Tag Archives: mental health recovery

The Abyss.

Tonight I want to talk about the Abyss. I know when I started this blog I briefly discussed what the Abyss is to me. It is the deepest level of my system. It is darkness. It is fear. It is anger and horrible memories. It is terrifying and can be very very unstable. I want to talk about this place because I am there as we speak.

I thought about writing this for a few weeks, but wanted to spare my readers from my current struggles…until I realized how silly that is. This is a recovery blog. This is not a sugar coated, everything is rainbows and unicorns blog. This is down and dirty, this is how it fucking is blog. This is a, don’t give up…keep fighting blog. I am human, just like each and every one of you who read this. Sure I have a lot of clean time under my belt for drugs and for self harm. Sure, I’ve made a lot of progress in therapy…and sure, a few of my alters and I have integrated. But I am still human and I am still recovering from horrible things that had been done to me repeatedly. Nasty torturous things most people don’t even acknowledge are real because their own lives have been so positive. Things you see in horror movies and documentaries. This is my life. I have great ups and horrific downs. The downs don’t occur nearly as often as they used to, but they still come around. I am there as we speak.

I want this post to be a raw look into a breakdown. I want this post to really help others understand the pain we survivors go through, the battle we fight to survive. I also want this post to speak to those of you who are currently in your own version of the Abyss and persuade you to keep going.

The reason I am in the darkness right now is because an alter who has been with me since I was about 4 years old and holds some of my most traumatic memories has decided to break her silence. Suddenly, after about four months of stability, happiness, confidence and silence within my mind…I hear voices again. I feel a war of emotions within me. I am anxious, angry and deeply hurt. This alter has shown me things that were done to me that I guess she feels I am ready to deal with. Human nature is to avoid the harder, more dark path right? I know I just posted about this recently in my blog post about taking the dark road. Well, now I am fighting against human nature to continue on this dark, horrible road…because it is the one that will result in growth and strength. I know I am more than capable of surviving this and I know what is on the other side is well worth the pain. This is just very hard. I am feeling the same fear and anger I felt then as a small child, being used and abused, neglected and tormented. I feel the intense rage that is too much for my small human body to bare. I must get it out…but in a healthy, safe way. I have been drawing a lot more, painting and writing as well. I told my therapist how bad I feel and we have gone from one appointment every other week back to two meetings a week. At first I was angry and disappointed in myself for this, but truly, this shows my strength. Only a year ago I would not have called him. I would not have told him I needed more help. But this time I did. There is nothing wrong with admitting you are struggling. Asking for help does not denote weakness, in fact, it shows what a badass you are. Because it’s downright terrifying to ask for help. If you are struggling with telling the truth about your pain, please know you have every right to open your mouth…and you are showing your strength.

I have been forcing myself to cry. Allowing myself to get pissed off and journal my angry thoughts and feelings. It can be very scary to see such anger come out of you, but I promise you, it is vital for your health and survival. Get angry. Allow yourself to feel that rage for what was done to you against your will. All I ask is that you make sure you express it in safe ways. Journal, free write, draw, paint, meditate, pray, do yoga, play hockey, punch the shit out of a pillow, write a story and kill off a character (sounds weird, but it helps), hold your loved ones close, call a friend, call your therapist, attend a support group, dance, listen to HAPPY (never ever ever ever EVER sad) music, play an instrument, play with a pet, go for a walk…do something. Writing a letter to your abusers can be very cathartic. Or write to your addiction. Be completely honest. Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid of who might see it because after you’re done I want you to rip it up in tiny pieces and put it in something safe to burn (like a fire pit) and light that mother fucker on fire. Watch it burn. Realize that holding in that anger will eventually be the end of you in one way, shape or form. Let it go. Let it out and tell it to get the hell away from you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this one before…I bought a nice metal box with a combination code on it. It had a ton of makeup in it. I threw out all of the makeup and filled the box with things that made me happy, and things that reminded me of better times, things worth fighting for. I called this my emergency box. I still have it today. I highly suggest everyone make one and use it before you get as far down as I am now. It can really help you to slow down, calm down and put things into perspective. If it doesn’t help, move onto other coping skills that work for you.

I know it hurts to be where I am now, and where I’m sure some of you are, or have been. I know it feels as if someone is cutting into you with a scalpel, hitting you upside the head, all sorts of horrible things. But I swear to you, it will pass if you fight. Refuse to let this be your end. I know as I write this I am feeling so many negative, scary things. Some of these feelings are mine, others are feelings of my alters who have not let dealt with their abuse. Yes, I won’t lie, I am struggling with urges to self harm. I am dealing with a lot…but I absolutely refuse to lay down and die here. Hell no. This is my life damnit and I am going to fight for it. I will get past this…this is just another burning in the process of rising from the ashes. The pain is immense, but as we speak I am becoming stronger, wiser and more enlightened. I am removing what doesn’t belong, confronting my demons and growing.

Don’t give up. You are not alone. Help is always okay to look for and it is only a text, phone call, email or message away. There is always help. Those voices of doubt in your mind will try to convince you this is not true…but they are liars. Don’t listen. You’re a warrior! You CAN do this.

