Daily Archives: January 1, 2015

Private? No, Not I

Selfie Fig Tinted

On The One Hand


You own everything that happend to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

- Anne Lamott


On The Other Hand

we ask that you keep confidentiality for anyone else who may have played a challenging role in your recovery journey. Even if you don’t mention a specific name,  be careful that the identity could not be easily inferred due to an immediate relationship, such as parent, etc.  This includes facilities and/organizations as well as individuals.

- DBSA’s Guidelines for Life Unlimited Stories

Then, there’s this: I have a tendency to exaggerate. I do not lie, but I am known to have a flair for the dramatic. So when my uncle read my piece about my father’s dementia, he became very alarmed, not knowing that my father is still quite sharp. My dad’s definitely still smarter than your average bear (Yogi Bear reference, for those not in the know). Both of my parents are smart cookies. Today, I use clichéd idioms. By the way, I identify with them both, and not just because they are intelligent (yes, I boast). My mother and I share personality characteristics. As a mother, as a mother struggling with a chronic illness, I feel compassion. When I was a teen and a young adult, I was brutal in my disdain for her. Motherhood is a thankless vocation.

Filed under: Family, Mental Health, Writing Tagged: Anne Lamott   Confidentiality, confidentiality, exaggeration, honesty, hyperbole, privacy

NAMI Ending the Silence

Today is the first day of 2015. I’m bundled under covers in my bed typing on my laptop. My husband brought me cornflakes and coffee, so he could watch The Omen downstairs in Spanish. I am a scaredy cat and cannot watch movies with ominous (get it? the Omen, ominous) music tracks, even if I have no idea what’s being said.


NAMI Ending the Silence is an in-school presentation about mental health designed for high school students. Students can learn about mental illness directly from family members and individuals living with mental illness themselves.

Just now I completed the Ending the Silence volunteer application for my local Orange County chapter of NAMI. Pretty in-depth application, so thought I would share my answers with you.

List other NAMI programs you have participated in and your role in the program:

I participated in NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer training as a peer participant or student. Although I have an MA in psychology, an MFT [Marriage and Family Therapist] license, been in therapy since I was 18 years old (over 30 years), have participated in group therapy at South Coast Medical Center’s once excellent program (too bad it no longer exists) ten years ago for two weeks inpatient and months of partial hospitalization, I learned A LOT. I feared that I would feel out of place, but did not. NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer training is excellent and covers much information, perhaps too much information. I wanted to get my hand on the instructors’ manuals so that I could go into greater depth. That’s how impressed I was. The program introduced me to the concept of recovery vis-à-vis mental illness, and gave me hope. HOPE!

Describe any background in education:

MA in psychology (1990) and LMFT (licensed in 1992, though I have not practiced in over twenty years). When I practiced psychotherapy, I worked with severely emotionally disturbed (SED) latency-aged children, pregnant and parenting teens, and severely emotionally disturbed (SED) adolescents in residential (level 14, which is the most restrictive private setting in CA – one step from state hospitalization or CA Youth Authority) and day-treatment. My son is 14. I have experience mothering him and volunteering in his elementary school classrooms.

From my LinkedIn profile:

Seneca Treatment Center, San Leandro, CA
August 1993 – November 1993 (4 months)
Individual, family, group, and milieu psychotherapy of severely emotionally disturbed adolescents in day treatment program.

Berkeley Academy for Youth Development, Berkeley, CA
June 1990 – August 1993 (3 years 3 months)
Individual, family, group, and milieu psychotherapy of severely emotionally disturbed adolescent girls in residential treatment program.

Counselor – Case Manager
Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Project, Family Service Agency of San Francisco
June 1990 – June 1992 (2 years 1 month)
Counseled pregnant and parenting adolescents. Agency liaison to Young Mothers’ Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.

Field Placement
Oakes Children’s Center, San Francisco
September 1989 – June 1990 (10 months)
Individual, family, and milieu psychotherapy of severely emotionally disturbed children in day treatment program.

Administrative Coordinator
La Casa de las Madres, San Francisco
June 1988 – November 1989 (1 year 6 months)
Non-profit administration of battered women’s shelter and counseling center. Crisis intervention. On-call supervision of crisis line and shelter intake.

Why do you want to be an Ending the Silence Presenter?

First of all, as a former high school drama geek, I love getting on stage and speaking in front of an audience. I have a passion for ending stigma surrounding mental illness, educating the public about mental illness, and offering compassion and support to those living with mental illness and their loved ones. Currently I exercise my passion and commitment by mental health blogging at kittomalley.com and prolific social media advocacy and psycho-education on multiple platforms. I am a former psychotherapist. I have lived experience with mental illness, namely bipolar disorder type II.

