After My #RealOCD Video

Whoops!

I only JUST now remembered I was supposed to write up a blog post following my video upload. Lol

Here’s my submission for 2018’s #RealOCD campaign founded by the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF):

I included a photo of myself in the thumbnail from a summer shoot that I did this year 🙂

It’s actually a decently short video (for my standards) being 10 minutes long and just discussing what some of my experiences have been with OCD on self-harm and suicide obsessions that have expanded into secondary depression and now borderline tendencies. :3

I filmed four takes of the video, the first video being 2 minutes long and the third four minutes long, or something like that. I filmed two 10 minute length ones and wound up using my final piece as the chosen and lightly edited video.

I edited around 7p and fixed up the rest of the thumbnail until about 8:30p (more detail can be found on my Twitter account if you’re interested in a cohesive time rundown) and then uploaded it online by 9p.

I didn’t trigger myself which is awesome and I did film another video for an article read out that I’ve also added my own commentary towards so that’s neat, too.

I filmed with really nice lighting as well and strangely enough although my back light was on in the video and didn’t seem to contribute much, when I turned it off the video got a lot darker, so it actually was helping after all!

It’s 10:30EST now, so I have to go to sleep, but I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. More coursework tomorrow, some art and hopefully some reading and such and I’ll be back around next time.

Much love and light to you guys!

❤ ❤ ❤

Before My #RealOCD Video

Okay, so it’s been a long time since I’ve actually, fully and officially, blogged, so I thought this would be the perfect time to do so!

Today ends #OCDAwarenessWeek and I just found out yesterday that an old mental health channel that I watch on Youtube (Kat at Shalom Aleichem (who also incidentally has a WordPress blog that you can find on her channel too!)) made a video submission for it which inspired me to look further into it and decide to make my OWN video, too!

It’s going to be a 5 minute max (filming for 10 mins, 5 edited down) video and I’m going to film it soon after I write this post. 🙂 I figured having some more structure around what I want to say to continue to prepare for it and then how I’m feeling afterwards would help and give me some guidance before things get too out of control and I wind up ruminating in an unhealthy way.

So, I have my two little pages, the lights on in my room, ready to film soon, but I wanted to say a few extra things before I film as it won’t have my usual ramblings in it!

So first, I’m wearing my OCD awareness t-shirt as it’s ever so fitting for this video, my hair is wet since I just took a shower about 45 minutes ago, I am presentable and prepared to film, while also a little nervous, not gonna lie! I think I will film a couple other article videos right after mainly for 2017 articles (as I’m super behind in that and have been thinking of catching up for ages now!) And then maybe film a couple of art/Inktober submissions later tonight, too. 🙂

Because I’ve structured what I want to say already I think it should go okay, and then my plan is to edit it right after in Pinnacle and upload it tonight as well! I’m working on the thumbnail using Canva and have to figure out a little more if my submission will just show up under the hashtag or if I have to tinker with it more personally. Not sure.

I also have to fill out my planner more for today and then jump back into coursework with a confusing article I have the lucky chance in presenting on Tuesday, re-reading the article, writing my blog post about it and also working on doing some biology coursework.

So, yeah.

I think I’m more ready now… I also have to work on some ARTICLES this weekend, too. So many things, so many things indeed.

Well, I’m going to film in just another moment! Wish me luck and I will welcome you all again in the ‘After’ version of this blog post! Maybe I’ll have found a fitting title as well! Fingers crossed!!!

❤ ❤ ❤

Say the Word Suicide: Saying the Word | Article F18

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I originally began this article all the way back to a year ago. I had initially begun writing it while I was in the hospital for five weeks–five very long and tumultuous weeks. At the time, in 2017’s summer, I had begun to have doubts about whether to discontinue the series. I felt that maybe it was too up-front to have an article series focused around dispelling the stigma around suicide. I think at the time I was beginning to shift from being so forthcoming to treating the subject with more care and awareness of how it may impact others.

 

I had this doubt that is, until I read a book called “Without Tess” by Marcella Pixley. The book was centered on the loss of Lizzie’s older sister Tess, who was struggling with psychosis as a child and was not hospitalized and non-compliant with her medications, lost her life to suicide. The book never explicitly said the word suicide up to that point but it was heavily implied. The sister finds acceptance in her sister’s early demise and the novel ends on a hopeful note.

 

The reason I bring that up here is that the word suicide itself emanates a suffocating silence. It drops into the air and stays caught in a spider-web tightly held over everybody’s head. It brings widened eyes and discomfort; bitten tongues and swallowed words.

 

And that’s just the *word*: suicide.

