What I Didn’t Tell My Therapist

There is only one thing I have held back from a therapist in the past, and even that would have been far more beneficial to have said than to have kept to myself. That one thing was “I am actively planning my suicide.”

I held this back because I know that the only two pieces of information a therapist is legally allowed to report (other than child abuse) are 1) if you are planning to hurt yourself or 2) if you’re planning to hurt someone else. If they find this out, they can work to have you held in a hospital for 72 hours to assess your mental health and try to make you safe again.

I held this back because I didn’t want to be stopped in my progress toward suicide. I had already decided and was putting the necessary steps in place for a successful exit. Continue reading

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For Young People Who Hurt; How To Tell Your Parents You Need Help

If you’re a teen or preteen and are currently struggling with your thoughts and behaviors right now, you may be worried that you’re mentally ill and deeply desire to get some relief from these feelings. If you are between the ages of 10 and 18, it is important to know that your brain is going through one of the most severe and extreme changes that it will go through in your life. Symptoms of all sorts of mental illnesses are present in many teenagers and preteens. You may believe that you have more than one mental illness. This may be true, but it probably is not. Basically, if you’re already going through puberty, your brain is utterly overwhelmed. This effect is more severe for some people than others so you may feel that you are not coping as well as your peers. This is still within the realm of normal development. Developing into an adult is painful, and it’s okay to feel that pain. It gets easier. This is good news because it means it is likely that after a few years of misery you will heal and level out, and not be stuck dealing with mental illnesses for the rest of your life, which is the optimal outcome for this awful and miserable situation.

At this point, you may feel that your concerns are being dismissed and you may even be furious with me for suggesting that you are not mentally ill. You have every right to feel that way. I’m sure the symptoms you are experiencing are troubling and hurt tremendously. I also know that these feelings can lead to suicidal behavior. I have attempted suicide twice, and I know first-hand Continue reading

How and Why Mental Illness Is Misunderstood

The brain is incredible, in the true sense of the word. Our whole selves are housed up there in that small mass of cells, nerves, and electricity. Our every sensation, thought, emotion, decision, and feeling are determined by the functioning of that squishy, 3-pound organ behind our eyes.

The brain is complicated and misunderstood. If more people understood the basic tenets of psychology -that we are all the same, and fairly predictable- then we would have a foundation on which to build a societal understanding of mental illness. Instead, people believe that they control every aspect of their own behavior and that others are controlling every aspect of their own behavior as well. This theory only works if everyone is neurotypical. If there were no problem thoughts or behaviors, then it wouldn’t matter that people didn’t know how much of their behavior was not at all their choice. Once you introduce the idea that we are little flesh machines operated by our brains, you must accept that you only have some control over your own thoughts and behavior, not complete control. If those thoughts or behaviors get out of hand, you’re going to need some concrete and specialized help to heal them.

The causes of mental illness are Continue reading

The Abnormal Life

 

A person with multiple severe mental illnesses, like myself, will never lead a “normal” life. We are not neurotypical, and cannot lead neurotypical lives. We live our own special brand of lives. These lives can be worthwhile, rich, and rewarding, even though they do contain immense suffering.

Of course, trying to get as close to normal as possible is the first big goal of treatment. Medicine, therapy, and coping skills are meant to help minimize symptoms and pain. Medication is more than half the battle, so seeing a psychiatrist and making sure you keep up to date on prescriptions is the biggest single step you can take. If you do not yet have medical treatment, you will need to work out a plan to get to a psychiatry appointment. You can involve loved ones in this. Do not be shy about asking for help. Your quality of life is on the line, and I guarantee you that you have at least one person in your life who does not want you to suffer. Ask that person to take you to the doctor. You deserve to have treatment. You deserve to live in less pain. You deserve to have your needs met.

Finding the right medicine can take time, but sticking with it until your cocktail is correct is worth the time and suffering of the trial and error process. The long-term goal is remission, and the short-term goal is the amelioration of pain. It can feel hopeless, but please don’t give up. Continue reading

Staying In A Psychiatric Hospital: A Story In First Person

It starts out scary and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be there. I was already suicidal, and here I was voluntarily giving up every comforting thing I had in my life: people, places, and things, in order to commit myself to not dying.

