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Women’s Strengths Aid in Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery – Women’s Strengths Aid

When we think about addiction, it’s all too common that we focus on the negative aspects of the story: the toll that it takes on Treatment for Womenfamily and friends, as well as the addict themselves. This is especially true when it comes to women who are addicts, because narratives about women are more likely to center on how their families are impacted by addiction. The other side of the story is a much more positive one: women tend to have particular strengths that mean they often move through the recovery process more easily than men.

According to academic evidence, women recover from addiction at higher rates than men. One of the primary reasons for this is a simple matter of biology: women progress more rapidly through the various stages of addiction. They hit “rock bottom” sooner than men, and as a result, they get into recovery programs sooner than men. That means women, as a group, experience less of the physical devastation wrought by addiction, and this helps to make the recovery process less physically demanding.

womens-eyeAnother important difference is also related to biological factors. Women are more than twice as likely as men to develop mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, partly because women go through a wide variety of hormonal changes throughout their lives. Mental health issues often underlie addiction, and getting treatment helps female addicts address their addiction.

Finally, there are the social strengths of women. Girls and women are encouraged much more so than boys and men to express emotion, to develop expressive relationships, and to allow themselves the luxury of accepting help when they’re in need. All of these factors together are enormously important in the recovery process, which means that women tend to have more tools for coping with recovery in general.

Melissa Hilton

Bipolar Through the Years – Getting Your Diagnosis Right

Difficult to diagnose Bipolar Disorder?

I am not bipolar!  I am (insert other diagnosis here)

I received my first bipolar diagnosis when I was about 30… ish minus a few years.  I am 40… ish plus a few years, so for most of All About Bipolar Disorder20 years (yes I know the math doesn’t work out but this is a true story), I have known that I have Bipolar Disorder.

If you are bipolar yourself you will know that when I say “I have known” it really means “I was told”.  I didn’t believe it at first.  I thought of every other thing it might be and tried really hard to convince the therapist “that isn’t me… not really”.

As an untreated, newly diagnosed bipolar, I felt compelled to express clear objections to specific parts of the diagnosis that did not fit.  I was trapped by the details… a problem which I have often suffered – or more like, caused others to suffer because of.

Over the years and through several different diagnoses and many periods of “those” risky behaviors, going on and off various meds, wrecking certain parts of my life – and recovering once again, I find that those details don’t matter anymore.

I used to have a vitriolic reaction to the suggestion that I should want to be “normal”.  NORMAL, I said… I don’t want to be Bipolar TherapyNORMAL.  Normal is boring.  I was many things but boring was not one of them.

I no longer have that reaction.  My life would have been easier if it were normal.  I would have missed all the bright, scribbly colors.  I would have missed all the scary but fun stuff… but then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten so tired.  Maybe I wouldn’t have had to shut the curtains and hibernate.  Maybe I would have missed all the scary and dark stuff.

Anyway – as usual, I veer off of my topic.  Today, I am 99 percent sure that I am bipolar but I do reserve that remaining 1 percent – just in case.

Over those years – starting before (way before) I was diagnosed as bipolar – I sought treatment.  At 14, I asked my parents to take me to a psychiatrist because there was “something wrong with my brain.” They said “no, there isn’t” effectively telling me that I was just a mouthy, disgruntled, histrionic teenager – which I was, but I was also bipolar.

I often wonder what might have been if I had been treated then and do watch my kids for the same occurrence.  Unfortunately at that time, a proper diagnosis was highly unlikely and probably wouldn’t have changed much.  Except I would have felt heard – and I didn’t.  I do try to hear my kids.

Once I was able to seek treatment for myself, I was diagnosed with several other things long before they hit the jackpot.  The first was “dysthymia” – oddly, this diagnosis came in the middle of a severe depression.

Dysthymia for a bipolar

I was in college, just a hair short of being suicidal, and had to sit down one day and decide if I was going to kill myself – or study.  Serious DoctorLacking concrete plans and lacking a sincere wish to die, I decided to study – but I did go to the student health center the next day where a kindly graduate student decided I was dysthymic and would benefit from group therapy.  Being the mixed-manic that I am, I was in a temporary state of “not so bad” and failed to mention the depth of my despair.

