Status Quo

The other day I found something really funny and laughed out loud. I didn’t recognize the sound it had actually been that long since I laughed. While I have not been deeply depressed I have also not been really happy. I’m perfectly fine with that most of the time as it’s a safer place to be. Typically if I’m experiencing something really amazing at some point I think to myself it will soon be over and life will go on being tedious and drab. While in status quo, things just continue moving forward and predictable, easy and stable.

In my late teens early 20s I was a bit of an adrenaline junky. While I didn’t do anything illegal I did do some risky things and regret a lot of the choices I made regarding relationships. I was constantly searching for ways to be happy. Even if it was fleeting it was at least a break from the overwhelming sadness I was feeling on a daily basis.

After that I had continue to make bad decisions. Now I am living in the aftermath, cleaning up the emotional debris that remains to this day. I can honestly say I will never again be so naïve and desperate. I’ve stopped seeking out the elusive “happy” and started embracing content and safe. Yes, it’s a bit boring, but it’s better than the alternative.

While I, for the most part, appreciate this in my life I’m not advocating this everyone. Most people cannot stand the humdrum and without highs and lows there are no lessons or progressions in life. But I like to think I experienced so many up to this point I can sit back and take an emotional break. This means I don’t experience a whole lot of happy, but I’m also not in the pit of despair. For being an unmedicated, clinically depressed person that’s actually pretty friggin good.

Positive Change

Back in January I had written a post about desperately needing a change. There was a job opening in my department that would mean a promotion and I applied for it right away. Since I knew everything in my department takes weeks if not months before anything happens I decided I couldn’t wait for that before I took an active role in changing my life for the better.

And so in February I began my 30 day weight loss journey. Today is day 30 and I’m proud to say I followed the fad’s suggested plan about 85% of the time. Not too bad considering I didn’t think I would stick to it at all.  I learned a lot about myself and have made significant progress towards reaching my ideal weight and improving my over all health. I’ve decided to do another 30 days of the fad since my first order provided enough product  I only needed to spend a fraction of my initial costs to replenish what I’ve run out of. After that we will see if I can continue with what I find in regular health food and vitamin shops.

This fad allowed me to prove to myself that I do have the ability to stick with something positive. Even with everything that is happening with my father I did not allow myself to succumb to my old unhealthy coping mechanisms. I’m hoping that I’ve created some lasting habits that will help me maintain a less self-destructive lifestyle. I know there will be set backs. Living with depression all these years it’s been important for me to be realistic with myself. My hope is that the positive things I’ve now put into place will keep those setbacks from becoming the all consuming monsters they have been in the past.

The really exciting part is I actually got a call for the job interview! It isn’t until the 30th and of course there is no guarantee I will get the job, but at least having been given this opportunity it is another step in the right direction. Fingers crossed!!! 🙂

So much more to learn!

I learned a new word the other day: Anosognosia. The basic definition is a deficit of self-awareness in relation to a person’s own illness or abilities. (site here) When thinking about mental health I’ve recognized reasons people don’t seek treatment such as fear of stigma, unaware of treatment available, denial or lack of knowledge regarding their condition. Now I’ve learned there is a whole new (well new to me) reason and that is the person is incapable of understanding that anything is wrong with them.

This in and of itself is a serious disorder as the individual will never seek out appropriate treatment regardless of what family or loved ones say or what misery or inappropriateness they are experiencing. I further read that both anosognosia and denial are “almost always connected with damage in the right hemisphere of the brain.” This can happen as a result of drug use, or is a part of the illness itself such as schizophrenia. Wow, I never knew denial was also connected to biology.

I feel like I have a new perspective regarding those that are constantly hospitalized but then never come into the outpatient clinic for continued treatment. This is so significant to understand because what we think is denial may be something much more severe. I also have more empathy for families and loved ones that live with people who suffer from this. Perhaps knowing such a condition exists may help them stop trying to convince someone to attain care they will never understand they need.

