Posted in coping, Depression, diagnosis, ED, mental health, PTSD, stigma

Dear Patient Relations – An Open Letter

This weekend I wrote a letter of complaint to the patient relations at my hospital. Being an advocate on my blog and Instagram can only get you so far. I took the courageous action to share my story with the people who will hopefully really help me make a difference. And it’s only right that I post it here so that it may find whoever needs it and I pray that this continues to find the right people so that this issue is addressed not only in my hospital but in hospitals across the country and maybe even globally.

Dear Patient Relations,

My name is Serenity Kaspar and I am mentally disabled. This means I frequent the ER as a psych patient when I need the extra help. I am an avid mental health advocate and with my latest trip to the ER, I ran across some red flags. I am thankful it was me, and not someone in an unhealthier mindset, who ran into these unsafe situations.

I had a dramatic mental episode on the morning of June 9th, leaving myself and my care team wondering if I had overdosed on one of my medications. I drove myself into the ER, as I have many times before. I know you guys have been rearranging things, and I pray my experience today was simply ironing out the kinks of the new program. If that is the case, I hope this letter helps you adjust the new system. Once I was checked in, I was taken back behind the desk to get my vital signs done, then returned to sit and wait. My first thought I’d like to make is that there was a large number of times that I was moved from room to room and all the standing and sitting was very unwelcomed. I had taken too much medication and I was feeling very sick, as I’d imagine most patients would be feeling given the nature of the emergency room.

When I was finally taken back to a room, I was immediately left alone while the staff member asked a question. I was a psych patient left alone in a room full of chords, medical supplies, and more. Now, given what you have done with the psych ER room remodel, you understand the severity of this mistake. This happened not once, but twice. I was even left alone for a lengthy period of time, plenty of time to do some serious damage. After an EKG, I was left alone again in that new, smaller waiting room area. No one at the desk, nothing. I’d like to note that at this point, I had all my stuff and nothing had been checked. I also had not been asked if I felt like I could keep myself safe or if I still had thoughts of wanting to hurt myself or others. If this had been back when I was at my sickest, I would have had a knife in my bad to cut myself with and I would have lied to the initial staffers. There wasn’t enough of a relationship for me to have felt comfortable sharing, nor for them to know if I was truly safe or not, despite how I may have “seemed.”

When I was taken back into the psych room, I was met with a staff purely made of new people. They were not aware of the rules, when we were allowed, what we could wear… nothing. They weren’t even aware of how everything in the room went. I understand that there are staffing problems, but there should never be exclusively new people staffed in the psych area. I ended up being the one to tell them how certain things went. Again, if I had not been this far into recovery, this would have continued to give me opportunities to lie and get away with things that could compromise my mental and physical health.

Thankfully I am in recovery and was not having current thoughts about hurting myself or others. I want to applaud the hospital for the renovations it made to the psych rooms. They are so much safer, and I rest easier knowing that my fellow mental health patients are safer when they come into the ER.

I also wish that this was the only thing I felt I needed to write about today. I have run into some serious issues in your ER before, when it came to mental health issues. I have had staffers sitting with me and answer my questions about how tall a building needs to be for me to effectively kill myself and sat there while I self harmed. I have had staffers check in on me, find me self harming, tell me not to do it, and then leave again, leaving me to self harm to my heart’s content. These are truly appalling things that I have experienced, and unfortunately, I am not alone in this.

–I then included the text from my previous blog post: The Problem with the ER

Please take this to heart and get it to the exact right people that can help change this. Don’t make it another email that’s summarized by checking a few boxes.

I am more than willing to talk on the phone and meet with whoever I need to meet with so that this can change. I am willing to do whatever it takes that mental health patients do not need to experience this, and ultimately reject care that has the potential to change their lives.

Posted in coping, diagnosis, mental health

Reflecting On Rogers Memorial Hospital

5/23/17… a year ago today I arrived home after a 2-month residential stay at Rogers Memorial Hospital. It may have only been 2 months, but there was a long road that led me there, and a lifetime of memories to treasure afterward.

