Tag Archives: treatment

Reviewing processes

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The past few weeks I’ve been reflecting and dissecting what I would like to do with the rest of my life.  What do I like?  What don’t I like?  What are my dreams?  Are they feasible?  What are my needs?   I’ve also been writing up a business plan for myself, which in itself has been a very interesting journey.  I’ve changed it three times.

I’ve also participated for two days (another four to go) in an art challenge to post pics of my art on my facebook page for six days.  This, too, has been an interesting process.   I’m reviewing photos that I have, which aren’t exactly organized like someone dominantly left brained would do, but I’m only 25% there, so I’m giving myself a break!

4-5 years ago my life came to a crashing halt.  I couldn’t get out of bed, I didn’t want to paint, write, and was incapable of making any decisions for myself.   Fortunately my strong mother jumped in and helped, and after hospitalization for two weeks, I was diagnosed with Major Clinical Depression.  This was not the first time, but the fourth.  I must say to you, it’s been hell trying to come back from it.

Why do I mention such a personal thing?  Because I’m an idiot!   🙂   Most people do not confess such, because of the stigma attached to mental illness.  I want others to know who are suffering with such, it’s okay, you’re not a freak, you aren’t crazy, you are sick, and encourage you to get help.  For me it meant some serious psychological drugs, many therapy sessions, a lot of writing, a lot more of praying.  It is still a monkey on my back, but I am learning, everyday to replace the negative talk in my head.  Some days I’m successful with this, some days not.

Back to the art challenge, as I’m surfing through pages of photos of my artwork, which also have pics of other aspects of my life, love, marriage, breast cancer, family, friends, pets, artwork, gardens, etc… I must say, I feel good about things that I have accomplished in my life.  In spite of the crap that came rolling into it, I’m still standing, and there are days, still, too many, that it’s very hard for me to get out of bed and face the day.   But it was nice to see things I’ve done, the magazines my artwork and needlecraft designs were in, interviews with me as a visual artist, and a fiber artist.  I even had artwork on the cover of magazines I think twice.  How quickly these accomplishments fall by the way side when you’re looking at it through the dark eyes of depression.

So, I’m feeling a bit chipper tonight, painted a little bit today.  Plan to spend a few hours tomorrow doing the same.   We are supposedly having an arctic cold blast this weekend.  I’ve stocked up on the necessities, my mom is here visiting for the weekend.  If I don’t kill her, by the time Monday comes around I should be in good shape! 🙂

The message today is… Hang on.   Hang strong.   Celebrate the good days, and do all you can to survive the bad.   It may be worth your while to dive into some pictures yourself.

Sending you peace and love

 

 

 

Sensitivity, mental illness AND being right brained

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I read a LOT of self help books.     My mother said to me one day last year “I think it’s great that you want to improve upon yourself, but Donna, what about fun?    Well, I read art books, that counts for fun.  And I read articles online, a lot about cancer, guess that isn’t too fun…    But this comment of hers “came back” in my head this past week.

Thinking about sensitivity.   I have always been very sensitive.   Cry easily (ask my siblings, growing up with me, my parents didn’t know what to do with me and my emotions, so to eliminate stress for all, they would omit sharing things with me!   Now, this works, to an extent, but not all that great after that.   I found myself in my 30s and 40s before I started to really learn how to sit with stuff, how to deal with things that otherwise “hurt”.    Hey, they did their best, no blame there, just thinking about what it would be like to NOT be so sensitive?

I remember sitting in a 12 step meeting, an addict was struggling.  He shared how his newly found sobriety was good, but it was also overwhelming.  He realized booze helped numb him from his “oversensitivity” (also labeled that as a child).    He was an artist, and part of who he was was this beautiful sensitive soul, and he didn’t want to lose that.  But he was going bat shit trying to figure out how to cope with life on a daily basis without a numbing agent.    I sat there, shaking my head with understanding.  I thought EVERYONE cried at the end of Casper?!?   And a whole lot of other things.

