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Mental Health

Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder, but can also describe persons struggle with health problems.

Mental Disorders Failure to Take Medications Consistently

Don’t skip your meds – even if you are sick!

It is cold and flu season in the Northern part of the world, and though that isn’t the only time people get sick, it brings up an issue common in Bipolar disorder and other mental disorders.

Medication - Mental DisordersOne of the biggest problems in maintaining a level mood state or semblance of “normalcy” in people with mental disorders is the failure to take medications consistently.  In a lot of instances, mentally ill persons will stop taking the medication on purpose because they are “better” and “don’t need it”.

As mentioned many times before – this is, usually, done in secret. Without consultation with professionals, friends or family members who do not find out until someone with a mental disorder has gone “off-track” and had an “episode”.

But, another cause of medication non-adherence is forgetfulness. Forgetfulness wouldn’t seem to be a big deal as many medications are “forgotten” one day and resumed the next – blood pressure medicine, birth control pills, and antibiotics etc. All with each of their own ramifications.  In the case of the forgotten anti-depressant, anti-manic agent, anti-psychotic, a different set of events comes into play.

Mentally ill people may “forget” the first day but by the second day, the thoughts of “I am OK” start to intrude.  This may lead back to the first case of non-adherence where the patient then decides to quit purposefully taking their medication – obviously without telling anyone.

Mental MindWith your illness, you may not feel like getting up.  You may not feel like eating.  You may not feel like taking your medicine – but you should.  You must.  Even when your mental illness seems secondary to a physical illness, the medicine that keeps you functioning on a semi-even level is vital.  Allowing yourself to skip, even one day can ultimately cause a “relapse”.

If you skip today because you don’t feel good, you may skip tomorrow.  If you skip today and tomorrow, because you didn’t feel good, you will probably hear the voice that always says, “I am doing OK,” because you are OK – for today.  A week or two, maybe a month or two – you won’t be OK.  You haven’t been in the past and likely you won’t in the future.

No matter why you skip your meds – don’t.

There are legitimate medical reasons not to quit without supervision – such as drug withdrawal and increases in seizure potential which are real, unpleasant, and possibly dangerous. But the biggest reason is the same as it has always been.  Eventually, it will lead you back down the path, and you won’t know until you are already out of balance.

One of the biggest challenges for a bipolar or schizophrenic (or many other) patient is to ignore the impulse to give in to “See, I’m OK and I don’t need this”.  In your rational mind, you know that you do.  You may resent it, but you know.

You may have to remind yourself of how far you have come – and remind yourself that this wasn’t the first time that you had to dig yourself out of a mess.

Remember how it was, how awful it was, and how hard it will be the next time to recover.

Melissa Lind

The medicine that keeps you functioning is vital – even if mental disorders seems secondary to physical illness!

Depression and Exercise

Exercise can, in some cases, eliminate the symptoms associated with depression.

The energy creates more energy – a statement that is proved by science a long time ago.

Take a walk when you start to feel drowsy will perk you up and helps you get through the day without a nap. While this is a significant benefit of exercise, there are, of course, other benefits.

Naturally, you think that exercise is important for weight control, muscle tone, and even bone strength. But, did you know that exercise can also aid in the treatment of depression?

Exercise Improve MoodsWhen we exercise, endorphins are released in the brain. Those endorphins make us feel happy. Note that exercise is not in any way a cure for depression — the depression still needs to be treated by a doctor, and possibly with the help of a therapist, but exercise can lessen, and in some cases eliminate the symptoms associated with depression.

For the relief of depression symptoms, doctors recommend regular exercise for approximately 30 minutes, three to five times a week. You don’t have to go to the gym for a complete workout. Again, just taking a 30-minute walk will do wonders. The important thing is to get the blood flowing through your body.

Naturally, when one is depressed, they don’t feel like exercising, and 30 minutes of exercise may be asking a bit much — at first.
However, even 10 minutes of exercise will improve your mood, although you won’t feel any long-term effects from such a small amount of exercise.

