My DEAR MAN was great, the response was not: Accepting that I cannot control others

Please check out my recent blog post in Dialectical Living about my first time using DEAR MAN. It did not go over well but I still came away with a very valuable lesson about not being able to control others.

I have found it frustrating over the years that I have learned so much about how to become a more improved version of myself and yet these skills do not always translate well to others due to their inexperience with them. It has always fascinated me that I have learned self-reflection, mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal skills because I was deemed to have a deficit and yet I am surrounded by people daily who demonstrate the same deficit, they just are just not labeled as “mentally ill”.

Have there been moments when you have practiced a skill with someone and it didn’t work out? What about moments of when the skill does work? 

Motherhood & Madness: A Guilty Parent

Motherhood&Madness

I am 38 weeks pregnant today. My baby can come any time now! This is a happy and scary time as any day could be the day that labour starts. Unfortunately, I have been battling a mild form of irritable uterus. This is not officially diagnosed but when I saw my midwife yesterday and continued to describe my symptoms she started using language like “overactive uterus” and “irritable uterus”. Researching it, I find it fits my experience. For about 3-4 weeks I have been experiencing frequent uterine contractions that cause tightness and pressure in my belly. This is very uncomfortable and is causing me to become inactive, have difficulty sleeping, and making me very unhappy. The suggestions of staying hydrated, emptying my bladder, lowering stress, and limiting movement do not work at relieving the contractions. It is especially difficult to manage the hydration and emptying my bladder is impossible. I have found some relieve with laying on my side with pillows behind and in front of me and trying to truly relax.

Where does the guilt come in? That’s why I wanted to write this blog in the first place. When I saw my midwife yesterday and told her about my continued experience with my uterus, she offered to do a stretch and sweep.  This procedure is non-drug way to kick start labour. While in the office, B encouraged me to get the procedure done but I was so overcome with fear and guilt that I said I would think about it and if I decide to do it then I would do it next Thursday at my appointment. I trust my midwives to offer me non-medical solutions to my pregnancy woes and they would never force me to do something unless my life or my baby’s life were at risk. There is nothing wrong with having a stretch and sweep at 38 weeks pregnant. I still found myself feeling like a horrible mother for doing something to my body to make my body arrive before he wants to. I feel like I am being selfish for wanting to get him out because I’m uncomfortable. It also made me nervous that doing the procedure means I have an idea of when my baby could be born versus right now where I have no idea. This baby is still an abstract idea to me and the potential of having him arrive hours to a few days after a stretch and sweep makes my head spin. I feel a lot of emotions and I would like to cry.

After another night of discomfort, knowing there is something I could do to bring on labour and make the discomfort stop, I decided to call my midwives to see if I could come in sooner than next Thursday. I am waiting to hear back. I still feel immense guilt. I am trying to manage this guilt by reminding myself that my baby is ready to come out. Babies can 100% survive outside of the womb at 38 weeks (I believe I was born at 38 weeks). I think some deep breathing and meditation is in order as I do not need the added stress.

Thank you for reading this post. I really needed to get this out. There is a lot about pregnancy that we keep to ourselves and I think more needs to be known about the physical and emotional things that happen.

After “World Suicide Prevention Day”: 4 events I’m glad I lived to see

This past Saturday was World Suicide Prevention Day. Please take the time to read a blog post I wrote about for Dialectical Living, a peer-based DBT organization based in Toronto. In the post, I share 4 events that have happened in my life that I am glad I got to experience. I was able to experience these events because I did not die when I tried to back in 2005.

I would love to hear how you celebrated World Suicide Prevention Day, your thoughts and feelings and anything else!

http://www.dialecticalliving.ca/after-world-suicide-prevention-day/

It’s not a fantasy, it’s one possible reality

Photo: “One day you’ll wake up next to the love of your life in a pretty house with puppies and cute kids and all the hard things happening now will be worth it.”

 

I saw this picture this morning and it warmed my heart. I was waking up next to the love of my life, with my son moving around in my belly (he’s due this month) and my cat wandering around our apartment. All the hard things I went through were worth it for this moment. Scrolling through the comments on the picture I saw that a lot of people were not happy about this photo.

“Hate to break it to you, but this is not a guaranteed outcome! I use to fall for this sort of thought process/mentality…”

“Fantasy is not a good coping mechanism for mental illness.”

“Doesn’t sound like people are impressed with the false hope idea. Besides, unless you face and fix the underlying issues now, all that “puppies, kids, etc” won’t help much. You’ll still be struggling, expect now you have more to lose than before.” (although to the credit of this comment the person went on to say that if you do find these things in your life you have more to fight for which is good)

I get it. I really do. I have been in the mindset that I will always be suffering and that I cannot have what I want and need. It pains me to read comments that illustrate to me that many people think they cannot find things to make them happy, find the things that will make their horrible experiences worth it. It shouldn’t be a “fantasy” to live happily ever after in whatever form that may take for you. There are many possible realities and we can find the one that suits us. It is productive to have goals about how we want our life to look and it is very good for our mental health to have goals.

