Brave New Mind

There’s something completely mind-altering about looking into a mirror and seeing someone still familiar, and yet entirely different.  It’s a lot different from an impulsive cut and color.  Those kinds of changes are so sudden and purely aesthetic.  Underneath all of the paint, it’s still the same structure.

With changes in diet and exercise, the structure begins to gradually shift.  The roundness came away, revealing angles and shapes I had never known.  But, it wasn’t just about the weight that had come off.  I had tone in my muscles that made me look strong and sturdy.  For the first time in my life, I felt strong, inside and out, like I could take on the world.

I started to realize that sometimes, change comes from outside in.

bravenewmind

With a new found confidence from feeling comfortable in a new skin, I reexamined my own internal world with a sense of confidence that was once sorely lacking.  It wasn’t the same as the critical introspection that I was so used to engaging in.  For once, it was a realistic, objective perspective.

The Voice, as I’ve referred to intense intrusive thoughts and vaguely psychotic entities in the past, had suddenly taken my side.  I’d find myself launching into once typical degrading monologues, only to be stopped short.

Why are you so eager to hurt yourself?

There are people in your life who believe in you.  Why don’t you believe in you?

Why are good things not allowed to happen to you?

These challenging questions came slowly at first.  I was so inclined to revisit places I had already been to before.  My abusive past.  The mechanisms of growing up with early onset bipolar disorder.  I rubbed my hands up and down my self-injured scars, searching for answers.  Who did this to me?  What did this to me?

It occurred to me.  It was probably the most difficult realization I’ve ever come to in my entire life.

It all begins and ends with me.

I am the alpha and the omega in my life.  The beginning and the end of all things.

And for awhile, I sank into a depression.  By that logic, I was responsible for all of my misery and a failure at taking control of my own life.  My greatest fear had been realized.  Everything was my fault, just as everyone had been telling me for my entire life.

There was a point where I realized that the self-loathing was just counterproductive.  It didn’t inspire me to try harder or make any improvements.  It was defeating, and bred a sense of hopelessness that rendered me helpless.  In fact, I didn’t hate myself at all.  I actually liked myself and was proud of my accomplishments throughout my life.  That wasn’t me talking.  It was something else altogether.

When breaking these intrusive and abusive monologues down, I came to a startling conclusion.  The value system, of which I completely governed my life and behavior, were not mine at all.  These self-defeating values were inherited from extraordinarily flawed and rigid familial and societal governments.  They had become so deeply ingrained that responses were automatic.  The truth is, I hadn’t even been living my own life by my own rules.

Some examples include:

“Many times in life, you’ll have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do.  You just have to get it over with.”

I subjected myself to a immeasurable amount of misery that was completely unnecessary.  At certain points, I found myself only surviving my life.  I endured so many awful situations that I could have avoided if it weren’t for the idea that misery was just a part of life.  It built a certain amount of resentment for those around me who I was sacrificing myself for.

“Get a grip.”

I attempted to live my in stoicism, because I was under the impression that emotional displays were distasteful and unacceptable.  It was absolutely conflicting to my nature, being a person with bipolar disorder.  Sometimes, there is no handle on things.  And yet, I attempted to rein in my emotions and behavior, causing an explosive temper and repeated meltdowns.  It translated to me expressing every negative emotion as anger, because anger was the only acceptable thing.

“Crying means that you are weak.  You can’t show people that you are weak.”

I stopped crying (at least in front of people), because I would be mercilessly mocked.  This was more reinforcement for angry outbursts.  I hid my vulnerabilities and became viciously defensive.  I instinctively pushed people away, because I was convinced that the closer I allowed someone to be, I more likely they would be to damage me.

“There are no excuses.”

Any explanation that I could provide for my shortcomings was considered to be an excuse or a rationalization.  There was no answer that I could provide that would be good enough.  All of my limitations and inexperience were of no consideration.

“What other people think is the only thing that matters.”

I got the idea that the only way to measure my self-worth was through achievement.  External approval was the singular source for validation of my actions.  Combined with all of the above, this value became the source of my own self-loathing whenever I would fail to meet an expectation.  And when all of the expectations were generally unrealistic due to overambition, it was an automatic setup for failure.

In reality, it wasn’t that I was actually responsible for my misery.  I was responsible for making changes to a rigid and dysfunctional value system that served to oppress me throughout an entire lifetime.  The great epiphany wasn’t placing blame.  It was to empower me, and help me realize that I am the main character in my own life.  I am the source.  And in the end, I had the final say in my happiness and lifestyle.  I govern myself.

Immediately, I started to view the world as a blank page.  I was liberated from all of the bonds that caged me in such a bleak and oppressive world.  I had the authority to rewrite all of the rules by taking on values that I believed in, and living a functional, productive life.

Everything in moderation.

As long as I’m still trying, I’m succeeding.

Eliminate limitations.  There is no such thing can’t.

This one requires some explanation.  In this line of thinking, there are no limitations in the sense that there are always adaptive strategies through creative problem solving that can make something a possibility.

