The Spider Sat Down Beside Her – Mental Illness

Self-Care Tip #178 – Find your courage and answer to stigma.

The Little Miss Muffet scenario explained by D...

Image via Wikipedia

Something as simple as taking pills can sabotage us.  The act of putting it in our mouths signifies all sorts of things from religion, to freedom, to personal identity and beyond; even someone who is trustworthy versus not.  Pill – take away her children.  No pill – could be president.  Pill – discredit whatever he says.  No pill – worth listening to.

Martha is a mother of four lovely girls.  Her husband is divorcing her and she wonders what he will do in the process.  She’s been depressed in the past and anxious with a history of panic attacks.  She took two years to get over them using breathing exercises and other therapies. She didn’t use medication.  I don’t need to tell you what her husband thought of meds or of her during that time.  It was a miserable time for her.

Now, during this new stressful time, she has relapsed in mood and anxiety problems and is terrified that if her husband finds out, he’ll take the kids.  Martha sees mental illness as a bullying tool for anyone to dump her over.  Little Miss Muffet is a story she often has compared to her situation.  The spider is the mental illness she feels is dangled over her to her demise.  Martha is bullied and scared away.

Taking pills makes me feel like I’m crazy!

Note: it’s a type of crazy she interprets as being something different from the crazy of mental illness.  For Martha, the crazy that comes with medication therapy is more sinister and discrediting than the worst experience of terror any of us have ever gone through, i.e. panic attacks.

Every day, we who take medication for emotional illness have to answer to those accusations.  We contend with the fingers pointing our way, the jeering in our memory of loved ones and the boxed presumptions we find ourselves in.

This may sound a little dramatic to some out there, although familiar.  To others, it is an understatement of what they courageously confront to take care of themselves.  Each of us must come up with our own answers and find our own courage.

Martha finally decided on medication treatment and within two days she was amazed to find that she could eat without throwing up and no longer felt anxious.  She still insisted that taking medication was only temporary but getting a pill dispenser had helped her get past some of her daily battle with stigma.  She just opened the lid and poured the pills into her palm, threw them back and swallowed without looking.  Martha found it easier not to dispense each pill each day out of each bottle.  It was also easier for her to keep this information secure in the confines of our office.  For Martha, for now, this was how she answered.

Question:  How do you answer to stigma?  How do you maintain your sense of freedom when other forces tell you that you are not free?  Please tell me your story.

Waiting For Self-Care to Start

Self-Care Tip #176 – Don’t wait to start caring for your self.  

I’ll get to it when things slow down for me.

I can’t handle one more stress on top of the kids and all the people who take, take, take.

Don’t take this away!  It’s my only vice!

I don’t have time because I’m working so much.

There are so many good reasons to wait for self-care.  I don’t belittle them.  I do them too.  There’s a reason we here at FriendtoYourself.com call self-care the hardest work.  It is not for anyone who isn’t willing to go through the fire of putting themselves first.

“The fire,” you say?  Yes.  Fred taught me that.  He was down twenty pounds, working out almost every day with aerobic and anaerobic exercises, putting his ear-plugs in when sounds escalated his nerves, more motivated, interested and active.  Fred was growing again.  He said that it had been years since he’d done any of these things for himself and couldn’t believe what the world looked like when he felt so good.

Fred was sad though.  Not depressed.  No, he hadn’t been depressed for at least a year on his medication and even less so since he was taking care of himself physically.  But sad.  His wife wasn’t interested in his changes, she was disconnected emotionally, and more so every day it seemed to him as he began to change physically, emotionally and behaviorally.  His friends were growing distant.  He wasn’t interested in office politics either.  It was a simultaneous coming together of life in himself and a falling away of the life connection in his “previous life,” as he called it.  Surprisingly, the people he loved the most weren’t so happy for him.  Weren’t supportive of him.  He was sad for that.  There are never gains without losses.

