Tag Archives: Mental health

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.

The deep end

28 May

1:03 pm

I don’t have much time today, so I’m going to dive right in (no pun intended!).

So, as everyone with depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive thought “disorders” knows–at least, intuitively if not consciously–our dark thoughts can intrude on us, control us, and pull us down. They float us toward the deep end, and if we are not careful, they pull us under to a dark, motionless place, a place that is hard to get out of, a place that controls us, a place that traps us. We feel trapped by–and within–our dark thoughts, which may be true (at least for the while that we’re under them, in the deep end).

I don’t know how to explain this any better than with the recent example of the dark place(s) that my picking up trash alone took me; or, talking to both my parents with (relatively) untreated mental health disorders (I have yet to blog about this, but will one day soon). Regarding the former, I just felt pissed off, but almost irrationally so. I mean, yes, there is trash on the side of the road and it sucks that people throw it down, but that does not mean that I necessarily need to get angry about it, think bad things about EVERYONE who lives here, believe that I am defeated and there is no reason to ever go outside again. I don’t need these thoughts, and I don’t need to allow myself to be trapped in this deep end. I can permit myself to let go of, or forget, these thoughts–they are not “real” in the sense that, they are not truth; they are not necessary to think, or to hold onto, in order to find truth in my daily life or to live truthfully.

Same goes for the thoughts I find myself having, uncontrollably, when I talk to either of my parents on the phone. I listen to them, I hear their thought patterns, and I wonder why they have constructed such dark–paranoid, angry, anxious–world views. I think to myself, what you believe, dear parents, how you live your lives, are these really your idea of truth? Yet, I struggle to justify their thoughts and behavior, to try and overlay them on what I would consider a more general construct of reality–most people are not obsessively thinking about doing ONE thing and not doing it for months, years, decades at a time (mom); most people are not setting up businesses on a whim, trying to borrow money against a negative bank balance (dad). I fail to see their realities fitting within the lines of this general construct (which, I admit, is simply based on interacting with many other, different people over the years).

In truth (I believe), I am trying to reason with what is unreasonable–and, that takes my mind to a dark place, a place where thoughts have no doors, no windows, no outlets.

This is a place, I have come to believe, where I do not need to be.

I used to think that I had to think all these thoughts; that these thoughts were supposed to hold court, keep me thinking them until I figured “it” out. I have come to realize that I am either creating an “it” that does not exist (everyone here is a litterbug) or trying to make common sense out of others’ affected or deluded thinking. I do not have to do either! Moreover, I shouldn’t! Not unless I myself can tolerate drowning in the deep end, coming up for air once in a while to glimpse my lighter reality (consciously constructed to be so, over the course of years of getting sober and practicing avoiding the behavioral pitfalls of my own obsessive and/or deluded thinking).

Maybe this post is just crazy-sounding, but honestly, I am beginning to think that all thought might just be a by-product of evolution gone wrong (haha).

I will, one day, write a post about my parents’ mental health; but, I have come to understand that I don’t really know shit (I do know that having a “normal” conversation with either of them is really hard; then again, what is “normal”?). Plus, I never want to talk about other people’s mental health without their express permission and input. Too often, people talk about these things as if they know; mental health “problems” are intricate expressions of the human experience, which comes in infinite forms. Who am I to judge, to talk about someone’s “reality”, especially considering my background and difficulty finding footing in a version of a livable reality of my own?

Anyway, it’s time to go out for a jog since the rain stopped. SO glad we got some rain here, it was getting pretty darn dry!

Our dog is hanging in there; she seems to have had a slight recovery. She can go on walks now, with the help of a sling for her hind end/legs–and most importantly, she WANTS to! I’ve been seeing the puppy in her come out once in a while, which is sweet; she tries to get up and drink water on her own more often than a few weeks ago; and, she regularly wants to go and lay in her spots outside (she loves being outside, always has). I dote on her a LOT, but, I figure, she needs it and um, I need it!

Facebook-free for six weeks and counting. Admittedly, I have kept messenger on my iPad (I do want to receive messages, if people choose to chat via that app versus phone text); and the other day (well, a few times), I clicked on a few Facebook stories and…got sucked in and got annoyed within a matter of a minute or less. SO, for me, it’s better to just stay off it; for reasons that are probably my issue, I just dislike the FOMO and I dislike the feelings that come from FOMO–I am off Facebook because MY mind and heart are much more at peace if I just don’t connect with my “friends” on that platform. I am still considering deactivating after two months, so we’ll see…

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