I went to group therapy with a bunch of whining college kids and two well-meaning graduate student supervisors for almost a year.  To be fair, some of these people may have had real problems.  A homosexual boy who was still “in the closet”, a secret cross-dresser, a bulimic, a giant athlete with a sever anger issue and mommy problems… and a couple of other whiners.

I never once mentioned that I was hallucinating at night… or that I couldn’t keep my thoughts going in a straight line….or that I was living in a dark grey fog… or that despite all this, I still wasn’t sleeping.  My dysthymic self simply whined away with the others about parents, childhood, professors…it may have kept me from killing myself but mostly it was just entertainment.  It also kept me from failing out of college, as the dean of my college was informed that I was “in counseling”.

Major Depression for a bipolar

When I finally admitted the hallucinations – that got some real attention.  It also got the notice of a physician – and her medical Medical Doctorstudent who proceeded to ask me stupid questions like “how much LSD have you done?”  I also got a very “fun” visit to a sleep clinic — where the results were inconsequential even though my case was examined by a neuropsychiatrist – or a psychiatric neurologist – whatever that is.

Still, I got the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder… I still wasn’t sleeping – and people were literally terrified of me.  Describing me as agitated would be like saying the Niagra River is a stream.  Major Depressive Disorder.  They did give me meds though, stopped the hallucinations and got rid of all that grey fog and I managed to finish college.

Codependent for a bipolar

Moving on a few years on and off antidepressants and anxiety medicines – never feeling right….risky this, risky that….institutionalization (not jail or at least not this time, but still…).  After a particular disturbance, one “therapist” told me I was “codependent”… little did he know how dependent I was…or on what.  I ignored him.

The “intensive treatment” did get me the diagnosis for bipolar disorder which I denied, and did so for many years.  On and off meds, risky this, risky that…back on meds…off…on.

ADHD for a bipolar

A few years later I was pregnant (married too, woo hoo) and had to go off the meds.  After I had my kids – the doctor that I saw said that I was ADHD – not bipolar.  Still not wanting to be bipolar, I took the prescription he gave me….which was of course an amphetamine.  Well that worked well – nuf said.  To be sure, my kids are fine.

Bipolar HeartbeatEventually, I came to reality and the bipolar diagnosis and back to the right meds.   This has required honesty.  Honesty with health professionals and honesty with myself and it requires taking my meds.  I am tired from all the bright squiggles and the darkness.  I do want to be normal.

Now, as a bipolar, I get to watch my kids and see if they have “it” or something else.  Either is scary, both are scary but I hope I will be more help than my parents were.  I still take my meds but I also still retain the right to act on the 1 percent in case something better than bipolar disorder comes up.

Face of Borderline Personality Disorder

Pro Football Player Brandon Marshall Wants to be the “face” of Borderline Personality Disorder

Brandon Marshall - The Face of Borderline Personality DisorderIf you don’t follow professional sports in the U.S., you may not know who Brandon Marshall is. He is an NFL Wide Receiver, recently acquired by the New York Jets. His long history of violent outbursts, brushes with law enforcement and behavioral issues that have affected both his personal and professional life.

Marshall had played professional football since 2006 when the Denver Broncos drafted him. He has since played for the Miami Dolphins, the Chicago Bears and was recently acquired by the New York Jets. The Wide Receiver played in five Pro-Bowls, receiving an MVP award in 2011 and has set several receiving records during his NFL career.

Brandon Marshall - BPDThough he has played for four different teams in only nine years, most of the trades have come after a series of injuries. Not all of those injuries, however, have come from football and Marshall has a long history of legal trouble, and those issues have affected various team’s willingness to put up with his erratic behavior.

One notable injury was sustained in 2008 when he slipped on an empty bag in McDonalds. While this seems like a complete accident, the incident occurred during a physical scuffle with “family members”. Shortly after the event, he fell through a television set at his home, causing a severe arm injury.