Ending the Silence is an educational program.  We do not give advice or counsel high school students or their teachers.  Can you refrain from giving advice or suggestions?  We do provide the number for the NAMI Warmline [Orange County, CA: 714-991-6412, NAMI-OC Warmline Online Chat – Click here to enter.], which students and teachers may call for resources for therapists, psychiatrists, treatment, support groups, etc.

Honestly, I could use the practice saying no, as people often turn to me for advice and counsel, and it overwhelms me. That is why I no longer practice psychotherapy. If I ever did return to the profession, I would require distance and clearly delineated boundaries. The distance of being an educator or public speaker rather than providing therapy or even giving casual advice is protective of MY boundaries and enables those in need to get proper care, such as psychiatric care, hospitalization, or psychotherapy.

What does recovery mean to you?

Recovery is a relatively new concept for me, believe it or not. I always thought of it in terms of substance abuse. But NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer course and my involvement in the mental health blogging community this past year and a quarter has opened my eyes to the concept of HOPE. When I first learned that I had bipolar disorder, and not depression, I was devastated. I had internalized shame and stigma attached to that diagnosis. I thought that the only direction my life and my mental health would take was a downward spiral. Not so. Although I must be mindful of my symptoms and adjust my lifestyle to suit my needs, I am still a productive member of society. There are ways of contributing aside from earning an income and climbing some preconceived ladder of success.

For me, recovery means overcoming my own internalized stigma and having hope that I can live well. I can live my life well even though I have a mental illness. I do contribute to society even if I do not earn a handsome salary. I am of value. Recovering means learning how to best live with bipolar disorder.

Recovery means Hope for Now and Hope for the Future.

What are your views on treatment (traditional and/or nontraditional)?

I struggled with the symptoms of depression and cyclical overwork leading to burnout and breakdown for twelve years before turning to a medical doctor for help. In those twelve years, I struggled with my symptoms using psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helped at times, for example cognitive restructuring rescued me from the precipice of suicide when I was 18. Perhaps at other times, it contributed to my depression, digging me in deeper and deeper without a clear way out. Medication in conjunction with psychotherapy helped with my depression, but it wasn’t until I received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder that both my hypomania and my depression were acknowledged and treated properly. I support the use of medication, psychotherapy, and peer support.

I believe in taking care of your body, for the brain is influenced by exercise, sun, nutrition, vitamin D, and omega fatty acids. I believe nontraditional treatments, such as aromatherapy, as adjuncts to medical treatment.  Any nontraditional treatments should be shared with one’s prescribing doctor, for herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are chemicals, too, and can either help or interfere with treatment. I take fish oil, vitamin D, try to exercise regularly, and like the soothing scent of lavender. My son finds that fresh lavender helps him when he is stressed or feeling the symptoms of a migraine coming. [I forgot to mention in my application the usefulness of mindfulness and prayer.]

Filed under: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Mental Health, Mental Health Advocacy, NAMI, Psychosocial Education, Recovery, Stigma, Volunteering Tagged: Ending the Silence, mental illness

Resolutions? Plausible.

I usually don’t make resolutions because honestly usually by the second week in January I have failed and am beating myself up. I realized that I make really big ones that are hard to do anytime. Like the common.. I’ll lose weight. My brain just can’t wrap itself around it. I have tried for years and haven’t been successful. So my resolutions will be smaller, easier to manage.

I gave up caffiene (I think) a few month ago. It’s been at least a couple. I didn’t think I could handle it, but it really interferes with the way my brain works and I don’t want to make things even harder on the meds meant to fix me.

So here are my resolutions.

1) Give up potatoes. I can do this, I’ve mostly stopped getting fries when I get meals so just going to expand on that.

2) I am going to try and breathe more. Like instead of freaking out and being angry or annoyed all the time I am going to take a moment out to myself, turn on some music or just have a nap and breathe. Stepping away is something I’ve been avoiding because I dread being alone. I make myself so much more than I need to.

3) I’m going to continue blogging every day. I am hoping to start my writing and picture blog back up when we get in the house and I have access to my computer. This one will keep going every day. I find that most days I actually look forward to writing. There are the ones I dread but then I feel proud of myself for doing it regardless of how I am feeling.

That’s it, nothing special, just three smallish resolutions to start the new year off. I think I can do these. Once I get into my home I may add more things to the list, but honestly there isn’t a lot of possibility of them happening whilst living in someone else’s home.

