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Our Mental Health Blogs

Suicide In My Family

Suicide In My Family

Heather McCready, experienced days filled with “desperate sadness and intense darkness” and was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder and then hospitalized for mania and suicidal depression. Ms. McCready’s voyage through mental illness deprived her of her creative abilities for six years. Finally, after all medicines failed, she underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and now enjoys fewer dark days.

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Trip from Mental Illness to Mental Health Advocacy

Trip from Mental Illness to Mental Health Advocacy

Some people who find themselves dealing with a mental illness or the illness of a loved one eventually come to a point where they want to pitch in and help the mental health community. Mental health advocacy can feel like a natural progression to some and to others it is surprising or unexpected. No matter how it comes about, it is always remarkable when a person utilizes their challenges in life, like mental illness, to do good in the world. Our guest, Shannon Flynn, does just that as a mental health advocate.

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PTSD: What’s It Like Living with PTSD?

PTSD: What’s It Like Living with PTSD?

PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. The general public used to associate PTSD with soldiers in war zones. Now we know that anyone who has been in or witnessed a consistently highly stressful, traumatic or life-threatening situation can develop PTSD.

Life for Melissa, our guest on this week’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, has been anything but kind. Exposed to all types of abuse since the age of five, Melissa finds living with PTSD a living hell but she’s taking positive steps and getting treatment for PTSD.

An Inside Look at Living with PTSD

melissa-ptsdMy name is Melissa. So you want to know what it’s like living with PTSD?

I am 29 years old. I work as a nanny for my nephew at the moment. I am on disability, and have been since 2005. It’s hard for me to have a “real” job due to my depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. When I was working a real job at a hair salon, I couldn’t handle it. My anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t even breathe. Being around big crowds scares me and I feel that people are always staring at me for some reason. I have really bad social anxiety.

I first noticed the symptoms of my depression when I was about 15 years old. At age of 16, I developed anorexia nervosa. I thought it would help me cope with my life struggles.

I had an abusive father all my life. I can remember things from when I was 5, all the way till when I was 16; that is when my parents divorced. My father would hurt me in so many ways and I didn’t know how to deal or cope with what was going on. So at 16, I slowly stopped eating. Eventually, my eating disorder was out of control and taking over my life.

My mom didn’t want to see what was really happening. Finally, when she did, I started to see a therapist and a doctor who prescribed my medications. At 16, I was diagnosed with anorexia/bulimia, PTSD, anxiety disorder, and borderline-personality disorder. My symptoms started when I was about 15, maybe even sooner. The PTSD symptoms got really bad – flashbacks, nightmares and night terrors almost EVERY night!!! (take online PTSD test) I couldn’t sleep at all. Insomnia was and still is a major thing I deal with. I have to take prescription sleeping pills every night just to get myself to sleep.

My flashbacks started getting really bad and out of control, where i felt like EVERYTHING was happening ALL over again. I had a boyfriend when I was 18, and he died on April 26th of 2000 in a car accident. That had a major toll on my health and my emotional state. I felt that it was all my fault. I blamed myself everyday and I couldn’t sleep because I would have nightmares. And when I would try and sleep, I would flashback to my father being abusive. After he died, I no longer dated guys, I began to date only girls and still do.

Goodness, I can go on and on about so much that has happened in my life.  Thirteen years later and I am still in therapy. I’ve been through inpatient and outpatient therapy.

Recently, in therapy, I have started to dissociate VERY badly and also when I am alone (read Holly Gray’s Dissociative Living blog). Sometimes it’s impossible to get me grounded back to a normal state because I’ve gotten so upset about a situation and then I start to panic really bad. I feel like I am crazy a lot of the time and that NO ONE understands me or what I am going through.

