Category Archives: awareness month

Mh – Thoughts on suicide as a symptom of depression *guest blogger* (edited to add links)

Sadia sent me the following guest blog. (name and links used with permission)

***

My co-worker’s son’s obituary read, in part, “He lost his long battle with depression.”

In the middle of the family’s tragedy, it was a ray of light to have his suicide mentioned so sensitively. There was no shame in it, only grief. Depression is a real disease and yes, a person can die from it. The fact that a depressed person dies from their own hand and by their own will makes suicide no less a symptom of a terrible disease.

I’m no stranger to suicide. The man I dated in college killed himself a few years after we broke up. His depression started after his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, which resulted from extensive testing into his debilitating headaches. An aunt committed suicide, leaving behind four young sons. She had asked her mother for help in leaving her husband, but the stigma of a divorced daughter was unthinkable in South Asian culture. When my own mother left my father several years later, the family was far more supportive.

I’ve struggled with my own thoughts of suicide.

I don’t know whether all suicide attempts stem from the disease of depression. I doubt it. I think spur-of-the-moment attempts that happen to succeed are likely not connected to depression. I think that many children and teens who attempt to kill themselves to punish their friends or parents for some slight often don’t fully comprehend the finality of death. However, I’ve lived through long-term, detailed planning of my own death, designed to end my own pain and to minimize inconvenience to others. I’ve lived through months of knowing, both intellectually and emotionally, that death was a logical solution to the agony of living. I’ve also lived through the lifting of the veil of depression, through the help of medication and talk therapy, to realize how my depressed brain skewed my thoughts.

Had I given in to the disease, I would not yesterday have celebrated the birthday of my amazing four-year-old daughters. I would never even have had conceived them. I haven’t had a suicidal thought in a few weeks. I am smart enough to recognize them for what they are: mis-firings of a brain in which the chemical balance is off-kilter for some reason. It’s scary not to be able to trust your own thoughts. I’m glad that I second-guess my instincts. I think it makes me a more stable person and a more stable mother.

Still, suicide is a symptom of depression, and I have depression. It scares me. Having lived through the aftermath of a friend’s suicide, I would never want to put my children through that. I will continue to fight this disease, but it I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it sometimes looks so much easier just to give in.

***

Thank you for posting so openly with us about your journey, your experience with suicide and your ability to fight it. I wish everyone thought the way you do, before ending their lives. I’m so glad you have gotten through the depression and suicidal ideations because I’m honored to call you my friend, and I would be among the devastated if you left us.

Depression is real. Suicidal thoughts are real. Like the line in the obituary above, let’s be open about it, stop hiding it, shine light on it, and maybe then, people will be more apt to talk to another before making the ultimate permanent decision.

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MH – Is the word ‘depressed’ used too much?

I was sitting here wondering what to look up for today’s post and I really don’t want to just look something up and write something about it and give a link. Yes, we can all stand to learn more about specific disorders for mental health awareness month, but I’m feeling kinda blue this morning and decided that warranted a topic for discussion.

I used to listen to Dr. Laura religiously on the radio every day. I had never been a talk radio listener until I got sick of audio books one day and started fiddling with the dial. At first it was sports talk when baseball was on but one day I went up a channel and found a political talk show. I left it on and Dr. Laura came on after. I didn’t agree with a lot of her views, but when it came to how to do the right thing, how to be a good person, how to be a girlfriend, I really learned a lot from her.

One of the things that drives her nuts is when callers say they’re depressed because they lost their job, or they’re depressed because they snapped at their husband. Dr. Laura always asked if the callers couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, etc. She would end up telling the caller there is a difference between being depressed and feeling blue. I really agree with this.

I definitely have my blue days. Sometimes it’s even more than feeling a little blue, days where everything annoys me, nothing brings me pleasure etc. Usually it comes down to something I’m not handling, or maybe it’s an anniversary that makes me sad. So those are sad days. But they go away and usually it’s only a day or two, sometimes a little more.

When I first went blind, that was depression. I didn’t want to get out of bed, rarely got dressed, let the house go, enjoyed nothing and cried all the time. As Carin points out though, and Amanda too, I still had days where I smiled and made jokes. But I was depressed then. It didn’t pass until I got help.

Days like today, because it’s Mother’s Day and I miss my mom, I’m sad. I’m blue. But I’m not depressed and I won’t say, “man I’m depressed today”.

When your dog knows a command, like when I tell Jayden to sit, it looses power if I say it repeatedly. I was taught to say sit and if he didn’t, to use leash action. Because saying the word too much takes the power out of it.

I really think that’s happening with depression in our society. Couldn’t it hold that since we all say we’re depressed at work the day after we fight with our boyfriend or we’re depressed because a tv show ended, that we’re taking power out of the word? So that people with depression maybe aren’t taken as seriously as they need to be?

I really watch it now, after hearing that from Dr. Laura, and since I’ve experienced depression. I’m having a sad day, I’m sad today, I’m feeling blue. But I’m not depressed.

