Some links on Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs

Information and pages to color. The first link is in depth! From a museum!

https://glencairnmuseum.org/newsletter/2019/3/19/hex-signs-sacred-and-celestial-symbolism-in-pennsylvania-dutch-barn-stars

https://owlcation.com/humanities/Dutch-Hex-Sign-Style-Guide

https://globalperspectives.info/coloring/p/pennsylvania-dutch-hex-sign-coloring-pages.html

https://www.sunnybrookstudio.com/patterns-hex.shtml

http://www.supercoloring.com/coloring-pages/arts-culture/pennsylvania-dutch-art

Things I Noticed in Therapy

I’ve decided that when I have something I don’t know where or who to share with I’m going to put it here. Right now in life this will probably be in relation to dissociation and DID.

During therapy today one of my parts came out and talked (can’t remember how it started). This is the first time I noticed that her tone of voice is slightly different from mine! She also prefers shorter sentences and less words compared to my speech patterns.

When we were talking to the therapist sometimes I was in control of the talking and sometimes she was in control. I started sitting differently – more forward – when she was fronting/co-fronting too. I felt like something was sliding back and forth in my brain. Like me and my part were sitting beside each other and sometimes she’d slide the talking block (for lack of anything else to slide) back to me in a hurry because she’d suddenly had enough of having to do the talking but then other times she’d grab it back because she was excited to be doing the talking.

I also feel validated after having this experience because I have such strong feelings, including that my part is happy after having an interaction with someone nice. These feelings are too strong and too real and too present for this to all be made up. Unfortunately I also have a headache.



DID: Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real

characters from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Harry Potter and Professor Dumbledore. with the text: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

Because of working with a therapist to meet and understand my alters or parts, and fighting the urge to declare none of it real, this line really spoke to me.

Since February (2020) I’ve been working with a therapist who’s experienced with dissociation symptoms and DID. Before working with this therapist, a year ago I  worked with a therapist who introduced me to internal family systems therapy and with her guidance I was working to identify my parts. At that time I hadn’t read anything about DID or dissociative disorders and was only recently introduced to the concept of dissociation. I was dissociating a lot but not blacking out completely?? Then that therapist changed jobs and I started seeing a therapist who was experienced in BPD and since I was diagnosed with BPD this seemed like a good thing. We started EMDR. But then the therapist who was doing EMDR with me went on maternity leave so I needed a new therapist. Enter the therapist who’s experienced with DID. So I went back to working on my parts and shared what I’d already learned/identified when I started seeing her. 

Since February I’ve also done some reading on DID and OSDD and so I’ve learned a little… but have so much more to learn. I’ve also read a bit of different dissociative disorder subreddits and picked up some information that way. I haven’t dug into anything too deep because it can lead me to dissociate harder. 

A year ago I had names for two of my parts and identified as many as eight parts but had very little information for quite a few. You have to trick your brain into sharing information. I signed my name to drawings I made, wrote out questions in notebooks, or started a monolog via typing on the laptop hoping the monolog might turn into dialog. All of these things got me different results. 

Everything I learned from tracking my mood for a year

In 2019 I used a “pixel-a-day” spread in my journal to track my mood. To keep it simple I used five colors/moods total with no more than two moods/colors in one day. Two colors in one day usually meant mood swings occurred.

My moods or options for filling out the pixel grid were a mood for the day to summarize how I felt in general. My scale is great, good, average/usual, meh/difficult, and terrible. I did not have a terrible day all of 2019. To be fair I didn’t have anything terrible happen like deaths or break ups or family dinners. Take what you can get. The difficult days usually ended up being when I was having a difficult time coping with my mental illness symptoms. Sometimes the difficult days had triggers like being sick and sickness had more of an effect on my mood than I realized.

I also set up a pixel-a-day tracker for my chronic fatigue. It tracked my fatigue in a similar fashion with a scale of low, usual, bad, and terrible. (Low being good.) I was surprised to find that higher levels of fatigue did not automatically negatively affect my mood like being sick seemed to. I learned that taking a b12 supplement did make a big difference in my fatigue and possibly in my mood. CBD oil might also help me with mood swings.

