Monday, March 4, 2013

Progress...DBT Skills to the TEST!

Do you know the pure satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you get when you're able to cross something off of your "To Do" list?  No matter how small and've made progress and that is sometimes a GREAT feeling!!! 
Yesterday morning as I was enjoying some rare quiet time with my S/O, I was jolted by several text messages advising me to check my Facebook page.  Against my better judgement, I pulled myself out of bed and did just that.  I was instantly triggered by what I read...and quickly responded to what I felt was an unprovoked attack.  ALL of my DBT skills went out the window...NO WiseMind. NO Mindfulness.  NO Radical Acceptance. No Mindful breaths. WHOA!!!  What just happened???  Everything I had learned and practiced for the last six months seemingly were gone, POOF---in a matter of seconds.  I felt dejected.  I felt like a failure. 

After about an hour of texting, emailing and obsessing S/O had FINALLY had enough.  He snatched my iPad and phone and gently but sternly said "ENOUGH."  He told me to get dressed because we were going OUT.  I huffed and threw a semi-tantrum, because my plan was to spend a quiet day at HOME, together.   He handed me 2 cubes of ice, and quietly walked away.  He realized before I did the path that I was taking and lovingly steered me back to the road of recovery.  I'm thankful for a companion that has taken the time to LEARN about my mental illness and ALSO how to help me navigate through it.  He was helping me to practice my #DBT distraction skills...before I even knew what was going on. 

DBT has taught me that during a crisis, I can engage in activities that will help to distract me from my distress...and I can also distract with other physical sensations (IE: the ice cubes shook me out of my distressed feelings).  On our way out to the mall and lunch...he had me describe in detail exactly how I envision our trip to Tahiti will be.  YET AGAIN, another technique that uses POSITIVE mental imagery---allowing OTHER thoughts to pass through my mind, to give myself and my mind a reprieve from the other MESS that I had experienced earlier in the  day. 

After all of that...and many hours later, I was able to stand on my own.  Without help from the S/O I engaged in some self soothing techniques that sealed the deal!  I lit my sage, enjoyed a long bubble bath...and listened to worship music for what seemed like hours.  I was in my own world!  Ended the night with some guided meditation, and slept peacefully.

A few things that I learned yesterday is:

*Six months ago, I would have allowed being triggered to completely consume me and destroy my day/life...once anxiety sets in, it's hard to get out of it's grip.  While I did have help from my S/O---I utilized the skills I've learned in DBT, and was able to get on with my day/life.  I initially felt as though I had failed to utilize my DBT skills, but I was able to pull it together!! the smallest form is STILL progress!!!!!

*I'm not perfect...but I'm SURELY not the person I used to be. 

*Let go of criticism!!  People will criticize you and try to keep you bound to your past and the person that you USED to be. The past is just that, MY PAST.  I didn't run from it, I owned it and learned from it and NOW I'm going forward.

*What other people express is more about THEM and their perceptions...not about me, and I don't have to take their perceptions personally. We are all individually entitled to our own perceptions.  People will be people.

*TRUE loyalty doesn't fade...even when the friendship/relationship has.  I have to be ME, regardless of what THEY do or say. 

*Last but certainly not least......yesterday, I realized more than ever, how blessed I am to have someone to walk this journey WITH me.  Someone who promised to love me UNTIL I learned to love myself.  Even in crisis, good things are revealed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Free To Be Me!

The new year has been absolutely WONDERFUL to me.  I've grown and learned so much over the last six months...not just about myself, but about LIFE.  I've spent an enormous amount of time in therapy, in Al-Anon, in DBT, in church, in life coaching sessions.....not just figuring out where and why my life went wrong---but fixing and healing those areas that needed it.  I had to go BACK to where I got OFF track in order to get back on the right track!!  The journey hasn't been easy, but the wisdom from my pain has been the most rewarding thing on Earth!

First up was learning to love myself.  Easier said than done...but as I told my friend Owetta last week it has taken me 37 years to FINALLY get it right.  Now that I've gotten it right, it's truly the most AMAZING feeling ever.  How could I have survived this long...not TRULY loving ME?  I mean....loving ALL of me.  My good AND my positives AND my ups AND my strengths AND my past AND my future. The Bible says ALL things work together for the good of them that love the Lord.  ALL things are inclusive of my mistakes, my mess-ups, insecurities, my screw-ups, my bad behavior, they are WORKING for my GOOD!!

