Mental disorder

Special Needs

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. ~ Wikipedia

I made the mistake of reading comments on an Instagram post in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were mostly positive. But, there was one naysayer who stood out for his initial lack of vitriol. He was just mildly snarky. But, it was like he had committed some heinous sin, instead of posting a disagreement rooted in ignorance.

He was immediately under attack. Mostly the responses remained as snarky comebacks. However, one of them made me cringe.

It sounds like your boss is good at hiring people with special needs.

I couldn’t scroll past without addressing it.

Back in the day, the insult used was, “retard,” frequently accompanied by a physically mocking action. Much like 45’s mocking actions regarding a reporter who experiences a physical disability.

Another one is, “riding the short bus.”

However you frame it, it’s showing a prejudice toward people with disabilities, especially intellectual ones.

How about how mental health challenges are referred to?

What are you, crazy?

Man, that was INSANE!

She’s so bipolar.

That one’s not right in the head.

Or the fact that so many movies and TV shows portray mental health patients as dangerous killers and all the shootings being reported as someone with mental illness, before an evaluation can be done?

The stigma and prejudices against people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities is real and insidious. Just as we need to recognize, call out, and address racism, in all its forms, sexism, genderism, and sizism, we need to call out ableism.

It isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human rights.

For more on my perspective on ableism, go here.

Advancing ahead

I made it to and through my Advanced Word class on Friday and didn’t nod off once! Yay, me! I was kind of shocked considering the fact that, between fireworks, physical discomfort, and my brain, I didn’t sleep much or well.

I think a major difference is that I wasn’t already familiar with much of the material. So, I was actually learning and not just rehashing what I already knew.

Interestingly, it was my lowest assessment score of all seven MS Office classes I’ve taken so far. I’m kind of an intellectual perfectionist (trying to let that go). So, less than 100% causes an internal twinge and tic. Which is absolutely ridiculous because my score was over 90%.

Enough about that.

I’ve got two more computer classes to take, then I’ll be done with what Goodwill has to offer. Power Point is scheduled for Monday. Google got moved to the 24th when I went to the doctor about the sleep issues, which I discussed here.

I’m feeling antsy, like I’m kind of spinning my wheels. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I really want to work as a Mental Health Peer Support Specialist…which requires certification through the state. Certification classes usually cost money…of which I have none.

I had applied to the local NAMI affiliate, which offers a free certification class. Unfortunately, there were only 20 spots and 80 applicants. Preference is given to those already volunteering or employed in peer support work. So, I was part of the unfortunate majority.

Fortunately, I had already signed up for their Peer to Peer class, designed as an educational and practical class for those experiencing mental illness, led by those experiencing mental illness. I was already familiar with a significant amount we went over yesterday. However, it’s only the second class and I missed the first one – which I’d arranged when I signed up.

Towards the end of class, one of the leaders made a plea for volunteers to speak and share their stories at schools, businesses, and out in the community. There are also opportunities for training to become class leaders. They need leaders for the Peer to Peer class, which I’m in. They also need leaders for two other classes I plan on taking: the Family to Family class for those who have loved ones who experience mental illness and the Basics class for parents actively parenting children with mental health issues. Since both of my adult children experience their own mental heath issues, as does my 10 year old, who experiences life through the Autism Spectrum, I feel these classes will be helpful to me on a personal level and, potentially, on a professional one.

So, after class, I had a brief conversation with the leader who is in charge of speaker recruitment and got the Volunteer Interest Form. I explained to him what my employment goal is and he enthusiastically asked if I was taking their certification program. When I explained I’d applied but not gotten in, he looked slightly surprised – as if he felt I should have been accepted. I explained why and he seemed to have an objection to my exclusion, but said that I was in his class now, which supports my goal. I agreed.

I completed the Volunteer form and pretty much checked off all the things – including the office/admin support roles. So, we’ll see where things go from here.

Wish me luck!

Writing Prompt: lettrs – Dear Self

Dear Self,
Being bipolar, depressed, and anxious, means feeling insane, sometimes acting the same. The thing is, you’re not crazy or lazy, you’re amazing!

