Triumph and Loss: Emotional Stability and the Price We've Paid

A friend, or rather an acquaintance, once suggested — not jokingly or kindly — that, in short, I was kind of a mess. Not only a mess, butRearview mirror elephant a mess with a persecution complex. To be fair, he wasn’t far off, at the time. Back then, I was experiencing a full-blown depressive episode with anxiety, which – again to be fair to my friend – is difficult to understand if one hasn’t experienced it. Just because I’ve been officially (“officially” means medical professionals have deemed it so) stable for three years doesn’t make it any easier to manage now. I’ve lost long-term relationships because of it. Hell, in the past, I’ve lost apartments and family support over it.

The worst part of my predicament is that I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol. I never stole from my family and friends, and I never lied to them. I never had to leave a marriage because of a sudden divorce, which, by the way, is probably more horrible than some of the trauma I’ve lived through. But I was homeless, I was alone, and I was helpless for a while. The worst part of being emotionally unstable is that there’s no one and nothing to “blame.” People look at you and wonder why you let everything go to hell. You look at yourself and wonder the same thing. Here I am, and I have faulty brain chemistry. I’ve had it approximately since puberty. When I look for reasons for my past maladjusted behavior, I usually just see a distorted reflection of myself. Like a carnival trick, you get a twisted version of your own reflection: your behavior is not the same as your personality, but you will find yourself and others mistaking it as such. It’s tough to face these ideas and admit that, impaired as you might have been, you are the author of your own pain. Even tougher, however, is simultaneously realizing that your brain chemistry is not your fault and you must move forward.

Continue reading Triumph and Loss: Emotional Stability and the Price We’ve Paid

Guns Don’t Kill People, Mentally Defective People Kill People!

I’m sure I’m opting in for a whole world of pain (and trolling) here. But I can’t help myself. Because this (http://www NULL.rawstory NULL.com/rs/2011/02/million-dangerously-mentally-ill-missing-natl-gun-check-system/) article  came onto my radar today, I read a couple of articles today about Virginia’s ban on gun sales (http://www NULL.washingtonpost NULL.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/30/AR2007043000556 NULL.html) to the mentally ill. That link is […]

Seductive Self Pity and Sweet Anger Part 1

Part 1: They Meet

Ok, Not Really.

Identifying Unhealthy Patterns of Anger and Self Pity

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.    — D.H. Lawrence

I found some of my notes from my posts on how I fight bipolar disorder, and I thought I would treat you to some of the issues I wanted to address but which were probably too narrow to include in a general mood disorder article. You lucky people, you.

About two months ago, I went through a little slump.  Just a couple of days of sadness and fatigue, nothing really out of the ordinary. It passed. Then I went to an event which involved a great deal of activity and stimulus (http://texrenfest NULL.com) for me, and so I intelligently stopped taking my meds regularly. Don’t worry, I was still taking them, but I would miss days here and there. Ok, I missed about two out of three doses. For a week or so. The consequences of doing so were that I had a huge meltdown about a week ago, spent the next three days recovering, and then I had to be really strict with myself about the meds. I experienced more side effects, and I was less stable than usual. Welcome to fatigue and nausea city! Fatigue and nausea town? In any case, it wasn’t a spot you’d choose for your destination wedding. The moral? When you’re experiencing fluctuations in mood, and when you’re engaging in activities that you know might make you fluctuate, make sure you take your medications correctly!

I noticed during my meltdown that the first emotion I felt was a sort of self-righteous anger. Yes, I notice things when I’m having an irrational mood swing. If you have a mood disorder, you may have noticed that you tend to detach when experiencing strong emotions. People often describe it as a feeling of “watching” themselves and having no control over their actions, as if they were “someone else.” This is called “dissociation (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Dissociation).” Wikipedia says so. While I was crying hysterically, I noticed that I was very very angry, mostly because “no one ever listen[ed] to me,” “no one care[d] that I have a right to feel this way,” and “I listen[ed] to everybody all the time, but when I need[ed] someone to listen to me, no one [gave] a shit!” This was about the time I noticed that I was feeling really sorry for myself. That’s a classic bipolar pattern, in miniature, because these emotions went away the next day.

