June 07, 2015

Here's some REAL suicide prevention.

I previously wrote that suicide prevention isn't really for suicidal people.  I still believe that.

But I have still been looking around the net to see if there's anything helpful out there.  For future reference.

And I found something!

It's called Alternatives to Suicide, and it's peer run.  There's info here, along with an informative video. I'll be adding this to my links list at right.

They also offer training for people to learn to facilitate an Alternatives to Suicide group.  This is going on my wish list.  They say that two co-facilitators are required, so I would need another person to take the training with me.  Then we would be ready to start a group in Erie.

I see a new agenda item for our next peer support meeting.

This is pretty exciting!

May 10, 2015

Misogyny misogyny everywhere, so what's a girl to think?

Misogyny is deeply rooted in our society.  This little thought exercise shows how amazingly widespread it is and how it affects girls.

Imagine you're a young girl.

Ever since you were old enough to understand, here's what you've learned:

  • Girls can't be athletic.  In fact, it's an insult to tell a boy that he "throws like a girl."
  • Girls cry, and that's a bad thing. Because if a boy cries, he's crying "like a little girl" and he'd better stop right now.
  • It's a bad thing to wear anything like girls' clothing.  If a male wears something that's the wrong color, or that has a flowery pattern, someone will tell him that his clothing is "girly."  And that's a bad thing.

As you enter high school, you learn more:

  • Just the possession of male genitalia makes someone stronger, so even grown women can be told to grow a pair or be taunted, "You don't have the balls."
  • It's even worse to have female genitalia.  There's not much worse than being called a cunt or a pussy.
  • You learn that you must be trim and beautiful.  But if you take pains to dress well, wear makeup, do your hair,maybe even wear high heels, you will be subject to catcalls and inappropriate remarks from strangers.  You may even be called a slut.

So what are you to think?  You think that you are not as good as a boy. 

No, you know you are not as good as a boy. 

Nobody has told you this. In fact, some may have explicitly told you that you are just as good as any boy.  But deep down, you have learned that boys are better.

You carry that knowledge into adulthood, where you encounter new insults:

  • You are not supposed to show your age.  You are  accosted by hundreds of commercials that promise you can stay young by using the advertised products. You are expected to be slim, in shape, and fashionable.  But men can be paunchy, wrinkled, balding, and baggy and nobody seems to care.
  • You learn that you will be judged as being bitchy or aggressive for the same behavior that is considered strong or assertive in a man. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a former professor of law at Harvard, is called "angry" and "violent" because of her straightforward comments.  Even Hillary Rodham Clinton, after serving as a US Senator and Secretary of State, is still called a bitch. You'd better be careful.
  • You understand that, no matter your professional bona fides, you must field questions about your clothing that would never be asked of a man. Even the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is criticized because she looks frumpy.   
  • Even in a commercial  for a diabetes medicine, the guys are workers but the women are walking on the beach. Couldn't they think of a different setting to put the women in?  Oh, wait, they did.  They also showed women in the kitchen.

Now, do you feel good about being a woman?

No wonder so many women struggle with self-esteem issues. Nobody has to tell a girl or woman that being female is bad; she just absorbs that knowledge from birth, because misogyny is embedded in our culture.

October 11, 2014

Life Threatening Illnesses

For anyone who's been following along, New-Medicine-Number-3 worked beautifully.  After taking it just one week, I walked into my doctor's office and said, "I don't want to kill myself today."  What a breakthrough!

Anyway, I recently saw a friend who had fought cancer.  She had lost her hair, and had on a cool head scarf.  She talked with a balding male friend who asked her how she was.  She said she was fine, and joked that she didn't have any more hair than he did.

I thought, wow, what a great attitude.  What a strong woman. She cheated death and can laugh about it.

It took me a few days, but I realized that I, too, had cheated death!  And that I can have a relapse at any time, just like a cancer survivor can.    It's just that my disease isn't really considered a disease by most people. It's looked at as more of a character defect.

And I am so dismayed with myself, because I didn't realize right away that I had given cancer survival more significance than surviving Major Depression.  If I gave cancer more significance, even though I have been an outspoken advocate for the mentally ill and against stigma, then how can I expect other people to take mental illnesses seriously?

The truth is that Major Depression, for me, is a life-threatening illness. In fact, I have been fighting this disease for 48 years. That's a long time to fight; I really need to give myself credit for being a strong woman, too. I came very close to killing myself several times during my last episode.  Yes, I promised someone that I wouldn't do that, but I almost gave in anyway, just to stop the pain.

I survived six months of absolute misery.  I wish everyone could have that feeling just once, so they could understand what it's like and be less judgmental..

I cheated death, alright, but I can't quite laugh about it. Not until other people stop laughing at it.

February 26, 2014

I'm Tired of This Game

Well, here I am.  I'm sorry in advance if I sound whiney.  Sympathetic comments are not necessary.  I just have to write this down.  I feel a need to let people know about the experience of mental illness.