 As I began to learn to love free'd me to BE myself.  No longer did I need to pretend to be something or someone that I was not.  No longer did I need to beg and steal love from others that weren't willing to give it to me freely.  No longer did I need to lie about who I was to ENSURE that someone loved me.  As I began to love me, it opened up the path for me to be loved by others! *giggles*

Do I still stumble with the self-love from time to time? SURE I do.  I've gone 37 years without it, and it's not gonna correct itself over night.  One thing is for sure though---I've worked HARD at achieving that goal!!  For everyone that knows me....I'm an overachiever.  I get DONE what I set my mind to do!!

Bottom line is....I love ME.  The REAL me.  The TRUE me.....and I can care LESS who doesn't.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!!!

So I've been a little M I A lately.  I totally neglected my blog.  I went on vacation, got relaxed and rejuvenated and almost immediately upon my return home I got sick...yep, totally wiped out from that flu bug.  Not many things or people can totally wipe me out for weeks at a time, but I had to succumb to more rest and relaxation as my body dealt with the flu. It was NO FUN!!!  But here we are in 2013......a new year to get it right!  It's only been two days into the new year, but SO FAR, SO GOOD!  I just wanted to pop in and say hi, let ya'll know I'm OK....blogs will continue this week!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cure Ignorance! I was on vacation, enjoying the sun...the water...the relaxation...the rejuvenation, and #BOOM just like a bad nightmare, I was quickly thrust back into reality once I turned to CNN and heard of the vicious and brutal massacre that had occurred in NewTown, Connecticut.  Initially I was glued to the television---I was extremely saddened and I couldn't properly regulate my emotions!!After stepping away for a while I began watching again---until I realized I was becoming increasingly more angry at the news media.  Before they could even get the shooter's name correct (initially they named his Brother as the suspect), they had ALREADY diagnosed him with being mentally ill!  Then came additional speculations...he had a personality disorder-he suffered from Autism-he possibly had Asperger's. The more I watched...the angrier I got.  It seems as though every time tragedy strikes or violence is prevalent the perpetrator is ALWAYS labelled as mentally ill.  Fact of the matter is...research has repeatedly shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent...and the vast majority of people who are violent DO NOT suffer from mental illness. Stat of the year: People with mental illness only account for 4% of violence in America (New York Times).  So where's the disconnect??  Why is mental illness constantly demonized by those in the news media that continue to use their platform to spew ignorance?

This blog isn't intended to fight the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness...I've already blogged about that, and you can read it here ---->  Fighting Stigma and Shame! I'm actually writing this blog to BLAST ignorance...plain & simple.

It's ignorance like THIS...

Piers Morgan has 3 million followers and he chose to tweet ignorance? Seriously?
No these people actually believe this stuff??  I have a mental illness (I don't suffer from it, I'm learning to thrive with it!!) and I am NOT violent.  I've legally own a gun.  More than one actually, and I'm able use them very well; I shoot better accuracy percentages than most of my police friends. BUT even at my lowest point in life (when I was not yet prescribed medication) it never even crossed my mind to use it on MYSELF, let alone others.  I'm a big kid at heart, so I have all the gaming systems---YES, I play "Call of Duty" regularly.  It's a shooting game.  I've played online against people, I've beat their socks off (they thought they had an automatic win playing against a woman)...but at the end of the day, I put my controller down, turn my system off---without even a mere thought of "bloodlust."  Maybe I'm a special breed---and somehow different from the rest of the people that I know that live with a mental illness, but I'm NOT.  I'm the standard...what the MEDIA portrays is NOT.  We're NOT all the same.   We're NOT all violent.  We're NOT all subhuman.  Believe it or not, EVIL people actually exist in the world. Evil does not = mentally ill!!! "Evil is about choice!  Sickness (Mental Illness) is about the absence of choice."  (Lindsay Fitzharris)

The ignorance of the news media fuels the stigma and shame of having a mental illness.  I'm NO LONGER ashamed.  Stigma and shame kept me from seeking help for years!  A personal crisis forced me to get the help I needed.  I'm no longer running away from or ignoring my problems, I'm facing them head on.  That's not the only thing I'm facing head on!! I'm also facing those that use their platform to spread lies and ignorance instead of educating themselves and the world!!  YES...a detailed and educational email response went out to Piers Morgan regarding his insensitive and ignorant tweet, NO...I didn't get a response, but I faced it head on!  Knowledge is the Cure for ignorance!! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Beating the odds...Time for vacation!

You all know, these last six months have easily been the WORST six months of my entire life!!!  I've never experienced anything like the nightmare I've survived.  I lost MYSELF, betrayed my heart, and told lies to avoid losing the love of someone who didn't really love me like I thought they did.  I lost my dignity.  I lost friends and family.  I lost my MIND when a mental health crisis crashed my world!  TW:  Attempted suicide.  Battled an eating disorder. (End TW) Was diagnosed with depression and BPD.....ALL within six months.  I'm STILL here though...beating ALL odds that were set against me!

