Happy Thanksgiving! And an Update…

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you out there who are observing it! I hope things are well for you all and your families. I’ve been a bit quieter than normal recently, adjusting to new living circumstances and other life goings on, and thought I would take a moment to update you all on the general direction for my work.

It’s been awhile since I released my last eBook, “Everyday Instability and Bipolar Disorder.” My next has been in the works for several months now and I’m pushing towards getting that wrapped up to be available early next year. The focus is on breaking through the barriers that prevent meaningful communication between the mentally ill and their loved ones. In it, I am exploring the recurring themes, fears, and problems I’ve witnessed in the past five years I’ve been trying to tear down other peoples’ walls. It is my hope that it will enable the mentally ill and their supporters to develop better rapport as well as chipping through the fear that keeps many people from seeking the help they need.

Some of you may recall, earlier this year, that I made a brief foray in attempting to launch a Youtube channel. There are numerous reasons why that didn’t pan out that I’m not going to go into here, as it’s not really that important. After more research and a lot of consideration on the things that went wrong, I have shifted that idea. I have decided to launch an audio podcast instead. In essence, I am planning to simply expand my work out into an audio format that will be easier for consumption. It will be available in a few easy to access locations, as well as through standard podcast channels.

The format I have settled on will be about a 20-30 minute episode once per week. I plan to launch in early January with the new year.

Between working on those two things and the general flow of what else I do, it has been keeping me pretty busy. Lots of unexpected challenges to deal with at times.

I am still very much here and doing what I do, just haven’t been as engaged as I probably should be. That’s another change I need to look at making moving forward.

Anyway, have a great Thanksgiving for the Americans out there. And for my not American audience, have a great day. Be well.

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Should I Talk to a Professional About My Problems?

The initial steps of starting on the path to recovery often come at a confusing time. One’s personal life may be in a state of upheaval or transition, causing stress and confusion, making it difficult to see the path forward. One of the most common questions I am asked is: should I talk to a professional about the problems I’m having?

The short answer is yes, you should. If for any reason you are contemplating talking to your doctor or mental health professional about problems you are having, then the answer is yes, you should talk to them. At minimum, they may be able to provide some perspective or suggestions on how to handle whatever it is that you are facing. And if it does turn out to be a more serious issue, well, you’re in the right place to start looking at the problem and addressing it.

I find that people tend to add their own fears onto the end of that statement. I say, “talk to a mental health professional.” That doesn’t mean, “talk to a mental health professional and take medication.” That association is incorrect. You’re going to have a conversation. That conversation can lead to medication if the professional decides that it is warranted and the patient agrees.

Your agreement is an important point. If you don’t agree with that suggestion, just say, “I’m not ready for medication yet” or “I don’t want to be medicated.” It’s far less scary than the mind can make it out to be, particularly if the fear is amplified by an uncontrolled mental illness or stress.

A willingness to comply is necessary for real progress and recovery because it’s not like anyone is going to babysit to ensure you are taking your meds or using therapy techniques. It’s something you have to want to do yourself. That’s why you can’t really force a path of wellness or recovery on anyone. The best you can hope for is to sort of guide them in a direction that will hopefully lead to realization.

Of course, that is in the context of a non-crisis situation. Crisis situations are different and not really relevant in the context of willingly seeking help on your own.

Fear is often fueled by the unknown. One of the ways you can push back against the fear is to familiarize yourself with the policies of the facility where you would be talking to the professional. Every place I’ve been to has provided paperwork that outlined patient rights, expectations, and some relevant systems. Simply go in and ask the receptionist for copies of that paperwork to review.

Don’t let a fear of the unknown or thinking that your problems aren’t severe enough prevent you from talking to a qualified professional about them. It would be better if more people did talk about their issues sooner. Maybe then they could be intercepted before those issues explode into full-blown crises or drastic situations.

Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you are having a rough time. It can make a tremendous difference.

