Fighting the Stigma

Because I have my undergrad degree in psychology, I’ve always pushed to end the stigma attached to having a mental disorder.  It’s something I will argue about with people with no hesitation.  The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, why can’t it get sick too?  Why do we look down on those that are depressed and tell them, “just get over it.  Why can’t you see the good in things?  Just be happy!” and things to that effect.  I logically understand that it is a holdover from previous decades and not understanding the human brain nor it’s disabilities.  But it can still be infuriating to someone who not only suffers from a mental disorder, but has an education in it as well (all be it a small one in the scheme of things).

Then I admitted myself to the psych ward.  I voluntarily checked myself into the loony bin, and not for an experiment like Nelly Bly did (check her out, her investigative journalism really shocked the world of mental health:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Days_in_a_Mad-House).  I was diagnosed with bipolar II, not just a simple depression/anxiety thing which I believe is a lot easier for people to swallow, if still stigmatized.  Well shit, what now?  How do I go about living with this, in more than a logistics way?  Do I hide it?  Do I only tell certain people?  With my open views on mental health, do I shout it to the world?  What will the repercussions be to myself and those I love?  What about gun control and the conversations involving us “crazies” now?  How will that affect me?

For the first few weeks, I was extremely tight lipped about my diagnosis.  I didn’t tell anyone but my family and close friends.  I felt like a total hypocrite.  How can I say everyone ELSE needs to be open about their diagnosis, but not do that myself?  I had already begun working on my book about being in the hospital but planned on using a pen-name, so my family wouldn’t be harmed if I was ever able to publish.  The cognitive dissonance was astounding and hurt my head.  I couldn’t reconcile the two.  So, I decided that I was going to blog.  That way I could practice and hone my writing “skills” as well as be open about what was happening to me.  I’m so glad I did.  I am sure I will feel negative repercussions for this other than Connor questioning me about privacy the first day I posted and my dear friend G calling to warn me.

I truly hope that I can, in some small way, help end some of the stigma of bipolar.  I still catch myself when asked, hesitating to say what’s happening to me.  I will choke on the words but spit them out nonetheless.  I have got to.  I can’t lie to myself and others about something as simple as a chemical imbalance (they think, as far as I’ve seen, they don’t know precisely why it happens).  The brain and psychology are still a very young science.  When I do say that I have bipolar, I make sure to not specify bipolar II for a few reasons.  One is that most don’t KNOW that there are two distinct types of Bipolar.  Another reason is that it just doesn’t matter.  I have the disorder, I’m admitting it, it doesn’t matter which.  One more reason is that bipolar II, for those that know about it, is seen as the more “mild” form of bipolar, which isn’t true.  Yes, the mania is much more mild (called hypomania), but the depressive episodes are MUCH deeper than Bipolar I, which makes it just as intense, but in a different area.

Sometimes I will refer people to read my blog, which feels a lot like a shameless plug for views.  Even though I only get a very small amount of views, I do want more.  I want more people to see what it’s like to live through the disorder.  I want as many people who DON’T have bipolar to see that we are just the same as you, we just have to fight our brains every day.  That’s not scary to you.  We (for the most part) aren’t scary or dangerous, though there are some that are.  Not all mental health sufferers will be dangerous.  With millions of people diagnosed with some type of illness, it’s such a small percent of us that do become violent or dangerous to others in some way.  Mostly we are self-harming.  Mostly.

Shameless self-plug ahead.  If you’ve ever thought about sharing this blog, please do.  I want to help others in any way I can.  If that means putting my whole life out there, then so be it.  My existence doesn’t feel worth it if I don’t make some small impact, in some small way.  I think this is the way I was supposed to make my impact.  Let others know they are not alone.  They are seen.  So, share away!  It’s an easy link to remember, Enterbipolar.com.  Think of the Metallica song “enter sandman” except with bipolar.  That’s what I stole the name from (fun fact!), as well as from Hamilton the musical, “So there will be a revolution in this century, Enter me! He says in parenthesis.”  Hopefully that’ll help you remember as you’re living and encounter someone that may need any kind of help.  And of course, please reach out to me with questions if you have any!  I have an email address set up just for this site and you should be able to find it under the “contact me” page.  Or, if you know me personally, message/text me.  I’m terrible with phone calls, they make me anxious as all hell.

 

Ever Present Guilt

This month I’ve only posted twice.  I’ve been playing around for how often to post and when, to see what it does to views.  With every 4 days posting, NOBODY reads!  So, I’m going to try once again to post daily/every other day (sorry for those that will see constant reminders!).  When I inevitably wake up at 2AM every morning, I’ll go down and write instead of laying down and mindlessly looking at other people’s lives.  There is really no point.  My goal during all this intensity is to be productive.  Looking at other people’s happiness does absolutely nothing to my productivity, nor my own mental health.  I feel guilty for coming downstairs in the middle of the night to write as well.  Connor cannot sleep without me beside him and so me being gone will wake him up.  I feel guilty infecting another person with my inability to sleep for only 3-4 hours at a time.  So I give myself grief for coming down and spending the few hours alone in my solitary self-reflection.

