Sunday, March 10, 2013

Health Report Update

Obviously, I've not been around on this blog much this week.

It's become more clear to me than ever that I'm having some kind of serious, untreated mental problem. Not an emotional problem, but a real mental problem. I'm taking steps to get it checked out. There's a place here in DeKalb that I think I can go to for an evaluation, a place specifically designed for low-income people with no money to their name, like myself. I think I've been hiding from this for a long time and it's time to stop hiding.

Last night, I got on their website and took a mental health screening. I actually clicked "yes" to everything in the generalized anxiety disorder screening and the separate bipolar disorder screening. I know you can't take that as an actual medical diagnosis, but the fact that everything sounded so incredibly familiar--and not just recently, but over the course of my entire life--rings some bells. At the end, it "strongly urged" me to follow up with a mental health professional.

This has been a particularly bad week for lows. Literally every day for the past four days there's been an explosion of some kind. I can't keep living like this. I have to see what I can do, and if it's a disorder, I have to start treating it like a medical condition or a disability instead of what I'm doing now, which is secretly wondering if I've just somehow failed to be well-adjusted and then feeling guilty when I can't control it.

Not that a medical condition would excuse my often shitty behavior. But it would be a new way to approach it and hopefully manage it. I've come to accept that it will be something I have to manage for the rest of my life, but I'm also trying to accept that that means it's something manageable. And if it's a disability, that makes me feel less guilty about being able to control it on my own.

It's hard to admit you need help sometimes. When I was a kid, the idea of depression and anxiety as mental problems was frowned upon, at least in my experience. So I always grew up thinking that I just needed to stop being so upset about everything and learn to get over it.

The other night, my Mom told me that even as a very young child I had wild mood swings: active and happy and agreeable one day, then sullen, impossible and angry the next.

Sounds like a disability to me.

I need to get that confirmed and find out what the hell I can do about it.


Jason said...

Good luck, Frog.

M. D. Jackson said...

It sounds like you've made an important step and I hope that you can find the help you need. I wish I could help in more tangible ways other than lame sounding internet "sending good thoughts your way". Nevertheless, I am pulling for you. Good luck.

Hobgoblin238 said...

Dekalb? Are you in Atlanta? Because I am from there!

Matt said...

I wish you the best of luck. I've always really admired your courage in talking so openly about the things you face, and I'm sure that courage will serve you well in going after the help you need. All the best!

Roger Owen Green said...

I think you're on the right path. "The first step..." is a cliche, but no less true for that.

Chris said...

You might want to see if the statement below describes you well:

"You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life."

If so, you might want to check here for more info:

Splotchy said...

I'm glad you're seeking help. I hope you get some relief.

SamuraiFrog said...

Thanks for the supportive comments.

Hobgoblin, I'm in DeKalb, Illinois.

Chris... why does it feel like you're trying to undermine what is a huge step for me?

Chris said...

I'm honestly not trying to undermine you at all.

However, you did say in your post:

"I actually clicked 'yes' to everything in the generalized anxiety disorder screening and the separate bipolar disorder screening."

You also mentioned that at this moment you're not feeling very well.

Forer effect - a real, well-researched psychological phenomenon - can make us look sicker than we really are. Ask any third-year psych student: you briefly believe you have everything.

So I'm NOT saying "Don't get help." I AM saying "Definitely don't walk in there with all these symptoms and diagnoses in your head." It can make you look sicker than you really are to your doctor and to yourself.

Forer effect happens to everyone all the time. It's very similar to an optical illusion, only it's strongly influenced by how your feel at a particular moment.

SamuraiFrog said...

Well, no, I'm not going to go in with all of that in my head; I don't want to tell a professional to confirm something I have in mind, because I don't have anything in mind at all. But it did all look very familiar. But that's why I stress that I know that the online screening isn't the same thing as an actual medical diagnosis.

I don't want to go in thinking this is going to confirm something I suspect, but I also don't want to get it in my head that I'm engaging in some kind of overreactive magical thinking, either, which is what the Wikipedia article made me think of. I'm just overly sensitive to that right now, because it took me a long time to be okay with the idea that you can ask for help and that it's not just stress or hard times. My Dad still tells me I'm just being overly sensitive and need to calm down; my counter is that punching a hole through my living room wall because I can't fix the vacuum cleaner isn't being overly sensitive. Neither is stabbing a kid in second grade because he made me feel stupid by accident.

