mental health issues

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.

Self-directed, Independent Study, Coursework in Recovery and Developing a Stronger Sense of Self

That is what this first quarter of 2014 is all about.

I once read a book called Life 101. One of the opening paragraphs alluded to the fact that many of us graduate from the School of Hard Knocks to immediately enroll in the University of Adversity. I kind of took that statement to heart and have been matriculating through that institution of life ever since. Now it’s time for me to move into the next level of earning my Master’s of Fine Arts in Living Life to the Fullest.

In order to do this, I am now committed to facing and processing the things which have kept me stuck walking the same halls of adversity, repeating the same life lessons, while hoping to learn something different.

I am immersing myself in the following coursework:
Daily online Twelve Step meetings through an Overeaters Anonymous based organization, The Recovery Group. Through these meetings I am practicing the principles of honesty, accountability, service to others, and being mentally immersed in recovery-based thinking, processing, and decision-making.  Within the context of TRG I have developed a relationship with someone who has agreed to be my sponsor as I work through the Twelve Steps. So far I’ve read through and responded to what I’ve read from the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book online. Finally, I am also going through the process to serve as a meeting leader. There are eight meetings each day, every day, which are held on the threes, am and pm, Eastern Time: 3, 6, 9, and 12, for a total of 56 online meetings each week. Moderating and leading a meeting is a valuable service and an opportunity to give back to others what has been freely given to me.

In addition to the Twelve Step portion of my coursework, I am participating in a weekly, faith-based, class and support group for women who are recovering from abuse. You can read more about it in the write-up I did for it on PDX Social Safety Net, Abuse Recovery Ministries and Services. Complementary to that, I am regularly attending and viewing the teaching messages from my friend and teacher, Marc Alan Schelske, and other speakers, teachers, and ministry leaders affiliated with Bridge City Community Church. We are currently in a teaching series with significant life application teaching about living a life of transformation that is based on emotionally healthy spirituality, which impacts the world around us in positive and constructive ways without it becoming about performance and self-serving attitudes and behaviors. If you’re interested in seeing and learning about the things I am experiencing in this faith community, you can view past and current teachings on the Bridge City Media YouTube Channel.

On the mental/emotional health side of things, I have an intake appointment today to start therapeutic counseling services. My goal in doing this is to get the focused and structured help in identifying and processing the issues from my history of childhood sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, and early domestic violence relationship with a man who trained me in being a con artist and the fine art of verbal manipulation for the three and a half years when I was 16 – 19 years of age, during my pregnancy and the first two years of mothering my son. Based on conversations with other service providers and professionals in the realm of domestic violence and child & family services, it is likely that in addition to my known mental health issues of depression and my suspected hypomania, that there is likely PTSD or complex-PTSD which has been unidentified and has been contributing to and impacting my life and relationships over the past 20+ years. I am not seeking a cure. I doubt there is such a thing. I am seeking understanding of myself and my triggers, guidance in continuing to identify and process triggers, develop tools and plans of action for dealing with triggers. I want to be able to, eventually and sooner rather than later, be able to do some kind of income generating work, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur. However, I am coming to realize and understand that if I do not honestly and conscientiously address these other issues, I will continue in my cycles of depression, chaos, and conflict which have prevented me from achieving my dreams and potential. I’m tired of the self-sabotage and making choices in relationships and life matters which keep me stuck.

Concurrent with the counseling and other things there is another domestic violence support and discussion group which is “a model of counseling to help improve coping skills. It was originally developed for trauma, substance abuse, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is also applied broadly to increase coping and stabilization.” Since I have experience trauma, have developed eating behaviors and patterns where food is used similarly to other substances like alcohol and drugs, and have exhibited symptoms of PTSD, attendance and participation in this group, makes sense for me, at this time, as I am attempting not only to learn about being safe, but learning how to apply and utilize the knowledge in effective and tangible ways.

Finally, I am also receiving parenting support and Luna is receiving child advocacy services in learning how to cope emotionally with the things we have experienced and the feelings she has regarding the transitions in our lives and relationships with her father. They love each other dearly. He wants to and has the right to be present in her life. He is taking steps to work on his side of the street in these things. In the meantime, it’s a huge transition for her and, ultimately, teaching her and equipping her to be healthy, constructive, and functional in her life is one of the major outcomes I’m working for in doing all the things that I am doing.