Feeling guilty about writing at night is what brings me to what I want to talk about.  Guilt.  It is absolutely pervasive in my mind.  Guilt is a lot of why I feel so negatively towards myself and what I do.  I practice so much mental self-flagellation for about anything and everything I do.  I didn’t do the dishes soon enough?  *whip* Didn’t have a trauma growing up during a trauma class, but am still messed up?  *whip* Laundry piling up?  *whip* Said what I believe is an awkward thing to a friend?  *whip* Thinking about going on disability to fully heal both my back and my brain?  *whip* This type of thinking is absolutely no fun and is what I think may be my most destructive brain pattern.  Why do I feel guilty about feeling guilty right in this moment?

Guilt in very small doses can be a good thing (so I hear).  It causes you to be sure to do kind things for others, like remembering to send a present for a birthday or call your mother/friends/siblings etc. on special occasions.  This type of guilt can be NOT self-destructive.  It’s when you over use guilt that makes it so damaging.  I don’t know why the guilt dial can be turned to 11, but I wish I did.  I only realized that my guilt lever was fully on today when I was in therapy group.  We were talking about trauma and the physical responses with the nervous systems as well as symptoms of trauma that persist throughout life.  Because I HAVE no trauma that I know of, I felt guilty for even being in group.  Why do I deserve to have this amazing opportunity to be in this intensive outpatient therapy group, when I haven’t and don’t go through what the other wonderful people that are there do?  I don’t have childhood abuse; my family life was great growing up.  Why am I so depressed?  I am not abused now either.  I sat in group and practically disassociated and went somewhere else as an unintentional coping mechanism.  I couldn’t handle my guilt for lack of trauma.  How in the hell does THAT make any sense at all?  I feel guilty for NOT having a life destructing trauma?  What the hell?

I’ve heard that these types of self-flagellations are a phenomenon called the “Dobby effect” named after the house elf in one of my favorite book series ever written, Harry Potter.  Dobby will self-harm any time he goes against his owners or says something that is negative or forbidden about them, at least until he’s freed by Harry.  The Dobby Effect causes guilty feeling people to ward off the guilt by self-punishment.  I use this effect in spades.  I don’t know why, but I do.  It makes me avoid persons and situations in which I’ve felt guilty, as well as isolate myself, feel guilty about that and then over-work myself at the house which will cause a crash later.  I have recently crashed in the last two weeks or so, which I feel guilty about as well.  I was doing so well at being good and productive and positive about things.  I’m now back down in the depression pit, although not as deeply as I normally do (thanks bipolar meds!).

Because it’s what I do, I researched ways to work through guilt and found a good article on psychologytoday.com.  I love this website.  I do everything from research to finding a psychiatrist here.  I’ll link below for those curious.  I think I need to print out these suggestions on post-it’s and put them around my house for me to see, along with my “you are enough” magnet on my fridge.  The headers for each suggestion are as follows:

  1. Tell yourself that you have done the best you could
  2. Consider that at the time, you didn’t know what you do now.
  3. Remember that you’re not to blame for surviving a tragedy
  4. Think that to blame yourself for a mistake that was beyond your control may not characterize your behavior
  5. Tell yourself that you may have adopted too rigorous of standards for yourself (!)
  6. Acknowledge your right to protect your self-interests
  7. Recognize that you can stand up for yourself and your rights
  8. Remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong for pushing for your own goals
  9. Stop the inner dialogue that is negative

Admittedly, these are not exactly easy things to do, but at least it’s somewhere to go and something to reach for.  I’m going to work on putting these suggestions into my daily life, and practicing them.  Maybe this will help my flagellation problem.  Man, for such a negative word, I really like the word “flagellation.”  Oh look, squirrel!

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201506/9-ways-talk-yourself-out-unnecessary-guilt

Social Anxiety and Wins

Social anxiety really blows.  This past weekend, I had a full calendar of social engagements and things to do around people that always make me nervous.  I was able to not just survive around the fringes, but had fun the entire weekend, although I’m socially exhausted today (well, if you count 3AM as today still).

On Friday, my in-laws, Connor and I went to a large casino and dinner for fun.  I ended up having a great time, but it definitely took a lot of my coping skills and a lot of holding Connor’s hand to be calm enough to enjoy myself.  There were a ton of people all over the place and I get really nervous around that many people.  I’m afraid they’ll take my purse, I’ll get separated, I’ll get lost, someone will talk to me, people are all staring at me and judging me, on and on and on.  It’s very difficult for me to be in THAT huge of a place.  Hell, even a bar isn’t something I can handle anymore.  At restaurants, I’m more comfortable in the back corner rather than a table in the center, and I never cared until about five years ago.  It sucks.

