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Overcoming Stigma and Labels on the Road to Recovery

by RO_Meredith Health, Mental Health

RecoveryThe path to recovery isn't always easy, but it is possible. In today's blog, forum member Ray shares the lessons learned on his own journey from addict to father. 

My name is Ray and, like many others in the world, I suffered from substance abuse. Substance abuse kills about 200,000 people per YEAR and the numbers are just rising! The issue isn't helped by the fact that drugs are sometimes idolized by our favorite singers, music videos, friends, family and what have you. We're made to believe it's cool or it'll make us fit in with no consequences, but  the truth is drugs can also take your life off course. Believe me, I've experienced it firsthand – and also found my way back through recovery! It wasn't easy with the label and stigma attached to addicts, but I've found that through self-compassion and new ambitions, I've been able to come through this struggle even stronger than I was before.

When I was younger, my family would verbally abuse me and tell me how worthless I was and how I wouldn't grow up to be anything. Coming from my own parents, this created deep-seated insecurity and depression. Then one day, my brother's friend came a long and made it seem like drugs were my pathway to happiness. Plus, I'd seen rappers and actors I idolized use drugs, so I thought, "Hey, if people like that can do it, why can't I?" It doesn't mean I'm a bum on the street, or that I'd do anything to get high. And at first I was right but the stronger my addiction got, the more I knew I was becoming what I was most afraid of and that was "the addict." It took hitting rock bottom before I could seek and accept help, but I'm now three years clean. I have a sponsor, attend meetings and have also sought help for my depression. I've come a long way from where I was, but I could still be described as a recovering addict.

Many people have their own idea of what an addict is. In some people's minds, an addict is a thief, heartless, dirty, crazy, or bad person and in so many cases that is not true. We are people like everyone else and just because we made a bad choice doesn't meant we're bad people. We're only human and doesn't every human make mistakes? While hooked on a drug, we may become someone we're not and our identity may slowly begin to vanish, but that doesn't mean we can't find our way back after recovery. We all are much stronger then what any of us gives ourselves credit for!

If you've been through recovery, it may feel like the label "addict" will follow you, but you don't have to follow that label By that I mean: follow the label you believe you are! For example, if you believe you're a singer then sing away! Let the world hear that voice! Don't ever let anyone hold you back, especially your past!  For me that means embracing the role of father to my daughter.

The strongest people  in my eyes are the ones who have been to the deepest parts of hell in their life, climbed out and became everything everyone told them they wouldn't be! And sometimes it's easier said then done but nothing is impossible! And the only label that matters is the one you give yourself! Never forget that!

Community Corner: Building a Practice of Gratitude

by Liz_ReachOut Community, Family, Friends, Health

Friends laughingPracticing Gratitude

Positive Pyschology speaks to the importance of gratitude and how crucial it is to happiness. It's something our ReachOutHere forum community practices in this thread and we thought we'd share some of the amazing things they are grateful for:

I am thankful for the person who invented ice cream and cake. I am thankful for uplifting music. I am thankful for my older sister. I am thankful for an amazing God that is a really good listener and a great advice giver. And I am thankful for my friends Erin who is AMAZING!! I wouldnt be the same without her. - Zibzib

I'm thankful that I have a sweet kitty curled up beside me right now, purring and ready for pets! - Lyn Mod

i am thankful for my amazing girlfriend, she is so amazing. i finally found something positive to love. she makes me feel happy. i am also thankful that after 6 months of treatment, im finally out, and not doing that bad. - LJS

I am thankful for family, friends, and all the support receive on this website and elsewhere. - unknownwriter101

I'm thankful of class ending early so that I get to view the wonderful sky (: - AmiableRose

I am thankful for friends, family, access to education, modern day plumbing, scientific inventions, gas efficient cars, night lights, the internet, stuffed animals, WATER (even though I hate drinking it), kindness of strangers, and frozen yogurt. - potatoproblems

Try it out. Every night before you go to bed, think of 3 things you are grateful for from that day and write them down. It's something I've done for years, and even on the crappy days, you can find a surprising amount to be grateful for.

Tell the ReachOut community what you're grateful for here, or register here to get started on your journey in the forums!

 

 

This program is funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63).  It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of California counties working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.  CalMHSA encourages the use of materials contained herein, as they are explained in our licensing agreements. To view the agreements, please visit: calmhsa.org

Community Corner: A dose of positivity

by Liz_ReachOut Community, Health, Mental Health, Moods

The Power of Positvity

I am continually amazed by the power of positivity and how our community members manage to hold onto it in the face of adversity. Here are 3 recent quotes from ReachOutHere forum members who have been through tough times, from drug addiction to depression, and chosen to share their experiences and help others through.