 

The act of suicide is either widely, and incorrectly, broadcasted or refused to be uttered or printed. Think about it, how many times have you read or heard that someone died “accidentally” under suspicious circumstances rather than on purpose? How many times do you heard the media sensationalize a particular method of suicide? How many times do you overhear someone say “committed suicide”?

 

People do *not* commit suicide. Suicide is a public health issue, *not* a crime. People commit murder and rape, they do not “commit” suicide. People either die by suicide, lose their lives to suicide or kill themselves.

 

This change in language respects the deceased and the survivors of suicide, meaning the loved ones left behind. It also respects suicide attempt survivors and anyone who has ever thought or come close to acting on thoughts of suicide.

 

We are all just a bunch of people on an orbiting planet. A speck in the universe. We give our lives meaning because without it, we’d be lost.

 

And people who are going through suicidality are just people who are, so very often, lost.

 

I know for myself, when I am suicidal, I feel vastly alone. I feel like a lone piece of seaweed in the middle of the ocean. It doesn’t feel like anyone understands, like anyone even knows, and certainly not that they care. Feeling suicidal is like being trapped in a room. Except it’s pitch black and the only window where there are people supporting me are outside of it and it isn’t anywhere near visible. I am lost and it feels like there is no way out, as though the thoughts will consume me and the only way I can find peace and release is through acting on my thoughts.

 

There is so much emotional pain behind suicidality. So much pain that it makes it near impossible to describe. It is all encompassing for the moments where it exists. It is soul crushing, it makes me feel like I am stuck in an endless darkness and the only end in sight is the end to all life experiences.

 

And that is how suicidality gets people within its grasp to do what it says—to end their lives. It coats its thick, slimy arms around the person suffering and it breeds on their silence.

 

And honestly, silence kills.

 

The silence of suicidality, mental health conditions, self-harm and substance use disorders—they all kill.

 

In a recent 2018 article you read that statistic that globally every 40 seconds another person loses their lives to suicide and 800,000 people annually die by suicide.

 

These are too many lives we are losing. Too many people who had bright futures ahead of them, who had more pain than they could cope with, whom given another chance may have made a different choice.

 

There is, and likely never will be, *one* set reason why a person decides to end their life. To look for one cause only oversimplifies a complex, intricate and complicated issue such as suicide.

 

That is why I choose to share my story, as you will read in “Treatment 101: Advocacy.” Choosing to talk about suicide and mental health conditions brings these issues from the shadows to the light and reminds us that we are not alone, that we are brave to get help and that life can get better.

 

Stay safe.


Part of this article was written September 23.2017; I added and sculpted the rest October 2.2018. This piece also just appeared in the Mass Media. :3 Which means that yes I’m a little late in uploading it here. Two more will be added this week and I may or may not just take this week off from writing, as I had some troubles last Thursday that I’m still recovering from.

Take care, peeps. ❤ ❤ ❤

The Fear of Letting Go | Article F18

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Photograph and article by: Raquel Lyons


“We were looking forward to the rest of our lives… No matter how my life has changed, I keep on looking back on better days… Life it goes on, what can you do?…You know I say that I am better now, better now. I only say that ’cause you’re not around, not around. You know I never meant to let you down, let you down” – Song lyrics from “Better Now” by Post Malone.

 

I think in the last year that I’ve been writing for the Mass Media, it’s transformed into a coping mechanism. Having only eight hundred words to work with, unless I create parts one and two of an article, gives me enough structure to reign in my thoughts and emotions and provide me with further distance from ‘emotion mind.’

 

Whether it’s a healthy coping mechanism is another story altogether. I think it can be, and sometimes, it can be unhealthy–as many things in life have the potential to be. I think it’s important to talk about unhealthy and healthy relationships–which are what I aim to accomplish in this article.

 

This semester is my final one. At the end of it, I will graduate and I will close a chapter of my life not with a period as I so feared for years but with a semi-colon. There’s definitely a fear in change and transformation that is trickling around in my mind.

 

The end is hard. Having relationships of any type including familial, friends, colleagues, fellow students and significant others, end is daunting. It’s difficult. It won’t be easy. It’s hard for anyone to let go and move on. Bring that concept of letting go to someone like myself who struggles with OCD and ‘letting the thoughts just be’ is maybe even more difficult. Maybe that’s why I’m approaching this subject with trepidation now.

 

It’s difficult for me to let go of what has been and recognizing that what has happened has come to pass. That although the past has shaped my current reality, it has led up to this moment; it’s not my current experience, not really. Some days that reality is harder to grasp than others. Sometimes my memories resurface around familiar places and bad experiences, and it’s harder to separate what’s actually happened versus the horror track playing in my mind. But, I’m digressing.