Today, I knew I could do it.  I was scared but knew I could get through being around my in-laws (whom I love but I’m still always nervous around) and not making a fool of myself and being around about a billion people.  I had Connor with me.  He’d protect me.  He’d let me hold on to him.  I had to do a lot of deep breathing though.  I had to ignore 99% of what was going on around me as I held his hand.  I kept him right next to me the whole time.  I had a couple drinks to loosen me up, can’t lie about that.  Not enough to really FEEL anything, just relax.  The one time I was away from Connor, I went to the bathroom while he wandered around a specific area and looked for “his” good machine (he’s so dang lucky at slots).  After my ablutions, I went back to where I left him, and he was gone.  Immediate panic.  I walked around the slots looking for him while my heart raced.  I started to panic and get terrified.  Then I went back to where I left him again and looked on the other side of the row.  He was right there.  He stayed exactly where I left him, just on the other side.  Phew.  Minor panic attack averted.  I did then guzzle the rest of my decaf crème brȗlèe coffee though as a calming mechanism.

I have a worry stone (actually a few of them) that I carry around.  One is in my car since that’s where I panic the most, one is beside my bed for something to do with my hands if I can’t focus on coloring, reading, or crocheting.  The other is in my purse.  Of course, I put one in my coat, but I checked my coat at the coat check, so I didn’t have it with me.  I had nothing to grab and hold on to so that I could calm down around the multitude of crowds, so I just grabbed Connor’s fingers whenever I could.  At least I had something.  With my coping skills I’ve recently learned, I was able to calm down enough to thoroughly enjoy myself and actually be able to relax around my family and billions (okay, maybe an exaggeration) of people.  It was great fun in the end and I finished the evening very glad that we’d gone.

On Saturday was a wedding of a very close neighbor of mine.  I knew that I would not know anyone there, and that is enough to make me panic.  I was so excited when I got to see another neighbor I know and adore, as well as meet one more.  Since I live in the woods with nobody having less than 5 acres around them, it’s not exactly easy to meet neighbors.  I am so lucky that every single one (excepting one) have been the most amazing people.  I digress.  I didn’t have a “win” at this event other than being able to do some small talk with the new neighbor (before I had too much wine).  I hate small talk and I’m very terrible at it.  I’m uncomfortable, I’m awkward, I don’t know what to say or how to get the topic onto them sometimes; it’s the worst.  This is why I hate networking.  Even if I didn’t have much a social anxiety “win” I did have fun and it was a beautiful wedding.  I completely cried at the vows and of course Connor had to tease me.  I’ve not been able to cry throughout his time knowing me, so now that I can recently cry, he loves to tease me.

Sunday was my most impressive win.  I’m a vice president for the board of directors for an organization.  I’m also an extraordinarily passive person who has almost no assertiveness (which I’m working hard on).  I was able to speak up during my “section” of the meeting and ask a request of the board, because one of the members did something that I was not okay with.  I spoke my piece, didn’t look at her or say her name, but made it clear what I was talking about.  She tried to interrupt me and I was able to calmly look at her (in front of people!!) and say “’Can I finish speaking please?” and finish what I was trying to say.  We went back and forth for another hour or so (okay, maybe a minute really) and I didn’t back down.  I didn’t cave.  I didn’t submit and get quiet.  I was able to hold my ground calmly and assertively.  I was so proud!  Even Connor and Miranda noticed and said how impressed they were.  Group therapy 9 hours a week for the win!

There are ways to get around being terribly anxious around people.  I will never be the room enchanter that walks in and the whole place gets excited for great conversation.  I’m okay with that, though I’m sure it would help to be able to do that.  I’m still learning ways to cope with the terror, and I know I’ll learn more and be better able to do them as I practice using the skills.  Maybe one day I will be that charming person, who knows?

Compliments and Strengths

Today may have been the best group therapy I’ve ever attended, and I’ve had a lot of really great ones.  Our therapists were clearly meant to do this job and are absolutely incredible.  I wish that they did one-on-one therapy instead of just intensive outpatient.  They are the best I’ve come across.  I will so miss going to group once I “graduate” eventually.  It’s not even a thought yet as I’m not stable, but someday it will happen.

The first part of group, we fill out a questionnaire that asks how our energy, sleep, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, pain and obsessive thoughts are doing.  We rate them on a scale from 1 to 10.  After that, we go around the room and kind of check in.  This part of group is pretty open.  You can talk about your ratings, you can talk about what happened that day, you can talk about anything that you really need to.  This can sometimes be the most healing and helpful part of group.  It’s where we are really able to connect to the other members and get to know each other and bond even more closely.  We push each other to be better and to challenge our negative thoughts, like “stop should-ing yourself!” We don’t like to hear that we “should” do or be anything other than we are.  So we don’t “should” ourselves there and will keep each other accountable, which helps when you’re on your own.

