You are Enough – You Have Enough Within You

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Blogging About Mental Illness

Blog About Mental Illness

Blog to learn and inform

Blog to create awareness

Blog to fight stigma

Blog to create connection

Blog to be heard

Blog to listen to others

Blog to grow and heal

Blog to survive and thrive!

Severe Anxiety and PTSD / How it Affects Daily Activities

It is difficult for other people to understand what we go through, when we have severe anxiety or PTSD. It is not something that they can relate to or experience in any way. It is very sad and extremely frustrating that the people in our lives have no idea how truly difficult our day to day lives can be.

Because psychological disorders are invisible to others, they are not as real to them as physical disabilities are. People can understand that someone is in a wheelchair and that they cannot do the same things other people can do. People can understand that a person is blind and that the person has difficulty doing the day to day things that they can easily do.

Even though they can understand that  a person is blind and is disabled to do many things, they still cannot understand what a blind person really goes through. There are also feelings about how others treat them.

There are aspects to social interaction, work interaction and even stigma, that a person with a physical disability experiences. These things are hard for other people to understand.

We can experience what it would be like to not be able to see, by putting on a blindfold and trying to walk around the house. Most likely we would bump into things and find it very difficult to navigate. The faces of our loved ones would disappear, and only be able to be viewed in out memory.

As we walked around with a blindfold on, we could experience what it would be like to not be able to see, but we could not fully experience what it would be like to be blind. If we were to become blind, our entire lifestyle would be changed forever. Our social life and nearly all of our personal interactions would be different.

Driving the car would be impossible, as would reading a book. As we experienced the world without the sense of sight, we would find that it is very different. The independence of driving to the local QuickCheck for coffee with no longer exist. Doing our own laundry would become a much harder task, much less putting the clothes away.

We would not be able to choose clothes to buy from a catalogue or from Amazon.com. We would be dependent on others as to how we looked in the clothes we wore. If the beautician did a mediocre job on our haircut, we would have no way to know.

If we were blind, our ability to interact with the world would be completely different than it is now. Our social life would be affected. Our job would have to change. Our independence would be compromised. People would see us differently.

Some people would feel pity for us, while other people would take advantage of us. Our prospects for a romantic relationship would be limited to those people who would be willing to accept a relationship with a blind person.

Parenting would be more of a challenge. Every single thing that we wanted to do in life, would be affected by our blindness.

Living with severe mental illness has something in common with the experience of a person with a physical disability. The daily activities of survival are often  extremely difficult for us. We struggle with the simplest of tasks that other people find easy to do.

There is no way to make other people understand how the mental torment affects nearly every aspect of our day to day lives.. There is no on and off switch to our brain. We are subject to the chemicals and neurological functions in our brains.

We are tormented by an overload of emotion and extreme feelings. We have flashbacks, memories, fears or sadness that interfere with our lives every day.

While there is a certain amount of sympathy and understanding  given to people with physical disabilities, there is much less given to people with mental dysfunctions. Most people cannot understand that simple things like getting ready for work or shopping for groceries, can be traumatizing for us.

Things that may be extremely difficult or impossible to do for someone with severe anxiety, or PTSD

1. Getting out of bed in the morning

2. Deciding what to wear

3. Getting up the courage to go to work or school

4. Leaving the house

5. Driving the car or dealing with public transportation

6. Going out to lunch

7. Dealing with co-workers

8. Keeping our job

9. Eating in the break room

10. Talking on the phone

11. Going to the post office

12. Opening our mail

13. Going to the grocery store

14. Calling a repair man

15  Answering the door

16. Sitting in the waiting room at the therapist office

17. Cleaning the house

18. Organizing / looking through our personal things

19. Talking to loved ones

20. Talking to strangers

21. Taking the car to be repaired

22. Going to sleep

23. Going out with friends

24. Going on a date

25. Maintaining a relationship with a partner

26. Going to the doctor or the dentist

27. Going to the emergency room

28. Asking the pharmacist about our medication

29. Leaving an abusive partner

30. Drawing proper boundaries in relationships

31. Inviting friends to the house

32. Going to a party or event

25. Getting a better job

26. Moving

27. Getting a better partner

28. Making new friends

29. Moving ahead in life

30. Learning something new

31. Asking for a raise

32. Asking for help

33. Hiring new employees

34. Returning unwanted items to Walmart

35. Remembering things

36. Communicating about our feelings

37. Communicating our thoughts

38. Understanding where our anxiety is coming from

39. Living normal lives

40. Not feeling like a failure

I am bound to have missed many others and maybe you can add something to the list. These are things that people are able to do relatively easily but we often cannot.

