When Do We Become Responsible for Our Reactions?

A long time ago, I realized that I wanted a better life for myself than I was taught to have. I realized that I wanted to be emotionally healthy, have emotionally healthy reactions, and better recognize & create balance in my life. Though emotionally healthy examples were rarely modeled in my life by family and extended family alike, there came a day when I had to take responsibility to correct the nature of my personality and conditioning I had experienced at the hand of others, if I were to ever get better.

This does not mean that I could not acknowledge the maladaptive family culture in which I grew up in, but I had to begin understanding how I was responsible for my reactions to all the old wounds I carried around. I could no longer blame those who hurt me for the illness I am now healing from; I had to empower myself to rise above those people and experiences. With the help of my therapist, self-education, and sharing my MI journey, I am sloughing off old, maladaptive thought processes and am replacing them with healthy, balanced thought processes that help ease old pains and keep me from allowing new pains to be created. This will be a lifelong process, with battles both won and lost, but with continued effort, the acceptance of my responsibility to get better no matter who caused my issues, and asking how I can be a better version of me tomorrow than I was today, I will win the war.

I am in a war for my life, and I simply refuse to lose by blaming others and refusing to empower myself. I am a redhead…just call me too hardheaded to fail. =)

AFSP

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.

If you’re thinking of hurting yourself, or have days when you feel like you just can’t go on, help is available. We have resources to help you feel better…just click here.

If you’ve lost someone to suicide it may feel like no one understands what you’re going through. But you’re not alone. Others are here to help and support you. Click here to start.

Suicide Prevention

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Pregnancy & MI: My 1st Pregnancy Depression is Now

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I am experiencing my first bout of depression while pregnant. Strangely enough, it was brought on by realizing that I have sorta dealt with an issue to then realize that having the issue dealt with wouldn’t give me my expected definition of release from the issue. Does that make sense? You might have to read it a few times because if I proof this post too much, I’ll frazzle myself, and I won’t allow it to see the light of day.

But that isn’t what’s important to me right now…the being depressed thing. What is bothering me is that I want to ask for help but do not know how to do so. Do I say, “I’m depressed. Please bring me soup.” Do I send notes by mail, informing people of my mental state and need for companionship? And if I don’t know what to do or say, how will you?

And what if no one responds?!

I don’t want to live in my pain. I’m past feeling a sense of ownership of my pain, going to bed with my pain, waking with my pain, and feeling entitled to my pain. Bitter, hateful, black hearted people start off that way, and I’ve worked too hard to slip down towards that destination or be that sort of example to my unborn child.

I could use a lift, a lift I cannot define. I could use a pot of soup? I could use a greeting card? I could use a hug? I could use support that doesn’t wax and wane.

I’m very sad. I’m very embarrassed.

(Please forgive the more present rush and discombobulation of this post as I am typing on my phone, which I hate.)

Family Culture and Mental Illness

On any given week (Yes, I am proud to be so dedicated to my healing that I see a therapist weekly =), my therapist or I mention my family culture and how it contributed/contributes to my MI. We discuss how engrained, maladaptive patterns  continue unchecked amongst the family unit (this includes me, by the way) and how these patterns helped/help create/continue the issues I am still working to unlearn in my own life.

Now, before anyone accuses me of throwing my family under the bus (again, as a side note, 9 times out of 10, when I refer to “my family”, I am referring to a family unit that includes extended family…aunts, uncles, cousins…because when I was young, I had weekly, if not daily interactions with my extended family), I feel I need to go into a little deeper explanation about the Biosocial Theory of BPD, which is the accepted seed of cause of BPD among BPD specialists.

According to Marsha M. Linehan, Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington and Director of Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics (BRTC) at the University of Washington and founder of Behavioral Tech, LLC, “the main tenet of the biosocial theory is that the core disorder in BPD is emotion dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation is viewed as a joint outcome of biological disposition (nature), environmental context (nurture), and the transaction between the two during development” (Linehan 2). In my words, Linehan’s use of “biological disposition” means a baby was born emotionally sensitive, vulnerable to emotional stimuli even before social factors could influence the baby’s cognitive reactions to emotional stimuli…the “nature” in the long fight over “nature versus nurture”. Now comes the tricky part about throwing families under the bus…

Linehan’s use of “environmental context” can also be referred to as “environmental factors”, or the influence of social interactions and dynamics among a baby’s/child’s social unit, which is typically a family unit. It is at this point in researching BPD that we encounter the dreaded, yet so true terminology, “invalidating environment”. This is where I must tread carefully! =)

In Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder, Linehan explains that an invalidating environment “…is particularily damaging for the child who begins life with high emotional vulnerability” (3). See where the nature and nurture begins to interact? Ok, on we go…

Another personal favorite resource that I talk about in my blog posts is Schema Therapy, developed by Dr. Jeffrey E. Young of the Cognitive Therapy Center of New York. In Schema Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide, Young, et. al use the term “environmental factors” the way Linehan uses “invalidating environment”, breaking such factors into four groups:

1. The family environment is unsafe and unstable.

2. The family environment is depriving.

3. The family environment is harshly punitive and rejecting.

4. The family environment is subjugating.

I would love to share the descriptions of each of the above headings, but the information is too great, and I’d rather you not fall asleep trying to read my post. However, I do want to point out that when reading the heading, understand them in broad, not always literal terms. For example, heading #1 talks about an unsafe and unstable environment. For some people with BPD, this description is very black and white; they grew up experiencing physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, which speaks very plainly to an unsafe and unstable environment. However, in the broader approach, some people with BPD experienced the state of being unsafe and unstable through a parent/caretaker who was emotionally unreliable or inconsistent. As Young, et. al describes it, “Instead of feeling secure, the attachment to the parent (or caretaker) often feels unstable or terrifying.” Again…understand where the nature and nurture to interact to make an existing situation more difficult?

“So Redhead, what is the point to all of this? Do you hate your family and blame them for your MI? Are you playing the victim “card”?!”

Heck no…and yes. =) Leniency from the court, please?

For many years, I was the victim of an invalidating family (remember…extended family is included. See my post Trying To Be What They Weren’t For Me to understand what extended meant to my MI life =) because at such a young age, how could I have been anything but a victim? Then, as I grew older and more cognizant of my issues, I chose to be the victim, blaming those who hurt me for “making” me MI. However, when I found the right doctor who provided the right therapy, I realized that while I started off with no choice as to the illness I developed, I did have the power to take control over my life and do the hard work of healing. And that healing includes understanding that as much as people invalidated and hurt me, I suffer from the same engrained, maladaptive patterns that flourished/flourish in my family unit. I realized I was a part of the problem, too.

See what I did there? You liked that, huh? I made it about me and my flaws because that is what my healing has to be about. I can acknowledge what has happened to me, but once I became aware of my ability to take charge and take the steps necessary for healing, I was accountable from that point forward.

So, did I connect my dots? I sure hope so. I write to help process and understand my life while trying to help others know that their struggles do not separate them, but make them a part of a large community of people who seek to rise above and heal. It is not easy…it will never completely go away…but a rich and meaningful life can be ours.

Linehan, Marsha M. Sills Training Manual for Training Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: The Guilford Press, 1993. Print.

Young, Jeffrey E, et al. Schema Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide. New York: The Guilford Press, 2003. Print.

AFSP

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.

  • We strive for a world that is free of suicide.
  • We support research, because understanding the causes of suicide is vital to saving lives.
  • We educate others in order to foster understanding and inspire action.
  • We offer a caring community to those who have lost someone they love to suicide, or who are struggling with thoughts of suicide themselves.
  • We advocate to ensure that federal, state, and local governments do all they can to prevent suicide, and to support and care for those at risk.

Suicide Prevention

You may be overwhelmed by grief, but you don’t have to suffer alone. It’s important to know when to ask for help. You should call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you have any warning signs, especially if a problem is making it hard for you to get through the day.

Find a Therapist or Support Group

Speaking to a therapist or attending a support group can help you work through your grief and improve your overall mental health. The following resources can help you find a psychologist, psychiatrist or support group near you.

Grief Support Quick Reference

This tool was developed by the Lifeline Consumer-Survivor Subcommittee and is designed to provide crisis workers with essential and easy-to-access information about suicide grief support.

How to Talk to Children About Suicide

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education has advice on how to explain suicide to children who have lost a loved one.

Respond After a Suicide in the Workplace

This guide is designed to help employers and organizations increase their understanding and confidence in responding to suicide in the workplace. It explores what is involved in supporting employees bereaved through suicide and other practical information about responding effectively to suicide in the workplace.

Pregnancy: Waiting Yet Another Year to Continue My Life

I did not begin the Spring ’14 semester today with my classmates due to extenuating circumstances related to my pregnancy. Since my baby is due towards the beginning of the Fall ’14 semester, common sense dictates that I will not return to school for an entire year. My heart is broken, and I am not interested in looking on the bright side just yet.

