Categories
depression disability mental illness stigma

Disabilities: What Not To Say

Originally published PsychCentral.com

link

There is a hashtag trending on twitter: #AncientAbledProverbs, started by @HijaDe2Madre. It is about things abled people say to the disabled, often unthinking, that can be hurtful or ignorant. These could be physical or mental, visible or invisible disabilities.

doglisten

Categories
AA alcoholism mental illness Recovery support Uncategorized

Finding Support for Mental Illness and Alcoholism

beachvacation

 

Originally published on Psych Central
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/finding-support-for-mental-illness-and-alcoholism/

It can be hard dealing with a mental illness and/or alcoholism without support from a loved one. Perhaps, they don’t recognize it as a real problem. They may be frightened or not comprehend what is happening. Sometimes, partners may even try to sabotage your recovery.

There could be any number of reasons why you could use some outside help.

Friends and family can be of assistance, but oftentimes they don’t understand.

One way of getting help is to go to support groups. There are national organizations for many types of mental illnesses, addictions or co-occurring disorders. AA has sponsors (I have never had one). You can also make friends and have someone to contact if you are having a rough time.

There is something about peer support, and being with others who have been there, that is special. I remember the first time I went to a (DBSA), Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, meeting. I was frustrated because I couldn’t find anything that sounded like me in the textbooks. Then, I met people I could relate to at the meeting. I had found “my people”. Now, I choose to work as a peer mentor because I believe in the power of peer support.

Professional help is good, too, though, not as readily available. I call my therapist when I am not doing well mentally.

You can turn to the internet. There are all types of message boards and chat rooms where you can go for support. You can meet people from all over the world to share experiences with.

Social media is a way of meeting people and blogging is a way to be heard.

They aren’t very common, but there are clubhouses or activity centers for people with mental illnesses. I work at one such center. We have all kinds of activities: gardening, art, music and a lot of different groups. It is a nice place to meet others and be supported.

Volunteering and helping others can help you, too. It can be rewarding and if you work with people with similar issues you may learn new resources or coping skills.

The main source of support you will find is within yourself. You will be the one to resist temptations and cravings. You will be the one to act on warning signs and develop coping skills.

When you are on your way in recovery, you may find you are stronger than you know.

Photo courtesy Max Pixel
http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Nature-Ocean-Beach-Thinking-Pensive-Waves-1927359

Categories
alcoholism anxiety Co-occurring Dual diagnosis mental illness Recovery schizoaffective stigma Uncategorized

The Stigma of Co-Occurring Disorders

In my opinion, this is my best yet 🙂

Originally published on Psych Central
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/the-stigma-of-co-occurring-disorders/

There is a great deal of stigma attached with both mental illnesses and addictions. That is one reason I talk about my experiences. So, others won’t feel alone, and, to put a face to these conditions. It is scary to get a diagnosis of a life-long mental health condition that all you have heard are extreme negatives. People can lose hope. And, people fear what they don’t know.

I also have shame, or self-stigma. I have worked on accepting the schizoaffective diagnosis and at this point am okay. There was a time when I felt, less than, because of the severe symptoms. Now, I know I could not control what happened in the past, and just work on staying stable.

Social anxiety is something I contend with daily, and I cannot seem to prepare enough. I don’t know if I can ever accept how limiting it is for me. There are some things, like volunteering at my children’s school events, that are just too busy for me. I cannot enjoy shopping or parties, I just want an exit. I have worked very hard on this and work with people now and even do public speaking, but it is difficult.

The alcohol addiction label is new to me. In the program I am doing, SMART Recovery, they don’t give labels. But, I need to call it something. The drinking is not new, just the acknowledgement.

There are choices of programs for changing addictive behaviors. Some people work more than one at a time. This was just one that seems to fit my philosophy. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles and I already learned some of those for my anxiety.

I haven’t had serious consequences from drinking. No DUIs or jail time, No relationship problems. But, I drink more than I would like to and it is hard for me to abstain completely.

When I started this blog, I decided I would like to write about the alcohol component along with the mental illness. So many of us have co-occurring disorders. I was excited, and then, I paused. What will people I know think when they see ‘alcoholic’?