True respect begins with respecting myself.

I have a whole article I want to write about this.

Regular and constant practice are the keys to mastering anything.

Energy is neither positive nor negative.  It’s the expression and application that determines the nature.

Meditation is necessary for a calm mind and a calm spirit.

As long as I’m acting purposefully, I cannot be acting recklessly.

Control is an illusion.  Guidance through leadership is a fact.

Humanity is not a condition.  It is a natural state of existence.

Truthfully, many aspects of my new value system have roots in the tenets, codes, and practices of martial arts.  However, martial arts is only a template.  It’s a starting point from which we are encouraged to develop ourselves mentally and spiritually in our own individual ways.  And through my knowledge of psychology, I began to mold a whole new mindset for myself to start a brand new life.

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Just Snap Out of It

Society has developed some seriously bad attitudes toward mental illness.  It’s no surprise.  We see it attached to the stigma of it.  We’re treated like lepers, as if this were a terribly contagious thing.

Depression is no exception.  Today, a lot of people have been discussing the topic of the “Just Snap Out of It” phenomenon that occurs out there.  Honestly, there is a saying out there about how if a person hasn’t experienced it, then they can never truly know.  A person who hasn’t experienced clinical depression, either in the form of MDD or BP depression can never truly know it’s depth and breadth.  It is an all encompassing monster that claims every last bit of life and any possible joy that can come from it.

Having Bipolar Disorder, I am a person who naturally experiences some sometimes pretty obvious mood swings.  And the attitudes toward it are so completely off.  I have never had a person treat me poorly while I was in a manic episode.  Not one.  Not even when the plainly awful behaviors were showing.  Each person seemed to find it charming, amusing, or interesting.  Even when there were moments where I was so out of control that I was scared out of my wits, not a single person around me seemed to notice that there was something absolutely wrong with it.

No, my energy and spirits were high.  I would act impulsively, and people would take it as spontaneity.  I’d be overly, annoyingly chatty, and rudely interrupting others, but they took it as being outgoing.  Everyone seemed to think that was a sign that I wasn’t depressed anymore.  They seemed to think that it was some kind of miraculous recovery from “being like that”.

People only seem to take notice when I am depressed or mixed, like it’s some kind of disease that I choose to be afflicted with.  And the comments are absolutely endless, because everyone seems to have their own opinion about it.  It’s as if they consider themselves to be the authority on depression, anxiety and sadness in general. I will constantly hear phrases like, “Get over it” and “Get a grip” as if just snapping out of it were an option for me.

Meanwhile, people without mental health diagnoses start flinging clinical terms around, like they had some true application to their fleeting, shallow emotion.  For instance, “Oh, I’m so *bipolar* today”, instead of just saying that they are moody, or women arbitrarily making a comparison between PMS and Bipolar Disorder.   Or “I’ve just been so depressed lately”, to reference a little bit of discontent or sadness.

It’s not cute. It’s not funny. No one with those diagnoses thinks that it’s witty that someone is taking a serious clinical term with so much guilt and stigma that it could bring down a religion, and applying it to their BS, frivolous emotions!

It does everything it can to minimize those conditions.  It puts it in a light that we have some kind of real control over it.  As if it were something that a person can just “snap out of”.  It implies that a person chooses to be disordered.  It also puts a shameful connotation of attention seeking behavior.

Yeah, it’s the life, let me tell you. If I were doing anything for attention, it wouldn’t be this. It would probably be something more hilarious, like plastering myself with an obscenely worded banner and rollerblading through Downtown. Depression isn’t newsworthy, but that sure is.  Or maybe I’d be doing something a little more productive or noteworthy, like finding a cure for cancer.  But no, my depression is just that interesting that I would choose to gain that much needed attention from people I don’t even know or care about.

I have to wonder if the general public has to be so naive that they would actually be jealous over it.  So much emphasis is put on the “just get over it” ideals, as if that were possible. If I could will myself out of this state, don’t you think I would do it already? It would be more logical to think that I want to reclaim my life and be a productive person.  But no, according to others who are ignorant enough of mental illness, I am perfectly content to have disordered behaviors.   Sure, who doesn’t love ignoring their kid because the voices just got too loud? Personally, I love gripping my ears and screaming, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!”

And as a result of this blatant ignorance, I am really starting to believe that some are just plain jealous.  Because, they seem to think that those with disorder aren’t being responsible for their emotions and behaviors that result.  I certainly have quarrels with wanting to thrust a sense of selfishness and entitlement out there, because it’s what I have to do to take care of myself and my own in this world.  It’s those same people that shove themselves and their ideals down other people’s throats, only to make them feel bad. Misery loves company, and we’re perfect targets, right?

The point is this.  If a person is out there reading this and getting offended, it’s time to take a step back and think hard.  Is it so fair to be so judgmental?  Isn’t it about time to take a look from another perspective?  Does a person with a congenital disorder choose to be symptomatic?  It would be an entirely different story if I were refusing treatment, but like anyone else, I am keeping my appointments and taking my medication according to doctors orders.  We don’t blame someone for their symptoms when they have a seizure.  Why should this be any different?

