Category Archives: trauma

30 Day Mental Health Challenge – Day 1

Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es).  Explain it a little.

 

I am currently diagnosed with Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

My Bipolar disorder has varied from BP 2, to BP 1, to BP NOS — so honestly I am not sure which one I have.  I have moved a few times since getting the diagnosis and depending on the psychiatrist, they just decide on what they want.  I think my most accurate diagnosis is probably Bipolar 2 though.  I have had the severe highs before, but only 3 times since I ever was diagnosed back in 2012, and the majority of it is extremely severe depression.

With my PTSD, I basically have horrible flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociation related to past traumatic events in my life.  These include childhood abuse that has happened to me.  Sexual abuse by a teacher when I was 13.  Also I was raped in college.  I am not currently facing this, but for a time I also had some PTSD related to a surgery which paralyzed my right arm due to complications and then in turn caused a great deal of stress and depression due to lack of my use of my arm and my future of my job.

My BPD affects me in many ways – although I honestly figure that out on a day to day basis.  My bipolar makes me depressed 97% of the times.  But then if something makes me mad or upset, I will be set off to be even more depressed or angry than I was before.  If I was suicidal before cause of my bipolar, my BPD could cause me to become even worse because of something someone said or did to me.  My emotions don’t usually swing up though like some people do.

How do you open up to your therapist?

How do you talk about trauma?

How do you talk about childhood sexual abuse?  Or childhood abuse? Or rape at any age – childhood or adult? Or any type of crime that has been committed against you?

It is important to be open with you counselor, I understand that.  I have an absolutely amazing therapist!  She makes me feel comfortable and I feel like she would understand and believe what I told her.

I do not know how to talk to her though.  I have written a few things, but even with that, it is hard.  I cannot go into details about things.  Writing or saying things just makes it real.  I don’t want it to be real.  I know it is real though – and I just want it to all go away.  It won’t though, and it haunts me, and until I deal with it — I am always going to feel bad and have these flashbacks and nightmares and want to hurt myself and die as much as I do.  I know I have bipolar and borderline personality along with my PTSD.  But I know if I deal with this PTSD, my symptoms will go down much more.

How does everyone else talk about their traumas?  Or just talk in general?  How do you let our your feelings, your frustrations, your thoughts?  I’m so scared to.  I want to.  I think about it over and over in my head because therapy.  All week sometimes.  I go in there with what I want to say.  I have rehearsed it in my mind.  Then, when I want to say it, my mouth can’t.  It is like it is all jumbled up.

I have gotten better about opening up.  But not about much.  It is never going to go away unless I talk.  I know that.  She has told me.  I believe her.  I just don’t know how to.  This is the first time I have ever face this stuff in therapy.  I have told her more than I have told anyone else.  I have gotten a lot out, but there is so much more.

So, how do you all do it?  How do you talk in therapy?  If you have been through abuse, sexual abuse, rape – anything like that – how do have you been able to talk about it?  Even if you haven’t been through any type of abuse — how do you talk in therapy, how do you let out your emotions?

Not Asking for Help – A Mistake I Won’t Make Again

What is a mistake I will never make again?

I won’t ever not ask for help again.  I went for years not asking for help.  Hiding my depression, hiding my pain.  I didn’t want people to think I was weak.  I didn’t want people to not love me or care about me.  I wanted to be strong and competitive in this world.  I wanted to prove I could be somebody.

Depression, Bipolar, BPD, PTSD, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, OCD, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Trauma, Sexual Abuse, Child Abuse, Rape – whatever the mental illness  or Trauma/Past is though – it doesn’t mean you are weak.  It took me far to long to figure that out.

All I knew was that this world was about getting ahead.  That is all that was preached to me in school – you have to do this, you have to do that.  Learn this, learn that.  Get into the best school, earn the highest grades.  Take the ACT, the SAT. Apply, apply, apply.  I was miserable, but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

On top of that, I really didn’t believe I was going to be alive.  I really thought I was going to be dead, either by a natural death or by suicide.  I didn’t think I was actually going to have to live up to those expectations anyway.  So I never asked for help.