I love all of you, Dandi

Suicide hotline: 1(800)273-8255

http://www.fortrefuge.com

http://www.pandys.org

http://www.rainn.org

http://www.stepchat.com

http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=urgent_crisis_hotline

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Why we need coping skills

Effective coping mechanisms are very important to have and implement every day. In my life they have helped reduce stress and reduce the probability of a breakdown or panic attack. They have also helped me come back down from a full-blown crisis. There are millions of ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings and situations. Unfortunately some methods of coping are not only ineffective, but deadly. My go-to coping skills for the majority of my life (before getting on my healing path) were self-injury, writing, drawing (and for a few years) abusing drugs. Two of those were great. They were positive, effective and did not take away from the quality of my life. Two of those were very dangerous and at times nearly fatal.

 

One important thing to know about coping skills is to never rely on one. Branch out, brainstorm, look them up online, talking to other people. It is very good to make a list of as many as you can and have several copies of the list around the house. If you can, have one at work too! Many times I find myself in a position where I can’t use a coping skill I often rely on or suddenly, for that particular situation the usuals don’t work.

 

During one of my many hospitalizations all of my art and writing supplies were taken from me. The nurses said they were doing this to keep me safe from myself. Of course, I flipped the Hell out. Writing my stories and drawing are my strongest, most effective coping skills. I also don’t respond well to being controlled by anyone. I got very upset and I shut down. I ended up harming myself that night. The next day my doctor had the occupational therapist come to the unit and speak with me. Both the doctor and the OT disagreed with the unit nurses about taking the tools necessary for me to vent, cope and move on.

 

The occupational therapist gave me several sheets of printer paper and a blue crayon. (I still have these sheets of paper). She told me if I could come up with 50-100 better ways to cope with my feelings than self-harm they would give me all of my art/writing supplies back. I came up with over 300. This exercise not only helped me earn back my things, but it taught me a very valuable lesson. There are millions of other ways to cope than the ways you are used to.

 

Not all coping skills help every person. Not every person benefits from drawing like I do just like I don’t benefit from running (as a coping skill) as others do. It is good to keep them in mind though. Like I said earlier, for one reason or another sometimes you may find yourself in a position where you need to try others.

 

Just off the top of my head, here is a great list of coping skills I use.

 

  1. Drawing

  2. Painting

  3. Creative writing

  4. Journaling

  5. Writing an angry letter then disposing of it in one way or another (Grace also talked about this in her blog for me)

  6. Crying

  7. Screaming

  8. Venting to another person (but don’t turn it into obsessing about the problem)

  9. Watching a funny or calming movie or television show

  10. Listening to music (do watch out though for the effect sad music can have…please be very careful with this. Sad music is great, but it is also very powerful. It actually aided me in relapsing a few times).

  11. Meditation

  12. Praying to your higher power

  13. Holding and petting an animal

  14. Calling your therapist. (This can also be a great exercise in overcoming feelings of inadequacy. If you are in an emotional crisis you deserve to talk to someone and if you have a good therapist they won’t mind you are calling. And if they do…you may want to look into firing them and getting a good one)

  15. Exercise (swimming, fencing, football, hockey, running, martial arts, etc)

  16. Tai Chi (OMG this is a fav of mine. One psychiatric hospital-the Veterans Affairs psych unit in Battle Creek, Michigan offered this for us several times a week)

  17. Playing an instrument-this includes singing!

  18. Writing lyrics

  19. Cooking or baking

  20. Eating. (Again, be careful you aren’t overeating. Overeating and undereating are not positive. Both of them can harm you physically as well as emotionally, but if you are hungry…feed your body. If you are not well nourished you are in no shape to be fighting emotionally. You DESERVE to eat.)

  21. Sleeping. (yet another function of our body that we need. If you are tired, make sure you get some sleep.)

  22. Laugh. (Seriously…look up funny stuff. I do this almost every day. Look up jokes, look up funny pictures…something to make you laugh your ass off.)

  23. Positive affirmations (especially in the mirror. Look at your reflection and reciete these positive statements OUT LOUD. They do help very much as long as you do them very often. The more you hear yourself say them while looking at yourself, the more you believe them)

  24. Go to church (whatever form suits you whether it’s a Christian church or a Buddhist temple. If it works for you and helps you get closer to your higher power do it).

  25. Read spiritual material

  26. Play a game

  27. Go to a 12 step or support meeting of some kind (This has literally saved my life more times than I can count. There are online meetings if you absolutely can’t leave your house at http://www.stepchat.com/ )

  28. Go to a meeting or gathering (www.meetup.com offers some great ones in many different areas and usually your local library and recreational centers have them as well)

  29. Color in a coloring book. (For me this is very similar to playing with a zen garden. It helps me view life a little simpler. It often reduces my anxiety a great deal. It is also wonderful if you have DID and have “littles” **littles are child alters**)

  30. Self soothe. (Engage in activities that appeal to your senses)

You are wonderful and you deserve to feel good and love yourself. I know it’s not easy and that it can take years to believe…but it is okay to love yourself. This is not selfish or wrong. Loving yourself is the key to having a happy, healthy and successful life. If you love yourself then you can start dressing the way you want to, asserting yourself, not settling, expressing yourself the way you want to and so much more. Sometimes I still have days where I struggle with loving myself, but overall I am doing 300 times better than I was just two years ago. I can tell you that the quality of my life has gone from: fuck this bullshit to I can’t wait to experience more. Be gentle with yourself and realize this stuff takes time and that is okay! You didn’t fall into this blackhole of crap in a night (it’s usually a process of things spiraling)…you aren’t going to heal overnight. Try to remember that everyday, every hour, every minute you are making progress so long as you don’t give up.

