It’s beginning to feel like it’s just depression

Which actually makes me feel better. Strange as that sounds. I was hoping I wouldn’t end up with winter/time change/holiday depression since changing my medicine in the first half of the year but apparently I’m not that lucky. Saw my psychiatrist yesterday and she commented that “The thoughts are cutting but you aren’t cutting.” and that’s a pretty good way to put it.

I don’t have a lot of family or things to worry about over the holidays so I feel like I shouldn’t be upset or triggered or stressed or what have you but apparently it’s not that easy. Holidays are a void I struggle with instead.

I’ve spent more time staring at my knitting thinking I should be working on something than actually knitting. I have one gift project started and a few others that have been planned but those also feel the weight of that word ‘should.’ Hmmm. Working on those gift knits would help with that aforementioned void. I bet.

With doing EMDR therapy over a month now, which is for my PTSD and dissociation and childhood trauma, I think my mood has been a little “off” as well … so add in the time of year and things have gone … somewhere.

I’m also doing NaNoWriMo but it’s kinda been a failure. I haven’t even hit 10,000 words and halfway through the month I should have at least 25,000. More words than I had November 1st. And no blog posts for over a month too! That’s a sign depression has creeped in.

Oh and can’t bring up writing without mentioning anxiety! Anxiety that won’t ever go away. Anxiety leading me to avoid things I usually like doing. Didn’t realize that was a thing I might do until recently.

My chronic diseases also haven’t been helpful but I guess they never are are they. It’s more like they’ve been more overwhelming than usual. I’ve had more back pain all the month of November so far – which doesn’t help a writing schedule one bit. I’m trying to taper down on my daily prednisone from 5 mg to 4 mg and after 2 and a half weeks maybe I’m getting back to normal. Back to normal in this case is not needing an hour nap almost every day. Still tired, but I’m mostly functioning at home.

So it’s probably not something medical, it’s probably just depression. It’s weird to hear myself say “just depression” but …. that’s how it is. At least right now. I think I get through this by going through the motions and pretending. Yea, I think that’s it. Right?

And here’s some wisdom from inspirobot. Thanks inspirobot.

Writing for Preptober 2019

Since I haven’t been in the mood to write I’m going to try writing here. Following the prompts from here I’m going to do the first three days in one go. Here it goes.

All about you

Hmm. How detailed to get? I’m 39 (holy shit) and from the Northeast US but now I live in Texas. I was adopted and have complicated thoughts about family. I have two college degrees, including a Master of Science in Applied Sociology but I don’t work because of my mental and physical health problems. Physical health problems include multiple sclerosis so I have chronic pain too. My easier to talk about mental health problems include anxiety and depression. I see doctors/medical professionals a lot. I’ve been married for (uh, counts) 11 years. My husband and I have 4 cats and a house. (Easier to have 4 cats in a house than an apartment.) Yes, 4 cats can be a lot of work but (usually) it’s worth it.

What else? Hobbies? Right, hobbies. Computer games, knitting, reading. (Mostly comics and fantasy. With some nonfiction.) Does watching Netflix count? I’m a Supernatural fan (the show). Since I have 2 tattoos at least in part inspired by Supernatural I guess I’m a pretty big fan. (No anti-possession tattoos here.) I don’t get out a lot, partly because of my health, partly because of the time required to get anywhere around the terrible urban sprawl that surrounds Dallas.

Let’s move onto “why you write” shall we? This is where it gets messy.

I write because I need something since I can’t work. And because I have the time. Writing fulfills having my brain work and analyze. I love the actual process of writing. I loved writing in grad school – except when I didn’t. The worst part about writing is that I don’t get new ideas often. My brain is too busy doing other unnecessary things or dealing with chronic pain to be that creative that regularly. That’s why my blog doesn’t see new content regularly. Beyond that, what really resonates with me is writing the book you want to read. There are certain things I wish there was more of in fiction. One such thing is more characters with mental illness who are getting on just fine despite their mental illness. (Like this one.) Another is characters who are women who contribute to the story and drive the story. Women with agency. There’s more of such books available now though. (Like this series.)

I’m getting off track. I write because I love words. Words have a power that not everyone recognizes. I write because it uses my brain. That’s closer to the truth. I write so I can create. And I think probably I keep writing, or trying to write, because it’s painful. When I’m writing I’m winning out over my mental illnesses; I’m showing depression I can see through its games and lies. And I write because. because. Because it’s amazing to create something out of nothing. Because I can. Someday I’ll actually write words and scenes and finish a story.