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A Mental Illness Diagnosis Is Not a Death Sentence

A mental illness diagnosis can be a frightening experience. I’ve talked to quite a few people who are newly diagnosed and utterly terrified about what it means for their future. There are numerous ways to go about managing mental illness and living a gainful, meaningful life. The problem is that we are all individuals, with our own opinions on what will and won’t work for us, what we are and are not willing to try.

Mental illness is very disruptive to our emotions and perspective. Many of us are diagnosed around a time of great instability due to unwellness. Mental illness can take those fears and twist them drastically out of proportion. Don’t listen to those fears. Stick to the path that will get you professional help.

In the US, that can mean an initial appointment and then a meeting with a psychiatrist three to six weeks later. It is really easy to convince yourself that you may not actually need the appointment while waiting for it. Fear, doubt, irrationality, or a rationalization of recent circumstances can all contribute to a decision to avoid the appointment. If you’re in this position, just stay focused on getting to that appointment.

The best way to set yourself up for success is to start figuring out how your mental illness affects you specifically. The same mental illnesses can look drastically different from person to person. It can be really difficult to see unless you understand what the symptoms actually look like. This is a major problem in a lot of books and content you will run into. Most of it is created through the filter of the way the creator experiences or perceives mental illness. That is not to suggest that it is not valuable, because it is. You just need to take any information you consume with a grain of salt because it may not apply to you.

I highly recommend visiting a counselor with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy experience with the goals of learning about the functionality of your diagnosis, exploring your history, and exploring who you are currently. Their experience and clinical knowledge can help you build the foundation for long-term recovery. I personally believe that anyone would benefit from really exploring and working to understand why they are the person that they are. Developing self-awareness can help you find your way in the organized chaos that life can be.

The best thing about diagnosis is that it is the start of the establishment of control over the chaotic, destructive force that is mental illness. The decisions on how to go about building that control are best made with the assistance of a qualified mental health professional. Ask questions when you have them. If you don’t understand, ask more questions. Building your knowledge will help you keep track of what does and does not work for you.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t experience immediate results. The pursuit of mental wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and patience. I know, I know. “I’m not a patient person!” Well, then you can look forward to developing a new skill, because it is a requirement. It takes time to learn. It takes time to see if and how medication works. It takes time to pick through and understand the damage that mental illness has done to your life. It takes time to fix it.

A diagnosis is not a death sentence. It is the start of a new chapter of your life, hopefully the beginning of something much better for you.

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To the Parents Trying to Get Through to a Mentally Ill Child

I receive correspondence from people dealing with a wide variety of issues relating to mental illness. One of the more common themes include parents, usually mothers, who are trying to figure out a way to make their adult child realize they need help and work toward recovery. I’ve talked to parents who have developed severe depression and anxiety, who have claimed strokes and heart attacks from the stress, who have gone so far as to take out additional mortgages to try and fund rehab, and far more.

In many cases, these parents have gone to mental health groups or counselors of their own. They’ve been told about the need and importance for boundaries; but feel that they can’t do these things to their child because of potential repercussions like violence, homelessness, self-harm, or suicide. All are very real possibilities when it comes to Bipolar Disorder and other volatile mental illnesses. That’s why it is vital to have the input and support of a qualified, licensed mental health professional. Being that I am not, it is not my place to tell you what you should do in that kind of situation other than seek professional help. Instead, I want to address the internal struggle of those parents.

On Waging the War…

I look at my mental wellness and my efforts in trying to help other mentally ill people and their loved ones in the context of fighting a war. You need a loose strategy that can be adapted as you push towards your goals. You need to have and manage resources. In war that includes troops, morale, weaponry, and money to keep the machine going. In mental health it’s professionals, your own emotional and health, therapy, medications, and money.

In war, you deploy your resources in a way that will push you closer to a victory. You do not want to arbitrarily waste your resources on battles that will not bring you closer to victory. In war, your troops may have advanced on and taken a hill. Intelligence indicates that a massive counter-attack is coming. Do you hold the hill? Does it serve a strategic importance to keep your troops on that hill and commit additional resources like air support and artillery to ensuring they hold it? Or is it a better idea to withdraw and let the enemy retake it so you can conserve resources and keep your troops in fresh, fighting shape for future actions?