Let me assure everyone.  If could have snapped out of this disorder and been a “normal” person, I may have done it, instead of living this ongoing nightmare.

The Journey of Recovery

Recovery is a tricky word.

re·cov·er·y /riˈkəvərē/

Noun:
  1. A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength: “signs of recovery in the housing market”.
  2. The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost: “the recovery of his sight”.

First, what exactly is “normal”?  I typically refrain from using that word, because there really is no standard definition of normality that is not relative to a societal standard.  In mental health, there is no standard.  There is no “normal”.  Everyone remains precisely unique in their own conscious and subconscious cognition and emotional regulation and processes.  No neurology is identical and no biochemistry is identical either.  Therefore, normality cannot be judged against anything.

I would rather substitute words like “typical” and “average”.  Typical describes a certain relativity, but does not fail to include atypical presentations as something that might be “normal”.  In addition, the word “abnormal” carries such a heavy stigma.  The other words carry a connotation of individuality, as seen in our uniqueness as humans, being part of the human condition.

Secondly, I would deviate from using the second definition.  I am not reclaiming possession of anything.  There was nothing lost in the first place.  There was a dysfunctional state of mind and being.  The only thing that was disrupted was typical functioning.  I would refrain from claiming that there is any possession in function.  It provides a definition of a standard of control that is impossible to achieve, even at the highest and best of functioning.

It is impossible to describe it as the process of “getting better”.  That insists that I can return to the state of mind and living prior to the onset of symptoms.  In fact, for me, I am not entirely certain that such a place even exists – I have been symptomatically in one way or another for longer than I can recall.   There are no U-turns in this journey.  The path does not allow for that.  There is only forward.

Getting Better has the wrong meaning when it is being used.  “Better” is often thoughts of a permanent state of wellness where we are devoid of symptoms entirely.  It may be a daunting thought, but I do not necessarily believe that mental health disorders have a solution or a “cure.” No such state of “better” is in existence.

Recovery to me means many things.  I can describe it best as a process toward refining overall wellness and optimal mental health.  There is always a state of progression of “getting better”. That’s what recovery is.  A road.  A journey without a particular destination.  There is no end of the road, just the road itself.  Sometimes, it’s smooth and flat, and other times it winds, laden with potholes and detours.

The responsibility rests on me to navigate this road as best as possible.  I should anticipate these hazards.  When I’ve lost my route, I can plan to reroute with the help of certain guide posts and road markers.  I should understand that everyone loses their way.  Everyone gets a flat from time to time.  And there is no shame in stopping to ask for directions or calling roadside assistance.  These people exist for a reason.

And above all else, it’s my own journey.  No two journeys are alike.  It’s irresponsible to hold my journey against another as the standard.  And even when the weather is bleak and I am on a turbulent road, I should always look forward and keep my eyes open for clear skies.  The journey itself is all that matters.

Buyer Beware: Medicating Children with Psychiatric and Behavioral Disorder

 I wrote this in college in a course.

BUYER BEWARE: MEDICATING

Buyer Beware:

Medicating Children with

Psychiatric and Behavioral Disorder

Tiffany M.

CM220-17

        If you discovered that your child had a disorder, you’d do anything to fix it, right?  Some parents are going to great lengths to “fix” their children, including extensive pharmacological therapy.  In fact, the incidence of children using prescription medication has more than tripled in the last twenty years.    However, it does not statistically make sense that an epidemic of psychiatric illnesses and behavioral disorders would present so suddenly.   This is cause for great concern when it comes to unnecessarily medicating our children.  Therefore, many children with behavioral and emotional disorder do not require pharmacological treatment, because of the questionable existence of disorder, risky and sometimes unknown side effects of medication, and serious ethical concerns surrounding the topic.

Disorder is a term used frequently in the field of Psychology and in Psychiatric practice.  Merriam-Websters defines disorder as “to disturb the normal functions of” (Merriam-Webster Online.  2010.)  A childhood psychiatric disorder or behavioral disorder would, in this vague terminology, cause dysfunction in certain aspects of their life, if not globally.  However, being met with challenges and discomfort is a recognized part of the natural process of maturing into an adult.  The way in which each individual handles these challenges and expresses themselves uniquely is part of their innate personality.  When we begin naming personality traits as being dysfunctional or part of a disorder, then we begin classifying unique behaviors as distinctly acceptable and unacceptable.  For example, there is a new birth control medication on the market named Yaz, that has been named the only oral contraceptive that will reduce mood swings during a menstrual cycle.  Many teen girls have been prescribed Yaz for a naturally occurring ailment!  Yet, many will not hesitate to classify “mood swings”, however small or brief, as symptomatic of a disorder, when it is really just a part of the regulation of hormones in the newly developing sexual system; thus, it is a part of a maturing woman’s life.  Then it will become a question of whether an active, extraverted child has symptoms of ADHD, a shy, sensitive child has Major Depressive Disorder, or a socially awkward child has Pervasive Development Disorder.  Even the DSM-IV states that “neither deviant behavior nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders” (DSM-IV. 1997.)  It is a subjective point of view of what is “normal” and “abnormal” childhood behavior that makes the diagnosis.  The point is, children are still in the process of developing and their expressive symptoms are not necessarily resulting from a suspected disorder and may better be explained by environmental or physical stressors.  It may be better to take into consideration that this may just be the child’s response to their environment, provoked by their unique personality instead of haphazardly slapping on a label and pumping the child full of medication to make them comply with society’s idea of normality.

