both enjoy the beauty of
But there is more to be hopeful for…
I am hopeful that we, as a society, can begin to view mental health as
something as real as physical health.
I am hopeful that we can educate and train all humans to see
the signs and symptoms of friends in need, friends that are struggling, and
pray that we will reach out.
I am hopeful that we will start to have real conversations
surrounding mental health and suicide.
I am hopeful that the suicide rate will go down.
I am hopeful that the stigma surrounding suicide will decrease
and our empathy and awareness will increase.
I am hopeful that we can begin to treat everyone with more
kindness than judgement and hate.
I am hopeful that we will be gentle around all people, as we
never truly know what someone is struggling with.
I am hopeful that this blog makes a difference, an impact,
on just one person, just one family.
I am hopeful that by starting a dialogue about all the hard things, we can come together and comfort each other.
I am hopeful that I am following the path the way God intended for me.
Today is World Mental Health Day and this year the focus is on
Did you know that every 40 seconds someone takes their own life?
There’s no need to suffer in silence – share how you’re feeling, ask someone
how they are doing and LISTEN for the answer. Ask for help when you need it and
know that we are all in this together.
If you need help, call the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or TEXT 652729:
My heart feels like it’s going to explode from so much love today
heart feels like it’s going to explode from so much love today❤️ Beans’
Brigade raised over $4,000 for the AFSP and suicide prevention. We were the 8th
largest fundraising team with definitely the most walkers😊
people are our tribe and we love all of you so much. Thank you for all the
support. I only shed a few tears today and honestly, they were mostly
Deb and Jay, you
outdid yourselves with our specially designed shirts. I can’t thank you enough😘
A huge thank you to all of you who donated money to our team.
You ARE making a difference❤️
Definitely one of our family’s best days since June 20😊
Our kids are Houghton kids. The principal there gave us the most
lovely card at Kola’s funeral. In it she wrote that she was purchasing three
books for her social worker to utilize when identifying young students that may
adore this so much. 💙
If we can identify and help kids at onset, maybe,
just maybe we can turn things around for them. Because of Ms. Grimes and this
gesture of helping others, we have now teamed up with the school district to
purchase these same books for all of our elementary school social workers. In
addition, Ms. Grimes is also looking into other books to help kids with social
and emotional self-care. We are proud to work with her and the school district
social workers to assist in getting the additional books needed in the near
We are so blessed to have the staff and administrators we do in Waterford. They truly care about our kids and want the very best for them. Thank you for allowing our family to be a part of this😊
Many of you have expressed an interest in my projects
Many of you have expressed an interest in my projects. Here is
one of them. I partnered with the Waterford Coalition for Youth to bring much
needed suicide prevention training to our local communities. The need is so
great. Maybe, just maybe, if more of us knew what to look for and what to say
or do for those that are hurting, we could make a difference.
Space is extremely limited so if you are thinking you would like
to participate in the training, please register early.
I would like to give a special shout out to my very dear friend Heather Halls. Without her, this training may have been much more difficult to put in place. She has worked hard to put this together and I absolutely cannot thank her enough. You are an amazing friend – thank you so much for helping me make this event come to fruition. I love you💙