Tag Archives: counseling

Mental Health Week 2015: Whaddaya Mean My Brain’s Been Lying to Me?

Hey, everybody. In the midst of all the usual holiday hustle and bustle the interwebs have kindly informed me that it’s “Mental Health Week”, which I suppose basically just means that those of us with mental health, um, issues get a week of our very own (yay!). You know, where things like depression, bi-polar disorder, body dysmorphia disorders, and other stuff that fucks with your head are highlighted in online articles across various sites (and maybe a tumblr post or two? Who knows – all that’s way beyond my ken), so as to enlighten the public and encourage anyone who’s having troubles, or knows someone who’s having trouble, to seek some help.

It seems like that should be pretty easy to do and make fairly obvious sense to everyone, right? And yet never is anyone so surprised as when someone they love got to the point where suicide appeared to be the only logical solution to what was happening to them. Most people get to that point without arousing any suspicion that this is where things were headed, because killing themselves aside, the very last thing they want to do is try to explain to anyone what’s going on inside them – especially those closest to them. One day, they seem OK. The next day, they’re dead.

And then the loved ones left behind spend years of their lives trying desperately to understand what drove the one they’ve lost over that terrible edge, and what they could’ve, should’ve, done differently to change things. (Which is mostly nothing, by the way. Even if you know your beloved’s not well, ask yourself this – of everything you can do, can you also lasso butterflies?)

That’s usually because it’s most often not an easy situation to understand, including for the person suffering so much they decide they – and everyone they love – would be so much better off without them trapped in this hellish life. And even if they could tell anyone what’s going on – but they can’t, you see, they just…can’t – it’s not easy to describe in any way that fully expresses the level of psychic, emotional, and sometimes physical, pain they’re in.

A few people of letters have been able to articulate their experiences over the years – William Styron, well-known author of “Sophie’s Choice” and other literary tales, was one of the very first to talk about depression publicly in the autobiography of his discontent, “Darkness Visible”, published in 1990 – and a few others kept it to themselves and died, like David Foster Wallace did, hanging himself in 2008.

The rest of us have to find our own ways out or though, and one of the most famously popular ways out since it was built in the 1930’s has been jumping to one’s death from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It certainly seemed a viable, attractive option to me in the darkest depths of depression over the years for reasons that, again, are almost too arcane for even I to try to explain, except that if you’re brave enough to get yourself there, and there’s nothing or no one to stop you by the time you find a good jumping off spot, it’s both extremely swift and extremely final.

A fellow, well-liked LifeRinger from the Bay Area chose this option – RIP, dear Barbara – likely for pretty much the same reasons intermingled with what I’m sure felt like her own unconquerable quagmire. And that’s just it – at the heart of matters, people choose such options because their illness has them convinced that it’s the only thing they can possibly do; otherwise, there is no help for them and thus no point in seeking it.

Wait, what do I mean by “their illness has them convinced”, as though it’s some sort of separate entity or being inside of them that’s commandeered their lives and free will? Well, I mean…exactly that. See, our brains are the most potent and powerful operating systems known to mankind – Android technology’s got nothing on us – and it runs on scripts, internal working orders if you will, which instruct us on how to perform. Most of them are learned, and certainly many of them are chosen. It’s not an abnormal process – this is pretty much how everyone’s brain works.

But then there are the scripts that invade us for reasons unknown for the purposes of insinuating themselves inside our minds, at first disguised and undetected, until they’ve taken over without our being the wiser, so that just like everything else that runs through our brains, it becomes our reality – and we believe everything it tells us, absolutely. And then, once it’s got us hooked, it begins directing our behavior, too.

So even if you still haven’t got the foggiest idea of what in the hell I’m talking about, one example of what this looks like is addiction. The other, of course, is mental illness, and to my own benefit this week, I ran across this most incredibly important and effective Buzzfeed article and video about a guy named Kevin Hines, who made the same choice as my friend Barbara and lived to tell the tale – including what living with mental illness feels like.

So if you have a few more minutes and if not the inclination then the curiosity, do yourself and everyone you love a huge favor, and give it watch. You won’t be sorry – I promise – and then you can carry on. 🙂

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Links For a Week!