It is these reasons and more that there is a suspected epidemic of over-diagnosis and therefore over-medicating children in our country.  Labels such as ADHD, behavioral disorder, and emotional disorder are leading parents searching for answers and doctors and pharmaceutical companies to provide them in the form a pill to answer their prayers.  “American children are taking four times as much psychiatric medications as any other country in the world” (Frontline, 1999) although the rest of the western world has the same medical technology and advancements.  One of the reasons may lie with the legislation of free education and related services for those with disabilities, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act being passed into law in 1990.  Many parents and educators saw the advantages of additional assistance, services, and educational grants.  The average number of children taking medication in two to three in each classroom (Frontline, 1999).  “About ten percent of ten-year-old American boys are taking such medicine” (Washington Post, 2006).

There are a great deal of often overlooked or negotiated risks for taking prescription medications, including cardiac arrest and suicide.  In October 2004, the Food and Drug Administration released a list of psychiatric medications suspected to increase the risk of suicide in children and young adults (National Institute of Mental Health. 2010).  The National Institute of Mental Health sought to investigate this claim further.  They discovered in a 2006 study that there were no completed suicides by a vast increase of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (National Institute of Mental Health, 2010).  However, many of these medications are fairly new, such as Abilify and Yaz, and have not had been thoroughly tested.  Yaz, an oral contraceptive used to treat mood swings associated with menstrual cycles, is now showing a higher incidence of women developing life threatening blood clots.  Even medications that are much older are starting to show new effects when prescribed to a larger population.  The Washington Post reported in 2006 that ADHD medications, including Ritilin, first created in 1955, were about to carry their own “black box” warning concerning the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.  Many medications of all varieties, including Yaz and Lamictal, have warnings about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.  Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a life threatening skin rash resulting in an allergic reaction to a medication, therefore it is possible that it can happen with all medications, including over-the-counter pain relievers.  Plainly said, there is no safe medication.

Long term side effects and consequences of many medications are still very much unknown.  However, researchers are starting to have an inkling and the prognosis is bleak.  Anti-depressants are found to cause neurogenesis, or new brain cell growth, but the implications for children are unclear (Homes, 2005.)  Evidence from research concludes “that the use of neuroleptic and psychotropic medication makes long-term, if not permenant changes in the brain structure” (Sparks and Duncan, 2004.)  Unfortunately, there is no research available for lifelong usage effects since prescribing these psychiatric medications to children is a fairly new trend.  In fact, it is advised that long-term treatment of adults on the same medication must be reviewed, such is the case in Lamictal.  Lamictal is the only FDA approved medication for treating Bipolar Disorder, besides Lithium.  Research on the Lamictal website is provided but only for as long as 18 months.

Medications also have side effects that are not life threatening but carry huge consequences.  Many anti-depressants and benzodiazapines, prescribed for anxiety, cause weight gain and drowsiness.  This may adversely affect their already damaged self-esteem and their overall functioning, both in the academic and social area.  Oppositely, medications for ADHD may cause patients to lose weight and while that may be desirable for females, it may not be for males, who are the typical patients.  Many mood stabilizers cause hair loss, irregular and painful menstrual cycles, and acne.  Sometimes, in the cases of sleep and appetite changes, doctors will prescribe another medication to combat the side effects.  (Breggin, 2010).  Although psychiatric medications have been proven to be effective in a number of cases to treat a disorder, they may have unwanted side effects when it comes to an aspect of their personality.  Many patients with Bipolar disorder report feeling “emotional deadening” when using mood stabilizers.  Others who are prescribed these medications, particularly those who are the more creative type, feel less like themselves and the medication “completely took your inspiration away” (Smith, 2010).  This leads us back into the original argument that some dysfunctional traits associated with disorder may be an integral part of one’s fully functioning personality.