If I get to the point where I’m not sleeping or I’m sleeping too much or I constantly snap at B, lose joy in everything, don’t want to leave the house, don’t care about others, am angry all the time etc, then I can say I’m depressed and if I say I’m depressed, I’d better get help.

Let’s not take the power out of the word.

Thoughts?

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MH – Link to a good post about depression

Back in December, Carin blogged about a woman who’s insurance got cut off because pictures on Facebook showed her happy, when she was on leave for depression. Her doctor’s had urged her to take a trip and have fun, and her insurance saw her having fun and cut her off. In this post, Carin talks about her own experience with depression and how a picture of her smiling certainly wouldn’t have shown you the true pain in her life. She emailed me the link to the post to use this month, and as I’m out of guest bloggers, I decided to post about it today.

I read the post back then, and re-read it this morning, and it really is a descriptive peek into what it was like for her back then, even though she wasn’t officially diagnosed with depression. There’s no denying it though, and she makes a really good point about that woman who lost her benefits. Really it boils down to the lack of understanding of mental health disorders. I won’t even get into the issue of everything we do online being scrutinized. Go give the post a read, and even though it’s not posted on my blog, I’ll give my warning about swear words, for my younger readers.

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MH – Drumming as creative outlet

A new friend of mine, who I met through my friend Erik, is an incredible drummer. I had no idea until Erik sent me the link to a video on youtube that they had done in John’s basement. I had thought, oh a clip of someone messing around on the drums, and wasn’t all that interested. That is until I heard it.

I wrote to John and asked if he’d mind if I blogged about it and he said sure, then I asked if I could share a little about his mental health issues for mental health awareness month, and he said go for it. I don’t know a lot, but I know he’s in recovery like me, and he also battles depression and anxiety.

This video’s sound quality isn’t great and Erik told me some techno geek stuff about the compression rate and stuff lol. The symbols sound a little psychedelic, but other than that, it’s great. I was blown away and don’t know how many times I’ve played the video. Erik tells me that John’s dad and grandfather were drummers too, but John has never had lessons and hasn’t even been playing all that much lately. I asked John if the drumming was a creative outlet for him, a way to kind of let loose and he said absolutely.

I think creativity is a great form of therapy and that’s why my crochet days are so valuable to me.

So, after all my build up, please check out John’s drumming. I hope you like it as much as I do!

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MH – Manifestation of depression *guest blogger*

The following post was written by a fellow blink, and she shares about how her depression has manifested in ways other than crying all the time or wanting to off herself. In our correspondence after she sent me her post, she talked about how it was easier to write this time. She had only written it out once before, and she had cried that time, and this time no tears were shed. So it showed her that she’s accepting things a lot better now. She also thanked me for letting her share this and it helped to know that someone might learn something, or just that someone was listening. I’ve only known her a short time, but she’s an incredible woman and she reminds me a lot of me in the way she’s gone after life and doesn’t let her blindness stop her. So, here’s Amanda’s story. (name used with permission)

***

Well, unlike most people who go blind later on in life, I didn’t get
depressed. I stared it in the face and looked at as a new challenge. I
got my depression later on and not exactly sure why. I wasn’t the kind
of depressed where I wanted to harm myself or anything. I was the kind
of depressed where it came out in what the doc calls “Frustration”
which he says stems from depression. Here is where the doc thinks it
starts when my biological dad died in 1994 when I was about 7 years
old. I wasn’t fully capable of understanding the whole thing at the
time since I was so young. That is where the professionals think it
starts. Then throw in being a sickly kid most of my life, being picked
on all through junior high and hhigh school… and then going blind
the second semester of your senior year of Highschool. Also losing two
close friends a few months apart from tragic accidents doesn’t help
much. According to the pros thats a molitov cocktail. But it didn’t
really come out in full force till about a year and half ago that this
was my problem, that everyone just reffered to my attitude problem. We
tried the medications and I wasn’t much for the zombiefied feeling so
I just quit them. Yes, sometimes I have those days where I go from
happy to pissed off in 0 seconds, and those days that I go from happy
to tears for no reason known to myself in 0 seconds. My boyfriend of 3
years now is used to this and knows its just best to leave me alone
when I have these what we like to call ” moments” for lack of a better
word. Wehn I have these “moments” I just try to stay home and not
interact with a whole lot of people. I lost some friends and hurt some
people along the way by not secluding myself. Some people would think
I am crazy for my mood swings, but really I am not. I am just
depressed and dealing with it in my own way. None of the doctors seem
to think its bad the way I deal because, I don’t physically hurt
myself or others and I am for the most part otherwise healthy. I am
not good at telling stories, and this one is kind of hard for me. I
wanted to contribute to RO’s MH awareness month to talk about my
depression and how I deal. I also wanted to put out there that there
is other depression other than the kind that you just want to off
yourself. I have some funny stories about scaring people with my mood
swings and some ones that I am ashamed of and ashamed of my behavior.
I now know how to deal with myself and so does my boyfriend. My mom
doesn’t quite understand and thats fine, because we don’t live
together anymore and she doesn’t have to really deal with me like the
boyfriend does. I don’t like to share that I have this problem. Its
really a issue of not being able to let go. I guess or best I can
figure I don’t have what it takes to get over stuff, not the big stuff
at least. I can make myself function in an every day life style, but
in the back of my head and the bottom of my heart I always remember
what happened and it triggers the mood swings when I bring them back
up. Sometimes these things bring themselves back up and I have no
control over what happens, except to just stay home and try to not
hurt anyone’s feelings. Really, I just wanted my story out there,
because I believe that people should know depression is not just
crying, thinking life sucks, and wanting to end your life. It can be
so many more things, so many more things. It also manifests itself in
many different ways and we all deal with it differently. So the next
time you see someone crying or going off on a anger tangent, stop and
think if they really have a reason behind it or is there something
below the surface that could be bothering them thats fueling the fire.
Don’t always write it off as an attitude problem.