 

I’ve spoken about this subject before, last year even, but over the course of the last two years I developed an unhealthy relationship with my friend Luna. I did the same behavior a few years previous with a therapist in training named Steve.

 

This time, it’s different; because instead of clinging like a stinging jellyfish, I have to let go…again.

 

The first step to understanding I have a problem is to be aware of the problem. At some point, my relationship with Luna became dark and twisted, in a metaphorical sense. It was a tumultuous time within my recovery over the years. I felt abandoned a few times, and it wasn’t Luna’s fault, it’s just that my situation at the time got the best of me and I was becoming too dependent on Luna. I was starting to expect Luna to rescue me instead of me doing what I need to do and rescue myself (because only I truly can).

 

And mainly in this year, a lot changed. Learning about “fishers” and “netters” at my day program taught me a lot. A fisher is a person who drags you down; they’re often unhealthy relationships, abusive or just overall negative and one-sided. Netters are the people who lift you up, who have healthy boundaries and are supportive. Not bum kissing, necessarily, but has your best interests at heart. Everybody has a little mix of fishers and netters within them, depending on the time and situation.

 

Luna, overall for me, was a netter. But unfortunately I tend to gain this childlike yearning when I’m in crisis so that mixed with reaching out to inappropriate people with my own active suicidal tendencies made a mess for a lot of people.

 

So now, now things are different. It’s not that the child within me has disappeared, but that I have to reign her in more, a *lot* more. The urges to visit Luna will be there, probably for the rest of this semester. And I have to do my part to protect both myself and Luna, by staying away.

 

But what I’ve learned this year is that I can be okay, even more than okay, on my own, away from Luna. I can save myself. I don’t need someone else to rescue me, as I am enough.

 

I have one month to change my behaviors before I get my reward, and I really want my reward to come true. For now, it’s a process of farewell.


Written: 9.14.18, with slight edits 9.19.18

Letting go is a big step, especially when it’s about letting go of relationships or our time somewhere having come to an end. Change is hard, and change is beautiful and welcoming and something many of us are blessed with, even if we don’t realize it at the time. Change helps us to grow and adapt, to persevere and persist. So, although it’s sad to let go of Luna for me now, I know it’s with my best interests and their best interests in mind. I got extra support on the subject today in DBT-Intensive, so that helps. 🙂

What changes are you facing soon? How are you going to adapt to them and push through them?

Let me know down below. Thank you for reading. ❤ ❤ ❤

(Also this is the last article I wrote and I really need to start working on my next round of articles, probably tomorrow and over the weekend–along with keeping coursework up and working!)

Also here is the song if you’d like to listen to it yourself:

Treatment 101: Resources | Article F18

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An important piece to any treatment approach is knowing what your resources are. Whether it’s hotlines, warmlines, crisis teams, local authorities, your personal treatment team such as a therapist and psychiatrist, community resources and state specific alternatives. It’s important to keep with you a list of phone numbers of who to contact, when to contact (preferably before the crisis arrives as a self-care measure and also important to use if already in a crisis) and why to contact. While the majority of these resources are professionals, it’s also important to include external supports like friends and family as a go-to and I’ll explain more of that in the second installment of this article.

 

The hard truth is that we cannot handle our struggles alone, and most importantly, we do not *have* to.

 

It’s hard to ask for help. It’s difficult to realize that we may not be equipped to handle our thoughts, emotions and behaviors completely on our own.

 

I like to think of the process as climbing a mountain. Yes, I could take the complicated path of the trail that goes through all the rocks, trees and throes of the wilderness and yes, I’d be able to say I did it all on my own, but at what cost?

 

I would have wasted my time and energy when I could have chosen the path already smoothed out and laid before me. If I had asked for help from the nearby couple walking their dog or reviewed the map in my back pocket, I could have gotten to my destination faster and still been proud of my work.

 

There can be internalized shame when it comes to asking for help, that I cannot deny. But I still believe that getting help when a person is struggling is an immense strength.

 

You don’t get brownie points for masking your pain and suffering in silence. You get more pain, less energy and a lonely helplessness that can very well end your existence before life had the chance to get better.

 

So, without further ado, I’d like to explore some of the options available to us in relevant resources.

 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) is a common resource given out on articles, news mediums, and Twitter handles as a place to turn to if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or suicidal ideation. The lifeline can be reached through phone, popularized a year ago in rapper’s Logic hit song: 1800 273 8255. They can also be reached over chat on their website: suicidepreventionlifeline.org. They are a 24/7 hotline that will route your call to the nearest crisis center near you and I will detail in the future what it’s been like for me to call them over the years and what benefits I’ve received.

