Category Archives: awareness month

MH – Tribute to mental health professionals, and an early series end

I’ve decided to end the mental health series early, without completing thirty posts. I have to take care of my own mental health, and this month has really gotten me down.

I really agonized over this. Thinking to myself that it would be selfish of me to let my own feelings stop me from doing an entire month, that since everything I’ve learned so far has affected me so dramatically, that it was even more important to get awareness out there.

But I had to think back to a conversation I had with Carol about a month ago. We were talking about our capacities to be of service and how we’re limited do to our respective disabilities. Carol made a really good point. She said something like, there are plenty of people in the world who can help. We don’t have to be the one to save everyone.

That really stuck with me and I’ve been working really hard over the last few months to set limitations, to take care of myself first. I cannot transmit something I haven’t got, meaning I’m not being of service if my heart isn’t in it, if I’m not mentally sound enough.

And I’m not mentally sound enough to continue digging up information for posts. I think we got some really great guest posts. I think all of the guest bloggers really gave us a personal glimpse into mental illness. I want to keep it that way. I don’t want to post half hearted attempts to find something to post about and give my own skewed opinions, through a haze of my own blue filter.

This leads me to want to send a tremendous thanks to those mental health professionals who can. Those people who went through the grueling schooling and training to be able to listen to others for hours on end, those people who are able to push away their own thoughts and opinions to reach out and help another.

Someone very close to me is a social worker. What he goes through…what he sees…the things he has to fight for, trying to fight for the rights of his clients in a system that cares more for the dollar than for human life. I already had a deep respect for him and others in the field, but it wasn’t until I started trying to write a post each day about mental health, that I realized the depth of what these people go through on a day to day basis. I only touched on it. I only took a small glimpse into that world. Mental health professionals do it every day. They are there to council us, to hold our hand, to be our advocates. It takes a special kind of person to fit that role, and I know I am not it.

So I close this series now, on that note. I know it’s the right decision for me. Hopefully if there has been any theme to what I did post, it’s that help is out there, people have recovered. I can say with certainty that most people who work in mental health are prepared and ready for those of us who need their help.

The rest of May is still mental health awareness month. You can still go learn something. Go Google something you’ve always wondered about. Make yourself aware. And remember that we never know what someone “out there” might be going through when we think they’re rude or a little ‘off’.

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MH – Hording

The other night I checked Discovery Health to see if any of my shows were on, and there was a show about hording. In the show, they had done kind of an intervention of sorts and had brought in a guy to help these people. The one guy’s house was so packed full of stuff that you had to walk on stuff to get around. The guy had a path that you were allowed to walk through, marked with bags and such. You could hear him telling the therapist and the camera crew where they were allowed to step.

I looked it up and found an interesting site, where it talks about the beginning studies of hording and such.

I tend to hang on to stuff that has some sort of sentimental value, but it’s nothing like what these people suffer from. Hording is definitely a paralyzing affliction.

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MH – A positive perspective *guest blogger*

Today’s guest post comes from Rachel. (name used with permission) I really like her positive outlook on living life with a mental illness. She has definitely found the coping skills needed to attack life. Thank you for sharing with us Rachel!

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Living With Mental Illness

When I first heard about mental health awareness month I thought it was a great idea. I thought initially I would share about my diagnosis, but there’s more to me then a label or my disability or the color of my hair, so I thought I would share how it is to live day-to-day with a mental illness.

When someone meets me, they first notice my blindness since I have a guide dog. A person won’t even notice my mental illness, although it took a long time for that to happen. I’m glad that even though I have my moments of mental illness they are far and few between. It’s not something I’m hiding, I just don’t let it stop me from achieving my goals and living a happy productive life.

There have been times in my life that I wasn’t as stable, and I know I’ve made mistakes as a result of that instability. However, thanks to a great support system and great coping skills I am a much more stable, content person.

