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Our Mental Health Blogs

Recovery from PTSD and Resilience

Recovery from PTSD and Resilience

I sit in my home by myself because my family left. I don’t blame them. They just couldn’t take it anymore. What they couldn’t take was me and my posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I have come to refer to it as “the PTSD me,” because it often feels there’s two completely different people within me.

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Anatomy of a Mental Health Relapse

Anatomy of a Mental Health Relapse

This week my life closely resembles one of those old country and western songs. You know the ones. Basically everything that could go wrong has, and even the dog doesn’t want to get close to me.

I’m sitting alone in my four bedroom home, contemplating the condition of my life and wondering just where this is taking me.

I’m very fortunate that I have people in my life, specifically my wife and kids, who truly love me. They love me enough to tell me I need help and they want me to get it. Until I do, they’ve decided that for their own well being, they think living apart from me is the best thing for them right now.

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How To Rebound From Mental Health Relapse

How To Rebound From Mental Health Relapse

In 2010, I worked as a peer support specialist for a mental health organization in my community. Having been on the job for just over a year, I was feeling fulfilled and proud of myself for what I’d accomplished. Most importantly, I was making a difference to other people who suffered from mental illness. My colleagues were happy with my work and made it a point of telling me so.

So imagine my surprise when I was called into the boss’s office one day. She looked at me and said, “Mike, you are decompensating.” I didn’t even know what that meant.

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Hope – the Foundation of Mental Health Recovery

Hope – the Foundation of Mental Health Recovery

Mental health recovery is an exercise in hope. Hope—the earnest expectation of coming good. Hope is indispensable to our recovery. Hope can help us move away from the terror of defeat and despondency. It’s not an abstract idea that makes no real difference in our recovery. It’s the cornerstone upon which the entire recovery foundation is built. There can be no recovery without hope.

Despair on the other hand, is a hellish pit we can find ourselves in if we are not careful.

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Acceptance is Vital in Mental Health Recovery

Acceptance is Vital in Mental Health Recovery

The source of much of our discomfort lies in what we find unacceptable. I’m heartbroken because I don’t want to accept that person I loved is gone forever. I’m anxious because I don’t want to accept that I might actually be safe, that no one is trying to purposely hurt me. I’m sad because I have difficulty accepting that there are actually good and lovely things in this world, as well as the bad things. I don’t want to accept that I need to be on this medication now, and maybe for life. All these things, and many more, I find unacceptable.

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PTSD Triggers: Rewriting Our Truth Lessens Their Power

PTSD Triggers: Rewriting Our Truth Lessens Their Power

PTSD triggers. For those of us with a mental health diagnosis (diagnoses), the definition of a trigger is far more than a level with a catch or means of releasing it. Triggers are a response to stimuli and a result of past trauma. PTSD triggers can include certain odors, a particular tone of voice, certain objects, places and so much more. The brain creates a physiological response: increased heart rate and respiration, sweating, a need to escape, a need for silence, sleeplessness, hyper vigilance and so much more. Responses to triggers are unique to each individual. No cookie cutter responses here!

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‘Crazy People’ Never Know They’re Crazy!

‘Crazy People’ Never Know They’re Crazy!

When typing the title of this blog, I immediately picture Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The ‘crazy’ one locked inside the 50’s-inspired psychiatric hospital. The character considered less crazy than the rest of the patients. But I’m pretty sure his character—based on the glorious book of the same name—probably thought he was sane.  Sort of like how I think I’m stable when I can’t move from bed.

Side-Note: Yes, that’s a brilliant-in-my-humble-opinion image from the film below.

First, an Apology. . .

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Sadness vs. Depression: What’s the Difference?

Sadness vs. Depression: What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between sadness and depression? And how can you figure out whether you’re experiencing sadness or depression. Find out here.

When you live with a mental illness you understand depression. You know how much depression hurts, the damage it can cause, and the fear that results from it. But it can be hard to distinguish a state of sadness from that of depression. And it be scary not knowing if you may be experiencing a depression relapse or, with any luck, just feeling plain sad.

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Addiction and Mental Illness: The Struggle to Stay Sober and Sane

Addiction and Mental Illness: The Struggle to Stay Sober and Sane

Addiction and mental illness often co-occur. In fact, the combination is so common it has its own name: dual diagnosis. You can Google “dual diagnosis” or “bipolar disorder” or “dual diagnosis” but you cannot find out what a person is really feeling unless they tell you. And so I will tell you: Addiction, having once taken over my life, is trying to sneak its way back in. And I’m scared because addiction and mental illness is no joke.

What Causes an Addiction Relapse?

Similar to what causes relapse when you live with a mental illness, large (or small) life changes are at the top of the list, and that is what has thrown me off. I am moving for the third time in ten months. The first move I was excited, the second sad, and the third has left me wondering if I can sustain sobriety with what is going on in my life.

It’s hard for me to write this. I wrote a book that concluded with recovery—tentative but alive—and yet I still struggle. This is the nature of addiction and, in my life, it has been as frightening as chronic mental illness. Of course, mental illness and addiction live together: my mental health is destroyed by addiction and my addiction is summoned when my mental health is precarious (and even when it is not). Sometimes, it feels like I am being pulled from two ends: the part that is stable and the part that might kill me. That is addiction. I cannot sugar coat this. What I can do, and with absolute hesitation, is describe my mindset right now.

The Mindset of a Mentally Ill Addict

I do not like that title. I am more than a mental illness and an addiction, but it is true when they say “once an addict always an addict.” You can have forty-years of recovery under your belt and you still may think of drugs and alcohol and everything else that once made your world first sparkle and then crash.

The past few weeks, since I found out about the move, my mind has been skipping around. It pictures bottles of wine like you might picture the person you love most. It imagines drugs, the ones I used, sitting on my desk. Right beside me.

I am certain that if I were to relapse I would feel relief. And then utter despair. But sometimes the addict forgets the despair in light of relief. But I remember. I remember waking up in the hospital and I remember the seizures and pain and thank whoever lives in the sky that I do.

I hate addiction. I hate it more than mental illness because I cannot see my psychiatrist and find a medication that makes it better. I can only dream of my own medicine–the bad kind.

Addiction and Mental Illness Is Not Impossible to Handle

I know it will pass. It had better pass. If it does not? I am in for the long, short, haul. But there’s things I can do. Things you can do if you struggle with addiction. We can go to the infamous NA or AA meetings. And they really do help. For many people, myself included.

I wait it out. I write. Writing this blog allows me to breathe a little easier. I try to remember how much addiction hurt. Me and my family. I picture the destruction: the numerous apartments I was kicked out of, the dangerous company I kept, a body that could not walk properly and skin that was scratched till it bled.

I remember this. I remember this and then I walk my dog; sometimes I cry. Because I cannot have these things and do not understand why I want them so bad after how they have hurt me. How the memories hurt me still.

But this I know: this too shall pass. And with any luck, even a little, it will.

Photo credit DJ Spiess 

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Mental Illness: Do Not Treat Yourself (pt 2.)

Mental Illness: Do Not Treat Yourself (pt 2.)

My last blog focused on the importance of not diagnosing your mental health symptoms yourself! This blog will focus on not treating symptoms of relapse without consulting with your mental health care team first. Yes, I know, this post might seem a little boring but it’s important so please keep reading–note: you can leave me a comment stating you fell asleep around 300 words. I will refrain from being offended.

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