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H
LIVING
with a
Mental Illness
The stories and coping strategies
that are contained in the
following pages are the ones
I ...
Living with mental illness
As an individual with a mental illness, I have good days and bad days, the same as everyone els...
The GIFT of WORDS
Having a mental illness has brought me much pain and heartache over the years, like many sufferers I hav...
OUT of DARKNESS
For many years, well to be honest, most of my life was spent trapped within my own mind and
wrapped in per...
a personal viewpoint
My reason for writing this particular article is to offer other mental health consumers and their car...
Having a mental illness can play absolute havoc with your emotional and mental
stability. To help people like me who have ...
My pain and fear, I kept internal,
It seared my soul in flames eternal.
Towards the world a mask I wore,
Denied myself was...
When darkness profound my spirit swallowed,
Where ere I went the fear did follow.
When all the past, up with me caught,
Wh...
Hi, as I mentioned in the previous piece about GOAL SETTING, this is another tool that, I, as mental
health consumer have ...
If you, the reader, are like me having to live with a mental illness…then you are well aware
no doubt, that at some point ...
me…I can’t trust them; well you get the picture. BUT, I was at such I low point in my
miserable life that I tentatively, h...
greater on their impact on young minds, these colour as well as influence our adult life.
Sometimes so serious are the imp...
It was as if I was waking up and living in a permanent nightmare that I could not escape. The
crutch of alcohol that I’d b...
The Traveller
by
Wendy D
The roads I travel,
Leads who knows where?
For the future is unknowable;
To us who travel life’s ...
Acceptance
You know, the hardest part about coming to terms with being a victim of child abuse [and
any other form of abus...
You see, acceptance is hard for me, I put a mask to the world and pretended everything was
all right when, in fact, they w...
The feeling of isolation
my own story of continuing recovery.
As a child, I had five brothers and two sisters. Yet due to ...
Recovery is like a House
Achieving our ultimate goal of recovery or at the least stability in our mental illness is remark...
Light on the Horizon
Managing Depression
One of the problems of mental illness we all face from time to time, is Depressio...
Talk to someone you trust about your feelings, a family member, a friend,
Doctor or ring Lifeline.
NOTE: If you suffer fro...
Behaviour management
When you have a mental illness it will usually have a Behaviour Management component,
where behaviour...
Don’t put things off, if something you’re doing is going to make you feel bad or you don’t
want to do something that relat...
My journey with Schizophrenia began at a mere 6-9 years old…exact time unsure due to
abusive childhood. However I would ha...
I am doing this not only as a distraction technique but to hopefully get the
qualifications to do some peer support work, ...
Being currently in “relapse” (which is what I call recurring mental health issues.) I was placed
under a “Case Manager” at...
Usually (for me) these “Voices” are murmuring away at a reasonable volume of 3 out of 10,
this is normal for me and I’ve b...
Today I was discussing feelings/emotions with my case manager. Stating that with my
childhood I was unable to even underst...
**** The following three poems were written by me whilst I was in the early stages of my
latest relapse. It is to show the...
LOST
Lost in the darkness
Alone in a storm tossed sea.
Waves of fear and despair
Rise above and crash down upon
My shamed,...
A Dove am I
Trapped within the cataclysm of my mind,
Where past and present merge.
Reality twists,
An’ the Gordian knot of...
Past and present intertwined
The nightmares of a past best forgotten,
Intertwines with the hopefulness of the present.
Whi...
Ponderings
‘Twas Brillig and the slithy Toathes did gyre and gimble in the
Wabe…” (From the story Jabberwocky.)
You know, ...
Unfortunately it’s the way I feel at the time even if it is “Ridiculous” It is the way my
mind interprets it and because o...
Self-esteem, what is it? I have to admit that even though I’d heard the term many times in
my life, I actually never knew ...
This means that you need to constantly:
• Review and update your first list, adding new achievements as they occur.
• By r...
Always be on guard against others people’s negativity – imagine yourself surrounded by an
invisible force field, which rep...
Jumping the Hurdle
This is a true story of how I used both Goal Setting and Affirmations to achieve a personal victory in
...
38
The Value we Give and Receive
On Wednesday the 29th
of October 2014. I received an remarkable gift and can ever say
thank ...
pages.) I was very straight and I asked if I may include her name and she agreed to the same
extent as Bridges…therefore W...
A role for Family and Friends
in Recovery.
Some people refer to recovery as a journey of discovery, because it is about gr...
There are many ways in which family and friends can help. They are the ones who usually identify unusual
behaviours and be...
hold onto hope throughout our journey…especially in the times when they cannot see the light at the end of
the tunnel. It ...
Agoraphobia, Anxiety
and
Panic Attacks
Agoraphobia – the fear of people (crowds, although some think it is the fear of bei...
It didn’t happen quickly, no it was a slow and insidious decent into total Agoraphobia. In a
way I was lucky to have my br...
46
Primary
Level
Primitive
Mind
Instinctive
Reactions
Secondary
Level
Sub-
conscious
Mind
Primitive
Emotions
Tertiary
Leve...
Let’s consider…
People’ thought patterns are made up of three level, which I’ve broken down in thre above
graphic.
I’ve ca...
BUT REMEMBER, I said to think of the Secondary Level as a recorder. Well I also said it
records EVERYTHING, the good as we...
Living with mental illness Booklet
Living with mental illness Booklet
Living with mental illness Booklet
Living with mental illness Booklet
Living with mental illness Booklet
Living with mental illness Booklet
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Living with mental illness Booklet

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Living with mental illness Booklet

  1. 1. H LIVING with a Mental Illness The stories and coping strategies that are contained in the following pages are the ones I use every day, and that I have learned since falling to mental illness in 1995 at the age of 37 ...I hope you find it to be of some help whilst you walk the road of recovery
  2. 2. Living with mental illness As an individual with a mental illness, I have good days and bad days, the same as everyone else. What I’ve learned during my ongoing recovery (and subsequent relapses,) I have learned the same way as everyone else…by doing and experiencing things first hand. It took a while in some cases and I’ve made mistakes along the way, again, the same as everyone else. So far, if you were to meet me in the street there would be nothing to make me stand out in a crowd…there is no big sign hanging around my neck saying “Hey! Look I’ve got a Mental Illness!” But the simple fact of the matter is that I do. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in living with a mental illness is ACCEPTANCE. I had to accept and come to terms with the fact that through no fault of my own I had this illness and come to terms with it. I had to learn as much as I could to manage my illness and to learn to work within the framework of whatever limitations…if any, that it would place upon me, both in the long term and the short term. Once I learned that and until I learned that and accepted it, was only then that I could work on controlling it and moving on with my life. The next thing I learnt was that like everyone else I the world, I could sink or swim. The secret, not that it really is, was in finding the right sort of help. Luckily there is a LOT of good quality help available, the hard part is reaching out and learning to TRUST people to do the right thing for you. However, if you are willing to try then it is well worth the effort…believe me, I’VE DONE IT and SO CAN YOU. What I’m currently having to relearn…well, actually learn for the first time as I didn’t know anything about it the first time through, is basic social skills – How to interact with others without actually running away in fear, to overcome or learn to cope with my fears, phobia’s and other associated problems. It’s not easy, but I’m trying (and probably will be for the rest of my life.) I set myself goals every day, I try to achieve them, and I have learnt to pat myself on the back when I achieve said goal, but I NEVER, EVER put myself down if I don’t make it. I just ask myself what went wrong and then ask myself if I hadn’t set my goal to high for the stage of recovery I’m in at the time…and then move on from there. As an individual with multiple mental illnesses, I’ve accumulated many “LABELS” over the years for eg. Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Clinical Depression, Anxiety Disorder…etc. etc. However, no matter what “labels” society may give, just remember the most important one that matters…you are a PERSON! I am a proud member of BRIDGES Rediscover and Recovery program, which is located up past the base and Mater hospitals. It is there that I am relearning valuable life lessons. They treat me with respect and provide me with the support I need in going forward with my recovery. The Bridges program is centred around what they call “The Work Ordered Day” where after a morning meeting and everyone participating has selected what part of the program they will be participating in that day, everyone heads off to their respective area…Let me state that there is no coercion or force involved, if you are feeling a bit “OFF” then you can just hang out and socialise. The purpose of the work ordered day is to help you learn or regain lost skills…such as cooking, basic computer work etc. but the most important thing is that they teach you social interactions with people who are just like you or me. The MOST VALUABLE lesson that they teach however is how to LIVE and by working with others, how to have fun while doing it. I now have purpose and structure in my life but most importantly (to ME) is the fact that I have friends. In all of this I have learnt that I can contribute, return some of the help that I’ve had and continue to need, back towards the people who have helped me on my journey. Mental illness doesn’t have to be the end of everything, there is hope and a new life for all consumers and I’m living proof of that. All we really need is learn how to reach out and ask for help. 2
  3. 3. The GIFT of WORDS Having a mental illness has brought me much pain and heartache over the years, like many sufferers I have endured the almost constant confusion, loneliness, isolation, fear and especially the scorn and ridicule heaped upon us for things beyond our control. When this happens, our reasoning is sent plunging into the utter darkness of despair and reality twists into an unfamiliar and strange alignment where the utterly absurd seems normal to us and interacting with “NORMAL” people is beset by unchartered waters and weirdness, where all the rules appear to change without rhyme or reason. Amidst all this confusion, whilst I was being diagnosed and starting my long journey of recovery, I found solace and a form of release for all of my pent up emotions, tensions and jumbled thoughts. A way to describe what was going on inside my head, and in doing so, make my journey of recovery just that little bit easier. How…? I’d like to share that with you now, it was by the simple “gift of words.” Being alone for most of my life, due to being the object of EVERY sort of child abuse. Starting at the tender age of three I learned early on that if I was to survive I would have to create boxes to put the bad stuff into BOXES. Now these boxes were very special…each one contained ALL of the fear and pain that happened to me during my childhood. Each box is very special you know, each one has been constantly been reinforced with the latest material and locks as I became aware of them over the years. This security upgrade as such, was not done consciously…no it was all handled by my subconsciousness. At this point in time there is currently seventeen of these boxes, and, due to a current relapse I’m experiencing at this moment, which is severe enough that I’m thinking that boxes 18, 19 and 20 will be added to the collection. But anyway, back on point. I learned early in life that when I locked the bad stuff away, I could lose myself in books. The magic contained within their pages could transport me to new worlds and magical lands away from the pain, shame and humiliation my young life had become. I became an avid reader, my mind was voracious in its appetite for the written word. Through this gift, I discovered that I was to some extent able to put down on paper some of the TAMER things that had happened to me. By putting my thoughts on paper I was better able to examine my thoughts, and the feelings that was therefrom generated…the feelings weren’t much. Emotionally, I was stunted and I didn’t know how to react in normal situations. My normal reaction was one of blankness and incomprehension. I persevered anyway because although I can write from experience and can utilise the skills I’ve talked about in these pages, they do sometimes leave me confused…and I have to make some guesses as to what they mean. I have a gift of words that I KNOW will help many people…but at the same time I have to admit that the skills I have used, mastered, and applied do work as I’ve said. SOMETIMES some of the techniques may just as well be written in SANSKRIT. The power of the written word however cannot be denied, nor is it powerfully understood due to that fact that different people react to different forms of writing and sentence structure. After all words can cause us to soar like a bird through a golden sunset, or enlighten us with profound statements…it is all in the readers hands what they individually get out of each story. So as n the beginning, should you find yourself needing to express yourself, even if it is only in a diary for your own use? Consider what I’ve said. The written word can be a powerful tool to help you through difficult times, when I write I can honestly feel the anger, fear, confusion and all the other negativity that is plaguing me flow from my mind, down my arms and hands, through the pen and finally onto the paper. If I’m really lucky the confusion or troubling thought will be gone…usually it will take many writings to get rid of one thought, or even, to start resolving some of it….SIGH! It’s going to take me ages to get anywhere, but, I have to start somewhere…Right? 3
