In 2021, when my husband was in the hospital for nine days, no one offered casserole. I was taking care of her 12 year old and trying to manage her husband’s care over the phone. Because COVID-19 protocols were still in place and she was not allowed to see her husband. The last thing on my mind was the daily meal prep. Yet, every night at 5:30 p.m., her daughter and I still needed to eat.
I’m not much of a fan of 1950s-style condolence meals, but I happily welcome the gesture of a soggy tuna noodle casserole. I had very little appetite, but the act of receiving food and having a friend show up at my doorstep would have been a comfort.
Dan’s hospitalization came so suddenly that he didn’t have time to pre-make and prep lasagna and a lot of chicken soup. In the fall of 2021, Dan’s depression and anxiety became severe. He had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder many years ago, but his symptoms had been in remission until the pandemic hit.
He stopped sleeping more than two hours at a stretch. He had trouble concentrating, had panic attacks, and felt like electric currents were running through his limbs. I was shocked and relieved that he was okay.
My husband and I have lived in the same coastal California area for over 20 years and have a close circle of friends. But when Dan entered the hospital, I didn’t know how to ask them for help.
I was raised to believe that people should hide their mental health problems from anyone other than their immediate family. I fully understand that this would lead to shame for my family, a diminished quality of life, and increased social distancing.
What would his friends and colleagues think if they found out that he was locked up in a locked ward for their own safety? Would they trust him in the same way again? Drug use is far less neglected than it was in the 20th century. But I think there’s still a thick layer of shame around uncontrolled mental illness.
Results from recent research show that individuals experience greater public stigma, self-stigma, and worse attitudes when they are hospitalized for mental health problems than when they seek outpatient services such as treatment. there’s a possibility that.
so i didn’t post anything Facebook Talking about Dan’s situation, I contacted very few friends. I also naively hoped Dan would be released before his three-day detention period expired. In California, a 72-hour hold allows a hospital to keep a patient in a psychiatric facility if the patient is deemed a danger to themselves or others. But his decision to hide his status started a chain of social isolation that made the coming weeks and months even more difficult.
I will never forget showing up at the monthly book group to hide the fact that Dan was in the hospital. It’s hard to imagine doing that.
Despite improvements in society’s view of mental health in recent decades, it still seems unlikely that mental illness will be treated in the same way as physical illness. Some people suffering from physical ailments choose to keep their diagnosis hidden because of personal or cultural preference, but serious physical problems are more important than mental ones. I think it would be more socially acceptable to “go outside”. Allows society to rally to sick individuals.
Take the recent example of my brother-in-law who suffered an unexpected neck and back injury. , we made it and brought the leftovers to him and Dan’s sister. If you join the pitch when it’s my turn, I will take care of you.
Nearly one in five Americans has a mental illness. But despite the movement to downplay mental health issues, families struggling with severe mental health issues often do so alone. When Dan left the hospital, recovery was tough for all of us. The burden of caring for someone with mental illness can itself create mental health issues.
About a week and a half after he got home, I finally posted a photo on social media with a note that he was hospitalized, but didn’t say why. Some things they need to know, I felt I needed to ask my community for help. Perhaps most people thought Dan’s crisis was physical and not mental in nature, and I led them to believe it. , felt that support was essential for the family’s recovery.
After seeing this post, a friend brought in a bunch of her favorite cookies from the local bakery and Dan’s boss delivered chocolates. He regretted not contacting him sooner. These gestures brought us joy during a scary and miserable time, and he stuck with me for a year after Dan left the hospital.
It took several months before I could confide in the cause of Dan’s hospitalization and be able to tell more people. Saying the words still feels like an act of courage, even now that I’ve been taught to do so. But her husband’s recovery is an inspiration, so she feels she needs to share our story.
Dan is as capable as he was before he was hospitalized, but he is much more sensitive to stress. Certain tasks seem to be harder to complete than before. Still, to people around the world, even family members who don’t live with him, he seems to be 100% better off than he is, and he’s happy to make them believe it.
So many symptoms of mental health issues arise within. Psychological distress can be hidden until it can no longer be masked. I try to remember this when interacting with friends and colleagues. You cannot truly know the burdens others carry. Usually we can only guess who is suffering. Dan’s risk of relapse looms large in my mind, even though he’s been a year since he recovered.
But I do recall that my beliefs and feelings about mental illness have changed. I feel it is important to speak out about my struggles. I worry about what other people think, but I can’t keep quiet. My hope is that if the situation becomes difficult for my family again, I can ask for help and someone from our community will show up at my door with lasagna.
Amy Ettinger is Sweet Spot: Ice Cream Binges Across AmericaShe teaches creative writing through the Continuing Studies Program at Stanford University and lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter.she can read more of her work amyettinger.com follow her on twitter @ettinger_amy.
All views expressed in this article are those of the author.
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