Blog for Mental Health 2012 Official Blogroll Summons

Hey mental health bloggers!

So, I figured out how to put a blogroll together, finally.  I’m about to put the Blog for Mental Health 2012 Official Blogroll together, and I need to know who has pledged so far.  I know there are a number of people.  Some of you may not be aware of Blog for Mental Health 2012, because maybe you’re newer.  Click the link, or peep the badge on Pendulum’s site.

Don’t be fooled by this badge:

That one doesn’t belong to us.  In fact, as you can see by the date, this badge came well after our New Years pledge to blog for mental health for the entire year, instead of just one day.

No, our badge is different and shows a commitment to blog for mental health awareness throughout an entire year, faithfully.

 

This is the badge that belongs to us.  If you want to participate, I’m officially sponsoring you right now.  Click the image to go to the blog page for Blog for Mental Health 2012’s rules and terms of use.  I’m more than happy to spread mental health awareness by lending my support to other bloggers and inspiring others to come forward.

I am proud of all of the bloggers that have already taken the pledge, and am more than happy to invite others to take it as well.  It’s still 2012; you can still join!

So, if you want on the blogroll, leave me a comment below, something to the effect of, “I have the badge” and “I made the post” or “I want in”.  Whatever, just something to know that you’re in on it.

Thanks!

Sorting It Out

I have always felt like I had a “base mood”, which is the state I’m in. Depressive, hypomanic, stable. I noticed that there was kind of an “atmospheric mood”, which was a wispy, temporary mood state that would come through. I’ve always characterized this as weather.

This emotional weather is just about as predictable as meteorological weather. Forecasts can go out based on current information and predictable outcomes. But, things can change quickly, and suddenly, storms crop up. Unfortunately, they don’t make an emotional barometer. There are no external instruments to sound an alarm on the emotional accuweather forecast.

I considered the weather to be just regular “moods”. I know one thing that is difficult for all people who have bipolar disorder is to draw the line between typical and symptomatic. It becomes a nearly impossible task when a person is actually symptomatic. That’s why it’s considered a disorder.

Over the last three years, I’ve become pretty familiar with episodic behavior. I cannot always identify it straight away. But, eventually, I tease it out. What I encountered in January was genuine symptoms, starting with an ultradian cycle I wasn’t even aware of until I reviewed my logs.

What I started to experience toward the end of that depressive episode was uncharacteristic. I hadn’t experienced those types of symptoms in some time. It didn’t look as if it was a coincidence that my mood chart started jumping at the same time my marriage got thrown on the rocks. And now, two months later, I’ve seem to hit some semblance of a period of stability coinciding with the start of my husband’s admissions and treatment.

He broke the silence. Now, I’m breaking it too.

Criteria 1: Fear of abandonment:
My fear of abandonment isn’t typically characterized, because of the keen awareness of the consequences. My fear is very real. The frantic efforts are a little unusual. It’s not outwardly frantic, because I know that behavior actually drives people away. Instead, I take huge strides to make myself more appealing. That feeds into the destabilization of self-image.

There’s a hidden switch, though. At some point, when I’m overloaded with anxiety, I shut down. I will shut down on a person, and it will be over. It will be difficult for me to feel anything for them until they have been out of my life for awhile, or they take a big leap of faith to me.

This disrupts my ability to make friends. I keep everyone at a distance, because I know that I will drive them away. I know that I am intense and strange. And I know that most people are passing ships in my life.

Criteria 2: Unstable Relationships and intense relationships:
I’ve been in a serious relationship with two different psychopaths, one diagnosed (Avi, the abusive one), and I’m now in a marriage with a man with MI. I always swore that these men found me. I think it was a little bit of both.

But, the catch about my marriage is however intense it is, it is stable. Go outside my romantic relationships. Looking at the intense dysfunction between my parents and me tells the tale.

Those people hurt me. And yet, I still love them. I hate them for everything, but I still vacillate between pandering for their affections and shutting them out. I know that they had their hand in this. And still, I blame it exclusively on myself.

