Friday, October 20, 2017

Laura Becker: Relationships & Mental Health

Laura Becker and her wife, Ceann, are a great example of what marriage, by definition, should be. A partner who will always be at your side despite the up, downs and diagonals of life. Through the tough road of physical and mental illness together they discuss their struggles and respect boundaries when one of them needs it. A truly remarkable thing to find in another, especially these days it seems. (Yes we said, "these days" don't judge.)

Through our discussion with Laura and Ceann we came to find how their relationship functions as well as how they balance their respective struggles and combat them with each other's assistance.

Laura & Ceann 
Laura lives with Major Depressive Disorder, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) & BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Similar to many stories we've heard for those of you with BPD, she was misdiagnosed. That being said, Laura spent 14yrs of her life with the misdiagnoses of Bipolar 2; something that by now you may know we find reprehensible. She's been on medication for her mental health for 15yrs, but thanks to her newest Psychiatrist (2yrs now) there was a reassessment and correct diagnoses were finally established with a better regime of psychiatric medications, thankfully.

Ceann has multiple-sclerosis 2nd progressive and depression. Her depression is well managed. She takes medication for her mental health once daily and "I'm good,' she says. One thing I found immensely troubling is years ago she had a doctor tell her that she was retaining water in her head due to her menstrual cycle. Basically, guessing her diagnoses based on the fact she was female. This is deeply troubling given she was actually living with MS and it was chalked up to possible vertigo due to mensies. Many of you know we are well aquainted with misdiagnosis and poor care from doctors. I was often "too young" to be so ill and I simply wasn't understanding what the doctor(s) were telling me. After my parts got me (us) to the Mayo Clinic that was changed and they listened, finally, to concerns and took a look at everything instead of trying to get us out of the office as quickly as possible. We despise hearing tales of woe in the misdiagnosis realm, but here we are again. Everyone seems to have these stories in varying degrees and we very much want to work towards these changes.

These women are strong encouraging people who truly have a beautiful story of love and acceptance. Their relationship began when they replied to each other's online personal ad. Ceann had just gotten out of a psychiatric hospital and Laura was dealing with alcoholism (not an unusual chapter for those living with misdiagnoses). Each of them was open and up front about their respective struggles. On their second phone conversation they each disclosed their illnesses to one another. They readily accepted and helped each other. Questions were asked with the desire to better the quality of life for their new partner. We were thrilled to see this, as with any relationship they can be very delicate; when coupled with  both physical and mental health one can experience life on a proverbial tight rope. 

This was not the case, Ceann and Laura are a refreshing and too small of an example pool for open and honest discussion surrounding struggle. Sometimes Laura requires space and Ceann knows so gives it, but other times they know what the other needs and they work on those moments together. 9 years of marriage and openly discussing and supporting each other is a testiment to what a healthy relationship can be. They were married in Canada in 2008 because it wasn't yet legal for them in Minnesota. Fast forward to 2013 when it became legalized in their state they were officially married in their home country. 

When I asked them how long they had been together Ceann explained it perfectly...

"A long time, but not long enough."

What's the best thing about your partner? Most Difficult?

Laura: "She tries to get me and she does more than anyone ever has even though she doesn't have my exact illnesses. Her stubbornness is definitely difficult at times, but we don't really argue or fight. We just know each other and talk things through."

Ceann: " She's my home. On our second date I told her I'm gonna marry her some day. Sometimes how smart she is can be difficult, she's so super duper smart I can never win an argument, but she puts up with my mother living with us. haha."

"The whole package. Her smile. Her laugh. Her Love. Her Acceptance. Her Support." -Ceann

Ceann explained that she tries to be supportive as she can, she doesn't live in Laura's brain, but is supportive where she can be. She asked Laura what she could do and they discuss these things honestly with each other. When Laura needs space, Ceann knows and gives it to her other times they just need to be near one another and can sit in silence. 

Laura, with the support of Ceann, has been in therapy for 3yrs she's been utilizing support groups for addiction and recovery for her alcoholism as well as intensive outpatient groups... With her wife's help she maintain's accountability and balance for her recovery journey. Ceann controls her medication and keeps it locked up. There is a checks and balances through this part of their relationship and it works well for them. 

Do either of you think the LGBT+ Community forgets about their MH? 

When Ceann was young she knew she was gay and one of her biggest desires was to grow up and die. In Minnesota she dealt with a lot of heavy bullying. In adulthood, she believes that some of the problem is in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual). Some "professionals" are still insistent that being gay is a mental illness. Which, personally, I find absolutely ridiculous, moving on...

Through our discussion I found we shared many of the same views on mental health and the LGBT+ communities struggles. Discrimination is still very present as pointed out by the latest election in the US. 

Something we say often is that Mental Health and Mental Illness are two different topics. Everyone has mental health to maintain, but that does not mean you are living with a mental illness. This seems to be often missed regardless of your culture and lifestyle.

"It would be wonderful is such biases and discrimination didn't exist, but LGBT people are still being harmed.." -Ceann

Coming out is still a big deal to people. Ceann and Laura are both very compassionate and through this they do some wonderful work and listen to the people that reach out to them. Regardless of differences, though Ceann admits she is very political and becomes frustrated with things that still occur today (how can you not be though, if you're paying attention?) they work on bettering their lives together. 

If you've been a reader of ours for a while you know we typically end on a favorite quote or positive note. Largely, we prefer reality so here is one last thing that Ceann shared with us about a previous relationship she was in nearly 20 yrs. ago...

"It was about 17 yrs ago. We had bought a house and had to deal with consistent badgering and discrimination. Having our neighbors shout "dykes/queers" at us became a fairly constant piece of our reality. Unfortunately, we were told there was nothing we could do about it as we didn't have "proof." It escalated to the point that one of our windows was shot out with a gun!" -Ceann

This is not the reality anyone should face. The mental health and LBTQ+ Community need to use their respective voices together. Why this isn't commonly accepted especially given we're in 2017 people...Before I get off on a tangent here at the end I'm going to end here simply with words from Ceann, whom we found to be beautifully well spoken in her simplicity. 

Home. That is something we've never felt. Regardless of whom we were with or where we were. I never have had a home, nor could I fully understand what that could be until I spoke with these two compassionate woman. If you believe in the adage, "If you see something say something," then you should be able to utilize this verse in all aspects of life. Wrong is wrong and it should truly be that simple. 

"She's my home." -Ceann

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