The problem becomes two-fold. The first part of the problem is that the tasks themselves are sometimes monumentally difficult. The second part is that other people cannot understand.

Because mental illness is impossible to actually see, there is little sympathy or understanding from those around us. Just because our suffering is not tangible to people does not make it any less real to us. Our ability to perform the simplest of tasks is affected.

There is no blindfold that we can put over people’s  eyes to allow them to experience life in our shoes for an hour, like they can experience loss of vision.  There is no way to describe to them what if feels like to have disabling anxiety. Since there is nothing for them to see or touch, the reality of mental illness is not really perceivable to them.

Mental Illness Bloggers are in Touch with their Vulnerability and Humanity

Blogs about mental illness are some of the most captivating blogs that I love to read. I am interested in the topics they cover but that is not the only reason why they speak to me.

Bloggers that have struggled with mental illness have had to learn to be in touch with their humanity. In order to write your own mental illness, you have to dive deep into the darkest corners of your mind. The descriptions that they write are very vivid and full of human depth. There is a sense of soul searching that draws you into the posts.

I am not just counting the blogs that identify themselves as having mental illness. There are also some bloggers that suffer from OCD, depression, social anxiety and severe mental turmoil that chose not to identify their blog as such. However the content of their posts has very vivid descriptions of the mental torment they experience.

The level of depth to the mental illness blogs makes me feel in touch with my own vulnerability and humanity.

People with mental illness are used to being vulnerable. I am not saying that we enjoy it, but that we have had no choice but to accept it.

There is a strong ability to identify and describe the human condition, amongst mental illness bloggers.

There is also support between the bloggers to deal with the most painful aspects of being human.

We have had to endure such tremendous trials on a day to day basis that we are keenly in touch with human mental and emotional suffering. The reality of our daily suffering is part of our lives. People with mental illness have to deal with extreme levels of emotion every single day.

Our brains cause us to suffer on a regular basis, in ways that most people do not understand.

Other people experience severe emotional suffering when someone they love dies or is severely ill. They experience loss when they lose someone they love to a break up or to death.

People experience fear when they are in a situation of immediate danger, like a car accident of a fire. They feel fear over losing a job and feelings of depression over having to settle for things in life to be less that they hoped for.

People with mental illness experience the extreme levels of depression, severe anxiety, loneliness, fear and trauma on a daily basis.

 We experience the fear of being triggered into any of those severe emotional states. Our brains are a constant threat to our emotional well being and our ability to function.

 The phrase “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” is not a comforting one to us.

Life is always a risk to us. Every decision we make and everything we attempt to do, has the potential to utterly destroy our mental state and in some cases… our lives.

Many of us are in constant fear of interacting with other people due to stigma about mental illness.  We  also fear our inability to interact with people in a “normal” and acceptable way.

Many social activities that other people take for granite are potentially hazardous to us either in a physical way or in a mental way.

We can be easily triggered in a matter of seconds into a completely different mental state.

Since we go through the extremes of human emotion so often, we are very in tune with the human condition. We are very aware that we are vulnerable. We are constantly subject to our own mental vulnerability.

All people are vulnerable but they do not realize it in the same way  that   people with mental illness do. The brain is a very fragile thing. It can become traumatized and damaged. Everyone is in danger of having their brain organization becoming disrupted. People take for granite that their brains will always function in the same way they are currently functioning.

The mental illness bloggers talk of fear and anxiety in a very human and real way. We are in touch with the human condition of fear. We can write descriptively about fear very well.

We are also very in touch with depression and sadness. Mental illness bloggers can write very descriptive, artistically worded pictures of sadness and emptiness, that other people cannot access.

Sadness is a very human state. The vulnerability to depression , emptiness and loneliness makes us very in touch with our human side. Being in touch with the humanity in ourselves allows us to perceive life and ourselves in a way that is different from other people.

We have to feel things in a very extreme way. This is what our brains do… They force us to feel… often times..  too much.

If we were a painting, it would have very black blacks and very red reds. The colors would be very dark in places and very bright in others. The grays are harder to come by, unless you are currently on a medication cocktail that will allow for some calm colors for a while.. that is…until you build up a tolerance or …for some reason known to no one…your brain chemistry just suddenly decides that the particular med combination no longer will work.

The struggle to find the right medications, self medicate, and reach out to any form of relief that will hold you, is a constant and daily struggle.

We know what is feels like to be constantly reaching out for help, only to find that real help is hard to come by.  Mental illness bloggers are very in tune with their need for other people. They are able to reach out with their writing to others who are suffering.