My first mental health diagnosis (Borderline Personality Disorder) came about because I went to my therapist, sobbing, saying that I needed to be locked up for good in a mental institution (read more of that story in this article). Even in the months following, I felt the pull to be hospitalized for psychiatric reasons, and I wasn’t sure why. In June 2015, following a suicide attempt, I was hospitalized for psych reasons for the first time. Something felt right. It wasn’t until later that I was able to explain the sensation. I was in a place where there were no judgments being made. There was still evidence of a stigma, but less so than out in the world. I was surrounded by staff that knew how to take care of you and people who were experiencing similar symptoms and could empathize with you.

Down the line about 4 months, I was first introduced to the idea of going to Rogers for their mood disorder program. Despite the call I still felt to “live” in a mental hospital, I was resistant. “What would it look like to other people if I went away and lived in a hospital specifically for the severely mentally ill?” I was scared because of the stigma. I knew it would be good for me. At this point, I was already beginning the road to recovery, going to 1 on 1 therapy and attending Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). I loved learning new mental health skills. Plus, having the referral to go to a residential treatment was extremely validating. It wasn’t all in my head. I needed real and serious treatment. The end of March 2016, I got the call from Rogers saying I was at the top of the waiting list and they had a bed ready for me on the upcoming Wednesday. It was a whirlwind few days and I prepared to go live in the hospital for the next 45-60 days.

Rogers Memorial Hospital is split up into many different buildings, with different buildings dedicated to different programs, like a program for adolescents, drug rehab, OCD, eating disorders, etc. I attended their FOCUS program, which is their mood disorder program. In addition, patients who struggled with suicidal thoughts and self-harm were also in our unit, as these things usually go hand in hand with mood disorders. The entire unit was suicide proof and objects that you could potentially hurt yourself with, like a spiral-bound notebook or shampoo/ conditioner with alcohol, were either kept off the unit or only allowed to be “checked out” from the nurse’s office during certain times of the day and were closely regulated. It was daunting at first to be so closely watched and controlled, but after a while it simply became routine, and you learned to make do without those things. The FOCUS building was divided into three levels, with the first two levels for ages 18-30, and the basement for 30 and over. Each level had 11 beds. So there were 10 other people on my floor, “locked” on a unit that consisted of a kitchenette, a typical-sized living room, a smaller group room and our bedrooms. Needless to say, we were around each other all day every day and became quite close. Even now, a year after graduation, I talk with many of my fellow patients on a weekly/ daily basis. We’re still very close. The patients came from all around the country and even had some patients from other countries as well.

Every day, we started with breakfast in the cafeteria (nothing but hospital food for 2 months… yuck), followed by mindfulness. We then attended either Recreational Therapy or Art Therapy. In RT, we would do anything from ziplining to geocaching. We did a great number of high and low ropes courses, rock climbing, teamwork activities, typical gym games, etc. Everything related in some way to our treatment or recovery. For example, when we went ziplining, we metaphorically left something behind on the platform that we wanted to move away from in our recovery, I chose self-harm. Symbolically I left the act of self-harm behind me on the platform, and “zipped” towards a future that had clean arms. When we did an obstacle course blindfolded and lead by a partner, to demonstrate that in recovery, we won’t know the exact path or challenges ahead, but with help, we can reach the end goal. Cheesy stuff like that. In art, we took the same concept and put it into art. Our art projects we were assigned helped us explore different areas of our recovery and express them creatively. After RT or art

