Monthly Archives: December 2012

Intervention Matters

Intervention Matters.

If I wasn’t so partial to “One Wave at a Time”, I might change my motto to “Intervention Matters”.

And by ‘intervention’ I mean diagnose and treat. And by ‘matters’ I mean is life changing (or as a comedian would say “a BIG F****** deal”).

My personal adventure with mental illness demonstrates this, as well as a study from the child mind institute I heard recently regarding the progression of anxiety disorders in children.  I will be simplifying and summarizing this study, but I realize you all have other things to do then read my blog all day!

Part One: Child Mind Institute Study

Stage One: Between the ages of 5-9, anxiety disorders in children often manifest themselves first in the form of obsessive thoughts and compulsions.  

Stage Two: Around middle school, if the disease has been left untreated the stress of the disorder on the brain progresses, results in other anxiety disorders, most commonly generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Stage Three: Again, if left untreated, the stress on the brain results in bipolar 2 in high school and early college. This is when depression is most likely to show as well.

Stage Four: If left untreated, the individual might progress to bipolar 1 or experience some other form of emotional breakdown that results in a hospitalization.

You might have noticed that I continually used the phrase “if left untreated”. This was intentional, not just a lack of vocabulary on my part.  See, the key part of the finding was that if diagnosed and treated the child is 30-50% less likely to progress to the next stage.

Note: I apologize I cannot find the link to this podcast…my professors would give me an “F” for plagiarizing since I do not have the source, but I’m hoping you’ll cut me a bit more slack!)

Part Two: My Story

You’ve read about a lot of my different symptoms and experiences, so I’m not going to rehash them here.  Long (15 year long!) story short; my symptoms got progressively worse until the age of 21 when I was diagnosed.

I’m blessed that I don’t have a dramatic breaking story. Instead, the summer after graduating from undergrad I was living at home before I started a graduate program at IU. I spent abnormal amount of time crying and my mom asked me if I wanted to go talk to someone. I have no doubt I would likely have a much uglier story if I had not lived at home that summer and had her intervene.

I began a medication regime and started therapy.  Neither of which I was particularly happy about at the time, but really who is? 

As you all know, I still have bad days (and unfortunately bad weeks), but  I also have seen a tremendous amount of improvement and progress.

So as you can see—in my life a diagnosis and treatment (intervention) changed my life (matters).

Now that I’ve convinced you intervention matters—the question becomes, “What is intervention?” but more importantly “What is SUCCESSFUL intervention?” 

As an adult, we notice the girl in our class is more moody than most, the boy on our soccer team is more aggressive than expected, we suspect our daughter is struggling with more than teenage angst—now what?  As the adult and often times decision maker—what treatment options do we pursue? What type of intervention do we seek?

That is the question is nearly impossible to answer—but research is trying.  I found a great study I’m going to address in the next few posts.  But what are your opinions? Either as a consumer or advocate—what is the first course of treatment you suggest or encourage?

Oh and by the way

Hope you all had a 

Merry Christmas!

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Get out of your own way!

NCAA Div 1 Soccer Championship

NCAA Div 1 Soccer Championship

My husband and I took a spontaneous road trip to Alabama last weekend. By no means are we groupies (I unfortunately realized this year that college boys are too young for me…I’m getting so old!). But we do like watching soccer. On Friday, IU our Alma Mater, won a semi-final game qualifying them for the National Championship on Sunday. Around two on Saturday, while doing some work and I texted my husband, “Hey–let’s go to Alabama”.  He writes back “Is this you procrastinating from work?” Me: “Um…yes?  But I’m serious”  So an hour later we found ourselves pulling out of our parking lot headed to Birmingham, Alabama–heartland of America.

My adrenaline had me running through the hour of getting ready, but as we get into the car I started panicking   “WHAT AM I DOING? WHY DID I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?”  Here’s a list of the things I was worried about:

  1. I had work that needed to be done
  2. I wanted to clean the bathroom
  3. I wanted to cook and freeze some food for the week

Now…these were all legit concerns, but I had weighed them (albeit briefly) before I sent my husband the text about going. But know what my largest concern was? BEING ANXIOUS! Yep, I was worried about triggering a mood swing because we would be getting completely off my schedule. I’d be up late, sleeping in a different place, and traveling–all which can cause anxiety for me.  And wait, does this idea mean I’m going into a manic swing? Should I not go??