Despite this, if you can’t muster 30 minutes of exercise right out of the gate, start with smaller amounts of exercise time and slowly work your way up to a full 30 minutes.

Not only will exercise improve depression symptoms by releasing endorphins, it will also help you to sleep better at night, which also helps with the treatment of depression.

Depression needs to be treated by a therapist, or with the help of a doctor

Childhood Sexual Abuse and Mental Health

Mental Health and Childhood Sexual Abuse – Don’t Carry the Secret

Recently I saw something on Facebook that was very sad.  It was a video of a 50 plus year old man named Scott – also called “Spider,” who told the story of his life through written cards, in a fashion similar to Ben Breedlove’s “This is my story” about his heart condition. In the video, this tough looking man, confessed the trauma of his own sexual abuse and the damage it had done to him over the years – drug abuse, divorce, culminating in an arrest for beating his child’s sexual predator with a bat.

The story was naturally sad but is all too common.  In fact, statistics shows that 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested by the age of 18 and worse for girls with 1 in 3.  The other sad fact is that many, many children who are sexually abused don’t tell anyone.  Either they are threatened or ashamed – or both.  They carry the secret for much of their lives.

Trauma, abuse, neglect – biology didn’t account for its infliction on children.  As children, our brains develop best in a loving,
supportive environment with plenty of nutritional food and quality exercise so that our bodies become the best they can be.  Childhood Trauma - Mental HhealthAround the world we see the damage that poor nutrition, neglect and physical abuse can do to children.  What is not so obvious is the damage wreaked by sexual abuse – it is a hidden traumaSexual abuse is hidden by the child, hidden from the adults, hidden from other children, and sometimes even hidden by the child’s memory.

Secrets are always dark.  Carrying secrets can ruin a relationship or ruin a career.  Carrying secrets imposes a burden of stress on your body – your heart doesn’t work as well, your adrenal system gets burned out, your sleep is affected.  Carrying a secret like that can change a child’s brain.

Studies have shown that abuse or childhood trauma actually causes physical changes to the developing brain.  It can make the child unable to grow to what they would have been.

So what does this have to do with mental health?

The effects of childhood trauma are hard to predict.  Mental health is hard to identify – particularly the cause.  In some cases, we can easily point to the parents and say “Mom and Grandma have clinical depression; it is no surprise that the daughter has depression.”  Schizophrenia has been shown to be driven by over 100 genes and a child with one schizophrenic person has a 13 percent chance of developing the disorder.  Some people are “born” alcoholics in that they are missing an enzyme that allows them to process alcohol properly and will nearly always become addicted if they drink.

In other cases – we can’t identify the cause.  You have some cases of mental disorders that develop in people with perfect childhoods.  You have people with horrible experiences who are remarkably healthy – rare, but true.  In many cases though, someone with a history of child abuse will develop some mental disorder – but the type is very hard to predict.

In “Spider’s” case, he became a drug addict, had an anger problem and felt that he had to prove he could “conquer” women (his own words), leading to the destruction of his family.  Likely he suffered from depression, anxiety disorder, and possibly Mental Health - Child AbusePost-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Telling the “secret”, not carrying the weight may, just may have kept him from his self-destructive behavior.  Unfortunately, it may not have stopped his daughter from being a victim, but it might have allowed him better tools than a bat to deal with her problem.

In severe cases, extreme trauma can actually cause the personality to “split,” in “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID), which was previously called “Multiple Personality Disorder” (MPD).