***

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. This just adds to my thoughts about having a little more compassion in life. I’m really learning that when someone “out there” rubs me the wrong way, that they’re probably dealing with something in their life that I have no idea about. I find this story really interesting, about how Amanda’s depression has manifested. I also really like the ways she has found to cope, and that she’s realized it’s ok to be alone sometimes. I think it’s really healthy to be comfortable hanging out with yourself. 🙂

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MH – Living with the stigma *guest blogger*

This guest post was written by my friend Candy. We met back when I hung out at Psych Central, and she’s one of the few I’m still in touch with. (name and affiliation used with permission) I asked her if she’d like to contribute to my series and I’m so glad she agreed. The following post really gives you a glimpse into what it’s like living with the stigma of mental illness, how off handed remarks about the mentally ill can dig a wound in your soul, how your daily life and livelihood is affected. I’m really glad Candy wrote this for us, and I’m glad she got to have a voice. There is some swearing in the post, just a warning for my younger readers. But I love it since I’m usually so squeeky clean in my writing here. 😉

***

I wrote a column about this once. My editor spiked it. This is my revenge.

I covered courts at my last job. I happened to be doing my morning rounds at the courthouse one day at the same time a competitor was there doing the same thing. Without naming names or gender, let’s just say this person is a well-known doofus.

Under discussion was the case of a 19-year-old girl. I don’t remember what she’d done on that particular occasion, but I remember covering her sentencing on a variety of charges. At 19, this girl had racked up 27 — that’s TWENTY-SEVEN — felony charges, been married and divorced, and had a kid whose father also was in prison.

The doofus mentioned above, who was snarking about this with one of the court clerks, laughed it off by saying “yeah, she’s bipolar or something,” in a tone of voice that suggested “woo-woo, batshit-crazy!”

Sometimes I say something, sometimes I don’t. I wasn’t in the mood to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person that day, so I didn’t. But I did write a column about it. Which got spiked. Because, although it would have reached about 30,000 subscribers and untold numbers of others via the Web, and thus been a tremendous public service, it made my editor nervous.

So now, a couple of years later, here I am. No full-time job, but a decent freelance gig. I suggest to my editor that we do something for Mental Health Awareness Month, which is, of course, this month. He puts me off, puts me off, puts me off, then says, “I think we should look at this for June.” I say,“It’s senseless for June. The point was that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s an issue for our target demographic” (roughly late teens to early 30s).

“Oops,” he says. “Sorry.”

Yeah. Me too. Because although I was kind of ambivalent about putting myself out there, I figured it might help someone. Maybe this will do the trick instead.

I’m in a new, smallish town, hoping to get a new job, not at all sure if I should even do the NAMI fundraising walk in case somebody sees me and I have to out myself as a nutjob. But you know what? I am. It is what it is. I’ve been this way since I was 13 years old, which is now several decades ago. All those years I have dealt with people who bitch about my “bad attitude,” or ask if I’m ever happy (fuck you, by the way, you snot-nosed punk who hasn’t lived ANY of what I have and are half my age), or say things like, upon being told I’m in the locked ward of a psych hospital, “Oh, she’s not depressed. I’ve heard her laughing,” or think that because I can show up for work most days, and get most of my stuff done most of the time, that I’m fine.

Do you people not understand that I’ve learned to fake it? I told someone once I was anxious about something and he walked away shaking his head and saying, “Wow. Candy gets nervous.” I can look and act perfectly placid and serene, but I should win an Oscar, an Emmy AND a Tony for that. You have no idea what’s going on in my head, heart and soul. You have no idea how hard it is most days just to sit up and put both feet on the floor, much less move and be and do. You have no idea what it’s like having the side effects of the drugs that are supposed to help you be worse than the disease. (That takes some doing, but one of them nearly caused my death from bone marrow failure, and the one I just started causes me balance and digestive problems.) You have no idea what it’s like to feel your moods switch on a dime. It used to be that I could be fine at 8 a.m. and suicidal by noon. These days, it takes minutes, not hours. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, the cycling’s more frequent, and you know what? It fucking sucks. Being a prisoner of your own brain sucks.

