Along For The Ride

Unseen difficulties of mental illness

It’d been a long week for me with school and work so I had planned to go out with a couple of buddies last night, get some dinner, go play some darts. At dinner one of my friends started talking to me about some struggles he had been having recently with anxiety. He had made a mistake at work a couple months ago and since then he has felt a lack of control of his career, worrying about job security.

It was difficult to hear parts of what has been going on for him, he’s been having physical symptoms along with trouble sleeping and just kind of felt stuck and not himself, and that he was unable to be himself because of his anxiety. I don’t think a lot of people realize just how difficult normal functioning is when you have an ongoing battle with mental health issues. Another aspect of mental health that I don’t think a lot of people consider is the comorbidity that goes along with it. More often than not someone will be battling more than one mental health issue, making it all the more difficult to overcome.

The reason that I bring this up, internalizing behaviors like anxiety, depression, somatic symptoms- are not obvious and can go unnoticed and unchecked for so long and at times to the extreme detriment of those who are suffering.

It is our responsibility as friends, family, and loved ones to be aware and vigilant when we notice changes in those around us, especially if we know there is a history of mental illness for the individual or in the individuals family. I take on the responsibility of being a supporter willingly and I will admit it is not easy to help sometimes. I have run into a couple of brick walls in my life when I have tried to help others, but I still will not give up, and I strive to be more helpful in the future.

I have been told that I can be somewhat parental, and not as patient-centered as I should be which is an important lesson to learn as collaboration is more effective for long-term care and not “band-aiding”. There are times when those who are suffering don’t know how to help themselves and they may need extra help and support and even some coaching, but then there are times when individuals understand their illnesses far more than someone who is not suffering and those are the ones that you need to listen to when you consider “how can I help?”

This is so important because if you think about it, having a mental illness doesn’t mean you are a child or are incapable of making your own choices, it just means that it can be a lot harder to do so and to handle certain situations.

Even if you do not personally know someone who is suffering from mental illness, you can still be a voice for those who do. Remember, not everyone who is suffering is obvious, and a lot of times it isn’t until it is too late. Sharing information on ways to get help and support is one way, but also just showing that mental health is important to you. Social media spreads far and wide and if we all can spread the message of support, those who suffer won’t feel so alone.

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Along For The Ride

Sometimes, those who take care of others are the ones who need help.

Hey everyone, today I want to touch on some of my own struggles being in the supporter role. It has been very important for me to establish my own layers of support to make sure that I am being mindful of my own needs.

I have found it difficult at times to always be as encouraging as I probably should be, and something I have noticed about these times is I seem to not have enough spoons available to take care of someone else’s emotional needs as well as my own. When I refer to spoons, I am referencing spoon theory, which is a way to measure how much available energy you have to devote to different tasks throughout the day. Understanding and planning where and when to use your spoons is a way to be considerate of your own capabilities.

Understanding my own needs is imperative for the ability to actually be supportive of another. If I am unable to take care of myself, how am I supposed to take care of someone else? In regard to this, I have worked to establish my own outlets for when I feel overwhelmed or stressed in order to still take on what may be my most important role. Find a couple friends, a relative, maybe even someone at work that is available to have a chat with here and there. Unload some of the burdens so they don’t overwhelm you. Finding a stable support system for myself has enabled me to give more to those that need me.

I cannot stress (pun intended) the importance of self-care enough. I have had times where I thought I could do it all, manage every aspect of my own life and someone else’s only to crash and burn. In the long run that doesn’t help anyone! Another point that I want to make about finding your own support system is that in becoming your supporter, that person is also supporting and contributing to the positive outcomes of who you are supporting, so for me, every person that supports me is also supporting Jing in her recovery process.

The larger our support networks grow, as does the opportunity for advocacy. I will continue to reach out to others because it is what those impacted by TBI need. I hope that all of those who read this will do the same.

Along For The Ride

Importance of Altruism

I believe that in order to be a compassionate and dependable supporter of those with TBI, it is necessary to have the essence of altruism within your soul. For those who may not be familiar, altruism is characterized by a selfless nature, putting others needs before your own. From my perspective as a supporter, I view it as being there and looking out for another’s welfare selflessly.

There will be times when you will need to reach down and give more than you may be comfortable, but the impact your compassion and kindness will have will be integral in the healing process, so even when it’s hard, don’t give up!

The road to recovery is a very long process and is never truly over. The ones we support will continue to need us to be there for them in many different aspects. Sometimes the needs are more taxing than others, but showing up for them when they need a little extra help is what being a caregiver is all about.

Having altruistic characteristics is something I pride myself in. I often will give to others without regarding how it will impact me. There are times when I stay up much later than I want, get little to no sleep because I know it makes someone else’s life a little better. Sometimes being selfless isn’t actively doing things for others, it is also being thoughtful about what they may need at any given time. When I want to go to the gym and Jing wants to go with me but needs an hour to rest beforehand, it’s something I am always willing to do even if it messes up my schedule a little bit.

As a caregiver or supporter, a little can go a long way and the little things that you do have value and do matter. You may not always be affirmed by those you are caring for, but the role you take on is essential to help enable them to reach positive outcomes.

Along For The Ride

Compassion is key.

Hello Everyone!

My name is Cole and I will also be contributing to this blog in order to bring a different perspective, one from a supporter role. Jing was able to progress in her recovery very quickly so she has not needed a caretaker for a couple years now, but others who suffer a TBI may need a caretaker for an extensive time period which is not easy.

My background is as a student and a behavior interventionist. It is great I have the opportunity to share as I realize TBI not only impacts the person who experienced the injury, but also those around them a great deal. Just like those who have been injured there are times for caretakers or support systems that can be very difficult. I will provide some of my own experiences as I continue to post on this blog. I hope you find them helpful!

I was lucky enough to run into Jing a little over a year ago, and she has had a huge impact on my life ever since. Something about Jing is she is a very straightforward person. The first day we spent time together, she let me know about her circumstances. Initially, now that I look back at it, I don’t think it really registered with me. I had never met someone with a TBI. When I think about it now I admire her so much for this as it is not easy to talk about conditions that are debilitating to someone you just met.

One big thing I want to express to you all is that TBI does not just go away. To truly be supportive of someone with TBI you need to be prepared and understand it is a long process that will have its ups and downs. You will build grit and resilience along with those you support and become a stronger individual and in turn a stronger team.

This is where compassion is so huge to the recovery process. Those who are recovering may need their supporters to be their own personal cheerleaders, always being understanding and encouraging while making sure not to be negative and critical. After a TBI, the person who experienced the accident is starting over. They are growing and learning through their experiences just like children. It is our jobs as supporters or caregivers to help ensure those experiences are what’s best for the road of recovery.  Your role as a caregiver or supporter is critical to the overall well-being of TBI patients, so understand the value your position holds and make it count!

If you have any questions please feel free to ask! I have provided links in the resources tab For Family & Friends of Survivors for more information about ways to provide support!