A constant stream of patients asked for a small Dixie cup of water. I asked the nurse why the guests wanted water and she replied that "chaos was all around and a cup of water was something they could control". Water intake is tracked because patients can drink too much water and succumb to hyponatremia when their electrolytes get out of balance. I had the opportunity to help a friend with complex PTSD and included visiting several hospitals in the metro DC area. She needed a safe place to start the process of healing and her experiences caused a hyper sensitivity to much that comprised daily life. The inability to eat well, sleep well and feel safe, kept her in a constant state of fight or flight. I was hard pressed to classify the hospital wards I witnessed, as a healing environment. Another friend returned from Afghanistan and can't enjoy the 4th of July fireworks or burgers on the grill because the sounds and smells cause flashbacks from his deployment. Spending time with these wonderful people has given me a fresh appreciation for how little the medical field really knows about the brain and the ability to undo their experiences. The military struggles with troops resisting the help that is offered as they don't want to appear weak, but thankfully, progress is happening. I haven't encountered the same struggle, but I experienced a bit of survivors guilt after the Navy Yard shooting and I have experienced swings of depression and felt the anxiety of someone else finding out that I am not Superman. Please don't tell my wife or adult children; they may still believe. The conversation needs to be brought into the light to weaken the stigma of getting help. There is much work that needs to be done and much is at a one-on-one level, engaging with those around us by reaching out to those that have withdrawn or other symptoms.
What is your gut reaction to the term mental illness? How has mental illness touched your life? What do you know about mental illness? Do you know the symptoms? What positive treatments have you encountered? What conversations do you need to have with those around you? How can you help those around you?