 

A texting crisis service that you can send a variety of codes to including: HOME, HELLO, or START is 741-741. They are also available 24/7. I suggest sending out a text when you’re doing well to see if your phone service works with their program as I’ve struggled in the past with my fossilized phone during a crisis only to find out that my phone doesn’t support those services.

 

Another call service, that I have yet to try out, is a warmline sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). A warmline, as defined by NAMI, is a peer run phone line meaning that the person on the other line has lived experience with mental health conditions and has been trained to handle calls from the public. One warmline, Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community (MBRLC), can be reached at 877 733 7563 from Monday to Sunday 4p – 8p. A South Shore crisis line operating 24/7 can be reached at either 800-528-4890 or 617-774-6036.

 

It’s also important to note that the Counseling Center on campus, located at Quinn 2nd floor past medical, can be a helpful resource if you or someone you know is in a crisis. They can provide emergency appointments and offer another 24/7 call center at: X.

 

A list of local crisis centers and their accompanying phone lines can also be provided by your therapist or day program (often asking is the key!) as well as Googling some additional phone numbers nearby or picking up a list of local emergency services and hospitals from the Counseling Center.

 

Additionally, if the crisis concerns an individual in imminent danger, call 911 or the Public Safety department Y on campus.

 

A topic that I did not get to discuss in this article is how to approach gaining external supports besides certified counselors or volunteers on a phone line. Also, I plan to write articles about my experiences calling hotlines and how to respond if someone you meet is in a crisis.


Let’s pretend I didn’t totally write an article like this before last year in the spring. Lmao, I certainly forgot I had, at least!! XD

I think it’s good to update things though and so this list is more relevant nowadays than that one from a year and a half ago is.

I’m utterly exhausted right now but I got some homework done today and will be going to bed shortly… Might even just upload this now versus waiting for tomorrow.

Any who, stay safe!

Written 9.10; 9.13.2018

 

Accumulating Preventative Measures | Article F18

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Photograph & article by: Raquel Lyons


Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide and self-harm

 

“Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in…Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing; I’m overwhelmed and insecure… Keep telling me that it gets better. Does it ever?…Afraid to be alone again, I hate this. I need somebody now. Someone to help me out. Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can’t: it isn’t in my blood” – Song lyrics from Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood.”

 

In this article, I’d like to explore the notion of creating and actively accumulating preventative measures against problematic behaviors. Namely, my own problematic behaviors because I’m an expert in my own experience and can only truly speak from that lived experience to what I want to discuss here, and for what I hope can also be applied to other general situations.

 

I’ve included the song lyrics from Shawn Mendes at the start of this article because it fits with the message I want to convey within these strung lines. I want to discuss how accumulating preventative measures against self-harm and suicidal thoughts have helped me greatly in the past, present and hopefully the future as well.

 

I believe I’ve mentioned it before, possibly as long as two years ago, but I have always personally found safety contracts hugely impactful in my recovery. For some people I know it can be a bit hit or miss, and for me it has done wonders. For me now, I have acquired enough barriers between myself and any action steps I could take with my intrusive thoughts and images that are utterly life-changing and life-saving, as it were.

 

The main one is that I signed a piece of paper saying I would not engage in self-harm or attempt/complete suicide while at the Dialectical Behavior Therapy-Intensive program. The DBT-I at my current day program–a day program I’ve been in for the last seven months and been in Intensive since May–lasts for six to eight months. That means six to eight months between me wanting to act on an urge now and by the end of eight months, no longer wanting to act on my thoughts because the crisis by then has disappeared.

 

It’s kind of ingenious, in a way, if you think about it. What it buys me, is time. Time to think of the ‘what if’s.’ Time to pause and breathe (even though that’s the last thing I want to be doing) and to tolerate my emotions and let go of my thoughts, ultimately take a mindfulness approach and just return to Earth as gradually as I can. It gives me time to call someone at a hotline, time to interact with another fellow human being, or time to write an article about my preventative measures. Time is a valuable, valuable thing when someone is undergoing a crisis. To have access to time, to allow the thoughts to come and go as they will naturally do is so, so critical. Because the crisis will fade, the crisis will not last forever and the cruel thoughts being slung around your brain will cease to exist again. They may return, and they very well may do so, and by then, you’ll be stronger.

 

You will be strong enough to say ‘no’ to them. You will be strong enough to choose to live.

 

It doesn’t matter what BS images my brain shows me, because in reality none of them have actually happened. I may be sitting alone on a bench crying in public, and that may not be entirely effective in the long-term, but it beats being somewhere alone where things could turn the corner in the worst way possible.

 

To me, accumulating preventative measures means remembering what if’s–what if my next round of treatment would have made the difference? What if I tell someone how I’m feeling and they respond with compassion? What if I don’t act on my thoughts and feel better again soon?