The best advice I would give to someone who has a mental illness or is down and experiencing any symptoms of depression such as not eating, eating to much or sleeping to little or to much is to seek help. Help in most circumstances is only a phone call away, or as was pointed out earlier on the blog you can get help by going online. I want you to know this, though. Even though we all have good days, we also will have bad days mental health wise. Just know that no matter what you’re going through, someone somewhere understands, and you’re not alone.

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I really like how Rachel says there is more to her than her mental illness. I know for me, it’s been a big help to focus on me, and less on my disability and struggles. Strength comes from within, once we get the help in finding the skills to rely on that strength.

Thanks again, Rachel!

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Mh – Living with PTSD *guest blogger*

I received this entry in my inbox from Anonymous today and if this doesn’t explain what it’s like to live with PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, I don’t know what does. I had to absorb this before I was ready to post, so I will give a warning that this is a very intense post. Anonymous told me it was very cathartic and helpful to write, so I’m glad to provide the medium for this person to share. All I can say is wow. I won’t be writing a closing to this post. Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing. I hope sharing this helps another, like it’s helped you; maybe if someone reads this, they’ll know they’re not alone.

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Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When I was a child growing up in western Nebraska’s “Panhandle”, our family lived in a house on a hill on the outskirts of our tiny, isolated railroad town. Just down the hill, there was a small lake, called Lang Lake. One winter, when I was around ten years old, I found myself walking home from school alone. I came to the edge of the frozen lake and stood there for some time, listening to two voices. One told me to take the snow-covered path around the lake and up the hill, and go home. The other voice came from the middle of the lake, calling me out onto the ice. I listened to that voice, and, with my backpack and Muppets lunch pail in hand, took a cautious step out onto the ice. I discerned the spot where the ice was most thin and perilous, and walked directly out onto the middle of the lake. The ice was so thin that the lakeweeds underneath eerily brushed the top of the ice, and I stood, as frozen as the lake itself, on that spot of clear, thin ice, staring down at dead lakeweeds in the frozen water underneath. I was alternately filled with horror and hope—horror at the thought that I could plunge any second into those murky, icy waters, and hope that it would indeed happen. There is no more to remember after that. I must have gone home. But, twenty-five years later, I still see those frozen lakeweeds in dark waters beneath my feet, and sometimes, today, the ice cracks and I sink below into the depths, and the ice closes over my head.

It has come to my attention recently, at age thirty-five, that there are Two. I realized this a couple of days ago as I was leisurely enjoying a cup of coffee with my mom on a lazy weekend morning. I mentioned to her that someone different was living inside my body—someone I hadn’t seen in twenty years. I told my mom that I had to somehow find the Other One again, the one that I had created, patched together, invented. This One that I have desperately worked so hard to create is utterly unlike the Other, Ancient one. The One that I have come to know and love is extraverted, outgoing, funny, wild, adventurous, joyful. The Ancient One hated people, couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, was terrified and was powerless. I thought she had died when I was fourteen, and a started out from scratch to make a new One. But here she is, very much alive, and very much living inside me.

I called the twenty-four hour crisis hotline three days ago, because my therapist had a family emergency and was out of the office for a few days. I told the crisis counselor on the phone what was happening to me, and asked her if I was going crazy. I told her I have memories that are intense and overwhelming. I told her that sometimes, the memories cease to be memories, because that would imply that they are firmly placed in the past. Instead, they become my present, and everything about my past is suddenly real, I am reliving it, and there is danger all around. She told me that this is a “flashback.” Okay, so I’m having flashbacks too. What else? I wake up every night at two or three in the morning, and can’t get back to sleep. I often spend days coasting on three or four hours of sleep a night.

And I startle! I work as a cashier at a bookstore, and, the day I called the crisis line, a very tall, imposing man came to the register to pay for his items. He leaned, quite suddenly, over the counter to toss his coffee cup in my trash can, and my heart stopped. I jumped two feet backwards. After I got my bearings and my heartbeat slowed down, I was consumed with rage at this man. How dare that bastard . . . . . how dare he . . . . how dare he! I wanted to hit him. Later in the day, I was sitting alone in one of The Rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, having arrived first. I was sitting in my favorite, comfy recliner in the room, waiting for the others to arrive, drinking a cup of hot coffee. Suddenly, R. opened the door loudly and came in. I threw my cup of coffee ten feet in the air, soaking my hair, my clothes, my purse, and the recliner. R. was baffled and felt horrible. I was baffled and felt horrible.