The second hour of group today was about personalities and personality disorders.  We talked about the Meyer’s-Briggs personalities and went over each one.  I’ve taken the test before, but a couple of us hadn’t.  I found a link for them to take it on their own, as it’s a really interesting (even if not “legitimate” or accepted by the psychology field).  I already knew mine, so I wasn’t surprised to learn about my personality in that way.  At work, we did a workshop about it and spent hours going through the different sections.  That was one of the most fun workshops I’ve been to and will always fondly remember it.

The third hour of group was one of the most profound I can think about.  Our therapist gave us a list of strengths that we’d seen before.  It has a number of strengths like leadership, empathy, kindness, dedication, persistence, ambition, honesty, ect.  There were maybe 20 or so qualities on the worksheet.  Usually, we pick the ones that we think we exhibit best.  TODAY however, “Rebecca” told us that we were going to use the list and pick qualities for the others in the group (thank goodness there were only four today and we four are pretty close).  It is very hard, I think no matter who you are, to be able to sit and have three other people pick things they think are your strengths.  However, seeing how other people see you after being with you for 9 hours a week, for weeks is profoundly humbling.  Some of the things that the others picked I just don’t see in myself.

Modesty and ambition were the ones that I had a hard time understanding and agreeing with.  I have a hard time seeing modesty, as I see it low self-esteem.  But the group all expanded and said I come in the room standing up straight and am not afraid to speak up and talk.  This makes me look more confident than I am (thanks for teaching me that Mom and Dad!), but they said that I’m not stuck up.  I can come into group in full makeup and false lashes but will also come in with sweats and my glasses with not a stitch of makeup on.  I’m myself.  I work really hard to be honest with myself and the group when I’m there.  It’s REALLY hard for me to do, as I’ve always hidden things.  I can’t heal while hiding however, so I actively work on being honest and open.

I was also shocked and in awe that they all picked for me the one strength that I will agree that I have.  It’s the one I hold on to and recognize and use to get myself out of my depression.  I love to learn.  I have a deep curiosity and will research the hell out of something if I don’t know anything about it (thanks Daddy and Grampa!).  They spoke of my intelligence because I’ll talk about classes I’ve taken in college and that I know a lot of medical terminology and medicine (thanks Mandy).  I was kind of surprised at this as well.  I know I’m not an idiot, but I didn’t think that my intelligence was something that really showed to others.  That was amazing to hear.

There was a lot more, and it was amazing.  I loved being able to pick exact strengths for those in my group and telling them how much I appreciate and am so grateful to have them in my life.  They are all so strong and so brave to take the step to work so hard on healing themselves.  There are some amazing people in this group, and I don’t think I’d be getting as stable as I am (even though I have miles to go) without them.  (thanks A and J!).

Again, I cannot recommend enough that if you’re struggling to go work with a therapist.  They really are indispensable if you find a good one.  They can make or break your healing.  If you cant afford one with your insurance, try out www.betterhelp.com.  They are an online therapist that I’ve investigated.  You can talk with a therapist by phone, video chat or texting at any time.  It really is a great resource to have.

There are also free groups to attend, which I am going to go to as well, now and when I graduate.  Around here, these are from NAMI.  I’ve only been to one, but it’s almost like the intensive group therapy I attend now.  It’s free, and you don’t have to say a word if you don’t want to.  It’s a good way to integrate yourself into group therapy.  I’m not sure of the website but search out NAMI groups and there a bunch of different kinds and times you can go.  I know I’ll be to one of them eventually!

You Are Enough

Today was a hard day for me.  For absolutely no reason.  I woke up as is now typical at 2AM, went back to sleep at 4AM, woke up at 7 and decided I needed more sleep.  I forced myself to sleep and didn’t wake up until 11AM.  I felt like the worst person ever.  For some reason, I’ve always slept really well during the day when I’m not supposed to, and when I’m depressed, I sleep for 18 hours a day sometimes.  I guess when I didn’t wake up at an acceptable time, I slid back into the fear and loathing that I feel when I sleep too much when depressed.

When I did get up, I immediately decided that I was the worst person in the world and not worthy of love.  I was telling myself that I was a lazy piece of crap and a terrible wife and stepmother.  I love my husband and step-kids and hate when I feel that I’m not good enough for them.  Thankfully I didn’t get any suicidal thoughts, because then I’d check myself back into the hospital or have to call my psychiatrist(s).  Now, knowing that I feel worse about myself when I’m not productive, I decided I had to get up and moving and do something.   I decided to go to the hardware store to get paint, as my stepdaughter wants to redecorate her room into something more teenager-like rather than the pre-teen she has now.  I think it’s a great idea and we have come up with a really cute design.  Now I just have to do it.   I went to go pick out paint and such and ended up spending a lot more than I thought I would on supplies.  I didn’t even get anything I didn’t need, which is what I usually do when shopping. “Oh!  That’s fun, I need that too” is something that happens all too often.  I’m a much too impulsive shopper and it’s caused a lot of issues.

