A Rant on Learning and Intersectionality

I asked a new social work student yesterday how their classes were going. They expressed that there is no mental health focus in any of the classes (which is their passion) and that majority of the courses focus on race. They said that they’re not racist which to me said that since they are not racist they do not need to learn about race and racism. I strongly disagree and would think that to think you do not need to learn about race because you are not racist might be heading into the territory of oppression.

When I entered my social work education in 2007 I thought I knew things. With each passing year I realized how little I knew in terms of the history and harmful current repercussions. In my first year I remember saying that Canada’s aboriginal populations needed to “get over it” and accept that what happened in terms of colonization because it was a long time ago. I did not intend anything mean by that statement, it was made out of pure ignorance. I then began learning about the process of colonization, the residential schools, the Indian Act and the state the Reserves. I spent a lot of time crying and being angry. You can bet that “get over it” is something I will never say again and in fact I draw attention to the severe issues facing many of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. Even if we believe we know a lot on a certain topic (ie: mental health), unless you are actively researching you may be completely unaware of the history, the different movements and the current state of our mental health system. We always need to be learning!

Currently, much of social work (and activism in general) is focusing on INTERSECTIONALITY. Intersectionality is about understanding that people have multiple identities that intersect with each other in unique ways. These unique ways can produce risk and protective factors, privilege and oppression which shapes the persons life experience. For example, I my intersecting identities are that I am White, a Woman, a person with a Mental Health Issue and I am Low Income. History tells me that being White is a privileged identity whereas being a Woman, having a Mental Health Issue and being Low Income are oppressed identities. How intersectionality would look at this is how do these different identities help or hinder me. Even our current society tells me that I am not as privileged as a White Man but I am most likely more privileged then an Immigrant Woman who is of Colour.

So, as you can see it is impossible to look at a person and just see their one issue. To do so would be a disservice to them and their community. Many in the helping professions are realizing how a person’s many identities interact. A Black Youth may develop severe anxiety because they are experience racism at school, a Gay Russian Man may have fled to Canada because his life is in danger back home due to homophobia and a Person with a Disability may be living in poverty due to poor accommodations in their job. We cannot just look at the mental health of the youth when they are being called racist slurs, we cannot just use the potential safety of Canada to dismiss the man’s trauma at being beaten by the police, and we cannot just hand the person with a disability social assistance checks when they could work to their full potential with accommodations.

Social Work education is lacking. Despite teaching interestionality and viewing the person holistically it does not demonstrate this in it’s courses by narrowly picking and choosing what it teaches. This is why I told this new social work student that if they want to bring in mental health they can find a way in their essays or to go to the head of his University’s School of Social Work and put positive pressure on them to develop a social work mental health course.

 

Troll- Shane Koyczan, Spoken Word

Shane Koyczan, the poet who brought you To This Day, has done it again. Check out the video above for his beautiful and heart wrenching spoken word poem about cyberbullying.

I was a youth just as the world was figuring out how we could use the internet to talk to each other. I began using MSN when I was around 12 years old and it quickly became the place where my friends could bully me and not have to worry about my immediate reaction or their immediate guilt. I used to have a collection of MSN conversations printed of friends belittling me about my mental health, self harm, drug use and other life choices. I used my MSN name to express how I felt, often the lyrics clearly being self harm or suicide related.

I can happily admit now that I rarely experience trolls or bullying online. I have had rude comments made on Pride in Madness a few times but I ignore them or better yet use their comments in my mental health presentations as examples of discrimination. On the other hand, I have heard in your posts or seen in your comments what some trolls have said to some of you. I have been disgusted at how they have nothing better to do with their lives then to drag you down. I want you all to know that whatever they say, they are wrong. They know nothing and if they don’t care about you then please do not care about them. There is no room in our lives for these trolls who have to hide behind a screen to give themselves a sick thrill.

Enjoy the video, watch it carefully! Be safe!

When Will I Be Better?

I have asked myself this many times,

“When will I be better?”