If I had actually told someone the thought that was on “infinite loop” in my head awhile back, I still wouldn’t be out of the ha-ha house. And I was 100 percent conscious of the fact that it was twisted and disordered and plain old batshit-crazy. But knowing that didn’t make the thought stop, or completely convince me that it would be a really bad idea to go through with it. And you couldn’t tell I was having it by the way I looked or acted.

I get told a lot I’m considered “high functioning” — you know, like all crazy people need to be wild-eyed homeless alcoholic freaks. My mental health has cost me every job I’ve ever had, one way or another, but in most cases I’ve been able to move on and get them before they got me. I bathe on a regular basis and only a few pair of my socks and undies have holes. 😉 But because I’m not walking down the street glassy-eyed, pushing a shopping cart and jabbering to myself doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on sometimes. I wish more people understood that mentally ill people are your neighbors, or your teachers, or your favorite local business owner – or, hey, even your favorite journalist. I long for the day we don’t have to hide.

***

This just goes to show that no matter how much we try to make people aware, voices will still get stifled. Here Candy had a good story to write about in a month that is supposed to be about mental health awareness, and it gets rejected for this particular publication. So how the hell are we supposed to get the word out when editors are dumbasses? No wonder there is a stigma, if voices are constantly silenced.

I’m glad I’m doing my part, by providing an outlet, even if it is just on a little blog.

As one of my anonymous posters said, what are you gonna do?

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MH – Suicide *guest blogger*

Back in my drinking days, I had suicidal thoughts. I never came up with a plan or the means though. It was more like needing to escape the pain and not knowing how. Looking back, I’m so glad I never really considered taking it that far. I have since experienced having someone in my life attempt suicide, and the fall out has been pretty ugly. To me, suicide is no longer about the person who attempts it or succeeds, it’s about the family and friends afterwards. Suicide is the permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yes, temporary. Even if something is long lasting and forever, it can be coped with. The feelings of despair can be handled with the right therapy and/or meds. In my opinion anyway. Suicide can’t be undone. The emotional scars after an unsuccessful attempt can’t be undone. I feel for family and friends of those who have attempted it or succeeded. The following guest blog shows it from both sides. Being close to a successful suicide, and personally having the thoughts but luckily never an attempt. Carin shares her story with us now. (name used with permission)

***

Walking the Walk

For two years in a row, I have gone on “the walk” when it happens in
September. What is “The Walk”? Well, it’s a chance to raise awareness about
the prevalence of suicide in our community, and raise money for the local
crisis centre and line. But just walking “The Walk” was an experience that
made me think a lot.

Let’s start with the name. The website is thewalk.ca and the title that most
know it by is just “The Walk”. I’m happy that now, the website’s title says
“The Walk for Suicide Awareness and Prevention,” but I always thought it
funny that the very walk whose aim was to bring suicide out of darkness and
stigma didn’t have suicide in its name. I’m glad it does now.

A friend encouraged me to go with him. I didn’t do it the first year I heard
about it because it was from dusk until dawn, and I don’t like pulling
all-nighters anymore, mainly because they seem to effect me physically quite
a lot now. So I was happy to hear the event was in the evening when I went.
His mom drove us to the starting point. In all seriousness, she asked us
“And what are you going to say if someone asks you why you’re walking in
this?” This sounded like the way you rehearse with small children when they
first start staying at home alone. “And what are you going to say if we’re
not home and a stranger comes knocking? What is the correct answer?” I don’t
think she was expecting my response. “The truth,” I said. “If they want to
ask me the question, they had better be prepared for the answer.” She didn’t
say anymore on the subject, but I continued to boil with rage in the back
seat. This same woman had lost her family doctor to suicide, but she still
seemed to look at us shamefully that we were participating in the suicide
prevention walk, like we were weird for acknowledging that suicide was
something to face head-on.

We got out of the car, and heard the speeches, the statistics, the wishes
that people didn’t feel so desperate that they felt that taking their lives
was the only option, and the words of a woman who had tried to take her own
life, but had found the strength to come back. We went on the walk, and I
noticed how much of a crowd was there. I couldn’t help but wonder how
suicide had touched each and every one of us, and I was glad so many had
decided to be brave enough to come out.

We came back to the starting point, and the two of us debated how we were
going to get home. Something had happened on a stretch of sidewalk near our
places, and people needed to make a massive detour. A lady who I kind of
knew offered to give us a ride, so we took it. On our way home, she asked
the question. “So what brings you out to walk?” I thought about it for a
while. What did bring me out to walk? I could have said that I used to
volunteer at the crisis line, so wanted to support them, but that wasn’t
even close to the whole truth. I could have said that I knew people who
struggled with depression, and was thinking of them. That was more the
truth, but not even close to the whole thing. I ended up saying that I was
there because suicide had touched close to home a few times, so this was my
way of thinking of the ones I had lost. That was most of it, and what I
thought was all of it at the time. But there was a bit that I couldn’t even
admit to myself.

Years ago, there was a time when I thought about taking my own life. I look
at that sentence and shake my head now, but it’s true. I had gotten beyond
the idle thoughts phase, and had reached the point of planning a time and
contemplating a method. Thank god I never got any further, but yes, there
was a time when I, a volunteer who used to be on a suicide-prevention line,
had thought about suicide. Isn’t that a kicker?