Continue reading Seductive Self Pity and Sweet Anger Part 1

Mental Health Myths

March Hare, Mad Hatter, and Doormouse

If normal behaviour is increasingly being categorised as mental illness thMarch Hare, Mad Hatter, and Doormouseen that creates a burden on individuals, families and on society as a whole.

Judging from my blog, I must think I’m the poster child for mental health or something! The quote above comes from an article in BBC Health News (http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/news/health-10787342) about the changed diagnoses in the upcoming DSM-5 (http://www NULL.dsm5 NULL.org/Pages/Default NULL.aspx).  I have actually been thinking about “overdiagnosis” a lot, but not necessarily by psych health professionals. I’m not really qualified to comment on whether or not the new definitions in the DSM-5 will lead the psych community to diagnose the wrong people. What I am more concerned about is whether people will “diagnose” themselves or others, which they seem to do now just fine, with no outside help from professionals.

Continue reading Mental Health Myths

The Elephant on Your Head Part 3

Two people examining an elephant.

“Achieving Your Goal, or The Care and Feeding of Your Elephant:  Part Three of How I Fight My Mood Disorder Every Day “

Two people examining an elephant.It’s pretty hard to live with an elephant, even one that doesn’t sit on your head. They’re really large. They’re moody. Ok, well, they have moods (http://www NULL.pbs NULL.org/wnet/nature/unforgettable/emotions NULL.html). In any case, they’re often inconvenient, impossible to ignore, they leave a mess, and boy can they eat! My mood disorder is on a similar scale, and I admit that I occasionally doubt my ability to manage it and still be able to have some semblance of a life.

It’s a sticky situation: if I don’t manage the disorder, I have no quality of life, but if I do manage my disorder, will it take all of my time and energy? Will I have anything left for my family, friends, pets, or hobbies? The short answer is, “Not at first.”

Having More Good Days Than Bad in A Million Easy Steps

There is no simple path to your goal. You can’t do one, three, or five specific tasks a day and achieve mental health. Mental health, similar to physical health, is a lifestyle. If you, like I did, lived for a long time undiagnosed, un-treated, or non-compliant,  getting healthy will be pretty difficult, feel strange, and take a long time. I found myself relieved at first, because feeling anything but bad was so new and wonderful to me. A relatively short time later, however, I began the old “why me?” pattern. Sure, I felt better, but it was so much work. I was on the way to stabilizing but wasn’t there yet, and I was both impatient and at the same time wondering if it was worth it. I have learned, however, that I need to maintain certain habits in order to keep my hard-won mental health. Continue reading The Elephant on Your Head Part 3

The Elephant on Your Head Part 2

Elephant and Girl Head to Head

“Making Peace With Your Elephant: Part Two of How I Fight My Mood Disorder Every Day”

When I was 21, I had been in treatment for depression on and off for about six years. At one appointment with my psychiatrist, I told her, “Well, I feel miserable. I feel like something is terribly, horribly wrong, and I’m Elephant and Girl Head to Headso angry and sad I can hardly move. But I know there’s nothing really wrong!”

She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Christine, something is wrong, and it has been for a long time.” I was devastated. I went home and cried for a long time. Even twelve years later, I have trouble with the idea that a mood disorder doesn’t simply mean that your emotions are all “messed up” and your feelings aren’t “all in your head.” What? Of course they’re “all in your head,” because emotions are run by chemicals in your brain! Sure, but that perception is inaccurate: just because your brain chemicals are “messed up” doesn’t mean that your feelings are any less real than anyone else’s feelings! Continue reading The Elephant on Your Head Part 2

The Elephant on Your Head

Child and Elephant hugging

Or, “How I Fight My Mood Disorder Every Day: An Article in Three Parts”

I was originally going to complete my site makeover before I made this post,Child and Elephant hugging but I keep having great ideas about points to make in it. Because of a few conversations I’ve had with more than one friend lately, I think it’s time to get these words out into the world!

I’ve been diagnosed with a mood disorder of one kind or another since 1992 or so, when I was first diagnosed with situational depression due to trauma. In all honesty, I believe that my mood disorder is partially genetic and partially due to repeated life trauma (i.e. both nature and nurture).  Since that time, I’ve been diagnosed with chronic depression, ADHD, and finally bi-polar disorder. Before I was properly diagnosed, and even for a couple of years afterward, I could have been named the poster child for “How Not to Properly Manage Your Mood Disorder.” Continue reading The Elephant on Your Head

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