  4. 4. OUT of DARKNESS For many years, well to be honest, most of my life was spent trapped within my own mind and wrapped in perpetual Fear and Darkness. My early formative years scarred me deeply and left me so twisted and tortured about life and living, that I attempted suicide numerous times. As I grew older the mask that I had learned to hide behind showed nothing of the torment I was going through, it was a false front that no-one could see beyond…and behind that mask, the darkness, the stain on my soul grew and festered. In those times up until the age of twenty, I had no friends…I had acquaintances. I NEVER bought anyone into my home, I hid; Ashamed and in fear of everything around me…I was trapped in a world that I didn’t understand! In the time from between the ages of 16 – 20 I started to drink due to depression (although at the time I didn’t know it was depression) and by the time of my twentieth birthday I was a full- blown alcoholic. It was great…I could face anything, DO anything and I wasn’t AFRAID. But everything comes at a price, the alcohol only dampened the pain, shame and fear…it didn’t cure it or stop it from getting worse, for ALL that I tried it was still there and it was growing darker by the day. Finally at the young age of 37 I had a catastrophic breakdown. I should have known that we can’t hide from our problems…they WILL ALWAYS return tenfold. This was the year of 1995 and I was in Canberra at the time. To most people who have ever been through a similar thing it seems, at the time, to be the end of everything. BUT it teaches us about ourselves in a way we could never have thought possible, it teaches us to LISTEN to what our bodies and minds are saying to us, and, in doing so help us understand what is happening to us. It is truly enlightening what we learn about ourselves. Through the help of many, many people over the ensuing years, Doctors, Psychiatrists and councillors, I am now coming out of the DARKNESS that infected my mind and soul, to find that though I am still plagued by nightmares and such, life IS worth living, that what once was doesn’t have to control what now is and what will be in the future. People will either accept you or not. The first group is worth knowing and worth the time to nurture and nourish if you wish to grow within yourself…the second group in not worth knowing. I thank every dawn that I’ve lived since that breakdown, even knowing that I have travelled so far since that day and the things I have learned to help me in dealing with my past demons. I know that I will have my ups and downs…I don’t think anyone who has experienced something like I had to live as child is ever the same…but what I do know is that it can only make me stronger and has given me such a determined feeling of wanting to reach out and help others with similar stories. I am getting better but I still have my relapses and sometimes the voices I hear get over loud but it hasn’t stopped me yet and I will not let it win. GOAL setting and their benefits 4
  5. 5. a personal viewpoint My reason for writing this particular article is to offer other mental health consumers and their carers/family my personal views on the positive aspects of goal setting that I have found to be of great benefit to my recovery. As a mental health consumer since 1995, my progress has gone through many stages, including: - medication, counselling, etc. All of which is ongoing and necessary for my wellbeing and recovery. Another important aspect of our recovery is learning and developing coping skills and strategies that would be applicable to our needs, two such skills I have found to be of great benefit (being applicable to EVERYONE, not just people like me who have a mental illness.) These are called GOAL SETTING and AFFIRMATIONS. Today I will be talking about GOAL SETTING. Although I have only recently learned this skill I have found it to be both worthwhile and necessary to my recovery, I have also found it to be a worthwhile exercise that has many things to recommend it. By setting yourself GOALS you are giving yourself something to strive for and achieve, it gives you purpose and adds meaning to your life. A GOAL should be within your abilities to achieve yet challenging at the same time. Something to make you stretch yourself to reach it. I suggest you start with something small, for me that was walking to the mailbox and back at a normal pace (without running pell mell back to the security of my house.) Now, this may not seem to be such a big GOAL to set unless you have a bit of missing background. You see I suffered (at the time) from Agoraphobia (which is the fear of crowds/open spaces.) So to me it was a VERY big GOAL to set myself, and a worthy one for me to pursue. I’ll admit right up front that I didn’t succeed my first time, nor even by my fourth time. I DID achieve it on my fifth try. The rewards I felt afterward was incredible, I had done something that I had ALWAYS failed at for the longest time, I felt a great sense of achievement and even to this day I remember the unmitigated pride I felt when I finally reached my GOAL. It gave me a huge boost to my self-esteem, confidence and sense of worth. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy at first but I kept plugging away and then I finally, through perseverance, got there. After all anything that has a value to the individual has a cost attached, in this case it was something I felt I was able to pay, my loss of fear (at least in regards to this.) Personally I felt the reward was worth what it cost me. As I said earlier in the piece, for GOAL SETTING to work, in the early stages start with something small. There is no time limit or deadlines you have to meet, so please go slowly, YOU are the best judge of how fast you need to go and what GOALS you feel you can achieve. Start small and gradually, as your confidence grows you’ll find yourself setting slightly harder and harder tasks, you will eventually find yourself actually PLANNING GOALS both short and long term ones at that. There is one rule in this exercise… NEVER, EVER put yourself down if you fail to achieve a set goal! The whole idea is regain your sense of self-worth and rebuild your confidence in your own abilities. Not to put yourself down. If you should ever not be able to complete a GOAL just ask yourself, maybe I set my eyes to high for this stage of my recovery, then set a slightly lower GOAL and move on from there. Happy GOAL SETTING The Importance of Breathing in regards to Calmness 5
  6. 6. Having a mental illness can play absolute havoc with your emotional and mental stability. To help people like me who have a mental illness, it is imperative that we learn some form of relaxation technique. No matter what form of relaxation method you use…which one you use will be a personal choice, from what I’ve learned myself and heard from other people, is that they all work depending on the amount of effort you, yourself put into learning them. The most important fact of ALL relaxation techniques, is the amount of emphasis that they put on how to breathe properly. To be effective, it is recommended that you inhale through the nose…hold your breath for a slow count of ten, and then slowly let it out through your mouth. As you are breathing out, allow all the tension in your mind and body to flow out with it. Keep repeating this exercise and, as you gain more practice, you will find that you will be able to maintain a good mental health regime due to being able to quickly use this skill whenever you become over stressed, to achieve a state of calmness. If you do the breathing exercise correctly, what happens is that, once learned you are consciously lowering the adrenaline that floods through your body in stressful situations. By lowering your adrenaline, you reduce the urge to “fight or flight” reaction we all have in stressful situations. This in turn enables you to gain control of both yourself and your emotions. Guiding Light My life was such a torrid dream, That oft I’d voice a silent scream. 6
  7. 7. My pain and fear, I kept internal, It seared my soul in flames eternal. Towards the world a mask I wore, Denied myself was what I swore. So I lived my life, trapped within Whilst dreams were shattered and mind did spin. Till at last the demon drink, Pushed battered mind up o’er brink. Long I wandered in the dark, No light to see, not e’en a spark. But help there was, close at hand To pick me up and help me stand. They gave me strength so I could fight, They teach me skills, restore my sight. With their help there is no doubt, That when I faulted and fear calls out. That when the darkness exceeds my might, I’ll always have a guiding light. And though I’ve yet a ways to go, With fears to conquer and spirit grow. As friends, with me they’ll always walk, And light my path with their support. In gratitude I’d like to say, Thankyou for lighting the lonely way. With this and many other things, You’ve taught, at last, my heart to sing. This poem is dedicated to the staff of Bridges for their patience, acceptance and understanding. Wendy De Lacy My Brother 7
  8. 8. When darkness profound my spirit swallowed, Where ere I went the fear did follow. When all the past, up with me caught, Where lost within my mind I fought. When the flame of self was out, Bereft, alone and eaten by doubt. When finally living became to much, And so afraid, I couldn’t touch. You lent me strength when I had none, And bolstered spirit that was done. You gave me hope that I had lost, Without hesitation nor thought of cost. You helped me with both word and deed, Gave me most what I did need. You taught me love of self comes first, And quenched what was a mighty thirst. So with these words I’ve tried to say, Though my debt to you’ll ne’er be repaid. ‘Cause you taught me love, like no other, You’re my strength, my heart, my soul…my brother. This poem is dedicated to my twin who never gave up on me. Wendy De Lacy AFFIRMATIONS: - a tool to STRENGTHEN 8