But you know what!

I NEEDED TO GET THE HECK OUT OF MY OWN WAY!

Sure, keeping a schedule is good for me. But know what else is good? Spending time with the hubby. Building good memories. Feeling like a “normal” person. AND HAVING FUN!

The ACTUAL trophy--can't believe they let me get that close...I didn't break it though!

The ACTUAL trophy–can’t believe they let me get that close…I didn’t break it though!

Sometimes, we just need to get out of our own way and let ourselves cut loose. Having a mental illness is alot of work and sometimes to stay healthy you do miss out on stuff–so give yourself some space to have fun. This spontaneous trip was great and it reminded me how much better I can feel when I let myself have a good time.

So tonight–in honor of this post I am going to make myself a peppermint milkshake. And I give all of you permission to do so as well!  Screw calories and do something fun!

Yes, I am drinking it out of a wine glass.  Got a problem with that?!

Yes, I am drinking it out of a wine glass. Got a problem with that?!


  oh and btw: THEY WON! GO HHHHOOOOOSSSSIIIIEEEERRRRSSSS!!!!!!!!

Eyewitness to the EIGHTH National Soccer Championship

Eyewitness to the EIGHTH National Soccer Championship

 

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Wednesday Wishes: Number Twenty-Two

Have you ever read one of those “Ten things your guy wished you knew” or “Ten things your mother-in-law would never tell you but thinks you should know” (though in many cases—unfortunately for you, there’s nothing your mother in law wouldn’t tell you). Well I wanted to create a lists of things that those of us who struggle with mental illness wished the rest of the world knew—and hopefully get insight from my support team about what they wish I knew!

Number Twenty-Two: I wish you how phrases like “you’re crazy” “he must be insane” “I’m going to end up in the pysch ward” make me feel. This is actually a very personal one. I feel like each consumer will have different words that bother them and some they actually laugh about and find funny. For example, the only one that really makes me uncomfortable is joking about a “pysch ward” because having to be taken to one unwillingly was a fear of mine for a long time and it increases stigma about needing to go to an inpatient treatment center.  Most of the other stuff, I joke about myself. So start the conversation, find out what bothers them and what they can joke about.  Here’s a picture below to get the conversation going.  Funny or offensive?

 

Funny? Or Offensive?

Funny? Or Offensive?

 

Disclaimer: Not all of these thought will reflect all people, in the same way not all “Ten things your guy wished you knew” would relate to my husband—some will not even relate to me. They are thoughts/concerns/opinions I’ve heard when talking with fellow adventurers along the journey that is mental illness.

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When the Stressful Situation Occurs…..

In a recent post I discussed ways to prepare for a stressful situation. Unfortunately, as much as we wish it would, all the preparation in the world does not always prevent the situation from occurring. While stressful situations cause anxiety for everyone, for those of us with an anxiety disorder, the situations can be especially intense. For us, when the situation kicks our body into the “flight or flee” mode—our brain takes off. Meaning, our brains over estimate the danger or don’t realize when the danger passes, taking us into a higher state of intensity for a longer period of time. I think this just means I don’t do things half way right? : )

Part of therapy and treatment is training your brain to realize that the “lion” you think walked into the room, is actually that crazy kid from next door dressed up in a costume. Then realize you can relax because the danger has passed.  There’s several of techniques you can use to help your body relax, but one tool involves changing some of your thoughts. It can be crazy hard to think of the “right” things to say to yourself in a stressful situation. If your brain is anything like mine is basically running around screaming “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”

So for moments like that, here is the second part of the worksheet I shared in “Preparing for Stressful Situations”. Post these affirmations somewhere you can see them during the stressful situation.

  1. I can deal with this stressor as a challenge
  2. I don’t have to become overwhelmed. I can deal with the situation one step at a time.
  3. Take a deep breath and relax.
  4. Don’t think about being upset. Focus on what I have to do.
  5. Being tense is not bad, it is a cue that I need to do something.
  6. If one strategy doesn’t work I can switch to another.
  7. Remember, I will get through this.