Hi friends. I’ll be heading off to Colorado to try my hand, for the fourth time, at skiing (yipes) and thus will not be around to post anything for a while, so! I thought I would leave you with a weeks’ worth of delightful links to chew on.

And a-waaaaa-ay we go!

 

*Do you live in Northern Ireland? Are you looking for support there, including in a face-to-face meeting? Look no further – LifeRing Northern Ireland is there! For more information, please visit their website and/or Facebook pages:

www.liferingni.com/

www.facebook.com/LiferingNi

*This article’s been all over the web for a coupla weeks now (link to follow), but I still feel compelled to offer my two cents on it. Therefore, please enjoy the following mini rant from me:
  • I find this article overly simplistic in it’s “discovery” of the “real reason” for addiction, A). because yes, while finding a better “room” in which to spend one’s time helps immensely, 2). Some scientist isn’t in charge of controlling your drug habit or changing your environment – you are. And, let’s face it – I’m sure rats have some choices to make in their lives, but given the choice between rooms, how many of them would or do voluntarily go to another one to begin with?
  • I also find it interesting that so many posting in the comments boiled the article down to being the reason why AA is the perfect example of finding a better room, whereas I see ANY recovery group being able to provide the same supportive experience. LifeRing certainly did for me.

Anyhoo, any thoughts on this one?

www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addiction

*Today marks the one year anniversary of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death from a drug overdose. The  performances he would’ve given will be missed for years to come, but here’s an excellent, spot on synopsis of each of the roles he played throughout his career:

thedissolve.com/features/career-view/890-the-epic-uncool-of-philip-seymour-hoffman/

*Mini-rant, part deux:

An in depth, well-researched and well-written article about the state of heroin addiction treatment in America. In many ways, this article reiterates what I’ve believed for a long time about addiction, which is that if it is a disease (and of course for many that’s entirely debatable), then why is it not being treated medically, as all other diseases are? For example, can you imagine treating mental illness, diabetes, or even cancer with, in large part, a spiritual solution? I know I can’t, and I also know that works well for some, but not for all. I think this article accurately demonstrates why:

projects.huffingtonpost.com/dying-to-be-free-heroin-treatment

*With that, the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has changed its definition of recovery, and SAMHSA (the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminstration) has redefined recovery, as well – all of which bodes well for secular and other recovery treatment resources:

www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/the-addiction-therapists-guide-to-change-in-the-21st-century/

*Finally, eine kleine recovery humor – I would highly recommend the South Park clip at the top of the first page:

recoveryhumor.com/

Have a good one! 🙂

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Overcoming an old taboo — let’s talk about suicide

Many recovering alcoholics or addicts may have a suicide attempt in their pasts, either while clean and sober or else while under the influence. In years past, it was considered taboo to have survivors talk about their attempts, for fear this might be a trigger. In fact, aside from talking, survivors often were shunned.

Now, the nation’s leading organization of counselors, the American Academy of Suicidology, thinks it’s time to change all of this. Other organizations are thinking the same, it seems:

“We as a field need to hear these stories,” said John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, “and not just to study them but to ask how they found a way to cope and connect: What did family and friends and doctors do that helped, and what did not?”

Lifering is a volunteer-based organization, above all in its convenors of its meetings. We are not professional counselors. However, if you are in recovery, and have a suicide attempt as part of your past, we encourage you to work with a counselor who is aware of the latest professional discussion on counseling in this area. And, as always, we encourage you to do whatever works best for  you to maintain and strengthen your sobriety.

How much does a ‘label’ matter in getting help?

Dr. John Kelly

By “label,” I’m talking about what we, what society, and what the treatment industry calls someone who has an alcohol or drugs problem.

Often, that label is “substance abuser,” a labeling that Harvard’s Dr. John Kelly, an associate professor of psychology, said can be harmful indeed.

He says that label adds to stigmatization of people with an addiction, not just in society in general but among people at the Ph.D. level of study in psychology or related disciplines, including people planning on entering addiction counseling and substance abuse treatment work.

At a White House meeting, Kelly specifically told the federal “drug abuse czar” that, from the top down, the country’s frontline people in dealing with addiction need to work on changing their labeling vocabulary.