Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thoughts on the bucket challenge and what we do with our personal challenges

I did not participate in the ALS Bucket Challenge, although I did film my neighbor and my daughter.

No one challenged me, but even if they had, I still wouldn't have done it.  After seeing 10,000 posts of friends/neighbors/countrymen dumping frigid water on their heads, I posted something that sort of drew a little ire from friends/neighbors/countrymen.

I wasn't trying to dismiss ALS or do anything that in any way negated the good that can come from raising awareness about horrible diseases that affect people and will hopefully lead to cures or, at the very least, better treatments.

But ALS isn't my pet disease.  Mental health is because it is what I have personally lived.  It is what I struggle with daily.  At this time, it is not life-threatening.  But mental health can be life-threatening (just ask Robin Williams' family).

Cancer is probably my #2 disease.  My mother was treated for breast cancer in 1996, and my father was treated for melanoma in 2007.  We were very fortunate that their cancers were caught early and didn't require chemotherapy.

There are plenty of other diseases that often don't get as much attention as ALS did through the Ice Bucket Challenge but are equally terrifying.  Just ask Heather Von St. James.  Her husband, Cameron, contacted me and asked that I help spread the word about mesothelioma.  That is the disease that has altered the course of their lives.  September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and I am happy to give it a little space in my corner of the bloggy world.

I don't believe that g*d reigns down disease and death on people, but I do see the the power of g*d's purpose and promise in what we do with our diseases, our frailties and how we treat others in the midst of their diseases and frailties.

This has been my experience with my anxiety and OCD.  By sharing my story, I have given comfort and support to others.  There are few good points to having a chronic mental health condition, but helping others has been a positive of the experience.  It makes me feel so grateful when someone emails me and says, "Reading your blog makes me feel less alone."  It makes me feel grateful when someone says, "May I ask you a personal question?" and then asks me about my medications or seeing a psychiatrist.  I can do nothing about having anxiety/OCD.  I can take my medication, take care of my stress level, and see my doctor regularly, but it could morph into something different, require different or more medication.

The power I do have, what I can control, is what I do on the inside.  How I deal with it.  Whether I mine it for something good and share my story.

I suspect Heather feels similarly.  I doubt she is glad she was diagnosed with mesothelioma soon after the birth of her daughter and had to suffer through treatment and all the worry and doubt and despair that goes with it.  But there is empowerment in sharing the story, in raising awareness, even if it doesn't involve cold water and buckets.

Perhaps I've read too much of The Grapes of Wrath, but I like to hear the smaller voices, the ones that don't get all the coverage and hype.

They, too, have deserving stories.

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