Then I giggled. First, because I can’t decide which is the lesser of 2 stigmas (it doesn’t matter). And then, because they all have seen me drink. It isn’t really a surprise.

The secret is that I am working on it.

Info on SMART Recovery

Self-Help Addiction Recovery – SMART Recovery 4-Point Program – Alternative to AA

Info on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
http://www.aa.org/

Categories
bipolar mental illness motherhood parenting psychosis schizoaffective schizophrenia

Mothering and Mental illness

Originally posted on Psych Central

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/parenting-and-mental-illness/

It is natural to wonder if you are a “good enough” mother. This can be amplified with mental illness.

My children were ages 2 and 4 when I had a psychotic break. I was hospitalized twice that year After that, I needed help doing basic tasks for a while. Even when I got back on my feet, I was not 100%.

I was too tired to take my son to the park and too anxious to make play dates. My daughter didn’t have the “supermom” some of her friends seemed to have. She has me. And, I try. But, I feel like they got a raw deal.

And there was more. I would get paranoid they were going to get harmed and not want them to see certain people. I was almost constantly distracted by voices and delusions of messages and not nearly as attentive as I could have been.

They didn’t understand that I had a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder. I had planned to answer questions as they asked, but they didn’t ask much. My daughter once questioned why I was making a sign for a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) class. I told her it was because I had a mental illness. She just said “I didn’t know that “and went back to playing.

They know I take medication and I am tired often. I didn’t want them to worry it was something else, and it seemed time we talked about it, so one day I told them. My son did not know, my daughter knew already. Neither of them wanted to hear any more.

I worried my behavior would affect them. That they would have some problems because of me. But, they are the best kids. They have friends, do well in school, are active. I need to give credit to the other people in their lives: my husband, their grandma, teachers, other parents. They picked up where I couldn’t.

I was fortunate. I had my children before I was diagnosed, so I didn’t have to worry about medications and pregnancy. That can get complicated and needs involvement with your psychiatrist and obstetrician.

Schizoaffective disorder has a genetic component. Not everyone has a relative with a psychotic disorder, but it isn’t unusual. That is another of my worries. Will I pass this illness on to my children? So far, that hasn’t been an issue.

I have a lot of “what if’s” about my mental illness. If I had known I had it before I had a psychotic break would we have had children? Would my husband have married me? I don’t know. I like my life and I can’t imagine it any differently than the way it is now

Categories
bipolar disclosure mental illness stigma Uncategorized

Reaching One Person

I feel that if I can help one person by sharing my story it has been worthwhile.

I made this video for “Mental Health Justice” (not my best look) and got the most amazing reply. I am withholding the author’s name for privacy. I really have no idea what I could have said that helped, I am just glad it did.

So, if you are fighting stigma and wondering if it is worth it, it is. Not everyone is vocal, but they are there.

 

 

” This video was not only captivating, but utterly breath taking. I am currently and always have been at war with my Bipolar. Recently however has been an exceptionally difficult period of psychosis. Paranoia as well as hallucinations have ran ramped in my skull in between medications. I felt oh so alone. This video, this God sent video helped to dramatically break the psychosis due to the idea my disease has breed other victims. So, thank you to the existence of pages such as this. It probably saved my life.”

Categories
alcoholism disclosure mental illness stigma Uncategorized

Feeling Vulnerable

I have disclosed a lot. Nothing left to hide. A lot of people knew I had a mental health diagnosis. The alcohol was not really a secret but I never used the word ‘alcoholic’.

I thought I might feel free, not having secrets, but right now I feel uneasy. I hope I did the right thing. I can’t take it back.

image

Categories
anxiety bipolar Coping skills life lessons mental illness psychosis schizoaffective

Coping With Schizoaffective Disorder

Originally published Psych Central
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/coping-with-my-mental-health-symptoms/

With schizoaffective disorder and social anxiety, I have a number of different types of symptoms to cope with.