 

I hope these suggestions helped! If not, that’s okay! There are SO many more out there. Here are some great websites: http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/DiscoverIt/Articles/Pages/99-Coping-Skills.aspx

http://awarenessadventures.blogspot.com/2013/03/100-coping-skills.html

http://www.suzannewelstead.com/resources/SafeCopingSkills.pdf

 

What are some of your coping skills? Do you have any inspirational stories on how implementing your coping skills saved your life? Feel free to share!

 

 

 

Corporal punishment.

 Today’s post is going to be a bit different from posts in the past. I am going to talk about something that I am very passionate about and as of late have been verbally chewed-out for and debated with. I want to talk about using corporal punishment when someone, especially a child does something that you don’t like. I understand that this is a very heated subject as well as a controversial one, but I must express how I feel about this and give everyone an insider’s view. As a child, my father spanked me, slapped my hands and screamed at me when I would do something wrong. My mother, just to be clear, never did. She was spanked growing up and very often it went too far. When my parents divorced, the way my father punished my siblings and I was no longer seen by my mother…of course until we came home. I can’t speak for my siblings, but every time I came home terrified, ashamed of myself and hurting physically, emotionally and mentally. His spankings were very harsh and over the years they quickly evolved to hitting in the face, squeezing of the arms and violently shaking. The things he yelled at me and accused me of because I touched something that was off limits or cried when I was hurting was insane.

 

A lot of people don’t realize that it is next to impossible to spank/hit/slap your children without anger, and anger can get out of hand very fast. Many people usually say, “oh, that isn’t me, I am very much in control”. My response to that is simply, “why do you feel you must lay your hands on a child to correct or punish”? There are other ways that work much more effectively and do not cause psychological damage, as spanking has shown to do. In a recent study showcased in Pediatrics, which is the journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics has shown a strong positive correlation between childhood physical punishment such as spanking and the incidence of Mood disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Abuse/dependence of substances as well as Personality Disorders. The study can be read here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/2/184.abstract .

 

Besides the psychological damage physical punishment causes there are other ramifications. Some children learn that lashing out physically is an acceptable way to handle problems in the future. I have seen this in my own family. I made a promise to myself as a child that I wasn’t going to repeat what I was being exposed to, but unfortunately others in my family did just the opposite. It saddens me to see a specific family member who was a very sweet and loving child grow into a very bitter and physical individual especially when someone does not agree with them or do what they want. Frankly, it is extremely frightening to me as well. Children who grow up not repeating the physically hurtful behavior often do grow up afraid to express themselves, especially when they are hurting. I am living breathing proof of this. I was taught by my father’s beatings and berating that to express myself would result in pain and fear.

 

My question to parents is simple, “if there is an effective way to correct a child that does not require physical harm, would you use it instead”? Then my following statement would be, “there is, so why do you continue to lay hands on a child in a hurtful way”? If a child is screaming, instead of slapping him or her, ask them what’s wrong. Follow it up with asking them if they have suggestions for how you can help them fix what is wrong. You may be surprised, but every time I have approached an upset child in this way, they have matched my calmness and answered me. People, including children have a tendency to match your tone, your attitude and how you approach them. You scream and hit, they scream, hit and get angry. You appear calm, open and caring, they relax, open up and are more willing to solve a problem. Another method I have used in situations when a child has done something that is dangerous like run for the street, I do use a raised, firm voice to call their name and tell them to stop. Which almost every time has worked. I take their hand and crouch down at their level and again, remain calm, open and caring. I ask them why they ran for the road. After they answer I ask them if they know why I got upset. After that answer I then explain to the child on their level why it upset me and it should not happen again. Again, in my experience, this has been very effective.

 

Children are humans, just like adults. They get sad, angry, confused, hungry, bored, hurt and don’t feel well. We don’t spank an adult and yell at them because they are whining about being hungry, so why would you hit a child for crying because they are hungry? It’s much more effective and caring to talk to the child, just as you would an adult (but using words and terms that they can grasp) to ask what is wrong and what you can do to help them feel better. I’m speaking as an adult who has cared for children (other people’s and my own) since I was in middle school and as a person who underwent poor parenting and punishment from my father. I never trusted that my father would meet my needs nor that he cared, only that if I spoke up or acted out on something that was hurting or bothering me, I would get a beating. Do you want your child expecting to be hurt to express themselves, or do you want you child to expect you to care and help them manage their feelings and solve their problem? There truly is no need for corporal punishment, especially in children.