Something is wrong with me and I want someone to help me figure out what it is, because the amounts of time I'm able to function without breaking down have gone from being weeks to days to hours over the past few months.

Chris said...

I wish you the best. Sorry your dad is being so insensitive.

(Always find that such a stupid argument from parents: if it's a "lack of character," and if parents are responsible for building character, then it's pretty much 100% the parent's fault if the kid's screwed up, right?)

I don't like pills myself and all responsible psychiatrists do point out that pills can only get you so far.

A book that helped me tremendously is Seligman's "Learned Helplessness: On Depression, Development and Death." It's a summary of early research on how to cause depression, anxiety and frustration through environmental factors. It's helped me understand myself better and helped me learn how to avoid situations that spark me off.

(Not self-help, though. Actual research summary. Been cited something like 6,000x in the literature. Seligman later went on to become head of the APA. He also gave a good TED talk in 2004: )

SamuraiFrog said...

Thanks; I'll check that book out. I've been reading a few books lately that have helped me to meditate and not be so confrontational with things that don't need confrontational responses, which is a big part of my problem because my high blood pressure makes my responses more immediate. I'm not a fan of mood pills; I was on Lexapro for a couple of years and it evened me out into static. I have Alprazolam now, but I mostly just use that as a sleep aid, and only about once every nine weeks or so. But I do take pills for my blood pressure.

Chris said...

Actually the best help I ever got from a therapist was during my masters. I said that I was stressed and wasn't sleeping. He (correctly) noted I was making a feedback loop: I would get stressed and not sleep, so I'd drink coffee and be even more stressed and not sleep again, spiraling.

He gave me a small prescription of sleeping pills to break the cycle, and then a place to cry for an hour once every two weeks. Actually helped tremendously.

Meditation I have trouble with. I do think it's useful, but I sometimes find myself "stewing" rather than "meditating."

Calming down and trying to identify what is angering me or making me sad about a situation helps a great deal. Sometimes it's even something really silly like "Wow, totally forgot to eat."

Other times it's something unavoidable. I try to come up for mantras for things like that. (E.g. when dealing with a judgemental inlaw: "I don't hear that. It's just a duck quacking. Quack-quack-quack is all I hear.")

Any of the books helpful?

SamuraiFrog said...

The book I keep returning to, which my mother-in-law actually gave me, is The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson, which is an attempt to counter the fight or flight response with training your body to relax to counteract stress. A lot of it especially applies because Benson explains how high blood pressure exacerbates the problem.

That was what led me to meditation, which is the main thrust of the book. He was the first doctor to study whether there are measurable physiological responses to meditation. I live right next to a university, so during the day this place is very quiet and it's usually a good environment to meditate in (not always, though). That's helped me become much more focused and relaxed when I'm able to do it.

Chris said...

I just read the Amazon and Wikipedia articles on the book. It sounds a lot like how they start you in Zen. You might want to look around and see if they have somewhere that holds Zen meditations. The Unitarian church by my house has a roshi lead Rinzai Zen on Sundays.

Also recommend a book by Father Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle called The Practice of Zen Meditation. Got it for Christmas; it's good. Father Hugo was a Jesuit.

Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil said...

Hey, Roger Green turned me on to your blog. Honey, I have manic depression (fast-cycling bipolar, but mine is so rooted in depression that I use the older term), PTSD, seasonal affective disorder, and anxiety.

Talk to a therapist before seeing ANY psychiatrist. Take it from someone who's been in "the Bin" (and who is "out" about these conditions and blogs about mental health frequently): Don't tell them you looked up stuff on the WEB. Total turnoff. Let the "talk" counselor do the recommendations - I have no doubt you will be referred to a psychiatrist.

One more recommendation, and I have found this effective: DO NOT go to any psychiatrist who does not concern her/himself with your counseling. In other words, doctors who are Pez dispensers!! It's a holistic approach that gets things done.

I exercise, do yoga, eat well, but I cannot hold a job... yet I can control my blog and my housework, take walks, etc. All this is self care. Contact me if you want to talk at sharplittlepencil gmail. (Sorry, trying to avoid hackers!)

I wish you the absolute best outcomes. You are starting a journey that will lead to self-discovery and new kinds of strengths... plus some meds!! Amy