Yet Again, I’m Blogging About Mental Health

Today is Mental Health Month Blog Day. Mental health – and illness – is a topic of great importance to me and something I’ve written about before. It’s importance has only grown as I’ve gotten older. My experiences with mental illness have led me to get involved in helping others through sites like Band Back Together and I try to speak about my experiences openly and honestly whenever possible.

Did you know that a quarter of Americans experience a diagnosable mental health disorder every year? It’s highly likely that you or someone you know (or SEVERAL someones you know!) is dealing with mental illness. And yet, “research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Vol. 41, No. 2) finds that 68% of Americans do not want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family and 58% do not want people with mental illness in their workplaces.”

Whaaaat??

This is why it’s important to talk about mental health!

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

I was diagnosed at age 15 with depression after I read an article in a magazine. Mental illness runs in my family – my dad, my mom, my brother, my grandmother, and cousins have been diagnosed with various problems – but I was one of the first to receive a diagnosis and treatment. Once I was diagnosed, a number of my family members realized they struggled with the same issues as I did and sought help. Our family life improved drastically after we got help.

Getting help was the best thing I ever did – for me and for my whole family.

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about depression by the time Jack was born, over 10 years after I was initially diagnosed, but then I experienced Postpartum Depression and PTSD reared its ugly head. I threw myself into therapy once again, this time taking a multi-pronged approach with group therapy, skills building classes, and individual therapy along with medication. I went through a variety of these intense therapies for about four years before I felt like I could take a break.

Treatment has been tremendously helpful. In many ways, I am a different person than I was before that very intense therapy. I grew up with so much trauma and while that is common, it’s not easy to cope with. I came up with some very creative ways of coping but the coping didn’t end when the traumas did. And because I was so busy coping, I wasn’t living.

But treatment alone would not have done it for me. I needed community. I needed friends and family. And as difficult as it was to reach out, I did. And my friends and family kept me going throughout my treatment.

Now my son struggles to cope with the challenges in his young life, partly due to genetics and partly due to his experiences with cancer. I am especially thankful these days that I took the time to help myself! I am strong enough now to help him. I can tell him that it’s okay to be sad and that he doesn’t have to just CHEER UP and GET OVER IT. I can help him grieve and move on so that his feelings won’t haunt him for years and years. And I can show him how to ask for help from family and the medical community.

He doesn’t have to be alone.

It is my hope that – eventually – no one will have to go through mental illness alone. Mental illness was something I struggled with by myself for a long time and it wasn’t until I got help from others that I truly started to find healing. It was 100% worth it.

I encourage you all to share your experiences and to reach out to others – whether you are the one struggling or you know someone else who is. Even if the results are small, they make a difference and can change a life.

Hustle and Bustle

Last week at work was brutal. I am not quite sure how I made it through. I think I’m still recovering.

Amidst the stress of work, I had THREE posts published elsewhere. I revamped and combined my prior posts about my dad for World Aids Day and posted it on Band Back Together, and I wrote a brand new piece for Postpartum Voice in which I talk about the details of my postpartum depression for the first time. The third I won’t directly link here due to its sensitive nature, but you can hit me up on Twitter or via email if you are interested in it (and haven’t already read it).

We’re still dealing with fear at home. Jack is sleeping with his bedroom light on every night now, which is a change from the first 5 years of his life. He now watches Dora the Explorer and Berenstein Bears instead of Scooby-Doo and Ben 10. We’ve acquired the Scaredy Squirrel books and “When I Feel Afraid.” Nothing seems to be particularly helpful. We may just have to ride this one out.

With that said, and while I know that this is a phase that kids Jack’s age go through, I’m wondering if some of the stresses his families are dealing with (unemployment in both households, for one) might be contributing and/or if school issues may be having an impact on him. It seems like he has more trouble sleeping and is tired more often these days.

Jack’s teacher has started sending his incomplete classwork home for him to finish. This is super fun (not)! I don’t even know what to do about that. For now we are just continuing to encourage him to finish his projects in class and emphasizing that we all want him to do his work well. This may be another area where the reward of money will motivate him (that’s how he potty trained)…hm…

On the good news front, I recently won a $500 Apple gift card thanks to my attendance and participation in a Twitter party hosted by LiveOn.com. WOOHOO!! The site is pretty cool – you can basically create a digital scrapbook of life’s events with photos and such and it’s got some nifty social media enhancements. I haven’t had much time to play around with it but I did create an account and will definitely futz with it. It looks fun!