After RT or art, we had DBT taught by our therapist, lunch, and then Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), taught by our Behavioral Specialist (BS). In CBT and DBT, each session started with a check in and a quick discussion of our daily, outstanding assignments. In DBT, we had a general check in, rating our suicidal and self-harm urges, depression, and anxiety. In CBT we went over our “bans” which were destructive habits we were trying to curb, such as skin picking, rumination, attention seeking, checking, etc. We also had a daily assignment of “exposures”, where, in small doses, we exposed ourselves to things that caused us anxiety. We then would turn in homework, like a typical school class, followed by discussion and the daily lesson. I’m sorry this was clumsily explained. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Our week contained going to the local YMCA 3 times a week, nutrition and “spirituality” classes, weekly meetings with our BS/ therapist/ head psychologist, weekend outings (Target, mini golfing, bookstores, coffee, playgrounds, etc) and much more. It was a busy schedule, leaving us busy from breakfast to dinner, with homework time and free time in the evenings. I was busier at Rogers than when I was in high school. Having the structured time was good for me. It prepared me for managing a schedule after discharge. After graduation, I stepped down from a residential level to a partial hospitalization program, and then back to outpatient, where I’ve been since June of 2016.

Rogers saved my life. Before I went to Rogers, I needed to go to the ER an average of 1-2 times a month, as well as a monthly inpatient stay on an acute unit. I was putting my best effort into recovery, but even weekly therapy sessions and DBT wasn’t cutting it. I was still self- harming, my mood was rarely stabilized, I wasn’t good at maintaining healthy relationships, and I was losing more and more hours at work. I had to call in sick almost weekly for a time due to the state of my mental health. After Rogers, it still took a year to be able to return to work, but this time around I have the skills to effectively handle working a few hours a week. I can advocate for myself and find reasonable accommodations to make working a significantly improved situation for both me and my employers. I have maintained healthy friendships as well as a healthy romantic relationship. We were able to experiment with my medications at Rogers and I have the right medications to stabilize my mood now. I’ve successfully been in recovery, not needing to go inpatient, for a full year now. I’ve been able to thrive, whereas before Rogers, I was simply surviving. I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone and been on spectacular adventures. I can shower, do my laundry, manage my schedule, and do things for fun! I speak the language for mental health way better than I could’ve ever imagined. It’s night and day, the differences in my life pre- and post- FOCUS. I love myself and I love recovery. Don’t get me wrong… sometimes living at FOCUS was HELL. It was certainly the toughest thing I have ever done. There were days I hated being there and for the first time in my life, there were times I was truly angry. The way they ran certain things and some of their policies really got my goat. Every morning I woke up despising the staff member who woke us up. It wasn’t until after I returned home that I fully loved my experience and was thankful for it. It was the best experience of my life, and besides my wedding, I doubt anything will top my time at Rogers. I now say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Posted in Anxiety, bpd, coping, Depression, ED, mental health, PTSD

Self-Therapy: How I Had the Best Monday Morning I’ve Had in Years

I started writing this earlier this morning and am proud to bring you the best self-therapy I think I’ve ever had:

My mental illnesses are taking over. It’s taking all the energy I have to keep myself from attempting suicide, and I don’t even want to die!! My nightmares/ dreams are so bad I can’t even tell if I’m awake or dreaming. My eating disorder and self-image is at nearly an all-time low and I’m starting more intense therapy.  My knees ache in the springtime because of the cool, damp air. My back is getting worse and I’m scared wearing an occasional brace and electrotherapy won’t be enough in the near future. My blog traffic is down so low it’s worse than the first month is was live. I’m stressed all the time. My financial situation is dire. My bipolar is temporarily stable, but the fear or losing control again makes it even harder for me to trust my mood. I’ve had life-altering pain in my side for 7 months with no answers, and more my digestive system is revolting against me and doctor’s don’t know why yet. I’m a mess. I need a vacation. I’m curled around a puke bowl crying and browsing Facebook. I don’t even remember what inspired the thought, but something made me realize I need to do my best to live life despite the blows that knock me down. Lake Monona is my backyard. I got a bigger boost of inspiration than I’ve had in months.