On that note… my goals.

I’ve never done Preptober seriously before, not with enough planning or logical goal setting. (“I’m going to write.” is not a goal.) I’m hesitant to make any specific goals for October beyond my (new) standard of 900 minutes or 15 hours because of my doctor appointments. No wait, not hesitant. Scared. This year is the most prepared I’ve ever been since I my first NaNoWriMo in 2012. I wrote utter trash in 2012 that doesn’t need to see the light of day ever again, but it was great practice. This is also the first year I’m part of an (online) writing group for November NaNo. I’ve been developing this story for almost a year. It’s improved quite a bit in that last year but I have invested a lot of energy and I won’t start writing words that turn into scenes that make a story until November 1.

Right now I’m working on a synopsis that can be the framework for an outline but it’s illustrating where I have holes in my story development. So my goal for October is to get as much of that synopsis completed as possible. However, I also know that’s not a good goal. It’s not specific enough. So I think my goal is to push through the fear and keep writing. Yea, that’s my goal!

I will push through the fear, anxiety, and second guessing and keep writing. Keep moving forward. And maybe someday learn to shut up that “inner critic” because I can’t figure out what I like best for my story if I don’t write it down first. I should write that down somewhere so I don’t forget it.

Preptober!

I’m doing it a little different this year. I’ve been working on my idea for NaNoWriMo in November since … April? Developing and prepping and redeveloping and restarting and procrastinating and, well, you get the idea. Actually maybe it’s been a year, it’s improved since the original idea though. Woah it’s improved. Anyways.

I learned about preptober from here first. I think. I also knew about prepping for nanowrimo from nanowrimo but never dug into it. I’m also sorta doing this. Uncertain how to share any of the content from the prompts though. Maybe here?

I’m still working through Planning Your Novel by Janice Hardy but I’m up to workshop 10 now. It’s been a slow process with all my doctor appointments and quite a few health problems over the year – like having shingles twice and then medicine making me feel worse on top of everything. Now I’m doing EMDR therapy which is sapping some of my creative mental energy but I’m still moving forward. Dammit I am!

I finished my 900 minutes (15 hours) goal in September despite having 14 doctor appointments. I’m going to make my goal 16 hours (or 960 minutes) for October which should be doable since I have less doctor appointments in the month of October. My goal for October is also to finish the working synopsis as much as I can – which is being held up by figuring out my antagonist.

And so far I’ve also updated social media icons with these and created my project.

Talking about EMDR

I want to write a blog post about my experiences with EMDR so far but I don’t know where to start so I’m just going to talk about EMDR for a bit. My experiences are different from others since my memories are very fragmented and my flashbacks are mostly emotional and my intrusive thoughts are for more recent events. I can access very few memories of my childhood. 

EMDR therapy is weird and hard. It can also be interesting to see what thing pops up in my brain when in the middle of EMDR therapy. There’s lots of details to the process that you can find with a simple Google search. It’s harder to find information on how it will make you feel. It took awhile for my therapist to decide that I was ready to start EMDR. Based on my experience with my therapist, you don’t start EMDR until you are ready to start EMDR. I had to get better at self soothing before starting. 

I dissociate during EMDR but I’m not reliving a specific memory/event so that’s something else that is different from what other people understand – if I understand this correctly. I’ve fought through worse episodes of dissociation too. In fact it’s different because I’m not fighting my brain to stay in the present, my brain is leading. And I’ve been okay to drive home alone after.

I’ve had 3 sessions of EMDR and none of them have been severe or distressing (yet?). I’ve also (already?) started to have memories come back outside of EMDR. That part is weird an uncomfortable but since I’m better at self-soothing and my meds have helped my nightmares it hasn’t been terrible. I’ve been nervous before each session and I don’t expect that to change. However, after the last session dealing with the post EMDR brain isn’t as hard as the time before…. So that’s obviously not going to be the same every time. 

Right, post EMDR brain is hard. The day of my appointment I end up feeling like I did something strenuous – because I did. I compare it to completing a final in college – the kind that takes like an hour in class and you walk out relieved it’s over. It’s draining because your brain is doing a lot. Last time I ended up with a migraine – but that’s not guaranteed either. I’ve had to take it easy after every (full) session of EMDR. Less focus is pretty common for me. 