 

In toddlers who can’t always tell you how they are feeling, what’s bothering them and give you suggestions on how to fix the issue, I also have experience. I have a sweet little boy who is just about to turn two and with him (and toddlers I have babysat) I have found a few great techniques that are effective and loving. When a toddler starts to throw a fit, start with the basics. Look for something that may be hurting them physically like something they stepped on, a bug bite or teething pain. If nothing, then check the diaper, see if they’re hungry, thirsty or tired. If none of those are the culprit, hold them, kiss them and speak sweetly to them. Sometimes wanting you to hold them isn’t it either. Yes, this can get a bit frustrating if you are busy, but they need your help managing their emotions, not you screaming at them and slapping them. Sometimes all my son needs if nothing above worked is for me to say, “Honey, I’m sorry your upset.” and I will break eye contact and not pay attention to the tantrum. Every time my son has stopped after two minutes maximum, but usually under thirty seconds. When he is throwing a tantrum like this, I strongly believe that he is doing it to see how I react. In me not lashing out at him, but calmly refusing to put energy into fueling his tantrum, he trusts me and then stops.

 

Another technique I have been using with my toddler is helping him learn different methods of self-soothing. Self-soothing is using your senses to help put yourself at ease. I use self-soothing techniques for myself every day when I start to feel anxious. I have taught my son to run his fingers across his soft hair when he’s upset or tired by doing it to him when he’s fussing. Very frequently now I see him “petting” his own hair, or even mine when he’s upset. If none of the techniques above are working, and your toddler continues to cry and scream, there may be something going on that you can’t see like being ill. Calling your Pediatrician may be a good idea at this point, especially if they seem to be in pain. In my experiences as a parent and a babysitter, using one or a combination of these techniques has been enough to soothe a toddler and stop the unwanted behavior.

 

We are blessed with our babies to love and nurture, protect and teach and to enjoy life with them, not to instill fear and pain into them. There are many alternatives to physical punishment and I hope that this blog entry has opened your mind up to just a few of these alternatives as well as the dangers that lurk in using corporal punishment.  

The problem with misdiagnosis.

When I was in high school I took Psychology as well as AP Psychology and only heard of the concept of over diagnosing. Oddly, I don’t remember any talk of misdiagnosis. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is a huge problem and I am one of the many people it has affected. When I was first entered into the lovely mental health system at 19 I was given a series of tests to try and help my psychiatrist and therapists pin point what exactly was wrong with me. One of the tests I was given was the MMPI-2. MMPI stands for Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and it is comprised of 567 questions. After I took the MMPI-2, it was “scored” and then told the results I was so upset, angry, confused and anxious. They told me that my answers made no sense, that I contradicted myself and that I must have been trying to throw them off. It hurt deeply. I wanted answers more deeply than they ever would, why the Hell would I make up my answers? I was given more tests that I don’t really remember and was diagnosed with the following at different times: Major depression disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Agoraphobia, Dependent Personality Disorder and Bipolar…..just to name the ones I can remember. 

After the hurt passed I realized that I could only remember a few questions on the test…and only answering those, the rest of the time I spent taking that test I had absolutely no memory of. The questions I remembered answering were to the effect of: “do you hear voices that no one else hears?” and “do you ever feel like your body doesn’t belong to you”? It wasn’t clear to me until 2012 that alter personalities inside of me were taking the majority of the test, hense why the doctors thought I made up the answers. My current therapist said exactly what I thought…if my MMPI-2 results were so contradicting, they should have immediately administered the DES.

The DES stands for Dissociative Experiences Scale. This test is to help diagnose dissociative disorders such as Dissociative Identity Disorder, which I have been diagnosed with and I know that I finally have the right diagnosis. My therapist explained to me that when someone takes a test such as the MMPI-2 and gets results like mine it is a extremely high indicator that the person suffers from a dissociative disorder. It really makes sense, you’re taking this test, everyone inside of you wants a say, it’s a highly stressful situation and triggering test so obviously, if you’re DID you are going to be “switching” during the test. Switching is the term for when someone with DID switches from one alter or personality to another.

Due to my 23 years of being misdiagnosed I suffered a lot. I was given drugs that didn’t help and actually made me worse, gain weight and hate my life more, put into psychiatric hospitals simply because no one knew what to do with me and be treated less than human. This is a serious problem. Misdiagnosis is causing many people all over the world to suffer, and in some cases completely give up the fight for healing.

I would like to show another specific example of misdiagnosis with you. I took three diagnostic quizzes online for a Dissociative Disorder, Bipolar and Schizophrenia. For the DES I got a score of 91 which indicates that I no shit have a dissociative disorder, a 101 on the Schizophrenia quiz which means that by their standards I’m Schizophrenic, and the Bipolar test came out at 50, which was well over the numbers that someone without Bipolar would get as a result. This, to me is very obvious that misdiagnosis occurs easily.