The most disarming thing, though, is the rage. In my program of Alcoholics Anonymous, we often talk about resentments. But these are not resentments—this is RAGE. The New One can now recall what happened to the Ancient One—she remembers now that when the Ancient One was ten, he would separate her from the rest of the kids on the playground. He would bark out her last name and would take her away, off in the distance. He had very muscular, powerful arms, and he would wrap one of his arms around her neck, while he did things to her. And the New One steps into the shoes of the Ancient One and sees the sinewy bicep, feels the tightness around her neck and the terror of being strangled, senses the unreality and disbelief as the touching begins, and hears the questions he asks: “How are things at home? Do your parents fight a lot? Do you hate it at home?”

Now at age thirty-five, for the first time, there is rage. The New One and the Ancient One fuse frequently these days, and they, together, add a new scene to the memory. The Two come together, rip that muscular bicep right out of its shoulder socket, and beat him to death with it. I told my new sponsor yesterday that I think I might be homicidal, and that I wish the motherf*@#$ weren’t dead, because now I don’t have the opportunity to kill him. I don’t have the opportunity to make him feel the terror little children felt as he screamed, hurled objects like chairs and basketballs at us, touched us and told us he would kill us if we told.

But I told. In the three-and-a-half year brutal litigation that followed, as my parents and I fought to put this man behind bars—unsuccessfully–I listened to the song “Invincible” by Pat Benatar a lot.

“This shattered dream you cannot justify
We’re gonna scream until we’re satisfied
What are we running for?
We’ve got the right to be angry
What are we running for?
When there’s no where we can run to anymore.”

The upshot of PTSD? I’m gonna scream until I’m satisfied.

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MH – Phobias and anxiety *guest blogger*

Thank you Katrin, (name used with permission) for contributing this post and explaining how a phobia is developed very early on and can be disasterous when not respected. I really appreciate you sharing this with me, and like I’ve said, I really wanted to keep this series as personal as possible. Guest posts are so valuable, in my opinion, to really get a message acrossed.

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Phobia: An unreasonable sort of fear that can cause avoidance and panic. Phobias are a relatively common type of anxiety disorder.

Panic: A sudden strong feeling of fear that prevents reasonable thought or action.

A phobia of a situation, animal, object, etc is something that prevents reasonable thought or action. In other words, the person can’t just “get over it” by force of will power. Generally phobias need to be worked through with various types of behavior modification such as systematic desensitization or cognitive behavioral therapy and it can take years for treatment to reach a level where the person can now rationally and reasonably look at what is happening at that moment in time.

Sometimes phobias are of things that can, if the phobia is not treated, cause the person harm. For example I have a phobia of needles, specifically needles that inject or draw things in or out of my person. This phobia began many, many years ago when I was a child and was inappropriately treated at my pediatricians office for routine blood draws and inoculations. At that time I was a young child so had no control over the situation and no one addressed my fears of being restrained and I felt attacked and assaulted every time there were needles involved from the time I can remember on, which was about age 2.

Once I reached an age that I could more effectively communicate my fears, I was still ignored and told that I was being unreasonable at that these procedures had to be done and I needed to get over it. Guess what? I didn’t. Time after time I was placed in flooding situations where my fight or flight mechanism clicked into play and very quickly a thoroughly engrained phobia arose.

Having a phobia of this type can be very dangerous especially if you are in the situation where you need medical attention that requires needles.

For many years I avoided this problem. I just couldn’t handle reliving those memories of those traumatic experiences. Just thinking about having lab work would send me into a panic and meltdown. Then over time, with work, it got to where I could manage having blood drawn if it was done in a very specific way that I felt I was in control of the situation and the lab technicians were listening and respecting what I had to say. I still cannot handle having injections done.