 

Another thing I find about accumulating preventative measures is using a lot of skills all at once: change my self-talk by finding encouraging or inspirational quotes, check the facts about what situation triggered me, reading over letters friends have given me, seeking out ways to help the community around me, or even watching some of my old YouTube videos.

 

The biggest thing I’ve learned from program is that acting on my harm thoughts really isn’t in line with my values at all. I have built an army of reasons not to act harmfully, including: the awareness of the safety contract, listening to new music that comes out, watching a sunset, creating more art, seeing the next Avengers movie, graduating, feeling happiness.

 

And although this article has ended, the journey has not. It’s ever changing, ever flowing and so very, very worth it.

 

Stay safe.


Article written September 11.2018

This was a post-crisis work through article that has been polished up and is ready for submission (I’ve already sent it out, actually). I decided to add my sunset photograph to this piece, and have a few more photos related to articles to be published soon. 🙂 It’s similar to the process of acceptance, it’s on-going and will wax and wane in progress.

I hope that you enjoy this article! Leave me your thoughts down below on what some of your own preventative measures are! 🙂

❤ ❤ ❤

PS If my after-thoughts don’t make as much sense, I’m trying to avoid a ruminative process right now (Sat evening) so that may explain things. I also didn’t read over this article so that might have something to do with it, too. 😛

Treatment 101: Stigma | Article F18

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Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide

 

If you’ve been reading my articles since the dawn of time, you’ll know that I’ve touched on stigma and its effects on those of us living with mental health conditions, such as myself, quite a few times. In fact, my first article in The Mass Media was because of stigmatizing comments I had encountered in my day to day trekking home and to UMass Boston. (Back when we didn’t have dorms!)

 

Stigma is something that many brave souls have combatted in the past, in the present, and unfortunately, will likely continue to combat in the future. Stigma eliminates person first language (as you read about in the Diagnosis segment of the series) by identifying those struggling with mental health conditions *as* their illness and not who they are as a whole. Stigma is often said by those who are uneducated about the field of mental health and who are either ignorant to the weight of their comments or do not care to understand at all (to put it bluntly in black and white terms). Stigma harms those who are struggling both silently and with their voices loudly echoing the room. Stigma has the power to drain every ounce of energy from you and collide into you with the hopelessness of why we, as a community, should fight back against it at all.

 

Stigma, most importantly, while largely being external can also become internalized, posing even higher stakes and problems for the individual’s minds.

 

When I was first diagnosed in 2014 with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on self-harm and suicide obsessions (not genuine thoughts of suicide), I faced my mind’s enemy with phrases that I was “just attention-seeking” and “I didn’t really have OCD”, or that I “should check whether or not I have hidden intentions to harm myself”–which would perpetuate a cycle of anxiety and doubt that I would engage in mental rituals to arrive on the conclusion that I was in fact safe which only then prompted additional intrusive thoughts that began the cycle all over again.

 

I know I also struggled with coming to terms with the idea that I didn’t know I was living with a diagnosable mental health condition. I felt that if I couldn’t tell something was “wrong” with me than what else was I missing?

 

Over the years, I’ve faced stigma in a few different places–on the train, in passing conversation, in people mentioning “craziness” off-handedly, in text-based mediums and within my own mind. I still have some internalized stigma mostly regarding those individuals living with psychosis and personality disorders as those are areas of psychoeducation that I, myself, am not well educated in.

 

Along those lines, personality disorders like borderline (BPD), psychosis, eating disorders, substance use disorders, self-harm and suicidal ideation tend to be *heavily* stigmatized in multiple cultures and countries around the world.

 

In fact, there’s a public health crisis ongoing at the moment regarding the alarming rates of suicide worldwide along with the presence of an opioid epidemic in America.

 

Again, I don’t have lived experience with the latter so I can’t talk too much about that but for the former, suicide is still a hushed topic with a lot of stigma stemming from the idea that its act is one of “selfish-ness” or seen as a sin in a religious perspective. Then there’s also the idea that self-harm is equivalent to suicidal ideation–when it’s not–and that suicide attempts are marked as “cries for help”, “attention-seeking”, and “if they were really serious they would have completed suicide.”

 

Stigma has the knack for perpetuating lies and misconceptions about mental health conditions as though those of us living with them are meant to be feared and shunned, or worse, sterilized and institutionalized. There have been many cruel acts done to us in the past, and we’re repeatedly demonized by the media still today.

 

Choosing to not talk about suicide envelopes and pushes those of us who struggle with its ideation further into the darkness. Normalization and approaching individuals with compassion and light is what’s required to bring down the statistics that say every forty seconds another person loses their life to suicide (WHO, 2018).

 

It’s not easy to talk about, it’s not fair, and it’s still important.

