Mental Health

I Talk



‪In 2014, three years ago today, I publically announced that my censorship was teetering due to entering a manic episode. It’s well known in my family that May, June, July is a triggered time of the year for me. It’s that time of year now, and happening again. This is hard. It’s scary and surreal to know I was feeling this same intense incongruity three years ago ‘on this day’ to have a manic episode exactly three years apart, to the month, if not the day, what if the hour? Who can know? But I documented it excruciatingly well. I am in turmoil, embarrassed & euphoric all at once. Fuck me.

Countless therapists speculate as to why, but no one knows for sure. Personally, I believe it’s due to being born late in May. My mom endured trauma during pregnancy, she says I screamed from the moment I was born, throughout my infancy. We were unable to bond until I was an adult. I believe this is because of the trauma she experienced while I was in utero, I didn’t feel safe enough to form a bond. My mom and therapist believe I was born with PTSD and so do I. To me, it makes sense that being born could be traumatic enough to leave lifelong emotional scars. My childhood was wrought with abuse, and some think something happened to me as a child for these months to have imprinted on me in such a negative way, but things happened to me in all months from child through adulthood. This is why I believe being born was the most traumatic thing to have happened to me in my entire life, and I’ve been molested, raped, beaten, brainwashed, witnessed abuse, and been abused. I have five psychological conditions because of my genes and environmental circumstances, and I won’t hide, or stop talking about what I deal with, and I make no apologies. I spent enough of my life shying away from telling people the truth about myself, and it’s only ever hurt me, and enabled other people to feel ashamed for the things they deal with behind closed doors. Note: I often entertain other topics of conversation, time and place matters.


Silence contributes to stigma. This isn’t to guilt anyone, it is what it is.


When I talk about my mental health issues, openly, it helps me take thoughts and feelings that, when left to myself, unspoken, fester, and build into irrational delusions. Saying or writing things out helps me frame things with a new perspective so I can figure out how to rationally deal with my delusions, negative, or injurious moods and behaviors. More importantly, talking openly about genuine emotions enables others to talk openly about theirs too. The more of us who speak honestly and openly about our mental health, the more human the face of mental illness becomes. 

I don’t think everyone realizes, certainly not people who don’t live with MI, but stigma, denial, and ignorance is *still* very real, and damaging. Stigma shames people into secrecy and keeps many from seeking help for what can be life threatinging issues. I hear so many people say how much better it is now than in the 80’s. Well, damn, then we should be fucking ashamed, because I’m still the only person I know irl who openly talks about my mental health. It took some practice, and I have cried myself to sleep at night in worry after talking publically about specific issues, but all in all, I regret nothing, and have had countless people confide in me, their personal struggles. They shouldn’t have to feel they need to whisper in my ear, but that is the stigma. 


I realize that coming out about MI may jeopardize some people’s career’s, even temp jobs, shame on us for that too, because that’s stigma telling employers that everyone living with mental illness can’t be capable, and that’s absolutely untrue. Don’t tell me it’s not stigmatized to the point of job loss, of inability to get a loan, rent an apartment, college admission, down to finding a significant other. So I realize why people don’t talk, but I’m in a position where I have nothing to lose, I’ve already lost it. All I have left is my ability to talk, about what or why it went wrong, what I need to function, how I can prevent myself from getting worse, and how I can encourage others to get the help they need before they lose it too. ~Davs

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Mental Health

What They Won’t Tell You About BPD

I found out eight months ago that I have Borderline Personality Disorder *BPD. It’s taken me a long time, this whole time, to not only come to terms, but understand the symptoms as well. I’m still learning, to be honest.

It’s 4am as I write this. I went to bed hours ago, but some thoughts kept me awake until I was forced to get up and write about them, right now.

First off, let me explain to you that, eight years ago my therapist wrote in her personal notes the suspicion that I may have BPD, but she never told me. Over a year ago, my boyfriend started researching my symptoms online. I have bipolar 1, but he felt that I was presenting symptoms outside of the spectrum of bipolar. Several things came up, which is why armchair diagnosis is not good and rarely accurate, but he kept coming back to BPD. Despite not ever knowing anything about BPD, I heard *personality disorder* and immediately recoiled, accusing him of gaslighting. Six months later, while he was sleeping in bed, I took a BPD aptitude test. Yes, I know how silly that is. No, I do not put truck in random online “tests.” But, I did happen to get a score that was very high above “Extremely Likely BPD.” I took my knowleadge of the “test” results in to my following therapy appointment, where my therapist proceeded to not only go through the BPD DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders) checklist with me, and check each box as I fit every symptom, but she divulged the reasoning behind not wanting to write it in my charts or formally diagnose me.

You see, Borderline Personality Disorder is highly stigmatized and misunderstood, not only by the general population, but specificly by medical professionals. I say specifically because it is their job to be informed and they are routinely misinformed. I went home upset and feeling somewhat stabbed in the back, for having this information kept from me for so long. But eight months later, after reading everything I can about BPD, and involving myself in multiple support groups, I finally understand why she felt she was doing me a favor. I still feel that she should’ve told me, but also understand that she wasn’t even aware that there was a treatment (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy *DBT) for BPD until around the time I brought it into conversation. I can see why she felt keeping something from me that has no treatment would make sense, she was sparing me the grief.