Marshall has faced multiple fines with the NFL including two penalties for violating the team’s dress code by wearing brightly colored cleats during a game. The list of legal troubles he has had include drunk driving charges, domestic violence, assault, battery and disorderly conduct. Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2011.

Borderline Personality Disorder is not a well-known disorder and is highly stigmatized, with many people unwilling to disclose the condition. It is characterized by severe abandonment issues, risky behavior, personal identity issues, rapid changes in an Borderline Personality Disorder - Brandon Marshallemotional level, and high potential for self-harm. Treatment is largely comprised of behavioral therapy. However, some patients receive medication for other psychiatric disorders that may improve BPD symptoms. There is also some thought that medication treatment may be useful in Borderline Personality Disorder. However, no drugs are approved to treat the condition.

Marshall’s diagnosis of BPD likely comes as no surprise to those who understand the disorder. His willingness to come forward and publicly announce his condition may help others to understand BPD. He has been and is currently undergoing treatment and is in the process of filming a documentary about his battle with BPD. Marshall has stated that his goal is to be the “face” of Borderline Personality Disorder to bring public awareness for those who struggle with the condition.

Though he has been forthright, many in the sports world had stated that the New York Jets will have their hands full when he joins the team as his troubles have decreased only slightly since he began treatment.

Melissa Lind

Mental Health Professionals and Suicide

Suicide – Threat of Liability for Mental Health Professionals

Suicide is the third most common cause of death for young adults – and the ninth highest for the general adult population.  This means that a large percentage of mental health professionals will have a patient that commits suicide. It may be as high as 80 percent of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other therapists, that eventually have a patient who commits suicide.

Serious Mental Health ProfessionalYou might think that professionals are insulated against emotions that come with the death of a friend or acquaintance – but they aren’t.  Many health professionals report that even when death is expected (natural causes), they spend a great deal of time going over their treatment of the patient. They try to find out if they could have done anything different, (given another treatment) in order to help.

But, what may be surprising is the number of liability lawsuits filed against mental health professionals, when a patient commits suicide.  In fact, it is the number-one cause of responsibility lawsuits brought against mental health providers.
The threat of lawsuits, and also the stigma against people working it in the mental-health profession, has led to many psychiatrists refusals to treat the chronically suicidal. The profession sees it as a failure of the doctorMental health professionals are also less likely to see additional suicidal patients after they have had a patient succeed at suicide.

When a therapist or physician is unable, or unwilling, to treat a suicidal patient – it leaves the patient in the lurch.  It produces feelings of failure and hopelessness, without a doubt, compounding the fact that they are suicidal.  It may also be difficult for an extremely suicidal patient to find a new therapist or doctor.  Many patients report that the mental health professionals suddenly “don’t have time”.

We don’t think much about the way suicide will affect those around us – and certainly the professionals are way down the list of people whose feelings are important.

Mental health professionals also report that there is a lack of training on how to deal with suicidal patients, and processing the death of a patient.  More than half of professionals surveyed also Knocking on Heavens Doorstated that they really don’t believe they can prevent a patient from committing suicide.

Oddly, the complaint process against physicians has been shown to increase the risk of the physician becoming depressed. One of the consequences of this will be a worsening of the situation for mentally ill people. (Chronically suicidal patients)

This is a complicated process with no easy answers, but you should know that it is likely that all psychiatrists, therapists, social workers and other counselors probably need to be in counseling themselves.  When you find a new doctor or therapist – you might want to ask.

Even if you aren’t suicidal, you need to know that your counselor is as mentally healthy as possible, certainly healthier than you.

Melissa Lind

Mental Health Professionals Report a Lack of Training on How to Deal With Suicidal Patients

Anxiety – When to Seek Help

When should one seek for help if anxiety occur?

(Video article) Article as text, and with Video for blind and partially sighted people

Some measure of anxiety is normal, and no treatment is necessary. However, there does come a point at
which seeking treatment for anxiety is vital to your well-being. Essentially, there are three instances where treatment should be sought.

The first is if you experience a panic attack. For people who have never experienced a panic attack, they may mistakenly think that they are suffering from a heart attack, and they will usually seek emergency treatment for that. Doctors perform tests to determine if a heart attack has occurred, and if it has not, based on the symptoms that occurred, a panic attack may be diagnosed.