Then there was also the little fact that it was brought to people attention that I needed help, and no one seemed to care – so why would I ask for help when no one wanted to help me in the first place when others told them I needed it?

After being miserable for years though, and then seeing what my life has been like with the right medications and proper therapy — I would give so much to go back and get these things earlier in my life.  What a difference I think it would have made, how much easier my life would have been.

Even though people don’t always listen when we ask for help.  I still will always ask for it.  I still will always plead for it.  I won’t give up.  I will keep asking, I will keep begging, I will keep pleading for the help.  If I need help – I will get it – no matter what.  Because not asking for help, will just lead to my destruction.  I know that now.

PTSD-How to help

Having PTSD is really hard, and so many people do not understand what it is like – they may read about it or hear about it more because veterans are being diagnosed with it more frequently, but unless they have experienced flashbacks and panic attacks, hyper arousal and the anxiety related to it— it is hard for them to know what it is like. Multi Me wrote a great blog about some ways that you can help someone who has PTSD.

Multi-Me

If you have PTSD then you know how absolutely awful and debilitating it can be. I thought I’d write a post about the ways in which you can help someone with PTSD. Remember this is from my own perspective.

Listen, and validate the persons feelings. We all like to feel validated, it really does help.

Talk about the symptoms. Dont be afraid of them. PTSD is really scary to the person going through it.

If a person who experiences PTSD is going through a flashback, sit with them, and listen, hold their hand, soothe them.

Allow the person to express how they are feeling. Dont minimize the persons feelings or experiences as trivial.

Dont make fun of, or laugh at the persons symptoms. They are very real.

If you are staying the night with the person, and they have a nightmare, help them by getting them a cold drink, or…

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Child Abuse – Mental Illness

There are so many different types of child abuse.  No matter what kind, they all hurt the child – they all alter the future for that child in some way.  The outlook that the child has from that point on is changed.  Any event in our lives changes the way we see the world, not just abuse, but abuse changes it in a very different way.

I was affected by various forms of abuse growing up.  The most significant form that has affected me as it was the result of many others was the sexual abuse I was subjected to from a teacher I had in 7th grade.  My whole thought process on things changed from that point forward.  Even today, I have not been able to wrap my mind on certain concepts and beliefs.  I feel like things he told me are still true – despite the fact that logically I know they are not, my mind is still trapped around the idea that they are.

Abuse warps our minds and causes us to put up protective barriers.  We shield ourselves from truths to save ourselves from feeling pain.  I did this.  I dissociated a lot.  I pretended it wasn’t real.  I did this growing up.  I did this with my teacher.  Then, I just decided to believe that what he told me was the truth.  I decided that I believed it, it was true, that if it was true then there would be no pain.  It was a survival method to keep me from suffering the immense pain that I had been suffering.

I don’t have to believe those things anymore though.  I am still learning that.  The abuse has left memories on me and I will never forget it.  I am learning to cope with it all now though.

Abuse can, and many times will, affect a child’s current and future mental health.  Depression is high in children that are experiencing abuse.  PTSD occurs frequently for those that have had some type of abuse.  Additionally, later on in life – the risk of mental illness has been found to be increased for those that have had past experiences with abuse. 

 

As I said, there are multiple types of child abuse –

ChildHelp.org lists different forms such as :

Physical abuse

Any non-accidental injury to a child. This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping, and paddling.

Sexual abuse

Any sexual act between an adult and child. This includes fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, group sex, oral sex, or forced observation of sexual acts.

Neglect

Failure to provide for a child’s physical needs. This includes lack of supervision, inappropriate housing or shelter, inadequate provision of food and water, inappropriate clothing for season or weather, abandonment, denial of medical care and inadequate hygiene.