 

There will always be the people who don’t believe mental health conditions are a reality for one out of five American adults (NAMI, 2015). There will always be those who claim it’s for one reason or another, but there will also be people who are willing to understand and want to for the sake of their loved ones.

 

Our mission is to find those individuals and educate them, leaving behind the rest; because saving even just one life can make a world of difference.

 

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts: you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800 273 8255; contact the Counseling Center any time; text HOME to 741-741; or find additional resources via Google.


Hey everyone!! I haven’t completely decided if I’m uploading this article this Saturday or tomorrow (Sunday) as a scheduled post. But I thought I could keep you guys up in the loop by sending it out soon.

Wellness deadlines for the paper this semester are Thursday’s at 5p, which means I send in my articles for the week by Wednesday evening, the day before. I’ve already written about 7 articles and from what I was overhearing the other day, the paper may change from bi-weekly to weekly, which would be awesome.

For now, I have about 3 ongoing series going on, and this article itself took a turn down suicide prevention lane that I had not anticipated at the get-go. But, that’s okay.

Hope you guys enjoy this post! I have a really cool one coming up after this from my week two’s submission. 🙂

 

I’ll try not to be a stranger! Hope you’re all well. ❤ ❤ ❤

PS I forgot to say: This piece was written September 9.2018 🙂

Treatment 101: Diagnosis | Article F18

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It’s only fair to start off this new series, one I’ve wanted to do for a year, with the broad category of diagnosis. What is a mental health condition diagnosis and why does it matter? Some of these ins and outs about mental health diagnoses, how they are described, and the system used in which to understand them will be discussed below. But first, a disclaimer is in order.

 

My disclaimer for this article, and one that you will often see in each new article of the series, is that I am not a mental health professional and my opinions on these matters stems only from my own experiences, of which I am an expert in, and should not be taken as medical advice. I only wish to shed light on treatments that have been beneficial for me and inspire ideas in others that they can bring to their own treatment teams and potentially incorporate into their own recoveries where applicable. What works for me may not work for you, as we are all unique individuals, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

 

With that out of the way, we can begin addressing the issue of diagnosis–although, word choice is an important topic to briefly mention first.

 

I personally prefer the term “mental health condition” over “mental illness.” In 2016 I used the term “mental health issues” as a bridge between condition and illness and I suppose I reject the term “mental illness” as it feels too stigmatizing and I revoke the notion that I am “ill.” Even though at the same time I back the mission of Canadian Michael Landsberg’s “Sick not Weak” which is a nonprofit organization and popular hashtag on Twitter.

 

I think my logic in that is I’d prefer being thought of as “sick” or “ill” over “weak” as mental health conditions are not a sign of a character defect or purposeful fault of the one struggling with them.

 

I don’t mind thinking of the diagnoses I live with as chronic illnesses but there’s something about “mental illness” that just makes my skin crawl. Adopting person first language is also critical as a person is not inherently “anorexic” or “schizophrenic” they are instead a person “living with” or “struggling with” a condition.

 

But back to diagnoses, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) 5 there are around two hundred and fifty disorders with a specific, varying amount of symptoms occurring over a detailed duration of time that can explain the behaviors, thoughts, emotions and physical symptoms a person with a mental health condition may experience. According to Grohol (2011) approximately 50% of people living in the US will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lifetime, as measured back in 2004 by the CDC.

It’s been discussed before whether the DSM should be approached as a medical model (as it has in the past), a categorical approach (as it is presently) or in a new direction altogether.

 

Having mental health conditions listed in a categorical approach has its limits (in fact, most approaches will). If I only fit the criteria for four out of nine symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) I’ll meet the criteria for borderline tendencies (or ‘traits’ as it were) however if I have five or more symptoms I would fit the criteria for BPD as a whole.

 

The problem is people don’t fit so neatly into these classified boxes. And the truth is is that diagnoses have the ability to change over time. A person can be initially diagnosed with depression only for years later to come to the conclusion that the true disorder behind the curtains is bipolar (either type one or type two). That’s why although it can be instinctual to define one’s self in a diagnosis, becoming too attached and too dependent upon the labeling can create a host of chaos on its own.

 

When I was in one of my hospitalizations in spring 2017 one of the mental health specialists (MHS), where I was first introduced to the BPD tendencies diagnosis, described diagnosis as a fluid spectrum. At one point I was to the left of the spectrum and at that present moment I was elsewhere. And, ultimately, that’s okay because diagnoses are mainly important for insurance billing purposes and ways to direct treatment approaches.

 

The time when a set of symptoms begins to cause distress and impairs functioning is the biggest indicator of an underlying mental health condition. People who experience some symptoms of mental health conditions but aren’t impaired, distressed, a danger to themselves or others, or deviate from their society’s norms are not categorized as fulfilling the necessary quota to be diagnosed.