  9. 9. Hi, as I mentioned in the previous piece about GOAL SETTING, this is another tool that, I, as mental health consumer have found to be of great benefit. If, in these notes, I can help just one person then I consider myself well repaid. These notes are just things I have been taught during my own on-going recovery that I feel may be of some help to others who suffer from the debilitating effects of mental illness. In this article I’d like to tell you about AFFIRMATIONS (which are only short phrases that mean something to you that you repeat over and over in your mind.) How they give me strength in times of stress in my ongoing struggle with recovery. Being Agoraphobic, I was always plagued by paralysing fear whenever I HAD to leave the safety and security of my home. I was luckier than some agoraphobics were in that I COULD force myself, when I had to, to leave my safe haven. Even so it was neither easy nor comfortable…in fact it was terrifying nor I was susceptible to multiple panic attacks. Now, panic attacks are just that. You are so locked into your fear that, in the worst cases, you literally are paralysed with fear. Your heart races, you get the shakes and sweats, and you want nothing more than to escape from the situation you are in. My counsellor at the time, gave me my first AFFIRMATION, it was three simple words, but they then became my mantra whenever I was in a similar situation from then on. What were those three words you may ask? They’re really easy to say, but for people like me it takes a while to believe them…they are simply I am SAFE! My counsellor told me that the purpose of the Affirmation is to give yourself and your mind, something to focus on and anchor you in the storm that starts to overtake you when you start to go into a panic attack, when your mind is teetering on the brink of chaotic thoughts and emotions. So now, when I feel the beginnings of a panic attack, I stop and simply say, over and over in my mind…I am SAFE. At first whilst they didn’t stop the panic attacks they did, over time, greatly reduce the effects that the panic attack was having on me. Since being given the gift of my first Affirmation, I have added a few of my own. I will state here that for an Affirmation to work (as far as I’m aware…I could be wrong but, I don’t think so.) it MUST be something you believe implicitly, or have the ability to become so. You see, you have to know and Believe in your Affirmations for them to be able to take hold and become the anchors they need to be, to be able to assist you when you need them most. This is actually why it took me so long to develop my own Affirmations. Anyway I now have three simple Affirmations: - I am Safe I DESERVE to be Happy I will work again Some or all of these affirmations may work for you, the reader, although they are true statements for me they may not be for you…that is something that we each must discover for ourselves as we travel our own paths. BUT, I do assure you that whichever Affirmations you decide on, I will state quite confidently from my own experience with them is that they will work. You just have to believe in your own individual Affirmations…so, arm yourself with one or two, I have found it to be a very helpful tool in stressful times. The crutch of Substance Abuse. My own journey and recovery. 9
  10. 10. If you, the reader, are like me having to live with a mental illness…then you are well aware no doubt, that at some point you may have had to or still do. Use the crutch of substance abuse. Now that can be either alcohol and/or drugs. I am going to tell you my story of using, here and now, so that you can maybe see if any of it seems similar to either what you are going through, in the past or maybe fighting your way through right at this very moment. To understand my story you have to picture thirteen years of abuse and I’ll let you picture how that put its mark on my mentality. My father was an alcoholic and I promised myself very early on in life that if I survived I would not become one myself. As you can understand, due completely to the abuse I could not stay in any particular job for any more than a year, although many of my employers at the time wanted me to remain, offering enticements such as a higher position/salary within their company etc. However I could not form friendships so I moved on. At the age of eighteen I started drinking as the painful memories and the VOICES where becoming harder and harder to ignore/fight. One drink led to another…until…at the age of twenty I was a full-blown alcoholic. I literally, could not survive without being drunk twenty-four/seven day after day…for seventeen years. I drank to keep the bad memories away and it worked, but only for a while…every dam will break if enough pressure/stress is put upon it. At the young age of thirty-seven I was in Canberra when I had a major breakdown, this led to me being entered into the mental health service for the first time…and I’m still in it today, nineteen years later. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the ensuing years, what makes me tick, what some of my triggers are (those switches we have in our head that make us do certain thing in certain situations) such as a certain smell, certain places etc. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that, people like me with a mental illness, at one time or another…especially if they’ve suffered some form of severe trauma, will turn to substance abuse to ease the painful memories, to numb the pain and to make it stop. I’m speaking from experience here…one of my labels is schizophrenia (I hear voices…all 17 of them,) and to shut them up so that I didn’t have to listen to their belittling comments and suggestions, I used alcohol to stop them. And you know what it worked, unfortunately there was and is a penalty to pay when you use such crutches. The time comes, when no matter how much you drink (or if that is the case, how much you use) they’ll all stop doing what you were using them for…to stop the pain. When it happened to me and I had a complete breakdown, I was placed into the mental health system, I finally got the help I needed. I’ll be very honest and say that it was a narrow escape as I’d almost reached the point of no return. The hardest part WE have, is to learn to reach out for help. We have been so hurt in the past when we trusted someone that the automatic response, in my case was they only want to hurt 10
  11. 11. me…I can’t trust them; well you get the picture. BUT, I was at such I low point in my miserable life that I tentatively, hesitantly reached out for the help I so desperately needed. And so my journey of recovery began, like anyone with a mental illness…there have been highs and lows but I’d like to think that after nineteen years there are more highs than lows…and all it took was to get rid of the crutch, of substance abuse, and ask for help. In closing, I urge you to seek help NOW before it is too late…there is HELP out there for ALL of us. The Consequences of SILENCE My story. Everything we do or have done to us in our lives have consequences, these can sometimes be long lasting and detrimental to our wellbeing later in life. Childhood experiences have a far 11
  12. 12. greater on their impact on young minds, these colour as well as influence our adult life. Sometimes so serious are the impacts that they control our action/reactions for the rest of our lives. The consequences of the childhood abuse I survived have left me deeply traumatised, depressed, at times suicidal and all together unwell, and, at the age of 37 I had a nervous breakdown and entered the mental health system. My introduction into my abused childhood began on my third birthday and last for a total of 13 tortuous years. FEAR was the tool used to condition me, and eventually I came to accept that this was normal…acceptance was required and enforced by pain. If I cried, I was hit, if I soiled myself during the applied discipline I was hit again. As you can guess I learned, rapidly, the very narrow limits I had…and to help me cope with this situation I built walls in my mind, and they were STRONG! They had to be. My life at this time was quite literally HELL…you know I have two sisters and five brothers, and yet, such was our childhood that we were all alone. Each one of us was locked into a world of enforced silence, we were not allowed to talk, and such was the conditioning we endured we totally accepted this? Our father dominated us and his control was complete, to such an extent that my eldest brother reported him to the police…well he ended up in hospital for a full month from the injuries he sustained from falling down the stairs…which is funny in a way, because we had no stairs at home! Due to my childhood I never had ANY friends because I felt I didn’t deserve them. I was a worthless you know what (MY DAD SAID SO, SO IT MUST BE TRUE.) When I was employed, I became a workaholic…trying to prove to everyone that I wasn’t what my father said I was, that I did have value, even though deep down I couldn’t convince myself. This conflict led me to the discovery that if I stayed drunk, then the voices I’d started hearing at a young age, would quieten down…and if I drank enough they would stop altogether. Well that was a fun seventeen years, I was drunk 24/7 except when I slept…which was rare as I was plagued with flashbacks to my childhood. As an adult, I endured years of loneliness, isolation, shame and guilt…I felt this because I knew and FEARED what would happen to me if I spoke out…turns out I was right to be fearful, but wrong not to tell someone. For you see, after being an alcoholic for seventeen years to try and numb the pain, the Very Strong Walls I’d built in my childhood began to collapse under the weight of my guilt and shame. The mask I’d been presenting to the world…slipped, leaving me alone, shaking and afraid of everything around me. 12
  13. 13. It was as if I was waking up and living in a permanent nightmare that I could not escape. The crutch of alcohol that I’d been using was shattered into a million pieces and I was unable to replace it. Over time and a lot of counselling, I now have a reasonable life. I have a carer who is now my best friend…Bob has been my carer for 14 years, and for the first 3 years I was boarding with him I barely said a word…now, he is what I’ve come to consider what a normal father should be. Well, as you’ve just read about the consequences of my life of silence and the long road I’ve travelled, yet, an almost longer road is still to be travelled…my journey may never end, but, I will continue suffering minor relapses on the odd occasion, I had one of my younger brothers didn’t make it due to his inability to break the silence imposed by our father. If you are in a similar abusive situation…what will be the consequences of YOUR SILENCE? If you are in an abusive home life whether it be sexual, physical or verbal, seek help as soon as possible to get help. DON’T be like me and many others before me and try to keep the abuse you are receiving a secret…it is the abuser’s most powerful weapon against you____Your own Fear! The consequences of your silence will result in the ability of the abuser in your life, to either continue abusing you, or, worst case… someone else. 13
  14. 14. The Traveller by Wendy D The roads I travel, Leads who knows where? For the future is unknowable; To us who travel life’s highways. The roads are made From the experiences… That have accumulated o’er our lives. The good and the bad, Entwine us ‘bout Loaded down with shadows of the past. The mountains of pain, That I’ve travelled; Set by the childhood lost… These were set when I was younger, Years in the making were they. But now the walls they hinder, My path to recovery pure. Yet travel on, I must Head bowed and spirit weak. And e’er as I travel on the twisting paths, Rock strewn shards of memory, Cut deep into my bleeding feet. But neither beaten down and weak of spirit, Will stop my faltering step. For the mountain that rises before me, Is the last that I need to climb. From the depths of darkness, Within my soul, I will venture forth At last. To stand on the utmost peak. Looking out o’er the new risen sun. Representing a new beginning, And thus the journey’s end. 14
  15. 15. Acceptance You know, the hardest part about coming to terms with being a victim of child abuse [and any other form of abuse] is the one which everyone has difficulty with, and that has to do with how to learn ACCEPTANCE and PRAISE from others before we can start the journey of moving on. We have to relearn how to live all over again, due to everything we had learnt prior was completely false nor was it “normal” or whatever passes for normal to the general populous. In my case the journey has been long, hard and painful because it has taken me a long time to understand that being hit for when I do something right is NOT considered normal, but is wrong on so many levels. As you can see from the above paragraph, I have taken many steps backwards for each step forward on this journey. You see I was raised to believe that when your father hit you that was how you showed how much you loved someone…the harder the hit, the more he loved us. Due to the nature of the abuse and the length of time I was a victim, means that my retraining is going to be on-going for a long time. As an example I have been undergoing “Case Management” at the moment due to a relapse (this is a term I use to call what happens when I start to have flashbacks, nightmares and hearing voices – where the volume goes up to around nine out of ten…instead of a normal volume of three when I’m travelling well.) I have been receiving counselling on and off for nineteen years, with a relapse occurring every five to seven years. The difficulty I’m having now is that, once again I’m undergoing counselling and this time it is harder. The nightmares and flashbacks are worse and for the first time ever I’m having hallucinations, this in turn is having a bad reaction to my health. The main problem is that, while I know a lot of distraction and relaxation techniques (as evidenced by everything contained within these pages) I’m having a tremendous difficulty in putting them into action – my father, years dead, haunts my nights and dominates my days, to such an extent that my hard won skills are failing me. You see the thing is that I have not yet accepted that I was in fact abused, that my father did not in fact love me but used me in the most humiliating way possible…remember, I grew up with this and considered it normal. BUT it has now become imperative that I try my hardest to learn and understand on all levels of my mind and ACCEPT that I was in fact abused for all those years…that it was in fact NOT NORMAL. Only then can I truly put my hard won skills into use. 15