When you have lost 10 years of your life to an illness, all you have are your skills to heal and plans to begin your life anew. I had managed the second step quite well, acting on those plans and doing so quite successfully. Now, I am back to just having my skills with the hopes that plans will once again be implemented for future dream fulfillment.

I am not so blind in my disappointment that I cannot recognize that my baby is my new goal and new success, a different plan than I had anticipated; it is simply that for someone whose strongest tool in getting better is setting goals and plans to work forward to, my pregnancy took complete control from my goals and plans, at least for the mean time.

I know that as the days pass, and I will find more and more ways to connect with my baby. As I hear its heartbeat in exams, see its little fingers grow, and feel it dance around my womb to say hello, I will be ecstatic that the goal of my degrees were worth setting aside for a year. (Mmm…baby smell!)

But right now, I mourn their temporary loss into an unknown future, and I plan to be mournful for a while.

Process, accept nonjudgmentally, and let go.

AFSP
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.We strive for a world that is free of suicide.
We support research, because understanding the causes of suicide is vital to saving lives.
We educate others in order to foster understanding and inspire action.
We offer a caring community to those who have lost someone they love to suicide, or who are struggling with thoughts of suicide themselves.
We advocate to ensure that federal, state, and local governments do all they can to prevent suicide, and to support and care for those at risk.

Suicide Prevention No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.

“Are You Sure Having a Child is a Good Idea?”: MI and Pregnancy

The Redhead is having a baby in all her mental illness glory! Can you imagine? Two years ago, I was receiving Electroconvulsive Therapy, and now I am in college, having a baby. Phew…its been a heck of a journey.

When I became pregnant, I was not trying to do so. In fact, I had been told two months earlier that my ability to have children was around 3-4%, and that statistic was based on taking medications to aid in fertility. I did not bother asking what my chances would be www.babyminestore.comif I did not take fertility medications. With that news, my husband and I were sad but looking toward a future where if I did not conceive, we would still have happy, fulfilled lives. In fact, I decided that my degrees would be my “kids”, and I was working all my coping skills to truly accept the disappointment without falling into a depression. Luckily, I was doing well with accepting this reality, which is why I sat in shock for 3 weeks while I accepted that I was, indeed, going to be a mother. According to my therapist, who happens to specialize in treating people with fertility issues, many people with infertility problems find themselves in the same state of shock. Anyhoo…here I am, pregnant, perusing baby websites, and writing a blog post about triumphing over MI to have a healthy pregnancy. =)

This brings me to exploring how I can make being mentally ill compatible with the responsibility of raising a mentally and physically healthy child. It is a big task, and I would be irresponsible if I did not acknowledge that I have to be self-aware and proactive to make my pregnancy as healthy as possible. With the help of my OB/GYN, psychiatrist, therapist, and a fetal/maternal medicine specialist, I am going to have plans in place to remain healthy, and stable and to address any needs that may arise if signs of anxiety or depression begin to creep in. But honestly, while my circumstances are not usual, I would think that all expectant parents would at least discuss options of treatment in case a pregnancy does not go as planned. MI or not, this is just the responsible thing to do.

One thing that concerned me when I first learned I was pregnant was the possible reactions I might receive from others. After all, I have been questioned about the compatibility of MI and pregnancy before.

Yes, I have been asked if being mentally ill and having a child was a good idea. I hope you read that and were taken back…at least a little. I personally would never ask someone who has had a history with cancer, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s, MS…keep naming them…if it was a good idea for them to have a child. That being said, I do not live in a vacuum where I believe everyone should have children. If I were still in a level of illness that kept me from taking care of myself, common sense would certainly assert that I need not take responsibility for taking care of a child. I believe my reaction to a pregnant (trying to conceive) loved one would be more along the lines of, “If you need any help, let me know how I can support you,” versus asking, “Are You Sure Having a Child is a Good Idea?” Support heals what ails so much more effectively than questions that cause pain.

So, yes…I must be careful and in tune to my emotions so that I can proactively address any MI related, ensuring the most healthy pregnancy possible. I will be doing this with the support of my doctors and loved ones who are willing to help if my husband and I find ourselves in need. But I am excited for the next chapter, blindsided or not, of my life. This should be an exciting roller coaster filled with opportunities to practice my skills, make adjustments, and be a great example of a healthy emotional role model to my child.