Overall I can say that EMDR isn’t as scary as I imagined it but it is as hard as I imagined it to be. But healing isn’t easy. 

August writing workflow notes

I didn’t manage as much writing time in August compared to July. I think Camp NaNoWriMo was extra motivation. A big part of all of this tracking is to find what I can succeed at despite the aspec

I increased my goal past what I did in July, to 1320 minutes or about 43 minutes a day. I finished my July goal of 1080 minutes.

For August I worked for 920 minutes for the month. Few things interfered, like my birthday and some PTSD stuff. I worked on writing for 900 minutes in April so I feel like 900 is a reasonable minimum.

For tracking I made note of the estimated time I worked, the estimated total minutes I worked, and where I worked. I went to Starbucks 6 times in the month of August and 9 times in the month of July – when I wrote more.

I suspect I need to clean up clutter at home more and I’ll be less distracted when working at home.

As far as content is concerned? August was definitely a success with more details down on paper for my plot embryo and working through more of Janice Hardy’s Planning your Novel.

I continued to track what I worked on every day I wrote separate from the number/time tracking and I think that works well. I make note of what I made progress on with a + and make note of what I think I need to work on next with a bullet point. This is especially helpful when looking back on old notes.

Overall, August was still a success.

For September I’m going to make my goal 900 minutes – or 15 hours. At the current time I have ten doctor/medical appointments, including starting emdr therapy, in the month of September. This is up from August (6) so I’m not going to try increasing my goal yet.

I think, thanks to experimenting during Camp NaNoWriMo that I finally found something that helps me feel like I’m making progress in my writing, especially since I’m not actively writing and still developing and brainstorming.

I definitely recommend working on time goals in Camp NaNoWriMo if you’re trying to build a routine for writing. Appointments on a digital calendar on your phone help too.



July Camp NaNoWriMo Goal Achieved – and future plans

I was going to summarize each week of July Camp NaNo but I guess I got too busy writing to write blog posts! I did finish my goal of 1080 minutes or 18 hours for July 2019 Camp NaNo. I actually went a little over with 1155 minutes total.

I will definitely continue to summarize what I worked on and what I think I should work on next every day that I write. I’ll continue to keep the summary in my notebook for my current project. That way it’s really easy to look back at what I’ve done when I’m stuck on what to work on next… at least before I get to writing an outline.

Unfortunately, this project notebook has absolutely no organization at this point. In my experience, if you want to create a project bullet journal like for writing but don’t know how you want to arrange or organize, just dive in. You’ll need to use it and figure out your workflow to know how to organize the journal.

Most of the month was spent on developing some world building and the plot embryo concept I mentioned in my last blog post. I find the plot embryo concept extremely useful because once you have some of the slices of the pie, other slices start to fall in line. I had good luck with these world building exercises . I’m still using Planning Your Novel by Janice Hardy too.

My goal for August is 30-60 minutes of writing a day. I’m aiming for 1320 minutes which is an hour a day Monday through Friday only. I have a few more doctor appointments this month but hopefully they won’t interfere.

Past that, my goal is to be able to start outlining come October 1st for writing in November for NaNoWriMo. I have no idea if I can meet that goal since I’ve never developed a novel in this way before. I’ve been more of a “pantser” in the past because of an utter lack of understanding of story format and structure.

In hindsight I know I’ve never made it this far before because of my mental illnesses interfering — no severely interfering — with my fatigue, focus, and, well, general outlook on lie. It’s amazing how much my mental illnesses and how much I didn’t realize until the wall started to come down.

I’m going to keep pushing forward. I still have a lot of questions to answer before I can start outlining my story.

Camp NaNoWrimo July Edition – Week 1 complete

Doing more new things. The biggest thing I’ve learned so far this year is tracking how long I’ve worked on my project and what I’ve done is extremely helpful. For Camp NaNoWriMo I’ve tracked time because I’m working on making writing routine. It worked very well in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I keep track of the time in my regular/daily bullet journal and the content tracking is in a separate project journal. (I’m not sure I’d call it a bullet journal, maybe slightly inspired by bullet journal format?)

I’ve found that my spread for tracking time spent writing shouldn’t be that structured. This month I have 2 lines for the time period spent, the minutes I’m counting towards my goal, where I was and if I had a doctor appointment. I’m didn’t lay out the entire month all at once so I had more room.

