Blog for Mental Health

Every year, A Canvas of the Minds does a project called Blog for Mental Health, with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of people who live with mental health issues.

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Here’s the pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.” 

I’m sure it’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I struggle with mental health issues.  I have for as long as I can remember.  I was introduced to the mental health system when I was 5–I was diagnosed with ADHD and put on tricyclic antidepressants.  (God only knows why, but that’s another post.)  All was quiet for years, at least on the surface, but in retrospect I realize I was suffering from severe depression as young as 7 or 8. 

When I was 10, I attempted suicide for the first time; shortly after that, I started self-injuring.  I didn’t understand what was happening to me then, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have had the words to describe it to anyone.  I just knew it was shameful, and I hid it from everyone.  I didn’t get caught until high school.  I was hospitalized 4 times during my junior and senior years.  That turned into a long string of hospitalizations, the details of which have all blended together.  I’ve been hospitalized 20+ times (I stopped counting), including one involuntary commitment.  I’ve been on tons of psych meds and seen more doctors and therapists than I can count.  I had 29 ECT’s, which destroyed much of my memory and caused lasting mental impairment.

Sometime during all of this, I began to have intrusive memories of my father sexually and physically abusing me.  I thought I was crazy–my dad loved me!–so I shoved the memories down deep inside.  I told myself I was just making it up because I couldn’t bear to believe it was true.  Then my sister disclosed that he had abused both of us, confirming my memories.  I couldn’t pretend I made it up anymore, and I was flooded with memories, flashbacks, body memories, panic attacks.  I lost time, which I didn’t understand then.  A chronic, minor eating disorder I’d struggled with since I was 12 or 13 got drastically worse, threatening my life.  The self-harm got worse.  Outpatient therapy wasn’t helping enough; I couldn’t keep things under control.

I ended up spending two years in a long-term residential program designed for people with treatment-resistant mental illness.  I was assigned to an amazing therapist who helped me learn that it was safe to feel things, which was what all my self-destructive behavior was designed to stop me from having to do.  I realized my mother was emotionally abusive and began to deal with that as well.  It wasn’t easy–I nearly killed myself twice–but that program saved my life.

Since then, I’ve been in various outpatient programs.  Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and last year I spent several months in an inpatient trauma unit to deal with issues around that.  I’m a lot better than I used to be.  I’m now heavily involved with political work, and before a physical illness hit me hard, I was taking an Indonesian kung fu class.  At the beginning of this year, my family cut off all my support, and I lose my treatment team.  I still have my therapist, as she wasn’t part of the program I’d been in, but now I’m having to learn how to make it with drastically less support than I’ve had in years.  It scares me…but we’ll see where it goes from here.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Blog for Mental Health

  1. kat

    i too have been hospitalized at least 20 times, altho no ETC for me. very similar story…there are more of us than most realize. hope your journey starts leading you to a better place.

  2. Very brave of you to be so open about this!
    As Kat said “There are more of us than most realize” <this is so true.

    • Oh, I’m a lot less open than I used to be. I used to use my real name and the name of the outpatient program I was in…until someone from that program found my blog and showed it to my team. They read most or all of it, which was not okay on many levels. So now I blog under a pseudonym. My icon is a picture of me, but I was a baby and almost no one would recognize me now from that picture. With that cloak of anonymity, I can be pretty open. Not so much in real life.

  3. Pingback: BLOGGING FOR MENTAL HEALTH – LIKE MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT | Phoenix Fights

  4. Hope: I feel so bad about your family cutting you off from treatment. I cannot imagine how devastating that burden is for you to carry. Thank you ever so much for following my blog. You may have read there that my husband had ECT and it’s the worse decision we ever made in his treatment for bipolar disorder. He lost 55 years of memory (his entire bank of memory) and has not regained any of it back. He was 55 at the time so in essence, the doctors and medical staff stole his mind.
    I’m now following you back. I’d like to know if it’s okay if I use the Mental Health logo as part of my blog. I’ve never found a real reference to it but the primary focus of my blog is mental health and focusing on legislative change is an advocacy program I work (on the federal level).

    • Sheri, the Blog for Mental Health image comes from A Canvas of the Mind, which I linked to in this post. It’s a project that anyone can take part in, and the post over there will tell you how you can get involved.