So, still miserable in my head and fighting negative looping thoughts, I got home and put up some more Christmas decorations outside.  I put some solar lights in Berkley’s garden (where I buried his things and planted a tree since I didn’t have him to bury) and lined my walkway with little solar light bulbs from the dollar store.  Then I went inside and finally finished another painting project I’ve wanted to do forever.  The walls on my stairwell are/were all scuffed up from moving things up and down the stairs and it drives me nuts.  So I got my little paintbrush and fixed it all.  I actually got to put away the paint that I’ve had out since I fixed my bathroom paint weeks ago.  I’m glad that’s done.  But I couldn’t get started on my stepdaughter’s room.  It felt overwhelming to pull everything down from her walls and push it all in the center of the room.  Taping and prepping was just too much for me today.  I knew I couldn’t do it.  I wanted to also finally put up my Christmas tree, but I knew that would be too much too.  I did get it assembled and fluffed but I couldn’t get myself to put up any ornaments.  Baby steps I guess.

I am learning to reach out to Connor and tell him when I’m feeling down or upset about things, as it’s something I have hidden from him for years.  I started randomly crying for no reason really.  I hate crying.  I have no idea why, but I feel weak and don’t want to succumb to emotions like that.  I told him how I felt, and he did what he knew how to do.  He sent me a video that was talking about how you are worthy of love and that “you are enough.”  I cried when I watched that too, as I was asking him if I’m still a good person with dust and dirt in my house.  If I’m still worth loving even though I struggle with being productive and getting things done.  The video was his way of responding to my asking for help, as he doesn’t usually know what to say in these situations.  He’s trying so hard to understand and work with me on my illness and he was very thoughtful in sending me that video.  I’ll see if I can link to it at the end of the blog for those who need to know they are enough as well.

Finally, in the evening after forcing myself to do as much as I could, even though I felt extremely down and overwhelmed, I decided to cook dinner.  I HATE cooking so much, but I’ve been trying to learn to at least tolerate it.  I’m just not great at it.  I got a free week of Hello Fresh, so decided I was going to do one all on my own (Connor had to help me on the last one).  I did it and it actually worked.  Of course, I was not hungry at this point, being upset all day.  All I ate yesterday was some cheeze-its and a bowl of cereal at 3AM.  This medicine makes me not hungry (YAY!  Maybe I can lose the weight I gained back in my hypomanic state!).  But, when Connor came home, he sat down at the table with me as I was coloring (he suggested I do that when I complained to him as well, as he knows it calms me down).  He was going to come downstairs and do the tree with me too, but I could see how much pain he was in so told him to go lay down.  I finally felt okay.  Not good.  Not happy or good about myself.  But okay.  The hamster wheel of negative thoughts was finally slowing down.

When I feel that way, it makes me panic that I am going to go down into a depressive episode again.  Depression for me is the absolute worst.  Hypomania sucks and is very destructive, but the depression ruins my relationships and costs me so much.  So, when I have a bad day like today, my anxiety goes into overdrive and doesn’t help the depression.  It’s a vicious cycle and one I’m terrified of.  But, I made it through today.  I did it.  I didn’t lapse into deep depression and lay in bed all day.  I was productive and got things done.  And that helps.  Even though it was hard, and I had to focus on one thing at a time, I did it.  And you can too when you’re struggling.  Just do the next right thing that you can handle.  Even if it’s just showering and getting up.  It’s something.

Here is the video Connor sent me in case anyone is interested.  I want to keep it for myself when I struggle again.  https://youtu.be/bUMFZM5WBrI

Healing From Childhood Abuse

I recently had a request from a good friend to talk about childhood verbal abuse and it’s long lasting effects on adulthood self-worth and depression.  I do not personally have experience in this issue other than well-deserved tongue lashings as a child.  I was not abused either physically or emotionally growing up, but I do remember some of the angry words spoken to me when I had misbehaved (sorry parents!).  I cannot say that these have caused any of my mental issues, as I know they have not.  My illness is a chemical and organ-based illness.  I do know, however that many children do suffer in this way and it has a profound effect on them as adults.  Because I do not have much experience in this particular area, I had to do some research on this topic.  I found two Psychology Today articles which I really liked.  They both go into the physical brain changes of abuse and how it profoundly changes the structures of the brain.  As a psychology undergrad, I am fascinated by this phenomenon.  I will link the two articles at the end of the blog for further reading.  One is on enduring the pain of childhood verbal abuse, and the other is healing from the shame that is often felt by it.