Where is the balance?   I don’t know.   The older I get, the easier it becomes to screen or throw stuff out that I just don’t want to cope with.  I’m not talking about responsibilities, but others drama and things that frankly, bring me discomfort or discontent.   I have heard, numerous times, that most mental illness (including addiction) comes with an undiagnosed dual diagnosis.   I think about this, and I have many many friends who have been treated for one, and who still struggle.   It was like being diagnosed with ADHD just two years ago at 51.  Holy crap!    Medication made my life SO MUCH BETTER.  I was the first to judge another if they put their children on ADD or ADHD meds.  Now?  I encourage.  If this gives their child an opportunity to function better (and it will if they are truly ADD/ADHD), their life will be improved upon so much.  Mine has.

Most people my age are only diagnosed because their children were, first.     The things that I once thought were “normal” and that everyone shared, and now I realize, a big part of my self esteem and confidence being lower than it should.   Because I felt stupid, or lazy, sometimes crazy.   I have always known I’ve been wired different from others, but I always attached a negative connotation (just listed above) to it.   The truth is, I’m not stupid, nor lazy, nor crazy.   I’m not!  I struggle with mental illness and this isn’t fun.   But I’m not insane.

Most important thing for me to do has been and will be to learn how to cope….     I believe I have good self awareness, and I strive, I really do, to be a good person, do the right thing, one day at a time.    I’m not special in my struggles, I’m far from alone.   But you know what is worse?     It HAS to be having an undiagnosed, untreated mental illness.  And the stigma that is attached and has been to mental illness sadly keeps many lives struggling, with little quality.

I recently went off five medications after I was discharged from my outpatient therapy because I had missed too much time.  Another blog.   I weaned myself off, and started to pay attention to my body.   I believe I was overmedicated.   Now, I am starting to “feel” again, and my hands do not shake anywhere near what they did, which is part of why I stopped painting, teaching.   I’m doing well.   I’m focusing on the physical problems that need attention, and keeping a close check on my depression with close friends, through blogging, and a lot of prayer.

I want a quality life.   I want to feel peace, happiness.   I want to feel grief without losing myself to it, or several years of my life.   This means I have to learn to coping skills, and I have and am.     I need to accept that part of being me is being sensitive and to accept myself for who I am, and may very well always be.    I remind myself that God doesn’t make junk, and that I was designed to be perfectly imperfect.   We all were.

Today I’ve had a nice day, a peaceful day, a productive day.    I’m very grateful for this.   I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here.     Just want to say one more thing.  If you have never been diagnosed or treated for mental illness, educate yourself.  Read articles, peoples blogs, etc.   Only a very small percentage are really insane.  Most of us struggling with learning disabilities and mental illness are just trying to find our way out of the chaos that can ruminate in our heads.    I share on my experiences to help others know, they are far from alone.  I know it helps me to know this, too.

Happy Mental Health!

Ignorance…. Addiction & Mental Illness – Phillip Seymour Hoffman

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In light of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s official “cause of death” being released I am once again annoyed and aggravated with the barrage of ignorant comments being said.  I thought I’d share this again.  Take what you like and leave the rest. 

The focus in the passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has quickly turned to his addiction, blaming him for his demise, after all, wasn’t it he who injected the needle, the heroin into his arm?   Addiction.  If you are not educated on addiction, or have not been affected or afflicted by its powerful existence, of course you could say such a thing.   For someone who has, his passing is nothing more than another sad statistic.

It irritates me how the press, people will totally extinguish a person’s accomplishments, goodness, contributions when death is a result of addiction, of alcoholism or any other mental illness for that matter.   It is as if the only part of his/her life that becomes news is the demons that bound them.   A person’s life is not cancelled out for those of their families, their friends.   If you have ever had to make difficult painstaking decisions around a loved one who is grappling addiction; If you have ever been forced to see someone you love ‘self destruct’; If you have ever been sadly privy on both the internal and external battle that their lives and the lives of those who loved them entailed; If you have ever had to bury someone who died as a result of their addiction or mental illness you would understand, it isn’t that cut and dry.

It’s a travesty how prevalent addiction is in our society today.   It is a travesty that there is so much ignorance and stigma attached to mental illness.   It seems the more years that pass the younger the onset of use.     We are living in a time where prescribed medications have increased the population of and caused an enormous amount of us to become addicted “to”.  While progress is being made with access to such drugs, it is still clearly a problem, an epidemic, with immense potentially grave endings.

