Sunday, August 4, 2019

Saying Goodbye


There’s a myriad of emotions that person experiences when they lose a beloved pet. For some, it’s not just your run of the mill sadness, it’s a deep-rooted grief that completely cripples you. You always know deep down in your heart that one day you aren’t going to have them anymore. So, you spoil them and cater to their every whim. All because one day you won’t be able to. Especially once they start to get older.



Coping with the loss of my cat, Hayley after 18 years has caused a whole new set of problems. The first being massive panic attacks. Hayley wasn’t technically a therapy pet, but she would have passed with flying colors had I tried to certify her. She checked on me if I coughed, let alone a full-blown panic and crying. So, I’m feeling more alone than I ever thought I would, and having bipolar disorder isn’t helping the situation. I was thoroughly depressed before any of this came up with Hayley, so this piled on top is just too much weight to carry.



I know there are people out there that don’t treat their pets the same way…don’t treat them like they’re one of the family, but that’s not us. Every day, I found myself thinking of her and it immediately launches me into a panic attack. It’s only been 2 days since we said goodbye. I’ll never get that image of her passing out of my head. I considered closing my eyes for it, but when it came down to it, I was more worried about Hayley possibly feeling scared. Then the Vet listened and said, “Her heart has stopped. She has passed away”.



That cat meant everything to me. I don’t work out of the home, so I am usually home with all the cats every day. Hayley has been sick off and on for 2 years, so I feel like I have been caring for her all of that time. She was 18!!! She lived a good, full life but that’s not enough. 


She loved us and we worshipped her. She was the most beautiful cat I have ever seen. She was smart and knew exactly when her mom needed her.



Since this past Tuesday, I’ve experienced 11 different panic attacks because she wasn’t there and I expected her to be. Here are the steps in the grieving process:

Grief typically has five stages;

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I am most certainly in the denial part. I keep telling myself that if I don’t think about it, I’ll be fine.



Here’s a quote from the Bipolar Lives website:

It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, family member or pet. The loss of a loved one can be especially devastating if you are bipolar.



I can’t comprehend what the next year or so is going to be. I keep thinking about her Christmas stocking. I don’t think we’ll put it up. I’m having trouble seeing photos of her too. They instantly cause anxiety. It’s like this feeling like somebody has two hands wrapped around my windpipe and it hurts to breathe.



So, is there a way out of this? For me personally, I don’t stop grieving until my brain tells me that it’s safe. I can’t do yoga or write down my feelings every day, etc. None of those things are helpful to me. My plan of attack is to talk to my doctor and see what she can do for me.



In the meantime, I’ll deal with this pain and heartache. The next stage of grief is anger. I’m not looking forward to that one.





Wish me luck.

Friday, August 2, 2019

A Million Pieces




I didn’t see this one coming. I was blindsided by my own brain. To my knowledge, no one can predict depression, but there are certainly warning signs. I used to be able to feel it coming on. My body would start to feel heavier, and my mind would turn to darkness.


Sometimes, this disease makes me feel locked out of my own life. Everything still goes on without me, even though I should be right in the middle of it. I worry about anything and everything. In the back of my damaged brain, I know that worrying won’t help the situation. Right now, though, it feels like the only thing I can do. 


I need to wake up tomorrow with a renewed sense of hope. I don’t want to carry around this black cloud above my head. The truth is, I hope for that every single night.



In June, my husband and I took an all-expense paid trip to California for a mental health conference. I thought I had left my social anxiety and agoraphobia at home. Even though I loved where we stayed in Laguna Beach, and the people were fantastic, I still dealt with daily migraines and the feeling that everyone was staring at me all the time. My health isn’t so great. My weight is out of control, and both of my knees have been injured. Anyway, I’ve been struggling ever since we got home. I do miss Laguna Beach.



This time feels different; it’s not just vacation is over blah; it’s crippling depression and anxiety constantly bubbling up to the surface. I won’t even try to go into the family issues, because quite frankly, it’s far too upsetting. But, things are not good there either. Just thinking about it all causes panic attacks.



I rescheduled my most recent doctor visit due to a migraine, and I should feel relieved, but all I feel is guilt. I know it was last minute and I should have gone, but nothing gets me out of my bedroom these days. I feel like such a tremendous failure.