According to the first article I found, verbal abuse from a parent can intensely change the family dynamics.  Because a parent will put down and abuse a child, siblings may also pick on that same child.  They will do this to please the parent or possibly avoid their own abuse by focusing on the abused.  This will often cause shame in that child, as they will believe it is their own fault for “not behaving” or “being bad” or just not good enough for their parents.  This negative self-view will transfer up to adulthood, often causing a very negative self-esteem and self-worth.  Because they will feel shame for being so bad as a child and not good enough for their parents, they (to them) obviously aren’t good enough to be treated well by partners or friends as an adult.  This will further propagate the abuse to the person, as this is all they know.  It’s a kind of normal to them.

The second article I found I only really skimmed over unfortunately (it is 3 AM, I want to go to sleep but could not stop thinking about writing about this for my friend).  This article spoke about how you can use self-compassion and forgiveness to help yourself heal from these traumas.  Yes, they are traumas.  Not all trauma is extreme violence or intensely disturbing situations, rather it is something that affects you moving through life and that you take to heart.  This is something I’ve recently learned in group as well.  In case you hadn’t noticed, group therapy for me has been a life-changing and educational experience.   This article talks about three of the ways that childhood abuse may express itself in the future.  According to the article (Engel, 2015),

  • It causes former abuse victims to abuse themselves with critical self-talk, alcohol or drug abuse, destructive eating patterns, and/or other forms of self-harm. Two-thirds of people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children (Swon 1998).
  • It causes former abuse victims to develop victim-like behavior, whereby they expect and accept unacceptable, abusive behavior from others. As many as 90 percent of women in battered women’s shelters report having been abused or neglected as children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2013).
  • It causes abuse victims to become abusive. About 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2013).

In my therapy group, we often talk about self-compassion as a way to help ourselves heal from our own negative self-talk.  Self-talk is having the biggest bully being in your head and constantly yelling insults to you about every little thing you do.  I have a terrible time with self-talk, and I am very hard on myself.  I don’t believe this has anything to do with emotional abuse, more so of the bullying that I received growing up, as well as a restrictive religion that uses shame to keep everyone behaving.

Because shame is such a huge part of verbal abuse, it’s essential to be compassionate and forgiving of yourself in order to help you heal.  Now, I’m the worst person to teach about being compassionate to your own issues, but I do know it helps.  If you can be kind and compassionate to others, certainly it can’t be that hard to forgive your own mistakes, right?  Unfortunately, we are usually our own worst critics and are crueler to ourselves than others.  My only advice in this area is to find a compassionate person to help you challenge your negative thoughts and use logic to show how they are not necessarily the truth.  You can also do self-affirmations that are related to your shame and say these often.  Perhaps put some on sticky notes and post them on your mirror, in your car, in your wallet, in the kitchen etc.  Seeing these over and over are bound to bring them to your heart and you may start believing them.

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If you need help challenging negative self-talk, I’d love the practice.  I don’t have issues challenging other’s talk as much as I do my own.  Alas, that’s the power of depression.  As always, if you have anything you’d like to know more about, reach out to me!  I’d love the challenge of researching and writing about experiences that I haven’t necessarily had.  Thank you V for the idea!

Enduring Pain of Childhood Abuse:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201611/the-enduring-pain-childhood-verbal-abuse?amp

Healing the Shame:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201501/healing-the-shame-childhood-abuse-through-self-compassion?amp

How to Stop Caring if People Like You

Something I’ve always had an issue with is wanting everyone to like me.  I’m a true people pleaser.  Bringing out my favorite comparison, I’m like a multi-colored pen and will click down the color I think I need in order to be “correct” in that situation.  Something I have got to work harder on getting better at is the idea that not everyone will like me, and that’s okay.  That doesn’t mean that I am a bad person or am unlikable.  Just that I don’t necessarily mesh with that particular person.  I try to, but I don’t like everyone either.  I can say that I’ve only really HATED one person, and I haven’t had to see that person in years.  Totally unlike me, I could not find one redeemable quality about this person.  Every last nerve pinged with them around.  Anyway, I digress.

So if even I can hate a person, why do I take it so hard when someone doesn’t like me?  And even more important, why does it matter if they like me or not?  I have all the friends and family I could want and I’m so loved and lucky to have those who I do have in my life.  I don’t need the negativity, I have enough of that in my own head.

Now, how the heck do I get over this?  THAT I have no idea.  I haven’t learned much about this that has stuck yet, but I’m working on it.  There is so much out there about it and it’s something that we’ve heard about over and over growing up.  So why can some do it and others can’t?  That I don’t know, but I do know some things I’m going to keep trying to do until maybe they will stick.