In mental health, the wise will pick their battles in a similar way. You commit your resources when they have the greatest ability to make an impact and serve a strategic purpose. The most common piece of advice I give to people is don’t bother arguing with a Bipolar person who is manic. It serves little purpose. On the off-chance you actually do get through to the person in that moment, their instability can wipe out any perceived gains that you’ve made. What’s more likely to happen is you end up throwing fuel on the fires of their unwellness, anger them more, drive them further into instability. Then you have the emotional energy that you’ve expended in the form of your own anger, sadness, and frustration with the lack of meaningful gain.

In trying to get through to a mentally ill loved one, you must conserve your resources because it can take years for a person to not only realize they need help, but foster the desire to change their situation. You cannot sacrifice your mental and physical health, career, money, and home for someone who is not ready to help themselves. If you do, then you may not have those resources available five or ten years down the road when they could have been employed to make a real difference.

I Can’t Do What Is Suggested to My Child…

No one in this world is going to love your child as much as you do. No one. No one is going to put up with as much shit, sacrifice, or care as much as you do. What happens when you are no longer there? Will they end up on the streets? Will they commit suicide? Will they jump into a terrible relationship to just not be alone or on the streets? Will they turn to drugs or alcohol to escape? Maybe they are already doing those things now; but the difference is you are alive and reading this right now. That means you have the potential to be there for them and crack through the distorted perception that mental illness creates.

The boundary setting suggestions that mental health professionals make serve different purposes. Not only do they help you retain your sanity and well-being, but they also contribute to a controlled descent based on choice, whether that was the intention or not. Enforcing these boundaries forces the person to acknowledge that they have choices that will have repercussions. That helps to contribute to a controlled fall where hopefully the person won’t have to hit rock bottom to realize they need to change.

This is not something you are doing TO your child; this is something you are doing FOR your child. In following the recommendations of your mental health professionals, you are fighting the war FOR your child, which will hopefully push them towards the realization that they need to fight, too. Nobody accidentally recovers from a serious mental illness like Bipolar Disorder. Recovery is a major victory in a long-term war that requires a great deal of fighting, effort, and work. It is not something that can be handed to another person.

Your child, or loved one, is the only one who can truly help themselves. Enabling that person to realize it and that they have the strength to overcome will be two of the hardest fought, bloodiest battles in the war. Thus, you need to pace yourself to make sure your own life and well-being doesn’t get destroyed in the process. If the situation is so bad that your professional is suggesting extreme measures, you can’t tell yourself you can’t do them. You may not have a choice if you want to win the battle.

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In Search of the Good in Your Fellow Man or Woman

Ever say the phrase, “I try to see the good in other people?” I hear it all the time from the people that reach out to me, particularly from people who are in abusive situations. It’s a romanticized sentiment that is not really applicable in the real world. Not all people are good. Some people only have a sliver of good in an ocean of bad. Others are a majority good but have a sliver of bad that is so negative that it can’t be overlooked. There are others simply project being good to the world and do awful things behind closed doors. And there are plenty of people who are just entirely apathetic to it all.

The people that announce “I try to see the good in other people” are essentially announcing to the world that they are an easy target. In my experience, these individuals will cling to the fragments of good that they see in another person, like an abusive partner, to further convince themselves that this person that they love is a good person and thus deserving of their love. And it’s not limited to romance. It’s parents, siblings, children, or really any interpersonal dynamic.

They hold onto this idea that if they are good, loving, and compassionate to this person, that the person will notice it, respect it, and return love. I don’t believe respect and love work that way. There are different types and levels of both. The respect you have for yourself is different from the respect you have for an enemy is different from the respect you have for a loved one. And love is the same way. There are different levels, types, and strengths of love.

