Author Archives: Jill

About Jill

Author of books and articles on support and experiences of living with a mentally ill family member. My aim in blogging is to let others see how a loving family, with a father and husband who is able to give unconditional love, can help the family cope. Many call me the blogging grandma.'

Loneliness … OR … Doing things alone

  loneliness  4Co-dependence has gotten a bad rap from substance abuse recovery terminology. Most people are social beings, both emotionally and biologically who live in communities because they need company. We all need company as we cannot do everything alone. We need help. Collaboration is our biggest survival skill. We would die off without it. If one is alive, odds are that you have received or been given help in one way or another at some time or another. We have the idea that we are weak and if we are unable to do things independently and that it is  a problem. But nobody, least of all successful people, don’t do every single thing alone and nor do top executives. Surgeons don’t operate alone and doctors have nurses to aid them. World leaders have helpers so independence is overrated. We need one another and should be there for each other. Do you know of anyone who does every single thing alone? I don’t, so, why do we hold ourselves to this standard? Maybe it’s a question of worth. A person might have a low sense of self-worth unless they do things alone. It might actually be a judgment against himself or herself.

 Being Lonely

 Now being lonely is totally different. Loneliness is upsetting. It can bring on a depression. Being lonely imeans that one feels isolated. It breeds negative self-identity, increases sadness and anxiety. When somebody feels lonely, that individual feels unloved. He/she remembers all the evidence pointing to this fact and for some reason their minds become empty of all the evidence against it. Loneliness makes a person think things like:- I ruin everybody’s life. I can’t call anyone because they will consider it an imposition. No one wants to hear from me. I make bad decisions. I don’t even know how to act in social situations. I am awkward. I have nothing to offer. The bottom line is; I am a dork.

loneliness

How can we avoid the daily mental health triggers?

triggers, treatments and therapies 4triggers, treatments and therapies 4

It is extremely difficult for an outsider to fully understand the difficulties of a person who has been diagnosed with a mental illness. One of the difficulties are the triggers that can start an episode of mental illness. Everyone struggles with triggers as the elements of daily life bring out intense emotions and not only people with mental illness are at risk. But, how does a person push aside the mental health triggers that haunt our every move?  That depends on a person’s struggles and coping skills. For those with eating disorders, triggers can grow from the mere sight of food. For a person who self-harms, any sharp object can trigger the urge to self-injure. There is no sure way to avoid triggers. However, if one can find ways to replace those triggers with positive activities or diversions, success might move nearer. Music or writing and being surrounded by supportive people can be used as positive replacements and if actively used, the mental health triggers may not affect us as much.

mental health triggers 1                                                             Triggers 5

To drive, or not to drive, that is the question

red mazda

Our son’s reflexes were slos due to the medication he was taking, so the thought of him sitting behind the wheel was disturbing, to say the very least. During my next appointment with his psychiatrist, I asked his opinion on this sensitive subject and his reply surprised me. ‘It’s up to you and your husband to take that decision,’ he stated.

‘B … but, the medication isn’t it? Doesn’t it? I mean. Is he sufficiently alert?’

“Each case is different. Many people drive while on medication, you know. It depends. Besides, we haven’t informed the traffic authorities.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because your son might never pass a driving test again.’

‘But, how can we take such an onerous decision We aren’t trained professionals, you know?’

‘I’m sorry, but I cannot be of any help to you on this point,’ he said, ending our session and I never got to ask him the other questions I had listed.’ I drove home and found the following; Statistics show that psychiatric patients cause fewer traffic accidents than ‘normal’ people. Now this came as a surprise to me. First, it prompted me to look up NORMAL in the Random House College Dictionary; normal: conforming to the standard or common type, not abnormal, regular, natural. Not much help there. Even though we’d read that psychiatric patients cause fewer traffic accidents than so-called normal people, we decided to forgo statistics because I was unable to live in peace knowing that my son was driving in his present condition. My husband agreed and that problem was shelved for a short while. A few months later our son’s new psychiatrist told him that he could drive!

Holidays are here again … and again and again

 

 

Hanukah                                                                Christmas

hanukkah 2                                         ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Most families with chronically ill relatives dread holiday time when other families are all happy and looking forward to yet another happy get-together, while they dread holiday time. Then, at these occasions, a (mentally ill person) a consumer, is expected to eat, drink and even enjoy the family’s company plus celebrate the fact that it is a time of joy and good will.

For me, times like these bring back memories and feelings of disappointment, resentment, sadness and a host of other emotions. For my family, holidays were not good times. Sometimes my son was in a psychiatric hospital, at others he was home but barely in a stable condition. There were occasions when he had to be taken to a psychiatrist during the ‘festive season.’ Once or twice the police came for him after ‘the voices’ had urged him to break the law in one way or another, so it’s no wonder I felt that way.

What did holiday time mean to my son? When a lot was expected of him, he was able to handle himself well for a few hours only, but then he would crash as the voices only he heard got louder and more insistent. He then retreated into his inner self, got agitated and even though each sibling present took him aside for a one on one chat, it only worked for a short while. He might have felt that we all cared about him but when dinner was served, he disappeared, quite sure that we had poisoned his food. He was also unable to process the noise of loud laughter and/or snatches of conversation. It was all too much for him. There were numerous times when he refused to join us even for a short while, but stayed home alone, which ruined any enjoyment we might have had.