For a long time now I have been thinking clinically (which is unlike me given how I actually view my mental health) about symptom management and recovery. How much, how little, how long until or when this happens? Lots of questions that have to do with measuring.

But, it hit me tonight that it’s not about measurements. The question I should be asking myself is,

“When will I allow myself to be better?”

When will I allow mistakes to not mean that I have a problem?

When will I allow anger or sadness to not mean I should be medicated?

When will allow the bumps in the road to not mean I have fallen?

Only I can answer this question but to answer it I need think about about recovery and symptom management have meant to me.

  • Recovery: All previous issues are gone. I am the normal everyone dreamed I would be and I guess the normal I hoped I could one day achieve.
  • Management: I’m still messed up but I’ve learned to hide it well.

I’m sure you can see the problems with my two definitions (and dare I say that they represent the BPD black and white thinking?). My definitions are unforgiving and unrealistic. They do not allow for the wide range of human emotion and experience that I actually believe in when it comes to why I am the way I am.

Ever since I left my 5 and half year relationship I have felt unstable. In that relationship I had resigned myself to being the “fucked up one”. I appeared to have many problems with my thoughts, engaging in self destructive behaviours, suicidal thoughts and actions as well as the extreme rage. I didn’t think I was going to get out of it which is why managing my experience seemed appealing. The instability I’m experiencing currently is coming from the lack of problems with my thoughts, self destructive behaviours, suicidal thoughts and actions and rage. From time to time something will pop up but I’m able to ride it out much easier then before. Could this mean that I could potentially become better then I ever thought? Could recovery be possible?

Many of you are familiar with the comfort that comes from staying in your pain. For some of us, like myself, it began when we were young so we barely remember another way of being. It is absolutely terrifying wondering who you will be if you can let that pain disappear. I know my biggest fear is that letting go of the pain will mean I am vulnerable and others will hurt me because I’m not ready to fight. Although, my Wise Mind knows that it is actually the pain that has made me vulnerable and has me believing that others will hurt me. I need to get it across to myself that I will experience pain and be hurt by others but that it does not mean the end for me. That is just life.

 

Over the next few months I’m hoping to explore more about my current experience. I am actually becoming better at keeping myself in the moment and I’m hoping this will allow me to accept what I am capable of now and not what I thought I was capable of back then.

 

 

 

8 Tips for Dealing With Mental Health Stigma (Discrimination)

Stan Popovich, on The Huffington Post, shared his 8 tips for dealing with mental health stigma (I prefer the word discrimination).

  1. Talk to a counsellor- “Seeking professional help will help you to overcome your current issues. In addition, a counselor will be able to give you additional advice on how to deal with your friends and coworkers.”
  2. Don’t argue with others-“It is not your job to convince people that you are right and they are wrong. Your health is more important than what other people may think.”
  3. Watch who you hang out with- “It is important to surround yourself with positive people. Try to keep your distance from those people who are giving you a difficult time.”
  4. You are not alone- “There are millions of people around the world who struggle with their fears, anxieties, depression, and stresses. The key is to find those people who can relate to you through various support groups in your area.”
  5. Stand your ground- “It is important to stand your ground when dealing with family members and coworkers who are giving you a hard time. Explain your situation and your feelings to the people in your life, however don’t let them hassle you.”
  6. Join a support group- “These support groups will be supportive of your situation and give you additional advice regarding your problems. Joining a support group is very important in a person’s recovery and ability to find people who can relate to you.”
  7. Learn to take it one day at a time- “Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems.”
  8. Don’t give up- “You will not get better if you sit on the couch and don’t make an effort to get better. You need to know that you will eventually get better. Do not lose hope even during the worse of times. You problems will not last forever, and things do eventually change for the better.”

This is a good list. These are all strategies we should engage in but I find the strategies on this list to be very passive and more so putting pressure on the individual to handle other people’s stupidity. I would like to add a tip to this list.

9. Become a mental health advocate.

Critically and constructively challenge discriminatory views. Educate others about your experience and the experience of others. Help friends and family learn where they have learned what they know about mental health. Start a blog, tumblr, Twitter, Facebook page, group, etc that puts the truth out there and supports recovery.