People are very nice about my struggles, but how long will that last? That isn’t to say that they aren’t good people. I just mean I’ve been stringing them along for a while now.

I feel like I’m about to shatter into a million pieces. 

As if I didn’t have enough to be emotional about, we had to take our beloved cat, Hayley to the vet, and have her put to sleep. She was 18 (that’s how long we’ve been married) and had gotten very sick. I know it was the humane thing to do, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Aside from my husband, that cat was my whole world. I was literally with her 24 hours a day. Right now, I’m stuck between denial and just completely falling apart.

I miss her so much.



So, I ask…how long will it last this time? When will I wake up in the morning and want to live? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suicidal. I’ll never go back there again. I just don’t feel like a part of the world right now, and with Hayley gone, I’m now alone constantly. What a crippling and painful experience. Depression brings out the worst in people, especially me. The question is: When will I find the good in me?



I’m grateful that I’m still here and that I can put my thoughts down on paper. I never want to think about suicide again. I suppose every day that I wake up is a good one. Let’s just hope that it can be enough for me right now. Enough to stop feeling so lost and alone. I can only hope.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Guest Post - Why are incidental depictions of mental health in fiction important? by Sasha Greene



When I was growing up I read a lot of my parents’ books. These were mostly what would now be termed classics. As a kid, I never really analysed the content of what I was reading; the most important thing was a good story.

I also discovered books by writers such as Anne McCaffrey, Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey. Likewise, I enjoyed these too without much thought at the time. But looking back, one critical difference about these books was in their representation of female characters. The women didn’t wait around to be rescued by male characters; they just went out and did stuff. In a book that is still one of my favourites, The City Who Fought by Anne McCaffrey and S.M. Stirling, there is a female character who is the commander of a space station. Not in a “oh isn’t this great, we have a woman in this role” kind of way. But just in a quiet “she was the best candidate for the job” kind of way.

These books really influenced my approach to life. Having these role models of women who just went out and did stuff encouraged me to just go out and do stuff too. I applied to study computer science at university because it was something I was interested in, without a thought for whether it was something a woman should actually do. (At that point I hadn’t yet heard of Ada Lovelace, Dorothy Vaughan or Grace Hopper.)

You may ask, what does this all have to do with mental health? The answer is that the principle is the same. When I first started doing research into mental health for my writing, I went into a bookshop and asked them for examples of fiction novels with characters that had issues with mental health. The books they offered me were great books, but the narratives they presented were all about the characters’ struggles with mental health. The story arcs covered steps from illness to wellness or vice versa; and I felt what was missing were stories where people with mental health issues just go out and do stuff.

This idea that someone in a story can just happen to have mental health issues but for it not to be the main focus of the story seems to be a strange concept for some people. But for me it should be regarded as just another feature of a character, like having brown hair, or being allergic to tomatoes, or having a complicated relationship with their family. Of course, each of these examples will affect the character to a different extent, but if you imagine a whole book where all a character does is discuss how their brown hair looks and how it affects their life then you might start to see my point.

I am not saying here that books which do focus on mental health are not valuable; they are incredibly useful for people who want to explore these issues. But just like that younger me who thought that women could do anything because she had those fictional role models, we also need fictional characters with mental health issues who do everything else; fall in love, run successful businesses, and do stupid things not because of their health conditions but just because nobody’s perfect. This is what I have tried to do with my novel, Something Like Happy (https://www.harpercollins.com/9780008325008/something-like-happy/). The mental health backdrop in the book is suicide, but it’s really a story about accepting yourself for who you are, and whether it’s worthwhile risking a friendship for love.

So why is this so important in fiction particularly? My answer is that fiction should be representative of our society with all its amazing and thrilling diversity. If the only stories we have about mental health are those where people are defined by their mental health, then individuals are much more likely to continue defining people on these terms in real life. And if this is the case, we have no chance of removing the stigma which is still attached to this topic, despite all the groundbreaking progress that has been made over the last few years. We owe it to all the people who have issues with mental health, and all those who may have issues in the future, to change the narrative that our fictional characters have, and regardless of their characteristics, just make them just go out and do stuff.