I really felt that I had made progress on this and for the past few years have found a lab that generally respects my problems and works with me to get what blood draws need to be done accomplished with the least amount of stress to me. That was until recently. I take a medication currently that requires yearly lab work to test for certain levels in your blood to make sure the level is not too high. The time had come around for that yearly test so my sister drove me to the hospital where I normally have a good rapport with the technicians, except this time things went very wrong.

This time the technicians did not respect what I said and were belittling. I was told I was being uncooperative and that I should get over it. I felt that I was being very cooperative. I was being calm, I was being rational, I was being communicative of what I was capable of doing and not doing. I was told that I was not giving them options. I did give them options, I just did not give them one specific option that they wanted in particular as at this time I am incapable of having blood drawn from one specific place due to my previous history when I was a child. I am still working on that. The fact that I was able to sit there all the while I was being told that I was not being a “good patient” and that I was choosing to be “difficult” and not have a meltdown or just get up and leave was a testament to how far I have come in the past 5 years even with having blood draws done.

Finally the technician agreed to take the blood the way I asked her to and I was able to leave. At which point I had my meltdown in the car and in my own home for the rest of the day. I felt like I had just taken about 10 huge steps backwards in the process. Simply because the technicians that day were unable to listen to me when I attempted to very clearly explain my phobia and how I needed to have things done in order to get my blood successfully drawn. Instead she felt the need to belittle me and tell me that I just needed to get over my fears. I am sorry but if only it were that simple.

Phobias are real problems. They are not simple silly things that can be turned on or off at will. They are not things that a person can just “get over.” I will now have to go back and work twice as hard to get myself back to the point where I was before I had my most recent blood draw. All because one person decided that a phobia was not a real problem and that what I had to say was not to be respected or listened to.

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I have to say I’m sickened by the way you were treated in the lab. I was a phlebotomist back in my sighted days and while I might have thought some requests were a little odd, I always did what the patient wanted with a smile on my face. I had patients that had to lay down, I had patients request a certain kind of needle, I had one patient request a spray that makes the skin cold. I always wanted my patients to be comfortable, and I’m just sickened by how you were treated.

We never know why someone needs something done a certain way. While it might not make sense to us, we have no idea what someone has been through in their past that might have cause a phobia and lasting anxiety. Again, I think a little understanding would have improved this situation. Again, the running theme here is that we need to be understanding of our fellow humans.

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MH – PsychCentral.com

I want to tell you all about an incredible online resource for mental health. PsychCentral is a huge community of forums, articles, resources and even fun. They have a forum for anything and everything. The place has grown in leaps and bounds since I found it back in 2004.

I’ve mentioned it here before, about how I found PC back when I was depressed in a relationship. I joined the community and started posting and hanging out in the chatroom. I found others who understood what I was going through and if they didn’t have advice, they offered hugs. In the ‘social chat’ forum, people wrote jokes or played games or left links to fun stuff. In the ‘kudos’ forum, people left hugs for one another or birthday wishes. It soon became a family, and it was where I could go to not feel quite so lonely. I really believe that PC saved my life until I got sober.

Dr. John Grohol runs the site, and he’d do weekly chats where you could go in and ask him questions. He was always open to suggestions for the site. He had moderators, people who had been members for awhile, who went and made sure all the content was suitable, or would go into chat when an issue arose. Eventually I was made a moderator and it made me feel so useful. At that point, I had been diagnosed with MS and couldn’t work, so I was on PC all the time. When I was made a moderator, I felt like I had a purpose.

I specifically remember a time when a teen member hailed me and told me a guy was sexually harassing her in chat. I logged in and began a private chat with him, pretending I was like fourteen. After he came on to me, I was able to ban him from the site.

Everyone at PC takes care of each other, watches out for each other. We mother the teens. We are sisters and brothers to each other.