IMG_20170522_080844949It’s 7:30 am on a Monday morning and I just got home from the ER about an hour ago. I’m struggling with my Bipolar Depression and thoughts of suicide while struggling with the scary and unknown thoughts of digestive failure or kidney disease. Every fiber of my being screams to just curl up in a ball under blankets and just watch a movie I’ve seen a hundred times over. Something on Facebook inspires me to just make a positive memory for myself and live a happy life, at least for the morning. I needed to just let go of all of the anxiety over unknowns in my life and enjoy myself. I wasn’t going to let anxiety win. I got up, threw my phone, a waterproof speaker and an Ensure in a bag, grabbed my favorite canoe, Pea Pod, and dragged it all down to the shoreline. I was so excited, but also nervous, because I had this gut feeling it was a bad idea to go canoeing in my current physical condition. Somehow my persnickety brain allowed me to throw caution to the wind and go canoeing anyways.

I started out quite clumsily, it was hard to find a way to paddle that compensated for my current right flank pain. It was so early in the morning that the sun was either directly in my eyes or so low that I was in the shade and chilly. After a period of wrestling with the canoe and the sun, I realized I had forgotten to turn my music on! That improved the entire situation 1000%.  I was singing at the top of my lungs, laughing, talking to the wildlife and enjoying the view. I went down this channel that has a great balance of interesting houses, and wildlife, to look at while paddling. img_20170522_082707328.jpgI drank an Ensure, which is a nutritional drink I was prescribed when I was diagnosed with my eating disorder. I’ve been struggling a lot with my eating recently because I’m about to start meeting with a new professional about it, so I’ve been avoiding drinking the Ensures so that I appear “sick enough” for this new doctor (PRIME EXAMPLE OF WHY THE EATING DISORDER STIGMA IS DANGEROUS). It made me feel really good about myself, but there was still this hesitation inside of me that I didn’t like. My thoughts immediately jumped to pushing myself really hard paddling so I’d burn off the calories and not get fat because I drank it. Instead of acting on that thought, I practiced a DBT skill where you imagine your thoughts and urges as leaves on a river, and picture them flowing past you without judging them or acting on them… only I did it in real life on the lake with some leaves from a nearby tree and watched my urges to over-exert myself and self-image issues drift away from my canoe. Then I “took matters into my own hands” and paddled away from them. I decided to make a conscious choice to leave those issues behind me and “paddle towards recovery”. I think my phone heard my thoughts because the next song that played was a song from my library that dealt with physical appearance and learning to accept yourself (as long as you promise not to judge me for being a Gleek, you can listen to the song here).

There were many times I started to turn around. My depression was screaming at me to go back into my bed and just spend the next few hours mindlessly on my phone. Even now, I don’t completely know how I was able to fight those thoughts off and keep going on my planned route. I would mutter a little pep talk (“you got this, remember you’re having a good time?” or “oh no you silly brain. this is my morning and you aren’t taking it from me” or something of the like) and paddle on. At one point my foot fell asleep so bad that I had no feeling in my foot. If you know me, you know I’m ridiculously ticklish

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Accidentally wore the perfect shirt…

on the bottoms of my feet. I can even tickle myself! I ran my finger across my foot and couldn’t feel it AT ALL. It was a weird out-of-body experience, and also kinda scary. Needless to say, the rest of the ride I was always wiggling my feet and knees so they didn’t fall asleep. I paddled along, quacking at ducks and then laughing at myself… that’s a really powerful gift, to be able to have enough empathy towards yourself that you can laugh at the silly quirks you have, instead of tearing them down. That thought was another positive thought that I noted to use in the future when I begin hating my childish quirks. I seized the moment and sat cheering myself on for the distance I’ve already run in the marathon to self-acceptance.

