Renee Raven Wants You to #Work2BeWell, a Free Mental Health Service From Covenant
Some of the content of this article might be upsetting. If you think it might be, just take my word for it and head over to work2bewell.org.
I have struggled with mental illness since I was about 10 years old. I was sick a lot as a child, so I was always the gross, snotty, weird kid that was in and out of the hospital for weeks.
My illness required me to be woken up frequently at odd hours to get yet another painful stick. Once, my arms were so black, swollen, and bruised that I could not bend them. I clearly remember a male nurse yelling "you're disgusting" at me because my long hair wasn't brushed. My lung was collapsed and I couldn't breathe well enough to sit up, let alone brush my hair.
To this day, I still believe that I am disgusting. The healthy kids in the play area sure thought I was something else, trailing an oxygen tank behind me. They probably had a dying relative in the hospital, and then they had to deal with a mucousy ghoul there to remind them of their own mortality. My short-term memory is shot, but I remember the look of abject horror on their little faces like it happened during my lunch break.
Because of my medical trauma and some other things I won't mention, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
PTSD is a brain injury that has caused me panic attacks, estrangement, self-harm, irritability, and most recently, sleep paralysis. I have been diagnosed with comorbid PTSD, because it's coupled with clinical anxiety and depression.
I absolutely despise the word 'triggered,' but I do get triggered for lack of a less horribly misused word. For instance, I heard my former co-worker Kelly's voice on a recording today and I strongly considered just giving everything up and jumping into traffic. But here's the thing: I have plenty of free socks. I don't need another pair.
(Some of you know about free socks. The kind that has no elastic so they spill around your ankles. Some of you know about paper blankets that are warm, but have no weight. Some of you know about getting frisked for razor blades. Some of you know about Benadryl naps and the endless boredom of sitting alone, yet not alone, because you are being watched by a nurse in another room. If you know about free socks, please know that I am so grateful that you are here, and mine are maroon, yellow, and tan.)
So many of us suffer so deeply, and so needlessly. I'm going to be really blunt: the mental healthcare in this county is absolute donkey crap. It's expensive, it's exclusive, and it's commonly punitive. I had a cop put me in a hold, bruising my wrists, for putting my own head in an oven. His grip brought flashes of an ex-boyfriend back and I slammed my head into a wall just to make the image go away. He was not thrilled at my behavior and warned me the next time I'd be leaving my apartment in a cop car.
All of this gut-spilling is to say: I believe you, and you are not alone. You are not irredeemable or unsavable, and you are loved.
This is why I am so passionate about mental health, and why I am so grateful for Covenant's work2bewell initiative.
The initiative helps you help yourself with free resources like videos, podcasts, and access to crisis lines. If you're struggling with any mental illness, including addiction or an eating disorder, I highly encourage you to check it out. If you need specialized resources for LGBTQ+, youth, or minority resources, they have you covered as well.
It costs nothing to check out, and they are not trying to sell you anything. If you're worried about getting caught looking at mental health resources, well, that's one reason why incognito mode exists. But anyone who would shame you for seeking help doesn't deserve to be in your life.
Just like a cancer patient isn't a cancer, a mental illness does not define you, although it may shape your experiences. And that doesn't have to be a negative thing. It could be the genesis of beautiful art, writing, or whatever you're passionate about.
If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts, go to the ER immediately. You'll get free socks. If that's too overwhelming, call the crisis line at 1-800-273-8255. Don't want to talk to a stranger? Reach out to a friend you trust. Every single day I wish to god my darling friend would have called me. Don't be the reason your friends have sleep paralysis now. And thank you so deeply to the friends who have been there when I needed them most.
I do want to say one more thing, and it's a corny analogy, but I want you to take it to heart if you have a mental illness. Have you ever played a role-playing game and started as a magical class character? Chances are you got your butt kicked immediately by the most trivial things. But the more you got back up and earned experience points (EXP), the more mana you were able to store. Things will happen, and your mana will get drained, and then you're running around just dodging rocks and praying for the best. But the mana comes back. It always refills eventually. And while it might be much harder to be a wizard, a fighter never gets to shoot lightning out of their hands.
You are magic. Your differences make you magic. You are unique and beautiful and don't you dare forget it. But if you need a little help, go get it.