Tag Archives: mental health disorder

Whose mental health are we talking about?

4 Aug

1:58 pm

Lately, I’ve been sort of offline; I just haven’t had the time or ability to wrestle with my thoughts too much these past few days…

A quick life update is that, no, I didn’t get the job I applied for–after a long series of interviews (gah!)–but, that’s OK since there are other jobs out there. I’ve been on the hunt in one way or another since mid-June, and um, I am at the point where I feel like it’s OK (slash, necessary for my mental health) to sit back and let it be for a while. Let it percolate. Enjoy the fact that I was fortunate enough to collect a bit of unemployment, remember that this is just a phase and the economy will rebound, and put some faith in my network. I have worked with a lot of great people over the years, many of whom are still looking out for me, I have no doubt.

Anyway, I’ve got some time to re-focus on this blog and my “e-book project,” which is simply, to compile my posts and self-publish a version of this blog. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and it’s a way for me to sort of close one chapter, as it were. A lot of what I post these days–and will continue to post–isn’t really related to getting sober, and I want to re-read some of my past posts in order to get more of a grip on who I was then and who I am now. It’s a process–and there are probably a LOT more “important” things I could be doing right now and/or thinking about–so I will keep you posted!

What else has been going on? Well, as I think you all remember, I have posted about my parents’ mental health a few times. And, I remain committed to not writing that much about it and them on this blog since it’s not my mental health I’m talking about. However, not writing about it does not mean I don’t think about it a lot–especially as I watch my father devolve, as it were, into what seems to be a worsening mental health “situation.” I mean, if I knew nothing about his past and his personality, and was confronted with only his behavior today–I’d probably avoid him, and then I’d forget about it.

I know from my own experience with alcoholism that MOST people don’t want to know (or admit that they know) about your mental health disorder, or they oversimplify it because they can’t (and don’t want to) delve deep. I like to wonder, I like to ask questions, I like to look for patterns; MANY folks do not.

That being said, I just don’t know what to do about or for my dad–and, if I should do anything? He’s a grown man–in his 70s–yet…from what I can tell, he’s just getting worse. I have to assume that untreated mental health disorders only get worse as you get older. I fear that it’ll all come crashing down, sooner rather than later. Yet, you can’t convince him that there is anything about his behavior he should change–and, a lot does need to change. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t anything I can do at this point; he won’t hear reason, he won’t hear truth, and even if he acknowledges that things need to change, he won’t choose to change. Yet…there is this feeling of, If something happens to him, well, it’s my fault, I should have done more.

It’s probably the feeling one has trying to get an addict into recovery before they’re ready to get sober–and then, who dies from an overdose or suicide. It’s my fault for not forcing them into recovery. I should have done more.

All I can do is let it go, let him go, let his mental health be HIS mental health. What more can one do? I probably think more about his mental health–and how he’s hurt me and others–than he ever will, which is sad, but probably true.

On that note, it’s time to get outside and enjoy some of this sun!

Helping or enabling

1 Jul

11:22 am

I used to think that I knew the difference between helping a person and enabling them–until I was no longer on the receiving end. As someone who drank alcoholically for years, I never had to wonder if I was helping someone or enabling that person. It was their problem, and they had to figure out how to help me without enabling my ill behavior.

These days, I am the one having to decide between helping and enabling during every phone call I make to both parents. I can say, almost without doubt, that both my parents, by choice, are living with untreated mental health disorders that negatively affect their family members.

It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

And there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

What is this called? Transgenerational something–issues, addiction, trauma? I can clearly see my own workaholism in my dad’s behavior; I can clearly see my neurotic thinking and tendency to catastrophize in my mom’s behavior. Yet, both my parents either don’t see it in themselves or choose to not see it. I chose to see it, and I chose to try to fix it, within myself. It’s a work in progress, but I decided that I could no longer live in denial–that was eight years ago.

Let me give a few “for instances”: I recently found out that my dad and his second wife are divorcing; she served him papers, and he seems to be in this state of “I don’t know why on Earth she would want to divorce me” haze that is just, well, utter bullshit. He knows; the problem is, on our calls, he denies knowing and spins a tale of what he believes has happened (versus the reality, which I know, because my step-mom and brother have seen or heard different versions from him, and they’ve told me about those). The question is, do I listen and not say anything, or do I confront him on his denial? I have tried a version of the latter, but he is deep in his denial so it doesn’t work. Yet, allowing him to go on without being questioned just reinforces this behavior–enabling him to keep it up without facing any kind of consequences.