(Photo-source: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2014/08/scott_spider_spideralamode_facebook_molest.php)

Sexual abuse has another problem – that children are often disbelieved which worsens the trauma.  Unlike physical abuse, unlike neglect, unlike starvation – there are no “obvious” signs.  There are signs, but you have to know what they are.  Children who have been sexually abused do exhibit signs:

•    changes in behavior or personality type – a normally outgoing child becomes withdrawn, a normally gregarious child becomes angry and sullen
•    bed wetting and nightmares (oddly the bed-wetting may be punished)
•    refusal to go to school, church, sports or club activities or to a certain friend’s house
•    sudden clinginess or a sudden desire to be left alone

Too often, adults don’t ask.  Too often, children don’t tell.  Sadly, sometimes adults won’t listen.  If you know of a child that has
sudden behavioral changes – ask.  If you are an adult, believe.  If you are a victim, tell.  Even at a late date, telling can change your life and resolve some of your “issues.” I think in the end, “Spider’s” main message was “tell your kids to tell.”

What does this have to do with mental health?

Sexual abuse can contribute to:

PTSD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia, Drug Addiction, Alcoholism, Attachment Disorder… and many more.

History of Child Abuse – Free PDF

Melissa Lind

Mental Health and Grief

Grief and Mental Health – When the Two Merge

Grief is something that we all experience at one time, or another.  The stages of grief – sometimes explained as 3, 5 or 7 different stages – are pretty well known and include shock, denial, anger, sadness, acceptance in some order.  Most people will struggle but eventually come to some resolution with no prediction as to how long that will take.

Resolution of deep sorrow can be made much more difficult when a pre-existing mental illness is imposed.  A severe loss can trigger a relapse of virtually any mental illness, even when the illness was well treated, and the patient was stable.  Patients may relapse into severe depression, bipolar episodes, panic attacks or a return of obsessive compulsive behavior.  If the patient was not well stabilized, the whole apple-cart can be upset.

Depressed and Suicidal GirlEven the most mentally healthy person can become unstable if unable to resolve the feelings caused by painGrief has been known to result in clinical depression, lasting for a long period which can lead to extreme difficulties and even death in the case of suicide.  The problem comes in a case where one becomes “stuck” at a certain point – usually during the agitation period.

There is a saying;   “depression is anger turned inward.”  The existence of anger over an extended period can cause depression.

Anger allows us to have a heightened response to a threatening situation.  Anger fuels energy, giving us a false sense of power, but over time, the brain and the body run out of that same energy.  This can result in fatigue, emotional lability, and symptoms of depression.  In some cases, depression caused by grief may be resolved with grief counseling.

In other cases, however, depression may have become severe enough that medication may be warranted.  Clinical depression is characterized by:

•    Fatigue and decreased energy
•    Cloudy thinking
•    Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
•    Insomnia or excessive sleeping
•    Irritability
•    Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
•    Body pain or digestive problems
•    Persistent sad or empty feelings
•    Thoughts of suicide

How different is this from grief – not much.  The only difference would be in how long it lasts.  Depression carries a high risk of suicide and if symptoms last longer than what would be considered “normal” – for any reason – you should seek treatmentMental Health ChaosDepression that is severe enough to interfere with normal activities for longer than four to six weeks should be treated – even if life circumstances explained it.  Counseling may work – or you may need medication for a short period.

If you have some known mental disorder, stay in contact with your mental health professional.  Most – and I did not say “all”, but most mental health patients find it difficult to self-assess, some find it difficult to be openly honest.  The only way to ensure that an episode of grief is resolved without severe consequences of going “off track” is to allow someone else to help assess your mental state.

Whether you are or are not a mental health patient, know that grief can cause mental illness and can worsen an existing illness – even if only for a short time.  It is not something to be dismissed or ignored as the risks are high.

Melissa Lind

Depression is Anger Turned Inward

Mental Disorder and Hope

The Whacko is BACK!

By Bruce Anderson (The Freak in the Corner)

Bipolar Whacko Says HelloHey there, you.  How ya been?  You’re looking a little rough, but you know what?  You’re still here.  And that’s a start.  And it could be the start of something wonderful.  You may not believe it now, but have I lied to you yet?  Well… not intentionally.

