To My Parents

To my Parents:

I write this after having blown up at you and accusing you of not caring about my mental health on Easter. I am sorry that this occurred on a holiday. Especially a holiday spent with the family, but I have to acknowledge that it is something that would have occurred sooner or later.

Often times, I feel like you don’t care about my mental health. And honestly, the fact that I haven’t heard from you since that day, after accusing you of not caring, only reinforces that opinion.  I’m struggling all by myself and it feels like you have no idea, nor do you care what I’m going through. You don’t realize that the smallest thing could trigger me, like it did on Easter.

Lately, I have been feeling like you’ve only been taking my mental health halfway seriously. It frustrates me because you can’t or you refuse to see what I’m struggling with daily. It bothers me when you make fun of me for doing my dishes for the first time in over a month, because I look at that as a positive. Yes, I should be doing my dishes daily, but right now that’s not a goal I can convincingly set for myself, so in all reality, I’m very proud of the fact that I did my dishes despite wanting to just lay in bed. Many days I have to be proud of the fact that I even managed to get out of bed.

I wish you would/could understand what I’m going through and where I’m coming from. Sometimes my brain is not my own. It is often taken over and controlled by my depression and all I can do is try my hardest to fight something that’s been deeply ingrained in myself for so long. I am trying to change. I am trying to use my coping skills and learn how to redirect my thoughts, but something that’s been so natural for me and so repetitively taught for years, will take years to undo.

When I call you, it’s often not because I want to talk to my ‘parent’. I’m 24 and live on my own, and while I often would like advice from your vast experiences, I will ask when I want advice. I may still be your daughter, but I also have my own life now. When I call you now, it’s because I want to talk to you. It’s because I need to talk to someone and because I have only one friend, I know I can turn to you for support and care.

Right now, I don’t need a parent. Right now, what I need and want is a friend. I will always be your ‘little’ girl, but I’m not so little anymore. I want you to look at me and be proud of what I’ve become and what I’ve done in my life so far. I know it’s not what we originally thought would happen, but as you believe, ‘all things happen for a reason’.

I need you to realize that I’m not the person I was, but I’m hoping to become a stronger person than I am. All I want is your support and it frustrates me that you say things in family sessions but then don’t follow through Some things will never change, and in some ways, I’m still that little girl who needs her parents, but in another I’m a grown up who has taken control of her own life. All I ask is for patience, understanding and support.

Despite the fact that you don’t understand and don’t know how to react to the person I am currently, I love you.

Prove It

Outpatient Treatment Center

To make the next few posts easier to understand, I want to describe to you the treatment center that I was admitted to, the various programs they have and the types of therapies we learned about.

At this center, there are three levels of treatment; Inpatient Hospital Treatment, Partial Hospitalization Program, and Intensive Outpatient Program. There is also a residential facility for patients with eating disorders. In all of these programs, the adults are separated from the adolescents.

With inpatient treatment, there are various units to which a patient could be assigned. This includes the Special Intensity Unit for patients who are experiencing more acute symptoms of their mental illness. While in inpatient care the doctors, therapists and nurses work together to address the patient’s disorder and work towards long-term recovery. After discharge from inpatient treatment, the patient continues care with the Partial Hospitalization Program or PHP.

Partial Hospitalization Program or PHP, is considered the highest level of outpatient treatment. PHP is a full day program that consists of group, individual, family and other various therapies. PHP is the follow up to inpatient treatment but can also be the starting point for another patient. Each patient is placed within different programs where it is deemed that they will receive the most amount of beneficial therapy.

Intensive Outpatient Program or IOP, is a half day program that helps patients transition to life outside of the program. It is often a follow-up to inpatient treatment and PHP. IOP offers group, individual and family therapy along with transitioning to daily routines. It is considered the lowest level of outpatient treatment for the program and transitions patients to life outside of treatment including setting up schedules and appointments with outside therapists and psychologists.

The center also includes an after care program which is a once a week group therapy session. This allows for continued group therapy alongside your individual outside therapist and doctors.

Each day started with our morning check-ins. With these, we described how we felt at the moment, any questions or concerns we had with medications or therapies and how our previous evenings had occurred. After check in, we had our one hour group therapy session which met daily. During these sessions anyone was free to talk about anything and everyone was allowed to talk, discuss and suggest ideas and solutions. After group therapy, we would either have expressive (art) therapy, music therapy, medication education, emotional regulation, or weekend planning depending on the day. The last hour before lunch, which was also the last hour for the IOP patients, was spent learning about different therapies, issues and ideas dealing with mental health or if you were fighting an addiction, learning about co-dependence on drugs and/or alcohol Many of these classes have given me ideas and information to use for posts.