The last time I talked to my mom, she was complaining about her health issues, about she was feeling overwhelmed and alone. I feel bad for her, but, after decades of telling her what she knows she should do, she’s chosen to not expand her social circle to include even one friend! She chooses to obsess about her health issues instead of letting them go/be; I get that it’s hard, and she has a lot of problems. However, no matter how “bad” you’ve got it, at some point, you have to choose to stop the mental looping and try something else–maybe, meditation, or yoga, or staying on medications consistently, or believing that these medications will help (there is power in placebo; she knows this, as a former nurse). Now, I could tell her, again, that she should do this, that, and the other; she can say, yes, I know I should do that, and then, she can not do it–or, I can just listen and then hang up, not really telling her how I feel because it doesn’t seem to change her behavior, which is in essence, a form of enabling as well!

Why do I feel guilty–and somehow responsible–that my parents, both of them well into their 70s, are very seemingly stuck and unhappy? And, even more guilty that I have decided to give up on helping both of them, wishing their choices were different but not trying to engage anymore in a discussion about any of it? What if it does not end well for my dad, who is soon going to discover just how much of the physical, daily burden my step-mom carried? Should I feel like it was my fault, that I didn’t help him enough by literally screaming the truth, as I know it, into his ear? Same with my mom: should I just let her be, grasping but unwilling, or should I continue to force the issue of personal responsibility for one’s own happiness?

I have chosen, after all these years of getting sober–it was a lot of work to extricate myself from these learned behavioral patterns, some of which really affected me and “caused” my drinking problem–to just let it go. Let. It. Go. I can’t care that much about their problems; I can’t keep trying to “reason” with them when they don’t want to change, essentially.

Is this what it feels like to try to help an addict or alcoholic who is not ready to get sober yet? Maybe…

Insomnia is a mental illness

8 Jun

11:40 am

And, actually, it IS! According to Medscape:

The DSM-5 defines insomnia as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms: Difficulty initiating sleep. Difficulty maintaining sleep, characterized by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings. Early-morning awakening with inability to return to sleep.

What I mean, however, is that insomnia causes mental illness (and that is part of its definition, too, in the DSM). For me, personally, that means anxiety, depression, and relatively speaking, “suicidal” thinking (i.e., what’s the point, everything sucks). I had one of my nights the night before last, and it took almost the entire day for me to rebound, to feel like myself again–to come out of the depths and to be able to think positively.

Honestly, it feels WAY too much like a night of blackout drinking and the next-day hangover from blackout drinking: you’re in and out of sleep, you’re having nightmares, you’re angry–oh, boy, does insomnia make me irrationally angry–and you’re delusional. It truly is horrifying, doubly so because it is like a replay of one of the MILLIONS of blackout-drunk/next-day hangovers I’ve had over the course of my drinking career (which gratefully ended when I started this blog eight years ago). It really does feel like I’m hungover the next day, too: intense anxiety, forcing myself to get out of bed, depression, this sense of darkness around my world and goals, the inability to think clearly, the list goes on and on.

Usually, I experience nights of insomnia caused by perimenopause–sometimes, I can’t fall asleep because I am burning up or otherwise wired wide awake; usually, I wake up after three or four hours sleep and can’t fall back to sleep. This time, however, it was because my stomach was cramping all night long (I have been toying with going on the keto diet; however, I am definitely crossing eggroll-in-a-bowl off my list of things that I can eat–LOL). I had some crazy nightmares, too: one was, the brother who wrote me off (after a bad blackout verbal assault!) was attacked by Trump supporters; the other was, our house, with floor-to ceiling windows looking out onto the ocean, was being flooded by HUGE waves that we could see come crashing down on our roof…and inside was a friend who ghosted me in 2017 (she just stopped emailing and texting, after 11 years of friendship, and I have never learned why). God, it was a dark night!

The next day, yesterday, I gave myself what turned out to be a gift: I went to our local Humane Society and spent the morning walking dogs! It felt really good to get out of my head, outside myself, and just help others, even if those others were fur-balls! Later in the evening, I went alone to our closest beach and took a sunset soak. It gave me the chance to remember how many times volunteering my time, helping others, actually saved me from myself. Getting outside myself has been what has saved me more than once from depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with too much self-focus.

It’s Monday, and while the protests are still going on and the COVID is still going on, I have to get on with my life. Which means, rebooting my (professional) writing portfolio and starting to send out ye olde resume. I don’t necessarily believe I won’t get my job back, but…it’s good to consider the possibility that I won’t.