I’m doing similar for tracking what I worked on. I write day of week/date and then summarize in bullet points what I worked on/want to work on, only after I’m done writing for that day. Stuff I worked on has a + because it was added. Stuff I want to work on has a bullet (.) just like basic bullet journaling to do lists. Word counts and time do not go with the content tracking.

Sorry, no pictures of my journals currently. Nothing pretty here.

Now for my progress. In April my updated goal was 800 minutes because I find it easier to count minutes. I think I started with an arbitrary 600 minutes and was surpassing that easily. I wrote for more than 800 minutes in the month of April too.

I tracked again in May and June but things fell apart for a variety of reasons. (Having shingles again didn’t help.)

My goal for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo is 1050 minutes. (I started at 999 minutes but adjusted it so I my numbers could be more “even”.) It’s July 8 and I didn’t write yesterday so that’s 7 days of writing. For 4 of the 7 days I wrote for an hour, other 3 days I wrote for less time. And you know, why not have it at an even 18 hours for the month? So now my goal is 1080 minutes.

Right now I’m at 405 minutes or 6.75 hours of 1080 minutes or 18 hours. I have room to increase my goal more but I’m going to be busier next week and might write less.

Content wise I’m working up to writing up like the third version of a plot embryo for my protagonist. I’m also working on this set of writing prompts by Better Novel Project.

Depression’s weakness

Image by Inspirobot - reads "Revelations are kind of a turn on" with what I think is the picture of a tall building in the background.

The other day I found myself looking at a book I was super excited about and received as a winter holidays gift some years ago. I’ve never read that book. There’s so many other books we own I haven’t read either. Why you ask? I realize now, with the work of done with a new therapist and a new psychiatrist that it’s because of depression. I always thought it was so many other things.

Staring at that book on the shelf surrounded by other books I haven’t read I decided the worst thing about depression is when you’re actually excited about the potential of something but you’ve never able to follow through. Depression taunts you with the potential of all the things you could be doing if you had the focus, energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. (That list is probably near endless. I’m trying to generalize.) You’d probably have more energy too if you weren’t looking at all the things you should or could be doing that are impossible because depression. Depression steals your action, your follow through, your doing.

It’s like a book sitting on your shelf, taunting you. Why haven’t you read me yet? Why? Why? Why?

Depression is sneaky and knows how to protect itself so it lies. It tells you there’s other answers to the questions of why. When you have depression, the answer is depression… except depression tells you it’s because you aren’t good enough, or it’s your illness (and therefore nothing you can do about it), or you’re afraid, or it’s the actions of another person, or, or, or, or….. There’s so many other answers to that question that aren’t true. (And yes, some that are, but we aren’t focusing on that right now!)

That’s depression’s weakness. You can do something about depression.

You can reach out and talk to people (even though it sounds impossible), take medicine, work with a therapist or counselor, read about techniques like cognitive behavior therapy, take different medicine (because the first one didn’t work), exercise, journal or write, eat chocolate, and … something that works for you that I haven’t thought of … It’s a long list. You might have to find what works but I promise something does.

Important note: I assume you have access to healthcare which also means you can also afford healthcare.

Doing something about depression is work. But it’s work worth doing because you can get back to doing life instead of just wishing you could do life.

One more important note. The details and feelings of depression are different for different people so maybe this doesn’t apply to you. (Like I have chronic illnesses and other mental illnesses so my depression is different.) Also, I’m not talking about being glum or sad or down for a few weeks or having bad days. I’m talking about being diagnosed with depression (or needing diagnosed with depression). If you want definitions, go here.

National Suicide Prevention Life Line

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Trans Lifeline

I am a survivor

I am the sum of all my parts. Even the broken bits and the parts I don’t like. The cracks are proof that I’m still alive.

People tell people with chronic illnesses to not let their illness define their identity. People say are you sure you want that ‘label’ in relation to being diagnosed with mental illness(es).

Well. Chronic illness makes you feel all kinds of things. I’ve come to believe that people without chronic illnesses don’t understand how it’s part of your identity and always will be. Every time I leave the house I have to account for a list of things a ‘normal and healthy’ person doesn’t. That’s part of who I am.

The same goes for mental illness. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression over a decade again. In the past 5(?) years I started to wonder that there was something else. There were other things about my brain that made life hard to cope with, and they weren’t anxiety or depression. There’s been so many times I felt broken. Because I couldn’t remember something (from yesterday, this morning, or three years ago) or confused because I forgot where I was going when I was halfway there. I often feel disconnected – from everything – including myself. My therapist at the time dismissed these concerns. More than once. Hindsight says why didn’t I go elsewhere? But logically, I know it’s because I was too busy trying not to drown. (Now I know what a shitty therapist is like.)

