Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mental Illness: Break the Stigma

Through years of being in and out of therapy and numerous psychologists, psychiatrists, LCWs, PhDs, MDs, XYZs - I have discovered something fascinating: the internet. It's no secret that I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder, and along with it comes that brutal wave of depression. But depression is not my root problem. Anxiety is my enemy. I've had it ever since I was 16 years old. I have PTSD. Plenty of doctors have tried throwing antidepressants to get rid of my…anxiety. Why are you giving me an antiDEPRESSANT for my anxiety? They said that anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand. The only thing these antidepressants did for me was give me more anxiety by creating that little 'boost' when you're are in a funk. I have coffee for that. There are too many unqualified "doctors" bringing in suffering patients for only 15 minutes, giving them a diagnosis and a script to boot. That's not enough. Big pharma gives these doctors kickbacks and usually, some of these new medicines are borderline experimental.

People suffer in many different ways when it comes to anxiety and depression. It doesn't affect everyone the same exact way. In the same breath, many people handle their emotional issues differently. What works best for them may not work best for you, and vise/versa. What frustrates me the most is when someone who has periodic and random anger bursts, will "suggest" that I should try an antidepressant for my anxiety attacks. Right there is a total contradiction, an antiDEPRESSANT for anxiety. Another contradiction is that his or her form of anxiety manifest into random anger outbursts.

"Well it works for me."
"Umm, no it doesn't."

Listen, it all comes down to "my crazy is different from your crazy" and that's that. If a behavior is potentially harmful, abusive or destructive in any way - then that needs to be addressed ASAP. But if someone is having a random panic attack here and there or depressive episodes from time to time, there are natural remedies that will ease pain and suffering. There are so many things people can do, from getting blood work to check if your body is deficient in a nutrient to turning to holistic practices, like acupuncture or even massage therapy. I prefer Reiki. Another thing is, many people are deficient in vitamin D which is a huge factor in being depressed. SAD, (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is due to a lack of sunlight and shorter days in the winter. It's a lack of vitamin D. You can take supplements, sit in a tanning bed for 10 minutes at a time, or you can just walk outside and face the sun for 15 minutes. Vitamin D comes in many foods, especially eggs and milk, but if you are deficient  - you may want to take a supplement like I do. I take 3,000 IUs of vitamin D a day. Vitamin D is even more important than vitamin C for immunity and it helps prevent heart disease as well. This is what I've learned these past couple of years.

Talk therapy is important, but keep in mind there are a lot of quacks out there in the psychology field. I'll never forget one therapist who revealed something she really shouldn't have. She explained her experience in being adducted by aliens in. full. detail. My jaw was on the floor and my last check was made out to cash grudgingly. I can't even count how many times these psychologists would talk about their own lives while trying to "help" me. I should have gotten paid for all those visits. I used to walk out thinking, "What was that?" And "Why did I have to know all that?" Recently, a well-known psychologist took it upon himself to show me his collection of Ani DiFranco albums -- vinyls! Impressive, but there was so much wrong with that scene. First, only a lesbian would show you her collection of Ani albums. Secondly, Ani's music came out well after the LP era. That's neither here nor there, but my point is: why are you treating me like a guest?

There's always a certain type of stigma around being in therapy. You either have to be "crazy" or have a whole lotta' issues brewing. But in my opinion, if someone is volunteering to go to therapy, that only means that they got their shit together even more so than the average cray cray. And let's just admit that we are all crazy in our little (or big) ways. Life would be boring if everyone was normal. I once got offended while being on the subject of anxiety and depression with a friend because he mentioned "mental illness" - and I was so in denial, that I actually got upset over it. Well, isn't anxiety and depression a form of mental illness? We all have issues, baggages, and carry a lot of crap in our hearts that may affect how we treat other people. But we can also control those little zingers if we try. While on the topic on how we treat other people, sometimes we just have to suck it up and forgive. But what if the offense was so large, that the forgiving part was doable, but the forgetting part is a bit harder to do? When you replay a traumatic event or an offense that happened to you in the past, the flashbacks are just too vivid for you to literally "forget". And that's okay. Forgetting comes with time. And by due time, those offenses can't be remembered if you truly forgive someone.