When your anxiety has escalated to this point, you do need treatment for anxiety. The treatment that you receive from emergency medical professionals, thinking that you had a heart attack, is not sufficient treatment for anxiety.

Anxiety - by Telise RodelvIf your anxiety is unusual and extended, you should seek treatment. You know what a normal amount of stress is for you, but feeling anxious for a prolonged period or feeling an unexpected increase in the feelings of anxiety usually indicates that treatment is needed.

If the anxiety starts interfering in your life, treatment is required. Anxiety could keep one from doing things in life that they might do otherwise if that anxiety did not exist. For example, someone who is developing social anxiety may stop going to events or functions as frequently as they used to, and this does interfere in their life.

There is a fourth reason to seek treatment. Sometimes, we are too close to ourselves to see the big picture. If you have a fear or anxiety that you feel is perfectly normal, and someone close to you says it is not, it doesn’t hurt to seek the advice of a trained professional.

That other person may be wrong, and your fear or anxiety may be perfectly normal — but you do need to be sure.

Related article on Huffington Post – I Hate Being Bipolar – It’s Awesome!

Alternative Treatment for Anxiety

Alternative treatment is available if you are suffering from anxiety

While a certain amount of anxiety is perfectly normal and does not require treatment, anxiety can indeed become very serious, preventing one from living life to the fullest.

Too Calm?However, because people do want to enjoy life fully, they may be opposed to taking medications that may make them “too calm.” For those people, there are alternative treatments for anxiety.

First and foremost, you need to discuss your anxiety with your doctor, and let him or her know that you prefer more natural treatment.
Let the doctor know that you would prefer not to take chemical medications. In most cases, your doctor will listen to you and will make suggestions for alternative treatment, although counseling may also be suggested.

Many herbs will help in the treatment of anxiety. These can be cooked with, in many cases, or taken as a tea. Green tea and kava tea are very popular choices, as well as chamomile tea.

Along with the ingestion of certain herbs, you may also want to include aromatherapy in your treatment. This is done with essential oil of certain herbs.

Scents that work well for calming include rose, basil, juniper, sage, marjoram, bay, ylang-ylang, lavender, cinnamon, sandalwood, hyssop, comfrey, patchouli, geranium, bergamot, cedar wood, frankincense, orange blossom, Melissa, cypress, and chamomile.

For the relief from stress, you should consider chamomile, sandalwood, lavender, peppermint, marjoram, geranium, and Melissa.

Aside from herbal therapy and aromatherapy, you may also want to consider acupuncture, massage therapy, and deep breathing exercises for the relief of anxiety.

Again, there is an alternative treatment available if you are suffering from anxiety, but you still need to work with your doctor to get the right treatment for you.

Note that not all treatments will work right away, and may require a little time and patience on your part. Make sure that your doctor stays up to date with what you are doing, and try to ease the anxiety.

Review of the product Yogi Kava Stress Relief Tea:

Yogi Kava Stress Relief Tea

I bought this Yogi Kava Stress Relief Tea in order to be able to fall asleep. I wasn’t expecting anything more than perhaps a placebo effect from drinking something warm. I did not know what Kava was and had never heard of it. Well, after one cup, I felt “carefree”, and yes, relaxed, but my mental abilities were sharp.

I didn’t believe it was the tea really, and waited another week to have another cup, and yes, had the same results.

It hasn’t made me sleepy or drowsy, just takes the nervousness and anxiety down one or two notches, allowing me to lay down and not think about things.

I have since done quit a bit of research on what is available and have decided that as long as the kava is prepared from the root and does not use ethanol or other chemicals, the risk of hepatotoxicity should be lessened if not deleted.

This stuff is much better than taking a drug such as diphenhydramine. You should be able to stay alert and focused with Kava, not so with diphenhydramine.

Highly recommend this tea for those occasions where anxiety or stress are impacting you negatively. I have not experienced any numbing, pain relief and any GI issues but I only have one cup a week, maybe one cup every 10 days.