11 things you absolutely must remember in a mental health crisis—number 5 will shock you!

1. No mascara. Unless it’s water proof.  Then you’re good to go, but you won’t get to wash your face for about 48 hours so frankly waterproof mascara is really not your friend.  I stick with my original advice.  No mascara.

2. Just hang up. During a crisis, you will find yourself answering all phone calls even if you don’t recognize the number.  This behavior itself is enough to throw your world totally off kilter.  You will be getting calls from doctors, social workers, case managers, treatment centers etc. You won’t recognize any of these numbers so you will end up answering all calls just so you don’t have to continue to play phone tag with the social worker.  Therefore, you will eventually pick up a call from a telemarketer.

It will be your first instinct to be polite.  You may say something like “my son is in the hospital, and I am waiting for a call from the doctor so I can’t talk right now.”  Don’t expect them to go away.  They have a script, they make minimum wage, they will just reply, “it will only take a moment”.  You may even find yourself saying, “my child is in the hospital because he attempted suicide and I can’t talk right now.”  Then they will say something like, “I’m sorry, but we really want to make sure you have all the cable services you want and let you know about some great promotional offers that are available to you.”

If you had followed my advice you would have already hung up.  If not you will kind of disassociate and see yourself actually saying, “did you understand that I just told you my son tried to kill himself?”  Then you will see yourself react as the telemarketer replies, “my condolences, but this will just take a moment.”  Just hang up and save yourself the futile exercise of trying to figure out if your cable company is run by the minions of hell.

3. Don’t answer your door. The same scenario as above will play out, but this time it will be a single mother trying to get back on her feet by selling magazines and you will have to go back to rule number one: no mascara.

4. Don’t post shit on social media. Just don’t.  It’s not your friend right now.  That being said, watching kitten videos, giraffe births, or panda babies can offer great relief.  Otters too,  don’t forget the otters.

5. One glass of wine during crisis = 10 normal glasses. Plan accordingly.

6. Ask your other child if they have perhaps agreed to take care of anybody’s pets. It may not help, but you will be prepared when the cats haven’t been fed in 2 days and they call you.

7. Get horizontal. No matter how strong you have been in each crisis leading up to this (and you know there have been a lot), your body may yell “Enough!”  You will feel a little dizzy and then you will see a long black tunnel.  This is a vagal faint.  It’s not a big deal unless you refuse to get horizontal on your own. Because your body will absolutely insist.  The floor is a pretty hard landing surface.

8. Apologize when lack of sleep, overwhelming anxiety, and constant nausea lead you release your inner bitch.

9. Listen, and don’t take it personally when lack of sleep, overwhelming anxiety, and constant nausea lead your loved ones to release their inner bitches.

10. Be gentle with yourself and your family. Hug as much as you are able.

11. Breathe

4 thoughts on “11 things you absolutely must remember in a mental health crisis—number 5 will shock you!”

  1. Here’s a note from the other side. The one that listens and finds themselves unhelpful and unable to give any comfort.

    My niece called me after a few texts. She found her mom in a closet in the fetal position crying.

    “Aunt Katie, ” she started, “I don’t know what to do!”

    I called her.

    An hour later I found myself exhausted and feeling horrible because I’ve heard their story many times before and it just gets worse.

    Emily, the niece, and Beth, my sister are always in crisis mode. Ten years ago Emily got bitten by a small tick. It produced a target on her skin so they proceeded to the doctor’s office for help. Lymes disease was on its way to infecting all parts of her healthy body, turning it into a multitude of other afflictions that have limited Emily’s life and caused my sister to retire early and find a solution to her daughter’s life of pain, sleep, medications, friendless and pointless. Ten years later the doctors still don’t know what to do to help. They’ve tried it all. Many medications have caused side affects that can’t be undone.

    They’ve been to NIH, Johns’Hopkins, to name a few.

    Emily has a portal for Iv therapies and her veins have long collapsed.
    She can’t walk more than 10 steps at a time so a wheelchair is always in the car ready for another journey to doctors or hospitals.

    This last hospital run, due to sepsis from her portal, the doctor said, ” If you continue like this you won’t be alive in 5 years time.”

    Her next door neighbor, a young woman of 21, engaged to be married having graduated from Catholic University cum Luade, has the same thing and is still not married or improved.

    My sister’s pastor hasn’t visited. Past friends have no time for Emily. Beth’s friends rarely find time for them. It’s just the two of them one in bed, the other in the closet practically sucking her thumb.

    I listen. I look around and find other people in distress. I’m crippled by the results of an election that promises to kill “Obamacare,” knowing that in a couple months the Cobra care I have will no longer cover me and don’t know where I will turn.

    I’ve moved away from many great friends and a network of artists that kept me inspired because corporate life was no longer viable much less moral.

    I’m empty and lost if I look deeply enough. I feel helpless and a little guilty for having what I do have. Sometimes I think I’m being tested, for what I don’t know.

    1. What a heartbreaking story, Katie. I am so moved that you shared it with us. As you know, this whole blog is basically about sharing our stories to bring comfort and ease to those traveling similar paths. Remembering to be gentle with myself and others, and just remembering to breathe have been the touchstones of my process. Have you ever read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron? I am reading it now and would love to hear your thoughts. Remember a poem a day keeps the… (I can’t remember what it keeps away, but I know it helps). Sending lots of love, hugs, and hope to you, Emily, and Beth.

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