Sasha Greene is a writer and computer programmer who lives in Scotland. Her first novel, Something Like Happy (https://www.harpercollins.com/9780008325008/something-like-happy/) is will be  available in eBook and paperback starting July 25th. It is a love story set against a backdrop of mental health and suicide. Sasha is also an adaptive snowboard instructor, which involves passing on her love of snow and going fast down a hill to people with physical and mental challenges. You can find her website at www.sashagreene.com, or follow her on Twitter @sashagreeneauth.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Guest Post - Gone Too Soon - by Scott Langenecker


Never more than two drinks away from crying.






These lyrics, including the title of this essay, reflect the thoughts and impressions of a musical legend expressing clear message of loss and pain. These themes recurred throughout the work of Chris Cornell—vocalist, musician—and are clues to the disease that claimed his life.  



Cornell was front-man for not just one, but two, epoch defining bands (Soundgarden and Audioslave) that became synonymous with a sound. That sound, grunge, has been as associated with tragedy, as it has been with the Seattle scene in the 90s. Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, and Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots each were lost through violent means or overdose in events that serve as much landmarks of the era as tour dates, festivals, album releases, and solo projects.



At 52, Cornell seemed to escape the curse that hung storm-like over the scene for decades. He was a family man. A husband and father, who seemed to have outrun the twin demons of depression and addiction that had earlier claimed many of his contemporaries, his friends.



His heroic struggle, chronicled in As Hope and Promise Fade, occurred largely out of the limelight, a fittingly hidden track on a solo album with an equally fitting title: “Scream.” We know this story well, yet it somehow manages to allude us. The perils inherent in the lifestyle of celebrities masked by the moments of fan adulation, large sums of money, attention, lavishness. As a fan, it is easy to imagine these attributes of celebrity inoculating a rock god from such mortal trappings.



As a neuroscientist, it is easier to see how the incredible disruption in the life of an artist could be a risk factor for depression, substance use, and suicide.  Obscured from the glamor are the strange hours, significant disruptions in sleep and wake cycles, long periods of travel, and, ironically, periods of isolation and idleness. There are periods of intense introspection and self-focus coupled with alcohol and substances that occur in a paradoxical prison of recognition limiting the amount of time they can spend in public spaces.



As someone who is both neuroscientist and fan, it is a time of reckoning.  This disease will offer no quarter.  The demons of despair found in rock and roll tell a long and sad tale.  We memorialize those we have lost to self-destructive behavior and drug addiction, those we have lost to depression and suicide.  Yet we forget that every 13 minutes another brother, son, husband, uncle, father, or sister, daughter, wife, aunt, mother is lost to this illness that we don't understand. Until very recently, we would only talk about it in certain medical circles or small gatherings of friends and family. 



Today, we know more about this modern day health crisis, and we are beginning to better understand how to treat it.  At the University of Illinois Center on Depression & Resilience, a member of the National Network of Depression Centers, where I work as a researcher and clinician, we are working to find better and more effective treatments for depression, the leading cause of suicide. We study brain networks, molecules, medications, life events, and related stressors. We study how depression can rob people of the most basic parts of being human – joy, companionship, dreams, life.



Suicide leaves no one protected.  It could be a returning vet, parent, doctor, banker, trader, teacher, artist, or celebrity.  Behind, in the quiet stories of struggle and loneliness, we have come to recognize that a new and better campaign must be mounted.  We gather as caregivers, family, friends, and we say no more.  We can help bring these stories into the light. We can learn from them. We can understand them. We can do better.



For those in crisis, please seek help.  You are valuable and cannot be replaced.











Scott A. Langenecker, Ph.D. is a clinical neuropsychologist, Director of Cognitive Neuroscience and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Langenecker’s research and clinical work focuses on the translational cognitive neuroscience of mood disorders across the lifespan. His current work is focused on the late adolescent translational period in which risk for mood disorders is at a peak, and suicide risk is very high. He is on the UI Center for Depression & Resilience Leadership Team focusing on a team science approach to understanding and curing depression (uifightdepression.psych.uic.edu/) and serves as a volunteer on the Illinois Chapter Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (https://afsp.org/chapter/afsp-illinois/).   He had seen Chris Cornell perform live in a solo acoustic set at the Michigan Theatre and performing with Soundgarden at May Day in Indianapolis.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Guest Post - A Different Look at ADHD - by Elle Rose