So the biggest thing I learned is that bad days are never as bad as they seem when you’re in the middle of them. I thought for sure at the beginning of 2019 I’d end up with at least one terrible horrible no good very bad day (who gets the reference?) but I was wrong. Next is that a little part of me enjoyed tracking my mood and fatigue because I could see how my mood and mental illness symptoms improved through the course of the year with work and medicine as well as what helped my fatigue. Sort of related is that looking back at the graph is a reminder that bad moods and difficult days don’t continue forever and even small things can make it better.

And some days I found myself grudgingly admitting I had a good day, despite something that happened to make me feel bad. There’s research that says the brain remembers bad experiences better than good experiences and I feel this acutely. So for 2020 I’m trying to be… more objective? More open minded about rating my moods and we’ll see if that affects the year overall or not.

Overall the pixel-a-day tracker for a journal is fun and as long as you limit the options it’s quick and easy to do every day.

About Seasonal Affective Disorder

What about it? It sucks. A lot. But anyways. I decided to collect some data from a few links on SAD into one place. Some of this is straight copy and paste but all the sources are listed at the bottom.

There seems to be some disagreement on what actually causes SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sources do agree that it’s something wrong with melatonin production. Personally I think too much melatonin makes the most sense.

You’re more at risk for SAD if you’re a woman, younger, live further from the equator, or have family members who have depression or a mood disorder. People with seasonal depression have been found to have 5% higher levels of a transporter protein that whisks serotonin away from the space between neurons and moves serotonin back into the presynaptic neuron, which can lead to depression.

Sunlight in the summer stops this process from happening, but when winter approaches, less sunlight can mean more serotonin ends up hibernating in your neurons, causing seasonal depression. People with SAD may also have issues in the winter with overproducing melatonin, a hormone released in response to darkness and causes sleepiness.

And a few more sources

Most researchers believe decreased access to sunlight plays a role in seasonal affective disorder. Light affects our circadian rhythms, and UV rays can also change how the body processes vital minerals and other nutrients. For example, inadequate sunlight exposure is linked to low Vitamin D, which, in turn, has been linked to depression and other physical and mental health woes. So the effects of darkness on the body—not just darkness itself—might be partially to blame.

A recent study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, bolstered the connection between SAD and inadequate sunlight. It found that weather and climate—including rain and pollution levels—don’t appear to alter mood. But access to sunlight is a major predictor of mental health. In the study, people who lived in regions with shorter, darker days were more likely to experience poor mental health.

Your brain makes melatonin which it needs for adjusting your physical responses to light and dark. Even in this highly techno world, your brain still is reacting to natural light. Your eyes are the window into response to the rhythm of light and dark. When the world starts to darken into shorter days, if your brain is not manufacturing sufficient melatonin, getting drowsy and waking up becomes a challenge. Too drowsy and not energetic are the hallmarks of SAD. If you have a brain that does not make enough melatonin or that does not respond easily to the circadian rhythm you may have the biology that creates SAD.

There’s also reduced vitamin D production.

Risks

Levels of stress – like a history of stressful holiday events with family, trauma, age – younger people are more at risk, sex – women are more at risk, having a close family member with SAD or a personal history of depression, and living farther away from the equator all increase your chances of developing SAD.

Symptoms

Most people’s symptoms occur and resolve at the same time every year. Also, it can happen in the summer.

Personally I find that SAD has all my own depression symptoms with a few additions, like excessive sleep.

People with SAD often experience depressive symptoms which are less severe than those associated with major depressive disorders. Though suicidal thoughts can and do occur—particularly if SAD is left untreated—these thoughts are less common. Some common symptoms include:

  1. Low energy, feelings of grogginess, or excessive sleep. People with summer SAD may experience insomnia.
  2. Changes in appetite. People with SAD are vulnerable to weight gain. SAD sometimes causes carbohydrate cravings, because carbs offer a temporary energy boost.
  3. Irritability and anger.
  4. Changes in your relationships with others: People with SAD often feel lonely and rejected.
  5. Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  6. Feelings of guilt.
  7. Dread or uncertainty about the future.
  8. Loss of motivation.
  9. Anxiety.
  10. Feelings of sadness.