A lot of anxiety can come from being bitter and not forgiving others as often as you should. One of my favorite quotes from the bible is this one:

"Peter came to him and asked, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?'
'No!' Jesus replied, 'seventy times seven!'" ~Matthew 18:21-22

There are times when you feel anxiety, panic and depression and don't know why. This is why so many people are in therapy today - to try and figure it all out. Usually, it has something to do with a hurt in the past that wasn't quite forgiven or resolved. Unresolved issues brew and brew until it manifests into a full blown anxiety attack or a deep depression. You don't even have to be consciously thinking about it. I'm am NO expert, but this is what I have experienced myself. So whenever I find myself tense, or full of anxiety, I try to evaluate each relationship I have with every single person in my life. I usually come up with the answer. And usually, it's my hardened heart that needs to be softened a little. Conflict and war causes tension. Even if it's hard to forgive, do it anyway. Eventually, the forgiveness will turn into peace, both externally and internally. This is not to say let people keep taking advantage of you. Sometimes, forgiveness means even walking away sadly.

Recently, I read an article in the Huffington Post. I rarely comment on these things because you have to comment with your Facebook account, but it was on depression and anxiety, so I felt the need to chime in. I explained that I prefer the natural route and the one thing that works best for 'me' was praying to God. I remember a time when I was having a full fledged anxiety attack. I couldn't breathe, my heart rate was sky rocketing and I felt like I was having a heart attack. I grabbed the phone, but something told me, "Why are you relying on people to help you? Why are you using others as a crutch?" I realized that when I'm in a crisis mode, I always fail to trust my faith in God. So, I laid down and started to breathe and pray. I meditated on God and I cannot tell you how much this helped me. A calmness overcame my entire being that I was completely at peace. I used all of my faith, not just, "well it may work" type of mindset. I used every bit of faith I had. And call it psychosomatic or call it crazy - but this is what works for me. Some commenter who claims he's also a Christian said, "God is not going to help you if you have anxiety or depression."

Well, He did.

May I remind him of these scriptures:

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10

"We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God." ~2 Corinthians 3:4-5

I was able to cope with my technique and leave the antiDEPRESSANTS behind. Hmm, it would be interesting to learn if he was one of these psychiatric pill pushing doctors.
If you believe in God, you should trust in God. You should never underestimate the power you have inside of you, which is God, that is, if you believe. So by this guy telling me that God's not going to help me, I just have to chuck it up to one's opinion, that's all. I can't convince him that my technique will work for everyone. It works for me, so I share it in case it helps someone else out. I want to even say he sounded angry that I used God to help me relieve my anxiety - as if someone would jump aboard my way of coping and leave the anti

Feel free to buy me these glasses.
Self-medicating. I do it. She does it. He relies on it and she sometimes caters to those who need it. Get me? People are so reliant on alcohol. You know, I have learned a few things about alcohol and people. There are certain types of people where on one hand, you have the occasional drinker, where they have 1-3 glasses of whatever, and they stop. Period. It helps them relax, unwind and forget sometimes. But then you have those who totally abuse the substance. One drink turns into three, turns into five turns into "I can't remember what happened the night before, ugh my head hurts" types of scenarios. Is it genetic? Is there anything scientifically proven that some of us have some sort of addictive gene within us that prevents us from stopping at 1 or 2 drinks? And everyone drinks - unless they're recovering alcoholics. Everyone drinks. I don't care what you say - everyone self-medicates in some way or another. Maybe they smoke cigarettes, pot, or they open a bottle of wine and call it a night. We deal with it the way we feel appropriate. But when does "appropriate" become a dangerous situation.

I kept reading this scripture that says, "Stay sober, stay alert!" in 1 Peter 5:8. I kept reading this over and over again. I had just found out my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and we were back and forth to procedures and hospitals. But thank God I decided not to finish my glass of wine I was having with dinner one evening. Mom needed me to take her to the ER…sober. I had to be there…sober. But what if I sucked down the entire bottle (which is quite easy to do since it's like 3-4 glasses of wine)? I would have been incapable of helping her in any way. But I do love my wine when I come home from a very stressful day or event. It calms me, but I also know when to stop. Some people, it's just not the best thing to do. For me? It's my choice, but I want to be functional and be available whenever someone needs me.

My point is: for anyone to judge how they self-medicate or professionally medicate themselves is absolutely ridiculous. I'm not going to judge you for not going to therapy and I expect you not to judge me for going to see a therapist. It works both ways. This entire stigma of going to therapy has become so crucial in getting proper help because too many people are embarrassed to say that they need help. So whether you decide on getting professional help or you decide to do it on your own with natural remedies, remember that sometimes it's very healing to talk to someone from an outsider's point of view. The cost may be high, but if you at least go once a month to someone who does not know you, who is a qualified specialist in whatever it is you are dealing with - it may just save your life.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!