Ask Mr. Hoffman’s mother what it was like to parent an addict.   Was that all he was?   She will surely cry in anguish, in disappointment, of the harsh reality that her son has perished of addiction.   She will instantly remember the kindness, intelligence, and his accomplishments.  She will remember holding her baby in her arms, the hopes and dreams she had for him.  The first tooth he lost, the first homerun hit…on and on.  His death does not void out his existence.  If nothing else, it is her memories, both good and bad, of her beloved son that marks his death all the more purposeless, senseless, vain.

With the progression of the disease (commonly denied) and lack of education regarding such, it is easy to blame the addict.    We picture them on a bar stool, a street corner, in a back alley selling their soul to score a fix.   This epidemic goes far beyond the stereotype.    You will find them in hospitals treating patients, in schools teaching students, in elementary and high school bathrooms, on playgrounds, behind the desks of professionals, sitting next to us in church, in police stations with whom are hired to “protect and serve”, and who arrest those whose addiction has made criminals of them.    Like cancer, and many other potentially lethal illnesses it doesn’t discriminate.  There are many predisposed, at higher risk of inheriting such dreadful sentences, just as there are with cancers, other diseases.  Babies are being born addicts.   Many with mental illness go untreated, out of shame, lack of resources, and inability to find a doctor, a therapist, a mental health worker who has openings to treat them.   Ask any professional in the business of treating mental illness how many patients they see a day, what their availability is to see new patients, if they think that their profession offers as much support as is needed for all.  Ask families who are bouncing off the walls, worried beyond belief, frustrated and fear filled for the fate of their loved ones whom have a mental illness “Are you getting the help, support, treatment needed to cope?”    It doesn’t just begin with the addict, and it doesn’t stop there.  Far from it.

Am I suggesting that a person should not be held responsible for circumstances, consequences caused by their addiction?  Hardly.  I understand, too well, that holding them responsible is an important factor, and could in fact be the very thing that helps them seek help, and hopefully achieve recovery.     You may be surprised to find the mother, wife, husband of an alcoholic relieved when their loved one has been arrested for DUI or sentenced to a jail term and more unbelievable, who has died or the disease of addiction.   Why?  Because maybe, just maybe, and hopefully this could be the answer to their prayers.   Maybe, just maybe this would be the beginning of, the stepping stone to their loved ones recovery, and for those with whom lives have been taken, perhaps now they will be at peace.  There will be no demons in the driver seat of their life.

With all of this said, and from a person who struggles with mental illness, there needs to be more help, education available to all.   The archaic belief that mental illness is that of the “insane”, the selfish, the crazy, the weak needs to cease.   We need to broaden the stream of hope for all…the addict, the person with any mental illness, their families, their friends, their employees and more.   There are three possible outcomes for an addict – Institution, Recovery or Death.   Shaming one into recovery is as counterproductive as denying its existence.  Shunning the issue(s) only accelerates and further populate its victims.

Why would an intelligent being throw away their dreams, their aspirations, their families, their friends, their jobs, basically their present moment and futures for a fix, whether that fix be attributed to a needle, a bottle, a pipe, a gluttonous amount of food…Does it really matter?  Is any of it nonetheless tragic?  Would we shame or blame a person who was diagnosed with cancer?  Actually, that opens up another whole can of worms for me.  When Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer the first thing that was reported was “Peter Jennings has been diagnosed with Lung Cancer.  He smoked”.   Implying that his actions were the result of his diagnosis.   Yes, smoking can cause lung cancer.  Yes, second hand smoke can cause cancer.  Yes, sticking a needle in your arm, swallowing a fifth of vodka, snorting a substance for instant fix, bingeing on unhealthy foods… all can and most likely will contribute to the demise of many and squelch the quality of life for not only them, but those who love them.

I assure you, however, that no one smoked or smokes to get lung cancer.  A father doesn’t set out to be a drunk, or a mother a junkie.  No person sets out to be an addict, an alcoholic, a person who struggles with depression, or any other mental illness.  They didn’t aspire nor desire to “throw their happiness, their health, their lives away”.    All is tragic.  All are a travesty that again, I believe, needs further and vast education and awareness, treatment made available.