Criteria 3: Identity Disturbance:
I used to dye my hair everytime I had a serious mood shift. When my first ex and I broke up, it shattered my whole world. And I said “F*ck the world.” At that point, I let go of everything. It was at that point in time that I started partying my life away.

That wasn’t me. I was a control freak. I always wanted control of my reality. I wanted control of the direction of my life and was always goal oriented.

My ex, Avi, was the worst agitation. I let him tell me who I was, what I should and shouldn’t be doing, and how I should live my life. I let him victimize me, because he told me I was a victim.

C.S. helped me find my way back to me. The me that I liked and was used to. The me that read, wrote, played music, and enjoyed artistic expression, not mindless video games. He helped me find my way back to goal-orientation and showed me that he could love me. That was the only reason I could even be me. Because that’s what he loved.

Criteria 4: Impulsivity:
After I had experienced sexual assault for the first time, I had come to the conclusion that I was a slut. So, I started to act like a slut by having sex with any man who looked at me sideways. I wanted to convince myself that I was at least good for something.

I have alcoholism. It is mostly controlled now. That’s no secret.

Now, here’s the big secret. I likely have an eating disorder. In times of serious distress, I deny myself food. I don’t deserve to eat. I’m a fatass. No one loves a fatass.

I have pindged and purged. It’s not often. In times of depression and self-depreciating behavior, I will binge to feel good. And then I’ll purge, because I worry about my weight. But worse than that. I’ll purge, because getting rid of that overstuffed feeling feels good. There is no better feeling than an empty belly.

I would excessively spend. But, you can’t spend without money in the bank. As a teen, I used to shoplift. And I got caught and got in the worst trouble of my life with my parents. I get the impulse now and again, but the fear and embarrassment is enough to keep me from doing it.

Criteria 5: Recurrent Suicidal / Self-Injurious Behavior:
Admittedly, as a teen, I was more satisfied with cutting with a steak knife than a razor. A razor was too easy, and the cuts were always thin, sleek, and healed without incident. The serrated knife left jagged cuts that never healed right.

I used to pick at the scabs. I only recently started scraping them with a luffa.

I take scalding showers for two reasons. First, there is the whole germ part. But, secondly, sensitive skin burns easily. Scrub it with a luffa, and it flakes and peels. It hurts so nicely, I can’t think about anything else.

I don’t ever threaten. I warn. Because I know certain stressors will set it off.

I used to attempt suicide. I have probably a dozen serious attempts under my belt. I probably have about a dozen more half-assed attempts where I hoped I’d die of alcohol poisoning. Or, if I let an infection go long enough, I’d cause organ failure. (I almost did that with my kidneys that started as a UTI).

I don’t anymore. It’s pointless. I have never come close to succeeding. And I’m convinced that there is a reason for that. Besides, I’m not so cruel as to leave my husband and son like that. Not now. My son is old enough to remember me. My husband might actually go down with me, although he’s never indicated as much.

Criteria 6: Affective Instability
Rage. I’m almost always irritable. I’ve always thought that irritability and reactivity were hallmarks of bipolar disorder. I was wrong.

I have bouts of intense anxiety. Especially when I feel like I’m not in control. It is expressed in OCD-like symptoms when it goes critical. I start hoarding. Or purging items. I check constantly. I do mental checks. I fear contamination.

Dysphoric moods. It’s always been suicidal ideation in the past. It’s only recently that I’ve had homicidal ideation, and it’s enough to scare me. But, I don’t imagine harming loved ones. No, I imagine harming people who are a perceived threat to my family and me.

That emotional weather, that was affective instability. When it produces serious storms, it becomes separate from bipolar disorder completely. Layered moods.

Criteria 7: Chronic Feelings of Emptiness:
Curiously, I don’t have the typical definition of this. Most of the time, I feel too full. I’m full of emotion, turmoil, life. I’m bursting at the seams.

But, if you examine the criteria a little closer, it can be characterized by never feeling good enough. I’m bad. I have never achieved anything noteworthy. No one really loves me. I feel as if I am worthless, rather than empty.

