Invisible war wounds – poem

My Dad had PTSD,
invisible war wounds
from a war
he never left home for
in fact, he had to
leave home
to leave the war.

He was a son of a veteran
who brought the war home
in his pockets,
in his perfectionism,
in his need for things to be
just so
and it never was,
because it never could be.

Gone were the days
of an innocent youth,
it never happened.
He was trained by an incompetent,
unwilling
drill sergeant,
masquerading as Dad.
He was living in an army
he never enlisted for,
was shanghaied
simply by virtue
of being born.

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There is hope after diagnosis

A guy came into my workplace yesterday, obviously experiencing the mania that comes with unmanaged mental dis-ease. He was raving about conspiracy theories and the Temple Mount – said he was even frisked by the police in the Holy Land just 50 days ago.

Little does he realize but I speak Crazy fluently, being a citizen of that country. I’ve also taken classes and read books on how to safely interact with people who are on the edge of “dealing with it”. I enjoyed the challenge of the conversation, but was also reminded of how far I’ve come.

Today is marks the 17 year anniversary of the last time I was in a mental hospital. There is hope after a diagnosis. Since I started taking care of myself, I’ve had the same job for 16 years, I’ve been married for 12, I’ve published four books and I have excellent credit. You can have a mental disorder and be fine – with proper care (a lot of it is self-care).

Like many people, I went through the trap of thinking it was a temporary thing and got off the meds (which weren’t good for anyone anyway – they no longer prescribe the one I took) and went off the deep end again. I went to the hospital again (both times self-initiated) and got on different meds that gave me clarity so I could start taking care of myself. It is hard to be “normal” when the high is so vivid and interesting. Everything is connected. Life is 31 flavors when high with mania – but only vanilla when “normal”. I’ve learned how to be in the middle.

A lot has to do with getting enough exercise, eating right, and enough sleep. Writing helps me a lot. But Americans aren’t into self-care for anything – do whatever you want and damn the consequences – and blame them on someone else. This is true with every disease we have.

The only way out is to –

admit that there is a problem,

that it won’t fix itself,

that it is chronic (think heart disease, not the flu),

and that you have a lot you can do to help yourself get better. It isn’t all about the meds – but they are important.  Look through my “Survival” book list for books that will help you help yourself.

 

Most of all – remember that a diagnosis is not a definition.  You are a person who has a mental health diagnosis.  You aren’t the disease.

 

 

Crazy in the church

“Being considered ‘crazy’ by those who are still victims of cultural conditioning is a compliment” – Jason Hairston

I left a church when the minister thought I was crazy for praying to God and hearing a reply. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in the three years I’d been a member there, not a single person had talked about hearing from God – including her. God and Jesus were past tense and future tense – not present tense. They weren’t right now. You’d think getting people to feel comfortable talking with God would be the goal of church, but often it isn’t. Often the goal is mute submission to authority.

I remember that even Jesus’ family thought he was crazy, and the religious authorities decided that he was possessed.

(This is from The Condensed Gospel)
When the Pharisees heard about this they said “This man drives out demons with Beelzebub.” Some, to test him, were demanding to see him perform a miracle. Even his own family thought he was crazy.
Jesus knew their thoughts and said “A divided kingdom cannot stand. No one can enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Thus, if the king of demons drives out demons he is fighting against himself. How can his kingdom stand then? If I drive out demons by the king of demons who is it that your own people drive them out by? Accuse them of the same thing you accuse me of! Now, if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then this is proof that the kingdom of God has arrived among you. People will be forgiven for whatever they do and whatever they say unless they speak against the Holy Spirit. That is unforgivable. Anyone who is not with me is against me, and scatters rather than gathers.” He said this because they were saying he had an evil spirit in him.
MT 9:32-34, MT 12:22-32, MK 3:20-30, LK 11:14-23, LK 12:10

In John 7:5 we learn that even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in him. They lived with him and knew him well, and they thought he was a crackpot.

If this is how Jesus was treated by his own family, it stands to reason that his followers would be treated likewise, but it is sad that it happens in the church. He even warned his disciples that they would be accused of everything he was, and suffer his fate – but he meant that it was going to come from the religious authorities that they were trying to usurp, not from within the faithful.

“Crazy” is the modern way to silence someone, especially a woman. It is said to discredit or diminish her impact on others. It is used these days in the same way that the accusation of witchcraft was in years past.

If you have been told you are crazy by a church member or minister, leave right away and find people who hear the same voice you hear. You aren’t crazy. The ones you left are, because they can’t hear the One who they say they follow. How can you follow God if you don’t even know God’s voice?

In sickness and in health

I know a lady who said that she had to get divorced from her husband because he was schizophrenic. I know another who said that she had to get divorced because her husband was an alcoholic. Neither husband was these things when they got married. They became this way after. They changed.

These are not acceptable reasons for divorce. What part of the vow that you will stay with each other “in sickness and in health” did they not get? When you marry it is a package deal. You don’t get to choose “health” or “richer”. Sometimes it is “sickness” and “poorer”.