After lunch the PHP program would continue with two more class periods. During the first class period, patients would learn about distress tolerance, cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, expressive therapy and anger management. During the second class, patients learned about mindfulness skills, healthy alternatives, communication skills, expressive therapy, and interpersonal effectiveness. Expressive therapy is taught often because it allows patients to express how they feel in a safe environment. Please read Alternative Medications & Therapies for more information on expressive therapy. During the day, we are also pulled out by our doctors, therapists and APNs for meetings and check-ups.

At the end of the day, we would fill out our daily wrap up sheets, detailing how we felt and if we felt we could stay safe during the evening. After the program, our doctors, therapists and staff would meet to discuss our continuing treatment and eventual discharge.

The program I attended is an accredited program within the nation. But if you think you need more help than a weekly therapist appointment please check within your area for a program that can teach you to manage your mental illness.

Centuries

There’s a popular song out recently, Centuries by Fallout Boy. I really connected with this song and I feel like many people do as well because they want to be remembered. They don’t want to disappear after their death. Some want to make an impact, others just want to be famous or be celebrities.

Personally, I want to be remembered for the impact I make on mental health. I want to challenge the stigmas and make a difference. I want to be known as the one who changed the world’s skewed beliefs regarding mental health.

But there is a line in the song that I don’t agree with. During the first verse they sing “I never meant for you to fix yourself”. You are the only one who can fix yourself. You can’t change others, but you can change yourself. And while you can get help via therapy, you’re the only one who can change you.

This is often an issue I struggle with; I want others to change. I want them to fix their faults, but when faced with my own, I struggle to make the changes needed. If change was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.

And it may take a while to make those changes. You can’t make them until you are ready. But this is your life and you’re the only one who can live it. How do you want to be remembered?

 

Another’s Perspective

I must preface this post by saying it is written by my best friend. He’s the one who has been there for me through everything. So here is his perspective on my (Talia’s) mental illness.

I have never been diagnosed with depression.  I don’t believe I am a true depressive.  In fact I consider myself a relatively happy person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my bad days.  We all have our bad days.  I may not be a depressive, but I am the friend that Talia has described as her supporter.  While I do not claim to have an understanding of what it is like to suffer from depression, I do feel like Talia has taught me a lot on her journey.  Recently, I’ve had a string of bad days and I felt like getting my thoughts onto paper may just help.

I don’t know exactly what it’s like to wake up every day and struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed.  I don’t know what it’s like to look at a situation and have an uncontrollable part of my brain make me think the absolute worst thing about it.  I don’t often question to myself what the point of trying is.  I don’t have this mental illness that consumes the logical part of my brain and spreads like a cancer, telling me I’m worthless and things will never get better.  I know the “string of bad days” that I have aren’t anywhere near what true depression is and that scares the HELL out of me.  I feel terrible as I write this and can’t even imagine what I would feel like if I did have depression.  I respect and love anyone who has to deal with these feelings everyday of their lives and that’s why I’ve remained loyal to and supportive of Talia.  No matter how many scientific articles you read, or how many stories you hear, a non-depressive will never be able to fully understand exactly what it’s like.  But they can get a decent knowledge and that could just lead you to be the supporter of a depressive.

For me, it’s a weird journey.  I have a lot of “normal” days.  I wake up, shower, get dressed and go to work.  I do the humanly thing and say “I don’t want to go to work today,” but that seems like nothing other than social expectations anymore.  Despite the fact that I do have a lot to be thankful for, such as breath in my lungs, a roof over my head or food on the table, it’s easy to find myself in a string of “bad days.”  The last two weeks have been a string for the ages.  I took a two day trip to St. Louis and had a ball, but when I returned to work the figurative snow started to fall.  I manage a store and am responsible for making sure it operates as it should to conduct business.  My first day back, I had a clerk call off due to a sick child.  We are a small store and she was the only one scheduled that day so I was forced to work by myself from 4 AM until 3 PM.  It wasn’t all that bad, but it was enough to get a little stressed.  That was when the figurative snowball was first packed.  I worked a 14 hour shift the next day.  That was when the figurative snowball was gently pushed over the edge of the hill.  Another clerk called off the following day and I was forced to work by myself again.  That figurative snowball was gaining momentum and it just kept going.  By Friday, five days after returning from St. Louis, the original clerk had her other child get sick.  So it was another day working by myself.  The weekend didn’t bring any improvements.  Three of my five staff were off due to requests that had been approved before we had lost a person.  To reward their work, I felt the need to fulfill their requests not knowing that the week was going to be hell.  Things at work just kept piling up and before I knew it, I had worked at least 12 hours for 10 straight days.