In saying all of this, please, if you receive a diagnosis that just doesn’t feel right to you open your mouth. Get a second opinion, a third, a fourth…whatever it takes. It took me over fifteen therapist and psychiatrists to finally get answers that were correct. You deserve to know what is happening and how to treat your condition so that you can heal and get your life on track. Be your own advocate, don’t rely on the doctor to know exactly what is going on or what is best for you. Sometimes you find great ones, and sometimes you find horrible ones. Whatever you do, don’t give up on finding answers so that you can carry on.

 

Grant me serenity.

“God, grant me serenity”…Words I have so often spoke over and over again until I was choking on my tears and shaking uncontrollably. Fiercely, I continued to speak these words until suddenly, the serenity came. Usually sleep immediately followed. *You can use this no matter who your higher power is, even if it is a jar of Claussen pickles! LOL* Just recently this occurred as I am dealing with a lot in my personal life right now that is….incredibly stressful to say the least. After feeling this intense anxiety, frustration, and borderline fear of not being in control of every circumstance in life I came to a wonderful realization that has brought me the most serenity I have ever felt in my life.

As human beings, we desire control. Control over our lives, control over situations, and sadly, even control over other people. It is in our nature, thus it is hard to change…but it is possible. Especially if you have been through a traumatic life event such as a rape like I have, you will struggle very hard with this concept of accepting there are things you will never have any control over. Things like rape are never truly about sex, it is about control, and for the survivor, it is all about losing control. My addiction to self-harm as well as controlling what food was “alllowed” into my body to the point where I was too thin and very sick was mainly about control. Many people who suffer from an eating disorder or self-harm addiction do it because they are desperately trying to gain some control over their life and body. Please know that I understand how hard this is, but it can be done!

So, I’ve been in the Narcotics Anonymous program since 2007 and you’d think that I have this whole control thing down right? Nah, I don’t! I am still working on it every day, but the great thing is, I am getting so much better at it and finding it a lot easier to “let go and let God(s)”. (Again, sub in your personal higher power). I have found the key to feeling serenity any time I start to get overwhelmed and feel a full blown PTSD panic-attack coming on I remind myself that it is a damn good thing that I can’t control everything and make everything go the way I think I want it to go.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What the Hell did she just say? Why would you be happy to not have things go your way?” My answer to that is so simple it’s hilarious that I couldn’t see it my whole life. I am a human being…meaning, I know absolutely shit about the universe and the best way things should go to ultimately bring a wonderful outcome. I have puny human knowledge and wisdom, so why the Hell would I know what is best for me and my life in the long term down to every little decision in my life. I don’t. There is someone who does though! My higher power does, and whether yours is Jesus Christ, Buddha, Astarte, Thor, (the list goes on) take solace in the fact that the Higher Power knows all. Your Higher Power knows all and therefore, they know exactly what needs to happen and when and where to get you to where you will be most happy, healthy and complete. Our Higher Power loves us and wants us to have wonderful lives, so we can relax and have serenity knowing that they are a millions steps ahead of us and is holding every aspect of our lives in their hands.

Things don’t go my way all the time. Actually, a lot of the time things don’t go exactly how I had planned, but now I feel great peace knowing that it’s because it would have led me down a road I don’t want to go. Instead something much much better is coming for me. I hope that this brings you as much peace as it does me.

New and improved Journey out of the abyss Facebook page.

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to drop in and let everyone know that I have opened a new and improved Facebook page for Journey out of the abyss. Feel free to like, comment, email, post away!! I would love to start a support network! The link is: https://www.facebook.com/JourneyOutOfTheAbyss

Take care til next time my friends!

~Dandi

Stopping the unhealthy relationship cycle: A four step guide to creating and keeping healthy relationships.

 I know I’m not the only one out there. I know I’m not the only one who hates being alone, loves being in love with someone, and getting love back. I also know I’m not the only one who had a habit of getting into relationships with people who “couldn’t” give me true love back. Since High School I have been hearing my Mother warn me, “Ashley, you really should try to be out of a relationship for a while. Heal from the last one, learn the lessons it taught you, and then get comfortable with being with…yourself.” Well, I always knew she was right, but because of my deep fear of abandonment that was seared into me as a little girl, I have for a long time, found it very hard to follow through with her advice.

 

Over the past year I have done a lot of learning about relationships and how to break the cycle I have been in since High School. There is so much to learn about something that you think would come natural that really doesn’t. Especially when growing up you were given only negative examples of relationships to learn from. It’s very hard to understand that you should marry someone you love unconditionally and truly loves you back and who will never lay hands on you to cause you harm when you grew up seeing your Father beat down on your Mother daily either verbally, emotionally, physically….etc. Yes, it wasn’t your fault and it never will be your fault that this is what you had to deal with as a child and are seriously lacking in knowledge of this area of life. What will be your fault is if you don’t take control of your life and start learning what a healthy relationship looks like, and then make it happen for yourself. You owe it to yourself no matter if you come from a very healthy, happy and stable family, or a torn-apart, horrifying and severely dysfunctional one. No one is going to give it to you…so make sure you take care of your heart and do this for yourself! So far, I have devised a process for myself in changing the romantic relationships in my life and it is comprised of four main steps.