Take 2 minutes to join the ReachOutHere forums today and either get the support support you deserve, or make the tough times count by giving support to others who need it.

"Hey everyone!  I'm still fairly new to reachout and as I read different topics in the forums it really does sadden my heart to see how much a lot of people are really hurting inside, it also gets me angry to see in some people's stories they describe how people tease, bully or make them feel like a "freak" because they are going through whatever they're going through. Just remember no matter what your going through no matter what anyone tells u or says YOU are a fantastic individual no matter if you are gay, straight, bi, male or female, young or old, or race. Nothing is impossible if you dream it you can do it! Never let anyone tell you that you cant! Also never let anyone belittle any of your problems anything that affects you mentally, emotionally or physically needs to be addressed immediately no matter how big or small a problem may be. Nothing is worth jeopardizing you're happiness! Try and stay focused everyone I know it can be hard but I know you guys can do it! You'll have your good and bad days like we all do. What separates us from others is the ones that gave up and the ones that fell but got right back up =) keep showing the world you're smile! I guarantee you eventually you'll give the world no choice but to smile back" (RicanSurvivor) 

"New to the scene and full of optomism. Hey ladies and gents my name is Joshua. I just joined this site for multiple reasons: 1) Sometimes I feel like no one understands me and I am sure there are others who feel the same way; I am here to open up and listen to anyone who needs it and I hope that can be reciprocated, 2) Sometimes it is a good thing to just vent your feelings without worry of offending someone or being judged by others, and 3) I finally want to be able to let my guard down with other people who may come into my life so that I can once again be the person that I know I am To everyone on this site, if you ever have a problem that you need help on or need someone to listen to, I am here. I will try to help everyone that I can because I believe the only way we can help ourselves, is to help everyone else first!" (collinsje09)

"One of the things I have learned from having depression is that time is one of the best healers. If today is the worst day of your life, then you can be proud of yourself at the end of the day for getting through it.  And I don't think anything is wrong with you at all! The road to getting better is bumpy at times; some days and weeks will be better, and some worse. It takes time to learn how to deal with depression, but I promise, it will pay off. I know you can do this."  (Dragonrider)

Join now or login here.

Living with Chronic Illnesses

by Liz_ReachOut Community, Health

Coping with Chronic Illness

What does it mean to live with chronic illness? Here's how one ReachOut forum member put it into words in a recent post:

"I'm 15 and for most of my life have struggled with chronic illnesses from Depression and anxiety, to fibromyalgia, asthma and chronic migraines along with things that the doctors don't understand. Its been a constant journey or being diagnosed with one thing after another and never finding an answer for anything. I don't like to talk about it, and usually try my best to ignore everything because it makes me feel different. To be honest, it is very scary for me and I feel very alone."

Below is a response from another member, who can clearly relate to exactly what has been said:

"Hi crying_in_the_rain!
I want you to know that I really feel for you in your situation. I suffer from five mental illnesses and chronic joint and digestive pain that has mystified doctors for years. In high school, I felt like a freak -- I couldn't do stuff with my friends because I wouldn't be able to walk the next day or simply just couldn't keep up. I went to so many doctors who wouldn't believe that my pain was real (six years later it's still very real) or had half-assed solutions that put me in more pain. When I finally got a diagnosis for all my mental illnesses, and there were FIVE of them, I felt so overwhelmed and had no clue how to deal. Thankfully, my parents pushed me to see a therapist, who not only helped me with my mental illness, but also helped me reframe how I thought about my body. Instead of looking at all these diagnoses as separate, she encouraged me to see my body as a whole thing, working as best it could to function, and to love it because it's doing the best it can.

I also want you to know that you are NOT alone. I promise. One thing that gave me hope (the whole chronic illness thing doesn't help the depression as I'm sure you know) was finding a community. I was fortunate enough to have a disability alliance at my university, and they introduced me to local and online communities of people with chronic illness. I suddenly found a group of people who not only understood my experience, but they LIVED it. And because they lived it, and came together in a community, they had an abundance of resources for meet-ups, self care techniques, crisis resources (like they do on this site), and so much more. If you are interested, Tumblr has a huge community of disabled folks (these are people who have chronic illnesses, physical handicaps, and mental illnesses who all identify under the umbrella term "disabled"). They blog, talk together, create memes, spark political conversations about what it means to be disabled and how isolating it is, and even meet up locally. A great compliation of blogs on tumblr can be found here :http://chronic-illness-support.tumbl...sability-blogs. You don't have to be a member of tumblr to view their blogs either, so feel free to browse away.


