Tag Archives: depression

Stuff I Did in March, Part Three: Asking for Help

I was bursting with responses to Nissetje’s post as I poured words into his comment box. Then I recalled a WordPress principle guiding us bloggers to resist leaving long comments, and to reblog the inspiring post instead with our response. So here’s what I would like to say to him:

Weather is a Good Place to Start

Have you had the crazy weather that we had this year? So far, April has been more like winter than February was.

2016-03-27 Front Yard
Our purple crocuses bloomed a week early

2016-04-03 Front Yard
Our yard one week later — no, this is not a black-and-white photo

I was hoping to get out and prune our grapevines, and fix our garden fence now that Spring seems to have resumed, but I’m laid up with a damaged knee. I was playing with my weaving yarns, crouched, and when I went to spring back up, I felt like my knee went out of joint. It was a familiar feeling. I backed down like a recoiled spring, and then got up, putting as little weight on the knee as possible, and felt relieved that I had escaped a mishap. My knee just felt a little numb, so I found lots of reasons to go up and down flights of stairs to help heal it.

After supper, when I stood up, ZING! My knee had swelled, and pain set in. So, I took good care of myself and rested in bed all day with my knee elevated. Staying in bed for this hurt knee is a lot easier for me to do than staying in bed waiting for a depression to pass . Then, I’m more inclined to get up and push myself, and I push myself into a deeper depression.

What’s Looming on the Horizon

When I read about your weaving, you reminded me that I must stay in bed for another day or so before I can return to my loom.

Painted Warp
My loom, missing my attention

I had overlooked the possibility that my knee injury would interfere with my work in my studio! Now I’m even more motivated to rest and elevate my knee. My studio is one of my lifelines! Like you say, “a doodle a day keeps the crazy away”.

I know something about what you’ve been going through, and you’ve been going through a lot in a short time. Just one or two of those broken relationships would send anyone reeling. You’re right to cling to happy thoughts about Spring coming, expecting sun, connecting with friends and your Good Animal Voice, remembering your art, enjoying your dogs and walks, choosing healthy foods, continuing learning, staying employed, valuing your intelligence and creativity, supporting the healthy parts of you, having a safe comfortable place…

You sounded discouraged about feeling glued to your couch. My jury is still out on whether bingeing on movies and junk food for a few (or several) weeks is a bad thing. The worse that I feel about it, the more vulnerable I am to it. In other words, I’m practicing not being depressed about being depressed. I’m choosing to see a depressed episode as a time for rest from the pressures that I put on myself (which I could easily blame others for).

What’s My Line?

How fantastic that you were able to pull yourself together to get to where you needed to go to get back on meds. I hope that you are continuing to progress. I know how sometimes all of the planets have to be aligned just so, etc., before that can happen. After all, how can we have the courage to expose ourselves to the likelihood of side effects when we’re already teetering on the edge? I know what it’s like to want to take a temporary break from the effort of life, and feeling too overwhelmed to do anything about it. These episodes usually come along with fuzzy cognition, so I can’t think my way through it, and am surprised when someone close to me can prompt me, like an actor who forgets the next line.

Stage Fright

I upped one of my meds the other day when my therapist pointed out that I’ve been doing relatively well, and that only lately my moods have been more erratic. I have a love/hate relationship with meds. I am generally drug-adverse; most had unbearable side effects, usually making my illnesses worse. Lamotrigine is one that has worked out well for me, as long as I fluctuate the dose according to my mood. Too much, and I’m flying; too little, and I’m bouncing up and down and back, sometimes (lately) over the course of a few hours.

I hope that the side effects are working their way out as your body adapts to this medication. If not, then I hope that you got back to your NP in a timely manner so you can use Plan B, or find a Plan C. You are doing great keeping a conversation going with your pharmacist and NP through the side effects! And you’re doing great distinguishing your own Good Animal Voice from the voices of others who deny your experiences, perceptions and feelings.

I discovered Andrew Johnson’s meditation recordings recently on his website, Spotify, and phone apps. They help me reset my thoughts and feelings most of the time. I wonder if you might find them helpful.

Mind Cancer

Around a year ago, I took the ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences Score). Most people get a score of around 1. Over 4, and there is a strong correlation with being suicidal, and other serious chronic diseases. I had a perfect score of 10, or 8, depending on the version of the test, and how the questions are interpreted (do I have concrete evidence that the events actually occurred?). That helped me to realize that I have something like brain cancer: my brain was probably physically damaged when I was a young child in stressful situations — but I’m resilient. Even as a young child, I had a strong voice inside me that said, “if childhood is this awful, then adulthood is going to be great!”, and it is!

I hope that something that I shared here helps you to see how strong you are, and helps more people to understand what we go through.

P.S. Thanks for sharing the “mind cancer” phrase.

 

Image credits:
photos by Grace Buchanan
stage fright image, by Victor Jeg. Used under Creative Commons License BY-2.0.

