Daily Archives: October 8, 2017

Getting passed the whispers!

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I was in the store shopping yesterday. It was a store I frequent quite often and they know my face well. I’d always had good experiences, but yesterday changed all that. As I went to check out I turned my back on the three ladies standing behind the cash registers. As I suddenly turned around they were whispering just loud enough that I caught they were talking about me.

Like most people, I assumed it must be bad if you have to whisper about someone. I told myself I wasn’t going to let it bother me, but of course it did. And the thoughts were off and running to the races.

I’m a very big woman. I’ve always been a “big girl.” Certainly taller than most women and for sure much bigger all the way around and because I stand out in the crowd I’ve taken my fair share of wise cracks and disparaging comments. So, it’s safe to assume if someone is whispering behind your back, it might not be a positive compliment.

Then…I went down this pathway about how I’m sure I’ve been a topic of some not so nice conversations about my mental illness. But I just keep pushing the envelope on that one. Don’t really think anyone has the **lls to say something to my face. But you never know.

A few days ago I sat down with a reporter from one of the local newspapers. He was writing an article for his weekly sports column called, “Unsung Heroes” When he ask me for an interview I was hesitant. I really don’t see myself as a hero. But I agreed because it was another opportunity to put mental health conditions in the spotlight. Another chance for people out there struggling to read that article and know they are not alone.

I never thought anything of it. I’d already written a book that was pretty revealing, so what’s another public newspaper article. Right?

Well, I’ve learned a few things about myself. #1) I’m not as sensitive as I used to be; #2) I’m still human; and #3) Raising awareness for mental health conditions/mental illness is my number one priority.

It’s nice to know when you find your passion. I fell into mine because I found other people who were taking up the flag in similar ways across the country. The interesting thing is there’s no one quite like me. What does that mean? Small town girl, All-American, Olympian, Fortune 500, mental illness, jail and mental health advocate—and as it all sunk in to my mind this weekend I realized the responsibility I have to continue on this pathway.

A calling as it turn out, is by far more important than the whispers that may come.

Click here…in case you haven’t gotten a copy of my book.


The Anatomy of a Neuron

A little video of what is a neuron, the predominant cell of the brain. Its anatomy, the structures that are present in it. This is where all the activity in the brain takes place, in s neuron and in between neurons through nerve impulses that go down axons or even dendrites. Also the spaces between neurons, known as synaptonemal junctions, is where neurotransmitter activity happens and neurotransmitters are secreted by one neuron and picked up by others.

Pretty important cell for neural activity in healthy as well as brains with mental illness. Thought you might like to meet a neuron.

https://www.technologynetworks.com/tn/videos/the-anatomy-of-a-neuron-291651


Ten Opinions That May Offend Someone

Recently I noticed that I have been reluctant to offend people, particularly on Facebook. I keep my opinions to myself, especially on social and political matters, and dread being “unfriended” or starting (or continuing) a “flame war.”

This is not just a matter that relates to my bipolar disorder, though it is certainly that too. I have written a number of times about how having bipolar disorder and the behaviors it has brought out in me have cost me friends, even ones that I thought were “forever-friends.” These losses have affected me greatly, at times pushing my anxiety and depression buttons nearly as far as they can go.

Just as I have toned down my comments on subjects such as liberal vs. conservative issues, I have also let pass by posts in bipolar support groups and mental health memes on people’s general Facebook timelines that I’ve disagreed with. Oh, when I see a particularly incorrect or egregiously stigmatizing remark, I’ve been known to smack the person on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, but often in a soft, “In my experience, you may not be correct” manner.

There are also conflicts within the bipolar world that I have strong opinions about but have not jumped into, for fear of offending someone. And I have to ask myself, what would be the consequences of offending someone in such a discussion?

Yes, I might be unfriended. More likely I would be ignored. Or (virtually) yelled at. In other words, if I offend someone with my opinions, they may in turn offend me with their opinions. And while that’s not a productive state of affairs, it’s hardly the end of the world. In an ideal world, I might cause someone to question or consider or engage in fruitful discussion. Not likely, but possible.

So, if I am trying to overcome my fear of offending people with my positions on guns, abortion, health care, climate change and the like, what am I to do about my opinions regarding bipolar disorder and mental health in general?

Well, first of all, I can state where I’m coming from: straight, white, female, married, childless, bipolar type 2, 60 years old, diagnosed for years and on any number of medications for years as well. Not much controversial there. That’s just facts about me and hard to deny.

But here are some things I believe that I know are sometimes subject to differences of opinion. And for what it’s worth, here’s my take on them.

  1. Psychotropic medications are good things. Yes, they can be overprescribed or improperly prescribed, but when dispensed and used correctly, they help.
  2. The Scientologists are way off base. Mental illness exists, and so do treatments for it.
  3. “Natural” or “holistic” treatments for mental illness are not enough to replace medication and talk therapy.
  4. Sunshine, exercise, and positive affirmations are good things, but also are not enough to replace medication and talk therapy. They do good for a number of people, less for others, and not much at all for some.
  5. We’ve got to change the popular dialogue about mental illness and violence. We must not let it go unchallenged. For that matter, we must change the popular dialogue about mental health in general.
  6. While it’s a good thing if those with mental illness take their medications properly, it is absolutely their right to refuse treatment.
  7. Health care (and insurance plans) should cover mental health care at the same levels as physical health. (Okay, that one’s not really controversial among the mental health community.)
  8. Emergency responders including police should all receive training in dealing with mental health issues, but they probably won’t.
  9. Most people don’t/won’t/can’t understand mental illness until it touches their own life in some way, and maybe not even then.
  10. Education about mental health issues should begin in grade school.