I am eight weeks Facebook-free today, and I feel pretty much great about that. I do miss my actual friends’ posts, and I know that I am missing out on some events and “in the know” activities; however, for the most part, I believe I am not missing anything and I feel better about myself, calmer about the pace and progress of my days. I keep thinking of a few friends especially, wondering how they’re doing; otherwise, most people are simply not on my radar in that way (and, I would venture that most of anyone’s friends on Facebook are not really their friends, per se, people whose lives they’re actually interested in keeping up with). Anyway, I will keep going with it; I might not deactivate as I said I would, but I’ll probably stay off for a while longer, at least. The benefits are just too good!

Our dog is hanging in there; it was a bit sad to walk such fiesty pups at the Humane yesterday and come home to our “old” girl, barely able to hobble around for a few minutes outside. On the bright side, she IS still able to get herself up and down, and she IS still able to walk outside to pee–all good, right? I have come to accept her aging, the process of her aging, a wee bit more with every passing day. It’s part of life; I just wish it wasn’t part of HER life–haha.

Blessings, all, for a good week. Stay strong (or not); either way, you got this.

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

Recovery…from family time

14 Jul

4:04 pm

I’m back from my 4th of July trip to see my dad and mom, back to back–along with my brother.  And, whoa, Nellie, what a (head) trip, indeed!

See, I’m going to be blunt–and maybe it’s not my place, but I have to talk about it:  both my parents suffer (yes, I know they are in pain, which makes me feel pained) from untreated mental health disorders.  We think my dad has bipolar disorder, I think my mom has anxiety and possibly never-diagnosed OCD, and we know for a fact that they’ve both been treated for depression.  Not a big thang, you know, if everyone involved SEES that they are suffering and makes a CONCERTED EFFORT to get and stay in treatment.  But, you know, they don’t.  They are not.  They try to hide or avoid their issues, and they seem to be too afraid to confront them in order to change.

Of course, I get it!  I could be describing MYSELF when I was in the midst of my drinking disorder!  And, I know it takes what it takes, but…  They are both in their 70s!?  I don’t know what to do most of the time except to practice not reacting the way I want to (in anger) and accept their behavior but try to lead and/or engage them in what I see as “healthier” techniques of relating.  It’s just all very hard when these people are your parents and not some strangers, or even someone else’s parents.  Our shared history and my emotional baggage makes it harder to not react emotionally.

It makes me angry to see both of them not really ever seeming to resolve anything on the inside, but mostly, it is just draining to have to deal with it.  I felt so drained coming home, and it took me days to stop being really angry and reactive and just heavy-hearted and like my brain had been scrambled.  To make matters worse, they had these issues growing up, and they affected me in a big way–it took me years to even realize what bizarre coping mechanisms I had developed let alone start dealing with them so that they stopped negatively impacting all of my own relationships, from personal to professional!

I SO want to just out them sometimes, to yell and scream, to tell them “what is wrong with them.”  But, I don’t.  It just doesn’t seem…worthwhile.  I’ve thought about writing a letter, which would allow me to be more measured and empathetic, but again, it just seems like it might be a waste of time.  Plus, I’m not ready to go there AFTER the letter has been read, as in, I don’t have the desire to be that open right now, as their daughter, and/or the ability to play the role of psychologist.  So, I just leave it–with my mom, I think she is trying to work on some of her problems, and my dad, well, I kind of consider him a lost cause at the moment because he’s manic, and it seems like a hallmark trait of mania is that until the person hits bottom, they honestly don’t believe there is anything wrong with their thoughts and behaviors.

It was great, though, to get caught up on on this stuff, and to be with each other, and to just be real.  And a part of me feels sure that somehow, seeing their kids helps them stabilize a bit, normalizes whatever tangent their emotional or thought disorder has taken them on–I imagine our kid-parent bond as a powerful antidote, at least temporarily, to feeling estranged from themselves; it helps me, in a way, to feel less estranged from life, to reel me back into something bigger than myself, gives me a sense of order again, helps me find “myself” again, at least one that I recognize.  I hope that I’m right, and it makes me realize that I should see them more often (I hadn’t actually seen my mom for two years, and with my dad, it had been a year…but before last year, it was three years!).

You would think that all of this would have made me want to drink, and I admit, there were a few moments when I really did think a glass of wine would make it easier to just escape, to get rid of the bad feelings, to disappear for a while.  Of course, I didn’t; I had plenty of time to think about ALL that I’ve worked for the past six years, and how, really, one drink would lead me back to where I was when I started writing this blog in June, 2012.  I’ve had quite a few moments, too, in the past month or so, when I’ve felt SO FUCKING BORED here, in my new home, that I have wanted to “start drinking again.”  It’s weird how in this case, it’s not a glass of wine I want, but the entire habit, or activity, of “drinking again.”

