Tag Archives: mental health

When Did You Become an Expert?


I have spent the past year trying to focus my writing around issues of mental health. With this I hope that I have given some helpful advice and some interesting stories. I like to believe that by doing this I have helped at least one person to see that they aren’t alone. What I wanted to achieve by writing about these issues was to give people who don’t live with mental health problems a glimpse into the difficulties faced by those who do. What has somehow happened is that people now have decided that I do not have a mental health disorder, but instead an addiction problem. I want to know when it became more acceptable to be an addict than it is to be crazy.

I think that part of this is because crazy is something we don’t control. People who don’t live with a mental health disorder, much less multiple disorders, seem to accept addiction more easily. Addiction is something that can be controlled, or at least that seems to be the prevailing theory of those who have been confronting me lately. It isn’t my OCD that causes me to think in circles, but instead it is some addiction. The truth is that I am not an addict. I can’t say that I have never drank too much or tried things which I shouldn’t have. I have never needed a substance to survive, well other than food water and air—all of which are made up of chemicals. I can live without medication, and even if I choose not to, this choice doesn’t mean I am an addict. I do not feel as if I cannot handle life without medication, and I don’t believe that for my disorders that medication is a long term fix. It is a band aid to be used while I learn other ways to cope.

The truth is that many people with mental health difficulties do self-medicate, and often find themselves in positions of addiction. Since I do not claim to be an expert in addiction, I cannot say anything more than that it is possible for someone who starts off with a diagnoses and medication can become an addict. I only know this much because I have seen it happen. This does not mean that anyone who has gone to a doctor for help and takes medication is an addict. Nor does it mean that every person taking medication is doing so because they need to. There are plenty of people who get prescriptions legally for problems they don’t really have. From what I have been told, and experienced, if you go to a doctor who is just trying to see as many patients as possible, all you have to do is give a list of symptoms and they will prescribe what pill goes along with that set.

Recently I have been told by recovering addicts that I have addiction problems, and that I need to get clean and sober. They congratulated me when I went off medication, and proclaimed that I was taking a step in the right direction. They seemed to think that they influenced my choice in going off meds, but the truth is I went off meds because I wanted to see what affect they were even having on me. The reality is that for the most part they were affecting my memory. There were other effects from the meds, but the most disturbing to me was with the memory. Other than that they didn’t change my personality and they didn’t help consistently with my anxiety, so why take them? Well for me the only time I feel medication is helpful is when I have to be in a situation where I have no ability to avoid my stressors. These would be holidays, family events, and weddings.

The next set off accusations about being an addict came from someone who doesn’t know me outside of text messages. We text a couple times every few months and that is the extent of our communication. I have never met this person in real life, and I really don’t have any desire to. Recently, while talking to him about my current job situation he accused me of being an addict. This was based off me not having been able to find a decent job in the past nine months. Because of course only an addict would have trouble finding a job in a bad economy, therefore I must be an addict. It couldn’t possibly be that my skill set lies with writing and mental health advocacy. Or that my degree, which he also claimed I must not have, is in a field which tends to require at least a Masters to find work. My education allows me to be a candidate for entry level jobs, but my experience puts me at being a little over qualified, or a little under qualified. If I mentioned that I am crazy I would spend another ten years looking for work.

So when did mental health turn into addiction? When did people who have no experience with one or the other become experts? I don’t claim to be an expert in mental health other than my own. I know what is wrong with me, and I don’t need people to create new labels for me to make themselves feel more comfortable. If you don’t believe that OCD, and Anxiety can cause extreme difficulty for someone, then I am not someone you should be associated with.

As we change how mental health is viewed, we seem to being adding a new face to crazy. I can’t just be crazy, I must be abusing something, or I wouldn’t act the way I do. Since people tend to think that crazy celebrities are only this way because of substance abuse, why not believe that everyone is this way? Well, the biggest reason for why not, is that it is Not True. Not every person who decides to embrace their own crazy, go out into the world and live their lives is an addict—just as not every person who is on drugs has a mental health disorder.

The picture of mental health is bigger than people seem to want to accept. The rules keep changing, and they aren’t all changing for the better. Every day we have to learn how to live in a world which doesn’t understand us, and has to create some new reason as to why we act the way we do. We can’t just be crazy anymore, no we have to be on something, and even if the thing we are on is to help us control the crazy aspects of our personality this now means that we are addicts. Not everything is so cut and dry. People however don’t like messy, and mental health is messy—it’s complicated and makes people uncomfortable.