Barking Back

Every year, I dread February. But March usually brings some relief. Even though it’s still winter, the days are obviously getting longer, and spring is coming. March is a often sunny month here in Winnipeg, and most years, I start planning my garden, spending a bit more time outside, and generally perking up after the February slump.

This year, though, I just kept sliding downward despite the longer days, the mild weather, and the promise of spring.

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I Have The Right To Be Treated With Dignity

I must intellectualize this to cut my emotion.

The side walls are gray. Flat paint on the rough surface. The drop ceiling must be 10 feet high, at least. I feel small, but I might be able to touch both walls with my fingertips, from where I’m sitting.

Health Center Office

The far walls make this a five-sided office. They are at weird angles. That might be what sent my discomfort over the top. They are light beige. The one on my right is longer than the one on my left. The air is still, odorless. This place resembles the concrete box that a coffin is placed in.

On my left, slightly behind me, is a picture. Art work, sort of. A mass-produced copy of a watercolor portrait of a couple of kids. On hardboard. Hanging crooked. Below it is a sliding glass window, with a desk on the other side of the wall, with chairs facing the window, and another window like it on the other side of the small, unoccupied office. My neck hurts when I turn toward it.

On the cabinet that was placed against the far wall – the longer one – is two photos. One of a young boy, framed. Probably a school picture. Beside it is one of a young girl, slightly older, propped up in front of something framed (maybe an older photo of her?).

“ID and insurance card?” she asks. I take them out, and slide them across the desk to woman on the other side. I make my breath go as deeply as I can. It won’t go past the top buttoned-up-button on my shirt. I try to push a breath down into my belly. It won’t go.

I uncross my legs to plant my feet firmly on the floor to help me feel grounded. No carpet to settle my feet into. Hard vinyl flooring. It is a dark pattern. Abstract. Angular shapes of grays and tans. These colors might be known for subduing people, but I’m not feeling it. These sedating colors are making me impatient to get out of here. To anywhere. To outside. To sunshine and green and lively colors and traffic.

My breath is deeper now.

“Sign here.” She untangles its cord as she slides an electronic signature pad toward me.

“What am I signing?”

“Forms.”

“I think I should read the forms before I sign them?” I try to look at her quizzically, but I can’t see her face over the top of her computer monitor, even though I’m tall. I have to lean way over to the side to see around it. Leaning sideways makes me feel dizzy in this room.

One of the papers says that I will behave myself, do what I’m told, not carry firearms in this building… I never had to sign paperwork like this before. I tell the woman, “Do you know that studies show that people with mental illness diagnoses are less likely to be criminals, break laws, or attack other people than the general public?” She sputters a response of doubt.

Decision For Dignity

This is not where I want to seek help with my recovery from my mental illness, even though this is the only place, within a two hours’ drive from my home, where I have found psychiatrists who accept Medicare health insurance and new patients. I wish that my insurance covered the psychiatrist who has been advising me brilliantly.

I am following one of the options that I discussed with the psychologist: I am asking my physician (who accepts Medicare) to manage my prescriptions for psychiatric medications, as long as I continue to feel well.

Dignity For All

I am using Medicare this year for a few reasons: I save thousands of dollars on health insurance premiums, I want to know what poorer people experience, and I want to support a program that is supposed to provide affordable health care to everyone who qualifies. I also don’t want to support businesses that make large profits on providing essential services to those who can afford to pay the premiums.

When I talked with the intake psychologist who assessed me, and who assigned me to a counselor and a psychiatrist, he said that the paperwork, and a similar sign in the waiting room, were there to help me feel safe.

I would feel safer if the Center would tell us what we can expect, rather than what we can’t do. I feel safer in other professionals’ offices where I see positive affirmations, rather than signing “I shall not” promises that conjure fear.

My thought is, “why do they think that they need me to sign this?” rather than, “I’m glad that all of the patients here had to make these promises.”

The psychologist finally stated that the paperwork and signs were the result of “overpaid lawyers protecting the Center”. As I suspected, it has nothing to do with my feeling safe; it has everything to do with reducing the Center’s liability exposure. Even when they don’t expect people to read the forms that they’re signing.

As far as I recall, when I previously signed in for services at hospital-affiliated health centers, I have received a Patient’s Bill of Rights. I did not receive anything like that from this hospital-affiliated Health Center.

I share my story with the hope of enlightening you who have never been to such a Health Center, and you who go to such places and see nothing wrong. I want everyone to expect to be treated with dignity. Before my intake for outpatient services this week, I heard from health care professionals, and others, that people were really happy with the services that the Center provided. I wasn’t prepared for the psychologist to be derogatory. I want employees at the Center to sign a form that says:

I will behave myself
I will not carry fire arms
I will not raise my voice
I will be patient with you
I will not call you names
I will treat you with dignity

 

Image Credit:
Claustrophobia by Timothy Allen. Used under Creative Commons License BY-SA 2.0. Modified by Grace Buchanan.