Strangely enough, it was the memory of how it felt to lose a friend to
suicide that gave me the good hard kick in the rear away from that dangerous
place. I’d always heard that it was the ones that didn’t give you very many
warning signs that were the ones that you had to worry about. How true, how
true it was. I will never forget the weekend when I found out he had ended
his life. He was my room-mate’s brother. his dad called here in a panic
asking where my room-mate was. I really didn’t have a clue, but told him I’d
get him to call as soon as he got in the door…which I literally did. I
don’t think my room-mate was expecting me to come running out to the door
and tell him to call home right away. His dad would not talk to him about
why he had to come home, just told him to get in a cab and take that cab
home the 150-ish mile journey. I would find out days later that his brother
was gone.

I’ll still never forget one of the calls I made to my room-mate’s family’s
house. His dad quietly said to me “You don’t have to answer people’s
questions or tolerate what they have to say.” I was perplexed, but said ok.
I would learn exactly what he meant over the course of the next few days.
People were becoming forensic science experts, figuring out how this could
have been an accident or a murder. Nobody wanted to accept that he had
chosen to end his life. That was too painful a reality. His death could be
dealt with if they saw it as a tragic accident.

There was so much anger and guilt, some of which can probably never be
erased, especially for his poor parents. It was all those memories that made
me realize that if I decided to leave this world, what everyone around me
would be left to deal with would be beyond horrible, and would last longer
than anything I was dealing with right now.

Once I could step back and stop thinking about how and when to die, I could
start doing things that gave me the feeling I had control over my life, and
I had stuff to live for. I feel silly saying that now, but that was how I
felt at the time.

So when I said I was walking for suicide prevention and awareness because
suicide had touched close to home, I guess I was telling the whole truth. It
was just a different truth than most will realize.

***

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Maybe some day someone will read this who’s thinking about ending it, and they’ll realize they don’t have to.

There is help. Suicide is NOT the solution.

Need help now? Don’t know where to look? Here is a site full of information worldwide.

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MH – Auditory hallucinations *guest blogger*

You’ve all seen them on tv, usually in a drama show or movie, the people who hear voices. They are usually portrayed walking down the stret, maybe pushing a shopping cart full of their worldly possessions and frightening a pretty lady as she has to pass. No wonder there is a stigma surrounding auditory hallucinations. I admit, I never knew much about “hearing voices” and thought the people who did must have schizophrenia or something. The following guest post explains what it’s like. It was sent to me anonymously, and I certainly don’t imagine this person walking down the road with a shopping cart.

***

About 3% of the world’s population hears some form of auditory hallucination. I am one of those people. About 30% of those people never seek treatment and may have voices or other sounds that are positive, pleasant or non-distressing. I am not one of those. For those like me, the voices, noises or sounds are distressing and intruding, making daily life difficult to carry out.

Currently unless someone had told you previously this about me there is very little chance you would know unless you were either in a car with me and picked up on the fact that I glance in the mirrors more than normal trying to be sure that the police or ambulance sirens I hear are just a figment of my mind or you saw me washing dishes at my kitchen sink and wondered why I kept looking over into my living room where I keep the telephone staring at it watching for the flashing light that tells me when it is really going off. Even when I am off of medication there is still a very big chance that you would never know what I hear since my form of hallucinations are mostly internal and I am very good at appearing on the outside as if nothing is wrong internally. For me it is not as if someone outside were talking to me, instead it is various voices that I hear inside my head or music playing or a cacophony of sound.

My voices began when I was about 11 years old and tormented me untreated for the next 8 years. I was a kid that generally kept to myself and I already had a previous phobia of anyone in the medical profession. Top that off with my parents one time when I was about 10 in a misguided attempt to keep their children on the straight and narrow, one morning after church sat my siblings and I down at the dining room table and told us that those with mental health problems had them because they hated their families and were awful people and you have a recipe for a kid that stops talking to anyone about what is really going on with them. I didn’t hate anyone, least of all my family and I just assumed I must be an awful person so I never told anyone as I was sure I was going to get into big trouble if someone found out. It wasn’t until I got into therapy after college that I started to get the help I needed and eventually was medicated and started to breathe a lot easier every day.

Until the right medication was found for me, that took over 2 years of trial and error to find and I consider myself very, very lucky that one works without horrible side effects or making me feel drugged and out of it constantly, I felt that I was constantly in a state of running. That if I just could get far enough away, fast enough I could leave the voices behind. Something would stress me out and make the voices worse for a time and I would have to start moving. I would walk and walk for hours and hours trying to wear myself out so they would stop. It never worked. I would drive in my car up to my second cousin’s home for a weekend or a few days and just hike in the mountains by her house. Again trying to exhaust myself, push myself so I could turn it off and make it stop. It never worked. I was panicked, terrified that I was going insane. I couldn’t understand why this was happening, I was constantly trying to pick through my life trying to find out what I did to cause this to happen to me. It took years in therapy before I could even come close to grasping that things like this need no reason, it isn’t my fault, there was no one event that I did, no wrong step I took that caused this, that it just is a part of my life.