  16. 16. You see, acceptance is hard for me, I put a mask to the world and pretended everything was all right when, in fact, they weren’t. The walls I’d built in my childhood to protect myself all those years ago have been slowly eroding until my breakdown at the age of 37. Well, here I am, undergoing counselling again after the start of another relapse. This is happening because the trauma hasn’t been addressed before…but this time will be different, in that the “Complex PTSD” will be addressed, to do this will entail a few things: - 1) ACCEPT that dad didn’t love me 2) ACCEPT that I was abused 3) ACCET that being used as a punching bag was wrong 4) ACCEPT praise when I do well 5) ACCEPT that there will be times during my journey that I will need help As you can see there is a lot of hard work ahead of me especially in learning how to accept praise…the thing that I really have to accept is that this is going to take time…and a lot of it. You see I’m going to be realistic here and say that since I went through 13 years of hell, it will probably take the same amount of time, if not more to break the conditioning I underwent as a child. Regardless of the time it takes, I will persevere, and I’m sure, with many professionals to help…I WILL GET THERE. You see, I am not alone, YOU, are not alone. There is a lot of help available to you, to help guide us on our journey…we just have to be BRAVE enough to take the first step. That most important first step is to talk to someone, whether it is your doctor, teacher, counsellor or police…it is all up to you, only you can do it. 16
  17. 17. The feeling of isolation my own story of continuing recovery. As a child, I had five brothers and two sisters. Yet due to our upbringing we were all locked into our own little worlds. We were forbidden to talk to anyone about what happened at home, the punishment if we broke that edict was…severe to say the least. So as you can guess even though we were a family of eight children who barely spoke to each other let alone to anyone outside of home. In point of fact we were so trapped within ourselves the only talking we did outside of school, where we interacted with the teachers and other students was a bare minimum to pass our classes. As you can guess having a mental illness even by itself you can guess pretty accurately that I was living in an abusive and isolated state. I am afraid to say that if you are like me and have a mental illness then you will more than likely have been/are very familiar with this term. It is where you feel as if everyone is against you, that you yourself as a person does not have the right to associate with other people…in fact you probably think you are unworthy of ever being loved. Your case may not be near as bad as mine may have been but I think you will still understand what I mean by the term isolation. To me it is all I previously mentioned but also included that I myself withdrew from absolute minimum human contact. In fact in my case I dreaded meeting anyone, I had no friends, I’d only stay in one place of employment at the most, twelve months when my co- workers would start asking me questions that I couldn’t/wouldn’t answer as I was still under the influence of my father’s edict placed on me as a child. So, I was alone…I didn’t know anything was wrong, as I thought that that was the way of the world. It wasn’t until my breakdown in 1995 that I, over time came to realise that what I had learned as a child was a very great aberration…that things that I had taken as being was right was totally turned upside down. Nineteen years later I’m in relapse again but I am fighting on, and it is through writing articles like this that helps to ease my mind from its turbulent thoughts and temporarily calms the voices a little. I write these articles in the fervent hope that I can help others like me come to terms with what they are going through and to tell them in the strongest way possible: - Please remember, there is a lot of help out there, ready, willing and able to help you…if you are frightened to reach out for help then you can start by going to the internet and google search for on- line help, there are quite a few of them there. Otherwise reach out to someone you trust…even if it is hard, you must be willing to try, the sooner you get help the sooner you can regain that sense of beginning YOUR journey to recovery, just like I will continue mine. I’d really like you to join me on our discoveries of our minds, and ourselves as we ALL journey forward together. YOU ARE NOT ALONE 17
  18. 18. Recovery is like a House Achieving our ultimate goal of recovery or at the least stability in our mental illness is remarkably similar to building a house. And, like a house it progresses in stages. For instance, the first step in building a house is the preparation of the building site. For us, who have a mental illness, this is the stage where through investigation the doctors arrive at a diagnosis of what the problem is and a treatment plan is discussed. This treatment plan can be thought of as the blueprint that the builder uses to build the house from start to finish. The second stage of building our house of self is the foundations which supports the structure and keeps it upright, for us this foundation consists of such things as a medication regime, doctors’ visits, counsellors, etc. With all this help we too start off with a solid foundation upon which to build. The third stage is to build the framework of our house. For us, the framework is represented by our support network of the mental health services and service providers, employment and training programs. With the skills gained from these networks we gain a solid yet flexible when necessary frame well able to support our inner selves strong when needed but able to flex where and when necessary without collapsing. The fourth stage is where we erect the outer walls. In a real house these are to keep unwelcome weather and visitors outside and from intruding upon our privacy. Our walls of recovery are built slowly, yet surely and are made from all the coping strategies and lifestyle skills we learn or regain during the framework stage, while the mortar or nails holding it all together is the trust, friendships and experience gained and returned in equal measure. The roof is the next stage and whereas in a house it provides shelter from the weather, in recovery it is the GOAL we set ourselves, to get well and it is built slowly over time. Tile by tile, each tile is a small goal set and achieved along the way, each one small in and of itself yet put them all together and the result is a structure that can withstand the elements and unifies our sense of self and worth into one strong unit. Lastly, we must not forget the windows and doors, these allow us to choose which elements (or emotions if you will) to enter, whether the sun and gentle breeze of family and friends, or, to close everything up and quietly watch a passing storm of disappointment, hurt or anger; Ready to come out and deal with the aftermath once the main fury has passed. So, as you can see, RECOVERY is, very much so, just like building a House from scratch. You start with a mess and end up with a solid structure of self and a strong framework to back you when the storms of life rush towards you. I’ll leave you dear readers with this closing remark. Although the house has been built…it is no way finished. After all you have yet to paint, buy the furniture etc. Think of these as your experiences and memories, you choose what to keep and what to throw out. Remember you are starting fresh there is no longer any need of the dross of the past hanging like a mill stone around your neck…this is a new start in a new and BETTER house of self you’ve built. ENJOY IT. 18
  19. 19. Light on the Horizon Managing Depression One of the problems of mental illness we all face from time to time, is Depression. It affects our wellbeing and our attitude to life. Depression affects everyone at some stage of their life and has nothing to do with our Intelligence, capabilities or social background. Sometimes people don’t even know they have Depression. There could be many reasons for Depression occurring, for example, the death of a loved one, increased responsibility, illness or major changes in lifestyle. It can even seem to drop out of a clear blue sky. What is Depression? Depression is the result of changes in the natural chemistry of the brain. These changes can cause a wide range of symptoms that affect both the mind and body. Have you been feeling sad? Less interested in the things you used to enjoy. Here are some of the symptoms of depression: - Our Feelings: Anxiety, Sadness, and a sense of emptiness, lack of pleasure, a feeling of helplessness and less caring of family and friends. Our Physical Wellbeing: Sleeping problems, Fatigue, Lack of energy, Headaches, Backaches, stomachaches and Bowel problems. Our Behaviour: Slower reactions, Appetite and weight problems, Irritable, Unable to cope, less responsible and a lack of attention to personal appearance. Our Thoughts: Self-blame, Guilt, Shame, and Suicidal, Memory loss, Poor concentration and a lack of self-confidence. Most people will occasionally suffer some of these symptoms, and they are a natural part of Stress and/or Tension. However, with Depression these symptoms will have been around for a long time, with greater severity, and because of this, reduce our enjoyment of life. The intensity of the effects will be different to and unique to each individual, varying from mild to severe feelings which can become so intense, we may feel such shame, guilt and hopelessness, that death and suicide begin to look the only way out of the darkness into which we have fallen. Don’t do it! 19
  20. 20. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings, a family member, a friend, Doctor or ring Lifeline. NOTE: If you suffer from Depression you should always have the above-mentioned PH numbers with you at all times. Many things can cause Depression, something distressing, or stressful in your life, whether recently or in the past. Sometimes we can pinpoint the cause and at other times not. In fact there may be no obvious reason other than the chemical imbalance. Remember this: Depression is not a sign of weakness on your part, it is the result of a chemical imbalance that affects your whole body. To treat Depression the most important thing we can do is ACCEPT that we have it, it is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it a sign of weakness. It is TREATABLE, with proper medication, talking about your feelings with someone you trust and looking for solutions. The proper Medication will treat the chemical imbalance and enable you to start talking about your depression, and this will lead to coping or learning managing skills. What can I do? • Talk about your Depression with your Doctor, Family or friends, especially if problems arise. • Counsellors can help in a variety of matters, such as financial, marriage guidance, grief or drug and alcohol problems. • Don’t plan any major changes or set yourself difficult goals. • Take a break and get some exercise – this will help you feel better as well as help you to relax and sleep. • Reduce your alcohol intake. • Change to a healthier diet. Your Doctor can give you advice on nutrition. • Learn to relax through mediation, yoga, whatever works for you. • Lastly DON”T be too hard on your self As a final message, learn to recognise any warning signs or symptoms your body gives you that you may be becoming depressed. If you do, you’ll be able to begin treatment sooner and control further episodes. With time and experience you will learn to control skills to manage episodes of Depression, should they recur. Changing Behaviour 20