There was that first bit about Bipolar Disorder which turned out to not be true in my case.  I had been misdiagnosed.  If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, (BPD), chances are your doctor went through about half a dozen diagnoses before he finally arrived at the one you’re stuck with now.  It’s very easy to misdiagnose.  What isn’t easy is living with it.  But guess what?  YOU CAN.  And in most cases, with treatment and a conscious effort to change negative patterns, YOU DO get better.

Just like me!

Oh, come now.  Don’t go all crazy congratulating me.  Crazy is MY job, remember?
But seriously, if you work hard, listen to your doctor and your support network of friends, you too can be awesome again.

Boy, I tell ya… it was darkest before the dawn, though.  Remember how “Justine” had left me and I was still hopelessly in love, but at least I had the Hollywood deal working?  Well… in a fit of pique, I told the director exactly what I thought of the changes he was making to my script.  He didn’t like my choice of words much.  So the deal is a bust.  My movie may never be made, but I’m cool with that.  The movie he wanted to make wasn’t the movie I wanted to make.  And I’m OK with that.  And since I renewed the WGA registration, no one can take and make my movie without me.

But man, that sucked.  And I fell apart.  And drove Justine crazy some more.  And I continued to drive her crazy for several more months.  She had sworn to stop talking to me, remember?  But I’m sure you also remember I can be very manipulative.  I’m VERY good at it, but it’s nothing I’m proud of.

Anyway, rock bottom happened.  I got a beautiful luxury apartment on the fifth floor and all I saw from the window for a long time was the parking lot and how inviting the jump was.  But I didn’t jump.  I got back to work.

Mental WhackoAnd even though I was still all messed up over Justine, I put on a happy face and went to work, because the kids needed me.  And that started to feel good.  And then it started to feel GREAT.  And I still wanted to tell Justine all about it, and that would set me back, but then I’d move forward again. And at the end of the school year, not only was I happy, but the happiness spread.  I was everyone’s favorite teacher.

And though I “lost” my kids, many of them have come back to see me… and tell me again that I’m STILL their favorite teacher.  And that, my friends, is a wonderful feeling.

But alas, the worst has come to pass.  I must now move from my beautiful apartment, which is located in a center of art and culture and is honestly the only place I’ve ever felt was truly home.  And this scares me.

I just gotta keep telling myself it’s for the best.

Because it is.  My girlfriend bought a farm and we’re moving in.

And no… it’s not Justine.  She never took me back, and I’m very glad of that.

Remember how I once said that I have a tendency to romanticize my romantic partners? Well, after a good long time, I took off the rose-colored glasses and began to see things as they really were.  I’m not going to go into details about it.  That would just be rude.  But I finally realized that not only was she not “The One,” she really wasn’t even that good to me.  Is she a bad person?  No.  Does she know how to treat a boyfriend?  Also, a resounding NO.

But I found someone who does.  And she’s got her issues, too.  And we occasionally fight, but we are like-minded enough to get along on most issues, and on the things we don’t see eye to eye one, we respect each other’s opinions, because we respect EACH OTHER.  And this time, it actually goes both ways.

BPD-Whacko Horse FarmerIs it scary to be jumping into a relationship again? Yes, but I’m not exactly jumping.  We’ve been seeing each other for about a year now.  We’ve taken the time to get to know each other.  And importantly, we’ve both been honest about our issues.  Yes.  I told her I have a personality disorder.  And she’s OK with that, but doesn’t put up with my bullshit, which is something that makes me love her even more.

And we COMPROMISE.  She’s moving to my town, because I have a job that makes me happy like no other before it and she doesn’t want me to give it up.  But I gotta give up the city life, and I don’t want to.  But I will.  Because she’s a farm girl, and I’ve learned to appreciate “farmy” stuff.  Horses are cool.  Like REALLY cool, and I would’ve never known that if I hadn’t stepped outside of my comfort zone.

So, your faithful whacko is going to learn to do “farmy” things.  I can already put up fence posts.  Next thing you know, she’ll have me milking the chickens and stuff.

And you thought I had gone all serious on you.