Even on medication I will have break through periods. Periods where the voices get bad. The sirens and the telephone never really go away even with medication. There are also times when I’ll be doing really well and come off medication with my doctor’s approval. Mostly this is because I have a body that has time and time again decided after a few years that it doesn’t like the meds I am on and they will stop working or I will get sick with side effects. So because there is only 1 antipsychotic that is currently on the market that has even been even remotely effective for me, my doctor and I both agree that it is best to give me periods off the med in an attempt to keep it effective for as long as possible. I can generally go about 10 months without it before the symptoms return to an intolerable level.

When I am having a period where the voices are active, my functioning level decreases dramatically. When I was younger I use to be able to “fake it” quite well for long periods of time. Unfortunately doing this day after day, year after year, had some very negative effects. I would get to the point where I would “give in” to what the voices wanted and that was never a good thing and was very dangerous to me. I was never harmful to others, just myself. Now when things aren’t going well I will have to cut back on my outside activities dramatically and even then some days getting basic life needs taken cared for is impossible. I need a lot of help from my family and friends who are willing. There are times when hospitalization is necessary and generally I end up with more doctor and therapy appointments when my voices are acting up.

This illness also impacts my life in that if I get over stressed generally the voices will break through. So I am unable currently to work a full time job, or really even a proper part time job. I am dependent on government assistance financially as well as help from my family to survive in today’s world. I try to be as independent as I can and do as much as I am able, but some days that is very little compared to what most people my age are expected to accomplish. Unless things change dramatically in the coming years, there is little chance I will ever be able to work full time or be in high stress demanding environments for prolonged periods of time.

There are very few people who know that I live with this and even fewer who if they did know would be able to understand and accept it. There is a negative stigma clouding nearly every outside person’s view of what it is like to live with auditory hallucinations. It frightens people. And it makes them defensive. They shut you out and see you as less of a person. They stop looking at you like an equal and more as some kind of freakish anomaly who will one day snap and go on some form of rampage. When really the likelihood of that ever happening, at least with me, is zero. It leaves the person living with this ostracized and alone, when many times really what they need is just someone who cares and recognized that they too are scared out of their minds at what is going on beyond their control. People don’t understand how much I wish I could control this, how much I wish I could make it stop and go away, how much I hate to be med dependent and acknowledge that I will be med dependent for the remainder of my life. How scared I am at the thought of “What will I do when this med quits and there are no new ones that work for me?” as I know someday that is probably going to be a fact I am going to have to face and deal with. People don’t understand how much their comments hurt about how they wish I could just do a certain thing for myself that day or how they wish they too “Had all the free time you do” because I don’t work a regular job. People don’t understand how much I want to crawl under a rock and never come out when they tell me how tired they are of “Cutting you slack all of the time.” Certain things are beyond one’s control. I am a person who hears voices. I can’t change that. I live with it, I work around it, I manage it, I do the best I can. Same as anyone else. You can’t expect me to be someone I’m not or do any different.

I wanted to write this post for Mental Health Awareness month on this blog because I think it’s important to tell people what it’s like for at least one person who hears auditory hallucinations. There are many of us out there, most of us speaking up only behind the closed door of our therapist’s office. That is not helping the stigma. The barriers need to come down. And this is one way I can start to do that. What are you going to do?

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Thank you for sending this to me. You have really shed some light on what it is to have auditory hallucinations, and at least this one tiny corner of the net will see your story. Maybe they’ll tell others. Maybe if they hear someone making fun of another who hears voices, they’ll speak up and say, no, don’t talk about them like that, I read this post once…

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Filed under awareness month, guest blogger, mental health

MH – My adjustment disorder, or situational depression

If you’d like to submit a guest blog, visit this post. You can also submit something in multiple comments under the anonymous selection.

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When I went blind two years ago, my life was over. I could no longer work, I could no longer drive, I could no longer use a computer, I could no longer crochet, I could no longer see my friends, I could no longer see my face. It was over. At 29, my life was over. I used humor to cope at first. When a friend came over the day I got home from the hospital, I said he looked great with purple hair. Eventually the humor faded.

At first it was all about going to doctors. Surely it couldn’t be the MS. B took a week and a half off from work to help me adjust and go to the docs and the labs. At the urging of the attending physician and B when I was leaving the hospital, I had began a low dose of Lexapro to help me “get over the hump” of such an event. I was also tapering off steroids. B had to count out my pills the night before and put them in a little box so I could take them in the morning. I remember not really wanting to take the Lexapro. I mean come on, I’d just gone blind. I was going to feel things. I didn’t want to be numbed out. The doctor assured me it wouldn’t do that. But it did; that’s just how pills work on me. I ended up depressed and not caring. Not feeling the feelings of the depression, it was there, but I didn’t care and not in a good way, if that makes sense.

Over the next few months, all I did was sit around all day listening to audio books that a friend brought me from the school library. That was literally all I did. Sure, I figured out I could make the bed and even do some cleaning, but for the most part, I sat around listening to books, taking my steroids, eating Pringles and gaining weight. I went to meetings when people could take me.