You are neurodiverse, your brain is structured differently. You think differently, experience the world differently, and process those experiences differently. Your capacities, abilities, skills, and talents are different than those with neurotypical brains, not affected by chronic trauma.

That doesn’t make you bad or wrong and it doesn’t mean you have to change the things which make you, you, in order to conform.

Yes, medication may be useful, but, it isn’t a cure, because a cure isn’t needed. Think of it as the difference between “breaking” a horse and developing a relationship of trust while training the horse.

Stop fighting to conform and force your brain to be something it’s not, not allowing it to do what it’s built for, and hobbling it’s ability to move and flow.

Think of the medication as the tack – the bridle and reigns to direct, the saddle to stabilize, and the stirrups for holding more balance and control. When you lose your grip, slip, and fall, it may take a little bit of work and time, but keep getting back in the saddle and, each time, you’ll stay on and ride, going further and lasting longer.

The world needs you to be you, not a copy or imitation of anyone else. Otherwise, God would have created you to be them and not you.

Remember, you’re the only one capable of being you and you’re pretty special.

Crazy

You’re not crazy. You’re pain is not a pathology. Your pain makes sense…You’re a human being with unmet needs.
Now This Op-Ed video about depression

Crazy.

“She’s just crazy. I’m done.”

“That’s just crazy talk.”

“How crazy is that?”

“What are you, crazy?”

Crazy.

How often do we throw that word around? We use it as a throwaway label for people and situations we don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to try and understand. It’s mostly a word which people who consider themselves as “normal” use to explain away and dismiss the abnormal.

Guess what? It’s ableism.

What is Ableism? According to The Urban Dictionary, “Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people who have disabilities. Ableism can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment, or larger scale oppression. It is oftentimes unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.”

This definition isn’t only about physical disabilities, it also counts for those experiencing mental health issues due to atypical brain structure and neurochemistry.

Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
PTSD
Anxiety disorders
Addiction
Compulsive Behavior disorders
ADHD
Asperger’s
Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning)

These are but a few examples of things which people with non-neurotypical brains and brain chemistry experience.

Crazy

It is a word which holds a strong stigma. The thought of being “crazy” often causes people not to seek help for symptoms and behaviors which make them feel mentally and emotionally out of control. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy.” WE don’t want to be labeled and dismissed as being “crazy.” We don’t want to be treated as defective or dismissed because having atypical brains makes us “less than.”

I say “WE” because I have a Bipolar brain which has been affected by ongoing and varied trauma experiences. Four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type 2, and PTSD. Around the same time, my youngest child was educationally identified as having “High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Recently she received the official diagnosis of Autism AND ADHD.

These things cause us to think, react, and act differently than those who have neurotypical brains. We aren’t “crazy,” we aren’t disabled. We are neurodiverse and differently abled.

The thing about the word, “crazy” is that it’s such an inherent part of our American vernacular that even those of us who have been affected and marginalized by the term frequently use it ourselves.

I’m not going to “go off the deep end” (another phrase often used instead of “crazy”) and call out everyone, every time I hear the word used. However, I will start with myself and maybe those closest to me. I haven’t figured out what to say instead, but, I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

Maybe you’ll think about it the next time you hear or use the word.

In case you’re wondering, the August Scrawls Day 3 word is “atypical.”

Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.

Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

There goes that idea . . .

Oops, I did it again . . . no, I’m not Britney, but it seems she and I may have some things in common: mental illness and/or personality disorders.

As I watched her transition from a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Mouseketeer to teen pop sensation through to her very publicized and very famous meltdown in 2008, I may have criticized some of the choices made in marketing her and making her transition from kid clean to teen queen, however, I always felt that she needed more compassion, empathy, and acceptance. Perhaps I saw a bit of myself in her. At any rate, the reality is that the stigma around mental health issues is so great that this beautiful and talented young woman garnered much derision, criticism, and various forms of bullying by media, anti-fans, fans, family, and the court system. She fought her way back and continues to pursue her life in the context of whatever her mental health issues are and within the confines of medical and court systems that have deemed her unfit to see to her own affairs.