New-Medicine-Number-2 gave me a nice boost to a normal mood.  Unfortunately it also gave me akathesia.  Did I describe that in a previous post?  I don't know, and I don't have the energy to check.  Let's just say it was a horrible sensation and my doctor advised me to stop taking New-Medicine-Number-2 ASAP.

The mood improvement stuck around for a while.  Then it was just the dread of going out of the house that was keeping me from returning to work.  But things were looking pretty good.

Well, the mood boost is gone now. I saw a couple warning signs of deepening depression, then BOOM! my mood dropped very quickly. So here I am severely depressed again.  This is like being in hell.

I saw my psychiatrist a few days ago and we discussed my options.

He said any other meds he could add to my Current-Medicine risk the same side effects as New-Medicine-Number-2.  And since there's a chance those side effects won't go away even after you stop taking the medicine, I'm afraid to try them.

Then we discussed my going off of Current-Medicine and going on a Different-Anti-Depressant that works in a similar way.  That would entail tapering off of Current-Medicine for a week or two, then starting the Different-Anti-Depressant and giving it a few weeks to see if it helped.  Good God, that would be another six weeks of this.  With no guarantee that Different-Anti-Depressant would work.

I practically begged to know if there was anything else I could add that worked via a different mechanism, then he suggested New-Medicine-Number-3.  It works on a different neurotransmitter than Current-Medicine.  So I have started New-Medicine-Number-3.  Now I wait.  But at least, if it works, it will be a shorter wait than it would be for Different-Anti-Depressant.

I have been practicing gratitude.  I am so thankful for my supportive husband and daughter, for the roof over my head, for my husband's hard-work ethic, for our cuddly dogs, for the kind people where I work, for kind friends who send me notes, for this computer, for internet access, for my comfortable bed, for hot and cold running water, for the privileged position I was born in relative to most of the rest of the world's inhabitants, for my job, for my physical health . . . there is just so much good in my life.  I have been practicing gratitude for years.  I understand how lucky I am.

But lately, as I practice this gratitude, it just makes me feel unworthy.  How do I dare be this depressed when all is well in my life?  I feel horribly guilty.  How can a person this fortunate feel like they don't want to live anymore?  I should just go trade places with a homeless person who could appreciate this good fortune.   But I'm also fortunate (or unfortunate, as the case may be) that there are a couple of situations that make me unwilling to take my life.

I was doing so well during the past few years that I thought I had all the tools I needed to stay well.  Apparently I was wrong.  I am hoping I will feel well again.  I am doing psychological work along with taking my meds as prescribed.  I am staying away from politics and other things that piss me off.

But here's the thing. So I get well again.  So what.  I'm just fated to go through this hell again.  It might be months, or it might be years, but it will be back.

I don't want to play this game anymore.

December 21, 2013

Suicide Prevention: Not for Suicidal People

I have mixed feelings about what they call Suicide Prevention.  As a matter of fact, I have real concerns about the whole Suicide Prevention movement and whom it is geared to.

But I decided I should give it a fair trial.  So I Googled "suicide prevention."  What follows is some of what I found.

The first non-ad link was for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  That sounded promising, so I clicked it and saw that their big deal is their help line.  They want me to call for help.

Well, I don't want to call a damned phone number; one of depression's symptoms is isolation and I don't want to talk to anyone.  Besides, the only time I ever called a hotline (not this particular one) and said I was suicidal, they put me on hold.  I hung up.  I have no intention of ever calling one again.  Can't they just give me something encouraging to read?

Then I saw a tab entitled "Get Help."  When I put my cursor over it, I was excited to see what kind of "Help for Yourself" I might find.

But when I saw the categories, I realized there would be no help for me there.  So the "Lifeline" was lifeless for me.

The second link was for the Web site of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).  I entered "I am suicidal" in the search field, and on the second page of search results I found "I am struggling."

So I clicked and in big letters it said that if I was "in crisis," I should call a specific phone number.  Remember that one of my symptoms is that I don't want to talk to anyone.  Not helpful.

I tried some of AFSP's other links, and they took me to pages that were suited to professionals.  They offered "testimonials," so I went to that page and saw that most of the testimonials were of people who were suicidal themselves after they lost someone to suicide.  To be frank, if I'm suicidal myself I don't want to hear someone whining about how hurt they were.  I'm looking for someone like me.

And then I found this little AFSP gem:
On experiencing relief after a suicide loss: 
It can be extremely difficult to admit you may feel some relief after a suicide loss, inducing additional feelings of guilt, shame, or anger. It is not uncommon to feel relieved in some ways. Chronic mental illnesses can take a huge emotional and physical toll on families and communities. It is very hard to watch the person you love suffer with severe mental health issues. It can be a relief that their suffering is over, as well as your struggles. . . . 
Well, well, well.  Now I know for sure that I'm a burden.  Thanks a lot, AFSP.  Fail.

The third site was Helpguide.  Here I found the very first thing that appealed to me: "Most people who commit suicide don't want to die—they just want to stop hurting."  Okay, now they had me; they knew how I felt.  Further down the page there was even a link to a page they called "SuicideHelp."

