Welcome to my new blog!

I've been on both sides of the couch and think I can lend something to the conversation about mental health. Telling my own personal experience can, hopefully, give others strength and hope that things can get better. I'll talk about other topics, too, and show what coping skills I use to get myself through, both adaptive and maladaptive.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I relate.

I work with adolescent girls who have been traumatized and are now living in residential therapeutic care, which is part of the foster care system.  They have been physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by not only strangers, but also loved ones - their parents, step-parents, other relatives, etc...  And they are pretty messed up because of it.  And I relate.  Sometimes, I think I relate too much because I can see myself in them in a way that scares me.  I am an "us" and a "them," though I am not a "them" in this capacity of my job (at least, not to the knowledge of either the girls or my employer).  But I relate with the girl who continually cuts herself to get the pain out, coming off as manipulative and an "attention seeker," I get it.  I've had the same opinions directed at me, the same diagnosis thrown around willy-nilly, the same feelings (I believe) inside that makes self-injury seem like the very best choice.  I relate to the girl who seems like she is as much staff as any of the staff are and seems to mother and mentor the other girls.  I felt, when I was in the care of "the system," (which system is up for you to decide) I wanted to help other people so much I forgot (or maybe never knew in the first place) to take care of myself.  And, as a result, I didn't move from my perch for 22 months.  And I blamed it all on everyone else, which is what some of the girls do.  I hated being called "manipulative" because, to me, that implies some sort of agenda or intention.  I think, instead, that I (and some of these girls) are "manipulative" but without knowing it most of the time.  It would, likely, hurt them very badly to know someone is looking at them with the suggestion that they are being less than authentic.  It hurt me.  But time has given me some distance and has made me realize that I was responsible for my own behavior and some of it was really ridiculous, mean-spirited, and probably very difficult to deal with. 

In the same week I spent five days in the hospital for suicidal ideation, I talked to a girl about why it might not be the best thing to self-injure.  I just need to start practicing what I preach, eh?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Monkeys and Cliffs

Just when I think that things are getting better, that my life is in order, that I have proper footing and can breathe a sigh of relief...I have the proverbial rug pulled out from under me.  Depression is a real beast - a monkey on my back - and doesn't ever seem to go away.  It loses weight and carrying it around doesn't bother me nearly as much and then, like now, it gains so much weight that I'm afraid I can't take it anymore and will have to just stop walking. 

Right now, I feel like I'm on a cliffside.  I lost my fotting and fell over the edge, but I'm holding onto some old, yet strong, roots.  I am exhausted, but people keep telling me to hold on...that things will get better.  And I am hoping and praying that they are right because a good portion of me wants to just let go.  Just hope someone will catch me. 

It's amazing to me, sometimes, how depression lies to me.  That monkey convinces me, as I try to carry its ass around with me, that I am weak, that I am useless and worthless, and hopeless, and all of the other lesses he can think of.  And he is convincing.  He tells me that people don't care about me and that if they knew the "real me," they'd hate me as much as I hate myself.  He makes me truly believe that I am a burden.  And it is a great deal of work to argue with him because he doesn't seem to lose momentum whatsoever and I just don't have the energy to keep fighting him.  And, yet, I do.  Somehow, I do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Snowballs in my mind

Negativity breeds negativity.  It is, then, logical to believe that negative thoughts are the breeders of other thoughts just like them (or even more damaging).  I think of it as a snowball effect.  Remember the old cartoons where the snow started as a teeny tiny ball, but as it rolled down hill, it picks up speed and momentum.  Soon, it would be on the bottom, having picked up people, cows, maybe even houses (OR it would have gone in one door of the house and out the other!) on the way.  THAT is how I perceive negative thoughts to work in my head.  It "snowballs" from one thing to a ton of things that support the original, negative and dysfunctional ideation.  It takes a lot of effort to stop the avalanche and the further it gets down the hill, the more powerful it becomes and the more difficult it seems to be to stop.  I'm still working on it, but I wish I could just take up skiing and go with the flow instead of having to STOP the avalanche and pulls its a$$ back up the mountain.  Grrr...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You're in luck! We have a diagnosis for you!

If you go to a psychiatrist, you will leave with a diagnosis.  This isn't a proven fact, but I have yet to meet anyone who went and came out with the doctor saying, "I'm sorry...there's nothing wrong with you."  Of course, generally speaking, people do not go to a psychiatrist unless something is "wrong" with how they feel (or the people around them feel).  It's not like primary care and prevention...you're going there because you feel like you need to. 

Over the years, I've had many diagnosis'.  My first psychologist said I had "dysthymia," which is a mild depression that lasts for 2 years or more.  I would later be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder (recurrent), and Borderline Personality Disorder.  If I, as a social worker, were diagnosing me, I would diagnose myself with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, recurrent, and Anxiety Disorder including panic.  Now, if you have cancer, they don't diagnose you with Leukemia and then say, well, it sounds more like breast cancer now.  But, in psychiatry, depending on the doctor you see, they can change them; add things on.  Seems like a craps shoot sometimes.