And a few more:

  • restless activity, such as pacing
  • crying, often with no apparent trigger
  • feelings of fatigue, even after a full night’s sleep
  • sleeping for too long
  • increased appetite
  • social withdrawal and a reduced interest in activities that once provided pleasure
  • difficulty concentrating
  • overeating and possible weight gain
  • suicidal ideation

Treatment

Personally I think treatment is going to vary by person. There’s less disagreement on treatment than there is on causes.

Treatment for major depression can also prove effective at treating SAD. Those treatment options include:

  • Psychotherapy to help you talk through your feelings, identify problematic thought patterns, and more effectively cope with your depression. If depression causes relationship problems, therapy may also help improve your relationships. Your therapist can also talk with you about lifestyle changes—diet, exercise, activities—that may complement your treatment and help to alleviate your depression.
  • Antidepressants: Depression alters chemicals in your brain. Sometimes lifestyle remedies are inadequate to get things back on track. Antidepressants can be effective and often need only to be taken for a short period.

If you don’t want to get the medicine route, there’s a few more options.

  • Get natural light
  • watch what you eat and take vitamins to help your mood
  • Exercise and be social

And a little more on light therapy. This article is great because it gives you advice on how to use light therapy. It’s not as easy as just plugging in a light and turning it on. Light therapy lamps come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Personally, I find “forcing” myself to do things helps some. Fatigue from SAD or depression is different than fatigue from being tired from not enough sleep or a long day of activity. Natural light definitely helps me, even filtered sun on a day where it’s partly cloudy is better than nothing. Today isn’t so nice because it’s windy and cloudy with a glare. Not enough sun!

Sources

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/10306.php

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201601/10-ways-get-the-most-out-light-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/depression-management-techniques/201411/seasonal-affective-disorder-tips-overcome-the-disorder

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201411/winter-blues-it-could-be-seasonal-affective

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201611/seasonal-affective-disorder-what-you-need-know

What I learned from NaNoWriMo 2019

I always learn a handful of things every NaNoWriMo, even if the month is a failure. This year what I learned was mostly related to life, there were a few smaller things that related to my writing process.

The biggest thing I’ve finally learned from NaNoWriMo is to stop comparing myself to others. I’m disabled, my hands and wrists cannot handle writing or typing thousands and thousands of words a day. My back and neck can’t handle it either, even sitting on the couch. Maybe I’ve finally accepted it.

The second biggest thing I learned is that NaNoWriMo is about creating a habit and through multiple Camp NaNoWriMo sessions and last month I’ve definitely created writing habits. But I feel like NaNoWriMo is also about accepting your limitations and remembering your self care… this is part of making writing a habit.

On top of that, my depression has been severe since the DST time change. It’s probably seasonal affective disorder and it’s never been this bad in the past so I was surprised. However, I discovered in November that writing was the one thing that was guaranteed to put me in a better mood, even if I didn’t want to write. I know right? Hard to believe, even if I forced myself to sit down with my laptop and work on my story, I ended up in a better mood afterward. Even if it was just a few hundred words. Learning writing will improve my mood was fucking huge.

Then, beyond the depression, is the anxiety and second guessing. I’ve realized I second guess myself when I’m brainstorming or making any kinds of decisions in writing and sometimes you just have to say enough is enough. This is a thing I’ve learned because it’s become more obvious for me after writing for the 30 days in November.

Other things are more specific. For example, starting a new writing session is difficult because I wasn’t necessarily working on one scene and so I don’t have a starting place in mind when I stopped writing. I’ve realized making lists to keep track of what part of the plot or outline I’ve started working on helps. I really like the outline format used in this video. For some reason the grid break down she uses in the video clicked in my brain. I also make short – one line – notes about what I did every single time I sat down to write.

My reminder for NaNoWrimo: Post it says "I will push through the fear, anxiety, and second guessing and keep writing."
My reminder for NaNoWrimo: Post-it says “I will push through the fear, anxiety, and second guessing and keep writing.”

Hopefully your NaNoWriMo was a success. Now, for all those writers out there who didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo … embrace what you have so far and keep writing! To everyone else who did win? Get to revising!

As of today I have 18,129 words in my Scrivener project after NaNoWriMo.

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.

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.

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.

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.