 

The first step is spending time with yourself and yourself alone. Learn every little thing you can about yourself. What makes you happy, what makes you sad, what sets you off, things you love to do and things you can’t stand to do. You know, it took me until this year to realize that I love painting. It also took me until this year to realize that I can’t stand being a doormat. (And I am so done with that). The first thing this whole making and keeping true and healthy relationships boils down to knowing who you are, and being completely happy with yourself especially when no one else is around. It is also important to know that if you don’t love and respect yourself, it makes it hard for others to love and respect you. Once you start making progress you will realize how amazing it is when you feel good about yourself enough to actually be happy about being single. It is quite liberating!

 

The second part is making a list of characteristics of the former lovers, husbands/wives, boyfriends/girlfriends you have had in the past good and bad. After you have written down everything about those individuals that you loved and you couldn’t stand, do some deep soul searching (and don’t do it for a night and claim that you have it all figured out…I am very guilty of this) take your time and realize what qualities you want and NEED in a significant other. Write all of these things down. Take a look at the list of qualities you have had in a significant other in the past and compare it to what you really and truly want and need. I’m sure the majority of you can say that there is a huge huge problem here. The list of characteristics I wrote down for my past relationships were nothing like what I know I want and need in someone. It made me shake my head and say, “Now it’s time to figure out why I settled for someone who couldn’t meet my needs…for someone who only was toxic for me”.

 

The third part is making a game plan for how you are going to change this nasty cycle you’ve gotten yourself into. Mine looks a little like this:

  • Stop looking to date someone right off the bat because I am lonely and want someone to love. Make friends, real, true friends and spend lots of time getting to know them. Know someone as a friend for a while before considering something romantic. It is safe and healthy to know someone deeply (and know others who know them very well) before ever dating them.

  • Start learning everything I can about healthy relationships. How to start them, how to keep them, and what to do when things are not as good as you want them to be.

  • Continue to learn and practice great communication skills. (How can someone satisfy me in a relationship if I am too afraid to share with them what makes me happy…and more importantly, what hurts me and scares me)?

  • Spend time everyday reminding myself that I am a good person, a wonderful and loving Mother and I can be single and very happy single. Also, that I do deserve a true, unconditional, strong and healthy love and that it will come in time.

  • My happiness never depends on the happiness of someone I am in a relationship with. I am strong and independent and I don’t have to fall apart every time the person I am with falls apart or is negative towards me or others.

  • If something ever feels wrong, speak up immediately. Don’t compromise yourself.

  • If you start seeing red flags…don’t you dare ignore them! Do something about it.

(This is a taste of my very long and complicated action plan). Hopefully, this gives you some insight on what you can incorporate in your own plan).

 

Now, for the fourth step (and this isn’t set in stone, and we don’t all operate the same way and God knows I may add more for myself later), put your action plan into effect and never stop it. Type it up or write it really neatly and post it somewhere where you will see it every day. If you are anything like me, it will help you to see it very often. Don’t be afraid to add things to it, or modify it, so long as it is helping you stick to the plan of being good to yourself and being only in healthy and happy relationships. Remember, you deserve this! You were not put here to suffer and live out your days alone. You were created to thrive, be fulfilled and fulfill others. Take care of yourself, especially your heart…as in the words of my precious Mother, “be gentle with yourself”.

 

I love you all, talk with you next week! And please, if there is anything you would like to discuss or have me write about, feel free to write me, pm me, add me on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Psychiatric Hospital survival guide.