Before now I was scared to learn more about my traumatic first five years of life and how that trauma effects me as an adult. Neglect and abandonment are just the traumas I know of for sure. In fact I have focused on my physical health until the last year or so. I wanted to be “normal” so I could go back to work. In that time my mental health suffered more. Probably. And I’ve survived too much stuff to be “normal” – but that’s the thing. I was strong enough to survive.

Last year I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. (It’s probably cPTSD but I haven’t remembered to ask my doctor.) So I have more labels. But the labels are important because now I can get the treatment I need.

Now I understand much about the effects of trauma on the body, how these effects stick around, and what I can do to heal. I’m working on it and I still feel broken but now more importantly I realize I’m a survivor. Understanding trauma has given me some answers but theres so answers I’ll never have.

I’m broken and sometimes I feel like a mess but I’m still whole. I’m sick but that doesn’t make me less. I’m strong and I’ve always been stronger than I realize. I’m a survivor.

…. This post has sat as a draft for a long time. I’ve edited it a few times. I’m not sure the point, but I still feel I should publish it instead of deleting it.

My new novel bullet journal

For the last… year? I’ve been working on my writing process when I haven’t been working on my physical and mental health. Needless to say, it’s a slow process.

Besides learning brainstorming techniques and recognizing the difference between plots, ideas, and premises, I’ve also been working on how best to organize my writing so that I don’t feel overwhelmed.

Currently, I’ve started a general writing reference journal and I just started a writing tracking bullet journal (ish). Everything clicked when I found cheap and decent quality soft sided notebooks at Michels.

I’m using Planning Your Novel by Janice Hardy to reorganize and flesh out my Sci-fi/fantasy story idea before I try again to outline.

This was my first version to keep track of my progress:

It’s got a number of issues… And I realized I need a begin date if I’m going to have a date completed.

So with my new journal and some new stickers I now have this

It’s so much cleaner and easier to read. The exercises come from the book and what I’ve written out is in the contents page. I do also recommend the book, especially if you are like me and struggled with your writing process and don’t necessarily have the time, energy, endurance, or money for classes.

I’m adding 30 days of worldbuilding next. It’s a completely free fantasy world builder guide offered in multiple formats at www.web-writer.net/fantasy.

I’ve just now realized that my parallel world idea requires world building twice so I’ll be duplicating this page.

I haven’t decided if I want to write in this journal or keep it primarily for tracking and write on loose leaf paper instead.

I’m also adding a plot embryo tracking page and I glued in some reference material for writing a plot embryo. (Posting this via my phone, Google Rachael Stephen plot embryo for more info.)

If you’re reading this, is there anything you think that’s important that I’ve missed?

Camp NaNoWriMo: what I learned in April 2019

I know, it’s halfway through May. I’ve been…working on my bullet journal! Yea. Seriously though, I’ve been writing!


If you’re planning to write Camp NaNoWriMo in July, I recommend tracking minutes, not hours.

I whole heartedly recommend using bullet journal techniques to keep on top of your novel development – but I have yet to figure out what I like best so if you’re here looking for bullet journal recommendations I might not be any help. I also have no idea what format to use for a novel bullet journal. I’ve tried some stuff in a bound book and all sense of organization is lost so binders are better…. but then I ran into issues with different kinds of paper being harder to flip through and I think I might need better quality paper? Little things that might seem like acceptable allowances or compromises now might not work later. Learn what you like and what works for you and stick with it.

So, here’s my list.