B had to find my shows on tv for a bit until I figured out the remotes. I’d end up getting in bet at 2pm to watch General Hospital, Ellen, Who wants to be a Millionare and Jeopardy, then finally the news. B would get home and I’d struggle to eat. Then I’d go back to bed. On weekends I went to bed even earlier, sometimes as soon as B got up because I wanted to listen to my stuff.

On the 4th of July I cried all day. I couldn’t see the fireworks. B brought me the Duffy cd and when ‘Distant Dreamer’ came on, I sobbed. I was no longer a dreamer. I no longer had a life.

I had gone blind in April and in August, I finally had enough. I went to B one day and said I needed help. I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t accept this. The steps weren’t working. He called a friend who hooked me up with a therapist and I began seeing her once a week on Saturdays. B had to get up earlier than he liked to take me, and I hated myself for that. I was such a burden. I was so worthless.

I went to therapy to work on grieving my loss of sight. But it turned into so much more. We ended up really working on me, about how yeah, I was mourning my vision, but I had decided I was so incredibly worthless and that was what was killing me. She helped me start seeing my strengths, she helped me learn how to talk to B and tell him what I needed. Like more touch, because I could no longer see it in his eyes that he loved me. So now whenever we pass each other, he touches my back or my arm.

She helped me realize that I wasn’t a burden when I asked for help. She helped me see that I was still me and I was pretty fun to be around, especially when I had my humor.

Eventually I got better. Eventually I started to slowly accept what my situation was. My life wasn’t over, it was just, different. I started seeing her every two weeks, then every three, then once a month, then she finally graduated me last year in September, moving to a per diem basis.

I continue to use the tools she gave me. I continue to tell myself I’m not worthless, even when I have those days. I find things that hold me accountable, working out, writing these posts, doing that workshop, making blankets.

I never knew what my diagnosis was until I applied for my guide dog and my therapist had to fill out a thing. I asked her what my diagnosis was, and she said she was calling it an adjustment disorder. Huh? But what if the school things I can’t adjust to my dog? It was explained that for me, it only applied to traumatic events. I was like, ok, but doesn’t everyone have a hard time adjusting to trauma? Yes, exactly. Alrighty then.

So I don’t know if my experience was typical. I still rather call it situational depression, but maybe it is an adjustment disorder. I do have a hard time when anything changes and just recently I was going to run back to my therapist until I found out she’s moving to Florida. So I sat back and just remembered what she taught me. I react. And how old am I when I react? About three. So snap out of it. Oh! It’s gotten easier, that’s for sure, and I don’t think I need to spend a fortune getting to know another therapist, as long as I can remember the tools.

I haven’t been back on meds since the Lexapro. Let me say, that I believe in meds. I believe in meds. Ok? Ok. I just didn’t believe I needed meds for what I was going through. I felt like it was normal to be depressed after something like that. For me, that worked. It wouldn’t work with everyone, like those with a chemical imbalance or those who suffer something even worse. So I am absolutely NOT bashing meds. Let me just make that clear.

My therapist did threaten me with them though. At one point my PMSing was getting so bad that she told me I really had to watch it when I started being a bitch, or else I’d be going on meds. Ok! She knew how to get me haha! I learned to feel when I was ramping up. I learned to accept the blue days and take a mental health day when they occured. I wanted to feel it, because for me, when I feel it, I can move passed it. Because of my alcoholism, I am quite leary of anything that makes me “check out”.

I should also mention that this wasn’t my first struggle with depression. I had it in my drinking, but it was caused by the drinking. Situational. I’ve had it ever since my mom died because I didn’t deal with her death until I got into therapy because of my blindness. Situational.

But it took going blind to see my depression for what it was. Situational. I haven’t had that paralyzing depression for quite some time now. I just have my blue days, like everyone else. That was my experience.

Now for the clinical:

“Adjustment disorder is an abnormal and excessive reaction to a life stress, such as starting school, getting divorced, or experiencing grief.”

Alrighty then. That was the first time I’d looked up adjustment disorder. I don’t think I agree with my therapist. I don’t think I dealt with things abnormally, but maybe I did haha!

If you’re so inclined, you can read more here.

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Filed under awareness month, gratitude, humor as coping skill, mental health, mom, therapy

MH – My experience with alcoholism

Today begins the series for Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ll put “MH” in the front of every subject. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, please check out this post about it.

The first two posts will be about my experiences with mental health issues. Tomorrow I’ll write about what my therapist calls “adjustment disorder”, which I always called situational depression. I’ll touch on that a little in this post, because depression and alcoholism went hand in hand for me.

I’ve already shared a lot of my story on this blog, and to go into great detail in this post would make it extremely long haha. I’m going to focus more on the mental health aspect of my alcoholism.