Then, there is the concern of misdiagnosis.  Often, mood disorders can be misdiagnosed (DSM-IV, 1997.)  Major Depressive Disorder may be a result of an environmental cause, such as a bad home or school experience.  Bipolar Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when either the depressive or manic episode is more prevalent.  Most of the symptoms that occur in childhood Bipolar Disorder are atypical (Weller, 2002.)  A single misdiagnosis can cause years of agony for the child and delay the psychological help that is desperately needed.  Not only are these children still plagued by a disorder, but they are treated with potentially toxic medications that do nothing to ease their symptoms, often reaching a disturbingly high dosage.  The illusion that is created when a host of medications do not work is that these children are damaged beyond repair.  Many teens may seek to start self-medicating by using illicit drugs and alcohol.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse examples comorbid mental illness by stating that “people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders” than the general population (NIDA, 2009.)  All of these issues combined can generate the potential for more serious problems like delinquency, promiscuity, delayed development in the cognitive and social areas, poor academic performance, and dropping out of school altogether.  Worse, misdiagnosis can lead to death.  One family had both of their daughter’s lives taken, one by overmedication and the other by misdiagnosis.  Two daughters in the Hall family were both diagnosed with ADHD.  One, Stephanie, died the very same day her medication was increased.  The other, Jenny, began to have seizures and was later found to have brain tumors that mimicked ADHD.  It is wise to have a second opinion and have all of the other factors checked into before settling into a diagnosis.  According to Janet Hall, “Don’t trust your doctor. Question him over and over. If you are not happy with what he says, if you have an intuitive feeling that something doesn’t seem right, it’s not. Get second and third opinions. It may not seem reasonable to have to go to that extent, but if it’s at the price of your child, it is” (Null, 2001.)

These concerns raise a great deal of ethical issues revolving around the issue of medicating children.  Children certainly have rights, but those rights are being violated when they are forced to take medication.  One mother, Robin, went as far as getting a court order to force her son back on medication (Frontline, 1999).  Children in psychiatric wards are being dosed through “chemical restraint”. (The Columbus Dispatch, 2005.)  Children should have a voice.  Some would say that highly medicating a child borders on abuse.  Forcing children to take medicine when they refuse violates their rights.  After all, it is their bodies and their minds.  The long term consequences are their own to bear.   It should be their decision ultimately, because we cannot “discount the accuracy of the youngest voices to tell us what is working and what might help” (Sparks and Duncan, 2004.)  Honestly, professionals and parents alike only rely on circumstantial evidence, colored by personal emotion and investment.  If a parent puts faith in a medication to solve the problem, then the slightest progress can be magnified.  However, the only person who really knows is the child.

Contrary to popular belief, many children who remain unmedicated or are only medicated for a short period of time have a great prognosis.  In one of the longest research studies done on the performance of Ritilin versus Behavioral Therapy for ADHD, Ritilin patients only slightly outperformed the BT group.  After a six month follow-up, the BT group was maintained throughout the 14 month study.  More impressive, the BT group was the only intact group after the 24 month follow up!  Most parents see the best results through at the very least combined therapy, and the medication is often short-term when it is felt necessary.  That is why “nonmedical intervention particularly important because effects of stimulant medication, though beneficial in the short term, do not last beyond medication termination” (Sparks and Duncan, 2004.)  The same goes for any medication.  Once the medication is terminated, the noticeable changes and advancements seem to disintegrate.  In many cases, Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Thearpy are a better route to go.  Although they may not produce the instantly gratifying results that American’s are so accustomed to, the long term benefit outweighs everything.  As we’ve previously discussed, no medication is safe and therefore cannot be expected to be maintained for life.  Therefore, if we build the skills within the child to manage their condition, then they can live medication free and have full, happy lives.

In the end, it’s all about the happiness and health of the children.  Many parents are desperate for the quick fix to the problem, due largely in part of parental anxiety.  The other part is most likely the strain that disorder brings into the family and their lives.  Yes, medication will provide the relief that parents and children may be looking for, but will it in the long run?  Many times, we’re used to focusing in on the smaller picture, the point of the problem, rather than standing back to examine the bigger picture.  Parents and doctors do not stop to think seriously about the dire consequences that medicating their children and patients may have.  Children have needlessly died, been brutally tortured without having a hand laid on them, and suffered at the hands of medical science.  Parents beware; fight for your children’s lives, protect your children’s rights, question everything and get as many opinions as you need before taking the leap into medicating your precious babies.

References

Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers. (2010, March 16). NIMH. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/antidepressant-medications-for-children-and-adolescents-information-for-parents-and-caregivers.shtml#Bridge-JAMA

Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. (2010, March 2). U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273

Antidepressant Use in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. (2010, March 2). U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273

Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Disorders – InfoFacts – NIDA. (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse – The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/comorbidity.html

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV). (2004, May 15). Psychology Classroom at AllPsych Online. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html

Gaviria, M. (Director). (2001). FRONTLINE: Medicating Kids [Documentary]. USA: Pbs (Direct).