Well, I am a bit more serious now.  Or more to the point, I don’t feel the NEED to be funny.  The funniest people are often the saddest.  Because they can’t feel joy themselves, they spread it in others, if only just to see it so they remember it exists.

Poor Robin Williams is proof of that.  May he rest in peace!

If only he had known that you DON’T have to die to get it.  You just have to make a few changes, face your demons, take your doctor’s advice seriously, maintain your support network, stay busy, and maybe milk a few chickens.

You’re gonna make it, amigos.  I am.  And if this freak can manage it, so can you.

Until next we meet… KEEP FIGHTING!

Bruce

Cutting – An Actual Mental Disorder

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

A lot of people are shocked and horrified at the thought of self-mutilation and for many years “cutting” was categorized only as a symptom of Borderline Personality DisorderBPD, as you may know, has symptoms of unstable personal relationships, impulsivity, and extreme mood changes (different from Bipolar disorder as they can change on a dime and swing wildly).

The new issue of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition or DSM-5, includes it as a separate diagnosis of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI).  Research has suggested that NSSI can occur independently of BPD but is also often a co-existing or co-morbid illness, occurring alongside BPD, Bipolar Disorder, one of the many anxiety disorders or with other disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Cutting DisorderI am the mother of pre-adolescent children – who are beginning to believe they know all about people who act “weird” or do “weird” things (their words, not mine).  My daughter has recently talked about the “EMO” kids – which as a dumb mom, I had to figure out was a social group of kids who were “emotionally dark.”  She includes in her description of an “EMO” as “you know, like kids who are cutters.”  It is stereotypical to think that they all wear black clothing and heavy eyeliner – as some may – but many do not.

Some people who have the disorder would never be suspected of such – but then we are also sometimes surprised when someone who seems to have everything commits suicide, only to find that under the polished exterior was extreme anguish.  Often, cutting will be dismissed as a “stage” and it may be a “stage” – but often it is not.  Many patients – have arms or hips full of patterned scars – proving that it is often a condition all to itself.

Cutting Disorder - Mental IllnessSelf-mutilation most often starts in the early teen years when adolescent emotions are at their height – but often extends well into adulthood.  The majority of “cutters” are female – but not all.  There is often a co-existing mental illness and may have a family history component – but also often occurs following events of abuse – including sexual, physical or emotional abuse.  Sudden life changes such as unemployment or divorce – and isolation may trigger an occurrence.

People who “cut” often express a desire to “feel” as if they cannot truly attach to their own emotions.  Others will say they “cut” to kill the pain – this is because the act of producing pain also causes the body to release endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller) that makes them feel better.  Unfortunately, even though the action may induce temporary euphoria – it is often followed by guilt and a return of the negative feelings.

NSSI is defined as:

• 5 or more days of intentional self-inflicted damage to the surface of the body without suicidal intent – in the past year.
Patients must be intending to:
o Seek relief from negative feelings or thoughts and/or
o Resolve interpersonal problems and/or
o Induce a positive emotional state
• The behavior must be associated with 1 of:
o Interpersonal problems
o Negative thoughts or feelings
o Premeditation
o Ruminating on injury (obsession)

NSSI includes not only “cutting” but also burning, hitting or punching, head banging, biting, non-aesthetic piercing or carving of skin (tattoos and body piercing don’t apply), pulling out hair or other “topical” mutilation.  If a patient has expressed suicidal thoughts or shows suicidal tendencies – it is not classified as NSSI as the intent of a person with NSSI is not to commit suicide.
NSSI should be first viewed as a serious medical condition that truly requires treatment.  It may be resolved by treating an existing co-morbid psychiatric condition – but likely it will also require psychotherapy to resolve some of the underlying issues.

Definition of Self-injury/cutting (Mayo Clinic)

Cutting and Self-Harm: Warning Signs and Treatment (WebMD)

If you see signs of NSSI or “cutting” in a child, teen, or adult that you know – encourage them to seek help.

Melissa Lind (WriterMelle)

An Actual Mental Disorder – Cutting