Becoming a mental health advocate is what has helped me the most and I have seen the power I have to show people another way of thinking and being. I know this kind of work is not for everyone but every little bit counts.

Do you have any tips for dealing with mental health discrimination?

Ten Books That Influenced Me

Rabbi Ruth Adar at Coffee Shop Rabbi blogged about 10 books that influenced her throughout her life. She asked her readers to share their top 10 so here I go!

(In no particular order)

1. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

prozac nation
This is the first book on depression that I read as a young teen. I heavily identified with Wurtzel’s experience and feelings. I often referred to Prozac Nation as being my “bible”. It spoke a truth that I had great difficulty explaining. The book is filled with underlined sentences and paragraphs that I would go back to during hard times as a reminder that someone out there understand what was happening with me.

2. Babysitter’s Little Sister Series by Ann M. Martin

First book series I ever read growing up! It was common for me to read through one of these books in a day. Babysitter’s Little Sister probably is what started me on the path to being a heavy reader.

3. Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker

I had the honour of seeing Robert Whitaker speak at the PsychOUT 2011 conference in New York. Before even reading his book (which I regret not getting signed) his talk changed my life. It was from him that I heard for the first time that the chemical imbalance I was told I had was just a theory and that no doctor knew for sure. I cried in my seat. Anatomy of an Epidemic provided actual research that explained the suicidality I had experience on Prozac as a teen which I am forever grateful to have. It is great to be able to have a book to refer to people when they just can’t accept that things aren’t all fine and dandy in the mental health system.

4. Wonder Woman: Love and Murder by Jodi Picoult

This is the comic that turned me on to Wonder Woman. I had a very negative view of the character before but when I read Jodi Picoult’s version of Wonder Woman I realized that she is a beautiful character that many young girls and women can look up to. What got me was a line where her male partner commented on how WW needed to fix the rips in her already revealing suit. He asked if Amazon’s are insecure. WW responded that it had nothing to do with insecurity but with decency. I’ve loved WW ever since.

5. In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton

I read this book during my second year of University for my Aboriginal Social Work class. In Search of April Raintree gave me a brutal and honest look at some of the issues Aboriginal woman and peoples have experienced in Canada. I laughed and cried reading this book and at one point threw it across the room because of a rape that happened to April. This book generated beautiful and tough discussions during our class.

6. The Royal Diaries: Elizabeth I by Kathryn Lansky

Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England, 1544

I was in grade 5 and my Mom allowed me to order a book from the Scholastic Book Order and I chose this one! (this is the only time I was allowed to order from the book order). It was this book that got me hooked on British history, especially the history of the Tudors.

7.  Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life by Samhita Mukhopadhyay

Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life

Lent to me by a friend I never thought to question how and why we date and marry in North America. This book had me question why I wanted to pursue marriage and also gave me a feminist perspective on many things about dating and marriage.

8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

We read this book in grade 8 and it stayed with me for years to come (the movie too). Many of the stories I wrote from grade 8 up to grade 12 had some aspects of The Outsiders in it. I could identify with the Greasers and also very badly wanted to feel like I belonged to a group that really had each others backs the way Ponyboy and his friends did.

9. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1)

This series confirmed for my sad young mind that not all stories had to have happy endings. I loved that everything seemed to go horribly wrong for these amazing children. A Series of Unfortunate Events was a great break the usually love conquers all and good always wins.

10. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

What person my age wasn’t influenced in some way by Harry Potter? Harry Potter was my life and my obsession! When I was 13 years old I wrote a 148 page story that was a massive rip off of Harry Potter called Kendra Typhon and the Snake (or something like that). I even wanted to audition to be Hermione in the movie but I’m not British so I couldn’t. The adventure, friendship and magic brought me such joy and I should look into reading the series again!

What are your 10 books that influenced you? 

Why Didn’t You Just Leave?

Inspired by The Huffington Post’s “Why Didn’t You Just Leave” Series.

I thought this is was what a relationship with me was going to be like.

