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 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 diagnosis, mental health, stigma

The Face Behind Ungluing Stigma

So today I’m taking the time to make some fun and quick announcements and then answer some questions about myself to help you get to know me better!
Coming up on Ungluing Stigma, we’re going to have a surprise guest writer! I won’t spoil who it will be, but they’re just as passionate about ending the stigma as I am! Also coming up in the next few months, I will be continuing to write a few blog posts that will be shared on the blog of the spa I work at and will be sharing them here as well. Finally, I will be giving a presentation at work about empathy, and how to respond appropriately to any client who comes in with a mental health issue. I’m hoping to get a video of the presentation, or at the very least get my notes up on the blog, so be on the lookout for that as well. This weekend I also got a burst of inspiration on various blog post topics, so it’s an exciting next few months here at Ungluing Stigma!

So you all know some things about me, from the experiences I share here on the blog, from my Instagram, or maybe you know me personally and are a friend or family member reading my blog. On Pinterest recently I found a 14 Day Blog challenge and realized it would be a great way to officially introduce myself to all you lovely people. Rather than spending two weeks on these questions, I’m going to rapid-fire answer them here and now! Here we go!

  1. Introduction. My name’s Serenity Rae Kaspar, but I typically go by Ren. I have Complex PTSD, Severe Anxiety Disorder, Rapid-Cycling Bipolar 1, Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, Binge Eating Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’ve lived over 10 different places in my life, but I’m able to proudly say that I’m a Wisconsin-Raised gal. I’ve been dancing since I was 3, and now I choreograph for local theaters in the Madison Area. I love theater and have been in over 15 different plays/ musicals. I’ve kept a poetry journal since 8th grade. I have a bunny, a guinea pig, 2 gerbils and a hamster. I love to spend quality time with my friends.
  2. 20 fun facts about me!
    1. I’m a Libra
    2. I’m a Harry Potter Fan: Ravenclaw and Pukwudgie
    3. I met my best friend in kindergarten and we’ve been BFFs ever since (so that’s 16 years)
    4. I love kids movies
    5. I have 7 Build-A-Bears
    6. I love the DC Universe more than Marvel
    7. If I could have anything growing out of my head besides hair, I’d choose flowers so that I never had to wear perfume and always a piece of spring with me – I love spring (bonus fact!)
    8. I’ve played almost every Nancy Drew Mystery computer game
    9. I’ve been to 40 states
    10. My younger brother and I can quote the entire movie Cars… this is a theory we actually tested and we do indeed know every line
    11. I have a moped to get around town
    12. My first kiss was at a cast party for my senior year’s musical. I had to keep my eyes closed while they picked someone to kiss me and so I don’t know who I had my first kiss with.
    13. My medium of choice when coloring is always crayons or highlighters
    14. When it thunderstorms I run outside in a tank top and shorts and get soaked while playing in the mud.
    15. In my lifetime I have lived with 11 different cats
    16. I hate math even though I was one of the best at math in high school
    17. I’ve been to NYC 3 times and each time I saw a broadway musical: In the Heights, Wicked and Newsies.
    18. I once went on a 37-day roadtrip to 11 different states
    19. I helped rebuild houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina
    20. I used to have hair so long it was past my butt
  3. The meaning of my business name: I knew I wanted it to be about mental health and ending the stigma. I originally thought about Ungluing the Invisible but that title wasn’t as clear. I also considered Lead by Butterflies, I hate mental illness… it’s awesome, and Confession Time
  4. Earliest childhood memory: I remembered getting stuck in the frame of our kitchen table when I was around 2 and they almost had to call the fire department.
  5. My guilty pleasure: watching the sad movies where someone is sick and/ or dies (Bridge to Terabithia, The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Safe Haven… etc.)
  6. 3 personality traits I’m proud of: empathetic, thoughtful, creative
  7. Favorite foods: Ice Cream, any kind of pasta, deep fried cheese, yogurt, pancakes!
  8. Old photo of me: my Godsister had dressed me up to go swimming:1072290_514412761941364_875904172_o
  9. Piercings and tattoos? Yep! My ears and my belly button are pierced and I currently have 7 tattoos (with 3 more in the works), my Instagram has pictures of 6 of them
  10. Fist celebrity crush: Being demisexual I didn’t have many celeb crushes, but boy howdy I loved Evan Lysacek, a figure skater from the 2010 Olympics. I slept with a photo of him under my pillow and would kiss it goodnight.1386682395000-USATSI-7465724
  11. My most proud moment: when a blog post of mine when viral
  12. If I won the Lottery: I’d get a lot of tattoos and go to Disneyworld
  13. Favorite Quote: good ol’ JK Rowling: “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic”
  14. Dream job: getting paid to write about mental health on a blog or website of some kind and working at the Crisis Text Line to continue making a difference in the mental health world.