Holmes, L. (2004, June 16). Should Children Take Antidepressants?. Mental Health – Information on Mental Health. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://mentalhealth.about.com/cs/psychopharmacology/a/kidzoloft.htm

Lanham, T. (2010, January 14). Mindy Smith on the rebound. San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.sfexaminer.com/entertainment/Mindy-Smith-on-the-rebound-81337537.html

McEvoy, V. (2008, August 11). Go slow on medicating children. Boston.com. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2008/08/11/go_slow_on_medicating_children/

Mercola. (2000, August 13). US Courts Forcing Parents to Medicate Children. Natural Health Articles – Latest and Current Health News and Information by Dr. Mercola. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2000/08/13/courts-adhd.aspx

NIMH · Mental Health Medications . (2010, February 24). NIMH · Home. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/complete-index.shtml

Null  , G. (n.d.). The Drugging of Our Children. American Family Rights Association :: The Voice of America’s Families©. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.familyrightsassociation.com/bin/white_papers-articles/drugging_our_children/#1

Pyle, E. (2005, April 25). Forced medication straitjackets kids. The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.dispatch.com/live/contentbe/dispatch/2005/04/24/20050424-A1-00.html

Sparks, J., & Duncan, B. (2004). The Ethics and Science of Medicating Children. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 6(1). Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://psychrights.org/research/digest/ADHD/MedicatingKids.pdf

Stevens-Johnson syndrome: Causes – MayoClinic.com. (2009, April 10). Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic.com. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stevens-johnson-syndrome/DS00940/DSECTION=causes

Vedantam, S. (2006, February 10). Warning Urged for ADHD Drugs. washingtonpost.com. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/09/AR2006020902325.html

Your Legal Right To Refuse Medication. (n.d.). Advocacy, Inc. – Home Page. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.advocacyinc.org/IR8.cfm

Zimmer, G. (n.d.). DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Mental Illness, Disease, Health. Say No To Psychiatry – The Danger and Harm of the Sham Pseudoscience Known As Psychiatry. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.sntp.net/references/dsm_definition.htm


The Seeds of Doubt

Amnesiac.

That might be a painfully accurate depiction of a large part of me. My memories prior to eleven are largely fragmented, save for a few vague impressions, recurring themes, and a traumatic experience that has recently resurfaced to rear it’s ugly head at me. Regardless of how often I attempted recalls, those calls went unanswered. A flicker, like a spark, would come alive, but leave existence as quickly as it came.

I often find myself in a unfocused world of disjointed memories and alternate realities. The vast fields of fog are sewn with seeds of doubt, spouting fears and obsessions. In those fields and shadows, monsters have plentiful cover to prowl for their prey – me.

They often say that when a lie is repeated so many times, it starts to embed itself as a portion of factual memory. Basically, if a person believes in something strongly enough, it becomes real. It becomes enough to rewrite someone’s entire history. The lines between reality and fantasy start to blur in a place where fiction and fact can coexist, even potentially peacefully.

Unfortunately, I have not once before been a person who can successfully smudge the details of my own personal past. Not to myself, anyway. I can report being guilty of deception by omission. But, something distressful stirs and blinks with any instance I even remotely consider telling a blatant lie.

This is not say I am immune to deception and coercion into accepting an outright lie. My psyche is malleable in the way where I am susceptible to manipulation. Why? Because it’s been the very basis of which I have been raised.  My father once told me, “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.”  Then, was it his intent to distort my world in such a way that I will one day have difficulty trusting myself?

There are so many clinical words for this.  DissociationDepersonalizationDerealization.  Psychosis.  Delusion.  HallucinationDissociative Fugue.  Splitting.  Repression.  Coping.  So many clinical terms that overlap in their definitions, and yet, not one quite captures the true essence of being within it’s grip.

For me, my repression has a proximity sensor.  Clinically, it’s called Dissociative Amnesia or Dissociative Fugue.  In the past, I have always called it throwing a block or throwing up a wall.  I am figuratively walking along in my own mind, through wild, overgrown fields and forests of my own memories to suddenly smash into a concrete wall.  Suddenly, the whole landscape shifts, and I am boxed in this nondescript, blank white room.  White walls, white floors, no windows.  It is me and a dining room chair.  This is my mental waiting room, where I am being isolated until the memory of the memory passes.

I call it, “The Eraser”.  When it’s all said and done, I come back to consciousness in my own familiar surroundings, in my own waking life.  But, is it?

This is the direct result of the seeds of doubt being sewn into a person so carelessly in the impressionable youthful brain.  The concept of an active consciousness is disturbed, and the development is stunted and contorted.  It must be so easy to manipulate someone with such a frail sense of reality, a blank canvas of self, and stunted emotional maturity.  And that’s why abusers do it.

I slip in and out of streams of consciousness, alternate, yet simultaneous realities, and find skips and pauses that disarrange an incomplete chronology of life.  I start to get the belief that I am, in fact, a time traveler, as my external self as my own ship, however I have no use of my own controls.  Somehow, somewhere along the way, I have been damaged.  It mimics human ailments.

But I know none of that is true.  I am just as human as the next person, with cognitive dysfunctions resulting from mental illness and latent trauma.

Or faulty wiring.