I was mentally drained.  That figurative snowball I mentioned previously had grown.  All it took was that one call-off to set things in motion.  At a point, my niece asked why the CD I was trying to play in the car kept getting spit back out.  As I told her that the CD player was just worn out and starting to lose function, the thought of having to replace my car soon entered my head.  I got this car my senior year of high school, twelve years ago.  It’s beginning its last leg.  I currently live with my sister, unable to afford my own place at 29 years old due to a crippling amount of student loan debt for a degree I may never use.  I’ve been working hard at paying down my other bills and saving money to free up funds to afford other life necessities, such as my own place.  Soon, I’ll have to make the decision of getting a new car or moving out on my own.  Of course it’s not really a choice at all; the car would win out and I’d be left living with my sister and her family.  I sit here writing this after day thirteen in a row at work, missing four days off over the course of the last two weeks and the thoughts just keep piling up.  I’m not content with where I’m at in life and I don’t feel as though the opportunities to correct it are there.  I can’t find a job worth leaving my current one, I can’t seem to find anyone to date and I don’t get to enjoy time off.

The point I wanted to make with that story is that we all have our “tough times”.  Have you ever missed a promotion at work?  Ever gotten called in on your day off? You feel helpless and let yourself get down.  Multiply that feeling by ten and you’d know how I feel right now, knowing why I feel terrible about myself.  Now take that feeling and multiply it by a million and you might just see what a depressive feels like EVERY day of their lives without having a clue as to why.  So take a moment before you make a comment to somebody suffering from depression.  It’s not quite as easy as “brushing it off.”  I’m having trouble picking myself up and I know why I’m down.  A depressive can’t fathom what it will take to bring them back and have no clue where to start.

I support Talia fully, no matter what.  Even though I have feelings similar to that of hers, I still have trouble remembering that her thoughts of worst case scenario are not by choice.  I get frustrated talking with her.  I get angry sometimes and just want to explode.  But I take a moment to remember how I’ve felt and how she must feel; a million times worse.  I take solace in knowing that I can be there for her.  No matter what.

If you know someone with depression, take the time to educate yourself.  Listen to them, no matter how frustrating it can be, and give them a shoulder to cry on.  Don’t bother asking them what’s wrong because they probably don’t know.  Just let them talk.  Be their supporter.  You could be the only motivation they have to do anything.

Love

How can anyone love me? What is there to love? I can’t even like myself. How can someone like me, care for me, love me, when I can’t even love myself? What do they see in me that I can’t find? Do I even deserve love?

These are questions that I wrestle with daily. I had great examples of functioning relationships while growing up. My grandparents, family members, but especially my parents showed me what a working, functioning relationship should look like. I know that life isn’t about riding off into the sunset after the wedding and I know that happy endings are always happy every day, but no relationship is perfect and you have to be willing to work to maintain a relationship.

Is it because I’m too hard on myself?

This is another question I wrestle with. I know in my head that I am a pretty awesome person. I have great ideas and plans. I am a nice person and I’m always willing to help others, but knowing and believing are two very different things. I have a hard time believing in myself and I’ve had enough situations occur where I’ve felt unwanted that today it baffles me when someone shows an interest in me.

What do they see that so many others can’t?

I have the hardest time making friends, so it’s difficult for me to believe that someone could fall in love with me. My dad used to say that he would say “good luck” to any guy that asks for my hand in marriage. And while I understand why he would say that, because I know I can be a handful, it still hurts to hear him say it.

I want love. I want a husband, a family and a home. I want to be able to come home to someone who loves me for me and I want to feel life grow inside me. And I struggle with the question who would want me, because there are days, often many of them, when I don’t even want myself because I have this little voice in my head that tells me that I’m not good enough for anyone or anything.

Right now, I have to focus on myself. If I don’t, I’ll never have a healthy relationship with someone else. I have to be more comfortable with me and everything that entails. I have to be comfortable knowing that I’ll have my good days and my bad but that it doesn’t change who I am. I just have to remember that I am an awesome, caring, giving person who has so much to offer the world and the people who want to be in my life. And I would also like to share that with others.

I know this isn't true and I know that I will be everything one day to someone, but often I feel like I'm not enough for anyone.
I know this isn’t true and I know that I will be everything one day to someone, but often I feel like I’m not enough for anyone.