“Phillip Seymour Hoffman dead at ­­46 from apparent heroin overdose”.    The barrage of ignorant comments pertaining to his, and the too many other tragic deaths as a result of addiction infuriate me.    Ask his children what he meant to them, what they remember of him, how they will miss him;  Ask his parents, grandparents, his wife, his friends “Do you think he got what he deserved?”   I promise you, they will not only look at you in dismay, but their face will show an expression of trauma, catastrophe, and pain of epic levels.

In all Twelve Step programs the disease of alcoholism, of addiction is described as “cunning and baffling”.   There simply is no understanding it, there are no words to describe its effects, but perhaps?  Perhaps with awareness and education, with more resources made available to its victims we can somehow stop, or at minimum stunt this holocaustic epidemic.

Let us not be so small minded, blaming, shaming, hiding, pious to real mental illnesses that threatens the lives of many, including our youth, your son, daughter, granddaughter.  Let us find a way to improve treatment options, including those who are now or who will be incarcerated as a result of this sinister disease.  Let us find and achieve a better chance of recovery and carve out a course of prevention for such.    Let us HELP others and ourselves by dispelling the myths and attitudes that one should be embarrassed, blamed, or shameful that they have a mental illness.  Let us somehow find a way to lower the sad statistics of and empower the recovery of, the prevention of.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was much more than an addict.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was more than a bloody statistic.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a person like you, like I… perhaps with a whole lot more money, thus easier access too or slower consequences of its progression.  He didn’t set out to be an addict.  He didn’t insert the needle and inject the heroin in his arms with intent to die.

No one sets out to be an addict.  No one smokes to get cancer.  No one welcomes mental illness, of any sort, to themselves their families, their loved ones.   No one.

My name is Donna, and I have been both affected and afflicted with mental illness.  I am one of the fortunate ones, however.  I am under the care of excellent, educated doctors who are treating me, teaching me, helping me through these challenges and working with me to achieve a better quality of life, to achieve recovery.   Sadly, I am of a minority.

Donna Scully

Vernon, VT

Memory Lane

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A particularly quiet therapy session early this afternoon had my therapist ask “Are you quiet because you are tired from not sleeping?”  Apparently I’m normally a chatter box!   Truth is, I have not been sleeping.   This is not unfamiliar territory for me, though it is distressing.    I am taking my meds, I am trying to get to bed at a reasonable time each night, but sleep doesn’t come knocking til 6, 7 or 8am.  A couple years ago when I was going through a particularly hard time mentally, nights filled with insomnia, a friend said to me “Fatigue makes cowards out of all of us”.    I am revisiting that statement today, nodding my head in agreement.   I made it to therapy today, did some important errands and now going to pay a few bills…  This is all I am expecting of myself today.  Hopefully I will be able to retire early tonight with heavy eyes and an ability to sleep.    I think insomnia is why I like being knocked out with anesthesia so much.   Count backwards from 100….by the time you hit 98, 97, GONEZO!

Contended with some unexpected traffic jams resulting in a longer trip home, through the small town, communities where I grew up.    Looking through the memories of a child, but eyes of an adult.   I shared my memories with Lilly, as she sat in the back of the jeep looking like she was listening.  The fields which once spanned my comprehension now seem small, quaint.  The names of childhood friends popped up without effort as we passed the homes where they once lived.  How can I remember these things, and forget what I had for breakfast, or if I had breakfast?

I attach feelings to music, to places, not particularly to things, and smells, smells are an immediate recognition of whatever it served to remind me of.    Feeling lately like I’m failing cognitively, it was just what I needed to give myself some reassurance that I have not lost it all …. completely!    Yep, this was a ride down memory lane.   I am a country girl, middle child of 5, who grew up in a small town in New Hampshire.   My world is not merely as small as it once was, larger from the observation of a youngster.  Life seemed so much simpler.  Good God, I’m sounding like “We walked 5 miles home, without shoes”….  The appreciation and gratitude encouragement speech which sadly, was true and more sad, that we needed reminding of our luxuries.