I also won passes to the new Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco. I’m super psyched to take Jack there!

My birthday is at the end of this week and so the promise of cake and dinner with friends is keeping me in decent spirits. Oh and I’ve gotten nearly all of my Christmas shopping done and the presents are mostly wrapped, too! Now I just need to take down the Halloween decorations…

I am blogging for mental health

May is Mental Health Month and today in particular is Mental Health Blogging Day.  I am a longtime sufferer of mentalMental Health Blog Party Badge illness and an advocate for awareness and support through the community support website Band Back Together.

I think days like this are important to let others know that they are not alone in their struggles with mental health issues.  Whether you are a sufferer, a friend, a family member, or an acquaintance of someone with a mental health issue, you can educate yourself and others and help make the world a more compassionate and supportive place.

My name is Crystal and I deal with mental illness on a regular basis.

Sometimes I don’t act like ME because I suffer from chronic Depression (diagnosed at age 14), Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DES-NOS, specifically).  I attend weekly therapy and take medication to help me manage these issues.  I have difficulties managing my response to stressful situations and memories due to the way that my brain processes information/stimuli – multiple traumas throughout my life have impacted the way I view and experience the world around me.

Despite dealing with these issues for so much of my life, I can still live a normal life – I am not ‘crazy.’  I have a wonderful relationship with my husband and son.  I have a great job at a place I’ve worked for the past 3.5 years.  I have friends and hobbies and many of the same worries that others out there have.

Most days I am a very high functioning individual.  Sometimes I need to step back from my responsibilities a little bit and focus on taking extra care of myself.  There are those days when I can’t get out of bed – on those days I need help from my support network of family and friends.  I have fantastic people in my life who have helped me even when they don’t know it.

*****

I have heard various awful things said about those who suffer from mental illness over the years, even from people I love.  The stigma of mental illness still leads people to state that they wouldn’t vote for a politician who was known to have a mental disorder, or that those with a mental illness should not have children.  It’s disheartening to hear these things and I’m hopeful that as we speak out, the stigma will lift more and more.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, please take the time to educate yourself about the symptoms and effects on their life.  If you would like to reach out to a community for support please visit Band Back Together.

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Truthiness Day 7: Mister Sunshine

Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.  (sorry, bad grammar)

This one is so easy.  It’s Jack, of course.

Before Jack came along, I didn’t much care about proper living.  I’ve had Depression for as long as I can remember and I was never very motivated to take care of it – I didn’t care enough about myself to get the treatment I really needed.  I took anti-depressants on and off but those didn’t take care of my issues 100%.

When Jack came along, though, I HAD to take care of myself.  I didn’t want him to have a ghost of a mother.  I didn’t want him to learn my unhealthy thought patterns or be hurt by behaviors that I didn’t even notice I had.  I didn’t want him to grow up without a mother, either, and although I hate to say it, that was a possibility if I didn’t get treatment.

So right before he turned 2, I got serious and put myself back on antidepressants, enrolled in a Managing Your Depression course with Kaiser, started attending regular therapy, attended a 9 month long intensive outpatient therapy program, and have been maintaining my mental health ever since with weekly appointments with my therapist.  I’ve learned how to stay ahead of my depression for the most part.  When I do get depressed, I don’t beat myself up nearly as much as I used to, and I try to ride it out.  I know which parts of me are ME and which parts are the illness I’ve fought all my life.  Knowing those things has made a huge difference.

I love my life.  I love living.  Before Jack, I could not have said that.  Before Jack, the work wasn’t worth the return.

Image above by Sarahndipitea

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Spotty

I’ve been taking anti-depressants for a month now but I have admitted to myself and my counselors that they aren’t working as they should be.  Some things have gotten better, and some things have gotten worse.  I am feeling a bit afraid at this point. I’m afraid I’m going to go crazy. I’m afraid I’ll really screw up my marriage, that I had no business thinking that I could handle being a mother, that this illness will leave me incapacitated. Mostly I’m not afraid for myself, just that I will burden those I love. I feel like I’m losing my sense of self, and I don’t want to go back to the hell of 3 years ago.

I am working on getting help and getting things going in the right direction but it will take some time.  I don’t know how long and I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update here in the mean time.  I hope you are all here whenever I get back.