Do you think you make realistic resolutions if you made any?


New Year’s Desolation

I was doing fine.
Bex went on her merry way to greener pastures and while the whole scene creeped me out (I find it disturbing when someone shows at my door with their face covered completely, like they don’t want to be identified…I didn’t cry. She made her choice. We wish her well.
Spook had a forty minute breakdown. My dad was so worried about her being broken up about Becca’s departure.
Bacon and eggs, some ice cream and painting…She’s completely recovered.
My kid’s not as delicate as they think, most kids aren’t.

I got a burst of hypomanic energy and went about the hassle of housework. (Must admit, I got a little giddy having a vacuum that’s working again.) I was in a good place. R’s wife called and invited us over for Uno this afternoon. I said sure, why not.

And then from out of bloody nowhere….
Not a minor “Ooops, I missed a step.”
I’m talking falling down the entire staircase mood swing.
I am debating coming up with some polite excuse to beg off. My stomach is twisted in knots and I think some of it is anxiety. If drinking isn’t involved in a social outing, well, my comfort is going to be nil.
But mostly…My mood just died. No trigger.

So I sit here, feeling desolate but no idea why. Is it bedtime yet? Brain reboot desperately needed here.
Alas, it’s not even 2:30 p.m.
I want to curl up into a fetalized ball and lick imaginary wounds.
Except they aren’t imaginary at all, they are etched into my battered and bruised psyche.

The psych professionals would insist going out would be good for me.
They haven’t had the (dis)pleasure of spending quality time with me when my anxiety is rioting and my mood is in the gutter. I am not good company. I am LUMP.

Earlier, my mood was decent, my anxiety of the last several months lessened. I felt like I could breathe again.
Now I feel like taking a breath is too exhausting.
Cyclothymia is a bitch.
So am I.
Match made in Hell.

A nagging little voice in my head tells me to fight it, not give into the desolation. Rebel against my own fucked up mind.
Then ten other voices scream LET ME BE DEPRESSED AND RIDE IT OUT, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
I don’t actually hear voices, it’s more like my own subconscious and bumper car thoughts colliding.
Do this. No, do that. Don’t do any of it. You have to fight. Fuck it, I give up.
Very maddening.
This is my prison.
And I will never get paroled.

Yeah, my churning nervous gut says I need to bow out on the social thing. Once the anxiety gets so bad I have physical symptoms…Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
Next mood cycle will pull up shortly.
Until then…
Ride the storm and duck the lightning bolts of mental illness.

2015 isn’t off to a great start. And it’s courtesy of my own mind.
Scumbag brain.

Journaling and Saying No

My Journal

My journal entry last night:

New Year’s Eve. Been awhile since I’ve journaled hard copy with pen in hand. Not sure how long this will last. So, what is it that I need write down here? I have no idea. I have no idea what brings me here – pen to paper. I write in the dark with [my husband] beside me asleep and [my son] down the hall. I use a small hand-held reading light. Not sure if I am doing anything of value now. But at least these are MY words. I am not simply sharing someone else’s words, someone else’s message. Perhaps that is something that I must do, for when I read [someone else’s writing] I was struck by how amateurishly it was written. I know that I can write better. [Forgive me for my arrogance, but I was journaling, after all.] I like my writing voice – when I unleash it. So, that I must. My voice is not corporate – the materials I quote, though, are. So I feel this push to share, to comment, to inform. It takes up all of my time. I’m doing it again – work – what I do when I work – I subsume my own needs, quiet my own voice, ignore my own needs – for the needs of the whole. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could instead develop MY voice. Focus on my writing. Perhaps it is time to read, follow & comment less. Perhaps it is time to blog more. To speak. To write. To focus.

I was inspired last night to journal by Kelly‘s post Graceless where she writes about journaling.

I have spent much of my spare time journaling in a composition book, rather than blogging (sorry guys). It’s allowed me to write freely and not worry about sentence structure, flow or even worrying about what it says or who it could offend. It’s been incredibly helpful to me in trying to work out my feelings about my personal life and who I am and what makes ME happy. It’s almost meditative at times, me scratching across the page, full-throttle, just trying to throw all the thoughts down on the page before they fly away.

One benefit in particular that I’ve found about journaling is how it can keep you accountable for your emotions. What I mean is that once you put pen to paper it’s out. It can be crossed out, (hell, it can even be ripped out of the journal and lit on fire) but the point is that it’s out into the universe, and not on your shoulders as much. You can take a deep breath and look back on your scribbles and try to understand how you’re feeling, and try to figure out what to do with those emotions.