Now, you might choose to be discreet where you post these—for example, on your boss’s door (even if they are the cause of your stress!) is not the best idea!  But I hope they help.

Anyone else have some good positive affirmations to get you through a stressful situation?

Hope these statements either prevent you from going crazy or bring you back soon!

Hope these statements either prevent you from going crazy or bring you back soon!

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!! A Benefit of Mental Illness Uncovered

I tend to think of mental illness as that ugly sweater you get from your great aunt at Christmas. You know what I’m talking about, the itchy wool one that doesn’t come with a gift receipt. Yet, there is a good thing or two about the gift—your aunt was thinking about you and in the case of being robbed, you’re guaranteed to have at least one article of clothing left!

So recently I’ve been looking to identify and appreciate aspects of my personality and life that are positively affected by my mental illness. One of the first things to come to mind is my natural tendency toward empathy.

I teach a class of K-2nd graders at church on Wednesday nights and they are AWESOME.  There’s nothing better than playing freeze tag with a bunch of munchkins to remind you of the good in life. After getting pushed down last Wednesday, a little boy came up to me crying and told me, “My elbow needs some love”.  How can anyone resist that?  I clearly couldn’t. So I let him curl up in my lap till it felt better.  Nobody can resist giving love and sympathy in a situation like that.

But what about other situations? Like say if an adult told you their elbow needed some love?

During a party my parents hosted for my dad’s college students, a girl was complaining to my mom about a high level of school stress. My mom looked at her and goes, “Yeah, go complain to Tabitha. She’s way better at the sympathy than I am.” So she came to me, vented a while. I did what I do and at the end she goes “Wow—you are good at this”.

While this is a minor example, I feel like I can be a comfort in more serious situations as well. While I cannot say, I “know how you feel” to everyone I comfort, I can say I understand pain. From my depression I understand hopelessness and despair. From my anxiety I understand fear and worry. From my bipolar I understand irritability and mood swings. And those feelings are never too far removed that I forget how painful they can be.

I like that about myself. I like that I can offer comfort and support to a wide variety of people. So while it might suck to have such intense emotions, in those times of comforting others I can honestly say I’m glad I have experienced them.

I write this to thank you all as well. This is a quality that is so pervasive in the mental health blogging community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been uplifted by a reader’s comments. Or how many times I’ve read about a blogger struggling, just to see them give hope and encouragement on a fellow blogger’s site. You all are amazing!  Love and appreciate that about yourselves alright?!

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Preparing for Stressful Situations

Screenshot_2012-12-03-23-19-2

 

 

My friend recently texted me this picture and I literally laughed out loud.  People at work would have looked at me strangely, except they are used to me being doing weird things. It was fitting in her life at the time as she was coming up on final class papers and assignments…always stressful!  But it is also perfect for me right now. I’m under a tremendous amount of pressure and stress at work right now—and it is only going to get worse for the next three weeks.  Just like that wave, I can see it coming.  So the question then becomes—how do you prepare!?

Here is a great tool that I learned in therapy—a list of questions to ask and answer BEFORE the stressful event occurs (with a few random self-affirmations thrown in there). Then post the questions and your answers in a place you can see them as the event is taking place.  If your mind is overwhelmed and freaking out, like mine is right now, it’s probably a good idea to have someone you trust work through this with you.

Self-Statements for Coping With Stress:

  1. What is it that I have to do?
  2. I can develop a plan to deal with this. (Form a plan or mental outline)
  3. Just think about what I have to do, not anything else. (Focus on the needs of the task at hand)
  4. Think of things that I can use to help cope. (Review the strategies that you know can be of help)
  5. The situation is not impossible—I can handle this.
  6. What’s the worst possible outcome? Can I live with that?
  7. Remember: I can shift my attention and control my reactions.

I’ve found this to be very helpful. It breaks the situation down into parts, and gives your mind a grounding point when it starts to stray.  So instead of waiting for that wave to crash over you, think of this tool as your surfboard to ride it!

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