I never look for the good in anyone. I look for their humanity and what makes them who they are. In doing so, it doesn’t really surprise me when someone does something good or bad. There seems to be a common belief that good and bad are absolutes; but I’ve known quite a few people who have done bad things because they felt they had no other choice. Those decisions can be driven by circumstances like mental illness or environment. Actions that are good can certainly have bad elements to them and vice versa.

As someone who is High-Functioning Autistic and tends to see things in black and white, this was a challenging thing to identify and accept. My brain just doesn’t do shades of gray very well. But that’s life, isn’t it? It’s all just different shades of gray. The color of gray you interpret a situation as is dictated by your emotions, perception, and life experiences. What’s good and bad to me may not necessarily be good or bad to you. That’s totally fine.

Instead of good or bad, it’s more helpful to look at the destructiveness, motivation, and that person’s response to their actions. We, the mentally ill, can do some pretty awful things to ourselves and other people while we are unwell. I understand that because I’ve lived that life. As a result, I’ve been able to forgive some pretty serious unwell actions out of others because I could see they were trying their hardest to rectify the situation and change it.

But then you have the people who simply do not care how their actions affect you and your life. They use kindness and compassion as leverage and a weapon against the people that care about them. Well, I see no reason to be a victim to those people. If they can’t understand or don’t care how damaging their actions are, then why should anyone suffer along with them?

Maybe they will see the error of their ways in the future or maybe they won’t. Either way, will you still be healthy and well when that time comes? Or will the pain, chaos, and misery destroy you in the process? Compassion and understanding are limited resources and will dry up sooner or later. I’ve watched that destruction happen numerous times. You have to be the one that ensures it doesn’t happen to you. No one else can do it for you.

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On Mental Health Recovery and Restless Demons

Recovery is never a matter of total perfection. It can’t be. There are too many variables that can affect the outcome. In the past six months, I’ve had two very minor escalated cycles; one of which ended less than a week ago. They were so minor, in fact, that I didn’t manifest any of the physical symptoms that I usually have when I escalate. I was sleeping consistently and had no pressured thoughts or speech. What did occur was the warping of emotions and perception that fueled several bad decisions. I couldn’t tell that I was unwell until I hit the wall and crashed into a black depression, signaling the end of an escalated cycle.

During that cycle, demons that I had thought I put to sleep years ago through a lot of self-reflection, study, and therapy came back out to play. As a result, I overran boundaries I set for myself, as well as disrespectfully trampling all over those of a new friend and breaking their trust. That was a bitter pill to swallow given how much time and effort I’ve sunk into creating an atmosphere for trust and respect. Gone in a matter of days. Thank you, Bipolar Disorder.

I was completely blind to the years of effort, knowledge, and experience I had put in to correcting these social issues I struggle with due to High-Functioning Autism. I made every bad decision I could possibly make, decisions that I had learned years ago were completely wrong and worked to correct. I was listening but not actually hearing what this other person was telling me.

Recovery is not always clean and neat. Demons that you defeat can come back to haunt you later. You can’t look at it as a failure, just a part of the overall process. It’s one of the many bumps in the road that you will undoubtedly hit as you try to move forward and be better than you were yesterday. Maybe you will be able to salvage the situation; or maybe you’ll just have to watch yet another thing burn on the funeral pyre that is Bipolar Disorder.

It’s okay to stumble. All you can do is try to mend the situation as best as you can, if possible. And if it’s not possible, sweep up the ashes and keep going because tomorrow can be better. It doesn’t make you stupid, foolish, or mean you’re derailing. Mistakes happen. Shit happens. You just have to take it in stride, own your actions, try to fix them where you can, and keep going forward. You’ll be okay.

I’ve found that a number of people think that recovery means total functionality and normalcy. But, it really doesn’t. A lot of times it boils down to attaining a great deal of control and management over one’s dysfunctions and challenges, but still needing to put out the occasional fire that can pop up. It’s hard to unmake decades of negative beliefs or behaviors. And even if you do? The demon can still be there, lurking in the darkness, just waiting for you to slip up a little bit so it can come back out to play.