Criteria 8: Inappropriate Anger / Difficulty Controlling Anger
Sometimes, yes. I have a temper. I try to be careful at expressing this anger. It’s usually restricted to times when I am alone. I scream. I break things.

I don’t want to scare my family. I don’t want the shame and guilt I would suffer from such impulsive, inappropriate behavior. I don’t want anyone to leave me, because they fear me. I try so hard to practice restraint. I’m not always very successful.

Criteria 9: Transient, Stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions, or severe dissociation symptoms
This was the key to finally prove the potential for BPD to me. I’ve always had delusions. I’ve always had the berating voice. But, my paranoia has always turned out to be justified in the end.

When C.S. and I were very rocky, I was convinced that a man, who I would never otherwise suspect, was cheating on me. The voice separated into a an auditory hallucination, free of any rational mind, feeding me horrible things. I had my first real break from reality.

But, it was in fits that never lasted longer than a few hours to maybe a few days. And it could be broken by immediate distraction.

I’m nowhere near as volatile as I used to be. Medication has tamed my symptoms, and nearly domesticated me. There are a lot of behaviors that I don’t engage in anymore.

But, I am a far cry from ridding myself of all of them. And if I keep going on this course of alienating people, disabling my supports, and self-sabatoging, I’m going to end up in a very bad place.

So, I made an impulsive move yesterday morning. Finally, a good one. I called and made an appointment to start meeting with a qualified professional with an objective eye. I could’ve gotten in today, but my hours are restricted right now due to work.

So, next Thursday. In one week, I will take my first baby steps back into the world of therapy. Honestly, I don’t have high hopes. Thankfully, I have a number of therapists to choose from. And if it doesn’t work out, at least I gave it a try.

I want to keep trying and not get discouraged. But, I’m so picky about my professionals. I know there has to be some hope for recovery.

Owning It

I had never considered Borderline Personality Disorder.

The term “Personality Disorder” carries so many negative connotations. It assumes that it’s a defect of someone’s personality. That in itself assumes that a person can just snap out of it, or just change it.

BPD gets such a bad rap in the media. I thought of “Fatal Attraction” and “Single White Female”. “That’s not me,” I insisted.  I even reviewed the DSM-IV criteria, and still could only see a portion of it.

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, excessive spending, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars or picking at oneself (excoriation) .
  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
  8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms

First, my fear of abandonment and the way I react to it is complicated.  True, if I sense that there is something off with my partner, I do come to a conclusion that I am responsible and this person will eventually leave me.  But, I didn’t feel as if that was unreasonable.

Yes, I do have a history of intense, explosive relationships.  Now, the intensity of my relationship is usually shared up until a certain point.  I have never had this problem in my marriage where I was “too intense”.  In fact, it is preferred that I am so invested in my marriage and co-dependent.  Not “dependent”.  Co-dependent.  We depend on each other very heavily.  It works just fine, and I was pretty sure that a good marriage was a marriage that worked for both people.

I never considered an identity disturbance.  Not frequently anyway.  I have always been mostly the same person who liked the same things.  Everyone goes through periods of change and self-renewal, right?

I’m not very impulsive.  I am too anxious for impulsive behavior, because I fear the consequences.  Impulsive behavior doesn’t allow for fear.  I have too much fear.  I don’t sleep around; I’m a devoted wife.  I’m very careful with money, because I never have had or have any.  I have had a history of alcohol abuse though. . .

Yes, I self-harm.  But, self-harm happens in affective disorders.

Of course I have affective instability.  I have bipolar disorder.  But, the mood doesn’t usually last only a few hours to days, unless I’m ultradian cycling.  That’s rare.

I don’t feel empty.  As a matter of fact, sometimes I feel too full.

I do have a temper.  But, I’m usually very good at controlling it. When I go off, I’ve just gone beyond my limit.  Everyone does that.

I have always been paranoid and delusional.  But, I’ve spoken with doctors about this problem in the past.  They don’t seem to see it as a problem, nor do they really see it as full-blown delusions anyway.  Despite that voice.