  • Tracking something besides word count helps a ton. This is the first time I did any kind of bullet journal style tracking other than word counts. Turns out it’s important to track something besides words.
  • Brainstorming takes more brain power than writing scenes but I can still spend more time on it than I thought I could. I had multiple productive hour long sessions.
  • Brainstorming is idea development. You already have something, like a question, when you start. You are *not* looking at a blank page.
  • There’s lots of ways around blank pages.
  • Brain dumps are useful on a semi regular basis when I’m trying to get an idea figured out. Brain dumps are vomiting ideas onto paper or screen.
  • Organization is your friend and you aren’t as organized as you think you are, or I’m not anyways.
  • It’s important for me to write long hand on paper and on the computer. They both make my brain work in different ways. Paper is mostly better and might be easier to organize.
  • Once I get to the 8000-12000 words window in Scrivener I need to clean up my files and organizing or I got lost and don’t write anything. I noticed it with my current project and this seems to be the window where I start to lose my focus. Preferably, I can stop this from happening at all.
  • When I get lost and lose focus on what I’m doing is when I feel overwhelmed.
  • I need to experiment more on bullet journal techniques and what to keep track of where. By this I mean tracking more than just words or time. I also mean story items that have to do with characters, plot, setting, theme, etc.
  • Write in pencil because then you can erase!
  • Write on both sides of the paper for idea development that’s list based but not when you’re doing a brain dump.
  • You are *not* a pantser.
  • Be patient with yourself. Learning your writing process is a lot more complicated than I once thought.

I think that’s everything. For now. I’m sure I’ll learn more this month. For May I’ve got a page on my blog for tracking time and a page in my binder for tracking too. We’ll see which one I stick with come June.

Why I want to write a book

I have more than a few hurdles that make writing daily difficult. These include my health – physical and mental, as well as my regular doctor appointments.

Beyond that, I’ve realized in the past 6 months or so that the biggest things that stop me from making progress and building momentum in my writing are staying organized and continuing to track my progress – or not knowing how to track my progress. They make it difficult for me to remember why I want to write a book (or two, or three, or more).

  • I enjoy the writing process. I hate the beginning, when you’re starting, like everyone else who’s human, but I love the actual process; regardless of whether it’s a blog post, a thesis paper, a short story, or something else.
  • I want to write the kind of story that I wish was available when I was growing up. This falls under the write the kind of book you want to read.
  • I want to write a story that’s focuses on women and girls doing important things and the boys and men aren’t as important to the story. I’ve reached a point in my life where I prefer protagonists that I have something in common with.
  • I’ve recently realized I appreciate books, tv shows, and movies with themes of survival – especially individual survivors. For example, I watch Law and Order: SVU because of the characters on the show who keep going despite all the terribleness in the world. In the past few months I’ve learned also that I identity with the word “survivor” so I’d like to incorporate some of this into a story too.
  • Another that I sometimes forget, is that I want to write a story where the protagonist has a mental illness that makes getting through daily life more difficult – but not impossible. Basically, present mental illness in a way to show that it’s simply part of life.
  • Finally, writing is also learning and I love to learn.

And now I think it’s important to list out why I hate writing –

  • It’s hard.
  • It’s overwhelming.
  • It takes regular work and some days it feels like there’s no reward.
  • It’s difficult for me to stay organized.
  • Sometimes it’s difficult to remember what I was doing or where I was going with the story.
  • Making decisions is hard.
  • I can’t seem to remember the most productive ways to brainstorm.

Research: Borderline Personality Disorder and migraines

Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment and Management — National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). from 2007 but the link to the full pdf can be found here

Borderline personality disorder and migraine. Study from 2007, full article behind pay wall.

Relationship between borderline personality disorder and migraine. Study from 2017. full article behind pay wall.

This one upsets me because doctors seem to group everyone with Borderline Personality Disorder and migraines together, saying they will all abuse their medicine, which isn’t true. Borderline Personality Disorder and the Chronic Headache
Patient: Review and Management Recommendations

This one is a little better because it notes where more research is needed. Personality traits, personality disorders, and migraine: a review

But I still cannot find the article I stumbled on that says people with Borderline Personality Disorder often have longer lasting, more difficult to treat migraines. It sounded like the type of migraine that occasionally destroys my life for the past 5-6 years.

Mental illness and the medical industry

inspirobot meme: Words say "Friendship is life itself. Life itself is friendship."

I really have no idea how to title this post, let alone start it, past picking an image from inspirobot. But here it goes —

As I learn more and more about my PTSD I realize more and more about how ignorant medical professionals and staff are (seemingly willfully at times) about mental illness. The people I expect to have some kind of awareness or understanding seem to have none. Initially I found this shocking, at this point, it’s unsurprising and tiring. I also realize experiences similar to mine – and worse – are not uncommon. I’m referring only to my personal experiences here.