When I went blind, I had B log in to the mod forum and tell them what had happened. I had him leave my phone number, and they called me. They would tell me what was going on at PC. One of the mods sent a message to my then best friend on the site, and she would call me and read me messages.

When I went to the Apple store to check out Voiceover, I told them I wanted to access PC and if I couldn’t, I wasn’t interested. I was able to write a message that night in the store, bought the computer and by the next day I had pages of messages, welcoming me back. I spent a lot of time at PC in those first few months with the computer while I was learning it. I haven’t visited there in so long now, just because of lack of time, other committments like the blog, and the site is definitely daunting with a screen reader. Much to my dismay, the layout had been changed in the time between going blind and getting my Apple haha! It’s like moving furniture on a blind person hehe.

But I know if I ever need them, all I have to do is log in and ask for help, and the hugs will come pouring in.

PsychCentral is an amazing place. If you’re feeling lonely and just want someone who understands, go check it out. I guarantee someone there will understand.

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MH – AZ’s other problem

I was gonna write this huge post about the problem in Arizona that the immigration stuff is upstaging. I was gonna rant and rave and share a little about some of what’s going on due to the Recovery Act. I really was gonna do all that. But I’m taking care of my own mental health and I’m not gonna dive into it. When I talk about this stuff, my heart races and I get really upset and I just can’t do that.

Luckily, I have an article that Carol told me about and it explains it all. Please, take a few minutes to see what’s going to happen to our mentally ill. It’s not getting any attention because all anyone cares about is immigration. Well, people are going to die when it comes to mental health. Oh there goes my heart, ok I can’t write anymore.

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MH – Middle school made me suicidal

I just wrote a rant about how this country is boycotting Arizona and it made me think about my school days. Those are days I don’t think about often, but it just occured to me that bullying in school most definitely affected my mental health way back then and even into my adult years. I don’t think I’ve written about it much here, maybe in a ‘my story’ post, but I don’t feel like hunting.

When I started sixth grade, it all went down hill. I grew up in a part of town and in a school district where white was the minority. It didn’t matter in elementary school. I had lots of friends. But something changed when I got to sixth grade. The people who were my friends suddenly hated me because of the color of my skin.

I faced the usual taunts. I didn’t wear the right labels, didn’t wear Nike shoes and Guess jeans. I didn’t have cold jewlery dripping from every part of me. My hair was straight. I think every kid goes through that, but the other taunts I faced had be suicidal in seventh grade. At the time I didn’t realize what it was, wanting to die rather than go to school.

I was constantly called f*cking white b*tch. There was always swearing about white people. I was a good kid, I got good grades and I was hated for that too.

My mom had to talk to the principal of the school because I was begging her to let me shave my legs because all the other girls did and they made fun of me for it.

For some reason, middle school was the worst. The kids were just awful. A girl tried to pick a fight with me one day and I asked her why she hated me so much. She said, “because of what your ancestors did to mine”. So obviously the kids were being taught to hate us by their parents.

By the time I got to high school, I was finally just ignored. I bonded with the other white kids and we called ourselves “the freaks”. We wore goth clothes and listened to metal and a lot of the kids got into drugs and drinking.

I feel lucky that I got out of all that fairly unscathed. But I made the decision way back then not to have kids. Maybe that’s something I took with me from that experience, I don’t know.

I ended up doing a lot of work on those days when I got sober and then even more in therapy. I think back on those days and how miserable I was. How scared I was to go to school. I’m so lucky that I didn’t end up blowing up the school…or killing myself as so many kids are doing today.

I have to say I understood the kids at Columbine. I understood them. That’s sad, and I’m not saying I condone that kind of thing, but I understand it.

I guess I just wanted to talk about how bullying affects a kid’s mental health. If your kid is a bully, do something. And don’t teach your kids racist bull.

I really struggled with my decision not to have children. I almost felt obligated because I knew I’d be a good parent. At my high school we had a class you could take to learn about child care, and the kids you took care of were kids of your classmate’s so they could attend school. Wow. I used to think I had better marry and have children when I grew up so there would be good parents out there. But then I couldn’t stand the thought of having a child and having them go through what I went through.