I was set on disproving it. Well, until I started reading personal accounts that struck me. Then, I read explanations of the wide variety of behaviors that fall into the diagnostic criteria. And finally, certain characteristic statements. “If people actually got to know me, they probably wouldn’t like me.”

I have a private blog entitled, “If You Only Really Knew Me”. I don’t update often. But, sometimes I do. Times where I am too much of a coward to stand up and confess on Pendulum. Those words that bang at the inside of my skull, but I’d never dare reveal.

I had absolutely no idea that BPD was so diverse. The stigma would have everyone believe the “I hate you, don’t leave me” thing. But, there’s so many different ways it can operate. I started to see the pattern emerge in early adolescence, as is described. I saw how it dominated my previous relationship and sustained the mutual abuse. And I could see it in me.

Working Up To It

I have always thought of myself as a pretty open book. I don’t flat out lie. If I am asked a question, I will always try to answer it honestly and to the best of my ability. Any misinformation is either from a miscommunication or an accidental omission.

I have been having symptoms far enough outside of the scope of BP II that it made me start challenging my diagnosis.

A diagnosis is a label. A label is just a label, and it shouldn’t make much of a difference, right? The point is that I’m gulping down pills of every color that should apply to every disorder under the sun.

Wrong.

At first, I didn’t want to question it, and I prayed that the extreme symptoms would subside. I had hoped they were circumstantial and as soon as the situation was resolved, the symptoms would resolve. Somehow, I forgot a key element of disorder. It doesn’t resolve when a situation resolves. That’s why it’s termed “disorder” instead of “moodiness”.

C.S’s appointment came and went without change. No relief came for either of us. In fact, we were both more distraught than ever with the news that we would be waiting another five weeks until there was a definitive diagnosis. And even then, that’s just the start a treatment. It could be years before things start to turn around.

In the meantime, I’ve found myself in agony, like a person huddled in a cold cave, waiting out the storm. I have always been in the habit of putting others first, because they rely on me in times of need. I know what it’s like to have the rug pulled out from under me when I’m in the most desperate of need. I’d never leave a person near and dear to me to fend for themselves. Especially when they have explicitly asked for my help.

Things get better. Things get worse. It is rollercoaster of daily twists and turns, ups and downs. And I couldn’t understand why my mood and behavior were so unstable. The medication works when I’m not particularly sensitive to external stressors. The inner turmoil doesn’t exist without it. But once a person has stirred the pot, it puts things in motion.

I started my excavation. I started reading old journals, some as far back as twelve years ago. Certain recurring symptoms emerged, and these were exactly the ones plaguing me now. The ones I find exist somewhere outside of BP II.

I examined my mood chart that I began in the tail end of my most recent depressive episode. Consistently low scores. And then, suddenly, the points were very high one day, and very low the next. I am careful to chart at the same time each day, so that the scores can be considered consistent.

When I noticed the trend as it was happening, I termed it “dysphoric hypomania”. The lows weren’t sadness, it was rage and anxiety. That was, until it went beyond the definition of “hypomania”.

Energetic despair. That’s the only way I can describe it in retrospect. I started running to burn off some energy, anxiety, and emotion. I clung so hard to anger, because I couldn’t cry. And when I did cry, it was in unpredictable bouts. I would start, and everything would come flooding out.

Then, there were the fits of rage. I would find myself beyond irritable – extremely agitated is closer to the term. I became more obsessive than usual. Things had to be a certain way. My anxiety was so far through the roof that I found myself trembling at times. Chunks of memory started to fall away, and I began frequently misplacing important items. It was a recipe for recurring explosions and tantrums.

Then, I began terming what I was seeing as a “mixed episode”. Impossible for BP II, right? So, BP I? It shouldn’t matter.

The question plagued me again. Why has my medicine afforded me shorter episodes and longer stability if I’m “getting worse”? Why all of a sudden?

It didn’t add up. Obsessions and compulsions, as they were happening, were not within the criteria for anything on the BP spectrum. I started having full-blown psychotic episodes in short bursts. But, I still didn’t quite meet the criteria for a full blown “manic” episode, required in a mixed state.