Learn from it and work towards not making those same mistakes again.

I’m not one to air out personal grievances or problems with others, but I felt that I would share this circumstance with you, the reader, to demonstrate that it doesn’t matter how much you know, how rigid you are with your medication, how much time you spend in therapy, or how much experience you have; Bipolar Disorder can and will still cause disruption in your life. That’s just the way it goes.

Seems it may be time for a medication adjustment of my own.

And to the person I wronged, I am deeply apologetic for my disrespectful behavior and profoundly sad I destroyed your trust. I was escalated and did not realize it until my brain crashed and burned. The person you saw in that time is not who I am; it was a fragment of who hypomanic me can be. 

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Wounds Can Close but Not Fully Heal

The path of recovery and change is long and hard.

You can spend twenty years working on a dysfunction, doing everything you can to learn how and why it happened, work to make sure it won’t happen that way again, but end up with it thrown right back in your face. It starts with a simple error in judgment and can easily start to run away from you. You get sucked up into the emotions that you thought you had overcame a long time ago. They fuel more bad decisions, you don’t listen to the people you should, and you only look forward with blinders.

The next thing you know, you’re staring at yourself in the cracked mirror that you thought you had fixed years ago. All of the horrible feelings that went along with it, all of the crushing blackness of depression and self-loathing, is sitting right there on your shoulder again. It laughs and mocks. It digs and picks at you. It will try to throw you straight back down into the hole you spent years climbing out of.

But, you have to forgive yourself. You have to acknowledge you’re human and will make bad decisions. And it doesn’t mean you are less of a person or stupid. It’s just the nature of the road that leads to self-improvement. The best approach is to own it, do your best to repair it, and move past it.

In related subject matter, I can’t tell you how stupid I used to think adjusting negative self-talk was. Like many people, I would colossally fuck up, look in the mirror, and tear myself to pieces. Many moons ago, I did end up learning from a therapist that it can play a major role in helping to alleviate future crashes and depression. The more you dwell and focus on it, even in using negative language against yourself, the more fuel you throw onto the fires so they can burn hotter and longer.

So for the people out there who think the idea of positive self-talk is stupid (which I did for many years), it’s really not. It’s just no one really explains that it helps adjust the whole way in which you perceive yourself and deal with your mistakes. It’s not a one time thing and it’s not going to drastically swing things for the positive, but it does make dealing with the lows a bit easier. It’s one small piece of the overall picture.

You’ll have setbacks, you’ll make mistakes, and ghosts from your past may come back to haunt you from time to time. The important thing is to not dwell too long on them. Acknowledge them, work to repair the damage, and move forward. And try not to be too much of an asshole to yourself when it eventually does happen; because it will.

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The Secret to Maintaining Your Sanity While Helping Another

Many people in my audience are here because they are attempting to better understand mental illness, help a mentally ill loved one, or better help themselves. The ups and downs associated with the process are emotionally taxing and difficult to handle. So today, I want to share an important tip that can significantly ease a lot of the stress and emotional turmoil that goes along with not only this process, but several other aspects of life.

That is: work to reduce the amount of emotion you invest in the process or outcome.

What the hell does that mean?

In trying to help a mentally unwell person, their instability can be a great deal of stress and anxiety. It’s only natural to start letting hope peek in when they appear to be balancing off. Maybe this time they will finally be ready to seek help? Maybe this time they’ll listen to reason and their doctor? Maybe this time they will take their medication as directed?

In a situation like this, it’s also possible that they don’t make the right decisions, aren’t ready to commit to their wellness path, or have a bad reaction to the medication they do take. Investing hope into that situation is fruitless because the pursuit of wellness and stability is not a straight line. It has it’s ups and downs. It’s a long road to travel and there are many obstacles that can knock a person off their course. And most people, I find, have to learn things the hard way. You don’t want to find yourself getting angry, frustrated, sad, or depressed because things didn’t resolve how you thought they would.