This morning, I read Natasha Tracy‘s post Pressure and the Limited Time, Resources of One with Bipolar, which resonated a similar message.

Pressure and Bipolar

I think that people have no idea what kind of pressure is exerted when people contact you every day for something. Strangers that expect me to fix their lives and an uncountable number of people who are suicidal. Well, just for the record, I don’t fix people’s lives. I don’t have that power. And I am not a suicide hotline.

… perhaps it might be better for you to talk to a friend or a professional psychotherapist…

My comment to Natasha was:

Natasha, thank you. I feel much the same way, but I err, by far, on the side of doing WAY TOO MUCH for others. Following too many blogs. Reading too many posts. Commenting far too much. I must develop better boundaries. I must learn to say NO. No need to read this, or to respond.

Filed under: Bipolar Disorder, Mental Health, Recovery, Writing Tagged: balance, boundaries, Natasha Tracy, saying no, self care

Ponderings, Paranoia, and Privacy

When I first created Lipstick & Lithium, I was in a quandary as to whether Continue Reading →

bbc mental: a history of the madhouse

People get very carried away, thrilled and outraged by this sort of thing. Frissons are felt and so forth. The thing is though, that gasping at the appalling etc etc doesn’t actually make sense unless you look at the context. There was a hell of a lot of appalling in those days and you didn’t have to be physically or mentally ill to get some. All you had to do was be working class. And that was in the western, developed world. There are also hard questions to be asked about exactly what got improved.

Okay, here comes the sensationalist stuff. Also, total spoiler alert.

The documentary starts during the part of England’s history, still well within living memory, when ‘mad’ or not, people were shoved into asylums and frequently simply left there. It focuses largely on High Royds in Yorkshire, one of the ‘Great Asylums’.

Then came the NHS (1948), ECT, insulin coma therapy and still, the lobotomy. As we know, just one of those treatments is still in use. By 1957, patients were still being violently assaulted by staff, some even called it thump therapy.

In the mid 50s, with new ‘miracle’ psych drugs (beginning with Largactil, an antipsychotic), came the belief that asylums would eventually become completely redundant. Lithium resurfaced. High Royds became a globally known centre of drug research.

Psychiatry began to grow kinder, introducing patient activities and occupational therapy, “it is serious, scientific treatment.” Doors began to open – literally and figuratively.

In 1959, the mental illness act was passed and there was a call to end the stigma and treat mental patients with the same compassion as those with physical illnesses.

In 2015, we (the so called mentally ill) are still dreaming of that happening.

‘Mental hospitals’ began to be closed down by the government. Enoch Powell made plans for what has since been called ‘care in the community’.

By the 60s, it was clear that the drugs didn’t necessarily work and that conditions in asylums were frequently still barbaric. “They’ll tek ye away in a green van ta High Royds!” Hippies happened. R.D. Laing happened. “A normal response to a mad world is to be mad.”

The 70s happened and some more refined, but still frightening brain surgery. “I was like a zombie for four years … there was more violence inflicted on me than I inflicted on anybody … I’ll never forgive them for it.” Although no asylums had been shut down, wards began to be closed and care in the community became a thing.

By the 80s (ohai Maggie Thatcher), patients incapable of coping had been dumped on the streets. Long stay beds diminished and the community barely cared for anyone. The asylums began to close.

By 1990 100k patients had been discharged. Psychiatric hospitals were emptied fast, only leaving beds for ‘some’ acute cases. For some people, this was a very welcome emancipation. Patients began to be called users, as in service users. Institutionalised people had to make their way without much help. Some were abused verbally on the streets.

Panic grew as incidents of violence by ex psychiatric patients grew. “Both psychiatrists and police judge that overwhelming force is necessary.” The government stated that community care had failed.

High Royds was one of the last asylums to be closed, in 2003.

What the hell is the answer, really?

My New Year’s Resolutions

This year, I’m setting realistic goals for myself. I’m really focusing on self care and just being kinder to myself. I’m not going to beat myself up for the 5 extra pounds my bipolar medications have helped me put on, instead I am going to focus on what I like, rather than what I don’t. So, here are a few goals/resolutions I have:

  • Go to therapy more regularly. This is an absolute must and if this is the only thing I accomplish, I am completely ok with that,
  • Start exercising again. Depression makes me not want to do anything, as does my very physical job, but I feel that slowly easing back into either pilates or yoga will help my stress levels. So I am setting a goal of exercising two days a week.
  • expand my crafting skills. I already do a lot, between jewelry making, furniture refinishing, wreath making, sewing, painting and crocheting, but I love to learn new things. This year, I am determined to finally nail knitting as well as complete one new project every 3 months.
  • learn to say no. This is something we all have trouble with I think. I let myself get guilted into doing things I really have no desire to do. This year, I resolve to say no more.