So that’s me! I think this post was a great way to help reinforce the idea that I am so much more than just my mental illnesses. I’m a real human with real feelings and experiences and silliness. Remember that everyone you meet is more than just their mental health diagnosis. Have a spectacular week everybody! And remember to keep an eye out for all of those exciting things coming up!

Posted in bpd, coping, Depression, ED, mental health, stigma

Abuse and the Stigma

The stigma surrounding mental health is still really bad, despite the efforts of thousands if not millions of people standing up and speaking out against it. We (the mentally ill) still fear getting help, talking about their mental illness, face bullying, are told we are faking, or that we are lying, or worst of all are told to go hurt/ kill ourselves.

I myself have been told some pretty awful things. One time an old friend texted me words of hate and shame, she told me I was lying and that she hated me. That night I tried to drown myself in the bathtub with weights. She pursued me over text, Facebook, Google Hangouts and Instagram. I blocked her on all platforms and changed my number. But she didn’t rest there.  It took a huge toll on my mental health. But I didn’t say anything to anyone besides telling a friend about a message here or there. Finally, during my partial hospitalization program with Rogers, I opened up to my therapist and she called the police and the police informed this girl that if she ever got into contact with me again she would be pressed with criminal charges and a restraining order would be filled. Her mom called back and began saying at him that I had just gotten released from a mental hospital and I was unstable. Thankfully the officer had seen my evidence and told the mom that if that was her first defense that there was probably some guilt on their side of things, and he ended the call. Later this was found on her Instagram:

These comments were made the morning after the Orlando murders took place. I was distraught for weeks after reading this. To this day, thinking about me sick to my stomach. These users used to be friends of mine. And in the weight of the Orlando aftermath, I was being compared to mass murderers by people who used to know me! And it was on display for anyone to see. I couldn’t eat and cried for days. I hated myself more than I ever had in my whole life. This and other bullying I’ve faced has made me very scared to open up about any of my mental health issues or the bullies that were telling my support system that I’m a liar. Instead of getting help, I was letting my illnesses get the best of me. I was scared that if I told someone that they’d treat my like I was a crazy person and I’d lose them from my support system. Instead I watched nights turn into days, tossing and turning until I could lay awake no longer. One of my best friends and I went nearly a whole semester not talking because I couldn’t risk being judged – which was compounded by the fact that borderline patients have severe abandonment issues. 

I wish I could say my story is unique or an uncommon occurrence, but I see people with mental health issues receive just as bad or ever worse hate on a daily basis. I see someone post something about their battle against anorexia and read a handful of atrocious comments. Later the same user posts a picture of some hate on a forum about her and it’s nothing but negativity. This user then tried to commit suicide three times and only by flukes are they still alive. When your mental illness is already lying to you, and you’re struggling to hold the tidal waves of depression and dissociativeness at bay, you can barely keep your head above water. Bullying takes down any and all efforts we’re making to stay afloat.

We already have a stigma to battle. If you Google “Borderline Personality Disorder”, you can find websites that tell you we’re “evil” and “liars” and “manipulative.” If someone were to read those, and then hear I have BPD, they would immediately be scared of me and distrust everything I say. But that’s not true. I’ve been called a liar all my life, but the truth is, people who know me can usually tell when I’m lying because I’m so bad at it. And after one lie I got caught up in led to me hitting rock bottom, I strive to always be truthful, even when it means something bad for me. As for calling us manipulative, well… as children, Borderlines often do not receive adequate affection and attention from the people who are supposed to give exactly that. Because of this, we crave it when we get older and feel like we have to overachieve and perform more in order to “earn” it because doing “enough” as kids didn’t have an end result of proper validation. However, we are also often put down, endlessly criticized and even bullied or neglected as children. We feel we don’t deserve the attention we end up getting so we “split” ourselves and succumb to self-hate. And remember, Borderlines feel emotions roughly FOUR TIMES as intense and extreme than normal. With all that being said, hopefully, you can understand me when I say we are not manipulative. This is just one example of a thousand comments I wish I could make to combat the stigma.

The stigma stands in the way of us mentally ill, by discouraging us to go to therapy/ talk about/ get help for our illnesses. It scares us into silence. It causes others to wrongfully jump to conclusions or make assumptions about us, driving a wedge into compassion and community. It causes us to get blamed for things we have no control over and makes us hate ourselves even more. It can cause us to hurt ourselves or even attempt suicide. When you add bullying and negative comments on top of the stigma, it can compound these negative effects. Please, not only make an effort to end the stigma surrounding mental health but help combat the bullying and abuse we receive from less educated folks. And if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.