This is not to forget the new relationships he was growing.  There was new life all around him and he still maintained hope for the connections he had before.  But those people who he had called his own for years were the ones who gave him all the reasons to wait for self-care.  He was way past waiting.  He was already on the other side enjoying the sun.

Question:  What have you overcome to get at your own self-care?  Is there anything your are still waiting to do?  Please tell me your story.

*Art work (assumed) courtesy of carldagostino.wordpress.com.

Choose Self-Care At Your Most Elemental Level

Buchenwald-100625-14486-Schwerte-hell

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #167 – Choose self-care at your most elemental level.

Carl, who writes blog-site, StillFugue, said after yesterday’s post on self-care being for everyone,

Sometimes depression blocks this type of self-care regardless of how good our cognitive strategies are.

Carl reminded me of Dr. Lang.  He was a physician, a father, a man of high character who never had depression in his life.  Then after a series of life stressors depression expressed itself and he, who once was the warm-fuzzy in the hospital, the man who never lost his optimism, the man who turned anyone’s bad mood around – this man came to me under a black cloud, heavy with melancholy, and raining tears.  He cried all the time.  This giant of a man cried and cried on his wife’s shoulder, and she was bewildered by him.  She told me he had done this for a month now, although the depression started about four years ago.  He kept wanting her to read to him the book of Job and cried more barely hearing the words.  He had already been through a series of well-chosen medications, but still he sank deeper.  No form of treatment kept up with the leak in his ship.  What was self-care for Dr. Lang?

Did Dr. Lang have good coping skills?  Well he wasn’t coping well now even though he knew the strategies.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t use the coping skills.  Did he have intelligence?  Yes.  Did he have resources?  Yes.  However, none of that is what this was about.  Asking Dr. Lang to cope with his feelings is the same as asking someone blind to see.  Physically, biologically he could not.  His brain could not.  Much of his ability to choose behaviors and emotions were drowned by illness.

So again, the implied question comes to us, – “Is self-care for everyone?”

Mr. Rick C. threw this life-saver out in response to our question,

During times when chaos ensues, either internally or externally, self-care seems to become the basis on which all other positive actions are built.

Sarah McGaugh also referred to self-care as “action,”

A call to action may also be a higher calling than one’s own self….

What action did Dr. Lang do?  He cried on his wife’s shoulder and read the Bible, i.e., he leaned on the support he had built up before the hard times came.  After failing medications, he sought another opinion and other treatments.  Sure, he couldn’t get out of bed otherwise even to bathe himself, but he had made it to my office.  What did Dr. Lang do?  He got electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and in two months, along with his medication (only one antidepressant was needed at this point), Dr. Lang was no longer crying.  In four months, he was laughing again.  In six months, he stopped ECT altogether and maintained his emotional health with his monotherapy medication.  It’s been seven years since Dr. Lang went through all that and he has not relapsed yet.

I pick out so many points that I consider self-care choices Dr. Lang made.  They changed over time for him according to his needs and abilities, but he didn’t want to die.  Even at his worst, when he could barely remember why life was so important, that wisp of hope was enough to live for.  It was a higher calling to him, higher than his own dark wants.

That was Dr. Lang’s choice.  He chose self-care at his most elemental level.  It was his response to the call of hope.

Questions:  But what about you?  What do you think?  Is self-care for everyone?  Please tell me your story.

Lost But Now Found

A three-year-old labradoodle.

Image via Wikipedia

What a night.  Mr. Rick C. was right.  Sometimes I do sit home and medicate.  It is not self-medicating, though, as I have my own prescriber.  And last night I was using my self-care tools to survive:  0.25mg of alprazolam got me through the first half of the night crisis, and then 2.5mg of zolpidem got me through the rest.  Despite these helpful medications, I dreamed of Timothy and Jack in the worst of circumstances.  I was amazed at how many positions a coyote could hold my Labradoodle in his mouth.  My eyes are still swollen red cherries and my complexion is bad.