My heavy drinking began in 2000 and into 2001. I pretty much had waited to drink until I was 21 and legal. Good girl, right? When I had moved out of my dad’s house a little over a year after my mom died, I shared a house with three other girls, and we had a lot of parties. At first it was all social drinking, but before I knew it, I was drinking a glass of wine to sleep, which eventually turned into a few beers before bed and before long, I was drinking every night. The years that followed became all about drinking. Working was just a means for money to drink. A home was just a place to crash. I bounced around from home to home and man to man, job to job.

Towards the end of my drinking, the depression started. At one point it got so bad that friends urged me to go to an emergency mental health clinic and I did. When they asked me if I had been suicidal, I said no, because I knew they’d lock me up for that. I think I talked to the clinician for an hour or so, and I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Ask B today if he thinks I have that and he’ll laugh his butt off. It’s incredibly hard to diagnose any kind of mental health disorder when someone spends their life drinking, constantly altered by the alcohol, never truly being in touch with reality. So I was given Celexa and told not to mix with alcohol. Ha! Yeah that didn’t work.

I didn’t stay on the medication because it completely numbed me out, to the point where I couldn’t feel happy or sad. Granted, I liked to escape with booze, but I didn’t like feeling totally shut down. I didn’t keep up any kind of therapy, just went on drinking.

Eventually I lived in an apartment all alone and I could drink whenever I wanted. I had gotten back together with my high school sweetheart and we just drank and played pool. Eventually I got a job at the pool hall. That led to the demise of the relationship because I would be out until all hours, going to a coworker’s house to drink after work. My boyfriend thought for sure I must be cheating, because I had lost interest in sex so he thought I was getting it elsewhere, and I was hardly ever home. All I cared about was where the next drink came from. Eventually he got fed up and left me and when I came home to find him gone, I got a cab to his parents’ house, drunk out of my mind, banging on the door in the middle of the night. Yeah, that’s the way to get someone back.

After he left I fell into such deep depression that my apartment was disgusting. I hibernated in my bedroom, a garden of empty beer bottles and cigarette butts all over the computer desk. I had stumbled upon a mental health forum before my relationship ended, because I was trying to fix my sex issues.

So I ended up hanging out at Psych Central, going into the chat room nightly to drink because I didn’t want to drink alone because that would mean I was an alcoholic. So I’d have drinking competitions with the other depressed people.

Eventually, something, a thought? An idea? At the time I didn’t know, but something told me I had to stop drinking. When I got sober and read ‘The Doctor’s Opinion’ by Dr. William D. Silkworth in the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, it all clicked. I finally understood why I drank.

I didn’t drink because I was depressed. I was depressed because I drank. Alcohol became my master. Alcohol ruled everything. It came first, before relationships, before jobs, and most of all, before me. Once I took that first drink, my body reacted, the phenomenon of craving took over and I couldn’t stop. There was no such thing as just one. One was always too many and a thousand was never enough.

It didn’t take long before my mind started clearing, after I learned how to fall asleep that is. I knew how to pass out, but I didn’t know how to fall asleep. It took about a month of listening to really soft music and sleeping with that book, for me to fall asleep naturally. I started taking the steps that others before me had taken and before long, the depression lifted. I learned that I had to change my thinking. That it wasn’t a matter of being weak willed, it was a matter of not having the skills to cope with life’s curve balls. Who wouldn’t be depressed if they don’t have a way to cope? It wasn’t my mom’s death, it wasn’t the fact that I dropped out of college or couldn’t keep a man or a job that made me drink. It was my reaction and inability to cope with those things that led me to the bottle, my best friend, my salvation.

I had to find something greater than alcohol. A higher power they called it. To this day, I don’t know what that is. But I know I believe in it. I know my faith in a power greater than me and more importantly, greater than alcohol, has kept me sober for 5 years, but not just sober, happy. Joyous. FREE.

By changing my thinking and my outlook on life, by learning to accept what I can’t change, I am free. The alcoholic depression has not returned. The desire to drink has been lifted. Sure, I still drool over commercials sometimes, but that’s just a good reminder that I’m an alcoholic haha!

Eventually I ended up being asked to be a moderator at Psych Central. The place where I had drank with other depressed people. They trusted me now to give me access to the mod forum and chatroom, the ability to edit and delete posts. Talk about redemption. I held that position with esteem. That site had saved my life until I got sober. I fully believe that.

There’s debate as to whether alcoholism is a mental health disorder. It has been classified as such, but there are still people who believe that we’re just weak willed. They can have that belief, but for me, it’s a lot more comforting to call it a disease and not just something horribly wrong with me. I still have the alcoholic thinking. That will never go away. I constantly have to work on it. I am quick to judge, quick to feel judged, quick to be offended, quick to emotions. But today I recognize it when it happens and I tell the shitty committee to shut up.

Turns out I really did need therapy though, which I’ll go into tomorrow when I talk about the adjustment disorder, or situational depression.

I don’t know if I’ve made alcoholism make any sense. There’s a whole book about it so I know I’ve only scratched the surface. But that was a brief glimpse into my own experience. I figure this was a good way to kick off Mental Health Awareness month, especially since I’m asking you all to contribute. Only fair if I contribute, right?

I’m curious to see what this month will bring! Let’s get aware!

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Filed under awareness month, faith, mental health, sobriety