There may come a time during your recovery where outpatient treatment isn’t enough and a stay in a psychiatric hospital may benefit you. Obviously, this should be a worst case scenario…not the place you run to when things start to get bad. I say this because I spent several years in and out of seven different psychiatric hospitals over thirty different times because after my first stay (that was necessary) I was scared to live outside the safety of the hospital walls. I do not want to deter anyone from checking themselves into a psychiatric hospital/unit if they truly feel inside that they need it, because inpatient stays have their purpose definitely! If you are completely unable to say that you won’t harm yourself and/or others (especially if you have a plan to harm yourself or someone else) you need to IMMEDIATELY go straight to the nearest psychiatric hospital or emergency room.
I will go into alternatives to inpatient psychiatric stays in my next post! But to go into it briefly now, if you aren’t sure if you need to go inpatient or stay outpatient, do not hesitate to contact your therapist and/or psychiatrist as soon as possible.
When an inpatient psychiatric stay is obviously the right course of action at that time, or you aren’t sure either go straight to the psychiatric hospital or the nearest emergency room. If you go the emergency room route, they will check you out medically, talk to you, sometimes even have a social worker or psychiatric specialist come in and talk to you about why you are considering an inpatient stay. If they feel it is what you need, they will contact the psychiatric hospital and most likely you will be transferred to the psych hospital. If you go straight to the psych hospital, you will undergo an assessment or evaluation where you talk to someone who works there about your situation. If they agree that you would benefit from an inpatient stay they will work on admitting you or if they are full, finding another nearby psych hospital that has an open bed.
After being admitted to the hospital, you will be taken to whichever unit would benefit you the most. Some psychiatric hospitals/wards are very small and there is only one unit, in which every psych patient is admitted to no matter their symptoms or diagnosis. Other psychiatric hospitals are larger and have several units. For example, Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia has five inpatient psychiatric units. They have CAU (child and adolescent unit), CDT (Center for dual treatment), CER (Center for emotional recovery), RSU (Rapid stabilization unit), and CIE (Center for intense evaluation). As I mentioned above, you will be admitted to a particular unit depending on your symptoms, diagnosis and even where they have an available bed for you.
Once you arrive on the unit usually a psychiatric tech, counselor or nurse will search you to make sure you don’t have anything on you that you could use to harm yourself or others. Yes, this can be a little scary and embarrassing, but it must happen to ensure the safety of others on the unit as well as yourself. When they search you, they are usually as quick as possible and they do not hurt you. This search is also conducted somewhere private, so you do not have to worry about other patients seeing you. At this point the staff will also take items like shoelaces, jewelry, hoodie strings, anything that could be harmful. The staff with either lock up your items that you can’t have during your hospitalization or they will ask you to call a family member to pick the items up, that way they are safe. To make sure that none of your items get lost or forgotten, when they take items from you they make a list of everything, sign the list and have you review it and sign it. When your hospital stay is over, you get all of your items back and you sign the list when you are sure you have everything back.
The charge nurse during the shift you arrive during will also do a short interview with you. She or he will ask you questions about what brought you to the hospital, if you have any open wounds at the moment, etc… Just like the search, this is an important process that doesn’t take much more than five minutes and no harm will come to you.
On the unit there are usually groups throughout the day. Some psychiatric hospitals don’t offer groups, but the majority of them do and they are extremely helpful, so make sure you attend as many as you possibly can. Take notes while you are in group too, that way when you leave the hospital you will have everything you learned at your fingertips at all times. During the groups you are not forced to talk if you are truly not comfortable, but usually if you at least say a little bit, it helps you to start healing, learning, and opening up to your fellow patients.
Some hospitals offer occupational therapy, recreation therapy, music therapy, art therapy, animal therapy and so on. These groups are especially fun and also help in the recovery process. In these groups you learn positive and effective coping mechanisms, how to have fun, how to express yourself in a creative and positive way and to just relax! Many patients find these groups to be their favorite.
There will be down time in which you can spend watching tv (every psychiatric unit I have ever been hospitalized in has always had a TV), coloring with crayons (most hospitals don’t allow you to use pen or pencil because they can be used as weapons), putting puzzles together, playing games like Pictionary, reading the newspaper, or even calling loved ones. Another common feature of psych units are patient telephones that you can use in between groups, and before bedtime to call loved ones. Most units have telephones that are completely free to the patients as long as they are local, and two long distance calls a day, but a Veterans Administration hospital I stayed in in Ann Arbor, Michigan required a calling card.
One tip I have for you so far is to try not to be afraid of other patients, but also, don’t be overly-trusting. You must find a happy balance when it comes to communicating with other patients. It really helps to talk with other patients because they may not be going through your situation, but they are going through something similar, therefore, most of the time, they can relate to you. Be careful not to talk about anything you feel is not something you want or should share, especially contact information. When I was in the hospital, I would normally give patients I made friends with my email address, that way if down the line they turned out to be unhealthy to communicate with; it was easy to block them from communicating with me. Never never never give another patient your home or work address, it just isn’t safe or wise.
If you feel at any time that you are becoming attracted to or are attracting (whether willfully or not) another patient in a sexual way remember that you are in the hospital to focus on recovery and so should they, but also, you really don’t know that person even if they are telling you their life story. When people are going through a crisis (as all are when they are hospitalized) they are not behaving the way they would normally. I know some of you are probably laughing at this concept, but believe me, it happens all the time, even in drug and alcohol rehab. Also, if you feel at all uncomfortable with the way another patient is talking to you, or if they touch you, go to a nurse or a psychiatric tech/counselor immediately! It is their job to protect you.
Another important tidbit of information to remember is that during your inpatient stay, if you are truly being treated unfairly or inhumanely (This does not occur nearly as often as it used to, but it still does) tell a staff member and/or your doctor that you want to speak to the Patient Advocate. The patient advocate is in charge of making sure every patient is being treated correctly, and if they find that a patient is not being treated right, they will fix the situation as fast as possible.
While you are inpatient at the psychiatric ward you will see a psychiatrist every day that will talk to you about medication to help treat your disorder(s). Remember that when the doctor discusses medication options with you, you have a right to ask questions, receive print-outs of information regarding the medication, and to tell the doctor if you are not comfortable with a particular medication and would like to try a different one. Like I said in a previous post…speak up for yourself. You are your own best advocate. When it comes to your treatment, you must be vigilant and present.
The most important thing to remember when you are inpatient is that your stay is what you make of it. If you want to get well, attend groups, communicate with your doctor, nurses, psychiatric techs and social workers. Take notes during group, and share where you can. Listen to what your peers have to say and also take some time to relax. The hospital definitely serves its purpose but also remember it isn’t a place to run to when you get scared on the outside. It can be dangerous to rely on hospitalizations every time you feel depressed, scared, or angry. Hospitalizations are for emergency situations. If at some point during your recovery you require an inpatient stay in a psychiatric hospital remember that there is nothing wrong with asking for help!

