Tag Archives: mental health

Walking After Midnight Part II

The title of my blog, “Walking After Midnight,” may also refer to those of us with mental health issues. Our symptoms can separate us from the crowd, and leave us walking around in the dark, sometimes literally.

Many characters in the Bible felt the same despair that we feel. A few examples: “How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). “My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:3) “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” (Habakkuk 1:2). We feel like we are walking in the dark, alone and with no help. Even when we know that there is help – friends, care providers, clergy, God – we feel judged, misunderstood, alone.

Your own experience may differ, but my symptoms come from depression, anxiety, mania, psychosis. All of these contribute to losses I have had in my life: Relationships, jobs, money, esteem. A place in society. Courage. Confidence. I could go on, ad infinitum. But boy is that depressing!

There is help, but sometimes it’s the wrong kind. People who have not experienced our own form of “madness” don’t get it. When we are suffering, it’s truly rare to find “Earth people” who say the right things. If you do have people in your life who know how to help, who love you – treasure them! If you don’t have anyone to support you – find someone! I heard recently that we should all have about five “go-to” people in our lives.

And don’t continue to expose your heart to those who don’t understand, to those who hurt you. Such people can make you feel small, or defective, every time you go to them. You deserve better than that. Value yourself, and go elsewhere.

Ultimately, in self defense, we must advocate for ourselves. We are responsible for our own recovery, for being as stable as we can be. Here are some of the ways.

  • Remember that shame has no place in regard to your mental illness. It’s not your fault! You’re not any less valuable than anyone on the planet. This is my greatest struggle in my mental health recovery. I don’t fully accept that I have a mental illness, and I am always sabotaging my own progress. ūüė¶ I mean always!
  • Educate yourself when your symptoms are stable. That way you can gather information on who you are, and that you are not your illness! We are people – not our disease. But we can learn about that part of ourselves when we are well.
  • Gather a support network. Not just groups, but people. People that know you, who understand you. People who will advocate for you in a way that works for you. This includes care providers, family, friends, and others who suffer. And yes, support groups are very helpful.
  • Make a list of things that give you joy, and do them. Art? writing? dancing? It doesn’t have to serve a particular purpose, other than to make you happy.
  • Maybe you find love in your work. Work is not necessarily paid-for employment. Maybe it’s helping others, or volunteering in some other way. Can you give someone rides to their appointments? Water their fish? Maybe you’d like to visit a nursing home with your dog or cat. There are actual programs for those who want to do pet therapy with their beloved animals. Animals have been known to help prolong life, lower blood pressure, relieve depression, and more.
  • Don’t go off your medications.
  • Don’t go off your medications. But if you’re determined, do it with medical supervision. Also, enlist a trusted friend or two to monitor your progress. They will tell you the truth, when no one else will.
  • Think of things that make you feel rich, and do them. I like to walk around taking photographs of flowers, snow, foliage, or other things in nature. Do you like to go to the beach, or to the forest? Collect things?
  • Make a short list of goals for yourself. I am finding it helpful to make a very small list of things to accomplish. We’re not talking twelve. By small I mean realistic and do-able. It may be as simple as taking a shower, or cooking breakfast. Maybe writing for fifteen minutes, or making a phone call.
  • Ask for help! That’s a category in itself. Take advantage of the days when you’re feeling well to practice this! It seems to be the hardest skill for us! And don’t feel you’re burdening someone when you ask for help. People have said they feel helpless when I’m having symptoms. It can be a great joy for them to bless you! Don’t you love it when you can bless someone? It can be something small, like running an errand, or even doing your dishes. Lord knows that even an empty sink can be a source of happiness when we’re depressed or overwhelmed.
  • How about having a support person go with you when you do something anxiety provoking? Maybe it’s going to therapy, or taking a walk. Some things are impossible, but possible with a friend.
  • Build a spiritual life, a spiritual practice. And notice that it says “practice.” It is a daily thing.
  • Write! Draw! Sing! or find some way to express your feelings and thoughts. Even if you keep the results to yourself, or throw them away, it’s healing to get them outside of your head. I used to spend many hours as a child expressing my sorrow in songs to the Lord. Just thinking of that makes me sad, but even the tears are healing, as in this scripture: “… [W]e know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
  • Make a safety plan specific to your own needs and symptoms. Keep it current as much as you can. Here is a template of one such safety plan (pdf).
  • Don’t be embarrassed when you need to have more intensive therapy. The hospital or day treatment program is just another tool. It is not a judgment.