I really hope that you know there are people out there who understand the frustration with doctors, the exhaustion of being in pain all the time, and the hopelessness mental illness leave you with. I also hope that you can find a community that can give you some hope. Know that there are people on this site and elsewhere that understand and can support and care for you!"

This is just one example of the kind of help and support you can find in the ReachOut forums. If you are suffering from a chronic illness and want more info, read this fact sheet, or are worried about someone else who is, click here.

Read other supportive responses in the forums here, or register to respond.

Not all schizophrenics are violent

by Liz_ReachOut Health, Individual Rights, Mental Health, Relationships

TeensThe ReachOut Forums are a place to talk about your daily challenges, whether that means battling with a parent, a specific mental health issue, or both at the same time. You'll find members talking openly about depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other mental health challenges throughout the forums, including this particularly powerful thread started by one of our community members.

We wanted to feature this post from a real forum user because of how well it highlights the social stigma attached to schizophrenia, including the myth that schizophrenics are violent, or dangerous. Got thoughts on the topic? Register to respond or see other comments here.

I am so sick of hearing about Aaron Alexis and the navy yard shootings in Washington D.C. earlier this week. The report came out on Tuesday that he was hearing voices and how someone of his extremely unbalanced mental disorder should not have been allowed security clearance or to buy a weapon. Stigma and people being uneducated and intolerant like this is why I am afraid to go to counseling or get medication that could help me or even tell anyone at all.

When I asked to go to counseling I told my mom that I wanted help with my anxiety. I couldn't tell her about the schizophrenia and I didn't even trust the counselor. When I was diagnosed earlier this year, I asked her not to make the diagnosis official and to pretend that she hadn't diagnosed me so that it wouldn't go in my medical records. I made this decision because schizophrenia is such a misunderstood label and I didn't want it following me whenever I try to get insurance or check into an ER or get a check up or anything that would give access to my medical records. I don't want anyone thinking I belong in "a loony bin" and everything I hear people joke about schizophrenia just makes me believe even more that I did the right thing.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT GOES ON IN THE DAILY LIFE OF A CRAZY PERSON?

1) I wake up and spend about 15 minutes distinguishing dreams from reality. It is very hard for me to tell what happened in a dream-no matter how outlandish-and what has actually happened in my short-term and long-term memory. I keep the basics of who I am in a notebook and look through it when I'm not sure.

2) I go through the day and I laugh and am actually a very sweet person. I try not to lie to people but again, I don't do it on purpose, when I'm telling a story that completely never happened, I truly believe that it did and I remember every detail like it was real. Sometimes later I will realize that I accidentally lied to someone and that scares me because how often did I lie to someone and not realize it? I can't trust anyone because the only person I told, my very best friend, immediately said "Well how do I know you're not lying?" And the scary thing is I had to tell her "I don't know"...

3) I am very afraid to go to bed because when I am alone at night, a couple of times a month I will see things that I know are not there, and I know are not real but I feel their grip on my arms and them dragging me away and they TERRIFY me.

4) I have a 3.86 GPA. I have a very loving boyfriend and family. I go to church. I volunteer in hospitals because one day I want to be a doctor. I put on makeup and brush my teeth every morning just like every other girl at my school. I am a functioning member of society and shouldn't be limited any more than my mental illness already limits me. I can guarantee you, you would have no idea if you ever passed me on the street. But I have to live with this huge secret and suffer alone.

I would never shoot or harm anyone and while I am certainly not condoning what Aaron Alexis did (in fact, I hate it because it made my situation worse) I am sick of hearing about the military including mental illnesses in their background checks. That scares me, to think that I will be trapped in a society where I am automatically lumped with people like this and have to suffer this stigma. It's similar to how peaceful muslims have been prejudiced against since the extremist attacks of 9/11.

I am not violent. I am not crazy. Truthfully, I am just afraid and confused because I do not understand the reality around me. People take it for granted, waking up and having the simple knowledge of who they are because most people don't know that schizophrenics like me suffer like this. Unfortunately I have to just suffer through this and can't get medication or counseling that COULD HELP ME live a normal life because of the stigma. I hope everyone on this site reads this rant, at least the mods and peer supporters, because ReachOut is the only safe place I have and I want to be accepted here and understood. Thanks ReachOut for being here.

If you are struggling with schizophrenia, think you might be, or are worried about someone else, learn more about it here, or find treatment and help here.

*photo credit: Lena Vasiljeva, flickr

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