That is not to say that you should never be emotional. You’re human. You’re going to be. You should celebrate successes and acknowledge failures; just don’t celebrate or mourn until you have an actual, tangible reason to.

Work to maintain neutrality and it will make things much easier in the long-term. The ability to last long-term is important because the realization that one needs help and the pursuit of wellness often takes years. You can’t compromise your own mental and emotional health in the process of trying to help someone else.

And really, it applies to most other areas of life as well. It dramatically reduces the emotional impact of the process of pursuing your goals.

Far too many people look at things like failure and rejection as an end all, be all. They’re not. They’re just part of the process of succeeding. That’s why you can’t let your emotions dictate a setback, failure, or rejection as a devastating end.

Let me frame it in one of the most common examples that people write to me about.

The mind of a Bipolar spouse runs screaming into an unwell cycle. The cycle is burning hard for months with all of the “fun” that goes along with it. Eventually, the cycle ends and the Bipolar spouse reaches back out because their perspective is finally starting to clear up. So, what is the Supporter spouse now feeling? Hope since it appears the person they loved is back and clear again? Anticipation that the situation is changing for the better? Relief? Happiness? Comfort? It can be any number of things.

What happens to the emotional state of the Supporter spouse if a few days later, Bipolar Disorder takes off into another drastic swing and all of those relief-based emotions are yanked out from under them? What happens if the Bipolar person realizes they need help, but can’t get in to see their doctor before another cycle takes hold and convinces them that they are fine? That it’s everyone else that’s fucking crazy!!!  Not me!!! And then you find yourself back to square one after months of suffering with little to show for it.

You must work to maintain your wellness, balance, and stability while trying to love and help a mentally unwell person or their instability will destroy your emotional health. It is very common for Supporters to develop their own mental illnesses as they try to cope.

I use a very simple process myself.

1. Identify what the long-term goal is.

2. Temper emotions by keeping your eye on the long-term goal.

3. Force yourself to not dwell on the immediate successes and failures.

4. Repeat until you reach the long-term goal.

Seems simple, right? It’s not. At all. It takes time and practice to get used to; and you’re not going to get it right all of the time. I mean, you don’t need to look too deeply into my work to find anger or frustration. I definitely have it and experience it still. But, it’s a lot less intrusive than it used to be. Even a small gain in control over these emotions can make the overall journey much easier.

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Five Tips for a More Harmonious Bipolar Relationship

I had a recent request for some tips on relationships where both partners have Bipolar Disorder. The following would be applicable in about any relationship, but I feel as though these points are the most important for a relationship involving mental health and stability.

1. Both partners need to have the same attitude regarding their wellness.

You can’t have one partner who is recovered and the other partner just doesn’t put in any effort into recovery. Why? Loving and living with an unstable mentally ill person is a hell of a lot of stress. Stress can easily serve as a depressive or escalation trigger that can cause unwellness in a person with a mood disorder. Minimizing stress is an important facet of mental health management for many.

2. Remember that wellness is an individual path.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard some variation of, “Well, my boyfriend tried this, so I’m going to try it, too.” or “Well, my wife had a bad reaction to that, so I’m not going to try it.” Your path is not the path of your partner. Their success with a given treatment or approach has zero affect on yours. You can walk the path together, but everyone experiences their mental illness in different ways. And we all have individual body and brain chemistry that means you can’t know how a medication is going to affect you until you’ve taken it as directed for as long as it takes to reach its functional range.

3. Work to not respond to your partner when emotions are running high.

Attempt to approach problems and challenges in the relationship from a position of neutrality. The couple can easily destabilize one another into unwellness by constantly fighting. Take some time to cool off and let your emotions settle before you toss more fuel on the flames. That small campfire can easily explode into a volcano of emotion. Work on improving communication in the relationship. There are tons of self-help books out there about it or you may want to consider a relationship counselor to work on communication skills.