It feels like a lot. It is a lot. But, it is all necessary and critical to moving forward instead of slipping back.

Mentally Ill or Neurodiverse?

Blog For Mental Health 2014Earlier this week I reblogged the launch of Blog for Mental Health 2014, a movement to raise awareness of and destigmatize Mental Health issues, diagnoses, and concerns. Here is my pledge:

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma. ~ A Canvas of the Minds

A new blogging acquaintance of mine, wrote an article on her blog, Crazy Good Parent, “Naming Names: Why “The Mentally Ill” Is The Wrong Thing To Call Us.” In this article she brings up the issue of how those of us who experience mental health “issues” are labelled by ourselves and by others and how the term “Mentally Ill” is a term which automatically instills negative connotations and responses both in us and in those who believe they do not experience such difficulties. She shared that one of our mutual blogging friends has coined the term, “Neurodiverse,” as a positive and constructive label, which eradicates the false wall separating us from the rest of the population. I agree.

The truth of the matter is that there truly is no such thing as “normal.” Normal is a statistical construct to classify and categorize a standard by which a statistically represented 80% of the population can feel comfortable and at ease about themselves because they fall into what is considered to be a “normal” range. The truth is that these kinds of statistical representations tend to follow a curved spectrum from a low, rising to a peak, then going back down to a low. The “normal” portion of the curve is where 80% of those tested fall on that curve. It’s actually where “grading on the curve” came from and why people who actually either studied more or understood the material better or easier came to be ostracized and criticized by those who fell in the “normal” range, because they raised the curve and expectations of the educators who used that method of grading. At any rate, the point is, that there is always a spectrum or range from low to high with which people function whether it be socially, intellectually, cognitively (the two are not really the same), or by any other operational measure.

It’s taken me a very long time to realize and accept that the things I have been criticized and blamed for, things which I have hated myself for, were things which were not correctly identified, understood, or taught about.

We toss about and misappropriate mental health diagnoses and joke about them the way Archie Bunker used to tell his bigoted racial jokes, getting canned laughter and increases in popularity because it makes us feel better to pretend that there is a “them” we are not part of, which makes “us” better. This is a big lie which keeps us sick and dysfunctional in our world, creating divisions and hiding the fact that we not only believe that there is such a thing as the “deserving poor,” but that there is also such a thing as mentally ill people who are worthy of dignity, support, encouragement, and respect and those who are not.

Once upon a time in America those who had visible physical deformities, with corresponding intellectual and cognitive delays and disabilities, were treated horrifically. In some places that may still be true today. However, we now have things like Special Olympics where the people who experience these differences are still taught to respect themselves, each other, and to work to the best of their abilities, within the context of who they are and what they have to reach to achieve whatever they think they can achieve.

Concurrently, there are multiple generations of people whose physical appearance and basic communication skills gives them the appearance of “normality.” They may be socially awkward, excel at spatial relationships but be incapable of understanding how to function or navigate within complex systems. We may be able to process and understand anything we study, yet be unable to make consistently rational decisions and have failed to achieve our potential, as determined by family members, friends, and society, despite numerous efforts.

If we “look normal” and our actions and outcomes fail to meet “normal” expectations, then, we are often considered to be broken, less than, at fault, and to be shunned and discounted as being unworthy or unwilling to help ourselve to be more normal.

I’m not normal. I haven’t had a normal life. I wasn’t born of normal people and was not raised according to normal standards. I haven’t had a normal day in my life, except that every day has been normal for me. I’m finally coming to understand what my kind of normal is and forgive myself for not having been normal and not knowing how to work with the normal that was mine while raising my oldest two children. Now that I’m doing so, I’m understanding that I want to raise my youngest daughter to accept herself and her normal and that I want her to learn to accept that other people will have their own version of normal.

Just as we are culturally and ethnically diverse, with different gifts and skills, we are neurodiverse with different neurochemistry, different life experiences which have affected brain development and cognition, different genetic predispositions for different diseases, disorders, addictions, and compulsions, and have been raised by people with different abilities to teach us how to live inside of our skins and inside of our brains. We are neurodiverse and there is no normal.