 

Lastly, treatment itself is an interwoven spider-web; there will be many overlaps and connections within each treatment to be discussed in this series.


I still don’t know if I should quote that statistic in here although I heard it first from program but later found an article that goes with it and yeah. My brain is a little muddled at the moment (I’ve totes supposed to have been doing homework but I’ve been writing instead :/)

Any who, I’ve covered ‘Diagnosis’ here (as you can see) and some of stigma (next article) and will begin to venture into other articles within the series in the next few months.

I hope that you enjoyed this piece. Things will definitely overlap and possibly split into multiple parts because I always just have too much to say.

Hope that you’re doing well!!

See you next time.

❤ ❤ ❤

PS A portion of this piece was handwritten 9/7/2018 with more of it edited and added 9/9/2018. 🙂

Bringing Light to the Shadows | Article F18

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Photographer & Contributing Writer: Raquel Lyons


Trigger Warning: Depression, suicidal themes

 

“I’ve got no excuses for all of these goodbyes; call me when it’s over, ’cause I’m dying inside. Call me when it’s over and myself has reappeared. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know why, I do it every time. It’s only when I’m lonely. Sometimes I just want to cave and I don’t want to fight; I try and I try and I try and I try… Momma, I’m so sorry I’m not sober anymore. To the ones who never left me, we’ve been down this road before. I’m so sorry; I’m not sober anymore…I want to be a role model, but I’m only human…I’m sorry that I’m here again, I promise I’ll get help. It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry to myself.” – Lyrics from Demi Lovato’s song “Sober.”

 

In the aftermath of “Stable, Until Triggered” I listened to this song from my iPod as I stared up at my ceiling, not completely seeing the masked face that I pieced together out of the white shapes and swirls, but instead saw the overpowering thoughts and felt the immense sadness that clung to my shoulders like shadows slowly eating away at my flesh.

 

It was safe to say that I accidentally triggered myself with epiphanies about my place in recovery.

 

Stabilization had given me a sense of pride and absolute happiness which makes the darkness that much more painful. In the hours after, I felt knocked off my pedestal that rose ten feet above the ground, which I have been in so solidly for over six months, and had landed squarely and roughly on my bum to ground zero. In the process of this article’s first draft, I cried profusely, something I hadn’t done in months.

 

I felt a mixture of having been lied to and being lied to continuously from an entity, so to speak, within my skull. There’s the feeling of how easily my happiness and restored identity can be taken away so unexpectedly. It almost feels like the depression is showing me the biggest middle finger and taunting me with its lies. I suppose it’s improvement for me to recognize that what it’s saying isn’t factual, it’s not true. It just feels so very, very convincing.

 

I could tell in the moment that I was judging my judgments. I know that this feeling will go away, albeit a lot slower if I did nothing, so instead I chose to do different actions, or what is known as opposite action, to the harm and death flickering and weaving through my brain. The best way I can describe intrusive images is getting as close to hallucinating without actually hallucinating. At its worst, it’s like being aware that the physical world is around me while being distracted by intense, intrusive images overlaying true reality.

I feel like it’s as if I’ve been kidnapped and am being held hostage, tied to a chair with my eyes opened wide, forced to watch a screen that shows me all these horrible, terrible, painful actions I’m doing to myself, except all of this is happening in my mind and in reality I’m just staring blankly into space. There’s something uniquely disturbing about being forced to mentally watch myself die and be maimed over and over again when in reality, none of it has actually happened. It’s so utterly mind-boggling and it *feels* emotionally like it’s happened, even though it hasn’t at all. (An instance in which checking the facts and mindfulness practices would help.)

 

At the same time, while those images are playing I can also notice my brain trying to convince me that life isn’t worth living if I have to experience these moments which triggers hopelessness of having to experience these crises in the future; the progress I’ve made deceptively being unraveled; the powerlessness I have over being forced to watch the tape and hear the BS; the notion that my suicide is inevitable and that every success I’ve made is meant to be undone by invisible forces.

 

To sum up: mental health conditions are impolite, ruthless, cruel, soul-crushing, seemingly all-consuming forces that have poop stains inherent to their hazy figures because of all their BS. Basically, they suck…a lot.

 

The real sustenance in the face of these matters is how we choose to overcome them–which are an article series I plan to uncover this semester. Maybe it’s not about being knocked from ten feet high to zero; maybe the fact that I got out of bed and wrote this article means something after all. Maybe within the darkness we can find the light again–not to eliminate the shadows but to co-exist within them.

 

And, maybe that’s enough.