When B and I first started dating it was my goal to become more in control of my emotions to improve our relationship and my relationship with myself. I knew we wanted children and I would not put a child through my emotional chaos while I had no coping skills. I spent about a year learning and practicing DBT. Our relationship went up and down because that’s what happens and when we finally decided to try and have a baby it came from a strong and confident place. Even in the early spring of this year when our relationship briefly ended I modified my goal and began to work towards it while also managing the extreme emotional pain of a breakup. Our relationship, fortunately, was repaired so I know that my reality will constantly be changing. There are no guarantees to how your life will turn out and there never will be. We can only do what we can in the moment to try and create the best possible outcome.

We decide what is “worth it” in our lives. To think that reaching that satisfied moment in your life is a “fantasy”, “false hope”  and something you “fall for” is what will probably be a part of what stops you from finding and getting what you want/need. I know I am probably making it sound like this is easy. I know it is not. I have been on this journey since I was around 12 years old and I am still young. I have fallen down many times and almost didn’t get back up. I have had to push myself, accept the pain and find the lessons to help me become better.

Check out these mental wellness apps

A friend of mine recently sent me a list of mental wellness apps. I personally find technology to be a very useful tool in creating mental wellness (in moderation, I also believe in unplugging from technology). I have used a few apps myself and when you commit to them, which I admit I struggle to do, they are very helpful and can offer a lot of support and insight.  Here are the apps! If you try one or use one I would love to hear what you think about them.

Living Well App for Men’s Wellbeing

For Apple & Android

Free

“The Living Well App is specifically designed to assist men who have been sexually abused in childhood. We know that childhood sexual abuse can have a profound impact on men’s lives and relationships. However, we also know that men who have been sexually abused can live rich, full lives, develop healthy relationships and make positive contributions within our communities.” 

What’s Up?

For Apple & Android

Free

“What’s Up? is a fantastic free app utilising some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress and more!”

Optimism Mental Health Apps for Self-Tracking

For Apple, Mac, Windows & Web

Free

“…self-tracking applications, designed to help you increase your understanding of all the things that affect your mental health. The apps act as a springboard to detect patterns in your health and develop strategies to proactively manage depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.”

TruReach

For Apple & Android

Free

“TruReach is mental wellness on-the go. We’ve broken down cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) into quick, 5-minute lessons and packed them into the TruReach app…TruReach includes 18 CBT lessons that cover the following topics, all of which are important in the treatment of anxiety and depression…”

DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

For Apple

$6.99

“DBT Diary Card was created by a Ph.D. psychologist trained directly by Dr. Marsha Linehan and at the Duke University Medical Center; we are experts in DBT, providing consultation to many in our community.”

MoodPanda- Mood Diary and Mood Tracker

For Apple, Android & Web

Free

“MoodPanda is your Interactive Mood Diary. MoodPanda helps you track how you’re feeling, with personal analysis, visualisations and interpretations of your mood, and a lovely, friendly and anonymous community of people there to support you if you need them.”

buddhify- Mindfulness and Meditation

For Apple & Android

$2.99

“Mindfulness & meditation for wherever you are…With over 11 hours of custom meditations for 15 different parts of your day including traveling, being online, taking a work break and going to sleep, buddhify will help you de-stress, sleep better and bring more awareness and compassion to all parts of your life.”

MoodKit

For Apple

$6.99

 

“MoodKit is a one-of-a-kind app designed to help you apply effective strategies of professional psychology to your everyday life! With four integrated tools, MoodKit helps you to…Take action to improve your life, feel better by changing how you think, rate & chart your mood to monitor progress, develop self-awareness & healthy attitudes…MoodKit draws upon the principles and techniques of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), one of the most effective and scientifically-supported methods of psychotherapy.”

MoodNotes

For Apple

$3.99

“Capture your mood and improve your thinking habits through an innovative approach to journaling! Moodnotes empowers you to track your mood over time, avoid common thinking traps, and develop perspectives associated with increased happiness and well-being.”

iMood Journal

For Apple & Android

$2.62

“This beautiful app is an ultimate mood journal, personal diary and charting tool. It will help you discover causes of your ups and downs, and get surprising insights into yourself!”

Stigma- Personal Journal, Gratitude Diary and Mood Tracker

For Apple & Android (Coming soon)

Free

“The personal journal is a lost art…journaling enhances self-awareness and helps us grow. But we still don’t do it.
There are two problems with the traditional journal. First, it is a difficult habit to keep (we hold the expectation we must write out hundreds of words). Second, it is impossible to reflect on and grow from the thousands of bygone experiences trapped between the unread pages. Stigma solves all that. Take 15 seconds to add a journal entry. The app organizes your entries into word-clouds to make self-reflection simple and meaningful. In short, Stigma is the personal journal, reinvented.”