So I am sending out a big thank you to all of the people who realize that this is not easy. Thank you to everyone who doesn’t try to change me or anyone with a disorder, and to everyone who doesn’t need to have me be an addict so that I can fit into your box. Thank you to all of the people who are fighting for these diseases to be understood, and who stand by their friends and family who are fighting everyday with some form of mental illness. And most importantly a huge thank you to those of you who are yourselves fighting for your own version of sanity and doing what you can to live in a world which hasn’t learned how to accept your particular brand of sane.

I hope you all have a happy, crazy, fun filled and safe Thanksgiving.

Transitions


So I wanted to go ahead and let everyone know that I am making some changes to this blog.  I am in the process of changing the name of the blog.  I have already changed the web address from livingthecword.wordpress.com to katiemflynn.wordpress.com.  This is the first of several changes which I plan to have finished before the new year.

In addition to changing the url, I will also be changing the blog title.  This is largely due to the fact that I want to make sure that people will be finding this because they want to read what I have to say, and not because they stumble across this and think I might be a blog about living with cancer.  I write about mental health, and the difficulties of writing with mental health disorders.  I want this to be more easily understood when someone visits my blog.

I will be adding a couple of categories, one of which will be a photo gallery.  I also hope to get my music onto a player on this blog as well.  I know that most of my followers came from me writing about mental health, and that focus is not going away.  However, since I have been expanding my focus in the past six months I believe this is a change which I am ready for, and is necessary for me to continue with writing what I am passionate about.

I hope you will bear with me as I make these changes.  I will be going through my old posts and fixing any hyperlink issues which may arise from the address change.

Thanks!  Embrace the Crazy

Impending Nano


So every year, for the past few years (this being the fourth year) I have attempted to participate in Nanowrimo. This for those of you who don’t know takes place in the month od November, with the express purpose of people around the world writing novels. All proceeds they raise from donations go towards literacy for children. This in itself is enough cause to participate. I however, have not been the best participant. I have yet to make the word goal of 50,000 words in one month. This is not to say that I am incapable, yet I seem to find that life gets in the way.

I tend to find that life enjoys getting in the way of literary pursuits, whether it is in writing or reading. Real life tends to take offense to a person who would prefer to spend time reading or writing things that do not coincide with what “real life” thinks we should be doing. And looking at the looming date of November 1st when I am supposed to begin my novella, I struggled. I couldn’t find a topic, inspiration, or anything consisting of the two. But I prevailed.

Now I have to figure out how I am going to complete this goal. I must write everyday­. I must focus on my characters and remember that they are really in control. I have to let go, so that I can prevail. I can do these things.

I have officially gone off meds, so my characters will be more crazy, and maybe this month of writing will help me embrace my crazy instead of medicating it to the shadows. I hope that my characters will show up when I call them. I am not holding my breath on this one. After having directed plays before I know that actors and characters show on their own time, I hope that I have the patience to handle this.

The main point is that I am again writing! I don’t know if any good will come of this writing, but I will be doing it. I will be talking to myself in the best possible way, having multiple conversations with myself via my keyboard. This excites me. I miss those conversations. I even look forward for a character wandering off and leaving me hanging, just so my mind can go in search of them. It’s much easier to go in search of a wayward character than it is of a drunken friend. So despite my trepidation, I look forward to this year’s nano in a way which I haven’t looked forward to those of the past.

So embrace the crazy, write something insane and see what you find.

If you are interested in nano and all it entails go to: www.nanowrimo.org

Happy writing!

Accusations


It is always annoying to be accused of things which you don’t do. It is more annoying when it comes from people who don’t know you well. However, the most irritating is not just being accused of things you don’t do, but being told all about what a horrible person you are by someone who you’ve only met in person 2 times. When this happens, it is hard for even the most emotionally stable of us not to give pause and wonder just what is wrong with people.

Last night I was at home, recovering from straining my calves, at this point I could barely walk and so was not in such a great mood. I got a Facebook message from a guy I had met through an online dating site.   While I had well over a month ago decided that this person was not someone I could date, I had thought that we had enough similar interests that we could at least attempt a decent friendship. I should have listened to my friend, who does know me well, and blocked him, cut my loses, and just ignored his attempts to contact me. However, being a stubborn person I decided I would try to talk to him if he messaged me.