Earl and I were not connecting.  Who does when they are afraid and grieving?  I simply told him,

Sorry honey.  I’m no good.  Can’t connect.

Earl is gentle.  He responds easily to words.  He doesn’t react easily to negative emotions.  He is a wait-and-see kind of guy most of the time.  His eyes are not red this morning.  He did not medicate.  He did not make this about him.

We made forty flyers describing our Great Pyrenees Jack and Labradoodle Timothy with our phone numbers and including a lucent plea for anyone to call if they saw them.

Our three kids in the mom-van, I planned to go door-to-door and harass people – I mean ask people – if they knew anything about our dogs.  We first targeted our neighborhood mailboxes where there is a bulletin board for community announcements.  I lifted my flyer to staple in front and center position and, “Darn-it!”  My kids had broken my stapler.

Pyrenean Mountain Dog

Image via Wikipedia

While banging my stapler on the wall, I noticed another white sheet flyer.

2 White dogs found!

More tears.  I called the number and blubbered.  The woman was comforting me, suggesting more alprazolam and a good psychiatrist she knew.  Our dogs were happily frolicking in her back yard with her two German Shepherds.

Timothy and Jack are home now figuratively and literally in the dog house.  We have a dog trainer, at much expense, coming tomorrow to help us.  We will also be placing an electric wire around our fence before the rest of our neighbors cement a reactive opinion about us.  Although our dogs are important, we hope to live here a long long time and don’t want to be picketed out of the neighborhood.

Thank you so much everyone for your kindness, for your empathic responses and patience with your own Dr Q.  It was a large blessing for my fragile self last night to know you were all there.  I hope that blessing comes back to you.

Keep on!

Your Life. Your Choice. Why Are You Still Negotiating?

 

 

Self-Care Tip #102 – Take what is yours and live.  Be a friend to yourself.

Cheri came, still dressed in work scrubs, with her 2 daughters, 8 years old and 3 years old.  Having finished their dinner date, they were swinging by for her appointment before going home.  Cheri told her kids, “Get out now and go sit in the lobby!  If you don’t listen to me I’ll….”  Turning to me, she said, “It’s never enough!  I just took them to dinner and they do this to me!  No matter what I do…!”

1.  Cheri tells me she’d like to cope better with simple stressors such as redirecting her kids

2.  We talk at length about her perception of her kids abusing her.

Cheri is married.  Her husband laughs at her for “…having to take those drugs to be normal!”  “…But he just sleeps his problems away.  He doesn’t deal with them like I do.  He has no idea!”

3.  We talk more about her perception that her husband is responsible for her place in life.

Cheri believes if she doesn’t take more than 2 pills a day, she is less “dependent” on drugs.  She says, “I don’t want to go on like this!”  Her tears continue talking when her voice stops.  She is ashamed.

4.  The concepts supporting taking care of yourself as being the kick-off point to caring for anyone else comes up.

5.  We talk some more about who is “The Why” for what we do or don’t do.

Cheri feels less shame, but it’s still there.  She is willing to give a new medication a try but clearly doesn’t buy it all yet.  She’s going home with her girls to her husband with new pills.  And hope?  Yes.  It is all connected.  It all pulses together and is a living negotiation of sorts.

Disease <–> behavioral/emotional negative symptoms <–> victim role <–> self-neglect <–> greater crisis <–> seeking help <–> responsible self-care <–>  healing <–> fewer behavioral/emotional negative symptoms <–> emotional abuse from husband may continue but is no longer seen as responsible for personal choices and self-care <–> less shame <–> further healing and so on….  (Lub-dub…Lub-dub…)

 

hbofamily.com

 

Cheri is still negotiating her deal in life.  She doesn’t realize that it’s already hers for the taking.  Her life.  Her choice.

The deal is already made.  Take it or leave it.  Your life to live.

Question:  How are your negotiations?  Do you see them as still in progress or settled.  Please tell me your story.