As things became rockier between C.S. and I, old, very painful memories started emerging. I’d feel the pang of the emotional reaction to a situation that was “familiar”, and then I’d have the flashback. But, the flash wasn’t always strong enough for me to pin it down completely. For a millisecond, I was in that moment in my past. Not always long enough to identify it.

But, they were plaguing me at times unprovoked. Times that I allowed my mind to wander. Awful feelings would come out of acts that hardly pinged me in the past. But then again, I had been drunk and numb.

That’s not BP anything. Not even close.

I had been wanting so desperately to solve this on my own. There are so many things I can’t imagine speaking out loud to anyone. Even harboring the flicker of the memory and the attached emotion is hard enough.

I took some inventories online. I started to put labels on things.

OCD – for the obsessions, the thoughts that kept recurring, the compulsive need to check, wash, count, have certain items on my person, etc.

PTSD – for all of the flickers and flashes of things in that dark closet. For all of the things rattling the inside of the Pandora’s box that has been dormant for so long. For all of the hurt, neglect, and abuse I had never spoken a word to any professional about.

BP I – to cover the “mixed” behavior and paranoid delusions, and auditory hallucinations.

Then, there was a label for the jar that shocked me.

Borderline Personality Disorder???? What?

Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Mental Disorder

Most of my research in the past has been centered around affective disorders, theories surrounding the causation of dysfunction, and the cognition / behaviors that sustain it. I am broadening my horizons to include many mental health disorders and developmental disorder, particularly autism.

I have had a theory for awhile that hinged almost completely on curious connections I’ve made between bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Doctors ruminated on the potential for my father and bipolar disorder. By the way my parents describe his mother, it didn’t seem surprising.

We’ve always assumed that my “affective disorder” (assumed Major Depressive Disorder in my teens) was a result of my father. Assumptions are changing around parents house in light of serious mental health symptoms popping up on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother has “dementia”, politely termed to describe her psychosis. And my aunt who cares for her has developed paranoid delusions. She has isolated herself, because she is sure that the family is “against” her and consorting with one another behind her back.

These things don’t come out of nowhere. They become present after certain events happen, whether they are biochemical or a result of external stressors.

So, why is it that two parents with suspected “affective” disorders bear one child with moderately severe classical autism and another with bipolar disorder? Another generation passes. Two parents, one with an affective disorder and another with a mental health disorder, both with psychotic features, bear a child with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder : Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified?

I’m not at liberty to speak in detail about my husband’s disorder. I have determined that it is up to him; it is his own business, and it is best for his mental health to know that I am only vaguely referring to it as a “disorder”. I will leave it at that.

We have actually been speaking now, sometimes at great length concerning symptoms, dysfunction, and identifying with one another. Many of these symptoms seem to revolve around sensory disturbances. For me, I’ve gone to great length to describe times of sensory overload caused by a removal of a “sensory filter”. It’s a chicken and the egg conundrum. Does the emotional disturbance make me more susceptible to the sensory integration and processing dysfunction or vice versa?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of literature on sensory integration dysfunction and mental health disorders. However, there is a wealth of it, as it is considered a component of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

It is thought that the main feature, besides pervasive behaviors, is sensory integration dysfunction / disorder. It is observed that children with ASD fall into categories of sensory “seekers” or “avoiders”. Seekers are thought to have dampeners on sensory imput. Avoiders are opposite and have a sensory overload. But, in most cases, there is usually a combination of the two. Some seeking and some avoidance. Unfortunately, avoidance is considered the most recognized behavior, as it is considered the most dysfunctional.

I can only speak for me. In episodes of hypomania, I become a seeker. One would think there should be an avoidance, but in hypomania, I cannot get enough. My brain eats it at hyperspeed and processes it just as fast.

However, mania is a different story. Often, sensory stimuli overloads an overly active mind. It makes manic symptoms worse. Sometimes, the racing thoughts become fragmented and my thinking becomes disordered. My speech becomes disrupted and incoherent, because the intergation of external stimuli cannot be effectively integrated. And an overload occurs.