  21. 21. Behaviour management When you have a mental illness it will usually have a Behaviour Management component, where behaviour is the things you’ve learnt, as you grew up or were taught, and the values surrounding these things upon which you have based your life. You can learn to change these facets of your personality, but remember the following: CHANGE requires ACTION As with all things the first you have to change is your attitude: If you are unable to do something due to fear of failure or maybe you think you’d look like an idiot, etc. Reduce the risk by applying these principals or ideas. • Look at how other people behave, what do they do that you don’t? A lack of confidence will lead to fear and anxiety, so here’s three steps to help you overcome these fears. Step 1: Visualise yourself actually doing the thing you fear. Picture it clearly in your mind this will lead you to believing you can do the thing you fear. Step 2: Use your imagination to practise and rehearse, over and over again in your mind, this will build self-confidence; when faced with a different situation, you can apply the evidence you have gained from previous experience to apply to your new gained skills. Step 3: With the visualisation and imagination/practice complete it is time to use action. With the help of GOALS and AFFIRMATIONS that we have discussed earlier, to support you, you’ll find that if you start small you will succeed. Understand that everyone is not perfect all of the time. Even the most confident and prepared person is capable of making a small mistake, the secret is to persevere and learn from any errors and over time you will become better. Motivation = Motive + Action Everyone requires motivation and there are two types, the most powerful is internal motivation. If you feel passionate about something, it provides the best motivation for us to try to be our best, therefore we try and try again as many times as necessary to succeed. This is Positive Mental Attitude and at it is the most important to maintaining a healthy attitude, rather than dwelling on the past bad experiences, look at the good things that you have achieved through your own efforts. This will boost your confidence and motivate you to try new experiences. BEWARE of Negative Mental Attitude, such as looking and thinking about the past, this will only destroy your motivation and hence your confidence will drop due to you constantly putting yourself down. 21
  22. 22. Don’t put things off, if something you’re doing is going to make you feel bad or you don’t want to do something that relates to previous bad feelings, counteract these feelings by giving yourself a reward or set aside some “time out” If you behaviours and attitudes are opposite to what you normally think and feel then you are in danger of becoming unbalanced, so look at what you are doing and if it is out of character…then it is time to change your attitude. Use your skills and channel your energy into other, safer areas, to improve and better yourself – that is the great beauty of being human, we are capable of learning new skills (or ‘tricks’ if you will.) All of which will help us to regain and maintain a sense of balance and self-worth. My Personal Journey with Schizophrenia and PTSD 22
  23. 23. My journey with Schizophrenia began at a mere 6-9 years old…exact time unsure due to abusive childhood. However I would have to say it was, in my personal opinion was related to that abuse. At first there was a few voices which, over the years ended up being seventeen separate “voices.” During this time my appetite would fluctuate greatly with my food quite often tasting “off”, not that we had much to eat as children in my family. After a while I started to zone out, for varying lengths of time and would inexplicably get up during some classes and wonder off…I always came out of these times with a complete lack of knowledge of how I got to where I was. As I grew older I found that these blackouts (for lack of a better word) duration was controlled by the amount of emotional stress I was under at the time. I struggled at school and even though I felt that everyone was against me I managed to pass my tests (the low scores were due to point deductions for wondering off.) As soon as I turned fifteen I left school which was February of year 10, I immediately started work the next day. Due to other problems even though I was always a good worker…say workaholic, I could never stay in one job for more than a year the voices kept telling me that I wasn’t good enough and that I never would be. And so I struggled on becoming an alcoholic at the age of twenty, just to help QUIETEN the voices. Due to the abuse I was also trying to deal with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from the child abuse. You see during my childhood I’d put all the bad memories into really strong boxes and locked them away…I thought that if I did that then they couldn’t hurt me. Of course I was very wrong in doing this but, you have to understand, that with such a background as mine. You, like me if you suffer from PTSD learn early to protect yourself any way you can. I can tell you that by the age of three and a half I had a VERY convincing mask. You know MASKS are the face that anyone who lives with a mental illness develops to protect themselves and the reasons are as varied as there are sufferers of mental illness. This is because, although each branch of mental illness may its own LABEL we are also foremost each a different person with a treatable illness…it can be controlled. I have been in the mental health system now for nineteen year and currently in the midst of a relapse…my boxes of bad memories have started to spring leaks and it’s going to take some serious work to sort out this mess, BUT, you know what I don’t give up. WHY you might ask? The simple answer is that I have been here before and will probably be back in the future. I don’t give up for the simple reason that if I do then THEY the VOICES have won. At the moment I am almost finished doing a course on “Listening Differently” which is a course on basic peer support work, when that is finished I will begin an on-line course with Open Colleges on “Certificate in Life Coaching.” 23
  24. 24. I am doing this not only as a distraction technique but to hopefully get the qualifications to do some peer support work, in the hope that one day, aside from these articles, I CAN make a difference, to someone else’s life, for the better. You too can make a difference, just reach out and take that first small step…seek the help you need, for I can say from my own personal experience that if you are willing to do that, then one day you can join me and others like me with a mental illness make a difference to this world. Visualizing – a means to focus This is my tale about using visualizations as a means to focus your mind, thereby gaining a measure of control over any overwhelming emotion/situation that you may face on a day-by-day basis. 24
  25. 25. Being currently in “relapse” (which is what I call recurring mental health issues.) I was placed under a “Case Manager” at the MHU (Mental Health Unit) who I see for approximately one hour a week to discuss and address any issues that have arisen due to my condition deteriorating. My Case Manager, on the last visit, talked to me about using visualization techniques to help me to cope, due to my being in such a state that…even knowing all of the other techniques of mentioned in the previous pages, my mental state precluded me from being unable to focus enough to actually make them work this time around. After he had explained the theory to me I’m trying a three-pronged attack: - I. In the first instance, I am trying to use the picture of an hourglass, where the sand represents ALL of my bad memories. This sand is located in the top half of the hourglass which represents my mind. The idea I’m trying is that, hopefully as I visualize the sand flowing from the top half of the glass and into the bottom half, my chaotic and whirling thoughts will flow out and away as well. Thus giving me some control back, or, enough so that I can start to use the other techniques I know so well. At the moment I’m having a bit of difficulty in getting the sand to flow at a fast enough speed to be of any benefit. It seems the “neck” of the hourglass is too small, so I’m working on how to make it wider. I’ll just call it a work in progress…because although it is taking forever it seems I can see it being a very useful tool in my arsenal to help me in maintaining a healthy mental balance. II. The second instance is where I visualize my mind as a mountain, where ALL of my childhood trauma is the unchanging rock, with the snow on the peak as my thoughts. Consider the occasional snowstorm as one of my relapses and the storm tossed snow as my thoughts being blown willy-nilly all over the place. This is the visualization I use to try to gain control of my emotions. By visualizing it like this then I can imagine that my relapse is like unto the winter season. It comes around in cycles (admittedly, I can’t predict when those cycles will come around…but still for a broad term it can be used in this instance.) If winter is a relapse then spring would be what I would term gaining a measure of control? For instance, using (I.) above will, hopefully gain me a toehold on my chaotic thoughts. This can be visualized as the snow starting to melt on the slopes of my minds mountain. First as a trickle then, as the sun melts more and more snow, these trickles will join up to become a raging, white-water torrent cascading downhill towards the sea. My thoughts, therefore can be considered as rushing away from me, faster and faster until they reach the low lands…when they reach this point I can visualize them slowing as the waters start to slow and spread,, the further from the mountain of my mind. Finally I will reach the point that with my thoughts and emotions, once again under my control. So as you can see, by using these two examples, I am VERY hopeful that I will gain some much-needed stability in my life. The next Visualization is one I’m trying in response to those auditory hallucinations that I have (commonly called “Voices”.) III. Now whenever I have a relapse, the annoying “Voices” I hear become really strident and downright hurtful. They hurl abuse at me and put me down in a virtual orgy of denigration. 25
  26. 26. Usually (for me) these “Voices” are murmuring away at a reasonable volume of 3 out of 10, this is normal for me and I’ve become used to them at that level…however when I go into a relapse the volume is turned way, way up. The volume is so loud that I sometimes have a hard time hearing anyone around me. So, when my case manager told me about how to use visualizations as a means to focus my mind on what needs to be done in the here and now, I thought that this may well be applicable to this problem. For this instance I use the visualization of an old transistor radio…you know the type that came out in the sixties? Yeah, one of those with the huge tuning dial. To try to make this work, I imagine that each “Voice” is a different radio station (you have to understand that I normally have 17 different “voices” going almost all the time.) There are two stations, which I refer to as “Pirate radio stations,” these two stations are the most vocal generally and much more so during a relapse. As you may or may not know…a pirate radio station is an illegal station that someone sets up that is so powerful that its signal overrides any radio station in the area. So, anyway, by using this transistor radio visualization I’m trying to, bit by bit tune out the “voices” to a point that I consider normal for me. IV. This fourth method of visualization came about after a session with my Case Manager today (Tuesday 7th October 2014.) We were discussing the above three methods that I’m using to try to get a “handle” on my current relapse. Specifically, we were talking about emotions and their associated feelings…which, with my background is all new to me, anyway as I was saying during this discussion I explained to my case manager that what I was experiencing was as if the present was connected to me by the strings of the past. I further explained that due to this I was unable to move forward into the future. His answer was so obvious I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it myself. You know what his response was. If that’s the case…then why not use your visualization technique to, as he put it, metaphorically summon a LARGE pair of scissors and just cut the threads? So, there you have it, with my case manager telling me about this useful tool, I thought that I’d share it with you, the reader, because if you are anything like me and have to live with a mental illness, then you will also know the value of anything that will assist you in maintaining your mental wellbeing. Happiness – as explained to me. 26