Now let’s put my therapist situation aside and go back to the medical professionals, and misinformation, and expand into thousands of articles written about people with “BPD” warning potential partners to steer clear, telling horror stories of our narssistic ways, and unfeeling habits. Making bogus accusations that we’re severely manipulative, and can cry on command, make up suicide threats, lie to get our way, make horrible parents, and my absolute favorite, do not have the capacity to love.

This is what she was sparing me from, are you less mad? Because after hearing stories about people with BPD being turned away from the emergency rooms, hung up on by crisis lines, dismissed by doctors, and psychiatrists, and shunned by their friends and family, I am the opposite of mad.

Here’s the thing. I could spend all day listing off each untrue claim and explain to you why they are myths. But rather, I want to focus on something I feel is more important for you to understand. If you know anything about autism, which is NOT a mental illness or chemical imbalance, but a neurotype, but if you know anything, you’ll recognize the common misunderstanding that people on the spectrum are unfeeling or lack emotion, even claims of narssism. What we know within the autism community is that the opposite is true. People on the autism spectrum generally not only feel so intensely in their emotions, but also experience high sensitivity sensorily. They spend so much of their energy processing all the input that they have little energy left over for output. It leaves them scrambling to regulate themselves and leaves the neurotypical observer or interactor to assume that their buddy on the spectrum just doesn’t care enough to pay attention, or respond in the way a neurotypical would.

Now let’s look at BPD and apply that same logic, yes we seek attention, there is fear of abandonment, we have what is called an FP (favorite person) of whom we attach our existence to and rely on for emotional validation, we have trouble regulating our moods, splitting, identity confusion, and  intense emotion. But can you see how all of these symptoms are related? The number one thing I’ve come to understand about myself, and others with borderline personality disorder is that we are so very highly sensitive that we present our symptoms with abandon and desperation. We display different than someone on the autism spectrum, but the idea is the same; which is, we are so profoundly sensitive that often we act out in attempt to protect ourselves from harm. Too often our emotional response is counterproductive to our desired outcome, but in the process of trying to regulate our sensitivity we do things that someone without BPD wouldn’t do. We’re so busy trying to hold ourselves together that we fall apart much more than I would like to admit.

Many of us have done regrettable things to get attention, many of us have walked away from a relationship, or pushed people away out of fear that the person we were walking away from might walk away first, it’s a form of self preservation, to protect ourselves from being hurt. After all, it’s better to hurt ourselves than to let other’s inflict the pain. Too many of us use self harm as an emotional regulator. We cling, and need, and beg in many different forms for compassion, honesty, understanding, patience, and love, and that’s the thing. That. We. Don’t. Get when  someone sees the diagnosis of BPD hanging around our necks. The very thing we need to mend is withheld by longstanding stigmatization, ableism, and misinformation.

Of course we need to learn to give ourselves the things we crave, and that’s what treatment is for, but in the meantime stop alienating us by villifying our sensitive nature, and instead offer us the appropriate equivalent of a simple hug.

~Davs

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Mental Health, Thoughts

The Stigma of Psychiatric Medication and This is Water

 

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Stigma of Psychiatric Medication and This is Water

I watched ‘This is Water’ for the first time this year, if you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it. The commencement speech was delivered in 2005 so I’m late to the show. But despite the speech being 8 years old, it still holds precious truths and narrative that is especially important to keep in mind during the busy hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

What struck me the most about ‘This is Water’ was the knowledge that David Foster Wallace,  such an elegant wordsmith and intelligent mind, talking in the video about an individual default setting, and learning how to choose to think about the world differently, committed suicide in 2008. The New York Times published an obituary that for the first time publicly addressed Wallace’s long-time struggle with depression. Readers discovered that he’d been on an antidepressant for 2o years when the drug started to produce serious adverse effects. On a doctor’s recommendation, Wallace tapered off. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. Wallace’s father had seen his son in August. “He was being very heavily medicated,” he said. “He’d been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn’t stand it anymore.”

It is tragic that Wallace could not find a replacement therapy in time to save himself from that, “default setting” he so adamantly warned us about. But that just goes to show that even an intelligent and gifted mind can be easily overcome by mental illness. Look at what those 20 years of using an antidepressant helped him accomplish. As someone who knows well how deep in despair ones mind sinks with depression, I am glad that at least for that time he was able to live with a clear mind. Look at what he contributed to the world with the help of medication.

Listen, I’m so tired of people complaining about Big Pharma. Sure, it’s corrupt, and money driven. YES. I know this. But what is someone like David Foster Wallace and the millions of people in the world suffering from mental illness to do without it?

The truth about medication is that for people like me, and David Foster Wallace is that we don’t have any other choice. Sure, I could play around with St. Johns Wart, exercise all day, and eat only foods that fall off of trees, but unless you are me, you may not grasp the fact that my mental illness, unmedicated, causes my brain to be unable to make consistent healthy decisions. As someone with bipolar (DFW had depression but for people living with MI, in my opinion the stigma puts us all in one category.) I tend to be grandiose and spontaneous in a dangerous way, and on the flip side, I have unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide a total of 4 times, instead landing myself in mental institutions.

