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.

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.

You Are Welcome Anytime…Sorta

Last night, I received an invitation to go swimming today and on a road trip to a water park in a few days by my friend L. Unfortunately, I had to decline both offers because I had previous plans, but I am so thankful for having been thought of and invited. =)

The situation prompted me to think about the many non-specific invitations I receive to visit people or tag along on their various adventures. We all know the non-specific invitation, “You are welcome anytime,” or “You are going to have to come with us some time”. But rarely, in my case, comes an offer like L’s where I receive a time and place along with the invitation. I chuckled in thinking about this because I have too many non-specific invitations in my repertoire to count.

The funny thing about the non-specific invitation is two-fold for my BPD brain. Firstly, I wonder, “If you genuinely would like to spend time with me, why can you not make specific plans to do so?” Secondly, I wonder, “If I am always welcome, why did you not invite me to the gathering you posted about on our shared social media site?” Luckily, with having a pretty clear head that is not currently being run by my BPD schemas, I can, at the moment, recount this often-occurring situation without feeling hurt. I can reflect on it, examine it, and challenge my BPD thought process with two ideas. Firstly, a relationship with the non-specific inviters may not be meant to be (and that is ok) and secondly, once in a while, I can accept a non-specific invitation without expectation of a repeat…just enjoy the moment sort of thinking.

I try to take these times of a calm, decently functioning mind to review the things in life that trigger my maladaptive schemas. In this case, when I receive non-specific invitations time and time again, the BPD Negativity/Pessimism schema is triggered, skewing my thinking by telling me that people give me open invitations to protect themselves from feeling guilty about not cementing plans with me and that I am not good enough to warrant their time. On top of that, the Abandonment schema is triggered, telling me that someone else has either chosen to not develop a relationship with me or has decided to put space between us. Either way, thoughts like these are my everyday thoughts, so I am constantly asking myself things like, “Redhead, is it really that you aren’t good enough or could it just be that people have lost a sense of how special you are (in a good way! LOL) to the illness?” No wonder I am always so tired! ;o)

As I have often said, I am a work in progress but am getting somewhere. =)

Sorry for the alignment issues below. I am not sure what is going on there. =/

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.

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 and Me

***TRIGGER WARNING***

Nothing explicit but could still be triggering.

Suicidal ideation: Thinking about, considering, or planning for suicide. CDC, 9/12/12

I suffer from suicidal ideation (SI for the rest of the post). Almost every day, I think about the action of taking my life to relieve the pain of living. It is not about wanting to not live; it is about not wanting the emotional pain to continue and believing that physical death is my only way out.

Over the past few weeks, I have, for many different reasons, fell prey to physical fatigue. Between moving with a week’s notice, going on a long trip, and working, I became corporeally exhausted (I can use a thesaurus!). I fell into a depression due to this extreme fatigue and it’s accompanying stress. I was unable to pay bills, keep track of important dates, or go through day without a nap. I was tapped out both physically and mentally.

The funny thing is that through it all, even while at a forum for suicide prevention in Washington, D.C., I found myself “escaping” from the exhaustion and stress by picturing, as though a movie in my head, how I might die by suicide (saying “committed” suicide is now un-PC, but it does not offend me. I figured I’d just be kosher for the sake of this post). Another “funny” thing…I do have a suicide plan and a back-up for the original. Do not fret…my therapist knows. How is that for transparency? I could teach the POTUS a thing or two about transparency, couldn’t I? =)

Now, allow me to educate you for a moment. Suffering from SI IS NOT the same as suffering from suicidal intent; I do not INTEND, have not determined, concluded, or decided to put my plan into action. Please, do not call 911 because they will simply wake up a then-cranky redhead who was (hopefully) sleeping peacefully. What I want to share is that thousands, perhaps millions of people suffer from SI, and you would  have no way to tell. I know that at the AFSP Suicide Prevention Forum in Washington, my own husband had no idea how much I was suffering.

The issue is that SI does bring a person one step closer to a consequence that cannot be undone. Each time a person reviews all the details of their plan or simply thinks to themselves, “If only I could die, all this pain would end,” they tread closer to a decision that will ultimately break many people’s hearts. Parent’s are left wondering what clue they missed; siblings are left with the guilt of not perhaps voicing an opinion that “something seemed wrong”, and children ask where Mom or Dad is. The village, the community, the world loses the chance to see the beauty of live unfold as it was meant to do.

I will not go into detail about my plan for obvious reasons. I will share that due to the emotional pain of perceiving (due to BPD) being lonely, invalidated, unessential to peoples’ lives, and having little active support, I lived today with a picture show in my head…a show that relieved stress and caused pain all at once.

Be blessed and ask for help. It is the hardest thing you can do but the biggest step you can take on your path to recovery.

Suicide PreventionPlease call 800-273-TALK (8255), 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. When you dial you are calling the crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. After you call, you will hear a message saying you have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You will hear hold music while your call is being routed. You will be helped by a skilled, trained crisis worker who will listen to your problems and  will tell you about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.

AFSP

Mission

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.