“I know that if I asked you to tell me about the picture on that easel over there you’d be able to tell me something no one else could. You’re very smart, Gabriela. You see things differently.” 
He’s smiling at me, the man who’s been my psychiatrist now for the last year or so. I blink, look at him and then at my mother, wondering how much of that I heard. It goes into my brain and sits for a second, but before I can register I’ve just been complimented I look at the picture on the small easel in his office and tell him that the painting looks something like a bird. 
He laughs. “That’s exactly my point, that’s exactly my point.” 
He and my mother agree that my current medication dose is working while I stare off again at the clock and think about what book I’m going to read when I get home. 
The psychiatrist I saw as a child, who began to help us out after my first hospitalization at the age of 13, was a good doctor. He was a good listener, skilled, a rational thinker who cared deeply for each of his patients, even the ones who were repeatedly resistant to treatment. I met him during my first hospitalization, at which time he diagnosed me with major depressive disorder. I continued to see him over the next couple of years and even saw a therapist. I was privileged to be surrounded by competent, intelligent care team who helped me to see my own self worth through my depression. But even with a competent team, even with my hospitalization and 24/7 care, even with the partial hospitalizations that came after and the group therapy and medications - none of them figured out I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I doubt they even considered it to be a possibility. 
I am 26 now. I was diagnosed last October at the age of 25 after roughly 6 years of mood stabilizers meant to treat bipolar disorder backfired and I went to see a new psychiatrist. She read through my history, which she called “rich” in the friendliest way she could, and at my request decided to try adderall as a way of finding out if I had ADHD. 
“This isn’t normally how I’d do this, but it’s hard to tell with your history and how you present, so… call me if anything goes wrong, okay?” 
“Okay.” I nodded and smiled at the small woman who had agreed to take me as a new patient, suddenly feeling incredibly nervous, my fingers gripping my pants tightly. “Thank you.”
Later driving home, my mother (who had accompanied me to the appointment) told me that my father had previously been on adderall and found it quite helpful. I knew at that time that ADHD is usually genetic, meaning that usually at least one parent will also have the disorder, but I had never been told my father had been diagnosed. He had told me that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and it is true that the two can be comorbid, but ADHD had never been discussed with me. Looking back, it definitely made a lot of sense, and the more I learn about ADHD it’s strange to me that he never truly sought treatment. My father always had a few year long obsessions, something my sibling and I noticed when he went from toy trains to power tools and then to old literature and then to graphic novels after he had told me in high school that I was “getting too old for comics and should read a real book”. He cannot sit still for long periods of time, something that caused him to sit near the edges of the aisles in church and stand near the back if he was getting restless, or walk around while showing me a movie he had told me he truly wanted me to see. This, along with appearing to not listen while being spoken to, talking a lot, and being difficult to carry a true conversation with - it all seemed so obvious. 
Something else seemed obvious too - socialization. 
More than once as a child I can remember being told to quiet down, that I was talking too much, that I was too candid with a stranger. My mother told me that I needed to stop telling our hairdresser that I didn’t like her haircuts, that I would make a good reporter because I was so brazen with my opinions. Once on a family vacation that we took to see Mammoth Cave, there was a short cave tour the day before, where my young self reportedly “talked up a storm”. Another time, I was laughing wildly in my history class, rocking back and forth, and just having a great time until my teacher called me out on it. Another time, I tried to get my father’s attention when he was speaking to a friend and he snapped and screamed at me. There are many more, and all of them share the same feeling, the same pit of shame in my stomach upon being told that I was too loud, too rambunctious, too much me. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and wondered why the people around me could so easily talk over me, or why they asked my thoughts if they didn’t want me to share them in my own time. Everything in my life was on someone else’s terms - what I learned, what I could do, what I could do, when I could speak or not speak. After a while, it took a toll.
Young me, between about the ages of 3 to 9, was a lot like Mabel from Gravity Falls. If you haven’t seen the show, she’s a fun loving, dramatic, emotional girl who sees the good in everything that she can as often as she can, laughing easily and acting like a total goof. Something that the one summer we see of Mabel, however, that often happens in particular to young girls with ADHD is being told off for being ourselves. Behaviors that young boys can get away with are things we’re scolded for, creating cognitive dissonance between who we are and who we’re “supposed” to be. I was encouraged to be quiet, attentive, and focus on reading. The only part of myself that was truly me that my parents, teachers, and peers seemed to encourage was my innate artistic ability and creativity, but even that was something that other kids would tease me for now and then. 