I have made YouTube videos about PTSD, eating disorders, abuse, anxiety, depression, self-injury for years now. I also suffer from self-injury. Making those videos is a POSITIVE outlet for me to cope with my issues and also to help others with the same illnesses and psychiatric disorders. I have very low self-esteem and I hate myself most of the time. I NEVER feel good enough, so I keep to myself and I am VERY shy!!!! It’s hard for me to make friends because I don’t go out much at all. I just hope to one day be able to eat “normal”, to not be scared ALL the time about stuff. I just want to be happy and be able to live the best life that I can.

Share Your Experiences

Have you been diagnosed with PTSD? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights on the issue. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

Watch our PTSD video interview with Melissa on What It’s Like Living with PTSD.

And here’s the table of contents for all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

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Why For Many: Once a Self-Injurer, Always a Self-Injurer

Why For Many: Once a Self-Injurer, Always a Self-Injurer

I was reading one of the self-injury conference transcripts on HealthyPlace.com about getting help for self-harm.  In it, Dr. Sharon Farber, therapist and author of When The Body Is The Target: Self-Harm, Pain and Traumatic Attachments, discusses her belief that self-injury is an addictive behavior.  And it got me thinking, like many addicts, do self-injurers carry on their self-injurious behaviors throughout their lives, do they face relapses over time, and is it something they manage, much like any other addict who fights the urge to return to the bottle or some other addictive substance?

The Addictive Nature of Self-Injury

From her research, Dr. Farber found that most people self-injured in an attempt to solve emotional problems, to make himself or herself feel better. “It really served as a form of self-medication. Just as drug addicts and alcoholics use drugs or alcohol in order to medicate themselves, in order to calm themselves down or to rev themselves up, they use self-mutilation to make themselves feel better.” (Read more about the causes of self-injury)

Michelle Seliner LCSW, Chief Operating Officer for S.A.F.E. Alternatives, the nationally recognized self-injury treatment program, tells HealthyPlace.com that “although people can and do get better on their own, many find it incredibly difficult to stop self-injury behaviors as it provides an immediate sense of relief.”

But Ms. Seliner disagrees with Dr. Farber’s view of self-injury as an addiction.  “While some of our clients have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders which may need to be managed over their lifetime, we do not view the behavior of self-injury as an addiction,” says Ms. Seliner. “It is our belief that once a client resolves underlying issues, and learns to tolerate uncomfortable feelings rather than attempting to “stuff” them, self-injury becomes unnecessary. It is also our experience that when a client gets healthier, self-injury becomes painful rather than helpful.”

Ms. Seliner went onto say that professional self-injury treatment is almost a necessity when it comes to ending self-injurious behaviors.  Both she and Dr. Farber told us that if the underlying emotional and psychological problems aren’t effectively dealt with in therapy, the self-injury behaviors will continue or a person may stop self-injuring on their own, but it’s not unusual that they turn to another form of self-soothing such as alcohol, drugs or sex.

Self-Injury Guest

You may know her on youtube as “sullengirl.” At 25, Christie has been engaged in self-injury for 12 years. In her guest post, she shares why she started self-injuring, her parents’ reaction to it, and tools she uses to reduce the urge to self-injure. We go into more detail on these and other topics on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.  Christie also discusses her fear that self-injury might last her lifetime.  Plus, HealthyPlace Medical Director, Dr. Susan Wynne, shares her perspective on self-injury treatment and a lasting recovery.

In-depth, trusted self-injury, self-harm information here.

Share Your Thoughts or Experiences About Recovery From Self-Injury

We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experience with self-injury and trying to stop self-injuring.  Or maybe you feel it can’t be done.  Call and tell us why. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Self-Injury: An Emotional Response

Self-Injury: An Emotional Response

Written by Christie, guest on the February 10, 2010 show on self-injury.

christie-self-injury-guestI began self-injuring at age 13, after I felt like I wasn’t understood by anyone and fell into a deep depression. Fights with my parents, having a hard time with school, and general anxiety prompted me to self-injure for the first time, because I felt like it calmed my nerves and alleviated my anger almost instantly. From there, I began using self-injury to respond to almost every emotional situation – be it sad, angry, disappointed, depressed, or general thoughts of self-loathing and body image. I felt like it numbed all of my emotional reactions and I began to depend on it.