Can you think of other ways to help yourself? Other thoughts about “Walking After Midnight”? I would love to write a part 2a, or a part 2b (or not 2b lol).

So. That is “Walking After Midnight,” Part II. Part III will follow, eventually. Maybe.¬† ūüôā

Ok, to those of you who are holding out…

Yes, you people who think we don’t notice …

You think you have nothing to say. You have had a few bad days. You want to have the time for it to all come out nice, or brilliant maybe, or thoughtful.

Yeah, you people.

You people who collect makeup, or maybe you are angry and afraid you will offend. Or maybe you think you always talk about the saaaame thing. It’s okay. Say it anyway. Say it if it won’t come out right. Say it if you don’t know what will come out. We miss you, and we care.

Link back to me, so I know you took this to heart! ūüôā You’re important to me!

Run in the Right Direction

This video¬†(click the word “video,” here) comes from a church in Hooksett, New Hampshire, called Emmanuel Baptist Church. I don’t go there but I’ve been there, and the message is so timely. How many of us are running in the wrong direction, away from God, or into things that will in no way help our situation? I don’t even need to name them – you know what they are. What is the right direction? You know what it is. I know you don’t want to hear it. Listen anyway.

Run in the right direction!

 

Here is a song that might help you find that direction:

Land of Confusion Part Deux

Maya God is not the author of confusion

 

This picture was the first thing I saw on my facebook this morning, so perhaps I am doing something right. The last line of my first blog was:

1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

So I kind of wonder if this is God’s way of confirming that I’m doing something right.

 

(Continuing from the description in part one)
This time the car veers sharply to the right, into a ditch, and halfway into a field. The car stalls out and¬†will not start up¬†again. Dust¬†is flying around in front of the headlights, a la “Back to the Future,” like a mysterious fog. Or is that the engine¬†smoking? I throw open the car door and leap out,.thinking the car might explode. Then, forgetting about the danger, I panic at the next thought.¬†Wasn’t my son in the car? Did I just hit him? I throw¬†myself¬†to the ground, trying to see under the car.¬†Where is he? Then I remember. He’s at work and his father is picking him up.

Relieved, and catching my breath, I notice there are lights on at the house across the street. It looks like there may be a party going on.¬†I cross the road, hearing multiple voices, some of which are familiar to me. They’re waiting for me behind the house! It’s the marriage supper of the Lamb! I begin to run toward them, nearly falling on my face. I hear Todd, a man from the church I’d¬†attended¬†before. I hear the pastor of the church I now attend. I run behind the house, excited beyond belief. I am stunned when I reach the back patio and find that no one is there.

I go around to the front of the house and knock on the door. A man answers the door, and I beg to use the phone to call my son, a friend, anyone. While I am using his cell phone, he appears to be doing something. He¬†seems rather nervous. I notice a strong smell of pot. It overwhelms me and I am afraid. I had never considered that I could be in danger by knocking on a stranger’s door. I thank the man for his help and leave quickly, thinking he could have a knife or something behind his back.¬†I start back to the car and see that there is a police car and an ambulance parked behind it. I wonder why they are there. I begin to cry, relieved that once again I am safe from harm. As I ride to the hospital, the ambulance attendant’s voice alternates between Todd’s voice and the pastor’s. The attendant prays with me at my request, and I start crying afresh.

