September 28 was no ordinary day if you were a Floridian. Catastrophic storms, earthquakes, or other mass tragedies are scary and devastating for most people, but for those who carry the weight
of PTSD or other mental health disorders, these events are especially frightening. As my family and I sheltered from the storm, like hundreds of thousands of Floridians, I wondered how many with mental health disorders were out there weathering this storm alone without a good support system, or how many might be in shelters, surrounded by strangers, feeling excruciating anxiety and fear. My daughter and niece, both with bipolar disorder, were safe and sound. This mama bear was watching over them. Our main protector was a 20-year Army veteran who also had firefighter, EMT, and safety training. Our home was fortified and a whole-house generator was ready to keep us going through the storm and its
aftermath. As the wind gained strength and the rain reached our home, I
sat looking out into my yard, in quiet contemplation grateful my loved ones
were safe, praying for my fellow Floridians and especially for those who were in Ian’s path.
As I sat in this state of calmness, I noticed a single rose in my
garden; it had grown tall, blossomed, and on this day stood strong against
the wind now pushing it back and forth. As it danced wildly in the wind, a
large Bird of Paradise sheltered its soft yellow petals from the harshest
winds coming in from behind. As each gust of wind aimed at the rose, it
danced along merrily, strongly embedded in the ground by deep roots, and
sheltered by the large loyal plant. After the darkness fell and the; worst of
the storm hit, we were forced to retreat to the inner rooms of my home. I
could no longer watch the carefree rose dance along the winds. We
listened to the roar of the wind and the pounding rains all through the night.
My girls were tense with anxiety but comforted by the strength of our home
and of knowing they were protected.
By morning the winds had calmed, and the rains passed. I went to
my room to look out into my yard to check on the rose. Did it make it
through the storm? Did the Bird of Paradise survive as well? Indeed, they
both endured the storm. To stand tall and weather the power of a hurricane
as impressive as Ian took mighty strong roots, a committed and loyal
support system, and steadfast perseverance.
I gazed out into the bright morning and realized that this rose was
much like a person battling a mental health disorder; and winning. You see,
with a strong root system= Good mental health practices. The person
achieves the stamina and ability to weather times of distress, turmoil, or
upheaval in their life. Developing a trusted support system (the Bird of
Paradise) is paramount to staying on track, having support in times of
distress, and achieving positive outcomes. Strength and believing in
yourself help build up the determination for the continued battle of any
mental health disorder.
These elements contribute to a healthy productive life. Mental health
disorders are manageable and with the proper plan in place can cause little
to no disruption in daily activities. Just as some medical conditions require
certain tools to manage, so do some mental health disorders. But that’s ok.
APUS Active Minds is dedicated to educating and advocating for its members. In
2022-2023, we will be focusing on providing these tools to help our
members grow strong roots or become a trusted support system for a
friend or loved one. Together we can help each other grow in determination
and perseverance for the battle against mental health disorders and
fighting the stigmas.
VP APUS Active Minds