Although I am sorry for the suffering of my fellow bloggers, I treasure your blogs. I love to read posts and feel the humanity in them.

Mental illness bloggers have the unique ability to be in touch with the tormented human brain and to write mental pain, in a way that others can feel.

The humanity of the mental illness bloggers staggers the reader’s mind and stimulates the senses. When I read the posts, I feel connected with emotions in myself. I feel validated about my own mental suffering. I feel a kinship with not just people with mental illness, but with humanity.

Blessing to all,

Annie

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a Broken Brain

Going through trauma is a terrible thing for anyone. But it doesn’t end there.

The trauma  lives on , in the mind of the victim.  During the traumatic event or time frame, the person’s brain is put into severe overload. The fear center, called the amygdala, is left on too high for too long.

When the traumatic situation is ongoing for a long period of time, the amygdala can get “stuck on”. It is like the on and off switch gets broken. The” fight or flight”  mode is only designed to be on high alert for a few minutes, in order to survive a threatening situation.

People in long term trauma situations include military people in a combat zone, people living in domestic abuse and childhood abuse. There are many other examples and I do not mean to leave anyone out.

When we are subject to severe threat to our body or our mind, for an extended period of time, the amygdala in the brain malfunctions . It no longer knows how to turn off.

The brain is attempting to protect us by having our body prepared for a fight to the death or to run for our lives.

This state of ” fight or flight”  is not meant to be endured for long periods of time. People with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)  have to endure the extreme fear alert of their brains , even when there is no immediate threat of danger.

The brain perceives everything as a threat. It can no longer tell what level a threat is. Anything that triggers a memory of severe threat , takes us right back to the feelings of the original trauma.

Of course , life is full of all types of threats. There are threats to our job. There are illnesses and physical conditions that can threaten our health.

We feel threatened walking to our car in a dark parking lot. A phone call from our ex abuser is a legitimate threat. These kinds of “real threats” can be severely traumatizing to the PTSD brain that had already been injured.

PTSD is a difficult thing for people to understand , who have not experienced it. It is hard for PTSD sufferers  to get help and support from loved ones. The more support we can find the better we will heal.

Our support may come from unexpected sources. In cases where there is no family support and friends do not understand, the person may need to reach out to others. There are closed groups for PTSD on facebook. I belong to 2 of them.

There is blogging . Yay ! My favorite source of external support. And there are some other sources on the internet like Tumblr which has live mental health support. Please feel free to put any internet support groups you want to share in the comments below.

Then there is support in the “real” world, like therapy and groups. I have found that wordpress is my best support. But that is an individual choice and is based on my personality and situation.

In many cases, someone will need more than one support place, in order to create a network of support for themselves. Especially during certain phases of the healing process.  Personally, I was in a sort of denial of how bad my trauma was for a while and i repressed feelings for many months.

So at the point things started bubbling to the surface and interfering with my ability to manage my life, I was able to find wordpress and that helped me.

Any thoughts about when you started your healing process and if there was a delay, are welcome .

Blessings,

Mental Illness and “Acting ” like we are FINE to the World Outside of our Bed

How many of you find that you are “acting your way” through the day? You know what I mean. You have to mask your mental illness to keep it a secret from others at work and social situations.

You feel depressed and have to go to work. People come by you and say “How are you?”  What do you say? I usually say “well I’m hanging in there” This is my best response even when I do not feel like I am hanging very well. I feel like my fingers are slipping off of whatever I a hanging onto. Someone greased the bar I am hanging onto and I am about to fall off.

But you can’t say that. You have to be FINE. Everyone must be fine to work or they do not trust you and consider you a threat to the status quo.

You act as best as you can that you are fine and try to get away from the conversation as fast as possible. You don’t want to make eye contact with anyone. You don’t want to string too many words together, for fear that you will say something to
“give yourself away.”

Then you get into a triggering situation at work (or in Dunkin Donuts) and you have to still be there. You have to pretend that the thoughts running through your head are not really there.

You try to tell your brain “Be quiet, I am trying to make a living here!” or “Wait until we get outside of the store to the car. I can’t have a mental breakdown right here at the cash register (or in the bank).

I wonder what all this forcing our true feelings down and telling our own brains to “shut up!” is doing to the disorganization of our brains? This must be damaging to the brain. The longer you have to fake things , the more the pressure builds inside. You are hiding like a child who broke a rule.

You feel degraded and invalidated. It is like our body (our mouth and voice) is invalidating our brain. Our minds and bodies are connected.  What happens to the connection when we want to cry but we force ourselves to make a fake laugh at someone’s triggering , stupid joke.