Fuck. I should have killed myself, this is going to be unbearable. My soul is on fire and we haven’t even completed the intake interview. Yes, I am suicidal. Yes, I do have a plan. No, I’m not on any medication. Please make my mother my emergency contact. Yes, I understand that I will not be released until the doctor determines that I am no longer in danger.

I’m on the ward itself, and I hurt all over. I’m in a mixed-state episode: irritable, hopeless, suicidal, full of energy, thoughts racing, sad beyond measure. I’ve never felt these things before; it’s one of my first mixed state episodes and I have zero in terms of coping skills, as well as zero self-knowledge of what is happening to me. I pace the hallway for a while, splash my face in the bathroom, spy at other patients from my bedroom door, lay on the bed, try to read a book my mom brought for me. My soul is still on fire.

I’ve been here for three hours, and I’m in agony. I can’t take one more minute of this. I have to get out. NOW. I take my phone charger, tie it as tight as I can around my neck, making sure I can’t breathe, get up on a chair next to the tall bathroom door and wrap the other end of the charger around the hinge. I kick the chair out from under me. Continue reading

How Mental Illness Affects My Life

I am disabled because of my mental illnesses. I have bipolar II, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed when I first presented my bipolar symptoms at age 19, 12 years ago. I also dealt with major depression as a child.

I am disabled because I have mixed-state, rapid cycling episodes with psychotic features. That means I have episodes with severe depression, mania, and anxiety all at once, in addition to having hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. What an episode looks like for me is here: What Is a Mixed-State Episode? – The Goldfish Painter

One way my mental illnesses affect me is by reducing the number of things I can do successfully. I cannot work a job, because my episodes are not safe or appropriate for a workplace. I frequently need monitoring if I’m trying to complete tasks. At home, during an episode, there is a long list of things I can’t do, including driving, using knives, mowing the lawn, washing dishes, and lighting any of the gas appliances, because if I make a mistake with any of these tasks I can accidentally hurt myself or others. I have no desire to burn down the house. If I have an episode in public, I need help from a loved one to Continue reading

What I Didn’t Tell My Therapist

There is only one thing I have held back from a therapist in the past, and even that would have been far more beneficial to have said than to have kept to myself. That one thing was “I am actively planning my suicide.”

I held this back because I know that the only two pieces of information a therapist is legally allowed to report (other than child abuse) are 1) if you are planning to hurt yourself or 2) if you’re planning to hurt someone else. If they find this out, they can work to have you held in a hospital for 72 hours to assess your mental health and try to make you safe again.

I held this back because I didn’t want to be stopped in my progress toward suicide. I had already decided and was putting the necessary steps in place for a successful exit. Long story short, I lived.

Now, I tell my therapist everything, because I need her feedback on Continue reading

Can Two People with Mental Illness Be Friends?

 

It can be excellent for people with the same mental illness to be around each other or be friends. This is beneficial is because those two people will have something in common that most people are not familiar with. They will be able to share coping skills, insights, affirming words of wisdom, and empathy. Because of having a shared perspective, mentally ill friends are more likely to feel less alone in their struggle because they have a friend by their side who has struggled in the same ways they do.

For example, during my last stay in a psychiatric hospital (in 2008), seven of the other nine people on the ward were bipolar like me. We had a very good and helpful time with each other by sitting around sharing our stories. I think I healed more from spending time with them than from the daily group therapy sessions. There was no infighting or hostility. Some bipolar people are mean or hostile, but it is not a symptom of bipolar. Those people would be mean and hostile without bipolar. Basically, some people just suck, and some of the people who suck happen to be bipolar (or blonde, or Chinese, or left-handed, or optimistic… get it?). It was incredibly helpful to me to be around all these vastly different people who shared my struggle. Some of them were people I never would have talked to on my own, but since we had this massive thing in common, I gained wisdom from everyone there, even those who had very different opinions, levels of education, and political leanings than I do. Continue reading