Not to worry:  they are just thoughts, and I have every reason in the world to NOT start drinking again.  In fact, just this morning, as I was listening to a podcast about a man who lost the use of his lower body from a drinking and driving accident, I just felt so…horrible for him, and disgusted for him, but also grateful for the simple beauty of the GRAND, POWERFUL act of getting sober, of being sober.  It does keep going, and it does get better, and I am still feeling wonder-full about it all–in spite of family pressures, and in spite of the occasional side of boredom that comes with the eggs and toast of life!  (haha)  Have a great Saturday, all!

Bad news and your sobriety

19 Jun

1:38 pm

Welp, we are back from a weeklong “birthday” road trip to see my mom and celebrate my big day (well, 44 isn’t really big except for the fact that I am officially in my mid-40s), and um, yeah:  the seemingly constant stream of bad news and overwhelming cynicism (Drumpf, border nonsense, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain) is just TOO MUCH!?  If you only lived in the world of the news media, you would die, mentally and spiritually.  (Which is why I went into science and health journalism.  And, I’ll be the first to say that being a journalist is one of the most emotionally painful jobs out there, and it may very well have been one factor that contributed to Anthony Bourdain’s unhappiness!)

You need to filter it out.  Take a break.  You just cannot think about it all, and take it all in, all the time.  If you’re trying to stay sober–and even if you’re not–it is OK if not necessary to turn off the proverbial radio.

I had this longass post written about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, but I decided to not post it because, what the eff do I know, right?  I mean, I could wax on and on about what I think about life and lifestyle in USA, Inc.–and how our lack of community, increasing lack of empathy, and overall stress levels and competition cause people to lose sight of what’s really important and worth worrying about–but…

I won’t.  Ultimately, I don’t believe you can help other people become and be happy.  You just cannot help other people gain this hard-won prize (if you’re prone to negative self-talk and depression, it is, indeed, hard won).  You can be there for them, and you can tell them things, and you can try to do things that you think will help them, but every single person is responsible for their own happiness.  And, that’s a lesson that most people have to learn!?  And these days, I think that takes a LOT of work because a lot of us live in tiny, isolated bubbles of individual pursuit, punctuated only here and there by other people.

I’ll be honest:  I stopped going to meetings early on because I just could not stand the pressure of other people’s drinking problems AND my own!  And, that worked for me; it was necessary.  As I came up on SIX YEARS SOBER (more or less) a few days ago–and the anniversary of starting this blog on June 14, 2012–I couldn’t help but feel like, so what?  NOW WHAT?  There is so much cynicism and bad news drawing me away from that wonderful period of my life, those years of rebirth, of continuing to appreciate what I accomplished and that getting sober IS a worthy achievement–it almost makes me want to start on the wine again, if ONLY for a break from it all, you know?  Now, imagine combining that frustration with alcohol, drugs, and/or HUGE amounts of self-imposed pressure (Spade, Bourdain)?

I don’t know much, really, when it comes to helping people with mental health disorders.  And, frankly, I almost want to say, we are all mentally ill or scarred, in one way or another.  I think the urge to commit suicide–when you get to that crossroads in your mind–is an individual thing, different for every person who reaches that point.  It’s a puzzle, that’s for sure.

I am feeling a bit frustrated (and those thoughts of drinking again, I know, I can’t just let go), so I am going to get back on my mental water wagon–gym, yoga, journaling, and hopefully, starting some contract work again soon (grateful beyond belief that more work is looming, even if said work is “boring”–I have yet to reconcile making money with doing something I truly love; and, making money is the only way to ENABLE those dreams, so…I say yes to the work).  And, hopefully, we will eventually stumble upon a place that offers soul food for my insides, which are starting to feel kind of empty here.  (Starting?  We’ve hated this bland desert wasteland from day one!  LOL  In all seriousness, we just don’t feel at home here, and since it’s coming up on almost 6 months that we’ve been here, and we STILL don’t have a sense of wanting to be here–I think we might just call it, collect our losses, and move on.)

Onward, then, with courage; but turn the noise off if you need to (and even if you don’t)!  Your mental landscape, creativity, and spirit will thank you.  I’m not saying don’t acknowledge and think about what’s going on in the outside world, but be mindful of your inner world–and what it needs, wants, and rests upon.

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