Sometimes it would be positive - kids wanting me to be on their team for our annual sidewalk chalk art contest at school, or people volunteering me to be the person reading the main part of the play Faust. I was known by everyone as being an artistic person, something that reflected in my extracurriculars - I could sing, draw, act, and play instruments. I was in the band and one year even did choir and band every other day, the only way to do both because the classes for my age group took place at the same time. I did 600 hours of theater and even landed the part of Jan in the play The Unexpected Guest before our director figured out that casting someone who was on the track team in the lead and holding rehearsals at the same time as track practice wasn’t the best way to put on a play. Creativity was, and is, a large part of how I define myself.
Other times, however, it wasn’t so positive. Kids pointed and laughed at me for the way I got lost in my own thoughts, staring at a spot on the floor, thoughts turning over and over in my head as I halfway dissociated through math class. I wasn’t thought of as “pretty” or “hot”, but “weird” and “gross” by the boys in my class, simply because I didn’t want to care about makeup or if an old shirt I loved had a hole in it. For a short period of time I tried to go to school in all black with white stockings, but I felt like such an outcast simply for how I chose to dress myself that I quickly stopped in favor of dressing like the other kids. Sometimes weird was used as a compliment, but more often than not it meant “you’re not like us and we don’t like you because of that.” 
I didn’t know I wasn’t doing anything wrong, or that my quick and clever thinking, my unusual way of looking at the world, was in fact a strength. I couldn’t have known that at the time. When you’re a child and your parents, teachers, and friends are looking at you with raised eyebrows because you can’t see things how they do, you begin to want nothing more than to be normal, and you begin to take it as a personal fault if you’re not. I learned recently that this is a commonality among people with ADHD, both by those of us diagnosed in adulthood and those of us diagnosed as children. We are socially aware enough to know that we’re being looked at differently for a reason, but we can’t see the world from a neurotypical perspective and therefore we can’t determine what our differences actually are. It becomes an internal monologue of self loathing, one that we often carry into adulthood. As I used to say to my friends, “No one is going to push me to be better except me.”
My dad and I took many walks when I was growing up, going nowhere in particular, simply circling the block and getting out of the house. When I was very little, he would carry me on these walks, allowing me to simply think about things and listen to him talk to himself. He would often talk negatively to himself, scolding himself for missing this or not doing that, muttering under his breath about being a failure as an adult. As I got older, these bouts of negative self talk morphed into fits where he would throw things in our garage and yell at himself, causing me to sit on our couch completely frozen, unsure what to do. To this day, my father varies between praising himself for his intelligence and clever thinking before going back to yelling at himself for not doing something, even a small thing, correctly. A majority of our conversations revolve around him telling me about either his frustrations with work or praising himself for overcoming some new obstacle while I space out and stare out the car window, wondering what I’m supposed to say about a corporate world of which I know nothing. 
In middle and high school I continued to get good grades, to be a good student, to be a creative thinker. I hid my depression in high school from my parents as best I could, relying wholly on my emotionally abusive boyfriend to listen to my problems. He did, for a long time, listen to me about them, but eventually he also became a problem, leaving me crying myself to sleep and wondering what I was supposed to do about my loneliness. In eighth grade, my mother had begun to hint that my depression treatment was getting quite costly, and I couldn’t bear going back if it meant feeling again that I was placing an undue burden on my family. I was getting good grades, I was popular, I was fit and pretty - who would have suspected a serious problem like ADHD could have been a part of it? 
In college, though, my exoskeleton cracked and broke, and I fell apart.
This often happens to young persons with ADHD who are not correctly diagnosed before college - we get there, ready to take on the world, and soon find ourselves cracking under immense pressure that we feel we can’t escape from. It’s funny to me that ADHD is associated quite often with a lack of intelligence. We are usually highly intelligent, intellectual creatures who have an insatiable curiosity; we are not stupid. ADHD is incorrectly thought of as a learning disability because when it affects children in a learning environment, that is when it is usually diagnosed. Professionals in the field of psychology don’t usually think about the ADHD brain’s problems with emotional regulation, our problems with regulating our attention, or our problems with obsessive thinking and rejection sensitive dysphoria - instead, if a child is intelligent, gets good grades, and seems well behaved, well, how could she have a learning disability? ADHD and depression or bipolar disorder can also be comorbid, which complicates matters further - but, regardless, those of us who have unwillfully learned to be quiet about our symptoms aren’t considered for diagnosis of the disorder. 
I went to a psychiatrist in my second year of college for help with what was becoming severe bulimia, but my eating disorder only got worse. I was misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Dysthymia, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Bulimia Nervosa was my only correct diagnosis at the time. ADHD was not considered a possibility. Later, with a new psychiatrist, I was misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I, Borderline Personality Disorder, unspecified anxiety disorder, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. ADHD was, again, not thought of. During my first, second, and third hospitalizations, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. ADHD was, again, not thought of. I was hospitalized three more times for episodes of major depression and given anti depressants alone during two of these stays, being given a mood stabilizer during a different hospitalization in which the psychiatrist simply asked me what my diagnosis was without evaluating me at all. If you haven’t guessed the pattern yet, ADHD was again not thought of as a possibility during any of these stays. 