Finally, here was what I needed.  Funny thing, though, this was not even a suicide prevention organization.

And the fourth link was to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Here I found lots of scientific stuff, studies, overviews, facts, and statistics, but nothing to help a currently-suicidal person.  There was a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that looked promising, but again I just found scientific articles.  After many clicks and links, I located this advice from the Mayo Clinic:

Very hard to find and not the most effective advice, but at least it was aimed at me, not some "survivor."  But again, the Mayo Clinic is not a suicide prevention organization.

Well, you get the idea.  It appears to me that these suicide prevention people are a selfish bunch.  They focus on the harm that suicide does to survivors. They are all about themselves. They want to prevent other people from feeling the loss that they have felt.  But I don't get the feeling that they want to talk to a suicidal person to learn about how the person is feeling.

Too bad, because that's how they can prevent suicide.

December 10, 2013

"Behavioral Health?" What does that even mean?

That's the term for what I guess I don't have.  At least not right now.

Long ago, the head of a social services agency told me that "behavioral health" was meant to be a kinder, gentler term than "mental health." 

Well, I think it's demeaning.  And I told him so.  To me it sounds like, "If those crazy people would just behave better, they wouldn't have all this trouble."

The term has been around for years, but what does it mean?

Definition of "behavioral"

Definition 1a in the Merriam Webster online dictionary defines "behavior" as "the manner of conducting oneself ."  It also lists synonyms for "behavior" as "actions, address, bearing, comportment, conduct, demeanor, deportment, and geste."  "Behavioral" is listed as an adjective related to behavior..
An article in the online Encyclopedia Britannica defines "behavioral science" as "any of various disciplines dealing with the subject of human actions . . ."

Definition of "health"

And definition 1a for "health" in Merriam Webster online is "the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit . . . ." 

Britannica calls it "the extent of an individual’s continuing physical, emotional, mental, and social ability to cope with his environment."  

Definition of "behavioral health"

So let's put that together.  "Behavioral" describes human actions and "health" means sound and able to cope.   

As near as I can figure it, then, "behavioral health" would mean that my actions are sound and allow me to cope adequately with my environment.

So what does this have to do with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other so-called "mental illnesses?" 


Does "behavioral health" mean that if my actions were sound I would be able to cope with life without getting a mental illness?  That's sure what it sounds like.  Well, that's incorrect.  And it pisses me off.

If we talk about breast cancer, the absence of the illness is called "breast health."  And for those with diabetes, there is a magazine called "Diabetes Health." 

Since the term for such diseases as major depression and schizophrenia is "mental illness," why not just call the absence of such diseases "mental health?"  Or, since these illnesses are brain disorders, how about "brain health?" 

But, please, I beg you, don't call it "behavioral health."

December 03, 2013

Bored. To. Death.

One of the symptoms of depression is "anhedonia."  It is defined as "inability to enjoy doing the things that are normally enjoyable," or "Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities." 

That just kind of sounds like boredom.  It can't be all that bad, can it?

Well yes, yes it can. 

A philosophical Wikipedia editor describes the feeling well in the entry on Boredom  "Without stimulus or focus, the individual is confronted with nothingness, the meaninglessness of existence, and experiences existential anxiety."

I'll give you some examples of things you might enjoy, and how you might feel about them if you were depressed:

You love to watch football.  You have a favorite team and you never miss one of their games. 
But now that you're depressed, you really don't care about it.  You think it would be nice if your team won, but you can't watch more than a few minutes of a game until you're bored with it.
You love to read.  You can read for hours on end when you have the opportunity.
But now that you're sick, you can only read a few pages.  Then it feels too hard, and just not worth it to keep reading.  If you have another book started, you might pick that up for a few minutes and put it down again.  Blah.
You like to work on projects around the house.  It could be a remodeling project or a crafts project and you love to spend time on it. 
But you're depressed now.  It's almost impossible to get up enough motivation to work on a project.  And even if you finally get motivated, you lose interest in the project very quickly.  It's just no fun.
You have several favorite TV shows.  You know what night they're on, you wait excitedly for that night, then you follow the plot closely.
From your place of depression, the shows just don't matter anymore.  You may tune in, but it's an effort to concentrate on the show.  It's hard to believe, but you just don't care about what's going on.
You love to do puzzles.  Crossword, word search, Sudoku, scrambles -- you love the challenges.
Depression makes them feel like a waste of time.  Besides, your brain just can't come up with the answers.
You can surf the Web for hours.  One site directs you to another, then to another, and yet another, until you've used up your spare time.  There's so much cool stuff out there!
You're sick now, and things just aren't as interesting.  For some reason, it feels like a huge effort to type and click, and you close your laptop and put it away after a short time.
You're a napper.  You can always curl up and go to sleep for a short or long nap.
Now that you're depressed, you lie there and think, "I'm so tired, but I don't even feel like doing this.  I can't sleep anyway." 

So.  Now what.  There is just nothing you want to do. 
You are too antsy to sit still and do something quiet, but you are too weary to do anything that requires motion.
When you add this to the other challenges of depression, it's like being bored to death.