It had been several weeks since I had heard from this individual, but every conversation we had tended to end up along the same course. Each time we spoke, the conversation would be turned to why I wasn’t interested in dating him. He could not understand that I am not currently interested in dating anyone seriously, and I’m not looking for a friend with benefits either. He would take this as a personal affront and tell me in his own words how I really felt. I would generally stop responding at this point.

When we got to this point last night, I again tried to explain myself, and how I felt about the general situation, and why I wasn’t interested in dating him. In no uncertain terms, when we had first started talking a couple months ago, I had told him that I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship, wasn’t looking for friends with benefits, and could not deal with clingy or co-dependent people. Somehow he over looked this and has spent the time being clingy, co-dependent, and pushy about relationship and other things. Last night when he brought up this subject again, I told him that I didn’t want to have this conversation.

After twice telling him how I felt about having the conversation, he turned around and decided to bash me in every way he could think of. Apparently, I make up my mental illness to use as an excuse or a crutch and it’s not real. Also, I am selfish, which is of course why I plan on going to school for counseling, that’s what all selfish people do. I am also a childish person, a liar, and a bad parent.   All this was gathered from a person based off three factors: 1. I didn’t feel inclined to cuddle or make out with him, 2. When he came to my house the first time he asked if I need anything, I answered honestly and said toilet paper, and 3. That I am not interested in dating or sleeping with anyone at the moment.

Well based off these amazingly accurate bits of information, I must be a lazy, selfish, lying, not crazy enough, bad parent. Also somehow in this rant from him I am all of these things as well because I don’t have a terminal illness and I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be lonely or in pain. Wow! I have given birth, naturally I might add, and I don’t know what pain is. I am starting to feel a bit more sane already.

This is why I had talked about finding a crazy which fits your own, in an early post. I think it was “Hey Baby, What’s Your Diagnosis?” So, I do talk about embracing the crazy. I never say “crawl into your crazy and use it as an excuse for everything!” I would never want to do that, much less tell others to do that. I do have other problems that cause difficulties for my life, who doesn’t? I don’t blame other people for my inability for find a good job, well not more than the general lament about wanting a chance, please, someone… Either way, I don’t blame others for my allergies, or my physical illnesses, who would I blame, my parents? It isn’t like they picked out those particular genes to pass on to me.

As for my parenting. Someone who knows very little about me, especially someone who has never seen me with my kid let alone any other children has no right to judge that.

Embrace that crazy, but tread lightly while learning that of those around you. Like personalities, or colors, not everyone goes together.

Just a Cry for Help?


One of the most irritating things which is said about suicide attempts is when it is called Just a cry for help. Then, someone decides to no longer associate with the person who they say is just crying for help. If suicide and peoples attempts at it are cries for help, shouldn’t we try to help that person and not cut them out of our lives? The main problem with this phrase is the word ‘just.’ It makes whatever caused a person to feel the need to kill themselves seem inconsequential. It takes the sense of social responsibility away from the situation. It gives people an excuse to walk away, because they don’t understand what they are saying.

If suicide is a cry for help, then I think it is our obligation as friends and parents, siblings and spouses to offer help. We should be making room for a person to know they are loved, and have a place to turn that isn’t dark. Take the ‘Just’ out of the equation and we have a person who is saying they need someone to understand that they are in a bad place, and it’s one they don’t see a way out of.

I know this feeling. I have walked this path. Depression is a serious issue, and everyone deals with it in their own way. However, when you get to the point of thinking that you cannot live anymore, it is a terrifying state to live in. You become consumed with the thought that nobody understands. Even when you reach out, you don’t hear comfort in the words of others, instead you feel more misunderstood. At least this has been my experience. I’m sure this is not true for everyone.

It is not easy to be around a person who feels like this. Often the depression makes it hard for friends and family to be around the person, because they don’t understand, won’t listen, or feel as if they can’t help and they give up. This is when the suicidal person becomes so isolated and alone with only their own thoughts, that it really does seem as if the only way to make the bad feelings go away is to just commit the act. No matter how selfish people view this act, the problem is that when someone is feeling that low, they honestly feel as if the world would be a better place without them.

So, if an attempted suicide is a cry for help, and often it is, it is never ‘just’ a cry for help. It is an impassioned plea for someone to notice their pain. It is the person’s way of screaming to everyone they know all at once to say “there is something wrong with me and I don’t know how to fix it, can someone please show me the way?”

