I Am the Ultimate Optimist

“A feeling or belief that good things will happen in the future : a feeling or belief that what you hope for will happen.” This is how Merriam-Webster Online defines optimism.

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The other day, I said to my husband, “You know, I’m the most optimistic person you’ve ever known.” With a blank stare, he stood there, looking at me. I knew he was thinking, “On what planet are YOU considered optimistic?!”

“Think about it,” I said, “I never give up. I always keep trying to get better.”

He said, “I’d call that persistent, not optimistic.”

I sat for a moment, understanding where he was coming from…19 years of my depression and anxiety affecting our lives for the worse. I knew I had to explain:

“I am persistent because I know there is an outcome that is better than the past. I’m optimistic because, even though there are times I feel as though I’m broken, I stand myself up again and again, fighting for a better tomorrow. Why would I keep trying if I didn’t have HOPE for a better future?”

So, thank you anxiety and depression for teaching me how to be the ultimate optimist.

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A Spirit Needs Spoiled From Time to Time

A Spirit Needs Spoiled From Time to Time

I let my 5 month old fall asleep in my arms tonight.

It was wonderful.

I usually try to let him fall asleep in his crib to help him learn to fall asleep on his own, but tonight, I indulged his want for my arms and my need for sweet, little face. Everyone needs spoiled from time to time. 😊

It has been a long few weeks as I recover from another bout of depression and anxiety. As I grew more and more tired from the flu during Christmas, my ability to fight away depressive and anxious thoughts weakened. I had to reserve any energy I had to care for the needs of my little one. I didn’t have any energy left to care for myself.

I began making classic mistakes in that I wasn’t eating (a glass of milk a meal does not make) not taking my supplements and vitamins (my iron and vitamin D are a bit low) or asking for help (Umm, I haven’t had a meal, a protein and veggie meal, in days? Could you help?). It is no wonder I was feeling so physically and mentally bleak; I wasn’t taking care of me.

While I’m still not yet in the clear, I am feeling much better. For the millionth time, I realized I had to save myself by healing myself (amazing how we romanticize this experience and hope that validation comes through the unprompted care from another, while we fail to care for ourselves! Lol). I realized that these are the experiences that my child will witness and gain knowledge from…that he can, and should…put himself first so that he can then do his best to care for others. He will witness resilience and discover that it is a beautiful skill that can be built upon and mastered. He will witness a mother who is strong enough to ask for help.

So, in the meantime, I’ll snuggle him close and let him fall asleep in my arms. A spirit needs spoiled from time to time.

Take care

The Discomfort of Healing: Being Our Own Worst Enemy

Healing anything is a process.
A bruise healing? A process.
An emotional illness? A process.

A process is a “phenomenon marked by gradual changes”. What gradual changes do we allow in our process? What gradual changes do we not allow? We often get in the way of our own process of healing, physical and mental, by being afraid to embrace the discomfort of change. I mean, who likes the process of pulling off a Band Aid, but we heal better once we change that old bandage, don’t we?

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Pregnancy & MI: Tenacious Reclamation of My Life

My pregnancy has been a wonderful “tool” to add to my Wellness Toolbox. Being completely responsible for the physical and mental well-being of my child has helped soften many edges of the negative thinking that I suffer from due to my Negativity/Pessimism Schema. While it has certainly been no cure, I find myself falling back upon the most negative of my thinking, “I can’t do this anymore”, “Life is not worth the struggle”, “God, please let me not wake”, etc. less and less. I love my unborn child and want desperately to parent him to become an all-around healthy young man. If I am constantly considering that there are options to life other than living, I do not think I’ll manage my parenting goal. In this way, I am thankful that the reality of my pregnancy has helped refocus, in a healthier manner, the filter through which I interpret thoughts and feel emotions.

That being said (there is always a however, huh?)…

The past few weeks have been LOUSY.

“But Redheadcase, you just talked about how a major difficulty of your MI has grown a bit healthier. Are you grateful for nothing?!” a reader may ask.

That is just the thing…being healthier in any increment does not mean I am at the end of the journey to reclaim my life from MI. I will always be on the road to better mental health and must always remember that there are no quick-fixes or complete goal attainment. Being healthier, whether it be mentally, physically, spiritually, etc. is a lifestyle and not any single choice. Success is not found in a moment or a day, but all those individual moments, days, weeks, months, and years can absolutely add up to a well-adapted, content, and emotionally healthy life for all of us. We just have to accept that we will stumble and fall, make the choice to pick ourselves up when we can, and tenaciously seek help no matter how uncomfortable or hard it may feel. Piece all those battle wins together to claim the victory of the war. =)

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On a side note, I wanted to discuss how the past few weeks have been lousy. Just a few shared experiences and thoughts…

-I have always had much more difficulty with the fluctuation of my mood when I am physically drained and/or hungry. My husband can look at me, seeing me wilt like a flower out of water, saying, “We need to get you something to eat/need to get you some rest because your mood is dropping.” When I am fatigued from a lack of sleep or from running errands or when my blood sugar drops from not having eaten recently enough, I become much more susceptible to the depressions and anxieties of my MI. And I have found that with being pregnant, I wilt at a much more rapid pace, making it harder to catch my decline in time to prevent. I point this out because self-care is of the upmost importance, especially when you are suffering from an illness and ESPECIALLY when you are pregnant, dealing with hormones that fluctuate as they please no matter how carefully you care for yourself. Proper sleep, rest, and diet are essential to an MI-er’s well-being, and we must be willing to tell the people around us that we have to take the time to rest and/or eat. Putting ourselves first is a very good thing because when we are our healthiest for us, we can be at out healthiest for our loved ones. It is a “win-win” for everyone.

-I have really been struggling with feeling useless. (Yea, I am growing a life, yet I feel as though I contribute nothing to anything. 😉  Losing school this semester has really taken a toll on me, as I have discussed in previous posts. I had worked so hard to return to school and to have to stop (again) due to pregnancy-related illness, I find that I feel as though I am good-for-nothing (see how that Negativity/Pessimism Schema sneaks into any crevice of a person’s thinking to try to bring them down?). While I still volunteer at a local hospital, I feel I do little to contribute to my family or the world, in general. This is a thought, and resulting feeling, that I cannot seem to shake. I need a purpose to pursue outside of my home but cannot seem to find one. …Work in progress, right? =)

Well, that is all I have for the moment. I hope this finds everyone feeling well and a little less alone in a world that can feel really lonely. Take care.

AFSP

 

 

 

Out of the Darkness Walks

Walk to Save Lives

Suicide claims more than 38,000 lives each year in the United States alone, with someone dying by suicide every 13.7 minutes. A suicide attempt is made every minute of every day, resulting in nearly one million attempts made annually.

When you walk in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walks, you join efforts with thousands of people nationwide to raise money for AFSP’s vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives. The walks raise awareness about depression and suicide, and provide comfort and assistance to those who have lost someone to suicide.

SUICIDE CAN BE PREVENTED. YOU CAN HELP. JOIN THE MOVEMENT.

Suicide Prevention

 

 

 

 

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Get Help

You aren’t alone. No matter who you are or what problems you are struggling with, hurting yourself isn’t the answer. We want to help you find hope.

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.

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.

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.