Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Guest Post #12 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Featuring Don Shetterly

1)   How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?

Farther back than I can remember.  I’m not sure where it all began, but I’m guessing when I was born.  I still remember at age 26, when I went on my first medication.  When I started feeling things like “happiness,” I freaked out.  It took a lot of convincing by my Doctor to help me understand that was normal.  I am not sure I had ever experienced it up this point.

2)   Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?

 I did not seek treatment until I had been paralyzed from Conversion Disorder.  Up until that point, I thought I was handling life.  My parents had always told me that if you allow doctors to give you medication, then they would brainwash you and I believed that lie.  Because of that, I was so scared to talk to anyone or believe I had anything that I needed help.  I remember being suicidal long before that and even calling an 800 help number but hanging up when they answered the phone.  I could not bring myself to talk to anyone or admit that I needed help.

3)   What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?

It is okay to ask for help, and in fact, it is a sign of strength, not weakness to ask for help.  Don’t believe the adults in your life that threaten you and tell you bad things will happen if you ask for help.   There are far more resources available and places that can support you.

4)   What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?

That there is something wrong with you or you are broken or malformed.  You’re a regular human being with issues that many struggles with and there’s nothing shameful or bad or degrading about it.  It is perfectly normal to seek help, and in doing so, you’re much stronger than those who avoid their mental health issues but act as if they have life under control.  I once acted like I had life under control while I was shattering into many pieces inside that I let no one see.

5)   How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future?

I know many still struggle, but when I first started this journey, mental health was such a taboo subject that no one would talk about it.  You couldn’t share that you were on medication.  In those days, there were not the big pharmacy stores, but the small mom & pop stores where you went to get medications.  It felt almost like everyone knew you were on medication.  Seeing one therapist at one point in my life, I remember having to drive 50 miles and making up excuses why I had to leave a little early those days.  I wanted no one to know.  In one job, I had a boss who thought I needed to quit therapy and talk to him.  I was beyond livid at his suggestion because I worked hard to keep my regular life out of my work life.  When my boss did this, it was such a boundary violation.  In the early days, there was no online help or social media, and so you were pretty much on your own.  There was no support from anyone.  I’m glad to see that available more now.

6)   What do you do to get through the bad days?

I’ve got a support network built up now that are there for me if I reach out.  My husband has been through mental health issues, and so he understands.  We support each other.  I find ways to help me through the rough moments including writing, creating music, walking in the park or going to the ocean.  The more I go in life, the more tools I have in my toolbox.  Plus, I get regular intensive healing body work done which helps the bad days not be so bad as much anymore.

7)   Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community?

I continue to work on music that I think helps support and strengthen our connection to a world deeper than we know.  I’m also writing my second full-length book hopefully due out late summer/early fall called “overcoming challenges” about what I’ve done in dealing with what I’ve been through in my life.  My first book, Hope And Possibility Through Trauma was designed as a support and help for those through difficult moments of life.  Plus, I write my blog about healing and the mind body connection.

8)   Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.

The main social media I use is Twitter @MindBodyThought

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