I doubt everything.  My experiences often seem surreal.  My memories, unless attached to a particularly powerful moment, are vague.  My short term memory is shot, so it becomes unreliable.  I doubt everything I feel, all of the conclusions that I come to, and some of what is right in front of my face.  I doubt right down to self.  Is this me?  Am I me?  Am I here?
How did I get to such a place where I have to question everything?

 

A Writer or a Hack? : 30 Days of Truth

Day 11 : Something people seem to compliment you the most on.

(Note:  I started writing this two months ago)

This prompt could not have come at a better possible time.

In my real life, there isn’t much I get complimented on. In fact, I just asked my husband his thoughts on this prompt. His response? A poor joke, followed by a, “I don’t know.” CoF, seriously, I think C.S. needs some husband boot camp.

All of the little girls at work love my hair. An elder creeper, insisting to talk to me despite me clearly wearing earphone and typing on WordPress for Blackberry, told me that I had pretty eyes. I was pretty glad the bus pulled up to the curb moments later.

Otherwise, I get quite the opposite of compliments. It’s okay, I’m used to it.

Here on WordPress, and especially everyone involved with the dialogue happening here on Pendulum, and on our local mental health blog A Canvas of the Minds, compliments are plentiful. I will spare details, mostly because I am embarrassed to talk about myself. And secondly, because I’m not sure I can completely believe it. I sit here and think, “If you only knew me.”

I find that I am most complimented on my writing.  Believe me, I am ambivalent to share that for a number of reasons.  First, I know that once a person reveals what appears to be a strength, it is preyed upon.  In my youth, I was eager to display my intelligence and talents.  There was always at least one person who was eager to take me down, either out of jealousy or just to prove a point of fallibility.  Next, I am often unsure of how much truth there is in identifying a strength or talent.  There is always some doubt and question of the validity of such a claim.  What is the measure?  Is it a popular opinion?

And finally, there is the self-doubt / humility aspect.  I do not make any claim that I am better than anyone else.  I am by no means a brilliant writer, and clearly not in the league of literary greats.  Hardly by the standard of journalist and even fellow blog authors.  I am not making an attempt to solicit compliments by saying these things.  I am only stating that I have serious doubts as to the claims made of any talent I possess.  However, I will not refute any opinion, favorable or unfavorable.

However, if there is one literary strength I have, I do know of it.  I have always possessed an uncanny ability to find a verbal expression for emotions, thoughts, and experiences.  Most often, I have had people approach me and say, “You grabbed it right out of my head, as if you lived in there with me.”  Some ask, “How do you find the words?”  To which I reply, “I really don’t know.  It just comes out.”

The answer is absolutely honest when I provide it.  I am unable to identify the mechanisms that produce the detailed emotions and internal experience.  Imagination?  Experience with the experience / emotion / thought itself?  Education?  Really, it is just something that was always there.  But, I will admit that it is a craft that I’ve unconsciously refined throughout the years, just by practicing what has been just a hobby throughout my life.

I’ve mentioned this before.  My poor eyesight has always been kind of a handicap for me.  Back in my youth, my family could not afford to provide me with glasses more than once a year, or once every other year.  Often times, I would have to wear an outdated prescription for an extended period of time, as my eyesight deteriorated.  Sometimes, I would break a pair by accident, and I wouldn’t be able to get a new pair for upwards of a year.  I learned to see and identify things by shape and color, rather than fine detail.  I could identify people by voice alone.  And one of the only hobbies I could really do without any difficulty was reading and writing, because I could only see about as far as my hand could go in front of my face.  (Note:  My vision has deteriorated so badly now that I can’t even see my hand as far as my face.  In fact, I can’t even see a book at a normal distance.  But, I have the means to correct my vision on my own now.)

I suppose I could consider it a talent, although I’m not sure how I stack up.  I guess I should worry less about a basis for comparison and just do what I do, the best way I know how.

Finally, I’d like to thank the readers for their encouragement to write.  Sometimes, it’s just a matter of necessity for my mental health.  There are other times, like these projects, where it is a matter of a pleasurable hobby.  And other times, most of the time, it is a way for me to get my message out and have a sense of purpose when it comes to my own mental health.  I do not want to feel as if my suffering is in vain.  I do not want anyone to ever have the feeling that they are alone in their own struggle with mental health.  That is the worst feeling in the world, the loneliness, isolation, and fear that accompanies it.

Thanks for giving me a place to do this, encouragement to keep on, and an audience to hear me.

The Open Mind Policy : 30 Days of Truth

Day 2: Something you love about yourself.

Following up on the subject of self-love, I embody some admirable qualities.

The Open Mind Policy
“I’ll try anything once.”

Truthfully, that was once my motto.  Except, I found myself in too great of a number of undesirable situations that I would have preferred to not experience.  We live – we learn.

This is the basis of my Open Mind Policy.  It is truth when it is generalized that all humans have certain biases.  That is part of the human condition, and not exactly shameful.  It functioned as a survival mechanism in primal humans.  Hence, we are fearful of unfamiliarity.  Unfortunately, this fear typically turns to hate, and that is one emotion I tend to keep at bay.