The disparity between how she has been treated in terms of access to treatment as well as restrictions on her autonomy as compared to the thousands (millions?) of people with mental illness who do not have her combination of talent, money, and celebrity is damning in our society and illuminates exactly how much prejudice and stigma there is, not just in relation to mental health issues, but also in regards to the child entertainment industry. It is my humble opinion that had she not been a child entertainment commodity and treated as such by the adults in her world, the signs and symptoms that spiraled out of control in 2008 could have and might have been recognized and addressed prior to the devastating events that her own young children wound up subjected to. I suspect that the signs were there and evident, yet minimized, ignored, and possibly incorrectly medicated so she could continue to perform, entertain, and earn millions for the people around her. If my suspicions are true, then, those in a position and with a responsibility to help her failed her because of their own blind ambition, unwillingness to take on a battle they didn’t have the time or inclination to pursue, or unrealized mental health and personality disorder issues of their own.

Adults and children who are seen as having something to contribute to the benefit of others, i.e. earning them lots of money, are at risk of having their needs and symptoms overlooked until they reach a point where other people’s benefit is endangered. Then they can be forcibly treated and have legal restrictions placed on them so that their issues don’t interfere with the flow of other people’s lives. On the other hand, those of us who are not recognized as having extra benefit or contributing more than others are at risk of being marginalized and if our conditions and issues affect our ability to provide for ourselves, we may wind up stripped of housing, family, and access to treatment.

There is a middle scenario. The place where someone dealing with the biochemical, developmental, and neurological issues that affect one’s behavior, personality, and thought has encouraging, safe, supportive people around them who support their autonomy AND recognize that even the most functional of people needs assistance at times. This middle scenario includes access to consistent treatment and care with knowledgeable and skilled medical and mental health personnel, capable of working WITH the patient in identifying all the symptoms, triggers, and sources of what is happening as well as in determining constructive courses of treatment.

I suppose that third scenario does happen for a fortunate few, however, at least in these United States of America, it is anything but the norm.

A couple of days ago I posed this question

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One of the people I have recently opened myself up to responded with a link describing Cyclothymic Disorder. Since she is an MSW of Social Work and an Assistant Professor at a state university, has worked in various aspects of child welfare and social service organizations, and has experienced her chronic health issues herself, I valued her input. This is what she had to say about it:

“People with cyclothymia usually go get treatment for depression and do not recognize the hypomania because it feels kind of good/the bad part is the “down” that comes after, which feels/looks like plain old depression. However straight depression meds can make the negative symptoms (poor sleep, agitation, anxiety) of hypomania worse, so having a good diagnosis is important. Your complicating factor is the fibromyalgia, because pain-related factors and depression-related factors are so connected, and because it’s typical for people who are having non-flare days to feel motivated, hopeful, “hypomanic” even in their desire to accomplish much- and the overwhelming pain crash looks similar to the normal transition between hypomanic and depressive stages. It’s tough to figure out. One of the ways it is done is through pharmacology- if lithium helps then it usually means the cychlothymia diagnosis is right. Backwards diagnosing. Art+Science, most of this stuff we call medicine.”

So, what is the idea that went and what was it I did again?

The idea that moving into an isolated manufactured home only two years younger than I am on the bank of a river and five miles distance from the main road would be the place to move for our family where I would be on my own and away from the services and little bit of socialization I get now. What I did again, was to take that situation and idealized it in my head. I got the spinning, racing thoughts that seemed to be problem-solving and thinking outside the box for identifying creative solutions to our housing and cat dilemmas. I couldn’t shut off my brain or close my mouth and let the unfamiliar and unaccustomed feelings of excitement rule and reign. I created unrealistic expectations, packaged them up, put a bow on them, and handed them to Keith, knowing that his personality issues would not respond well if the situation didn’t pan out. The problem was, I didn’t honestly believe they would not happen and the compulsion to share was so strong that despite my knowledge, understanding, and intent, I bulldozed through anyway.

At least now I have a new place to start on my Do-It-Yourself journey of figuring out, managing, and working through the symptoms of the last 30 years of my life with this apparent “mild” form of Bi-Polar Disorder.