Friday, May 1, 2015

I'm not just certifiable, now I'm certified!

***trigger warning: childhood sexual abuse, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt***

I was five years old, running, screaming through the empty house, calling out for Mommy, wondering where she was, what had happened, if my brother was right and they had come to take her away, back to the hospital, so she could rest and recuperate, another nervous breakdown, all my fault because I told her, the secret my brother told me not to tell, about him and his friend and and and...their disgusting boy parts touching my body in ways that made me shout no and get shushed and warned again that we don't want to upset Mommy. I flung myself into the closet and cried myself to sleep until Mommy got home and found me and hugged me and kissed me and showed me she wasn't in the hospital and that she was there with me and not gone, that she had just left me alone for a minute while I was asleep, while she ran my brother to school, so she wouldn't have to disturb me. When I lay there in Mommy's arms, listening to her trying to find ways to comfort me, I never would have dreamed some day I would be someone people like me could turn to for help with their mental illness.

I was in third grade. Standing on the scale in front of a room full of grownup women I didn't know, so embarrassed, so ashamed, so disappointed in myself. I would listen to everything they told me, follow all the rules, and I would lose weight and I would make Mom and Dad proud of me. As I sat there planning my escape from Weight Watchers, I never would have dreamed some day I would be someone people like me could turn to for help with their mental illness.

I was eleven. Everybody was mad at me. Everybody kept yelling at me, or worse--crying--and telling me if I didn't start eating again I could die. As I sat there in my first therapist's office, the one who I'd been referred to after the doctor diagnosed me with anorexia after I had passed out in school, as I sat there in her office, shrugging my shoulders, trying to stop shivering, I never would have dreamed some day I would be someone people like me could turn to for help with their mental illness.

I was a teenager, locked inside our bathroom, sobbing, calling my mom at work to see if she could come home and break up a fight between my dad and me. When I sat there on the bathroom floor, staring at the knife in my hand, wondering if I had the guts to use it on him, I never would have dreamed some day I would be someone people like me could turn to for help with their mental illness.

I was a teenager, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, staring into the cabinet underneath the sink, thinking that I could do it, I could end the pain right then and there, by swallowing the contents of that can of Drano. Bye, bye, Becky. This shit works on stubborn clogs. This shit will work on you. When I sat there sobbing, listening to my inner self-hatred tell me it was the only way out, I never would have dreamed some day I would be someone people like me could turn to for help with their mental illness.

I was in my early-twenties. After I swallowed a bottle of my prescription Paxil, my girlfriend found me and called 911. On the ambulance ride to the ER. Cold and metal. And then inside the ER. I sat up high, on a bed, on white sheets, in a fog, answering the nurse's questions in between throwing up in a bucket she was holding in front of me after she had me swallow some nasty charcoal crap, listening to her telling me it was going to be OK, that I probably just wigged out because I was on my period and it was a full moon. I wanted to complain that she was pathologizing my femininity, that I had deep pain that was real, that was serious. But instead, while I sat there silent, dumbfound, wondering how the hell I could get out of there, I never would have dreamed some day I would be someone people like me could turn to for help with their mental illness.

But I am. After over four-decades, I have become that person. I am someone people like me can turn to for help with their mental illness. Seriously. I took a class.

Well, that and spent my adulthood getting my shit together through a mixture of introspection, blogging, medication, meditation, exercise, body respect, and lots and lots of help from my husband, my friends and family and numerous mental health professionals.

But that's a long story, much longer than I have time to share now, so instead, let's focus on the class. 

In the class I learned that 90% of all youths who experience a mental health crisis fully recover. No longer are people with certifiable mental illnesses destined to spend their lives locked up in the loony bin. Many of us grow up to lead rich, fulfilling lives. Some of us get to the point where we're able to help others. The more we share our stories of mental illness, the more we detach the stigma associated with mental illness, the more we understand that mental illness is a common, treatable health issue similar to diabetes or other physical diseases, the more we can help others who might otherwise try to suffer though it alone.

So, I, Becky Carleton, who has in her lifetime been diagnosed by various doctors over the years with a wide array of mental illnesses ranging from anorexia to PTSD, am hereby not just certifiable, but certified to help our youth in crisis find the help they need. 

my certificate from Youth Mental Health First Aid
From the site:
"Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders."
I found out about this program from a flier sent home from my daughter's school. If you're interested in the program, you can find a course here.