Recently FB memories reminded me that in January 2014 I was basically assaulted and abused by ER staff. Part of the experience included me blacking out, I only know because my husband was present. Through my entire time there, when I was desperate to receive care when my migraines – which had just started to become severe – things continued to be handled badly. (There’s a thing known as patient’s rights – I’m not sure they respected any of them). I didn’t report any of the hospital staff’s behavior because it was too traumatic and I was too new to the going to an ER for a migraine experience. I tried to move on. I thought moving on would be better, safer, easier. It took at least 3 years to stop feeling like I was there when I remembered anything from that night. When I remember it now, it’s closer to a regular memory.

The FB post that triggered quite a few memories:

Reading the memory and posting about it triggered other memories including parts of an interaction with my previous counselor. I can remember talking about having flashbacks to being in the ER, and being confused and scared. I was questioning if they were flashbacks, questioning if it was a sign of PTSD. I was probably in some kind of crisis. She said yes, it’s post traumatic but no it’s definitely not PTSD. Denied that I had any further problems, just was having isolated problems with a difficult experience. Dismissed my emotions.

Not once, in the 4-5 years, with a visit every month on average, that I met with this woman did she ever consider that maybe she should send me to another professional, like a psychologist or psychiatrist. I have come to realize that she denied any chance of me having anything more than anxiety or depression – continually. Almost regularly. I must have started seeing her in 2012 or 2013, well before January 2014 when the shit happened in the ER. She offered me bandaids, and occasional realizations like a few sips of a cool drink, but nothing to actually help me understand my behavior.

I’ve come to learn that her behavior was at least in part, because of the stigma in the medical/healthcare industry that people with mental illness will try to collect more mental illness diagnoses. Sure, some might feel that it’s helpful to do this. I’m not judging them. But not all of us do. When I finally sought testing – an idea she resisted – after learning I might/probably/do have borderline personality disorder, she still resisted this idea and disagreed – but never elaborated on why.

So that’s four years of worsening symptoms – flashbacks, blackouts, dissociating for sometimes days, severe mood swings, and severe migraines triggered by psychological stresses – that maybe I could have had help with sooner. Because I wasn’t educated enough and because this (older) woman was so stuck in her ways of thinking, including her mental health stigmatization, I continued at many times, to not do much better than survive.

I think I have to continue to try to “move on” from all of this. Writing out this jumble might help. Since then I’ve started seeing a new counselor, further trained, and therefore prepared to help me understand my behavior. The new counselor has been a fresh and new experience. I wish that I had sought out testing and “fresh eyes” much sooner than I did but for so many reasons I didn’t. I wish I had “fired” her sooner. Sometimes I debate one more appointment with her to ask why she disagrees with my BPD and PTSD diagnoses/symptoms/presentations. But that’s a $50 question.

I think it’s also important to note that I have found it necessary to only tell some of my doctors that I was diagnosed with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder – because of the stigma, especially of Borderline Personality Disorder – thanks in a large part to TV.

Navigating the (American) healthcare system is difficult in general, and an especially exhausting and stressful ordeal if you are trying to get help for your mental health – assuming you can even afford to do so. Everyone’s experiences with mental illness are different, and everyone’s experiences with medical professionals are different too. Also remember, medical professionals are humans too. Unfortunately, sometimes I think some of them need reminded.

So my point. If you have mental illness and you are trying to get help, keep at it. It’s difficult and scary but worth it in the long run. It took me from July 2018 to November 2018 to finish psychological testing, get all the results, find a new counselor and find a psychiatrist. Now I have a counselor I appreciate and trust who’s warm and friendly. The psychiatrist I found (on the second try) seems to be really laid back and competent.

And if you know someone with mental illness – even if you have mental illness – offer them empathy. Educate yourself. Keep an open mind. Ask them how you can help. Don’t tell them what to do – which is hard when you see people in pain. Sadly, some people will also be in denial all their lives too – but that’s their choice because everyone has to seek care at their own pace.

Remember, you aren’t alone.

Cat Life Recommendations: Catnip toys

Not all catnip filled toys are created equally. We’ve tried quite a few brands and shapes. There’s one specific toy we were introduced to when we adopted Rey and Finn almost 2 years ago. It’s the only catnip toy worth it as far as we are concerned (we includes the cats here.)

brand new catnip banana toy, fresh out of the box
new toy on the right, lightly used toy on the left
catnip banana toy, well loved

Two of our cats will literally tear these open to get at the catnip.

You can find these on amazon dot com, chewy dot com and in pet stores. They are $5 to $6 each. Yes, that seems expensive, but trust me, it’s worth it.