Tag Archives: mental illness

Sign of the Times: Suicide Crisis Lines Now Have Text Lines

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, given the popularity of texting, but in trying to help a friend, I discovered that suicide crisis lines now have options for people who would be more comfortable texting than talking.

This is a very good thing. Most of my friends who have some type of mental illness would rather text than talk, even under normal circumstances. So, I imagine that for many in serious crisis, the text lines could be very useful.

There are several suicide text lines out there. Google them and they’ll come right up. If you have a friend or family member who won’t even pick up the phone, this could be a life-saving option.

 


Sleep: My Blessing and My Curse

sleep-whats-sleepThere’s no question that, when you’re trying to manage mental illness, sleep is especially important. But there are times when my dastardly sleep cycle plays tricks on me. It makes want to scream “Why me, God! Why me!”

My sleep cycle has been especially haywire lately. Either I can hardly sleep at all, or all I want to do is sleep. There’s almost no in-between. Last night, I got maybe three hours of sleep, even though I was very tired when I turned out the lights. I swear, I did everything I know how to do. I tried getting in comfortable positions, and all that led to was a lot of tossing and turning. I told myself to think calm thoughts. My mind responded by racing. I don’t even remember what the racing thoughts were. I just remember being very, very frustrated. Now, that’s it’s morning, I feel like shit.

I don’t know what to do about it. I thought I had this problem licked a few weeks ago when my doctor adjusted my meds. For a while, I was sleeping normally, which for me, amounts to 6-7 hours a night.

But now, my cycle is off again. And especially when I can’t sleep, my waking hours are so much harder. I’ve tried reading before bed, but all I want to do is read more. A friend of mine has an unusual remedy. He reads, but he deliberately reads things that he has no interest in whatsoever. This does the trick for him. He falls asleep out of boredom — but he falls asleep.

I may try that. Or maybe I’ll move my meditation from the morning to the evening. I don’t know. I just want to be able to count on a good night’s sleep.

Are there any tricks you use to fall asleep (non-med related because God knows I take enough meds as it is, and I don’t want to take more)?

Feel free to share in the comment section.

 

 

 


A new home for my meds, thanks to Shakespeare

Shakespeare pill boxLike just about everyone I know with a mental illness, I have a love/hate relationship with my meds. But now I have something that helps ease some of the hate — this Shakespeare pillbox.

Recently, I went with some good friends to the Yale Center for British Art. While browsing in the gift shop, I found this. I had to have it.

I’ve loved Shakespeare for as long as I can remember, and I’ve loved him even more since being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Now, I can relate to characters like Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth on an even deeper level than I could before. I know what it’s like to feel melancholy and despair.

On the flip side, just the site of this pillbox makes me smile. I look forward to opening it, and I’ve become much less likely to forget taking my meds. So, thank you, Will. You are helping me “to thine own self be true.”

 


A tough part of mental illness — dealing with other people’s mental illnesses

It’s been a tough week emotionally, and unfortunately, the place that I normally go to for strength — my mental illness support group — became the root of my anxiety.

More accurately, it was someone who had been attending my group — someone with severe anger issues. If someone set her off, she’d yell and swear at the top of her lungs. She’d also throw things. I saw her throw a laptop. She also threw a remote, breaking a window at the hospital building where we hold our meetings. She was also harassing a fellow group member with vicious emails. She swears they weren’t mean, but doctors and security personnel at the hospital didn’t begged to disagree. They were very concerned about the emails — so much so that they ordered extra security for our meetings. Let’s put it this way, when you send emails and you call someone a cunt and a bitch (and those were some of the milder words) it doesn’t exactly win you points.

We had no choice but to kick this woman out of our group. I understand that for some, severe rage is a horrific part of their mental illness. But you can’t be in a support group — a place where we go to listen to one another and of course, support one another — if you yell, swear, throw things, and send harassing emails. You just can’t. I happened to be facilitating the meeting where this woman threw her laptop and the remote. It was quite scary and alarming.