So...what would you be diagnosed with if you showed up in a psychiatrist's office?  Would you have a personality disorder, a perception disorder, a depressive disorder, an adjustment disorder?   And then what?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Everyone would do a little better with a little therapy

The world would run a whole lot smoother if everyone got some intensive therapy, by a trained professional.  The therapy relationship is like no other.  It is sort of like a one-way friendship with someone you can tell all of your "deepest, darkest secrets" who will help you, if they're a good therapist, to see things a bit differently.  It's one-way in that she (I'll use the female pronoun as there are more female social workers and psychologists than male) will not tell you her secrets.  This used to really upset me.  I felt that if I was going to share all of this important, personal information...she should, too!  After all, when she uses my past against me, I won't have any leverage.  There will be nothing to protect me.  And that's what it was all about: trust that my "stuff" would be safe with her.  It seemed unfair.  I complained about it.  I wanted to know anything at all - what kind of music do you like?  are you married?  what do you do when you're not here, listening to a subscription to my issues?

I remember asking a therapist how this dynamic was fair.  She said, point blank, "It's not."  I thought, "Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis?"  I fully expected to hear, "It's in your best interest.  Blah blah blah."  And while she did, eventually, get to that point, she didn't start there.  She started with validation and it made me feel okay for feeling the way I did.  She wanted to "explore it further," which I felt game to do, particularly with the sense of feeling understood.  She didn't dismiss my concerns.  Now, granted, she also did not tell me one, single thing about herself, which irked me to no end, but she did make me feel like I wasn't an needy, idiot for feeling this way.  Wow!  What a revelation!  I had the right to my own feelings, whatever they were!  Oprah would call this an "Aha moment."  It struck me as somewhat obvious and, yet, I don't remember ever experiencing that kind of acceptance of my emotions.

Instead, she said to me, "The therapist-client relationship is like no other.  We're not friends (which she knew I really wanted to be).  That doesn't mean the interdependence is not important to me or to you.  It means that it's a different kind of relationship.  You came here for therapy.  You didn't come here for friendship.  I would be doing a disservice to you if you came to therapy and I sat here and bitched about the problems in my life.  It wouldn't help YOU.  Boundaries (a word I detested) are important and I see them as protecting the therapy relationship, in a way, from becoming a different kind, like a friendship or parental connection.  Does that make sense?"  And, for the first time, after many therapists explaining this to me without my opinion shifted, I felt my mind begin to change.  My mind could change!  And that was a moment I remember because it helped me so much.

I imagine if, say George W. Bush had had some psychotherapy pre-9/11, he could have worked out his Daddy issues and not have had to go into Iraq.  Maybe Freud would have worked out his own Oedipus complex and his Mommy issues (and maybe Daddy issues, too!).  I'm sure you can name a few celebrities, as well as people in your life, who could do with some good ol' fashioned talk therapy.  I think the world would improve drastically if people looked at the plank in their own eye before examining the sliver in another's!  Imagine that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Understand Inside

I understand inside.  This means several things to me.  I understand pushing your feelings so deep inside that it seems like nobody truly knows the "real" you, even maybe yourself.  I understand being inside the proverbial closet: about my sexuality, about my mental health diagnosis', about a lot of things.  I understand being inside of myself, screaming on the inside, "I'm here!  Can't you see me?" and watching people walk away because they can't.  I haven't let them.  I understand being inside the mind of a child who was abused and re-experiencing the traumas that the mind can only repress for so long.  I understand being inside a hospital  (private, public, and/or state) against your personal will because depression and anxiety has taken over your mind, convincing you that you are not worthy of love or life.   I understand looking out the windows at visitors who come and go, their feet crunching in the snow and then, drive out of sight, leaving you to color with broken crayons and write with golf pencils.  I understand referring to the hospital as, "The Inside" and away from the hospital as, "The Outside," as if it the world is so black and white.  Unfortunately, some of us are on "The Inside" even when we're not in the hospital - after all, wherever you go, there you are!  I, like many, have erected my own self-imposed walls that keep others out and myself in, clawing at the walls and hoping for a bulldozer to knock it right down and, yet, fearing the demolition at the same time.  These walls I have for myself are what we've all built, some more than others, to protect us from our feelings.  Keeping people out keeps us in, too, and protects us from all of the potential good feelings! 

My goals in writing this blog are the following: to lend a voice to the voiceless and help others to see that they are not alone, to get some writing experience and exposure because I want to write a memoir and be published (and be on Oprah's book club, but that's not the point), and to use this as a place to write down my thoughts, opinions, theories, and so forth.  I'd like it to be a conversation, so please feel free to comment! :)