The WRAP plan.

In this blog post I wanted to talk about a valuable program that I went through during a few of my many psychiatric hospital stays. A woman by the name of Mary Ellen Copeland PhD, developed a program called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). At first I was skeptical that it would help me, but when I opened my mind up to the possibility of it improving my life I was pleasantly surprised.
There are seven main elements that make up the WRAP plan, and they are as follows:
1.) Wellness toolbox
2.) Daily Maintenance plan
3.) Comprising a list of triggers, as well as an action plan
4.) Identifying your personal early warning signs and an action plan
5.) Identifying when you are breaking down, and an action plan
6.) A plan for during a crisis
7.) A plan for after the crisis has occurred
The first part of the WRAP plan is to establish a description of what you are like when you are well, and a list of activities you need and/or want to do everyday to continue being well. The second part of the Wrap plan is to make a detailed list of your personal triggers. Triggers may be things like watching a movie that has a scene in it that reminds you of trauma in your past, it may be certain people, it could even be specific places or smells. It is highly important to think about your triggers and write them down so that you don’t constantly find yourself surrounded by your triggers, and when you do find yourself faced with one you can deal with it properly. Write down the trigger, and beside it, the response that it instills in you. Next, write down interventions you can use to help prevent a trigger from manifesting as a serious symptom.
The third step is to write about the early warning signs that you, or other trusted people have observed in you when you initially start to become unwell in anyway. A good example of this is, not bathing for several days, or neglecting to eat. After you have a list of all the early warning signs you and your loved ones can come up with, write about the things you can do when these early warning signs pop up. The fourth step concerns when things are breaking down in your life and you may need help. Comprise a detailed list of signs and symptoms that indicate you are beginning to break down. This is where you create your action plan for when you have reached this breaking down point. You may need to call your therapist and request more frequent sessions, ask a family member or friend to stay with you or to implement your own personal coping mechanisms like drawing or taking a warm bubble bath.
Next is the crisis plan. This is the plan you create to be implemented when you are completely in need of help immediately, for example, requiring immediate hospitalization. Be very very sure that when you write this entire WRAP plan, especially this section that you are in a stable mind-set, this way, if the times comes for you to use it, it will be logically thought out and effective. Like Mary Ellen Copeland writes on the WRAP plan instructions, creating this plan while you are well and healthy will help you to stay in control even when everything is out of control. There are six parts to the crisis plan.
Part one of the crisis plan has you refer to your daily maintenance list where you wrote about the activities you need to do everyday in order to stay well, happy, and healthy. Part two is a list you have written of signs and symptoms that you need another human being to take full control over decisions on your behalf and your care. Part three is a list of people whom you know deep in your heart and soul can be trusted to do what is listed in part two. Include their names, relationship to you, contact information, and what exactly you want them to do for you. (i.e. take you to the hospital). In this section it is good to also list people you absolutely do not want anything to do with your treatment and care and why. Part four consists of a list of all medications, herbal remedies, and supplements you take on a daily basis. List the name of the medication, the dosage you are on, when and how often you take it, why you take it and who prescribed it if you know. If any other medications may be used while you are seeking help, list the ones you would be okay with using and why, and which ones you do not want to be given and why. This would probably be a good place to mention any allergies to medications and even food just in case!
Part five includes treatments that will be helpful to you if they are needed, and ones that will not help you.Part six is where the community comes in. If there is anything that can be put in place within your home and/or community to help you stay safe and get well while avoiding hospitalization this is the place to write about it. Part seven is where you make a list of the treatment facilities you feel comfortable going to if you need hospitalization, as well as the ones you do not feel comfortable going to. Make sure you discuss why. Part eight is called “help from others”. In this section of the crisis plan make a list of things specific people can do to help reduce your symptoms as well as things you do not want anyone doing. The final part of the crisis plan is part nine. In part nine is “symptoms, lack of symptoms, or actions that my supporters no longer need to use this crisis plan” to quote Mary Ellen Copeland
The WRAP plan is amazing at helping you maintain your health, well being and happiness everyday, I highly suggest you print it off of the internet and fill it out! Here is a link where you can print one off. http://www.thecampbellcenter.org/resources/Wellness%20Recovery%20Action%20Plan%20WRAP.pdf
Also, if you would like to visit Mary Ellen Copeland’s website here is the web address: http://mentalhealthrecovery.com/
I really hope that this blog post (and all the others) are helping you! Like always, if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or even would like some help on filling out your own WRAP plan please feel free to comment on the blog, on the facebook page, or email me privately at journeyoutoftheabyss@gmail.com please always remember that your higher power loves you, many people in your lives love you, and I love you….and always strive to love yourself unconditionally. You deserve it, and you can’t truly love anyone else until you love the person in the mirror.
Much love, Ashley.