More Changes

As I related earlier, I was taking a step to see my doctor and find a new psychiatrist to get on medication to help my depression. I saw my primary care physician for a full physical and blood work to ensure that my depression was not related to thyroidism or a physical issue.

In some ways, I feel lucky because everything came back normal. I’m not suffering from a physical medical issue. At the same time, I feel like treatment would be easier if it had been a thyroid or blood sugar issue. Mental issues are harder to diagnose and medicate. While there are tests to diagnose mental disorders, they are genetic and extremely expensive.

After getting the all clear from my primary care physician, I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist on the recommendation of my therapist.

Less than a week before my first appointment with the new psychiatrist, my therapist decided that the process needed to be expedited. After getting my parents involved with the situation,  they accompanied me to a hospital with an inpatient and outpatient treatment center where I was evaluated for their mental health program for the second time.

This time, I am considered a candidate for the program. I am enrolled in a program (IOP – Intensive Outpatient Therapy) and I start tomorrow.

I’m nervous about it. At this point, I just want change. I want to be happy again. But I’m also afraid that this program won’t work. My depression is telling me that I’m never going to be happy again, that it’s just not possible for me to be happy and healthy. At the same time, I’m hopeful that this program will ‘fix’ me and help me learn to get better.

“Hey! How are you?”

One of the easiest phrases people use today is, “Hey! How are you?”. But when it comes to this question, they aren’t actually looking for a serious, honest answer. For them it’s a formality, a courtesy to get out of the way before either moving on with the conversation or walking away. For those of us with depression, ‘how are you?’, is a loaded question. Do we answer honestly? Or do we follow formality and courtesy and just say fine, all while hiding how we really feel?

Asking ‘how are you’ is the easiest question, but can actually mean so much to a person if you’re asking it honestly. Maybe you won’t like to hear the answer that they aren’t feeling well, or mentally they are struggling, but they’ll feel so much better being able to tell you the truth instead of hiding how they feel. But there are good and bad ways to ask someone if they are ok.

The first step is to ask the question, “Are you ok?” or “How are you?”. Be honest, and try to get the person to open up. Sometimes they need to talk, but don’t know what to say when confronted with the question, “how are you?”. Continue asking questions about them, and their life. You may have to work a little to earn their trust so that they will open up to you. This may be one of the hardest steps, especially if they don’t know how to respond, but it is also the most important one. It starts a conversation about the person’s mental well-being.

The second step is to listen without judgement. The first sign that the person feels like they are being judged, they will shut down and you have completely lost their trust. Don’t give advice, just listen. Just like you occasionally need to vent to someone about work, life, etc, so do they, especially because they have a disease that makes it difficult for them to be happy or see the good in their life. Also, don’t try to solve their problems. While that might be easier for you, it could be detrimental to their recovery. Depressed people have to face their problems if they’re going to get better. And let them know that you’re there for them whenever they need to talk.

The third step is to encourage action. Ask them what steps they’re taking to get better. Encourage them to see a doctor, psychiatrist, and/or therapist, if they are not already. Ask them if they need help with anything. Don’t let them become fully reliant on you for everything but help them when they’re stuck in a certain situation, environment or dilemma.

The final step is to follow up with them. Depressive people often have a hard time following through with actions that have been put in place. Try to make time for them, not so much that it interferes with your life, but enough so that they know you are thinking about them and hoping that they are taking the right steps to work through their depression.

These steps can be taken face to face, over the phone, over text or even over social media. When you are talking to them, make sure that they are the center of your attention for that moment. Take any threats of suicide seriously and get them to seek help immediately. Think carefully about what you post, or say about that person to others. It will often be seen as a breach of trust and at the very least make that person uncomfortable, especially if they haven’t gone public with their illness.

These steps are good for talking to anyone, not just a depressive or mentally ill person. So next time you say “Hey! How are you?” to someone, be genuinely interested in their answer. You never know how much of a difference that could make.

Facebook Page for R U Ok Day

R U Ok? Organization

Worthlessness

Worthlessness. This is another overwhelming feeling that many people with depression have. You feel insignificant, unloved and unvalued. This feeling is directly related to depression and your self-esteem or self worth. The writing that follows come from a journaling I did on a particularly difficult day during therapy. I wrote this while sitting in group therapy. Nothing specific triggered this feeling.

I feel worthless, like I’m not worth people’s time and attention that my problems don’t matter and aren’t worth talking about.

I don’t feel like my dream is worthwhile or that it will ever get off the ground. I feel like it’s pointless.