Ever since I began dating (14 years old) I was told that I was difficult to be with. My constant sadness, self harming and suicidal thoughts as a youth were cited as the reasons why boyfriends would break up with me. I carried into each new relationship the belief that if I could just get my sadness under control that they would stay and we would live happily ever after. It never worked. There was a lot of pressure in many of my relationships to change. “If you don’t stop self harming I’m going to break up with you.” I would then do my best to hide my cuts and scars because I couldn’t stop and I didn’t want him to leave.

While I know being with someone who was always sad, angry and hurt themselves wasn’t easy I can recognize now that it became an easy out for their abusive behaviour. They fed off of my vulnerability and I so desperately wanted their love. I found it impossible to love myself so I needed outside sources to give it to me.

With the ending of my most recent relationship I have realized the extent that my mental health was used as a scapegoat. I will never deny my negative behaviours and damage done to the relationship. In the end, I was ALWAYS trying to make my relationship better with someone who didn’t care to improve himself. His denial of needing improvement led me to believe that I was always the problem and that once I fixed myself our relationship would be perfect. If I could stop yelling, if I could stop being angry, if I could stop cutting, if I could stop thinking irrationally, then we would be perfect. A relationship full of screaming, yelling, being called names  and things being thrown around was the price I had to pay for not being mentally well and causing the one I loved pain. Or so I thought.

The day came when enough was enough. I didn’t care anymore what was my fault and what was his because I didn’t want to work at a relationship that felt so one-sided. I didn’t care if I was in the wrong in leaving because I was finished with it. It was like a switch went off in my mind. I was done.

Being with my new partner I am seeing that a relationship with me doesn’t need to be chaos. Being with someone who responds lovingly, shows affection, and isn’t quick to anger (well, isn’t abusive) is showing me that many things weren’t my fault, that I was with people who knowingly or unknowingly took advantage of me. I’m not as bad as I thought I was and was led to believe.

It’s amazing.

 

The 4 Subtypes of BPD

Theodore Millon

Because just understanding Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in general isn’t hard enough, 4 subtypes were identified by the late Theodore Millon. I knew about the Quiet Borderline and the Classic Borderline so to learn that there are 4 more ways to look at BPD is overwhelming but hey, I do love diversity!

The Discouraged Borderline

  • clingy
  • follow the crowd
  • dependent
  • angry inside but can explode if pushed
  • likely to harm themselves
  • moody, somber, quiet
  • suicidal thoughts, gestures, attempts, completion
  • the “quiet borderline”

The Impulsive Borderline

  • flirtatious, captivating, elusive, superficial
  • thrill seekers
  • highly energetic
  • easily bored
  • impulsive
  • unpredictable

The Petulant Borderline

  • unpredictable
  • irritable, complainers
  • impatient
  • defiant, stubborn
  • disgruntled, pessimistic, resentful
  • torn between relying on others and keeping their distance for fear of disappointment
  • switch between feelings of unworthiness and anger
  • explosive anger

The Self Destructive Borderline

  • impulsive
  • self hatred
  • self mutilation
  • engaging in dangerous behaviours (ie: reckless driving)

 

Hands downs down I am the Petulant Borderline. Petulant means “childishly sulky or bad tempered”, which I find to be offensive and dismissive but I guess sums up the “style” of that particular Borderline. Of course, we need to keep in mind that the behaviours mentioned can exist in all the subtypes. For example, I engage in self harm and also have suicidality but would not strongly identify with the substypes predominantly associated with those behaviours.

Regardless of your BPD subtype you are still an amazing person with a lot to offer and you deserve to be the person you want to be! Knowing these subtypes could help in counselling so you can identify more closely which areas you need to work on. Remember that there are many positives about you as well. I know I may complain a lot but I’m standing up for myself which is something I never used to do. We are people first.

Sources/Further Reading:

http://cynthianne.hubpages.com/hub/Four-Primary-Forms-of-Borderline-Personality-Disorder

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/impossible-please/201310/do-you-know-the-4-types-borderline-personality-disorder

http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2012/01/becoming-more-specific-subtypes-of-borderline-personality-disorder/

 

 

 

BPD: Seems Like A Curse

bpd curse

Fidget Rings: A Great Distraction

This is most likely the one I would get.