      I would not do ECT again if I had the choice. I only lost 5 years of memory, but that’s still a lot. I couldn’t read for almost 3 years afterward, though that’s come back, and I have major word retrieval problems. It didn’t really help with my depression, either, so it wasn’t worth the cost. I hope things improve for your husband. It must be hard on both of you.

  5. Pingback: “My Personal “Pledge” To Be A Part Of The 2014 ” A Canvas Of The Minds Project”… | Just A Recovery Author Learning To Be A Better Writer

  6. ~meredith

    As I read the first paragraphs of this post, I thought, “now what does ADHD have to do with suicidal tendencies and depression in a CHILD!”

    Then, as your post unfolded, I got angrier and angrier, knowing the severe health problems you’ve struggled with. I can’t help but wonder what kind of damage pharmaceuticals do to children, but my heart just goes out to you, Hope.

    As you may remember, I told you that I’d be re-posting your piece about people with mental illnesses getting sick, too. I have not forgotten you, and I’m really glad I read this post as I’m getting ready to re-blog your other post, because it helps me understand more about the struggles that occur behind and beyond a diagnosis of mental illness. I was not surprised in the least to read that you began to remember sever abuse… and yet, I cried. I cried because you never deserved being hurt in the first place. I cried because your parents let the medical system poison you as a way to hide their own culpability. And, I cried because you might not have such serious health problems had you not been fed chemicals for your “mental disorder.” What crap.

    I was lucky, I guess, that my mother was paranoid about taking me to a doctor. Mental Illness, confusion, or depressive anything was forbidden in our home because it was ridiculous,’ and did not merit costly trips to ‘specialists.’ (I use a lot of air quotes, because these are not my ideas, but the excuses my family used to hide behind.) Money was not an issue when it came to flying off to Hawaii and leaving the kids with a nanny… but my ‘attitude’ was a waste of money, and this confused my perceptions of what I genuinely needed for many years.

    I too, was suicidal as a child. I remembered this just recently, and I think it’s because my mother is now dead and cannot shout louder than me, anymore, or call me a brat… a whatever… it’s all part of the scene, isn’t it?

    You offer another hope, entirely, being so open with your readers. I think you’re lovely.
    My very best,
    Meredith

    • You’re very kind, Meredith. Thank you.

      I wonder fairly frequently what it did to my developing brain to be on tricyclic antidepressants so young. We don’t have any longitudinal studies about what it does to adults, let alone to children. I wonder if the unshakeable depression has to do with my brain becoming dependent on those drugs as it was just developing. I’ll never know, of course, but being able to hold that in mind as a potential cause makes me feel a little less hatred toward myself for not being able to “just shake it off and move on.”

      Yes, I believe my “mental illness” as a child was entirely the result of cruelty from people who should’ve taken care of me. Had someone put a stop to that early on–or had it never happened to begin with–I believe I’d be much more functional now as an adult. I wonder if the trauma may have been a part of why I developed UC. Immune systems often go screwy in trauma survivors, and I read one study showing higher rates of IBD in PTSD patients. (This was a study done by the VA, so they had combat PTSD, but I imagine it would work similarly for non-combat PTSD.) I’m sure it’s not the only factor, but chronic illnesses are very common in people with PTSD.

      I imagine there must be a certain freedom in a parent’s death, for those of us who they traumatized. My parents aren’t dead, but I live 900 miles away from my father and 1500 miles away from my mother. I got a lot saner once I got away from my family.

  7. Hope, I saw your comments supporting Grannie on her blog. So I came by to visit your blog. I applaud you for being a survivor and admire that you are getting involved in politics. Wishing you continued strength and good (improving) health.

  8. Pingback: Another Hope Entirely | The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

  9. A very brave post. Keep going. You’ve come a long way!

  10. Very brave. I know people who struggle from PTSD from the various wars America has fought. They did not endure anything like this and they were grown men when they experienced their trauma.

  11. Just came upon your post in the list for Blog for Mental health 2014. I appreciate the way you have told your story. As 2014 comes to an end let’s all hope that things can get better in the future. Best wishes. David Joel Miller counselorssoapbox.com

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