We are around insensitive people who have stigma against mental illness. We can’t let them know. We hide. We hide. We hide.

What is this doing to  further disorganize our brains?

There has to be some relief in between. I would like to hear your ideas about how you find relief from the
“faking it” mode. Pleases post in the comments below.

Mothers that take care of children, like me, also have to fake it. We have to play te role of good mother and have everything under control. I don’t think I do that so well anymore. I am a good mother but I don’t have a great flow mode, like normal brained mothers do.

It is hard to stay organized at work. You forget what someone just told you to do, one minute ago. You forget what needs to be done and sometimes how to do it.

It is  hard to keep track of time. it either feels too short or way way too long. Sometimes the time at work drags and drags and it is almost unbearable because you want to go lie down in your bed.

These things are hard. I go out to my car on my dinner break at work. Even if it is freezing cold outside , i go out and sit in my car. I have to have a break from the acting. I can not sit in the break room and chit chat about dumb stuff with the other girls, like where they bought their new purse.

The break is ok but then you have to go back to acting again. Some days are worse than others.  Are we inflicting our brains with abuse of forcing our emotions down? Just a thought…

How do you all deal with this?

Annie

Letter From Annie

It is easy to use wordpress and being caught up in social media for an excuse not to move. Avoidant Personality Disorder is taking a strong hold on me lately. The last few incidents that occurred at work did me in.

I was doing really well when I started that job because I thought they saw me as an asset to the company. They seemed to value my unique creative and compassionate skills.

But then things happened. I was scolded by the supervisors for things that  were made up and some of the things were greatly exaggerated and twisted by the grapevine. The female grapevine is a bitch and some women will crush other women down just to get ahead themselves.

They think is makes them look good or something to point out things about other women. I wish they would mind their own business and leave me alone.

I am very good at my job. I love my patients. I am different than other people because I do things outside the box. I like to think for myself and try new ideas. I tend to do extra things because it is fun for me to try ideas and see them work.

I do come up with good ideas that work. Most everyone liked the way I was doing my creative activity program. But some stupid women had to nit pick and complain.

I am afraid to do anything now and I just do the regular work and sit there most of the time. When I feel bored and uncreative then I get depressed.

I have to find a way to make my own business and work for myself. That is the only thing that will pull my out of this funky dark place. Yuck

I want to be free and happy.

Love

Annie

My Patient with Alzheimer’s disease / dementia is Afraid I will not Find my way Back to Her Again

My sweet lady, I will call her Rosalie, always cries when I leave work for the night. She also gets upset when I leave to go for my dinner break.

I always have known that she likes me there and that she is sad when I leave. But it was not until tonight that I finally realized just why it is so traumatizing for her. Now that I realize it, I can make it better for her.

A visiting nurse came to see Rosalie today. Rosalie took an instant shine to her and  felt very safe with her. The time came for the nurse to leave and poor Rosalie was holding her by her jacket and not letting go. She was crying and begging her to stay.

The nurse and I both tried to reassure Rosalie that she would come back to see her tomorrow. Rosalie said “no she won’t. She has to stay here.”

After the nurse left , I told Rosalie that she would be back tomorrow. Rosalie then said something that has never occurred to me before. She said “No she won’t. How will she find me again? How will she find her way back?”

That is when the realization came over me. Rosalie does not know where she is. She used to have a home and now she does not know how to get back. She does not know where that home is. She could not find it, even if we gave her the car keys and let her go.

She is so lost in time and space that she assumes that everyone else is too. The fact that the nurse happened to find Rosalie today, does not necessarily mean that the nurse can find her tomorrow.

Poor Rosalie feels so lost that she does not think anyone else knows where she is either. She does not understand that other people can find their way home and then back again to find her.

It was a great moment of realization to me. In her world, she is lost. She has no idea how she got to this place where she lives now. As far as she can tell , it is a lost place that no one can find.

Her family does not come to see her, so she must think they are lost and cannot find her too.

So. when she is crying at the end of my shift when I leave, she is truly afraid that I will not be able to find my way back to see her again.

So then, I explained to Rosalie that the nurse and I were good with finding our way home and back to her again. I told her that the nurse had found her way here today on purpose and could find her way home.

I explained to her that I had found my way to see her many times. It was not an accident that I ended up here. I assured her that I know how to get to where she is and that I would never lose my way to her.

This seemed to help.  From now on, I will remind her that I know how to get to where she is.

I will not lose her. I love her very much and will find my way back to her every time.

It reminds me that we all live in different realities. Our experiences form our perceptions and our feelings.

When we try to understand people by looking at their situation from our reality, we cannot truly have full compassion for them.