For me, psychotic symptoms can be the hardest to deal with. The first thing I turn to is medication. I have tried a few of the newer atypical anti-psychotics and fortunately, I respond well. It takes more than medication alone, though.

Some things that can help people cope with psychotic symptoms:

• Help from others– I have issues with fatigue and motivation. If someone can help me with chores: childcare, housecleaning, cooking it is a big relief.
• Music– Listening to music can help drown out voices.
• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is a type of therapy based on moving from distorted thinking to more rational thinking. It can be used to treat people with psychotic symptoms, but anyone can have distorted thinking.
• Asking– If I trust someone I can ask them to help me determine what is real.
• Acting “As If” – I can act like consensus reality (what everyone else believes) is real. The longer I do the more I start to believe it.
• Psychiatric Service Dogs– Dogs can be trained to perform specific functions that help with your disability.
• Technology– Apps like snapchat can be used to verify that what you are seeing is real.

My mood symptoms are varied. I rarely am euphoric. I am more typically irritable and paranoid. Or sad and anhedonic. But, I can be reckless and impulsive. Some things that help me with different mood symptoms. (There is overlap with the different coping skills):

• Support groups – A number of organizations have support groups for people with mental health conditions. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI) are two national organizationsOkay.
• CBT– like I mentioned above this is a type of therapy that helps with distorted thinking. Distorted thinking can lead to depression and CBT can help your mood.
• Acting against Impulse– This is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) technique. If your first impulse is to do something reckless, push yourself to do the opposite.
• Talk Therapy– This goes for all the sections, but if I am irritated at something specific my therapist can help me put it in perspective.

For now, I have my psychotic symptoms pretty well under control and my depressions are mild. I haven’t been manic in years. I am still plagued by anxiety. Here are some of my anxiety coping skills:

• Breathe– I take a deep breath and let it out slowly to help me calm down.
• Visualization– I picture an event coming up, going well and I don’t get so nervous about it.
• Routine– I take my medications and go to bed, wake up at the same time, plan for change ahead of time.
• Journaling– getting my thoughts out helps me to organize them and take some of the emotion out.
• Calling someone-talking to a friend helps me to not feel alone.
• Avoiding over-stimulation– Sometimes I just need quiet time. A big crowded place is too busy for me.
• Breaking Tasks into Pieces-If I try to take on a project all at once I freeze, but if I break it up into more manageable pieces I can get it done.
• Socialize- I tend to isolate which isn’t healthy so if I am invited out, I push myself to go. I usually have at least an okay time, it is just getting out the door.

Categories
bipolar mental illness schizoaffective stigma Uncategorized

The Power of Words

sometimes people don’t know what to say when they find I have a mental illness. I found a list from the DBSA http://www.dbsalliance.org and made a short video of things thst could be hurtful and alternatives.

Categories
gun control mental illness politics schizoaffective schizophrenia stigma

Don’t Use Me As A Pawn

Originally posted on Medium

Note: I know this is a controversial post. I am open to discussion. I am not against any of these laws, I just don’t like being presented as a problem.

Categories
alcoholism anxiety disclosure life lessons mental illness schizoaffective writing

Feeling Exposed

I have social anxiety and used to barely interact with others. Enough to do my job, get my groceries, but not much more. I have slowly been building on that and as far as overcoming my anxiety- I think I have come a long way.

I have been slowly disclosing information about myself to others. People close to me and people I don’t know. I give talks on my experience with mental illness for NAMI. I have been blogging on a private site. I made a YouTube video and did periscope chats. I have been posting more personal info on social media.

Now, I am blogging out in the open and I feel vulnerable. I showed my co-worker some articles I wrote and he followed a link here. It is fine. That is what it is there for. But, I felt like he was reading my diary at the same time.

And, I put a disclaimer on twitter that my views don’t represent my employer. I know you have to be careful what you say. My work knows about my mental illness. I work in the field. I just was pretty casual on the more private site. I worry I am going to get comfortable and say the wrong thing (like complain about someone or something).

And, I just announced some things about myself that people didn’t know. Not everyone that follows me on Twitter knew of my mental health or alcohol abuse issues. I feel like I need to explain everything, right now.