Fortunately, things like this don’t happen very often. I’ve been a mental health group facilitator for about a year now, and this is the first time I’ve had to deal with someone who was so angry and disruptive. I know this woman needs a lot of help, and I hope she gets it. Maybe it’s just that support groups aren’t a good fit for her right now.

I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this woman. Even with hospital security warning her to stay away, I know she has already called the hospital and demanded that she be allowed to come. The hospital isn’t budging. She can, if she wants, come to the hospital for individual treatment. But she can’t come to our meeting. She cannot compromise the safety of those of us who attend.

After I witnessed this woman’s most recent episode, a friend of mine who attends the group said that I should think about the people I’ve helped; the people whose lives have been changed for the better because they can finally rely on others who know exactly what they’re going through. That was great advice, and it’s been a very comforting thought.

But if I’m going to continue trying to help others with mental illnesses, I must deal with the fact that, at least once in a while, I will come across people who need much more than I can possibly give.

Last night was the first night that the group met since this woman’s latest outburst. I briefly thought of avoiding the meeting. But that would have meant giving into fear. I didn’t want to do that.

I went to our meeting. I found many friends there, and met some new ones. We sat in a circle, talking about meds, frustrations, happy milestones, the good, the bad, and lots of things in between. We were there for each other, just as a support group should be.

Once again, it was the best place for me to be, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

 

 

 

 

 

 


For Philip, whose battle with life is over

Dear Philip,

I’m so sorry I couldn’t make it to your memorial service. I really did consider going. But last-minute airfares to Atlanta are ridiculously high (like more than a thousand bucks high) and that just wasn’t in the cards for me.

I’m glad, though, that your friends held the service in a book store. That was so appropriate. So you. The Facebook invite promised “lots of laughs and crazy Philip stories.” I hope there were lots of both.

Speaking of Facebook, I know you’d find it more than a little ironic that Facebook is where I found out you died. I mean, all those times you lamented how social media and technology were robbing us of human connection. But, true to 21st Century grief, your Atlanta friends took to your Facebook page and turned it into a cyber memorial.

The first messages were kind of cryptic. One said “I’ll miss your stories about books and movies. Stay mellow.” What did that mean? I thought maybe you got fired.

But it was something I’d never even heard of — an aortic dissection — that killed you. Even after Googling it, I’m still not sure what an aortic dissection is. But I guess it’s like your aorta just thought “fuck this shit. I’m out.” One of your close friends said you were in pain, but not for very long. I was at least glad to know that.

Philip

Philip and I both hated having our pictures taken, so this is the only photo I have with the two of us. It’s from his 30th birthday party. He’s the guy at the far left. I’m in the tan shirt by the presents.

 

I was also glad to know that your death was not a suicide. After the shock, that was the first thing that popped into my head. It was one of the things you and I had in common — membership in the Failed Attempts Club. I was often worried that you would kill yourself. After all, in the past few years, life sure gave you a lot of reasons. You lost your home to foreclosure, and since your temporary housing was small and didn’t allow pets, you also lost your beloved book collection and your beloved cats, Simon and Schuster. So many times, you told me that if it wasn’t for Simon and Schuster and the books, you would have committed suicide a long time ago. My response was always the same: you had reasons to live, and you knew it.

When I told you about my own suicidal ideations, you didn’t flinch. You related. You were not surprised. I honestly wasn’t shocked when you talked about your past attempts, too.

I guess when you grow up together, there’s a bond that’s always there. Remember how we used to laugh at the name of our apartment complex? It was the Edgewater Terrace Apartments, only it wasn’t at the edge of any water. You used to say that the name was so ironic. I think I learned about the word ironic from you. I’m an only child, but when we were little, I sort of thought of you as a crazy older brother. I mean crazy in a good way. Even when I was little, I knew there was something different about you. While the rest of us kids were Crocodile Rocking to Elton John, you were fiercely loyal to Ethel Merman and Judy Garland.

You were always singing show tunes, but I knew you weren’t happy. I couldn’t blame you. Your mother weighed something like 400 pounds. She and your father always argued. Your sister became rebellious, then became a drug addict. And your home was always filthy. I remember balls of papers strewn all over your living room, and your mother seemed oblivious to it all.