4. Have and enforce boundaries to keep yourself well and healthy.

In my experience, a Bipolar partner who is doing better than their partner will often flex their own boundaries. They understand what it’s like to be misunderstood or for people to not have patience with what they are dealing with and want to be compassionate. That person may wind up destabilizing as they bend their limits. Boundaries are important because they help you stay balanced and healthy. I’m not saying to never flex boundaries, just be mindful when you make that choice and don’t flex them too far. I will note, this is just an observation from interacting with many mentally ill couples.

5. Work to turn your home into your sanctuary.

Ideally, a home should be a sanctuary, a place of peace and respite where a person can retreat after dealing with the bullshit of their day and life. Life is hard and stressful. Both partners committing to making the home a place of peace (as much as it can be) will create a lower stress environment. Of course, that is easier said than done…which is a stupid phrase because everything is easier said than done. Regardless, it is worth the effort so you don’t have the additional stress of dreading your home life on top of everything else.

If you would like for me to write about something specific, please feel free to let me know in the comments!

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The Problem With Mental Health Professionals

There are a lot of people out there who have had terrible experiences with mental health professionals. Sometimes those experiences are valid, other times they are the result of the way we interact with them. But you want to know the real problem with mental health professionals?

They’re human beings; not so different than you or I.

We expect them to understand hundreds of mental illnesses and the way they affect each of us specifically. Mental illness is an incredibly personal experience. Though we are bound by threads of symptoms, they can manifest in very different ways from person to person.

Many of us walk into their offices, withhold important information, lie about what we’re experiencing, and then blame them when they can’t meaningfully help us. Too many of us walk into their offices and expect them to fix decades of mental illness in the course of a couple hours a month.

It’s easy to think that many professionals don’t give a shit because they are under tight time constraints to meet whatever quotas they have to meet standards imposed by other parties; be it a medical conglomerate, the government, or just keeping up with paying the bills. Thus, they can appear to be callous when harshly enforcing time limits or being rigid.

Nobody becomes a mental health professional to get rich. It’s one of the lowest paying, highest stress divisions of the medical industry. The people that do go into it are often there due to personal reasons, be it a mental illness of their own or having been affected by watching a loved one suffer. And I have talked to several who have reached out to me over the years who are dealing with their own mental illness while trying to help their patients.

Too many of us expect perfection out of our professionals because we are suffering. But they can’t give us perfection, because they’re human. And they certainly can’t read your mind if you choose to withhold information or misrepresent what you’re dealing with.

Do you want to know the secret to making meaningful progress with a mental health professional? Be a proactive participant in pursuing your wellness with as much honesty as you can.

What does it mean to be a proactive participant?

You need to work to understand your diagnosis and how it affects you SPECIFICALLY. Bipolar Disorder, and several other mental illnesses, can look very different from person to person. A lot of material that is produced is written from a perspective that may not necessarily reflect your personal experience. A counselor can be very helpful for working to better understand how your mental illness affects you.

Ask questions. Know why your professional is making the decisions that they are making. How is this medication supposed to help you? What is it supposed to do? How will I know if it is working or not? What side effects should I be looking for? How long should it take? A good professional will take the time to explain it to you; a bad one will just ask for blind trust or make you feel like you can’t understand.

There are a lot of good people in mental health care that want to help, but caring about people is a very difficult thing to do. The chaos and instability of mental illness, bad decisions, malicious and toxic people all take a very drastic, deep toll on caregivers.

That’s not even touching on the unethical or bad mental health professionals out there. They definitely do exist. Not everyone is good or even competent at their jobs.

Mental health professionals do not fix mentally ill people. They are there to help us fix ourselves. Mental health recovery is like 95% personal work and effort. No one can just hand wellness to you. It’s something you struggle, fight, and sacrifice for.

Understand that and you’ll have a much better time dealing with your professionals.

And, to any mental health professionals that may be reading this, thank you for your personal sacrifices and doing what you do.

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