A friend/colleague of mine sent me a website for Fidget Rings saying that it could be a good distraction from self harm. Upon looking into it more I believe these rings would be an excellent distraction tool!

From the Fidget Rings website:

Artist, Meg Dattoria

“Fidget” was developed by Washington D.C. artist, Meg Dattoria, as an exploration of her own tendency to fidget during monotonous or taxing tasks.  She designs the rings to mimic the natural way our hands move when we fidget.  These rings are a tool to focus those movements in a quiet, personal, and elegant way.

“Fidget” benefits both young and old, as well as those with ADHD, Aspergers, and Autism.

The website also has Dattoria’s thesis paper on the rings.

Once I’m working again I would like to buy one of these rings. There are times when my self harm urges manifest as fidgeting and I end up twitching to get the energy out. Being able to move parts of these rings would give me the movement I need at that moment without flailing my body around.

There is also a classroom kit for educators which includes 6 rings of different styles and colours. It’s a brilliant idea!

 

If you have a Fidget Ring or something similar let me know what you think!

Why Does He Do That?: 10 Types of Abusers, Part 4

Talk of abuse

Talk of abuse

9. The Terrorist

  • highly controlling and demanding
  • terrorize their partners with threats, strange statements, and bizarre behaviours
  • seems to find cruelty thrilling
  • likely to have been abused as a child
  • top goal is to paralyze you with fear so you won’t leave or cheat on him
  • if the woman leaves he may stalk or threaten her
  • “you have no right to defy me, you life is in my hands. Women are evil and have to be kept scared so they can’t spread their evil. I would rather die then accept your right to independence. I can use our children against you and keep you afraid. Seeing you afraid is exciting.”

10. The Mentally Ill or Addicted Abuser

This category is not separate from the others. Having abusive tendencies can exist on their own, without a mental health or addiction issue but if a man does have either or both of these issues they can effect his abusiveness.

Mental illness and addiction DO NOT CAUSE ABUSE and taking psychiatric drugs and/or becoming sober will not end abuse (at least not permanently).

  • certain mental illnesses can increase the chance that an abuser may use violence
  • some mental illnesses are more difficult to treat therefore changing may be next to impossible for the man
  • psychiatric medication (going on or off) can lead to great unpredictability in behaviour
  • in determining the level of threat psychiatric symptoms need to be look at in combination with the severity of his abusive characteristics
  • many men will claim to be mentally ill or addicted to substances to avoid taking responsibility for their behaviour
  • “I’m not responsible for my actions because of my mental illness/addiction. If you challenge me on my abusiveness you’re showing how little you understand about what I’m going through. If you challenge me you could trigger me and then it’s your fault if I do something bad.”

While this was not a relationship I have encountered a few men who seemed to get a thrill out of making me afraid and using that fear to try and control me. When I was around 16 I had a guy, on the phone, threaten to choke me if I didn’t have sex with him (I never saw him again luckily and he never pursued more then that phone call). Around 18 years old I encountered a 20-something year old man online who claimed to have naked photos/video of me (which was impossible because I never took any) and then claimed to just have put my email address on the photos/videos  of another girl so I would be bombarded with emails from people. He told me he told me that he would remove my email from the pictures/video if I actually sent him pictures and video of myself. I did not do this and eventually I ignored him enough that he went away. Finally, when I was 19 there was a 38 year old man who wanted to be my Sugar Daddy. When I continuously declined he started telling me about how he was going to come find me. I was so afraid I stayed in Toronto with my then-partner for a few days. I’m lucky that all of these men went away and were only in my life for a short period of time and not in an intimate relationship kind of way. There are many women who are not as fortunate.

Source: Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft- Pg. 188-196

Part 1: The Demand Man and Mr. Right

Part 2: The Water Torturer, Drill Sargent, Mr. Sensitive

Part 3: The Player, Rambo and The Victim

 

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