 

At this point, I’m about 2/3 of the way through my planned trail to blaze in Pea Pod. Once again, as if on cue, a string of my self-empowering songs played. Pure positive energy seemed to burst from my chest. It was surreal. I paddled with renewed life in me. My cheeks hurt I was smiling so much. I paused long enough to capture a quick video of the moment:

I paddled home in the best mood I can remember ever being in, in recent history anyway. There are a gazillion more thoughts I had and experiences I will treasure from my paddle, but I will leave you with this, recovery is not a straight line. Things had been going well for me these past two weeks, and then everything came crashing down. Even with this paddle to lift me up, I’m still in a funk and overwhelmed. This wasn’t a wand-waving experience that made me feel all better. In fact, I’m still a little low-key passively suicidal. But the opportunity to suspend reality, if only for a moment of relief, was well worth the effort. I’m depressed but rejuvenated. The self-discovery journey I went on today was one I will never forget. I hope this post encourages you to stretch yourself this week, and allow yourself the freedom to take things as they come, and go on a journey with your closest friend… you ❤

Want to hear “My Paddle Playlist”? Check it out here.

Posted in Anxiety, coping, Depression, mental health, stigma

My 1st Week as a Crisis Counselor

As some of you may have known, this was my first week as a Crisis Counselor for the Crisis Text Line. I’ve completed 34 hours of training over 6 weeks and officially became a certified crisis counselor. Over the next year (and hopefully beyond), I will be spending a minimum of 4 hours a week responding to the texters who text into the CTL, listening and supporting them through their crisis. This can be anything from bullying, stress about finals, suicide, abuse, and more. This service was started so that you don’t have to call a hotline and talk to someone, which can be nerve-wracking, but instead, text them, which can be much less stressful.
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Leading up to this week, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to start talking with texters and supporting them through their crises. In the hours before my first shift, I was downright terrified. My thoughts were racing: “what if I say the wrong thing and make it worse?” “what if I mess up using the platform?” “what if I’m not good enough and my supervisor fires me?” “what if I’m triggered and can’t help the texter?” … the thoughts went on and on. When it was time for me to log in, I was shaking from nerves. My supervisor was very supportive, and I was able to jump right in. For confidentiality reasons, I cannot share the nature of the conversations I had, but today I’m going to talk about my emotions as I went through my first hours of counseling.

Everything I heard while in training was right, as a counselor, you really do save lives, and let me tell you, it feels pretty great. I was so pumped up after helping my first few texters, I ended up working 5 hours straight instead of just 2 on my first shift. I’ve always known this was my passion in life. Earlier this week, my best friend reminded me that back when I was my sickest mentally, I still talked about how I couldn’t wait to be able to use my story and experiences to help others. Being able to live out that passion is pretty spectacular. But I quickly learned it isn’t all cake and roses.

I knew this was going to be difficult. I knew I might be triggered. I knew that it was going to drain me emotionally and mentally. But nothing can prepare you for the real experiences. Nothing prepares you for the unknowns. The people who when you end the conversation, you don’t know if they’ll be safe tonight. Nothing prepares you for the people who never text you back. And there’s the fact that there is nothing you can do about it. You did what you could. You probably even did your best. You’re helpless… even as a trained counselor, you couldn’t do it. I found myself thinking it was my fault. The “if only”s raced through my head and my heart. I held all the guilt and put it on myself. I failed. The fulfillment and the adrenaline were gone. I felt empty. I wanted to cry. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

I spent all of today shaken over the unknowns of last night’s shift. I could barely get out of bed this afternoon. My nightmares completely overcame me when I drifted off to sleep watching TV. I was practicing a lot of self-care last night after my shift. I drank tea, I snuggled my bunny and got lots of kisses. I meditated and watched my favorite movie while surrounded by my favorite stuffed animals. It still wasn’t enough. I was so wired I didn’t get to bed until 5 am I got out of the house today and met a dear friend at Barnes and Noble… and was an hour late. All I could think about when I was there was how much I needed to write… and how I wish it was easier for me to settle in with a good book. The second I got home I fell asleep again…. only to be met with more nightmares. It’s been clear to me that I am certainly an empath, and it was very apparent today.

