Time to help others - Support for mental illness is closer to home than you think
Record & Clarion - 5/2/2018
BEAVERTON ? In the United States, 43.8 million adults deal with mental illness in a given year. To put that in perspective, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. This means that even if you do not deal with mental illness, several people that you know do. It begs the question, if this is the case, then why is there a stigma about mental illness?
Suzanne Deyarmond, of Beaverton, wonders this daily. As a self-described mental health survivor, she is speaking out about her journey in hopes that it will help people who are currently struggling, or possibly lend compassion to those who do not understand mental illness.
Deyarmond's journey began in 1986 when she began drinking after a three-year relationship ended. She believes this may be the time her illness began.
In 1987, she became pregnant with her first child. When she was seven months pregnant, an unnamed person punched her in the stomach. Shortly after that, she began leaking amniotic fluid.
She was taken to the hospital and found she was septic from a pelvic blood clot that had resulted from the punch to the stomach. While running a 104-degree fever, they delivered the baby 7-9 weeks early via c-section. Deyarmond's daughter was 4lbs 11oz and spent the first month of her life in the NICU.
Deyarmond went from Gladwin to Saginaw each day to get her blood drawn and to see her daughter. She soon became exhausted and suffered from Postpartum Depression. She was checked in to the Mental Health unit of MidMichigan Medical in Midland.
Deyarmond hallucinated during this time, resulting in her being turned in as an unfit mother by an anonymous source. Though she didn't lose her daughter, this incident was the first significant time that Deyarmond's label of mental illness was held against her in a personal way.
It was during this time that Deyarmond met her husband Richard. On their first date, they went to see "Good Morning Vietnam", a movie starring an actor who silently fought his own battle with mental illness that he would eventually lose.
The couple had a special place in their hearts for Robin Williams and were devastated when the news broke that he had died. "Everyone thought he was Mr. Funny, but people hide. They are ashamed and embarrassed, but I'm tired of it. It needs to be talked about," Deyarmond said.
This attitude has lead Deyarmond to become an advocate for mental health. She has spoken at National Alliance on Mental Health support group (nami.org) in Midland, Shon Patteen Suicide Prevention Awareness Benefit, and has started support groups in Beaverton for both those with mental illnesses and their family members.
Her family is a large part of Deyarmond successfully living with chronic mental illness. In low periods of her life she, like many dealing with mental illness, has considered suicide. Her family is what kept her alive. "I thought, I can't kill myself. My husband will find me, my children will find me," Deyarmond said.
Though Deyarmond stayed level for 17 years, she had an episode when she was given steroids for an asthma attack. "I was extremely unconnected with reality at this time," Deyarmond said.
She was diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder, a psychological disorder sometimes called manic-depressive illness that causes extreme mood swing shifts from depressive lows to manic highs.
Fourteen years later, Deyarmond had Lithium toxicity and she was once again treated at MidMichigan Medical.
Many people don't realize that those with mental illnesses can go years between episodes. For Deyarmond, it comes down to treating her mental illness like any other illness. "It's important to follow up with your doctor and keep taking your medicine as prescribed by your doctor," Deyarmond said. Though mental illness is an illness like any other, there are still stigmas surrounding it. These stigmas don't only affect those with mental illness, but also their families, and it seems to be the side effect that doctors don't talk about.
Deyarmond is making the effort to correct this with her support groups. Finding a support system is one of the biggest hurdles facing someone dealing with mental illness. Due to the prevailing stigma against mental illness in society, it is often difficult for people to make genuine connections. As a wife and mother, Deyarmond is proof that it is possible.
Deyarmond is proud of the connections she has made and where she is at in her life. Many in her situation never achieve the things she has been able to. They are given labels by society and cease to be their own person. They are viewed simply as a walking embodiment of their diagnosis.
Deyarmond chooses her own labels: wife, mother, grandmother, speaker, and of course, survivor.
The support groups take place every other Monday and Wednesday at the Beaverton Activity Center. From 5:30-6:30 p.m. is for those dealing with mental illness, and from 6:45-7:45 p.m. is for the families of people with mental illness. For more information on the support groups, contact Deyarmond at firstname.lastname@example.org. Upcoming meetings: May 7, 16, 21, and 30; June 4, 13, 18, and 27.