Emotional abuse

Any attitude or behavior which interferes with a child’s mental health or social development. This includes yelling, screaming, name-calling, shaming, negative comparisons to others, telling them they are “bad, no good, worthless” or “a mistake.” It also includes the failure to provide the affection and support necessary for the development of a child’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual well-being. This includes ignoring, lack of appropriate physical affection (hugs), not saying “I love you,” withdrawal of attention, lack of praise and lack of positive reinforcement.

 

 

If you know of anyone that is being abuse – reach out for help.  Do not let it continue.  Report it immediately!  You can call the Child Protective Services Line (CPS, DCFS, DFCS – Different names in different states) – just call and report it!  You can remain anonymous, but sometimes it is very helpful to give your name.  Even if you suspect someone is being abuse (with a reasonable suspicion), it is better to report it than possibly ignore it and let something bad happen.

PTSD…It’s a normal reaction

 

PTSD is a normal reaction to extreme trauma.

Just like bleeding is normal reaction to being stabbed.

 

Life Isn’t Always A Straight Line

Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge – This week, share a photo that foregoes the straightforward in favor of the twisting and winding.

untitledMy trip to Mesa Verde National Park, 2007 

Life never goes in a straight line.  It goes left, it goes right, then left, and right.  The straight line is usually the quickest way to the destination (thank you math class), but the quickest way is not always the best way (thank you life for teaching me that, it is not always the easiest or greatest way either and most people hate it). I don’t think my life has ever let me use the straight path, or I should say, it rarely has let me go down that road.  Sometimes, I wish it would, I pray that I could just take that straight path.  Looking back though, I have learned a lot from all those twists and turns – all those zig zags that life has taken me through. 

I hated going through what I went through.  I hated the abuse.  I hated what my teacher did to me.  I hated being raped.  I hated when I got my brachial plexus injury and my arm was paralyzed.  I hate dealing with my nursing school.  I hated being diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder and PTSD.  Would I wish any of that on anyone else, no.  But would I change what happened to me?  No, because it has made me who I am.  It has shaped me, and I like who I have become.  I would not have said that a year ago, and there are days I still don’t think that. I know that I am going to turn my pasts hurts into something positive though.  How do I know this, well I am already doing it – and I am saving that for a future post, just give me a day or two!

Sometimes, the zig zags are good things too though, those twists and turns aren’t always bad.  They can be great adventures.  They can open our minds and our eyes to amazing and beautiful things.  I have had plane delays and trips turn out to be completely unexpected adventures.  I have taken the longer way, the zig-zagging path, to reach a goal – and it was much more meaningful and fulfilling than the easy way. 

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Jenga at Christmas, 2009

 

My Story

I had no idea what was going on with me.  I was 10 and sad.  But I wasn’t just sad.  I was really sad.

I was 11 and I wanted to die.  I planned on how to die.  Our school was taking a trip to Six Flags and I wrote out my suicide note, and I put it in my backpack and I was going to kill myself at the park.  My mom found it though, she asked me if she needed to keep me home.  I said I was fine and went to catch my bus.  It was never talked about again.

I was 13 and still really sad.  Suicide still ran rampant in my head.  My art teacher found out.  He found out about my home life.  I trusted him. I thought he would help me.  He said he was going to.  But he took advantage of me.  He made me do things to him.  He did things to me.  He verbally abused me.  He sexually abused me.  He hurt me.  I believed all his lies. He molested me and hurt me and fucked me up so bad.  I wanted to die more than ever before.

I was 14 and moved to a new city. Life was worse than ever before.  A new school and no friends. My school counselor found out about what my teacher did.  Chaos broke out.  I didn’t want to deal with it.  I began cutting. I did not tell the police everything. He was never charged. My depression became more severe. I became sick from stress. I missed more than half the school year and stayed home because I was “sick.”

I was 15 and 16 and 17 and high school happened. My depression trapped me.  I faked my smiles and I wore my mask.  I immersed myself in school work.  I tried to pretend like I was happy and make myself believe I was. Deep down I was choking, I could barely breathe. Every day I planned my death. I didn’t even believe I would make it to graduation. Surely I would do something before then.