  27. 27. Today I was discussing feelings/emotions with my case manager. Stating that with my childhood I was unable to even understand them except for two…those two are FEAR and DESPAIR. Throughout my life thus far I have learnt how and when to simulate specific emotions, which are classed as a group as “normal.” Where normal is decided and based upon the average response to stimuli. For example, if I was told a (supposedly) very funny joke or story, then I would “laugh” at the appropriate time…meanwhile, inside my head I’m wondering “HUH!” You see I just would not actually understand what was supposed to be the funny part. My case manager and I were talking about this and he decided to just cover one emotion today – Happiness. He said that this is not a textbook answer, but was his own interpretation. I said well as far as I’m concerned, not having anything to judge by, I’d listen to anything that would help me to understand. According to him there are three types of happiness. The first is pleasure, which is where you do something you enjoy and get a brief burst of happiness that makes you feel good this type only lasts a short time. The second type is satisfaction, this form of happiness is a long-term feeling of happiness and is usually gained by doing something that benefits, not only yourself but also others, he asked me at this point, why I went to the trouble to write these articles? I was a bit lost but he kept silent and waited, after a few minutes the light went on and I said I do it to help others in a similar situation like me…to let them know they are not alone. He said exactly…that feeling you get when you write your articles is called satisfaction, and as we discussed it is a long-term feeling. The third form of happiness I was told by my case manager, was one he didn’t think I’d ever feel or know due to my background…and that is what is known as joy. This feeling of happiness is a spontaneous thing that occurs without warning and can be for any number of reasons. An example would be when a father first held their newborn child, like pleasure though, this was a short-term effect. So, there you go it may not be the text book answer, but, it was an answer that not only allowed me to understand what this emotion is, but that it was explained in a way that I could follow which will enable me to recognise it in the future. 27
  28. 28. **** The following three poems were written by me whilst I was in the early stages of my latest relapse. It is to show the amount of sheer torment and emotional stress that I, as a person with a mental illness…experience at times like this. This is when we need the help of Peer Support Workers, people who have been through a similar “Lived Experience.” Peer Support Workers are a vital link in the chain of recovery that we all must travel, no matter how difficult the road ahead is. 28
  29. 29. LOST Lost in the darkness Alone in a storm tossed sea. Waves of fear and despair Rise above and crash down upon My shamed, and humiliated soul. Past and present merged and twisted Beyond my control. Irrevocably leads to tortures of past returning, Haunting me. Reality skewed, Alterning in front of my eyes. Thunder, the voices I hear… Rumble loud and threateningly. Lightening, the present… Makes brief, if coherent appearences. The fists and feet of the past discretions, Pound upon my mortal flesh, Just as the waves continually try… To overcome, to make me weak and useless. Just as they have done before. I’ve been in this place before. It is familiar to me, ‘though the worst yet. I will, over time raise again. But for now a temporary surcease. To write these words and gather myself for the fight. Wendy De Lacy 16/09/2014 29
  30. 30. A Dove am I Trapped within the cataclysm of my mind, Where past and present merge. Reality twists, An’ the Gordian knot of improbability occurs. The cyclone winds, of fists and feet, Pummel me e’er which way. The directional changes…too fast. Where am I? Who am I? Am I going straight, or, round and round in circles? Memories sear, like lightning flashes, They strike out o’ the darkness; Mere glimpses, of a possible future. Am I worthy of that future, Dare I hope? A life of shame, guilt and emotional stunting, Does naught to prepare one For the life which lies ahead. For walls that were built in childhood, No matter how strong they may be. Will always succumb to the brunt force of time. Clinical Help? BAH!! No empathy they. Books and observation may give you a grounding… Better the person who has been, To hell and back like me. The future looks BLACK. No Hope in sight. Is it worth the continual, never-ending pain? I don’t know, and, I can’t say! But I have very little fight left… And death beckons with surcease, The quiet of death looks good to me. Wendy De Lacy 18/09/2014 30
  31. 31. Past and present intertwined The nightmares of a past best forgotten, Intertwines with the hopefulness of the present. Which will win the battle, Of my mind and soul? The past is a tempest storm, Trapped in boxes, locked within my mind. But leaks, getting wider and deeper are appearing, And the storm is raging, unforgiving. I have nowhere to hide. The Present …leads to hope, What I’m doing and what I’ve done. But trapped in the swirl, Of long kept secrets. I find that the past is too great, And o’er powers the present, Both a swirl together, I cannot navigate these seas, there’s no signs. I, thru past experience know the ways, Of what I should do, but I’m unable to comprehend and apply Those lessons hard learned. The voices, their once mild annoyance, Now scream at me with a gale force ten. They batter my once strong shields, And they tempt me, Would death be so bad? At least I could rest from the constant, ne’er ending battle. Just endless quiet, For a tormented soul. This is the fundamental question. Just how much can a person, Carry before being o’erwhelmed? That’s where I am. That’s the answer I seek. I feel the end is close, yet no one seems to take me seriously I cry for help, but, it isn’t there. Wendy De Lacy 18/09/2014 31
  32. 32. Ponderings ‘Twas Brillig and the slithy Toathes did gyre and gimble in the Wabe…” (From the story Jabberwocky.) You know, it’s funny how some things float around in your head. I’ve carried those words since I first read the story as a young child, and yet, every now and then they’ll resurface in front of my consciousness demanding to be recognised and pondered anew. Having a mental illness is a lot like that in many ways, at least to my way of thinking. I mean to say that I’ll be doing well in my ongoing recovery, taking all the steps and performing all the actions (read Rituals here I think), necessary to maintain my equilibrium and wellbeing, such things as taking my medications as prescribed, attending counselling, etc. All of these I do, constantly to make at most, a modest step forward in my recovery. So, there I’ll be, regaining my self-confidence, esteem, respect and sense of self-worth: when, BANG I’ll suddenly be caught up in a JABBERWOCKY! moment. It’s like all of the skills and training and self-discipline I have gone through for years…skills honed from long hours of dedicated practice are forgotten…my past is demanding recognition and forcing me into the small, frightened and injured child I used to be. It cries out for..NO, DEMANDS that I once more take up the role of plaything and servant. It does this with such force and suddenness that I have no time to marshal my defences. I become mired in the past, hemmed in on all sides, unable to see due to that fact that images of the past overall y the present and the darkness this provides smothers the small voice of reason that I am clinging to As you can see it doesn’t tend to be a happy life to be sure and when it happens, I always feel worse and more upset…this triggers the voices I hear to increase in volume. I’ll state now that there is 17 distinct voices that I “HEAR” two Named “Ralph” And “Mary.” These voices tend to hover around the 3 out of 10 volume range, where 1 is the lowest 10 is the highest volume. Normally for me the volume hovers around 3, but, as I become more stressed and/or worried…this results in extending the period of my recovery as I basically have to start from scratch, it was at this time where my spirits are at their lowest as I feel I have let down ALL of the people who have helped me to get to where I was before the relapse. 32
  33. 33. Unfortunately it’s the way I feel at the time even if it is “Ridiculous” It is the way my mind interprets it and because of this my reasoning has left the house and my mind is on vacation for the foreseeable future. And until such time as my mind comes back from wherever it goes there’s not much progress I can make…let alone start to repair the damage. However bad these periods are, I’m glad to say that, whereas, at the start of my journey of recovery. I have now come to some understanding of my condition. The main problem was an abusive childhood that I blamed myself for…ie. I could have loved my father better, etc. This bought on cases of shame, guilt etc., etc. Knowing this I had to ACCEPT that it happened. BELIEVE that I did nothing wrong, lastly after all that, I had to ACKNOWLEDGE that there was no magic pill, no way to repair the damage (if it could be) any time soon. I had to look at this as a Long term Goal. So with the help and guidance of a dedicated team of Doctors, Psychiatrists, Phycologists. All the above people as well as the dedicated staff of Widebay Integrated Mental Health Service, Phoenix House Councillors and not to forget the most important to me at the time…Bundaberg Clubhouse (now Known as BRIDGES Rediscover and Recovery, located at 341F Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, 4670 Ph: 41542300.) These people have spent a lot of time and effort to try and gently guide me through the landmines that litter my mind with horror of a childhood lost, seeking only to help me and guide me at my own pace….the MOST IMPORTANT THING HERE is that they DO.NOT.PUSH. any harder for information you are not ready to divulge. I know there is still many battles to be fought and mountains to be climbed, the thing is that, now that I have reached out to other people…FRIENDS, I have the love and support to battle on…I will remain steadfast and, should I falter, they will lift me up to continue on. Self – Esteem and how to gain it 33
  34. 34. Self-esteem, what is it? I have to admit that even though I’d heard the term many times in my life, I actually never knew what it was. The basic definition of self-esteem is feeling good about yourself. I heard about Self-esteem recently during a recent stay at the Mental Health Unit Inpatient Unit (due to a relapse) and I thought I’d share what I learned with you in the hope that others may gain some use of my experiences. The first step in gaining self-esteem is to be positive in your attitude towards yourself. Be assured that WE are our own worst critics, to help you in this phase there’s a number of things you can do: • Seek feedback from significant others, such as your family, friends, Doctors, etc. • Learn to accept praise and compliments. • Change our negative internal self-talk into positive. We have to learn, that more than anything else, we deserve to be praised and complimented when we have achieved something. We must also learn the compliments are just that, with no hidden meanings. The second step is to recognise our individual achievements, no matter how small they may seem to others. This could be anything from cleaning the house, finishing a book or maybe doing well at sports. Whatever it is, it is an achievement and you can take pride in completing it. Look at it this way: Conceive+Believe+Action=Achievement Which really means, think of something you need to do, believe that you can do it and then actually do it…Congratulations you have just ACHIEVED IT! The third step is to take a quiet moment, a writing pad and a pen. Now make a list of past and/or recent achievements. Remember they don’t have to be big achievements, nor do they have to have anything to do with anyone else, after all they are your achievements. And as for being small achievements…let me ask you this. What are BIG achievements? Why they’re nothing more than, many little achievements strung together. Once you have your list (even if it only has one item on it, it is still your list.) Place the list in a place where you can easily see it and use it as a reminder, but that’s not the end of it … oh…no! As I was told, so now I’ll tell you…you need to: CHECKUP from the NECK UP OR DO YOUR PRE-FLIGHT CHECK. 34
  35. 35. This means that you need to constantly: • Review and update your first list, adding new achievements as they occur. • By reviewing the list you build up your Self-Esteem and your Confidence because you can see the evidence, with your own eyes, the proof that you CAN achieve and do well. So there you have it, to boil it gown even simpler: - • Make your List and revise it frequently • Self Image, if you feel good, you are good. • Share your problems. Learn to substitute the NEGATIVE with the POSITIVE and use the power of positive reinforcement, you can do this by • Not referring to bad past experiences. If this happens quickly change tracks and think about HAPPY or more POSITIVE experiences. • Review rather than relive the mistakes or bad experiences, in other words, learn from them rather than let them control your life! • Relive rather than review the HAPPY EXPERIENCES, that is Encourage and BUILD your Self- esteem. Learn to be aware of the road down, be aware and road signs: 35 Negative or Bad Thoughts
  36. 36. Always be on guard against others people’s negativity – imagine yourself surrounded by an invisible force field, which repels the negative thoughts of others away from you. BE TOLERANT and ACCEPT that others will always have their own opinions Well that’s how you gain Self-Esteem. I hope you will take encouragement from these words, as I know from my own experience, that by practicing these skills daily and applying them in everything I do. I am slowly becoming a stronger and better person with a well- rounded sense of self-worth and self-esteem, day by day. 36 Turn around Negative thoughts by reviewing your achievement list.