 

Stay as safe as you can out there, ride the waves of pain and seek extra support when you need it. You’re doing the best you can.


Written August 29.2018

Originally titled “Surviving Trips in Hell”. I had to edit this one quite a bit, taking out certain things, changing tenses and the like. It was (and still is, in ways) more like a journal entry than a pure article, but I like that I set the pavement down to where I want to explore treatment options in a new and upcoming series. So, in the end, it works out all right. 🙂

Hope you enjoy this read! Let me know what you’ve thought of it in the comments down below. I’ll try to be more active soon–school’s began and I’ve run into technical problems with my coursework (which is so aggravating). Just stressed out, strung out and exhausted in more ways than one. Let’s hope the weekend fixes this up!

Much love,

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Stable, Until Triggered | Article F18

Articles THUMB


Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicidality & self-harm

 

In my article “What Stability Taught Me” I described the changes I’ve made to my recovery that has allowed me to remain in stable conditions for the last six months. There was something towards the end of my article that I only lightly touched upon that I would like to further investigate here.

 

In my previous article I mentioned that the suicidal thoughts and scratching form of self-harm have erased into the background of my situation. Overall this is true but it’s also misleading.

 

I am stable and can remain stabilized until I get triggered. When a trigger happens, as they will naturally do, all bets are off. Essentially my go-to forms of action are to self-harm or kill myself (the thinking here, while convoluted, is that in death I can guarantee no triggers except I’d be dead so I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything anyways). When I get triggered those background issues enter fully into the foreground.

 

The difference is that I’m highly self-aware, I can use my past experiences to guide me into seeing my warning signs sooner, I am my full “Recovery Raquel” self so I will allow myself to stop the crisis as it begins (as opposed to giving into self-sabotage or purposely triggering myself) or if I do go into crisis I can utilize my skills to minimize any damage that would head my way otherwise.

 

At this point, I apologize to be the bearer of bad news but: the urges do not go away. They have lessened for me substantially but a lot of that is me taking precautionary measures ahead of time.

 

For instance, over this summer we lost four well-known people to a death by suicide. Two of those deaths I found out about through the radio where stigma was prevalent–imagine people asking why anyone with everything in the world would kill themselves–and with no trigger warning prefaced landed me subsequently into my own triggered suicidal thoughts.

 

Even on Twitter for two of the other suicides, I found myself alarmed that so many were talking about the issue that I, for once, wanted nothing to do with it.

 

I’m at the place in my recovery where the boat is bobbing in the waves peacefully and I’m still afraid of all the tiny holes that have been punctured on the floor. I fear with one wrong move all the water is going to come rushing in and I’ll drown. If my past history with mental health conditions is the water and the holes my vulnerabilities then I am scared of what could set off my internal self-destruction. Or, maybe more importantly, it’s that I’m afraid I won’t be able to be resilient and strong enough to continue living. Maybe I will “lose control” and wind up dealing with the traumas of a state hospital or my treatment options would then be limited extensively.

 

And so my approach has largely been avoidance as I find myself no longer wishing to speak out so openly about suicide–but I don’t think that’s necessarily my best option.

 

Triggers are going to be there, one way or another.

 

Managing our behaviors and tolerating our many possible emotions is one of the few places where we have control. I can take precautions day to day to hold off reading my old journals or watching certain mental health heavy contents online until I’m in a better headspace and can handle it more efficiently. It may be the case that some days I’m more vulnerable to my triggers and then just have to manage surviving the day and engaging with appropriate self-care measures, skills and external supports.

 

And, as long as I’m trying my best, that’s all that really matters. For me when I have had crises in the last six months it’s been an accumulation of triggers over the span of multiple days that then initiated a delayed response.

 

Life will be unpredictable, priorities will change and values will too. Each new and old challenge will be a test of my skills and resiliency. It’s all about progress not perfection.

 

Just like we skid our knees on unforgiving gravel, our psychological issues will heal, too. Some things will fade away and others will be ignited as life unfolds. I think for the first time in four years I understand what it is like to regain perspective and be uniquely aware of my own mortality. When I’m suicidal it’s always the overwhelming pain in every ounce of my being that consumes me.  Whereas with stability I can appreciate the existence of unpleasant emotions as temporary states of being with a brighter light shining in the distance, my eyes catching sight of it.


Written: August 29.2018

I’d say more but I haven’t reviewed this article since yesterday and I’m so fucking pissed off right now that I can’t even begin to have the patience to deal with it. (Technical difficulties with an online textbook and fucking missing api files). So done.

I hope you enjoyed the read, though. Next article coming up tomorrow and I have to schedule it, then I’ll be started a Treatment 101 series. 🙂

Much love. ❤ ❤ ❤