So, now I say to embrace the crazy, and I mean in this sense to give them a hug. Show your support, your understanding. Be the person with compassion. You do not have to understand the sadness or the feeling of hopelessness in order to just be there for the person. Remember, actions speak louder than words, and often we think that just by saying the person can come to us doesn’t make them understand they can. Be present. Be there when you can. You don’t have to hold their hand every second of every day, but sometimes all someone needs is for you to reach out, hold their hand, and let them feel for a moment that it won’t always hurt. Things can get better. But this will only happen if we stop ignoring the plea.

We should remove the word ‘just’ from our vocabulary, at least in regards to mental health. It isn’t just depression, it isn’t just anxiety, it isn’t just addiction, it isn’t just anything. And suicide is for sure not Just a cry for help.

Mitch Hedberg Got it Wrong


Mitch Hedberg once said that addiction is the only disease you can be yelled at for having. Unfortunately, I have found in my life that people are just as willing to yell at you for being crazy. So ultimately he got it wrong.

If you have a mental illness, people often get upset with you for it. Post-partum depression is one that people really just don’t get. Often people think that if you just have more time to bond with your baby that things will be alright. Or if you have anxiety they get angry because you can’t always do the things you want to do, or planned to do. Those who have never experienced these things often get angry with the afflicted person. Even if they truly wish to be understanding, at some point they get mad.

Now the problem with this is that it is completely counter productive to tell a crazy person to stop being crazy. You can’t tell someone with OCD to knock it off, it doesn’t work that way. I can’t shut off my OCD any more than I can shut off the need to eat and drink to live. I don’t need OCD to live, but I’m hardwired for it. Getting angry with me because I see the world different isn’t fair. It’s not like I have an opinion you don’t agree with, my brain literally works differently than yours does.

Lots of crazy people end up with addiction problems and then get yelled at even more. Well I think that if we were more understanding in the beginning that some of these people would have never turned towards self-medicating to feel better, or feel nothing. When everyone around you doesn’t understand you or accept that you have a problem it is tough to recover, whether you’re an addict or have a mental illness, we need love and support. Screw that, as humans we need love and support.

Now there is love and support, and there is smothering. You can just be there as a friend to be loving and supportive, you do not have to constantly go over to your friend’s house to make sure they are alive, a text works. A phone call to show you care. Be there when they need you, so they know it is okay to ask you when they need help. Be prepared to be frustrated, those of us who are crazy and know it are a tough bunch to be around. You have to understand that we can’t always control how we feel, most people can’t control how they feel all the time anyway, so why expect us to be able to.

We are a little different, maybe even slightly broken. This doesn’t mean to throw us away, this means you sit around while we stich up our gaps. Just existing helps us more than advice. If you don’t understand it you can’t fix it. Those of us who do understand our illness can’t fix it. We think differently, and that’s a good thing. If everyone in the world saw things in the same way, then it would be a very dull world.

Embrace the crazy. Don’t be angry about it, learn how you can live with it.

Bad Brains


So I haven’t posted anything new in a while, and I feel like I should explain why.

At the end of last month I was told I did not have the right to write about mental health. I was also accused of being an addict because I take medication for my anxiety disorder. The combination of these two things threw me into a total crazy brains period. I got complete writers block and I have hardly been able to write a word for the past three weeks.

Now I know that I shouldn’t let other people get to me that much, but I began to question everything about myself. I learned some things from this three weeks of extreme crazy. The first being that I can write about whatever I want. I also learned that while I depend on my medication I don’t want to be on it forever. Finally and most importantly though, I learned that I am not an addict. I am a person living with a mental illness. I can live without medication, I am not afraid of being crazy, I am not afraid of my emotions. I choose to manage my disease in a way that is socially acceptable, and I am taking steps to reduce the use of medication and go back to managing my anxiety in more healthy ways.

Exercise, beating out a song on my guitar, drawing, and most importantly writing. I am a writer, and if I remember to use the tools I have as an emotional outlet then I will be able to live the life I want and not be blinded by other people’s views and interpretations of me. I have to do things my way. We all have to do things our own way, if we don’t then we don’t heal.

In conclusion I hope to be posting regularly again in August. I will be in Europe for the next two weeks, and I’m not sure how much opportunity I will have to post. Thanks for reading.