Even now as I’m writing all this, the old rage is building up. I had better stop, drink some coffee, and play with my dog.

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MH – Mental health days

In my opinion, we all need mental health days, whether we have a mental health condition or not. So I thought I’d write about what I do when I need a mental health day.

I’ve mentioned before that crochet is one of my favorite things to do when I need a day to relax. For me, my physical health plays into my mental health, for sure, so when I’m really fatigued, I have to listen to that, and sometimes it can really get me down. The last week and a half or so has been like that. With the weather change comes pressure change and I’m down physically for a bit. When this happens, I really need to watch my mental health, because I can spiral down pretty quickly. I had a touch of anxiety yesterday, feeling so tired but pushing through it so Jayden could have a good long walk. My mind starts going and I’m already thinking about how tired I’m gonna be and yesterday it actually brought on a mild anxiety attack as I rode with Dave to the historic neighborhood for Jayden’s walk. It helped to talk about it and I was able to keep the tears away.

Ok I got kinda sidetracked, but my point was, that I can get really down during the bouts of fatigue. So deciding to crochet to a book really helps. I feel like I’m being productive through the fatigue and creativity also helps.

Being on the computer is also something I enjoy when I’m in a fatigue, though sometimes even that is too much. Blogging helps, especially doing this series, and talking with my online friends is great to help with the lonliness that the fatigue causes.

My new hobby, writing, is huge too. It’s pretty awesome to suddenly get a brain wave, run to the computer and begin writing, letting the creativity pour out of me. It’s instant gratification too, since I can instantly read what I’ve created.

I can’t leave out baseball, either. The excitement it brings, the anticipation waiting for the game to start, the whole experience, is great for my mental health.

And animals. Oh, the animals. Except I think I might kill Timmy. After his escapes, he just whines by the door, driving me mad! But Jayden, my therapy dog, is such a huge help for my mental health. When I need affection, he’s right there to give it to me, giving me kisses or cuddling. He brings me so much joy!

So those are some of things I’ve found that help when I’m having a low mental health day. What do you do?

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Mh – Upside of depression

“For Darwin, depression was a clarifying force, focusing the mind on its most essential problems. In his autobiography, he speculated on the purpose of such misery; his evolutionary theory was shadowed by his own life story. “Pain or suffering of any kind,” he wrote, “if long continued, causes depression and lessens the power of action, yet it is well adapted to make a creature guard itself against any great or sudden evil.” And so sorrow was explained away, because pleasure was not enough. Sometimes, Darwin wrote, it is the sadness that informs as it “leads an animal to pursue that course of action which is most beneficial.” The darkness was a kind of light.” – New York Times article

Thank you Sadia for sending me the above linked article.

Ok, go read it. Wow. It’s seven pages so grab some coffee or something, sit back, and read. The article talks about the benefits of depression. Benefits? Really? Yeah. It gets into a lot of clinical stuff, but the underlying theme is that when we’re depressed, we’re more able to focus on our problems. Yeah, duh, we’re depressed because we’re focusing on our problems. Chicken? Egg? So something triggers a depressed episode, be it life events or a chemical imbalance. We get down, we get blue, we don’t get out of bed. We ruminate on the problem, over and over and over, right? Well, the theory in the article is that we’re more apt to come to some sort of conclusion and find some sort of solution because we’re so focused on the problem. For the lucky ones anyway, who don’t do a permanent escape.

For me, as a spiritual person, pain is the cornerstone of spiritual growth. I had a sponsor tell me that she’d never stand in the way of my pain, because I’d eventually learn from it. How true that is. When I was depressed, I finally asked for help and got into therapy. And we ended up working on so much more than just being depressed about being blind. My sessions with her taught me more about myself than anything ever has, and depression led to that. So you know what? I can buy that there’s an upside to depression. Go read the article. See what you think…

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