Yes, medication for mental illness has side effects that are potentially dangerous. But what people don’t seem to understand, is how dangerous someone with my level of mental illness can be without taking the right medication. I’m talking danger to myself, but in some cases danger to others as well. What choice do I have? Am I supposed to allow myself the chance of getting so low that I see no other option than death? Or so high on mania that I ruin my life and that of my loved ones by making decisions that put myself in harms way?

I’m sorry that Big Pharma is corrupt. I’m sorry that the list of potential side effects on the average psychiatric medication is a mile long. But most of all I’m sorry every time I see another post, or meme, or news story that perpetuates the stigma of taking medication for mental illness. I’m sorry when I get unbidden advice or hear of others being told to meditate, eat raw, juice, and exercise, etc. in place of taking medication. You have no idea how many different things I’ve tried outside of taking meds. My family and I suffered many years of chaos because I refused to take medication. I see and know people now who are suffering emotionally and causing their family’s great distress because they refuse to “give in” to taking medication. That’s what society makes it feel like, giving in.

What I know is that in my 31 years on this planet the last 5 have been the most even tempered, safe, and content that I’ve ever known. Until I “gave in” and worked with my doctor to find the right medications for me, I never had a clue that life could be like this. When I look back at the “unmedicated me,” I actually fear for ever going back there again. I fear losing what I’ve built in these 5 years of emotional sobriety. I never fathomed going months without an argument, laughing at myself instead of getting enraged, being able to trust myself and my loved ones no holds barred.

This is me. I know people who are seemingly happy living with mental illness unmedicated and that’s okay. But for me, and others like me, I’d really love it if people would stop bashing psychiatric medications, causing people who need them to fear and fight it. There is peace to be had that Big Pharma provides. I’m sorry if people don’t like that. Idealistically, the drive behind the pharmaceutical machine would be a genuine want to help people with mental illness, and money would have nothing to do with it. But until that happens, which is probably never, we have to take the good with the bad. Tell me now, without advising me to resort to unproven homeopathic remedies, what are my choices? Have you lived in my shoes?

I told the story about a great man like David Foster Wallace as an example because he is someone many people respect and look up to. He is the kind of person who proves that mental illness can affect even the greatest among us. But there are millions of us, like him, who really do need psychiatric medication to function on a daily basis. One important step to fighting the stigma of mental illness is also to fight the stigma of taking medication for that illness. Imagine asking someone with diabetes to stop taking insulin, that’s like asking a paranoid schizophrenic to stop taking anti-psychotics. Please be mindful and aware. Not all of us can get by on clean eating and positive thinking.

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Mental Health

Ignorance is Bliss

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This image is my response to the all the ‘choose joy’ and ‘happiness is a choice’ memes and my own commentary on mental illness. It would be easy to assume this is about poverty, which is important too. I guess it could be about whatever you want. But I think even in the most extreme poverty there are people with good mental health who can still choose joy despite all stacked up against them. Just like someone with clinical depression could have all the money in the world and still think about suicide. Basically, I want to say, being able to choose joy is a luxury. There’s nothing wrong with it. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But if you don’t understand that concept it’s because people are still too afraid to talk openly about mental illness.

I do believe in positive thinking, I do believe it has power. But those memes represent to me how far behind we are in an open conversation about mental illness. Positive thinking really works, but the problem is that sometimes people who are drowning in a variety of chemical imbalances can’t think clearly enough to even begin to think or believe in happiness. This is where medication and therapy come in. But there is still so much of a stigma against taking medicine for a sick brain that people fight it, and try to force themselves to will the illness away. When are we going to see memes about getting help, accepting that mental illness is no different from having diabetes, or the flu. Some are temporary, others are life long. Why do people have such a hard time believing that the body can be sick but the brain can’t? Why is it acceptable to talk about having a physical illness but shameful to admit you have a mental illness? These are things we need to stop being afraid of. Why do I only hear media coverage about mental illness after a mass shooting or a tragedy? 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental illness in America alone, and those are the people admitting and seeking help.

Dealing with my own illness has been life long and I fought so hard against it until I came to a point where if I didn’t accept it and seek help I was going to lose the people most important to me. It’s a whirlwind. And now that I’ve found help and am managing my illness I can finally see how much chaos and heartbreak I’ve caused and endured in my life because I wasn’t thinking clearly. And how much easier life can be when you’re not fighting against yourself. I look back on the unmedicated me and it scares me to think I might ever go back. I’ve never felt so stable and even tempered in my life, I didn’t know what I was missing until I found it.

This isn’t all about me absolutely advocating medication for everyone. I get that there are people who can function and lead healthy lives while dealing with mental illness. But I know too many people who are barely able to cope that are scared to death of taking medication. Those are the people I think about when I see those happy thoughts memes, and I think about my old self and how long it took me to find peace. And I get angry at the ignorant bliss we as a people seem to have about mental illness until it affects us directly. I don’t know how to change it, or what to do other then talk about it.

 

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