The new focus should be on how to appropriately engage people with anosognosia in a way that they are willing to accept or are able to understand. Facts, figures, medical terminology etc. are clearly not the answer as these are typically the ammo we like to use when proving our point.  A brief search of the internet showed that while it is a recognized condition there are not a lot of tools on how to deal with anosognosia. Also the fact that I’ve worked in mental health for over 9 years and never heard this word isn’t right. More proof we still have a very long way to go in field of mental health.

Blog for Mental Health

blog4mh“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

I’m so glad I follow other bloggers that are participating in this wonderful pledge to utilize their blog as a way of sharing and promoting mental health awareness! I had seen the previous years badges and was excited to find this years is just starting!

While I may not always include the word depression in my posts, my life, my experiences, my reactions, my relationships are all effected by it. That is to also say that while my blog site is titled ‘writing out depression’ I’m not always in a depressed state of mind. Depression is apart of me but it does not define me. While some days it certainly feels all consuming, I know that I am more than just my mental state. I write about the ups, the downs, things I’m passionate about and sometimes just silly things that are on my mind.

I look forward to connecting with others that wish to end the stigma and reinforce the importance of learning what mental health recovery means.

If you are a fellow mental health blogger and would like to participate please check out their site at

http://blogformentalhealth.com/

Grief and Anger

This past weekend I found out that my best middle school through high school friend had died in her sleep last week, she was 42. She and I drifted apart a few years after high school due to different life choices. We eventually reconnected after several years and would email updates every so often. I saw her only a handful of times over the years before she finally admitted to avoiding most everyone she knew from her past because she was embarrassed she hadn’t done more with her life.

Like me she suffered from depression. She was ashamed she hadn’t finished college, she hated her unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend, she had several health issues she tried to ignore, and she refused to ever ask for help. The few times she would talk to me about any of these issues, she would vent, cry and I would try to be there for her. I would try to explain that I related to and understood how she was feeling. The self-doubt, shame and mental bashing we put ourselves through. But then she would crawl back into herself and I would not hear from her for another year or two or three.

The person that let me know of her passing had also been a close friend of ours in school. She sent me a message via Facebook asking if I had heard and if I knew what happened to her. Based on her line of questioning I could tell she wanted to know if I thought it was from health issues or suicide. Even she knew either one was a strong possibility.

The reality of this is slowly taking its course. I keep having memories popping into my head of the times we spent together, the mischief we would create and the openness we used to have knowing the other person would always understand and never judge. But everyone experiences depression their own way and over the years she no longer saw me as a confidant.

Right now I’m more angry than anything. I know she believed herself to be a burden no matter what anyone told her. I’m angry that the depression twisted her thoughts and distorted her better judgment. I’m angry that the depression brought her such shame she could no longer recognize anything positive or any of the accomplishments she had in life.

I may never find out for sure what the official cause of death was, but based on how I knew she was living I cannot see it as anything but suicide. It may not have been intentional but the lack of attention to her physical and mental health tells me she had given up a long time ago.

In your honor I will continue to try to bring mental health awareness to others.To those that are suffering from both sides. In your honor I will try remind myself as well as others we are never as alone as we feel. We are not the burden or horrible people our depression is telling us we are. In your honor I will try.

Good bye my friend, until we meet again…

Inside the Mental Health System

There is something that happens inside a person when they have to explain to another human being that although the voices in their head are getting louder, they are only sleeping 2 hrs. a night, and they see shadows that frighten them on a daily basis they are not technically in crisis. Due to several changes, loss of staff, budget issues etc. the mental health system I work in has lost numerous medical staff. As a result, we have had to cinch up services and set very specific guidelines for clients that come in without an appointment.

The only defining factors of a mental health crisis are danger to self or others i.e. suicidal or homicidal. Typically people get into my line of work because they want to help others; they want to be able to make a positive difference in someone’s life. But now I have to look into those people’s eyes and say, “I’m sorry there is nothing we can do for you today. Here are some other resources that may be able to help you.” I know it took every ounce of effort for you to get out of bed this morning. That just putting on clothes was a chore. You may have taken three buses and walked half a mile. But here is a list of places that may or may not be able to help you today it’s just not going to be us.

“But I’m out of meds, what am I going to do?’ they ask with panic in their voice. “It looks like you missed your appointment last month so I’ve rescheduled you for the next available opening 3 months from now.” At this point I’m usually met with tears or rage. I try in vain to steer them towards all the resources I just provided, but realistically I know they don’t care about those.