 

How trigger warnings help me

I read an article today called “How the Trigger Warning Debate Exposes Our F*cked Up Views on Mental Illness” on Everyday Feminism. This comes at a good time since the University of Chicago recently sent out a letter to students saying that they do not support trigger warnings or safe spaces. The argument against using trigger warnings in a classroom environment is that students should be able to just deal with what triggers them and to have trigger warnings is to limit freedom. While I do believe that exposing ourselves to our triggers can loosen its power over us that is something we need to decide for ourselves. We decide where and when, how much or how little and who is with us when we do it. Having the exposure sprung on us in the middle of a lecture surrounded by random classmates and a professor who potentially lacks understanding is not the time to do it. A professor does not get to decide when we face our triggers. We decide that.

I have been using trigger warnings for years on my blog, Facebook postings, presentations etc. It has never pained me to do so. All it is is a quick blurb acknowledging that for the following reasons some people may find the following content triggering. I always add that I want people to do what they feel they need to do to stay safe, including removing themselves from the room is needed and to do so without fear or shame. Their personal safety is more important than sitting through what I’m doing. Some people did choose to get up and leave the in-person presentations but more often people sat through it, maybe had a cry, and shared publically or privately at the end their experience with me. A safe space was created and that is what we all deserve.

I find trigger warnings helpful. Trigger warnings give me a choice. I can choose if the trigger is one that I feel confident in confronting so I can stay or read further. Or I can choose to leave or not read because I have not dealt with the trigger yet. I have confronted most of my triggers and can cope with them effectively in public. I may still feel a twinge inside and a bit of discomfort and because I choose to be with the trigger I can use coping skills to deal with it. For example, if someone is talking about self-harm I can shift my mindset to remind me that I am safe and have successfully been self-harm free for almost 2 years. This makes hearing about self-harm and even seeing self-harm easier to deal with. When I  am given a trigger warning and can prepare myself I am better able to function within the environment and engage with the material, my peers and myself.

Trigger warnings do not mean that something cannot be spoken about. It acknowledges that some material may be painful for some and that we respect this pain. Freedom is about choice and to deny trigger warnings is to remove choice for selfish and silly reasons.

Are Psych Drugs Worth It?

I have seen a handful of posts recently on Mad in America and a few other Facebook pages I follow about the struggles of being on psych drugs and the sometimes dangerous side effects of being on them. I had a brief conversation with a Facebook friend about the costs and benefits of being on these drugs, especially the role of doctors in telling patients the best and the worst about these drugs so an informed decision can be made. If you have been following my blog then you may know that I do not like psych drugs. I know that these drugs have no role in my life and I doubt the role they play in general in mental health care to the extent that they are. None of this changes that I have family and friends who living the lives they want to lead because they are on psych drugs and I am supportive of them. It is your choice and no one should make you feel bad about what you chose to do.

Image result for cost benefit analysis

image: Two signs with arrows pointing opposite directions. The top sign says cost and the bottom sign says benefits.

This conversation with a Facebook friend in combination with “discussions” I have had with my current psychiatrist about psych drugs postpartum I started thinking about how we decide if psych drugs are worth it. How do we decide if the benefits outweigh the costs? What are the benefits that keep us on these drugs and what are the costs that take us off of them?

Despite what some of the general public believes, my decision to stop using psych drugs had nothing to do with “not feeling like myself” or  simply being willful. There were serious things happening to me and to ignore them could have been a disaster. Using my most recent 6 month experience with Effexor back in 2013/2014 I would like to share with you how I decided I needed to stop taking Effexor.

Trigger warning: brief mentions of suicide.

Benefits to being on Effexor (at 37.5mg)

  • I was less reactive to stressors.
  • I felt like I could engage with others better when in stressful situations.
  • I could utilize coping skills more effectively because I was less reactive.

Costs to being on Effexor (at 37.5 mg and 75mg)

  • 37.5mg, I spent the first 5 days on Effexor extremely high (physically similar to an MDMA/ecstasy high). This resulted in a lack of appetite, sleep and sore muscles. While this went away, my current psychiatrist showed great concern over this symptom as it is evidence of drug completely unleashing all of my serotonin during that time which can be extremely dangerous.
  • 37.5mg, I found myself locked in a bathroom debating on whether or not to end my life.
  • 75 mg, I began alternating between feeling a lot and crying to feeling nothing.
  • 75 mg, the times of crying were deep depressions.
  • 75 mg, the times of numbness where when I would start fantasizing about killing myself.
  • 75 mg, I told my partner that I probably wouldn’t live much longer and would have this conversation like it was nothing.

When I look at my list, given that I had strong suicidal thoughts and was starting act seriously on them I knew the best choice for me was to stop taking Effexor.

I would love to hear from all of you! How have you made the decision to stay on psych drugs or come off them?

Image result for cost benefit analysis

Image: a 3 panel comic with two characters. First character says, “You should do a cost-benefit analysis.” Second character says, “The cost of doing a cost-benefit analysis…exceeds the benefit.”