In psychotic states, the sensory stimuli becomes confused and distorted. Places and people may become foreign and strange. Hallucinations can occur, distorting sensory stimuli even further. And delusions are fed by misinterpreted stimuli.

Mixed states are the worst. As everyone knows, a mixed state is probably the most unstable a person with bipolar disorder can get. Sensory stimuli is integrated, but poorly. The cognitive associations are often misinterpreted and can spark even worse symptoms.

A sensory overload is common in this state. The internal struggle is enough to shy away from anything stimulating, because of the cognitive inability to process it properly.

I’m still working on interpreting mixed states, the dysfunction, and how I experience it. The problem I face is that many new symptoms I did not expect surfaced at the same time.

Moving to depressive states. I find that I am often very easily overstimulated, though my mental state is dulled. My mind suffers a certain retardation of congitive and physical function. The problem the occurs is the foggy state makes the processing of stimuli difficult. It deepens emotional distress when presented with too much. I simply do not have the processing speed.

So, there are several functions that cause the dysfunction. There are a few facts that remain. I am an auditory avoider when I am unable to process external stimuli due to aggitated or foggy states. I am a tactile seeker in these states, with the explicit exception of psychosis. In (hypo)manic states, I am a motion seeker, as it calms. In depressive states, I am a motion avoider, but a visual seeker. Contrastingly, I am a visual avoider in (hypo)manic and psychotic states.

I could go on from there, but I won’t. I am more inclined to seek input from others. Examine your behaviors of seeking and avoidance. What do you find?

Theories on the Development of Disorder

When something, an emotion, an urge, an impulse, is so severely suppressed that a person becomes oppressed, we can often observe extreme opposite reactions. This is consistent with the laws of physics and the universe, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Except, one thing. I believe when it comes to emotions and behaviors, the opposing reaction is more like equal plus. The plus being an x-value holding place for a value with the meaning “a little more.” Determining that exact value in numerical terms may be difficult, since there is no numerical value for emotions.

It basically conveys the message that the situation perpetuates itself. Any potential absence of behavior or action can still be perceived as a positive value. Inaction can still be considered an action in this case, because there isn’t really such a thing as a complete absence of behavior.

This is potentially a huge factor in mental illness. Obviously, we are aware of the psychological damage abuse and neglect in childhood can cause, even throughout adulthood. It is thought to manifest in anxiety disorders, particularly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. However, that does not account for people who did not experience what is typically considered childhood trauma.

Even as adults, we are susceptible to psychological damage. This is a fact that is well established through research involving war veteran and victims of sexual assault. However, we only consider extreme forms of trauma as something qualifies as such. Such is also true of childhood trauma.

Other qualifying trauma often happens over a period of time, and goes consciously unrecognized. This does not mean that it is also subconsciously unrecognized as well. In fact, the subconscious is likely keenly aware, but unable to translate to the conscious mind.

Once the conscious mind becomes aware that there is something amiss, the traumatizing behavior seems commonplace. The person has likely become desensitized to what was once a subtle, but generally constant external stressor. By then, it becomes internalized and often mistaken as an internal stressor.

Those are the seeds for maladaptive behaviors in both children and adults. At this point, unhealthy coping mechanisms have already been adopted as part of a person’s behavioral repertoire. This is directly the result of an extreme reaction to the accumulation of what may be considered subtle long term stressor(s).

The maladaptive behaviors are recognized as such, and perpetuate trauma through mistreatment of oneself. It can be behaviorally observed by an unusual response to certain unpleasant stimuli. Unfortunately, the subject is often unaware that their responses are abnormal. By the time it is either pointed out or realized by oneself, the original cause is well buried under layers of self-abuse / neglect.

The result of this is much larger than anxiety disorders. It reaches out to grab behaviors typical of a variety of psychological disorders. Behavior repertoires are often observed in personality disorders and mood disorders. it would stand to reason this is true, due to the nature of long-term external stressors, particularly subtle abuse and neglect.