I have been diagnosed by mental health professionals with Dysthymic Disorder (chronic depression), Social Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, Self-Injury (non-suicidal) and EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified). I was not formally given a psychiatric evaluation until 4 years ago. (read: Common Characteristics of the Self-Injurer)

The Effects of Self-Injury

Self-injury has impacted my life in many ways. Due to self-injuring so often during my formative teen years, I never fully learned how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way, and because of that it stunted my personal growth and understanding of my own feelings, and it also affected the way I created personal relationships, because instead of dealing with the outside world I shoved it all back with self-injury and covered up anything remotely uncomfortable. I think this directly contributed to my social anxiety issues and made my underlying depression worse.

My family members and friends have had mixed reactions to my self-injury. I did not reveal my self-injury behaviors to my parents until I was 17, although they may have had their suspicions. Their reaction was guilt, thinking they could have caused it in some way. Generally, my parents do not talk about self-injury, and like to push it under the rug because if it’s not talked about or recognized, it seems like it doesn’t exist. However, they are accepting of my behaviors. My extended family only have very vague limited knowledge of self-injury and my history. My friends all are aware of it, some of them engage in self-injury behaviors as well, and the ones who don’t have known me for 10+ years and are accepting. However, acquaintances are very judgmental so, generally, no one talks about it and I hide it at social events and in public.

I have been able to drastically reduce my urges to self-injure over the past 3-4 years by learning to talk and write about my feelings. In this way, I have become more in touch with the way things make me FEEL, and it is the first time in my life I have allowed myself to experience real emotions, and even cry and let myself be upset.

YouTube has been a huge outlet for me, allowing me to talk to people who understand where I am coming from instead of heading straight for a razor every time I am upset. I am also passionate about writing, so when I get urges to self-injure, I write anything from self-injury urge logs, to blogs, journal entries, songs, poetry or work on one of my novels-in-progress.

I feel that being open to your emotions and getting to the real reasons behind your triggers is the ONLY way to deal with the urges and reduce/stop them. I do not condone or approve of cover up or replacement behaviors such as snapping a rubber band on your wrist or holding ice to your arms, etc.

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Self-Injury Show: Tues., March 10

Self-Injury Show: Tues., March 10

Imagine being a cutter, self-injurer, for many years. Wanting to stop, even stopping off-and-on, but always returning to it.

Our HealthyPlace TV Show, this coming Tuesday, March 10, is titled: “I am a self-injurer and I cannot stop.” Our guest is Dana. You can read a bit more about her struggle with self-injury and see an intro video here.

One thing we do know about self-injury is that there are way too many misconceptions about the subject. Self-harm (also known as self-injury , self-abuse , and self-mutilation ) is not performed with the intent to commit suicide, but to temporarily relieve the stress and tension someone feels inside. You can read more about self-injury and why people self-injure here.

According to the HealthyPlace.com article on the warning signs of self-injury , self-harm can take many forms in addition to the much publicized cutting :

  • carving
  • branding
  • marking
  • biting
  • head banging
  • bruising
  • hitting
  • tattooing
  • excessive body piercing

Again, the topic is: I am a self-injurer and I cannot stop. If you or a loved one suffers or has suffered from self-injury, please take this opportunity to reach out to those suffering in silence. We want to hear your story. Make a youtube video about your struggle and send me an email to producer AT healthyplace.com . We will be playing these videos during the live show. Details on how the HealthyPlace TV Show works can be found here.

Make sure you read Dr. Harry Croft’s blog post which describes self-harm in greater detail and I look forward to your participation in our next live show Tuesday, March 10th at 7:30p CT, 8:30 ET, and 5:30 PT. Besides the first-half segment on SI, during the second half of the show, you’ll have an opportunity to ask HealthyPlace.com Medical Director and Board-Certified Psychiatrist, Dr. Harry Croft, your personal mental health questions.

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