Throughout my last year at my job, I have noticed different attitudes in the African American community.  Much of their community is now highly diverse.  These divisions are no longer even regarded as anything.  They’ve helped me understand a world and a culture beyond my own.  And they’ve really opened my mind.

Through my eyes, people are people. Divisions of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, political orientation, socioeconomic status, mental and physical health, age, and lifestyle do not matter to me. Those differences have no bearing on how I view a person.

A person is who they are, not how they are labelled.  Humans have a particular penchant for categorizing everything within their world.  While this organization is important for cognitive function and development, it does not function as segregation of people.  It is not meant to emphasize differences among peoples, their behaviors, and their cultures.

In recent years, I have noticed that racial tolerance has become the norm. Tolerance is not acceptance, and is by no means synonymous. Acceptance is when those divisions dissolve into an unrecognizable remnants of past prejudices.  I have learned that by working in a community of people unlike any I have ever been exposed to.  I see children and adults alike regarding people as just another person, another friend.  Despite color, culture, heritage, quirkiness, and what-have-you, we act as if we are in a family system.

I am proud to say that I have rid myself of religious biases. I am personally weary of claiming my own religious affiliation, though very interested in the religions of the world. However foreign, and however devout, I am accepting of others who may not share the same sentiments on spirituality.  I realize that everyone has their own interpretation.  At this point, I refuse to make a statement at this point in time concerning my own spiritual beliefs. There is no better way to lose friends and alienate people.  So, I mostly avoid the subject anyhow.

The same goes politics. In past years, I groaned when a person started in on the opposing side of a subject I felt passionately about.  This created a serious schism in interpersonal relations.  Many friends were lost in the heat of debate.

I’ve learned that it’s not worth it.  I may disagree with where another person stands, but I refuse to judge their character by it. Different lifestyles and socioeconomic standings create different opinions.  I promote unity and balance, without digging my heels in too much.  I’ve never walked a mile in many people’s shoes.  I cannot know their journey and where they are coming from.

As for my own journey, I am not one to set my own choices up as the standard in which everyone strives. My own lifestyle choice is likely not fitting for everyone else. There is no such thing as “one size fits all”.  People are more content when they don’t feel societal pressure to live a certain way.

Therefore, I am not exclusively friends with the population that is married with children.  Marriage and children are not a lifestyle choice for everyone.  As a matter of fact, I applaud those that resist the societal pressure, when they know that is not what they want for themselves.  Many recognize that they have a preference for living solo.  Some have a different sexual orientation, and that’s fine with me.  I’m not homosexual (I can’t say I didn’t try in college).  But attraction and love are beyond anyone’s control.  It’s not up to me to decide.  It’s up to the individual.

Individuals have different biology, right down to the molecular level.  We are unique, atom by atom.  We look uniquely, function uniquely, think uniquely, and behave uniquely.  I have a special place in my heart for those that suffer debilitating physical and mental debilitating disease and disorder.  I find a certain kinship within the group of people with unique mental health concerns.

This is a preference, and I’m now careful to not reverse a discrimination against those who do not carry a diagnosis, or norms, Non-Dx, as I may refer to them.  I sometimes use norm(s) as a derogatory term to refer to people who are especially ignorant to the topic of mental health.  Although I am still outraged, I have come to understand that these people are victims.  They are victims of widespread ignorance and fear.  I cannot wage war when my ultimate goal is to bring education to the general population.

I am also guilty of occasional gender discrimination or man-bashing, as it’s typical referred to in the female community.  In all honesty, I do not mean it.  I am not a feminist man-hater pushing the female agenda.  In fact, quite the opposite.  However, I am aware that it perpetuates a stereotype that others could buy into.

The point is, one bad apple does not ruin the whole bunch.  The gender war has been present since the beginning of time.  Only now, in the 20th and 21st centuries are we progressing toward equality for both genders.  That does not mean that stereotypes and biases are erased from existence, much like that in race.

Everyone has heard about the “crazy bitch” or the “pigheaded jerk”.  Women are moody largely in part of a constant cycle of ever changing body chemistry.  Men think sexually because testosterone is essentially the hormone responsible for sexual impulses.  (It’s also responsible for aggression).  That’s fact.  Again, because of the extreme individuality that humans have through by nature and nurture, this can be more or less prevalent.  Accept the fact that it’s possible.  Learn to live together.

And most of all, socioeconomic status. I share in the plight of the working poor. Although I am an avid Occupy supporter, it’s less about the 1% and more about the abuse of power through corruption. That is about justice.

I’m not saying I don’t judge at all. I am human after all. We all judge. However, I will only judge a person when they have proven to commit heinous acts.

I greatly detest people with hate and malice in their heart.  With those two emotions, people have waged unnecessary wars (what war is necessary?), committed vile acts such as genocide, and perpetuated more hate and malice through organizations such as the KKK.  If these people would stop for one moment, think of The Golden Rule, and open their minds to the possibilities, the world would be a much better place.