  37. 37. Jumping the Hurdle This is a true story of how I used both Goal Setting and Affirmations to achieve a personal victory in my ongoing recovery. As you recall Schizophrenia Awareness Week occurred recently and as part of the campaign to raise the level of awareness in the community about Schizophrenia specifically and mental illness in general. A Wine and Cheese night was held on the 27th of May 1999. Prior to this event, the Community Development Officer (Sharon Sarah) approached Bundaberg Clubhouse to man the static displays and to also ask a few members to volunteer to speak about their personal experiences with mental illness. I’d like to say that I leapt at the chance, but I didn’t – then. What I did do was to go home and think about it, long and hard. In fact, I didn’t sleep that night. As I thought about it, my mind kept throwing up hurdles for me to jump over, each one higher and harder to get over than the last. For example my thoughts ran along these lines…they’ll be too many people and you’ll have a Panic Attack, you’ll make a fool of yourself and everyone will laugh, and of course the biggest hurdle of all…was that I was scared, more scared and frightened than I have ever been in my life…well I guess you get the idea by now. I have to tell you the old negative thoughts were really partying that night. In the end the biggest hurdle I faced was my own fear…that hurdle appeared to be ten foot high and as wide as the Grand Canyon…but then I sat down and I thought, really thought about all the people that had helped me over the years, what they had done for me, what they continued to do for me with their constant support and as I was thinking these thoughts you know what…that damn hurdle started to get closer to the ground and I thought …I. WIL. DO.IT. not for myself but for everyone who had helped me to get to where I was at that time. I set myself a GOAL that I would do this speech that I would practice, as much as possible. I sat down and proceeded to write my speech, as I knew that even though I was going it would be to much…on my first attempt at public speaking to look at anyone while I was actually there…so I would be reading it. The evening of the speech arrived and my stomach was a mess, my head was spinning, I was sweating buckets, shaking…well you get the picture. I did not want to be there, but I’d made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to break. During the speech I was repeating my Affirmation in my head non-stop “I am SAFE” As it turned out my speech was well received although I wasn’t paying to much attention at the time because I’d reached my limit. I was almost on the verge of collapse. Luckily for me I had some fellow members from Bundaberg Clubhouse present for moral support, they helped me to calm down and reassured me I was safe. Well that’s it, a story of GOALS and AFFIRMATIONS…using them to reach, what was for me, A VERY BIG ACHIEVEMENT, not forgetting a hurdle faced and jumped. You know what the biggest lesson I learned that night. That WE ourselves, are the biggest hurdles we’ll ever have to jump…I’m not talking physical hurdles here…I’m talking about the hurdles we carry around with us in the form of our PAST and UPBRINGING. Due to this we have to learn as many new and varied skills to help us cope with our shortcomings. No single skill will work the same for each person…but if we learn them all them we will discover what combination of skills will work best for each of us. Now wouldn’t that be a great hurdle for ALL of us to clear? 37
  38. 38. 38
  39. 39. The Value we Give and Receive On Wednesday the 29th of October 2014. I received an remarkable gift and can ever say thank you enough. I was given, completely happenstance, a new friend. I have to tell you this was the most incredible thing to happen to me since my carer…who only came to know me through being the original volunteer bus driver for the original Bridges, Bundaberg Clubhouse. Bob, my carer, has been looking after me for fourteen years now and the first three I can now admit must have been both incredibly hard and frustrating for him. For the first three years that I was boarding with him I barely acknowledged him…I might have sometimes remembered to say Good morning or night but that was the sum total of my interaction with him. Bob, though remained calm and steadfast, made sure that I ate when I was able…he did not force me. As I grew…slowly, more used to him I began to talk not much; but we had started the journey to friendship. This friendship has grown gradually over the fourteen years that he has been my carer. He has steadfastly stood by me and said “NO” when I couldn’t. He is a treasure. Bob has been in hospital twice in three weeks, the second time this last Sunday it was the same problem except it was only worse…he and I were both frightened (a first for me to see such an expression in him). Bob has been completely frustrated by the lack of honest answers and buffering explanations from the various doctors. I have helped where I can, but being in relapse…well it only increases my too high stress levels. Anyway while Bob was in hospital a backup plan was implemented whereby, through Ross and Partners in Recovery. In house respite care was arranged for me. This was to be for (originally) three nights Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night. 6pm until 6am each night. This is where the gift of a TRUE friend occurred, the in-house respite carer that was to stay and keep me company for the next three nights, was to simply say…SENT TO ME. She was the right person that I needed at that exact time. Her name was also Wendy, she arrived twenty minutes early and yet we Just…Clicked. Wendy had just the right amounts of experience as she had been in the nursing profession for 42 years. During this time she has worked at other mental health institutes…but the big plus for me was she has a brother who has Paranoid Schizophrenia. We got to talking about sundry things before she asked me what were her responsibilities while she was staying with me. I told her it was a just in case …sort of situation as well as company. It ended up we talked for six hours straight! She was talking about her brothers’ mental illness and I was talking about certain similarities as they involved my life. I asked her if she’d like to read my updated booklet “Living with a Mental Illness” (which is now up to 49 39
  40. 40. pages.) I was very straight and I asked if I may include her name and she agreed to the same extent as Bridges…therefore Wendy W is her name, and to put it as she said: - There is out there, some force that flows around and through everything. It binds with only one guiding rule:- Do No HARM! By the time she explained it to me, I understood that, wherever possible do not harm to:- Yourself, others, nature, etc. We were also talking about how Bob became my carer and she explained her theory on what happened; she understands that this force that flows through everything…connects us all (please note: - She is not denigrating any religion, just her thinking on these interactions.) She had a simple answer that the further we talked into the night had me agreeing, that maybe she just had unmasked a hidden secret. When we are at our darkest, lowest point…someone will be there for you. You just have to try to concentrate, no matter how hard, on that one single thing. It is extremely hard when you are in the midst of “relapse” to make ANY of the coping strategies that you may know work. No matter how bad it may be REMEMBER there will be someone there. I can only talk about my own very “lucky” experience as it has happened to me three times and the first was I had my breakdown and finally admitted I needed help. The second, was when Bob rescued me from my own worst enemy ME! The last time was meeting the one person who became my second best gift...her Friendship They say that the life you live defines you. I’d like to challenge that and say, whether the life and environment that you grew up in made you, it’s your experiences and how YOU yourself choose to use that experience, that truly define you…to yourself and others. After all the: - THE VALUE WE GIVE AND RECEIVE. Will always be repaid, in the good times of memories. Which will support you for the fullness of your life. 40
  41. 41. A role for Family and Friends in Recovery. Some people refer to recovery as a journey of discovery, because it is about growth, and exploration, developing greater understandings, finding solutions about what works and what doesn’t, how best to use personal strengths and most importantly…when to call on others. If we define recovery as a journey of self-discovery, ‘fellow travellers’ are then also welcome and ‘guides’ can be useful. Carers, supporters and clinicians are also on a journey of their own alongside the person experiencing distress.. Everyone’s story of recovery is unique, just as we, as people are unique unto others…and so we each feel and express distress differently. Mental health problems may come upon us suddenly, or, they may take years to develop. We may each identify different events that set off our distress and different times when we can pinpoint that something was different. We may also have different explanations about what happened. Everyone can recover a more meaningful life, but this will always mean different things to different people. We should therefore always be ambitious about it. Family members and long-standing friends have a unique role to play in recovery because they know us so well, often before their distress is noticed by the person in question. They can therefore serve as a reminder that we not solely someone with a mental health problem, but someone with talents and abilities, a person with qualities, interests, skills, beliefs and ambitions. ‘It has been invaluable to have the support and understanding that Bob [my carer of 14 years] has stood by me, watching over me and being the light in my darkness that rises up from time to time to try and swallow me whole. He knows, long before I do, that I am once again sliding into the past and leads me back…and when necessary, being the firm voice of reason.’ Paid supporters, by contrast, only know the version that they have been told: they have joined the journey ‘in the middle’ so to speak. Sometimes, that unfamiliarity can be an advantage, it can be reassuring to speak to someone who doesn’t know you. We don’t always want to talk to family and friends about what is worrying us…this is especially true if it is linked to something that is linked to shame. While a minority of families and relationships are abusive or cannot provide support, that is not the case for most, they only want to know how they can help us. Family and carers want the best for us, they are deeply affected by our distress and often carry the burden of guilt, worrying that they caused the problem and that they should help more. But they can benefit from their caring role, they feel good because they are in a position to support us, the person they love. They feel valued because we can confide in them and be happy that we have someone in our lives that we can talk to, bring our problems to and to share our journey as we learn new skills to help cope with our illness. Family and friends have a HUGE contribution to make and a lot to gain, this is the essence of mutual support. 41
  42. 42. There are many ways in which family and friends can help. They are the ones who usually identify unusual behaviours and beliefs, as well as recognise the situations that preclude them [triggers.] They learn, over time what seems to help and provide early support and reassurance, making suggestions to alleviate further distress and offering practical support – cooking meals, doing washing and going on walks. We can also avert further difficulties that may occur to a family member or friend if necessary by explaining the situation to debt collectors to prevent destitution etc. The importance of protecting the ones we love who are suffering from a mental illness cannot be underestimated here, but to support someone in their recovery, we need to learn new skills and ways of approaching situations to help them rebuild a life for themselves alongside their family and friends. As far as I ca see there are four areas of new skillsets which may help family and friends to build a new supportive relationship: • Recovery planning • Building on strengths • Developing helpful relationships • Handing back control Recovery planning Everyone makes plans in their lives to some extent, but until we understand the unique nature of a person’s recovery journey, we don’t know where to start to help them plan for the future. At the start, you have no idea, how long the journey to recovery will last; what the treatment options are, or, whether or not things will get better. Despite all of these unknowns, family and friends have a central role in helping your loved ones to hang onto roles and relationships that are important to them, helping them to understand what is happening to them and always working towards their personal goals – aims that are important to them, rather than to us. We can help them to keep well, prepare for potential challenges and most importantly – support them in developing their own Recovery Plan and then help them to share it with those who can offer support. Building on strengths When a person is distressed, it is all too easy to begin thinking negatively. In some cases we may hear voices that reinforce these feelings, or, we may be facing the all too real results of overspending, substance abuse or self-harm. In other cases we sometimes feel that the whole world is against us, that we are complete failures and that everything that can go wrong, will…so what’s the point of trying? Having someone who can remind us of the positives, who can make us understand tat they are standing in our corner, fighting for us; can make a huge difference. This is not to deny the challenges, to pretend they don’t exist, or, that it is within our power to remain positive in the face of very real difficulties. But to let us know that when we fall; that our family and friends do not fall with us…that they remain strong. Family and friends can remind us of the little things we may have forgotten on our journey. It is very important that they 42