I had been asked by many friends in college if I had ADHD, but always answered no, because I didn’t know yet how it could present itself. When I realized I needed to be seen for a psychiatrist concerning my dissociation, I went to an outpatient intensive therapy program. Three weeks in, I met with a psychiatric nurse, prepared to ask questions about both my ADHD concerns and my concerns about Depersonalization Derealization Disorder. I was quickly shut down, the psychiatric nurse telling me arrogantly that he thought we had made good progress as I walked out of the little room, tears in my eyes. Later when reading his report about me, I almost filed a complaint, as he had incorrectly written down my previous, incorrect diagnosis, and had also given himself undue credit for listening to my questions. 
Over the next few weeks, I found a different psychiatrist and presented my concerns and medical history to her. About a week after that I found myself in my room, sitting on my bed, nervously holding a bottle of adderall XR. I had heard many times that the pills were used by college students to stay awake and get things done and even that they could be abused to drink more alcohol than was safe. I popped open the cap, took a deep breath, and took a singular pill. 
Forty-five minutes later, I knew I had ADHD.
I will try to describe to you the difference I felt. Imagine:
You are sitting in a room. You can hear everything in the house, even though you are home alone, and everything outside of the house as well. You can hear people getting in and out of their cars at the gas station, the people walking, the house’s air conditioner kicking off and on, and the television in front of you. All these sounds muddle together and you can kind of choose which one you’re listening to, but it’s mixed in with everything else. In addition to this, you’re reading a blog post, and there’s a song in your head mixing with another song. Your thoughts are very loud and seem to be bouncing off each other like ping pong balls. You don’t quite feel sleepy, but you don’t feel awake, either, like there’s a fog around your senses. And then, suddenly, your television sounds much clearer, like the volume has been turned up. But no - the volume of the outside, the volume in your head, has been turned down. You didn’t even know there was a dial. Your eyes widen as the things you see suddenly feel a bit sharper, even though you already have your contacts in. There’s something else, too - your anxiety is slowing, quieting, as if there is less to worry about. You blink, suddenly realizing what this means, what the medication working means, and then you begin to feel very happy. Something worked! Something finally worked for you!
Now imagine going your entire life with all that extra noise, all the time, with extra strong reactions and extra strong emotions, being called sensitive at every turn and teased for your sensitivity, being told you’re too emotional, being told you’re too dramatic, and never knowing what the fuck was wrong with you because you couldn’t turn the volume down.
Young girls, women, anyone assigned female at birth is put into this box that we are “emotional” creatures, that we are incapable of reason and our opinions should be listened to second while opinions about us are listened to first. We’re taught to do this even to ourselves - sit up straight, put on a bra that fits, don’t sit that way it’s unladylike, think of your future husband first and foremost, don’t sleep around, don’t explore your own identity and personhood, not unless someone else does. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to break out of. Harder to realize you’re even doing it at all. 
It isn’t that we aren’t emotional, or that some of us aren’t more emotional than others, or that we can’t think irrationally. We are by no means perfect. The trouble is that when we have a serious problem of any kind, it’s easier to brush us off as just being hysterical or emotional, rather than having a problem that does in fact need treatment. We’re told both to play into our emotions as a strength and to ignore them in order to pursue some strange ideal woman that no woman has ever been or can ever be. ADHD is a serious problem, especially when left untreated. For many, this struggle comes from not being able to see a psychiatrist or specialist, but in my case I saw many for years and it just wasn’t thought of by any of them. My life would be very different, and probably much better, if one of my doctors over the years had thought outside of the box of what is expected of ADHD. It is easy to ruminate on the what-ifs and maybes. It is harder to do something productive with them. 
I haven’t been in acute psychiatric hospitalization in two years now, partly thanks to my own stubbornness but also thanks to my ADHD and depression treatment. I still struggle with severe dissociation, something that unfortunately cannot be medicated, but I am not as lost as I once was. I do still have days where I am unproductive and I simply lay in my bed feeling sorry for myself, but they are less than they once were. My brain is finally getting a tune up after all this time and it feels very, very nice. It’s like living when you didn’t know everything was on pause, like something finally hit the “play” button, and I’m moving again. My life is better with correct diagnosis and treatment. I hope that if you read this and it sounds familiar, you get correct treatment as well, no matter what the root cause is. We all deserve to be able to live full lives. Thanks to a correct diagnosis, I have a better shot than I ever did. 