I don’t like myself. I don’t even know how to like myself. How can I like myself, when other people don’t even like me? I hate my life. It feels like it’s never going to change. Like things are never going to change and I’m going to be stuck like this forever. Stuck at a dead end job, with no friends, no life, nothing to look forward to. What kind of life is that? Not one that is worth living.

I want to be a priority to someone. I loved the way my one friend treated me when we hung out the other day. He was rubbing my back, putting his arm around me, and pulling me down to cuddle with him. (All of which he didn’t do when we were dating.) I’m not usually a cuddler, but perhaps that has changed. I just wish I had that all of the time. Having someone constantly in my life would be amazing, but I can’t even keep friends in my life. I just want to be cherished, loved, wanted, etc. Everything that I don’t feel now.

I want a husband, family, kids, life, etc. Despite being unconventional, I want the traditional. But I don’t feel like I’m worth it, like I deserve it. And everytime I get rejected, whether by a man or woman, it just confirms that belief. That I’m not worth time, attention, priority. And I feel like I’m never going to have what I want. I don’t have any friends except you. How am I suppose to find someone who would want to be with me? Who would actually want to be with me?

I hate feeling invisible, worthless, like I’m just a problem that no one wants to deal with. I feel like I’m just a problem that everyone wants to pretend doesn’t exist. A problem that is just swept under the rug and forgotten about. No one knows what to do with me. It’s like they just want me to go away and disappear. To not be an issue.

I hate feeling this way, but I don’t know how to fix it. I feel like these coping skills aren’t going to help. I’m trying them but I don’t feel like they’re going to make a difference when I am no longer in this program.

I guess I want things to change immediately. I want to feel different but I don’t. I still feel miserable, depressed, worthless, etc. I feel like that’s never going to change.

I feel like my problems aren’t worth talking about. It seems like the group can’t ever get to me. That my issues aren’t worth talking about and I feel like I can’t get a word in edgewise. I don’t want to interrupt and I feel like I’m just not important. Not worth talking about.

I’m not worth time, attention, priority, friends…. I’m not worth anything.

Worthless

My Story: The In-Between Years

After a year of trying to deal with my behavior and (I feel) a very minor attempt to understand my illness, my parents kicked me out of their house. They also confiscated my car, which I had been in the process of paying them for, so finding a job, my own apartment, even going to therapy was next to impossible. I crashed at a friend’s house for two months, trying to figure out my next step all while having no idea where to start.

At this time, I had fallen into a crowd that smoked marijuana. While not pressured to try it, eventually I decided to see what the appeal was and there was definitely an appeal. I now understand why people use marijuana. The high makes you feel so good. You forget about everything that is wrong in your life and you are just blissed out. It stopped my brain from going a mile a minute, and for me, there was freedom in that. But I also realized that smoking wasn’t going to fix the problems that I had, it was only making me forget them. And while at times, I do still miss that high, I know that smoking marijuana isn’t good for me and it’s not going to help me solve my problems. Only therapy could do that.

Luckily, an opportunity presented itself for me to move out of my toxic, temporary living space.. Through the church where I worked, I met and befriended an older woman, who with her husband, were not very good empty-nesters. After she broke her shoulder, she invited me to live at their house, a farm, in exchange for help with cooking and cleaning. We became very good friends and I lived with them for quite a few months.

While living there, I got back into therapy and managed, for the most part, to mend my relationship with my parents. The lady also turned me onto alternative medication. After previous disappointments with 2 psychiatrists and a variety of medication, I decided to go the alternative route. I began taking St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava. While it seemed like these medications worked for me, it was also summertime and my depression had always worsened in the winter.

A few months after moving to the farm, I met a guy who respected me and my beliefs. We began spending a lot of time together and eventually began dating. I fell in love with him and moved in with him and his family just months later. Unfortunately, the winter months took their toll and my depression returned with a vengeance, coupled this time with the feelings of inadequacy, and worthlessness. My boyfriend was so wrapped up in his work and extracurricular life, that I felt like I wasn’t a priority to him.

After a few months of living with him, I made the courageous decision to move out on my own. This would be my first apartment and while I enjoyed having a place to myself, it quickly became a problem. My boyfriend and I broke up at the beginning of the summer because we made better friends than a couple anyway. But I quickly found myself very much alone. My friendships were few and far between and while I initially attributed this to the amount of work I was doing, I soon realized how alone I really was.

By the end of the year, I realized I needed more help than I was getting so I made an appointment to be evaluated at a local psychiatric center. I was informed that I was on the cusp of needing help but with my work schedule, continued regular therapy should have been enough.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t and less than 3 months later, I was officially admitted into the psychiatric center for outpatient treatment.