I cannot watch the commercials on television about starving children, or abused animals.   It keeps me up at night.  When they come on I mute the television and go in the other room.   Sarah McClaughlin offered a song years ago to the cause and to this day I still cannot listen to the song.    I cannot watch the news, and certainly not in the evening, if I am looking to get some shut eye.     I wonder what my grandparents would say if they were to hear the commercials now, or the programs, or see all the violence that the news dispels to us.   Yesterday, as I was shoveling, I was thinking about the one popular and repetitive ad for Viagra “If you have an errection for longer than 4 hours…”, yesterday I filled in the blanks with “Go to the emergency room immediately, and if you can shovel snow, come see me!”   Not sure the correlation there, but I found it comical.

How about the commercials that depict a perfect family, or happy couples who fill the Christmas tree with gold, diamonds and more?    Sorry, no one has the perfect family, and happy couples are a minority these days.   It is so nice to see happy people together, it is contagious and reminds me of times in my life when alone time was something that happened every few weeks.   Now, single, self employed, and struggling with isolation, the beginning of the three headed beast of depression, I do get lonely, I do long for touch, but I’m not willing to do anything to change my situation.

“A course in miracles”, Marianne Williamson “Return to Love”, so many self help, recovery books I have read simplify and identify the two directions (choices) we have that can change our entire life……. Either you are walking towards fear, or walking towards love.   When it comes to relationships, I defensively, once unconsciously clung tight to Fear Avenue.   I still do, today, but I am edging closer and closer to the embassy to love.   At 52 I realize, boring is good.   Boring means consistency, accountability, dependability.    There is much truth in women liking “bad boys”, at least for me.   I have nothing left in ambition, desire to travel this road anymore.   Fear of being hurt has me wear a cloak of armoire which is slowly being dismantled.    I want to be in a relationship, I want to feel safe, thus willing to trust another with my heart.   I know it will take one very patient special man.   I love the song by Train “Bruises”….. ‘we’ve all got bruises’.  

I guess I’ve rambled on enough for this one post.  I am grateful to have learned, through travesties, self preservation.    I share only what I want others to know, only those things that I am comfortable sharing.   A natural survivor mode that came late in life for me.    “You wear your heart on your sleeve”, something that I heard over and over in my life.  I guess I still do, but no where near the depth that I once did.   I am grateful for maturity, I am grateful for growth.  I am grateful for my ability to be alone, one with myself, I am good company.  I am also grateful for the desire, and inching towards Love.    Fear sucks.

In honesty, I have offered you this part of me….  in hopes that my sharing will help another….   xo!

It was the best of times…………

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I just replied to a very kindhearted woman who asked me if there was anything I could suggest to her to help her elderly mother on her battle with cancer.   She has an aggressive cancer, has opted for chemotherapy treatment.  After offering what helped with my family and loved ones, I sat back and thought about it.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”    There is nothing pleasant about seeing someone you love walk through serious medical issues.   For me it was easier going through cancer, myself, than watching my parents, my siblings go through it.  

I have learned and continue to keep relearning this…The most challenging difficult times of my life have reared some unexpected profound perspective.  Would I wish the journey of cancer on anyone?  Nope!  But I wouldn’t trade my personal growth for the world.

When we become one with ours or our loved ones mortality it is highly likely that the gift of perspective will touch upon our tired worn spirits.   That book “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and its all small stuff!” comes to mind.    When you’ve walked through fire with someone you love there isn’t any greater lesson about what is and is no longer (if it has ever really been) important.    The bills will get paid, or they won’t, neighbors may like you, or they won’t, I will lose weight, or I won’t…too many to mention, just mere examples of what struck me, and also what freed me.     Maslow’s “food, clothing, shelter” plays a part here, and after those very things have been threatened for any length of time, further understanding of what defines “the smaller things” becomes apparent.  It was the best of times….

Though our/their bodies may be depleted and void of any energy, joy can be found even at this time, through this and other hardships.    It’s all a matter of willingness, open mindedness, and embracing the beautiful from the difficult.     I was dumbfounded with how much quality time you can fit in, even in the throws of treatment, end of life.   I wanted to be present physically, spiritually, emotionally.  If my mind was focused on other issues (What I have since named “luxury problems”) my spirit, my best wasn’t present at a time where it was most important to me.  So went the crap!

What precious thoughts, experiences today did I put in the front seat of my vehicle of life?   Did I allow worry, despair, insignificant small crap to take over or did I place those things respectively in the back seat, and allow love, perspective, the gifts of life reign?  While it may not seem it or even possible, it IS a choice…..