The first thing I need to do is really evaluate if that person REALLY matters.  Do I really care if some random person on the street likes me?  I shouldn’t.  They have absolutely no bearing on my life.  Do I care if my sisters, parents, friends, husband like me?  Absolutely.  I need to be able to shrug off those that don’t matter to my life and not care about their opinion of me.

Status:  Work in progress

Number two is to be who I really am and love who I really am.  Stop being a multi-colored pen and just be a giant mint green sharpie.  Mint green is my favorite, I need to be my favorite too.  That will help any negativity slide right off me.  This blog and my intense therapy is really helping me to learn some self-compassion, self-care and hopefully self-love (not THAT self-love you pervs) after some more time.  I have hope.  I’m now able to hold on to four things that are only me that I’m proud of, so this is an improvement.

Status:  Improving

Three is to use my new anxiety skills and think of the absolute worst-case scenario if someone doesn’t like me.  Catastrophize as much as possible and see that it’s just NOT a big deal.  Especially someone that I don’t come into contact with, or doesn’t affect my life in any way.  Go crazy thinking about how bad it can be.  Then when that’s done, I’ll see that the worst is likely not an ounce bad.  Boom.  Over.

Status:  Ehhhh, Thinking About it

These three things I’m hoping will help me in a lot of situations.  I hope I can keep in mind I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s completely okay.  I don’t like all teas, some people don’t like coffee (mmMMMmmm), and others don’t like soda.  It’s all in the individual’s tastes, not in any defects of the beverage.

Picture by u/ateumi on Reddit

Social Anxiety

img_5453Fear seems to prevent me from doing a lot of things.  When I was younger, I thrived on the thrill of danger and in being in precarious situations. At twenty-couple years old, I and my sister would go alone to a large and dangerous city and attend concerts that were much too hardcore for our young selves.  We would be on the fringe or inside of the mosh pit, sometimes even crowd surfing (not me, she would though).  Even younger than that, I was obsessed with finding the highest, fastest, scariest roller coaster rides and going on them as often as possible.  I’ve always wanted to bungee jump or skydive (my sister has gone and done both I think).  Now, I can’t even seem to be in the same room as more than five or six people without being immensely uncomfortable and counting down the minutes until I can leave.

Take today for example.  It is thanksgiving, and I used to LOVE thanksgiving.  Nobody really likes to spend a lot of time with all of the awkward conversations with family you haven’t seen in forever, but since I was very close to all of my family, I loved it.  Now however, my thanksgiving family consists of family friends of over 18 years.  I know these people very well and adore them as well.  And yet, I spent the entire night down in the basement, away from these people I care about.  Is this anxiety or just the fact I don’t feel like working in order to talk to people?  Do I just not want to TRY and converse with others, since I’m awkward and never know what to do or say?  Is it because I am not great at small talk?  Why can’t I just suck it up for 4 hours and enjoy being upstairs around a group of people I’ve known most of my life?

It’s extremely frustrating to be torn in two like this.  I want to WANT to be around people.  Once upon a time, I used to be a social butterfly and loved people and activities and events.  Now I’m terrified of them.  I don’t know what to say or how to act and can’t seem to figure out what would make me look “normal” as most of these people don’t yet know my diagnosis (that I know of anyway).  Even as I’m almost feeling guilty that I hid downstairs, I did get to spend time with my cousin and his sister that I adore.  I suppose that makes my fear and turmoil worth it, because I know they are even more uncomfortable than I am.  If I can get out of being around a billion people to be with them, I’ll call that a win.

I hope everyone enjoyed their thanksgiving and was able to find at least one thing to be thankful for.  Today I was grateful that I have family that is understanding enough to let me hide away with my cousin and be myself.  I don’t have to worry about being forced to attend and interact with everyone; it’s okay to be who you are here.  As that is not something that a lot of people are fortunate to have, I’m extraordinarily grateful that I do have it.

Bucks and Injections

I got to practice and experience my new coping skills in real time this past Tuesday.  Because of my back issues (I have a whole litany of them, and that is a complete post in itself: how pain hurts and affects depression), I was finally able to get into the best spine center in town.  This was no easy feat and I don’t think I would have been able to get in had I not thrown a fit in summer camp.  I basically begged each nurse and every doctor to get me help.  I’m so grateful I’m finally admitted to the spinal center and that I can work on getting my pain under control.  Part of my depression is the doubt that I will be able to carry a baby when we get pregnant, let alone carry the child when it needs to be soothed and toted around.  I have a problematic enough time with the housework I have now, adding a child is terrifying.  As I sit here now, I don’t know how I’d do it.  I’m desperate to fix my back, more so than I’ve ever been before.  After 15 years, I’m completely over the pain and finding ways to work around it.  It is almost fascinating how you adjust things and how you move and act in order to prevent flare ups and pain.  Simple things like resting on your forearms as you’re doing dishes.