When you marry it is for life. It is not something that is only when everything is working out fine. It means you’re going to stick with that person no matter what. Marriage isn’t easy.

I wonder what those women would have thought if the shoe was on the other foot? What if they were the ones to develop a severe and difficult form of mental illness? What if they were the ones to fall into addiction? Her bad situation would suddenly get worse because her spouse – the person who had sworn to be by her side through thick and thin – had left.

If you are not willing to stay with someone regardless of how things evolve, of how they change (and change is part of life), then do not get married.

Low

I read a post about how to help someone with depression. It said that you should encourage them to talk about it. That is insane. Sure, there are often things that need to get out. But there is no “cure” in just talking.

We must remember that our bodies are not separate from our minds and spirits. What affects one part affects the rest. We must stop thinking about depression as a mind issue, but a body issue that affects the mind.

My personal experience is that it is far healthier to take them for a walk outside with you while you talk. And feed them healthy food. Then show them how to take care of themselves.

I’ve hospitalized myself twice for bipolar disorder, so I’m not on the sidelines pontificating here. I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness for since 1999, and in that time have learned how to take care of myself so well that my psychiatrist only sees me once a year. This means I do far more than just take my medicine (which I do, twice a day). I eat well, exercise, journal, and make art. I am a regular person with a regular 40 hour a week job. I do not rely on others to take care of me. I have learned to not blame others or situations for how I feel.

We must get back in touch with self-care. We do not have to ever experience depression. It requires a lot of work but it is worth it. No longer will we feel overwhelmed and controlled by our moods. This does not mean that we are “up” all the time. The point is not to just feel good all the time, but to feel everything with intention. We have control over how we feel.

Depression is a symptom of an imbalance – not enough sleep and exercise being part of it. Perhaps these examples will help give perspective –

When a tire is flat because it has a hole in it, you don’t put tape over it and drive on. We don’t say it is “depressed”. We look for the reason for the problem and fix it.

We don’t diagnose plants as “depressed” when their leaves droop or turn yellow. We find out what they are getting too much of or too little of and fix it. Too much or too little sun, water, or nutrients will make a plant droop and then die. The same is true for people.

When a car has run out of gas, we don’t say it is “depressed”. We put gas in it, and ideally we put in gas that doesn’t have additives in it. Better gas means that the car runs better. Food is the fuel that our bodies use. Better food, better results.

When we spend all of our money in our bank account and don’t put any in, we don’t say that the account is “depressed”. We either need to not waste our money or make more. Our energy levels are the same. We cannot continually expend energy without rest. However, too much rest is also bad. Our bodies are made to be used. Exercise builds up our “bank account”, but we also must take time to get enough sleep and schedule in times of inactivity in order to rebuild and refresh.

Talking about it is a waste of time. You wouldn’t expect a person with diabetes to “talk about it” to get over a low blood sugar episode. You wouldn’t expect a person with high blood pressure to “talk about it” to lower it. Certainly, they both might benefit from a little research into what they are doing or not doing for their health, but then they will only truly get better if they start acting on that realization.

Search for what you can do to help yourself. Start small. Keep doing it. It is easy to look at the big picture and feel overwhelmed. It is easy to come up with reasons why you can’t do it. Mental and physical health is not easy. Nobody else can do it for you. Your best source of medicine is to take care of yourself in any way you can.

New tools

You aren’t crazy, and you aren’t broken. Everything that you’re feeling is normal. The problem is that you’ve spent so much of your life running away from your feelings and using the wrong tools to handle them. This is part of living in this society. You were taught this. It is time to learn something else. It is time to get a new set of tools and learn how to use them.

Maybe you have used the tool of yelling at other people and blaming them for your problems. Perhaps you use the tool of drinking yourself to oblivion or working so hard that you don’t have time to think about what’s going on. One day you might finally realize that these tools don’t fix the problem. These tools may even make it worse by allowing it to grow and fester.

But first you have to relearn what the problem is in order to fix it.

Anxiety and anger and depression are not diseases. They are symptoms of unresolved trauma. They are a sign that something is broken and needs to be healed. Treating them is using a tool on the wrong part. They are what is broken. They are a sign that something is broken.

A lot of us have a hard time admitting that we have suffered from trauma or grief. But trauma and grief take many forms. Any loss can result in grief. Moving to a new town, leaving your old job, or going through divorce can result in grief. Grief doesn’t have to be the death of someone close to you. It can also be the end of something, some event or time in your life. Transitioning from high school to college or college to the adult world can result in grief. It is any change that we are not prepared for.

Trauma does not have to be as big as a car accident or being assaulted. Trauma can be any invasion of your personal space and safety that makes you feel threatened.

Just being aware of instances of trauma or violation in your life is the beginning of healing. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it is broken.

Poem – voices in your head

Those voices in your head
that say “You’re no good,
– you aren’t doing enough,
– why even try?”

Don’t let them in.
They are door-to-door salesman
standing on your front step
banging on the door
ringing the doorbell.

They aren’t your friends.
Those people,
or those thoughts.

Don’t let them in.
Notice them, through the window,
through the peephole
and say “Go away!
I’m not buying what you are selling!”