In order to understand, we have to listen and see that their world is different from ours. That includes the world they perceive in their mind. It is the only reality they know.

People who have been abused, people with PTSD, people with mental disabilities and people who are very poor have a very different reality than others.

It is true for many situations including people who have sick children, people who live with chronic pain, eating disorders, alcoholism and addiction.

In order to have true compassion we have to know that others see and feel things differently than we do.

Namaste,

Annie

Sleep Apnea – Tiredness, Fatigue and Memory Impairment

Sleep Apnea affects 4 % of Americans. About 1 out of 4 middle aged men in America suffer from Sleep Apnea.  Studies suggest that memory impairments can occur from disrupted sleep.

In Sleep Apnea, the sleep cycles are disrupted by periods of difficult breathing. In a new study by  Dr. Andrew Varga,  at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, subjects had impairments in their spatial memory from disrupted REM sleep cycles.

After a night of improper REM sleep, the subjects had difficulty remembering the placement of items and what they did with things the day before.

The REM stage of sleep is the Rapid Eye Movement stage. This is the deep sleep where we have dreams. The REM stage of sleep is critical for the body to repair any tissue damage from the day, such as muscle microtears. It also has to do with processing memories.

A person with disrupted REM sleep may forget where they placed the car keys the day before and have trouble remembering where they parked their car. Another consequence of  incomplete REM cycles is inability to focus and pay attention.

There are 2 different types of Sleep Apnea. They are Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea. The causes for the 2 types are different but both of them cause difficulty breathing during sleep and periods of waking up in the middle of  sleep cycles.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea has to do with the airway becoming obstructed.  The muscles in the throat becoming too relaxed and causing a narrowing of the airway. The brain will become aware of low oxygen levels and force you awake to reposition yourself.

Usually people do not remember these brief periods of waking. Every time someone wakes up for a few seconds, it disrupts the sleep stage they are in.

The brain and the rest of the body are not able to finish what they are supposed to do, during that cycle. There are certain repairs and regeneration of tissue that naturally occur during REM sleep.

The 2nd type is less common. Central Sleep Apnea is caused by a problem in the brain.  The brain is supposed to send signals to the lungs to breath.

The brain of  person with Central Sleep Apnea, fails to continuously send the signals properly. The lungs will simply stop doing their job.  The body and the brain will fail to get the necessary level of oxygen, which will cause the person to wake up.

Again, with this type of Sleep Apnea, the person will awaken just long enough to be able to breath properly again. Someone with Central Sleep Apnea may wake up with  shortness of breath.

Men are twice s likely to get sleep apnea. It is most common in men 60 or more. Being overweight contributes to your risk as well as having a family history of Sleep Apnea.  Certain medications are possible contributing factors, such as excessive use of muscle relaxers.

Central Sleep Apnea can occur with people that have heart disease or have had a stroke. It can also be a co-morbidity with neurological disease like ALS.

People that have Sleep Apnea can have  morning headaches and depression. Some people have an increased frequency of urination.

If you have extreme tiredness and sleepiness during the day along with any of the other symptoms I mentioned, you may want to see your doctor.  There are treatments that would reduce your symptoms.

They also could check you for other types of sleep disorders and medical conditions that could be causing the constant fatigue and tiredness.  There are mental illnesses such as depression that can cause some of these symptoms as well as other physical disorders.

Namaste,

Annie

Excerpt from – Julianna’s Mental Prison – Short Story by Annie

“It is a truly terrifying thing, watching someone completely break from reality. Watching and listening helplessly as they cross over into a place of complete and utter darkness.

A place so terrifying that the best horror movies just barely scratch the surface,” Roshelle trailed off and stared at her shoes.

Then she continued with emphasis, “To allow someone to bring you inside of their violent, dark, twisted and terrifying delusions is a dangerous mistake.”

“It would be a mistake for anyone. But for someone gifted with compassion and empathy like Julianna, it was a deadly mistake. Terrifying beyond the worst thoughts, the worst nightmares, the worst fears you could possibly imagine.

So terrifying that she used to groan in the middle of the night. Not a normal human groaning but a animal-like howling, sounding from very pits of primal fear. The hellish utterances of complete mental anguish.” Roshelle shivered a little and pulled her knitted wrap  up around her shoulders.

Bruce sat in silence for a few minutes and found himself buttoning up the last few buttons on his overcoat. Finally he stammered, “Poor Julianna. She suffered unfairly.”

Roshelle forgave him for his lack of being able to verbally express his horror at her vivid description of Julianna’s anguish. It was simply unfathomable that Julianna could have endured such suffering and torment for so many years.

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