This was only my first week. I have a lifetime to get it right. I’ll continue the mantra that I’ve done what I can. I’ll sing about how this is my calling in life. I’ll talk to my animals about the difficulties I faced during my shift. But most importantly, I’m going to persevere and continue to change lives both as a counselor and in my own life.

I can do this.

 

If you’re in need of help, know there is someone who is always there to listen. Text HELP to 741-741 or message the Crisis Text Line on Facebook.

 

 

Posted in coping, mental health, PTSD

Mental Health and the Workplace

So many of you know I work at a local day spa (as much as I want to go on and on about how amazing it is to work here, I’ll resist the temptation.. but for those of you in the Madison WI area, please go check out Kneaded Relief Day Spa & Wellness next time you need to practice some self-care with a massage, manicure/ pedicure, facial, waxing, body treatments, personal training… etc. you won’t be disappointed). I was asked to write a blog post for the blog at the spa I work for. But I’d like to encourage all of you to read it, I explain PTSD and the effects it can have on someone. A spa is a great way to help you practice self-care, take care of your body physically, and it’s fun! Even if you can’t make it a regular thing, it’s a great way to spoil yourself and love yourself. Going to the spa doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep reading as I explain PTSD and then how you can advocate for yourself in the situations life presents itself with.

At our last staff meeting, we talked about our clients with mental health issues, more specifically PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and ways we can help those clients as therapists. Seeing how May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about PTSD and how we as therapists are willing to come alongside you in your journey of recovery.

What do you think of when you hear PTSD? Is it a soldier? If that’s where your mind went to, that’s okay. Soldiers can have very severe PTSD from the things they might have seen while overseas. But did you know that anyone can have PTSD? It’s not limited to just soldiers. If someone has been abused, assaulted, in a car crash, bullied, had a medical emergency, or even watching a loved one go through a serious physical or mental illness… these are all examples of people who might be traumatized and experience PTSD.

As someone who has personal experience of what it’s like to live with PTSD, I can attest to the fact that there are times (both sometimes or all the time) when you don’t want to be touched. Being touched can trigger various reactions, and for different reasons. Say there is someone who was in a car accident. A massage can be very healing for the body, but not always for the mind. The client’s seat belt might have cut off their windpipe, making it difficult to breathe. That can be a scary and very traumatizing thing, to be unable to breathe in a very alarming situation. While massages and/ or facials usually include neck and shoulder work, this can trigger the client and that can result in a myriad of things.

What it a trigger, and why does it matter? Dictionary.com defines a trigger as anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions. Okay, lots of fancy words. What does that mean? Let’s go back to the client that was in an accident. Touching their neck can remind their brain of the time when they were strangled. This can cause a series of reactions that are, but not limited to: a flashback, in which hallucinations occur of the traumatic event, often convincing the person that they are actually reliving that moment; an emotional response similar to the one the person had at the time of the traumatic event; fight or flight mode; an intense and “irrational” fear of the person who triggered them; and many more similar reactions.

At Kneaded Relief, the therapists (whether it be for a massage, facial, body treatment, etc) take the time before the treatment starts to check in with the client. Update on any changes of health history, talk about areas that need some attention… this is a great time to let your therapist know if there are areas you want them to avoid so you aren’t triggered. You don’t have to be afraid of judgment. Our staff had a wonderful conversation at our meeting, and I can speak from personal experience, having PTSD and other mental health issues myself, the staff takes a non-judgmental stance when it comes to opening up about mental health issues.

No matter who you are, or where you are, this concept can be put into practice. I think it’s wonderful to talk about mental illness in the workplace. I’m glad my employers are helping lead the way to education and the end of this stigma.