I have to face this every single day, the looks of despair and misplaced anger. “You people don’t give a shit if I live or die! Do I have to walk out into traffic before you people take me seriously?!”  Day in and day out I have to walk through these landmines of emotions. Will it be just one explosion today, will it be two?

Yesterday I was in a meeting that included higher up administrative staff. They have no contact with clients at all, their job is to crunch numbers, run reports and have more meetings. I attempted to discuss a little bit of what my clinic is experiencing. How we continue to work hard, providing whatever services we can, resources, etc. and we are met with anger, frustrations and tears. The staff itself is now suffering. People are going out on stress leave, quitting or transferring to different departments. Morale is the worst it’s ever been. I was met with, “Well, if people want to quit just because things get tough, then good riddance.” What?? Is this how disconnected administration is to the line worker? They hear about these atrocities, dub them as “tough” and we should suck it up and deal with it?

Perhaps you have been on the client end of this, where you felt like no one was listening or cared. Or maybe you have been in administration and you felt like all the lower staff was just whining. As someone in the middle I would like to say I’m sorry. While I want to give all the care in the world to every deserving person, I just don’t have it to give. And while it may sound like whining, this is the accumulation of several years of increasing verbal abuse from the very people we are trying to help. This “whining” is the result of upper management telling us to suck it up month after month as we continue to loose staff and resources.

Today I’m at a loss. The cloud of mixed emotions around me is so thick I can hardly function. For now I will “suck it up”, and face the landmines of the day.

Morbid Thoughts

After reading through WordPress this morning I came across a post that inspired me to write out my own experience regarding the same issue. Please check out their post here.

Warning: The following may be triggering due to its graphic account of suicidal thoughts and self harm. Disclaimer: Certainly not all people with depression are suicidal and not all people that are suicidal think the way I do. The following is my personal experience.

This is something I’ve never shared with friends or family because I don’t want to freak them out. These thoughts are, however, passively with me even when my depression isn’t that intense. To be clear these are not things I would do. Wherever I am, whatever my surroundings I imaging how I could end my life. I’ve had these thoughts for so long they seem to just be apart of me. At times I find them oddly comforting in that I feel more in control of my life in general.

It’s easy when I am driving, there are so many bridges, poles, trees, hills, cliffs and valleys. There is a particular over pass that I take quite a lot that I imagine if I didn’t turn into the curve I could just sail right off.

While enjoying the view from a high level hotel room, I always check if the window fully opens. If it doesn’t I figure out how I could open it.

There are plants decorative or wild that I know are extremely poisonous. I wonder if they would make a sweet or bitter tea.

When the temp drops outside I wonder how long I would suffer the pain of the cold before I just went numb and fell asleep.

The list goes on and on. I’m actually a little proud of some of the creative ways I’ve made up regarding everyday things. Some methods are more violent than others. I prefer the quickest less messy ones. I also take into account that no one else would be physically harmed by my actions.

I realize I may be writing some pretty morbid things in a very casual manner. I understand that for most this is not a normal way of thinking. People may actually be alarmed, appalled, or disgusted. Why would anyone want to think this way? How can such things be considered ‘OK’? But this is my reality. I’ve learned how to cope with these thoughts and not let them control me. Suicide should never be considered taboo to talk about. When society believes that the best way to solve a problem it to ignore it that is a sure fire way that problem never gets solved. Those that have genuine suicidal thoughts will have nowhere to turn. Where there is no outlet, no support, there is no hope. My intent is that by sharing my own experiences I can perhaps normalize what others may be going through. I also hope that those that don’t experience suicidal thoughts learn what others may be dealing with.

So if someone makes a bold statement in a joking manner like, “I could just drive right off that bridge” the best response would not be “You shouldn’t talk/think like that,” but instead, “Sure you could, but I would hope you would talk to me first so we could work through what’s bothering you together.”

If you are feeling suicidal and they are not passive thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255. If someone you know is suicidal, always take it seriously. If you cannot help them please provide them the toll free number and let someone that can help know.