Do you make resolutions? If you suffer from a mental illness, do you modify your resolutions as a result? Please share in the comments!

Filed under: Self Discovery, Wellness Warriors Tagged: bipolar, change, crafts, depression, DIY, emotions, evolution

linkdump: a book, a sad thing, a calendar

Happy new year, are you still bipolar? I’m sorry … Don’t forget to take your meds, k? It’s 2015 by the Gregorian calendar and here isn’t the news …


Blog for the International Bipolar Foundation by volunteering here.


Bipolar Disorder for Dummies – I’m not going to review it, beyond saying that if you haven’t already come across it (and I reckon most of you have), you should. You should probably hand it around the way we used to with joints. Har har. It’s informative and accessible. It’s kinda like an owner’s manual or one of those down wit da kidz textbooks.

It sounds rather desirable here (read it in a Barry White voice):


Mhmmmmm thass what I’m talkin’ about babyyy … *shuffles off back to the shipwreck*

This is the sad part.

I’d be very interested in your thoughts on this next one. Usually when bipolar and shooting are mentioned in the same sentence, the news report is either about a bipolar person shooting somebody, or a policeman shooting a bipolar person. This one is very different.

Tragically, Mark Lavoie shot his wife Kathy who was in critical care and on a respirator at the time. I couldn’t find out why she was in hospital, does anyone know? He said he was guilty of putting her there by dialling 911, so I assume it was a suicide attempt? This is one of the earliest and least sensationalist articles about it. After shooting Kathy, Mark turned the gun on himself; they are both dead. ‘My baby was trying to escape the bi-polar demons that have been swirling around in her brain since childhood … ‘ he wrote in a Facebook post, where he also predicted it would be ruled a murder-suicide, when it was a double suicide. He wrote his will and last wishes there too. The post was published just before he went to the hospital. ‘Though a difficult subject I hope my family whom I love dearly can make some sense of what I’m doing though unless you have dealt directly with mental illness (it) will be difficult,’ he wrote, and his sister called the shootings an act of love. Poor everyone involved, it’s way past sad.

2015 Bipolar Calendar

It’s the 17th Annual Conference of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders in Toronto this year. It aims to provide ‘a world class platform for clinicians and scientists to present, discuss, and trade expertise in the most rapidly evolving area of psychiatry, bipolar disorders.’ It’s on June 3-6, we’ll have to keep an eye out for their findings etc then.

Bipolar UK is having a one day conference on 7 March for laypeople. The theme is ‘Bipolar: Mind and Body’ and there’ll be workshops on nutrition, physical wellbeing, mindfulness and pregnancy.

You can attend the The 2015 Ed Hornick Memorial Lecture and Award: “Recognizing Bipolar Disorder in Young Adults and Late Adolescents: A Subtle Science” – Maria A. Oquendo, M.D. on 27 January in New York.

The Australian Society for Bipolar & Depressive Disorders are having a conference in November and details will be at the above link once they’ve finalised things.

The Annual Meeting of the International Forum of Psychosis & Bipolarity takes place in Lisbon, with a theme of ‘Optimising Therapy’. 26-28 April.

The International Bipolar Foundation will be hosting the 2015 Gala – Behind the Mask: Changing the Game of Stigma. It’s on May 9 and I’m getting really bored with making this list.

Anyway, I think I’ve covered the major ones. Fuckall happening in SA of course – there isn’t much of a bipolar support etc network here and what there is doesn’t extend very far. I figure I can piss and whine here, because most of you won’t make it all the way past that list. And hopefully people will assume I’m cheerful or some bollocks like that. It’s lunchtime and I haven’t had breakfast. Bye.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year Everyone! Who would have thought that we would have made it to another year. I certainly was questioning whether or not I was going to.

Tonight has been filled with the fun and noise of family. Lots of kids and adults all talking, plus music and dogs barking. Add in the PS4 on surround sound and it is way to over stimulating for my bipolar brain. I promised myself I can deal with it until midnight as I want to see the new year in with hubby and the people I love.

So I hope you are all feeling hopeful about your health in the coming year. I know I am.

Hugs all around!