Recovery is HARD, but it's possible.  I've been putting in MAJOR work!!  Therapy session after therapy session.  DBT session after DBT session.  Al-anon meeting after Al-anon meeting.  Calls and meetings with my sponsor even when I didn't feel like it.  Keeping my appointments with my nutritionist and sticking to a plan EVEN when eating was the LAST thing on my mind.  Life Coaching sessions even when my LIFE felt hopeless.  Taking and tweaking medicine regimens even when the meds were making me sick.  Not to mention more inpatient stays than I ever care to remember...all in the name of trying to be the BEST ME I can be.

Have I stumbled?  Yes.  Have I sometimes regressed?  Yes.  Have I allowed people and things to make me spiral backwards?  Yep.  I'm STILL human.  I have feelings. I experience intense emotions.  YET. STILL. I. RISE.   Each time I bounce back quicker than the time before.  I have BPD, but BPD doesn't have ME!!!

Today, I'm leaving for a tropical vacation!!!!  After the whirlwind of the last six months, I DESERVE a vacation!!  Not a vacation from recovery, because I've learned to NEVER take a day off from making life better for myself.  I'm simply changing scenery.  This week I'll spend time working on "me" from a beach!  I have my reading material packed...and I'll read from the pool.  Guided Meditation downloaded....I'll find a quiet spot on the beach in the early or late morning hours.  I've scheduled to attend electronic Al-Anon sessions while I'm gone, and sponsor will be checking to make sure!  Meds are packed.  I'm ready!  I may not blog again this week, but I'll be sure to share some wonderful photo's with you when I return.

Nietzsche said..."That which does not kill us makes us stronger".  One of my twitter followers took it a step further and said that wound that you experienced wasn't a death sentence, but a LIFE sentence.  Embrace the healing and start living!!! So with that, I affirm today that I am ALREADY healed, happy, loving, wealthy, successful, confident, physically and emotionally well!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fighting Stigma and Shame!!

Last week I was bamboozled by a family member that was spreading incorrect and inaccurate information about my mental health journey.  This saddened me but it let me know that myths and stereotypes are constantly being perpetuated by lots of people; sometimes including family and the people closest to those of us that live with mental illness.  I must admit, I was utterly confused on how they were presenting details about me, my mental health journey, the disorder(s) I've been diagnosed with and how I live with them every day.  How can you speak of something that you clearly have no knowledge of? Their ignorance caused me major pain and suffering. An old friend of mine described my mental health journey as a "LifeTime Movie"...this came from an activist that daily fights the stigma & shame surrounding her health issues.  Apparently, she was unaware that her depiction was completely judgmental, stereotypical, critical and completely lacked the compassion that she too fights for regarding her OWN illness.  I understand though, that people fear what they don't understand.  I've decided not to suffer in silence, and to make sure those that actually love and care for me are well informed and educated about not just MY disorder, but mental illness as a whole.

Often times, we actually believe what is portrayed in movies and on television as reality.  Fact of the matter is, movies and television are entertainment, not education (unless of course you're watching Animal Planet,The History Channel, Discovery, etc.)  There are hundreds of movies and sit-coms that negatively and inaccurately depict mental illness and this fuels the stigma and shame associated with it.  Additionally, the news media tends to focus on the mental illness aspect when anything violent or tragic happens.  In 2012 alone, the media dug into the mental health history of Congresswoman Gifford's shooter (Jared Lee Loughner), the Colorado movie theater shooter (James Holmes), and the Sikh Temple shooter (Wade Michael Page.)  Fortunately, these acts of violence are not typical of ALL people that suffer from mental illness yet the media portrayal as something dark and dangerous further adds to the stigma and shame.

How you represent yourself and your disorder has a huge effect on fighting stigma. I personally have BPD, but I choose not to allow BPD to control my life. I spite of my diagnosis, and as the title of my blog states, I'm MORE than my diagnosis. 
We all have the power to fight stigma.  I personally believe that fight starts with education...and identifying the myths and misinformation about mental illness will help to dispel such nonsense.