  43. 43. hold onto hope throughout our journey…especially in the times when they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is in the darkest times that the strength of our families and friends and their enduring belief that things will get better that can help us he most in our darkness. Developing helpful relationships When family and friends are providing a substantial amount of support, it is all too easy for them to be stuck in experiencing our distress and forgetting their own needs and centring everything on us. This can create cycles of negative behaviour with all of us identifying the problems so that they become self-fulfilling, as all the positive opportunities are removed. The whole family and involved friends can benefit from looking at their roles and relationships, including what strengths and skills they each bring that is the most helpful. Carers often talk about the difficulty of walking a tightrope between encouraging us, and allowing themselves time to rest and be supported themselves. This isn’t an easy task and must be discussed amongst all parties involved to arrive at a workable solution…what they find difficult in their relationships and what options are available for coping more effectively. Handing back control Family and friends can easily be trapped into a position of doing more and more for us. They may gradually take responsibility for major tasks such as controlling our money or paying our rent. Other, smaller, daily tasks such as washing and cleaning may slip into their domain of responsibility during periods of distress and these habits, once begun, are very difficult for them to break. Family and friends can also find themselves in the position of not trusting us to take our medication/s and may start to take control of that as well…for our own good. Once these patterns develop it is very hard to let go, it may feel ‘risky’, but unless you are prepared to hand back control and let us manage our lives again, we cannot grow nor learn the lessons our journey teaches us. Obviously they cannot ignore safety issues, but decisions about how we move forward safely needs to be shared with all parties involved…us, our family, friends, and our professional team…with the ultimate aim of supporting us to move safely towards our goals. ‘That a person recovers, means that the other people in our surroundings also have to recover; the unequal dependence relationship that was established between us and our social network during times of deep distress must change. The helper must step down from this one-sided role and be prepared, not only to disengage, but also to perhaps now be the recipient of our concern and advice.’ 43
  44. 44. Agoraphobia, Anxiety and Panic Attacks Agoraphobia – the fear of people (crowds, although some think it is the fear of being outside) is a disorder that if left untreated, can so restrict your life that you can literally become a prisoner in your own home. My own Agoraphobia was the result of my terror-ridden childhood, filled with abuse and torment and up until 1995, I was convinced I was coping all right, that I didn’t have any problems. I had a job (although aI never lasted more than twelve months in any job…I was always working) I earned a good salary in whatever job I was employed in at the time, I had a top of the line stereo worth $38,00.00 plus 2 top of the line computers and…I was an alcoholic. In 1995 I had a serious nervous breakdown and by this time I had lost everything I owned. My Agoraphobia surfaced and became so bad that I was too frightened to go to the mailbox to get my mail. My agoraphobia created a constant sense of dread and anxiety every time I thought about going outside, in some instances it would trigger a Panic Attack. So as you can see in my case and in others I’ve heard about, the three disorders went hand in hand…Agoraphobia, Anxiety and Panic Attacks. During my alcoholic stage, I drank to supress the fears, to somehow numb away the fears, the pain and the loneliness-and yes I was alone most of my life. Even though I had five brothers and two sisters…the hell we lived through ensured that even though we shared a house and went to the same school, we were all in the same boat…isolated from each other, we had no friends at school and we were strangers to each other at home…it was literally a dog eat dog world. Getting back to being an alcoholic, it enabled me to function…if barely. I went to work drunk, I drank at work and I drove home after work drunk. My fellow employees avoided me with only minimal contact necessary to perform our duties. In the end I became a recluse, I had no motivation or interest in maintain my appearance…showers were a hit and miss affair. I was trapped and I didn’t know it. I gradually found that if strangers came into my “space” my place of refuge, my anxiety would increase in proportion to the length of time they stayed in my presence. This happened to such a degree that I would inevitably have a Panic Attack and I would rapidly spiral out of control up to and including Angina Attacks. Daily functioning became a real test of strength (well the amount of alcohol I consumed to get to that point) to force myself to pay my rent and a small amount of food and a lot of alcohol…the power and gas had been disconnected a while ago at this stage. Slowly my world shrank…until I was trapped in my house. 44
  45. 45. It didn’t happen quickly, no it was a slow and insidious decent into total Agoraphobia. In a way I was lucky to have my breakdown when I did, in that it finally bought me into contact with the services and people who could help me. The psychiatrists and psychologists worked, over time, to gradually expose me for longer and longer durations of time, introducing me to coffee shops, supermarkets etc., etc. I was forced to face my fears rather than hide from them. I now can go out at will although even now I’m not comfortable doing it but I will continue to push myself to thank them for their help. During each subsequent relapse, the panic attacks recur and, depending on the severity of the relapse, will determine on how hard I will have to be to stop myself from withdrawing into myself once more. I have found that if this happens it makes it extremely difficult to recover from a relapse. The first indicator that I am going into a relapse is when I begin to “rock” backwards and forwards. I call this self-tranquilization as I use this as a form of self-taught calming method. After all in a normal functioning family setting, when a young child is upset, the mother will “rock” the child to calm it down and lower the child’s stress levels…if it works…don’t fix it! 45
  46. 46. 46 Primary Level Primitive Mind Instinctive Reactions Secondary Level Sub- conscious Mind Primitive Emotions Tertiary Level Conscious Mind Learned Reactions The circle of life contains all three levels, Intimately entwined – and all of them are geared to one overriding imperative. SURVIVE
  47. 47. Let’s consider… People’ thought patterns are made up of three level, which I’ve broken down in thre above graphic. I’ve called these three levels as follows: - • Primary level Secondary Level Tertiary Level • Primitive Mind Sub-conscious Mind Conscious Mind • Instinctive Emotional Learned Reactions Reactions Reactions You are born with all three levels, as a newborn baby the primary level is the most important, although this is only my untutored opinion I also believe that the secondary level is present although in what I would classify as a minimal power mode. The Primary Level I’ve called the Primitive Mind and it governs our instinctive reactions this in turn stimulates the Secondary Level or Sub-conscious Mind which governs our emotive responses. The Sub-conscious Mind makes up the greater part of our mind and can be likened to a recorder, this is because for the entirety of our life the Sub-conscious Mind records EVERYTHING every stimulus that occurs to us is recorded; sight, smell, touch and sound, everything is constantly recorded continuously. So everything is recorded and stored, even when you’re asleep we are unaware of it occurring. I personally tend towards the perspective that this is the level that controls the emotional reactions/response to stimuli. E.g. In a newborn baby, hunger, which is a physical reaction causes the child to instinctively react by crying. This is the physical reaction whilst the emotional reaction which the child displays is a combination of distress/hunger/anger. I also tend towards the view that the Sub-conscious mind or Secondary Level, is the seat of a person’s natural talents and intuitive instincts (but that’s just my untutored opinion.) The tertiary or third level, I’ve called the Learned Reactions. This is the Conscious Mind, which makes up the part of our brain that is normally responsible for the control of anything that is learned ie. What we learn at school, what we learn from our parents, what we learn from our environment, etc. From what I can see this part of our brain is only functional during the periods we are awake. Whereas I’ve stated previously that the Primary and Secondary parts are always…online so to speak. The tertiary level is the level that is the most logical part of our mind it LEARNS by the simple expedient of conscious observation, for example through a combination of logical steps: - step 1 + step 2 + step 3 = Sum (1+2+3), reasoning and sensory stimuli we hone and tame our native talents, in other words – we LEARN. 47
  48. 48. BUT REMEMBER, I said to think of the Secondary Level as a recorder. Well I also said it records EVERYTHING, the good as well as the bad. We have to learn to control it or it will control us. When we become stressed, we put pressure on ourselves at ALL levels, which will determine our ultimate action in any given situation. At the Primary level we decide instinctively on the FIGHT or FLIGHT reaction, at the Secondary level, we react emotionally and finally at the tertiary level, with prompting from the other two levels, we scan our memory for the appropriate learned response and act accordingly. Stress is a normal part of life and is the spur that leads us towards improvement, whether it is to learn new skills or further develop old ones, we need it. However too much stress will overload the system until you end up in a negative feedback loop. This is where your thoughts and actions become stuck in a repeating circular pattern of negativity in both thought and action. This is where your learned reactions or responses to a specific situation have been so well “learned” and ingrained into your personality, that, when stressed by a similar situation will trigger the primary level and ‘LOCKS” it in either the “FIGHT” or “FLIGHT” mode. Meanwhile the Secondary level responds with the corresponding emotions and reactions. Each time the pattern occurs the circling responses become quicker (one after the other) and the negative feedback becomes correspondingly more and more intense. Eventually of course this inevitably leads to an overload of the system and a breakdown occurs (of varying severity) resulting in psychosis and abnormal and/or erratic behaviour. So what to do? Well the obvious first thing to do is to seek help, talk to someone, whether family, friend, Doctor, whatever is closest or works for you. The second thing is to listen to your Doctor and take any medications, only the amounts specified and at the times specified…DO NOT STOP TAKING MEDICATION UNTIL YOU HAVE TALKED TO YOUR DOCTOR FIRST. The Third and final thing to do, and it is the hardest one of the three steps I think, is to try and break the loop. To do that we have to master our tertiary level or learned reactions part of our brain and then work back towards our secondary level or sub-conscious mind. On the tertiary level, with the help of counselling and a support network of family, friends and rehabilitation services we will learn new coping skills and retrain our conscious mind to react differently to a similar situation in future. This will in turn empower us to quieten the negative inner voice, which though silent, roars through our mind and destroys reason. We have teach our secondary level that, although painful, the former reactions no longer apply. We do this by first by acknowledging that we ourselves are responsible, in some instances, by continuously dwelling in the past. By doing this and reliving the bad experiences repeatedly, we are only reinforcing the negative side of life and thus making a bad situation worse. 48

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