Hallucinations (experiencing things that are not real through the five senses) and delusions (holding beliefs that are not true) are often experienced in the manic phases of bipolar. You can see in the example above that I was hearing, seeing, and thinking things that seemed real to me at the time. During another episode, I believed that I was Mary, Jesus’ mother. God was speaking to me personally from out of the clouds. The clouds undulated and had colors, shapes, and very realistic human features. No one could have convinced me these things were not real.

After the car incident, I was in a psychiatric hospital for the better part of a month. The psychiatric hospital, to me, is a safe place that I know will bring me back to health. Whenever I’ve landed there, I’ve always known it was for my good. I don’t know why I have never fought it. I suppose it’s because by that point what’s going on with me is not fun. Besides, the staff is nice, the food is good, my needs are met, my medications are managed, and in short order I’m usually able to return home and care for myself. The hardest part, I think, is the long wait in the emergency room before one is transferred to the facility.

One area of patient care that can be neglected is spirituality. In the emergency room one time, I was (I think) acting in a safe manner, but really needing spiritual help. A chaplain was called, and I asked him to pray with me for a little while as I was waiting to be seen. The best he could come up with was a pat on the shoulder every few minutes and a “there, there.” I kept telling him, “No, I need you to pray with me, say a prayer.” I grew desperate and frustrated¬†that he wouldn’t listen to me. How could a person wearing a priest’s collar in a religious facility not pray with someone who obviously needed it? I had the impression that he was afraid of me. He could not make eye contact at all. And I’m pretty sure I was not doing anything inappropriate that would give him pause.

There are different¬†modalities of treatment used in the hospital once a person is admitted. Besides the locked door, medication, and adequately trained staff, there is an individualized treatment plan to meet the patient’s needs. I have¬†a social worker who coordinates my therapies: group meetings,¬†a psychiatrist who sees and evaluates me daily, different kinds of recreation, and occupational therapy. There is very little free time. Inevitably there is a patient or two with whom I can relate. There is nothing like a friend who knows what you are going through who can commiserate. Again, I have found that spiritual needs are not addressed. Other than that,¬†the treatment provided¬†helps¬†me to develop skills I can use on the “outside.”

Funny, that term “on the outside” is reminiscent of prison vocabulary! And I suppose that is one reason some patients object to being put in the hospital. Some are admitted against their will, once it’s determined that they are a danger to themselves or others. Once there, a patient has few choices. They cannot leave the building unsupervised and without being approved to do so. The doors are locked, and if a person becomes violent, they are restrained and placed in a padded room. But all of the above is for their safety. They may react to these interventions with anger, yelling and even throwing things. That is the one thing that’s difficult for me when I’m in the hospital.¬†I react very strongly to loud noises and anger, and some patients who are ill do act out angrily and I feel threatened. But the staff is trained to deal with that and can usually keep everyone safe.

There are patient advocates in most communities who¬†actively¬†work on passing¬†legislation to protect patients’ rights. These rights must be respected whether a person is in the hospital, and/or when law enforcement becomes involved on the outside. I agree that patients should not be restrained or medicated unnecessarily, but there are times when this¬†is necessary. This will protect them, other patients, and the staff, who have a right to be safe as well. In fact, I briefly worked as a nurse in a combination psychiatric and chemical dependency unit. I enjoyed it tremendously, but there were times that I felt very threatened. I also had to take care of people who were on the wrong side of the law, including pedophiles, and it really traumatized me sometimes. The final straw was the time I was standing between two patients who were about to come to blows. I tried to intervene by talking them out of it, and one punched the other in the nose, right above my head (yes, I am vertically challenged, lol).

There are times, I know, when law enforcement or staff overreacts to a person having symptoms of mental illness when they are a threat to themselves or others. Advanced training is continually enabling them to work with the mentally ill, to be more sensitive to our issues, and to better know how to help us. Certainly there is a lot more to learn, and the care of those with mental illness can be improved all the time.

 

In the next blog I will be talking a bit about the effect of psychiatric disorders on family and friends, and also about the importance of having support when you have a mental illness.

 

PS: This image was on my Facebook after I finished this blog entry. Doo doo doo doo …

 God is the author