There. If you disagree with any of those statements or feel that I am an idiot for stating them, so be it.

Oh, and while we’re at it, persons with a mental health diagnosis should not automatically be prevented from owning guns, but people with domestic violence convictions should be.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: anxiety, bipolar disorder, emotions, mental illness, my experiences, public policy, social media, social skills

The Wicked Witch Syndrome

I have been alternating between functional and paranoid anxiety for weeks now. Today I realized where I truly, am, static, as far as a personal level. The mental health stuff is background noise, it is crippling…

My child. She brings me so much joy, yet so much discord, and everyday with her is like ten rounds with Tyson. She gets great grades, the teacher adores her, but she has lately taken to saying she feels like trash which of course I had to explain during P/T conferences about a band of hooligans who have been calling all the kids who live in the trailer park trailer trash. While I don’t dispute my kid may have some self esteem issues, I witnessed today how she uses them at will to worm her way out of being called out on poor behavior.

The teacher thinks it’s a great idea to put Spook with a social worker the school has on staff. Hey, any help I can get with her, any help Spook can get, bring it on.

THEN I realized my snowflake’s improper perception of everything is probably going to land the entire family under investigation. I apparently spend all my time in my room not helping her work out her issues and my sister once drove through a flooded viaduct and my kid swore she was attempting to drown her, then Spook told some lady who taught her at sunday school in my dad’s town that she was never going back because stepmonster forcefeeds coleslaw down her throat with a spoon.

Sounds pretty cruel on the surface, doesn’t it? I am terrified what tiny slight she will come up next with us. Today she told me maybe we just don’t get along and it’s because I refuse to be more like her. That’s all it’d take, for me to become 8, say yes to her every idea, and all would be well.

Meanwhile, my depression continues knocking, the anxiety gnawing at nerve endings, and now in an effort to help my child, I am petrified these local yokels with their well intentions and blindness to just how wretched children can behave are going to take her from me and string the entire family up as abusive.

As if that’s not bad enough, my kitten Adelitas is very sick and likely not going to make it, which means one more stab through my already shredded heart.

Trying so damned hard and it doesn’t even matter in the end. My kid and the system and the mental disorders are all gonna kick my ass and I’ll be lucky if I end up locked down in a state facility. Or worse, have a good day and brush my teeth thus getting kicked onto the street to live in a cardboard box.

When the depressive distortions start, they really don’t let up and they really fuck with your head.

Still…terrified what my kid is gonna tell that social worker. I’ve known too many good parents faced with a baseless accusation from a kid and it’s always guilty til proven innocent.

I’m too tired and beaten down to be pissed off. I’m just….scared.


Room 41

March, April, May, June ….. the months I haven’t posted. Not that many miles either. And those I have ridden have been easy ones, mainly off road. And often the same route, the same places. But they are good places, beautiful places. And they have done me a lot of good.

July, August, September …. the months since I started to write this post. Less miles in the countryside, too. Much less.  I have failed to spend time in places that are so good for me. Yes, I may be a creature of habit when it comes to the routes I ride, but no riding in these places is no good at all.

But there is one place I have been pretty regularly over these quiet months that has been good for me. That is room 41 – the place – that seats 12 – where I do some of my most effective work as a Peer Worker. It’s in this room that I deliver Recovery College courses on Building Resilience, Self Esteem and Mindfulness.

 

In many ways it is a finite place. It is the same every time. The same tables, the same chairs. The same whiteboard and flip chart. We – my colleague and I – use the same materials to deliver the courses. Readers in east and west sussex can find out more about a wide range of courses here: https://www.sussexrecoverycollege.org.uk/

We have the same conversations at the beginning of the first session about Group Ground Rules – what I prefer to call ‘What Can We Expect From Each Other?’ We have the same conversation about what confidentiality means. We introduce ourselves.

And then the work begins.

And the same room takes on a different character, a different dimension. And I’m pedalling hard leading the peleton at times, then letting the others take the head wind.

That’s when I’m I’ve been on my bike this past 6 months. In that room, sharing ‘trade secrets’ about how to be better. Since I last wrote we have hired one paid member of the staff and  another 6 trained volunteer peer mentors from the students in these classes. When we discuss confidentiality the conversation goes like this: I ask what suggestions the group has. People will call out ‘confidentiality’. I ask: ‘What do we mean by ‘confidentiality’?’ The response every time is. ‘what is said in the room stays in the room.’ To which I respond, ‘No. Please quote us in full. There are 168 hours in every week. We are together in this room for less than 3 hours per week. What we talk about in this room should be on wheels. Take it outside here into your lives.’

And so I try to take what goes on in room 41 with me everywhere I go. But for now it feels like that door is jammed shut.

 

The Room

It is my room, and yet one room is locked.

The dark has taken root on all four walls.

It is a room  where knots stare out from the wood,

A room that turns it back on the whole house.

 

At night I hear the crickets list their griefs

And let an ancient peace come into me.

Sleep intercepts my prayer, and in the dark

The house turns slowly round its one closed room.

Kevin Hart (1954 – )