MY Biggest Mental Health Myths/Stigmas:

  • Mental Illness is rare/uncommon:  One in five Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder in their lifetime.  This makes mental illnesses more common than cancer, diabetes or HIV/AIDS.
  • People with mental illnesses are "CRAZY":  Crazy is a meaningless term.  People with mental illnesses are sick, not crazy.
  • People with mental illness are more likely to commit violent crimes:  Mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators of it.  Most crime are committed out of passion or greed.  Both are very sane things, but not morally correct.  Immoral and insane are very different.  Via @StigmaSmash 
  • Mental Illness is usually a choice of bad lifestyle choices:  Mental illness is NOT a result of character flaws or weakness.  Mental Illnesses are health conditions (sometimes brain) that are products of social, psychological, genetic and biological factors.  
  • People with mental illness are dangerous/ violent:  People with mental health conditions are no more violent than anyone else!  Those suffering from mental illness are often more frightened, confused and despairing than violent.  Unless drugs or alcohol are involved, people with mental disorders do not pose more of a threat to the community than anyone else.
  • People with mental illness never recover:  People with mental illnesses CAN and DO recover.  With treatment, medicine, therapy, support or a combination of all---people with mental illnesses can lead fulfilling and productive lives and contribute positively to society.
Everyone is affected by mental illness.  If your friend, family member or loved one lives with mental illness there are a few things you can ease the shame associated with the illness.  Treat people with mental illnesses as people and not as an illness!  Treat them with respect and dignity as you would anyone else.  Don't label people with terms as "crazy" "wacko" or "CooCoo".  Lastly, learn the facts about mental health and share them with others!

"Mental Illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all." -Bill Clinton

Monday, November 26, 2012

Experience Is The Best Teacher!

I must be honest...I completely struggled through Thanksgiving Day, but I MADE IT!  I'm still here!  One of my family members was in town visiting for the holiday, and I decided to pay a visit since it had  been some time since I'd seen them.  I was actually kind of excited about just getting a chance to see them and hugging their neck~~ genuine hugs can sometimes make all your problems seem to disappear!  I was indeed a little anxious, family relations over the past few months have been strained to say the least, but nevertheless, I headed out, eagerly anticipating the show of love and brief fellowship that was about to commence. I arrived with a small token, and a smile on my face!  It made my heart smile that my family members were just as happy to see me as I was to see them.  I seemingly had been anxious for NOTHING. But, In the midst of our laughing and joking...the conversation took a QUICK turn to something more serious.  Mental Health.

I was informed that another family member (one that I loved dearly) had been telling everyone that I was bi-polar, that I had 10 personalities, that I was "crazy", and that I'd taken to Facebook to speak ill of them publicly.  YES, tears instantly welled up in my heart and spirit were INSTANTLY pierced.  How could the ONE person I'd thought the world of: trash my name...throw me under the bus...spread lies...spew ignorance???  The people that I speak to the least seem to ALWAYS be those that have the MOST to say about me.  This family member was invited to attend family counseling with me, invited to visit me during my inpatient stay to speak with my mental health team (Psychiatrist and Psychologist) and they didn't show up. Yet, they were very verbal about what they THOUGHT they knew about my mental health history.  Fact is, I was initially MISDIAGNOSED with Bipolar Disorder. MANY other people (40%) that have BPD have also been inaccurately diagnosed with Bipolar initially. You can read the NIH study here if you are so inclined. BPD Misdiagnosed as Bipolar.  

Lies aside (which they ARE).  SUPPOSE I did have Bipolar.  Suppose I was crazy.  Suppose I did have 10 personalities.  Does that make me unworthy of love and  respect?  I'm STILL a part of your FAMILY. You don't discard people you claimed to love just 2 weeks ago.  Where I come from, family is supposed to love unconditionally.  They cover and correct with LOVE. They restore.  They don't condemn.  They don't judge. They don't tear down. They don't abandon you. They don't kick you while you're down.  They don't invalidate.  They stick with you through the tough times.  They support.  They encourage. They educate themselves so that they don't add to the SHAME and STIGMA associated with mental illness.  I'd always heard that family could hurt you the worst, but I'd never personally experienced that...until now.  

Through this experience, I've learned that...
  • Indeed, those you love the most, can hurt you the worst---and family is NOT exempt. 
  • My family members are souls on a journey struggling through their life lessons just as I am. (Iyanla)
  • Blood is thicker than water is true in science, not life.
  • Sometimes, even family are waiting for you to fall, instead of helping you out.
  • People often speak about what they don't know.  Knowledge really is power. Lack of is ignorance.
  • People are quick to share your flaws, but don't acknowledge their own.
  • Just because I'm able to OWN my faults, issues & mistakes...everyone isn't capable of doing the same.
  • Hurting people really do hurt people.
  • The WHOLE story is always better than a partial story, and it's only fair for all.

I'm glad with each life experience I am able to learn lessons.  From now on, I'm making it a personal goal to not allow ANYONE'S ignorance, hate, drama or negativity stop me from being the BEST person I can be!!!!