I have had many trigger point injections, steroids, nerve blocks and eventually an ablation (radiofrequency “burning” of my nerve) in my lower back.  It all hurt intensely, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  This ended up NOT being the case when I went in on Tuesday for a steroid injection in the epidural space of my neck to help get rid of swelling in my multiple bulging discs.  I’ve not done anything in my neck yet, as this is a relatively newer development, only getting bad in the past few years.  I have kyphosis (think scoliosis but bent forward) in my neck, which hasn’t helped the bulging of the discs.

I’m of course nervous, as I can imagine that anything to do with my neck will hurt more than my lower back.  The nerves are closer together and there is less “gush” to really protect me.  Less muscles, less fat, all of it.  I am okay at first and not panicking however, which is a big deal.  I get to the back and they start shooting my neck up with Lidocaine.  Okay, really ouch, but I can breathe through this.  Then comes the steroid.  OH.MY.GOOD.FREAKING.FLYING.SPAGHETTI.MONSTER.  That was the most intense, painful and strangest feeling I’ve ever had.  Imagine the static feeling you get when your feet fall asleep and multiply it by 10.  Then imagine it radiating all down your entire body, including down your right arm which is usually pretty numb.  INTENSE PAIN.  I jumped, and my legs flew up, so of course the doctor scolded me.  I couldn’t help it, it was instinct and not something I did intentionally.  It freaking hurt.  I had to suffer through maybe 3 or 4 more of the “shocks” so he could get all the medicine in.  It was the worst injection feeling I’ve had, and perhaps the worst pain.  My ablation hurt less, and that was beyond terrible.  Because I was tensing SO HARD, the rest of my back decided it was NOT happy with me either, and so started firing up in intense pain too.  Almost like it didn’t want me to forget that it was there and wanted attention.  After the doctor left and the nurse was cleaning me up, I started to have a major panic attack.  I don’t know why, I can’t explain it.  Maybe because I knew I’d have to do this a few more times.  Maybe it was just the pain, or relief it was over?  I don’t know, but I started hyperventilating and blubbering crying.  I couldn’t help it.  They had to take me out of the surgical room and back to my room in a stretcher as I was trying to get my breath under control and crying fairly hard.  Once in my room again, I asked for a cold washcloth and some alone time to focus on breathing.  I was able to calm myself down in about 20 minutes, which is pretty quick for a panic attack.  I was proud of myself.

I asked for a cold cloth, because it’s something I’ve learned in group that helps me calm down.  For some reason, cold keeps me calmer, and I’ve been using this technique a lot recently.  I’m extremely anxious when I’m driving now, and so I’ll roll my window down for the cold air.  I’ve also got 2 of those cold compresses that you pop the innards and it turns cold on you in my console of the truck.  You know, the ones that are usually in a first aid kit for bruises.  I had to use one of them that day, but because of the pain, not any anxiety.

Later that day, I was so excited to be able to go and see my niece and nephew and help my little sister out with babysitting.  I love those two little biscuits so much and so I had crafts ready and we were going to do a volcano (my niece called it a “cano” and I about died of cuteness.  She was telling me how they create islands and I was STUNNED.  She’s 4!).  Anyway, on the way home from her house, I was driving down a really large mountain hill in the dark.  I was going about 65 (I always turn on my cruise control, I used to have a lead foot and have gotten a LOT of tickets) and I see a buck JUST in my headlight.  I knew I couldn’t swerve or stop or try any evasive maneuvers.  I gripped my wheel and just said to myself, “okay, here we go” and plowed through him.  I think his head explodedas that’s all I hit.  I know he was a big buck, maybe 6 points, but I didn’t have time to count.  At the time, I didn’t panic.  I didn’t get upset.  I didn’t have much of a reaction except “are you effing kidding me?  Of COURSE I hit a deer when I’m already anxious about driving”.  I was somewhat proud of myself.  I pulled over to make sure my truck was still drive-able.  There was a good ol’ boy that pulled up behind me in a giant truck to make sure I was okay (I guess he saw me eviscerate the deer).  He was very kind.  I told him that he could go get the deer and that it was a big buck.  Explaining where it was to him, you could tell he was anxious to go, so I got back in my truck, took a few deep breaths and pulled out to drive.

close up photography of brown deer

I didn’t panic, get angry or have any bad emotions on the way home.  The only thing I did was sigh and say things like “mother effer.  Good grief this summer blows” as well as some choice cusswords.  I’ve had this truck for TWO MONTHS.  And I’ve only ever hit 2 deer before.  I’m anxious and hyper vigilant when driving now, and OF COURSE I hit a damn deer.  Stupid buck.  The point of these stories are that through practice and working with the group and my one on one therapist, I am sometimes able to deal with these potentially panicky (well, I failed on one, but got myself together quickly) situations without any major issues.  That’s a big win for me, and one that helps me know that I can do this.  I can get through this anxiety, depression, and bipolar and potentially thrive after a while.