About the Author: Elle Rose, known online as secretladyspider, is a 26 year old writer, artist, and youtuber working to create awareness of both ADHD and DPDR as well as other mental health conditions. She updates her blog secretladyspider.wordpress.com every Friday/Saturday and her YouTube channel youtube.com/secretladyspider every Wednesday/Thursday. You can support her work and help her write a graphic novel about her experience with DPDR by giving at patreon.com/secretladypsider.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

What Now?


I can’t believe I’m back here again. I don’t know why I’m so surprised, I’ve never claimed to be cured of Bipolar Disorder, nor do I think I ever will be. It’s going to happen for the rest of my life. I guess this time is different because I have done pretty well for quite a while. It felt like my depressive states weren’t as long and believe me; I was enjoying that. I’ve felt this way for a week now, and it’s taking everything I have to force myself to sit down and write this blog post.



I should be doing something; anything. Something on a grand scale that cements my legacy. Instead, I feel like I’m failing at life once again. I need to stay relevant. My story needs to stay relevant. But, how can you claim to be a writer when you can’t even write. I’m not suicidal. I put that notion out of my brain in 2013. I can’t even site anything specific that has happened to cause me to feel this way, but despite my best efforts, I do feel this way, and I need to deal with it.



I can’t keep my garbled up thoughts together. I’m struggling, and I’ve crashed hard. 

I keep telling myself, just get up and do it! Why is it so hard? Even writing this, I feel unorganized and disjointed. I don’t know how to get my thoughts together. So I write, regardless. You never know when you can suddenly have a breakthrough or make a connection. You may never even realize you helped someone.



You’re a fighter – I’m a fighter

We have no choice but to make it through this round.



I can’t concentrate, but my head keeps screaming, KEEP WRITING!



Bipolar Disorder is a painful, insidious disease. I’ve experienced depression before that just kind of felt like the blues. This is not that. I’m stuck here in this painful, crippling rut. I can’t even remember my name somedays, but I keep fighting. We did our podcast today, and I spoke to the audience and the guest. Does that mean I feel better? Hardly, it means I can put on a mask if I need to.



Someone out there may feel the same way. I could help people. That would be worth tearing off this band-aid and exposing the wound, wouldn’t it?



So much is racing through my brain. I just don’t want to fail yet again. It hurts, and it’s humiliating. I think when you have Bipolar Disorder, it hurts even worse. I need rest and some way to keep my mind off the bad stuff. So, I’ll figure that out and try to move forward. I can only go up or down, and right now, I feel as if I’m just about as low as a person can go. Here’s hoping something positive heads my way. Until then, I’ll keep trying and keep fighting. That’s all I can do.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Guest Post - A Few Mental Health Tips - By Peter McDonell



I am a very lucky man.  I consider myself about 90% recovered from a very serious psychosis (my original diagnosis in 2001 was ‘cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature – I thought I was the modern day Jesus) and very serious panic attacks and anxiety.  I am lucky.  I have also worked very hard, for years I researched and sought wisdom about becoming well again.  I’ve had an interesting and long journey.  But I’m okay now, and I am always keen to help others and pass on what I have learned.  So when Rebecca offered me the chance to do a guest post on her mental health blog I got right to it.  These tips have helped me personally to recover and I hope they can help lots more people.  It is difficult to help people with serious mental illness but I think one should try anyway.  As someone recovers it gets easier to help.  If these tips seem underpowered to you, please consider coming back to them at another time – I know that when I was in the middle of a panic attack there was little that I found comforting, but I also know that tips like this can help when applied at less harsh times. 