Mental Health Athletes

I greatly appreciate writers who share ideas for attracting readers, for example, at Twitter: #amwriting #amreading; and at Google+: the Saturday Scenes and Writers Discussion Group communities.

Here are thoughts that I would like more authors to consider when sharing what they write about mental illness.

I often perceive an “us and them” way of thinking, for example when a writer claims, “it’s very easy to tick them off.” I suggest that we all have triggers that are easy to spark; people with a specific issue aren’t unique in that regard. The quote conjures visions of a herd of people with the issue, wound tight like springs, ready to attack. With this image in mind, I can see why some people try to keep a wide berth between “us” and “them.” Remember that all people are people. Attackers attack, resilient people bounce back, doormats are trampled, and so forth, regardless of specific issues.

Attack

Fiction can be better at building understanding than nonfiction. Novels can make challenges and solutions vivid for the readers. I’m thinking of Hamlet and Don Quixote, Sybil, and more recently Cut, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Mental illness is like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes: all can be addressed with preventive measures and therapies, and all are invisible to most of us.

A person who is not dealing with a mental health issue, but is writing about a character who is, is like a male writing about a female, or a European writing about an Indian. It is like being a real person writing about someone who is not. A key is getting feedback from people who have similar characteristics.

The most enthusiastic readers might be those who recognize something in common with at least one of the main characters. Therefor, reaching out to people who have an illness that is similar to the fictitious condition should be effective. However, main characters have more to them than just one issue. Draw on those other similarities as well.

Consider that the only difference between someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who doesn’t, is that one is seeking treatment. Everyone deals with mental health; the people who are working on their mental health issues are like athletes who are working on their physical health issues.

Healthy-Athlete

We are all working on putting our best foot forward.

P.S. I found more guidelines for writing about mental illness, for people who are looking for more specific advice. What are your favorite resources? Which resources have you discovered recently?

 

Image credits:

Woverine vs. Hulk, by Marcel Trindade.

Fields Squats, Fields Prosthetic, and Fields Runs 200, by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs.

All images used under Creative Commons License by-2.0.

Reblog: Mental Health Blog Day

I need to go deeper into my depressions to get out of them, and use Jessica Dall’s suggestion number one, “Only write what is cathartic.” Writing something dark can take a lot of the bite out of a depression. I feel irritated when people tell me to cheer up, even though I know that they might be saying it with all of the best intentions. When I let myself go dark when I write, I feel spooked by the vividness of horrible images — and fascinated and illuminated. I would never deliberately read or write such things. Suggestion number one is refreshing.

When I am in my deepest depression, art is the last ability that I lose. Reading and writing are the very last skills that go, except breathing, swallowing, and blinking (yes, those become skills). I write quickly and keep my focus on the next word, so that I don’t have time to read or judge my work. I know that I might have to write dozens of pages to produce one keeper. That’s OK, because the keeper is exciting and rewarding, and makes the experience worthwhile. So, I want to proclaim suggestion number three from the rooftops! “Don’t hold yourself to any standards.”

Consider the statistics that Jessica cites, while you keep suggestion number three in mind. Consider that mental illness diagnoses are human constructs (standards) to help professionals to communicate. Therefor, perhaps art doesn’t make people crazy, and crazy people aren’t artistic. Perhaps the people who feel less pressure to be conventional, and more drive to be unconventional, are diagnosed as “crazy artists”. This idea makes suggestion number three all the more sensible.

Another sensible suggestion is, “Figure out if schedules work for you.” Too many people who think that they know about mood disorders insist that time management must help. It is only helpful when I feel well. Otherwise, it is enormously frustrating as I can’t accomplish what I aim for.

You see, suggestion number five, “Know it will get better,” is the one that I have the hardest time with every day. No one has persuaded me that “this too shall pass.” For example, when I have been down for a while, and then depression persists, then I am sure that I am deteriorating. I know that how I am feeling will never improve. I know that I will never be able to finish the many projects that I started. Instead of backing out to where I remember the light was, and not being able to find even a glimmer, I accept that I am in that state of mind forever. With practice, I am learning to reorient myself to accept my limitations. Even when I can only imagine what I want to write, that is something. I can’t imagine that I will ever feel better, but I find it easy to imagine that I could feel worse. Then is a good time to return to suggestion number one, and write my heart out!

Jessica Dall offers remarkable insight for people who deal with depression personally or indirectly. I hope that more people will see these suggestions.

Jessica Dall

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

Once again, it is American Psychological Association’s Mental Health Blog Day. Before, I talked about the use of mental disorders in fiction (something that can both be done very, very well and very, very poorly); today I’ll be talking about mental disorders on the other side of the keyboard (or typewriter, or pen).

In a statistic that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, those who work in creative fields have some of the highest rates of mental illness in the general population. As this article puts it, “People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, especially writers, according to researchers at Karolinska Institute” (emphasis mine). They go on to state, “Like their previous study, [Karolinska Insitute] found that bipolar disorder is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors…

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