Posted in Anxiety, Bipolar, coping, Depression, diagnosis, mental health

Greiving a Diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of any kind can be devastating to a person’s life. It’s perfectly normal to need to grieve a diagnosis. Getting diagnosed can mean extra treatment, new medication, hospital stays, lifestyle changes, and more. It can put a strain on even the strongest of relationships. A diagnosis can also leave a lot of unknowns for what the future holds, and that can be very unsettling. Fear of the unknown can hold a lot of power over a person. Grieving a diagnosis can look like any other type of grieving, commonly depicted in 5 or 7 stages. I’ve received 9 mental health diagnosis over the years, 2 of them were misdiagnosed and so today mental health professionals agree on 7 diagnoses and an 8th in the works. When I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I definitely spun into a deep state of grieving, and it took me nearly a year to fully grieve my diagnosis. My bipolar diagnosis came slowly, first I was diagnosis with Bipolar 2, then my psychiatrist disagreed, saying it was just my Borderline showing similar symptoms. After getting a third opinion, it was finally accepted that I had bipolar 2. One time I went into therapy, it was very apparent to my social worker that I was fully manic, a state that can only be reached if you have Bipolar 1. Almost a year later, I was talking with my therapist and I mentioned how I get manic for about half of a month and depressed for the other half. According to her, someone who has bipolar only gets manic once or twice a year, at most, not every single month. this means I have rapid-cycling Bipolar 1. About 2.5% of all US citizens have bipolar disorder, and of that 2.5%, only 10-15% have rapid-cycling. Because of this long, drawn-out process of getting a proper diagnosis that 4+ mental health professionals agree on, I went through the grieving process multiple times when it came to my Bipolar disorder.

Drawing on my own experience and various articles online, I’m going to talk you through what grieving can look like after receiving a mental health diagnosis.

Shock/ Disbelief- What did the doctor just say? Surely I didn’t hear him right. I’m perfectly normal. Everyone just gets a little stressed sometimes… right? The chaos can be all you think about, You have to find out what happened, no matter what the cost.

Denial- This can’t be true. It just can’t be. I don’t need this medicine. I can’t have this illness. I’m so healthy! I’ve felt like this my whole life. Why should now be any different??

Bargaining- I can beat this, I just have to grin and bear it with my treatment team. Maybe if I tell them everything’s better, I won’t have to go to therapy anymore. And my mom won’t have to look at me with such sad, desperate eyes. That’s it, just pretend and do what they want you to do and say. Maybe if I went and got a second opinion…

Depression- A number of people tend to get stuck in this phase and that makes it the most dangerous stage. This is where the sadness and guilt can set in. Self-blaming can take over. If only I had gotten help sooner… now it’s helpless. I can never get better, it’s just too hard.

Acceptance- Reaching this stage is something not everyone is able to reach. It’s looking in the mirror and saying “Welp, this is the hand I was dealt with. I can do this.” You radically accept any emotions that come your way about your diagnosis.  You can begin to forgive yourself, and let yourself be loved again.

Please remember that I am not an expert in grief, I am speaking from personal experience and the experiences of others that I know. Greif can look different for every single individual. Have you ever grieved a diagnosis? Do you have any tips or tricks that helped you in your grieving process? Let me know in the comments below!

 

If you’re struggling with grieving a diagnosis, know there is someone who is always there to listen. Text GRIEVING to 741-741 or message the Crisis Text Line on Facebook.

Posted in coping, mental health

Tracking Mental Health

Tracking your mental health can be very important. You can learn your triggers, understand possible reasons for a depressive or suicidal episode, heck, you can study patterns to predict your mental health more effectively. Today I’m going to take you through a couple of ways that I track my mental health.Screenshot_2017-04-25-15-36-37