Some relatives treated him like a child. While it’s impossible to tell  our guests what to do, or how to behave, we managed to take measures to keep a modicum of control and reduce our patient’s anxiety at those family functions. How? I found an ally; anyone in the family who was a supporter rather than a critic. If you have a friend who is able to accompany you to a family gathering, go for it but be sure to find someone positive and focus your attention and energy on that person. Together you can decide on the limits you want to set for the patient. Because we  can’t control the way others treat our ill relative, that doesn’t mean we had to let everything that was dished out pass without comment. I knew it was okay to speak out for my son. I made sure that he was kept away from the offending person and hoped that my ally would use distraction techniques.

It helped to bring something like a game of chess to help him escape. I suggested that he go to into another room where it was quieter and If that didn’t work, someone went with him for a walk, weather permitting. All we could do was to help him to focus on what was good. Of course I worried that there might be anxiety-provoking triggers at our family celebration, we found one or two positives. In today’s world, one would make sure that he had a smartphone or an iPad handy.

As anxiety can spike at any time particularly during holiday time, an understanding of what’s happening can increase our sense of control over the situation and so decrease anxiety levels.

I tried to be positive and to smile a lot. Did it work? Sometimes but not always.

 

Teachers who are in a depression

 

This is the third and last in a series of three blogs on depression

teacherAs any teacher knows, students feast on any perceived weakness they can possibly find, especially in a new teacher. If a teacher is in a depression, it comes across to the students. Students might realize that the teacher in question is not really happy as a teacher or with the school or the education department itself. And, if that is the way a teacher appears to his/her students, they will not believe in that person as a teacher. Because teachers are only human, it makes them susceptible to depression the same as the rest of the population. They are in a catch 22 situation. Teaching requires a huge emotional input, so why shouldn’t teachers be depressed the way the rest of us can be? As a young boy in grade 5, I first held a knife and wondered what damage I could do to myself with it. I’ve had to deal with depression for a long time, and what I have learned is, that one can’t simply wish depression away. It doesn’t work that way at all.

I do believe that teaching might not be the right profession for some due to the extreme pressure and expectations involved. It is a rather rigid kind of life, particularly for a sensitive person who might overreact to pressure or to the unexpected failures which are bound to occur every day. As a result, there will be no shortage of small or large reasons to trigger a depression. I still teach although I took off a year to get myself back on track and I now love it and wouldn’t change my profession for anything.

 

Depression while at High School

This is the second in a series of three blogs on depression.

I was an A student but my grades were slipping and my teachers started losing patience with me. Yet, not one of them approached me to ask whether there was anything wrong. My parents had never come in contact with this kind of problem and didn’t know what kind of advice to give me. Nothing was going right. Even my relationships with friends were suffering. My family were annoyed and impatient instead of showing empathy. I tried so hard to overcome the dark feeling that was enveloping me, without success. I wanted to speak to our school counselor but I’d heard from other students that she was far from helpful and was not the right person for the job. She failed to make students feel at ease in her presence. I didn’t know what to do. I was so afraid of having to take medication! So, I took a brave decision and sent what I had written above to friends on whatsapp and this was one of the replies received.

Reaching out for help is a positive step and I know how you must be feeling because the same thing happened to me a year ago but, I did not speak out about it then. I became anti-social, my grades slipped badly and all I ever wanted to do was to creep under my blankets and sleep. I cried a lot but was never sure what had caused me to weep. I think you should see a therapist or your doctor and share your feelings but remember not to hide anything. If you are honest, someone might be able to help. It is also a good idea to tell your friends as well as your class teacher how you are feeling. You will probably feel apprehensive about coming out with this into the open. That’s because of the stigma associated with depression and other mental illnesses. But, IF you speak out, nobody will be able to say anything nasty behind your back that you have not already said about yourself. On the positive side, I can tell  you that ‘life goes on’ and your life will change for the better sooner than you realize. Thinking of you, xxxx, B.

Life Goes On

I AM IN A DEPRESSION; Dare I share this with my lecturers?

 

This is the first in a series of three blogs about depression.

‘Do I have the courage to share my problem with my lecturers?’ I wondered. I was visiting a therapist who suggested that I inform my professors as my depression was affecting my mental capabilities. At first, I was sure they wouldn’t care that I was spending most of my time messing about, staring into space, or playing games on my computer or on my smartphone. So, after a lot of thought and for the sake of getting good grades, I mailed one of them.’

The response was not what I had expected and it was a huge relief. He granted my request and offered to give me a Pass without even handing in my final paper. He wrote: ‘I feel the need to confide in you. I, too, have struggled with depression for years, and I know it will pass. I have decided to give you a Pass for this course and I would like to add that I hope you are receiving the correct medical help. I think it is advisable to consult with a counselor as well as a psychiatrist, as some depressions are over in about 9 months without the need to take medication, but if meds are required, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Anti-depressants can make a difference. The problem is finding the one that will help you.’

As far as one of my others courses was concerned, I could not ask for  a Pass without handing in a paper as it was a requirement for my major, so I asked for an extension, quoting my depression as the cause.

The reply: ‘An extension will be in order and I am glad to hear that you are receiving the appropriate medical help. I have seen far too many students who are too embarrassed by the stigma associated with depression to get the help they need academically and medically when dealing with a depression. If you need any help whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I am also prepared to give you extra time on your final assignment.’

Surprise, surprise, surprise! I had not expected that kind of reaction twice. The empathy and concern shown by both professors knocked me over. They confirmed that depression was in fact complex. They confirmed that it was an illness that crippled people in real, practical ways. They confirmed that unfortunately, depression is not spoken about in class even though professors know all about it. They confirmed that it should be out in the open. Professors are far more likely to have known someone who has battled depression than our peers do.