Graduation came and went. I was 18. College was a new start. Surely life could start over now. I was raped. My mental health went down hill. For the first time in my life I was put into counseling. I couldn’t talk though. I didn’t know how to express myself. I isolated more than ever. I cried more than ever.

Therapy continued and I made no progress, but I just kept going.  I kept my emotions in for so long that I just avoided everything. I turned 21 and my life went upside down. My arm was paralyzed. I lost control. Again. The molestation. The rape. My arm.  I had lost control again. I needed to die now. My depression consumed me.  The year was 2009.

Trigger Warning –  the next paragraph mentions a suicide attempt


 

I had many suicide attempts.  My worst was in May 2012 though.  I had strategically overdosed on Tylenol.  After being given the antidote (Mucomyst) and Reglan, both of which I had reactions to, I was transported to the ICU where I spent 4 days before being sent to the psychiatric hospital.  This was not my first time in the ICU but it was the worst attempt I had.  And it was also somewhat of a wake up call. It was my last attempt, but not my last visit to the psych hospital.

Between January 2011, my first psychiatric hospitalization, and October 2012 – I had 15 psychiatric hospitalizations and ended up with three diagnosis (bipolar, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder). On that last hospitalization I was committed for 6 months to the state hospital.  I was terrified, but at the same time, I was so frustrated and sick of life, I really didn’t care what happened to me.  I was so sure that I would kill myself no matter what anyone did and that I had no future, that it didn’t matter to me.  The state hospital was the best thing that happened to me though.

On Halloween of October 2012 I went to the state hospital via the backseat of a Sherriff’s car. It was a two hour drive and it took me to a life changing experience.  I had the best psychiatrist, psychologist, nurses, rec therapist, music therapist, group therapists, psych techs, dietician, and other support staff possible.  They were all determined to get me and others back on the right track. I left the hospital in April 2013 more stable than I had been in a long time.  On the correct combo of meds and with coping skills that I actually felt comfortable using.

Today, in 2014, I still struggle.  I have been hospitalized since being out of the state hospital.  But in no way am I in and out like I was two years ago.  I take my medication and I acknowledge that I need it.  I accept that I have a mental illness and I try to educate myself about them.  I attend therapy and participate in it actively.  I am working through my PTSD which has been a huge factor in my hatred of myself and life.  I am always working on improving and finding new coping skills.  I continue to attend my support groups.

I know I can continue to fight.  I know I don’t have to let it consume me anymore.  I don’t have to let it win. It still knocks me down sometimes.  I just have to make sure I keep getting back up.

Dissociation and Staying in the Here and Now.

Dissociation.  It sucks.  It has been happening to me a lot I guess.

My anxiety medication was making things worse for me, so I was taken off of it.  But while I was on it, my dissociation was even worse than before.  But even off of it, I still dissociate. It is completely frustrating

So, some of you might not even know what dissociation is. 

Dissociation – It can be mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience.

It does not necessarily mean you have Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder).  Dissociation can simply mean you , somewhat zone out, detach yourself from what is around you, go off into your own world so you do not think what your mind wants you to think or feel. 

Dealing with my past history of abuse has been incredibly hard.  Thinking of that, the sexual abuse, the rape, everything – it has just made me incredibly anxious and depressed and quite honestly, the suicidal ideations have been running rampant in my head. 

Sometimes, I don’t even have to be thinking about any of it, and suddenly a memory will just pop into my brain and trigger me and I either have a flashback, a panic attack, or completely dissociate.  During therapy, the dissociation has happened more frequently.  It is really frustrating.  Sometimes I come out of it and just want to cry.  I feel horrible.  I don’t want to talk at all. 

It is really hard to deal with.  Staying in the here and now – I guess I just have to keep learning how to do that.  I guess I need to practice using my grounding techniques more frequently when my anxiety is high and the dissociation occurs.  As my therapist says, she is there to help me through it when it happens in her office, but when she is not around, I have to learn how to do it on my own. 

Suicide does not end the Chances of Life getting Worse, Suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting Better

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