That was a big difference between your mom and my mom. My mom was a neat freak. When we had company, everything was spotless. Still, our moms were best friends. I saw a lot of you. You saw a lot of me.

In fact, you saw much more of me than I realized. You saw through me. Remember your last trip up here to Boston, and that long conversation we had about everything over pastrami sandwiches at the S and S Deli? I told you how abusive my home life was. How I was molested at age 11, and how no one did anything about it because Alex was the grandson of mom’s friend Betty, and mom didn’t want to lose her friend. When I told you all of this, again you didn’t flinch. In fact, you told me how you just knew things were wrong. You heard my mother’s yelling. I don’t remember crying, but you remembered seeing me cry.

At first, I was relieved when you responded this way. Family and friends who lived nowhere near my home told me I was over-reacting. Being dramatic. Making things up. But you — who didn’t live in my home but lived pretty damn close — you knew.

For this, I loved you and hated you. I loved you because you believed me. But I hated you because there were times when even I would tell myself that maybe it wasn’t all that bad and maybe I have a vivid imagination. Your confirmation robbed me of that. Damn you!

I didn’t say this to you, but when you visited me in Boston, I couldn’t wait for you to leave. You were too real for me. Oh, and also, you complained a lot. About the world. About the human race. About the Chinese restaurant that didn’t have a bowl of crispy¬†noodles right there at the table when you sat down. (“How could they not have that! I thought all Chinese restaurants had that!”)

After a few days, I just got tired of all your bitching. But then, when you got back to Atlanta, you called me and thanked me, and you even said this was one of the best trips you’d ever had. I laughed. I realized then that complaining was just your way of dealing with the world. I understood how you’d rather spend time re-reading your favorite classic books than spend time with people. Ruth Rendell, Margaret Mitchell, James Michener, and Harold Robbins (for those times when you just wanted something stylishly trashy.) They were the ones you turned to most. .

Of course, now I miss your complaints. My Facebook feed just isn’t the same without your carping that they don’t make good movies anymore, and that people have become so rude, and that there just aren’t any modern-day authors who know how to tell good stories nowadays. Some people try to hide their depression. You wore yours for everyone to see.

I remember a phone conversation when we both talked about our mothers. We were sure that our mothers both had some form of mental illness. You wondered why they didn’t talk about it. “They couldn’t,” I said. “If they talked about it, they could have been locked up. At least we can talk about it.”

Only now, we can’t. When your sister died a few years ago, you didn’t say that she died. You said she “lost her battle with life.” Those words were just so sad and powerful and raw and honest. You didn’t sugarcoat anything — even in death.

I wouldn’t say that you lost your battle. The last time I talked to you, you seemed pretty content. Well, content for you, anyway. But your battle with life is over.

An aortic dissection. Did you even know what that was? I guess it’s fitting that you died of something unusual. A good old-fashioned heart attack would have been too common for you.

But you don’t have to fight the world anymore. Rest in peace, my friend. If anyone deserves peace, it’s you.

Love, Alan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


My anxiety is sky high — and it’s exausting

I’m exhausted. I’ve been doing a lot of fighting in the last 48 hours. Not with anyone else, but with myself.

I’ve been trying to tame the monsters in my head, and I have not succeeded. I have succeeded in not leaving my apartment, and for the most part, not leaving my own bed. That’s not good. I know it. And I don’t care.

I’m not sure what brought on my latest bout with anxiety. I’m almost never sure. As I posted yesterday, one of the most frustrating things about social anxiety disorder is that it’s not logical at all. All I know is, I heard people with loud voices talking outside my apartment, and it set off something within me. I do not want to be around noise. Or people.

It so happens that I have an appointment with my psycho pharm today. I will bring myself to go to that, if only because I know that most of my meds need refilled, and I want to make sure they get refilled.

I try to fight this as best I can. The fact that I care about my meds is proof of that. But the monsters in my head are formidable opponents, and I get so tired of fighting them. The second I got up this morning, my first thought was “you are so dead.” I have no idea why I thought that. But there it was.

I’m going to keep fighting. But it’s so damn hard. And I’m so damn tired.


Lotus quote