I am excited to do this! =)

AFSP

 

 

 

 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.

  • We strive for a world that is free of suicide.
  • We support research, because understanding the causes of suicide is vital to saving lives.
  • We educate others in order to foster understanding and inspire action.
  • We offer a caring community to those who have lost someone they love to suicide, or who are struggling with thoughts of suicide themselves.
  • We advocate to ensure that federal, state, and local governments do all they can to prevent suicide, and to support and care for those at risk.

Suicide Prevention

 

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason            to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll            be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime                24/7.

I Love Who I Am Fighting For…Me and Those To Come

I must push through

no matter how misunderstood I may be.

I must carry onbitsofwisdom.org

in spite of what people think they see.

I must continue

because I know what I fight for.

Battles may feel lost

but I am worth the win, the war.

I am sick but not lost; I am ill but not different. I am just trying to find my new normal in a world that is difficult for us all.

Suicide Prevention

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.

AFSP

Understanding and preventing suicide through research, education, and advocacy.

Mental Illness & Higher Ed Make for Odd (But Helpful) Bedfellows

Going back to college after a LONG break for a few years of depressive “bed rest” has been a challenge. My brain is rusty, my thoughts run rampant, and my time management skills need a lot of fine-tuning.  Simply put, I am really out of the practice of using my brain by choice, versus MI using it to manipulate my emotions and thoughts.

Slowly but surely, I am taking back control of all things Redhead…well, some things, anyway. The most difficult hurdles I have encountered on this intellectual journey, both educational and mental, are the ever-present feelings of having few people to lean on, to talk to and finding the confidence to believe that if I keep sanding away the rust on my brain, I will have something worth working with. Who knew confidence, or a lack thereof, could be such a deal maker or breaker? Multiple-choice tests, short answer essays…no problem. I have those down pat. I have always been a pretty good test taker, but paper-writing is kicking my proverbial butt because anxiety locks my brain through my lack of confidence. I know I can write well enough (as long as I proofread, write multiple drafts, and allow time to walk away from the assignment), but I find myself overthinking and overshooting so often that I have difficulty managing writing down an elementary sentence that simply states the subject of my work, let alone writing a paragraph. The first paper I wrote this semester…oh my. At one point, it took me two and a half hours to write one and a half paragraphs. The rampant thoughts cause me to edit as I write in the hopes that gold will poor forth on my first draft. The lack of confidence and the feeling that I need to overshoot all come back to the BPD and trying to manage validation from professors that I am something other than a soon-to-be-found-out-fraud…a woman who is too old and too rusty to be in school…a woman with nothing unique to add to the academic mix.

This semester has been about putting out one paper-writing fire after the next (anxiety induced by assignments and timeframe pressures), with personal and family medical issues to add a little fuel. But I have been hanging in with each blaze, taking a little bit of new knowledge away from the experience to help me fight the next fire more efficiently. Darn those assignment fires…professors ask too much in expecting work from me. =P The last paper I wrote was a wonderful success. I expected a decent grade but did even better than expected. I was proud that I handled my anxiety by walking away from the assignment when needed and, when it came down to it, accepting that if I worked hard and did my best, my best would be pretty good. Somehow, accepting my hard work as its own validity in my effort to write helped free me from the need to perform at a level that is difficult to manage when I have been out of school for so long, and fight the lies of anxiety and depression, in regards to my ability. I learned more from the process of writing my last paper than I did from the text itself. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that! LOL

I went back to school looking to use it not only as a means to a degree but as a tool in continuing to conquer my MI. With each leap of faith I take in allowing myself to write bubble outlines that are not refined and high-browed (Ooo! I need some Crayolas for my next bubble outline!), I take a step further away from the anxiety depression, and BPD that tell me I am nothing.

I will never be without the experience of MI, but I can, and am, overcoming it each day I work towards my goals.

 

Suicide Prevention

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

 

 

 

AFSPThe American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes. Individuals, families, and communities who have been personally touched by suicide are the moving force behind everything we do.

  • We strive for a world that is free of suicide.
  • We support research, because understanding the causes of suicide is vital to saving lives.
  • We educate others in order to foster understanding and inspire action.
  • We offer a caring community to those who have lost someone they love to suicide, or who are struggling with thoughts of suicide themselves.
  • We advocate to ensure that federal, state, and local governments do all they can to prevent suicide, and to support and care for those at risk.