Apps. There is a myriad of apps in the app store that offer ways to track mental health, physical health, diet, blood pressure, medications, mood, fitness… the list goes on. Throughout the years I’ve tried many of them. Daylio (play store, iTunes) is the main app that I use to track my mental health. To the right, you can see a screen shot of what my last few days looked like. You can choose between 5 different moods (the default are rad, good, meh, fugly and awful, but you can customize them to whatever you’d like). Then you select from a customizable list of activities, thoughts, chores, etc. based on what you did that day. I added many of my own tasks, including manic/ depressed so I can track my bipolar cycles, whether or not I had self-harm or suicidal urges, if I cleaned my pet cages, etc. At any time you can go to the statistics page and there are a number of unique ways that you can view the data in whatever way suits you best. You can set reminders for you to fill it out each night, and there’s a space to add your own personal notes. Everything can be backed up onto google drive and it’ll tell you how many days in a row you’ve filled out a diary entry!

I take a handful of medication every night, as well as having a few “as needed” medications for times where I need extra help getting to sleep or to help with my anxiety, I use Medsafe (play store, iTunes) to keep track of my meds. I love this app because you can customize pretty much everything. You can even pick what the medication looks like so you can see it in your digital pillbox just like it appears in real life. There are lots of great apps for tracking your medication, this is just my personal favorite.IMG_20170425_151115.jpg

I have yet to find an app that I like for tracking what I eat, without it getting too technical, like counting calories. Instead, I track what I eat in my Bullet Journal. It’s quick and simple, without me having to feel guilty about eating so many calories and having that trigger something with my eating disorder. I also track how many glasses of water I drink every day, to make sure I’m staying hydrated. I draw one little water droplet for each glass of eight or more ounces of water that I drink. You can also see that I track how many words I write a day because my monthly writing goal is 10,000 words a month, I also use an app on my phone to track this, so I’m still ironing out the kinks of how to track it on paper. I like this layout because it’s quick and easy to use. Do you use an app to track your food or water intake? I’m always looking for suggestions! Let me know in the comments below, or go to my Contact Us page for more ways to get in touch with me.

As I mentioned in the paragraph above, I have a bullet journal that I use to keep my life somewhat organized. Below is an overview of what a week looks like in my bullet journal:IMG_20170425_151233

I played with a number of layouts before I settled on this one. You can check out all the pins I saved for inspiration on my Pinterest board that is full of artsy ideas. It gives me space to write down my schedule for the week, track my sleep, meals, water intake, and a boatload of other things. As you can see, I have a system of different colored pens, as well as different symbols to keep track of various appointments, chores, due dates, and a daily gratitude. I have a graph that lets me quickly and easily track my sleep. The bottom right photo is a small graph where I track things like if I took my medication, which days I did a variety of chores like cleaning my pet cages or laundry. I track if I’ve done yoga, or if I’ve used laxatives (which is a harmful behavior that I’m trying to stop).

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There are a few other ways I track my mental health that I’d like to share. Being someone who has rapid cycling bipolar, It can be very devastating to have my quickly changing mood affect my plans and daily routine. So this year, I’ve been tracking when I’m manic and when I’m depressed so I can start to see a pattern, and be able to plan accordingly. It’s very east to do, all it takes is highlighting the date with either pink to signify that I’m manic, or orange to signify that I’m depressed. You can already see that there’s an emerging pattern that I use to help me know when to make plans with friends, and when to know that I’m going to be stuck in bed with depression and might need to increase treatment frequency.IMG_20170425_151318

I also use the Daylio app that I talked about earlier to create a big-picture idea of what my mood (NOT linked to my bipolar phases) looks like throughout the year. I take the same five moods/ type of day (rad, good, meh, fugly, awful) and simply fill out a square on the graph accordingly. At the end of 2017, I’ll have my entire year in pixels! It’s fun to look and see the different moods I felt during the same time frame over the past few months.

Tracking mental health can be very important. It allows you to better understand what can seem like a chaotic and random illness. You can better answer questions that doctors and therapists might ask you during an appointment or hospital stay. I find it gives me peace of mind to have a tangible documentation of what is otherwise a very difficult thing to understand and track. Do you track your mental health or have an app that helps you when things get chaotic? Let me know in the comments below!