"Do a mental health journal" It will help you to find the words to talk about your mental health with any supportive acquaintances.  When you remember your journal, the words will come more easily and you may even become more proactive and enthusiastic about your own recovery.   

"Perseverance" Not hugely complicated, but sometimes difficult.  I owe so much to it though, when I was a serious panicker about socialising, my family really had to drag me out of the house to social events, but honestly, it eventually worked.  Every time I attended a small gathering even though I didn't want to, I felt a bit better in a tiny but growing amount when I got home. 

"Employment" There is good evidence to suggest that work is good for mental health. It offers social contacts and support, something to occupy our time, mental and physical stimulation and more.  My supportive team were always trying to get me into a job when I was unwell and when I began working at a few charity shops we all noticed an improvement in my mental health.  I took it in steps and now I work about 30 hours a week. 

"If people you trust are offering to help, let them"  It took about five years before I let even my parents help.  I'd always thought that they just didn't get me and my psychosis/anxieties and taking their advice seemed pointless.  But when I saw that in fact my supportive team had many years of experience and gave them a chance to give me some of their wisdom, whether it was specific or a matter of them casting a wide net with their advice, my mental health, and importantly - my happiness improved. 

"Meditation"  A popular tip.  I don't really do it much now, but I found it helpful and enjoyable from 2010 - 2016.  Try lighting a candle and focusing on the flame.  Soon you will probably feel the meditation start to happen.  There are many different techniques.  I work at the local sports centre part time and lots of people I know meditate when they are working out.  I can often be found deep in thought while I'm on the cross trainer machine.  

"Control"  If you ever find yourself thinking that you are superior to other people in magical ways, try to control it.  My life got better when I decided to stop constantly acting on what I thought were superior and special opinions of myself.  If my Messiah complex stuff was all true, I'd be keeping it to myself because being Jesus would of course be far too much pressure. Strangers might find you to be undesirable company if you try to tell them that you are the modern day Christ.  However, tell your psychiatrists, doctors, therapists etc. all about it! 

"Separate your work and personal life"  I'm sure you've heard this one before.  Most employers will understand if you want to do this.  It will help you to be more concentrated at your work during work hours, and more concentrated on your personal life during your free time.  This is a tip for those with lighter mental health issues.      

"Remember - it's OK to not be OK"  A funny little one, but it has helped me many times.  I'd be feeling shit about something and I'd think to myself - "It's ok...it's ok...(natural deep breath) it's ok."  Like giving yourself a mental hug.  I'd remember that other people don't mind if you are feeling weird.  lots of people are having similar problems.  Don't worry about sticking out like a sore thumb.  When you remember this tip it can really help calm you down.  

"Don't stop taking your medication unless advised to by your doctor"  My dad is a qualified psychiatric nurse with about 40 years experience and a clever, caring chap.  He has always told me to take my meds exactly as instructed by my doctors.  It was nice for me that I never had to worry about whether taking my meds really was a good thing.  I've been on many different meds, in 2005 I started taking Clozapine, which worked very well for me.  For four years I’d tried:  Risperidone, Haloperidol, Chlorpromazine, Olanzapine, Amisulpride, Aripiprizole – none of them really worked and most of them gave me bad side effects.  I used to get very tired with some.  I also got something called hypersalivation.  I used to leak lots of saliva, especially while asleep and for months I had to sleep with a towel on my pillow.  I also got very agitated with something called restless leg syndrome, which was very strange and induced a ‘can’t sit still’ feeling.  These side effects are why patients on mental health wards sometimes rock back and forth while dribbling, while also appearing to be far far away.  But, after a year of psychotic and serious panic attacks that lasted for five hours seven days a week, I began Clozapine and they instantly changed to once a week for an hour.  A huge and welcome change and I actually think fondly of Clozapine now.  It was what enabled my recovery.  

I have more mental health writing as well as my mental health and travel blog at petesmentalhealthtravel.com

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