Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Have you gone mental (VIII)

Days when depression is primary are dark days. I feel like a failure, a loser, and like I'll never recover from my illness. I had such days over the last weekend. I awakened in anxiety and in the ensuing hours depression overcame me. It is hard to define depression. That's why we tend to describe it.

My depression involves feelings that I want to die: "suicidality". Not a lethal suicidality but feeling like I want to die more than I want to live. As those of you know who have experienced this, it is at once terrifying and a source of relief. This may sound totally irrational... except to those who have experienced it.

The dark days. . . the dark night of the soul, perpetrated by an unseen force. Depression seems to have a mind of its own. It goes where it wants to go and does what it wants to do. It comes upon me like a thick, dark, cloud, with no light on the horizon. All is darkness. All is pain. All the affirmations in the book will not
even put a dent in it. Medication seems like the solution. It is not. It merely masks the emotion. Yet most of us depessed individuals take them. I, in fact, I am on one antidepessant, two mood stabilizers, and one anti-anxiety meditation.

The ultimate solution is probably living life, doing the next thing that needs to be done, and continuuing the basic principles I have learned. As I do these healthy activities, over a few days, the cloud begins to lift a little and some semblance of "normalcy" returns. Decisions are more easily made, isolation abates, and suicidality decreases.

At this point anxiety begins to rears its ugly head. As Tom Petty sang, I don't know which is worse.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Have you gone mental (VII)

I committed myself to faith in Christ when I was 16 years old. Outside being a product of a "dysfunctional family" there were little serious disadvantages in my life. However, many at that time (and this)would view faith in God as a dangerous delusion ... the opiate of the people.

I never dreamed I would be stricken by Major Depression and anxiety. Somehow in my naivete as a young believer I felt God would protect me from things such as this; as long as I kept faith. Mental or physical illness were often viewed by many believers as resulting from a lack of faith.

As mentioned, I was pastoring a church when the second bout with depression and anxiety began to afflict me. I gave in to these disorders; feeling I deserved them because of what I'd done; the enormity of sins I had committed. It was only after beginning therapy a year or so later that I realized that my mental illness had nothing to do with the church's definition of sin.

Its somewhat amazing that I, at this time, returned to the delusion perpetrated by some in the church that my problems relate to a lack of faith. As I looked back over the past 9 years of devotion to study, prayer, and meditation, I know this is ridiculous. I am a man of faith. A man of faith who has a mental illness. I am hoping that those reading this blog, who are similarly affected, will take steps to release themselves from the misconception that mental illness is caused by a lack of faith. It is a belief that arises more from evil than good. It is a prison.

Although for most the progression of this installment may seem inconsequential, it is a vital part of my experience. I have studied the scripture from the Bible on peace and healng. I have studied what the Apostle Paul called the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I have developed a set of affirmations centering on LOVE as the solution to negative outlook, JOY as the opposite of depression. FAITH as the positive counterpart of fear. PEACE as the positive counterpart of anxiety, and HOPE as the opposite of dispair.

Love, joy, peace, faith, and hope are a portion of the Spirit's fruit that I want as a part of my life. The main affirmations I recite to myself are based in these virtues. I am experimenting with "I choose life" and several other statements of faith such as "God has a new plan for my life".

I hope I will one day recover. Until then I will continue to give myself to healthy activities aimed in this direction.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Have you gone Mental (VI)

This round of serious mental illness is not my first. I may have previously mentioned this. I had experienced low grade depression and anxiety beginning in my teens. I was a member of several rock bands and was anxious before, during and after each "gig". It was then that I discovered that crowds bothered me. Paranoia also set in. I had irrational fears that people wanted to hurt me. This I remember from about 1966 to 1970, when my "rock n roll" career came to a close. Garage bands don't last forever.

The next time I felt attacked by severe depession and anxiety was in the mid to late 80's. I had marital difficulties which were exascerbated by my involvement with another woman. I felt this was wrong through my 3-4 year involvement. Depression and anxiety were constant companions from this time on. I have never been without these companions ever since.

Looking back I remember thinking that my depression and anxiety were situational. In fact I lost my family and my occupation (Pastor) in the process. A lot of loss for which I take a great deal of responsibility.

I sought therapy in 1986 for these disorders. It was helpful for to me to use Cognitive Behavioral therapy which would ameliarate the symptoms for awhile. Over time I came to believe the depression was not situational or part of a temporary adjustment disorder, but was endogenous... simply a part of my life.

During this time I was admitted to a mental unit of a local hospital. I stayed four nights. I was constantly depressed and experienced great anxiety participating in group and what I remember as occupational therapy.

When I was discharged, I threw myself into work ...workaholism "they" called it. I continued in therapy as my disorders continued. I had 3 good jobs over 20 years at three different agencies who provided alcohol and drug treatment. AS I did this, I kept many feelings at bay until something didn't go right or I had to stand in front of people, or facililtate a group.

After going to work for a local hospital I, at first, was the director of a Chemical Dependency progam until it shut down in 1997. I then took over the Employee Assistance program. The anxiety of counseling as a part of my job gave me great difficulty. There were times whcn I got so anxious I called the client and told them I couldn't see them because I was "ill". This was true, but not in the traditional sense. I soon took over another department of the hospital which added more anxiety; or I should say, allowed my depression and anxiety to come to the surface with a vengence. A few years into this three-fold job, I began the journey of serious daily anxiety and depression again; although like nothing I had ever experienced. It resulted in a two month medical leave of absence after a 15 year career at this hospital.

I was determined to return to work, to throw myhself back into it as a means of healing. But it was not to be. When I returned on the day scheduled I was called into the director's office and informed my position had been eliminated. I was informed it was a business/financial decision and not "for cause". My file folder full of thank you notes from my director was my assurance.

Although this was a shock, I became numb. My depression and anxiety was severe before this meeting and I knew (although I was in denial on that day) that the disorders continued and I would have been unable to work anyway.

Feeling bad about oneself was not helpful. I felt like a weak, pathetic failure.

Enough (way enough) for now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Have you gone Mental (V)

Some days are diamond, some days are stone
Some times the hard times won't leave me alone
Some times the hard times put a chill in my bones
Some days are diamond, some days are stone. (John Denver)

The words came to me about six months ago. Its an old song, a love song. It is a song that describes the ups and downs of a person who has experienced the loss of love.

I, during this difficult time, have never experienced a loss of love but certainly have experienced the loss of mental health. Diamond days are those days when my anxiety and depression abate for periods of time during the day. The days of stone are those in which my cycle of emotions are decidedly negative and painful. These days are in the majority. Stone? Between a rock and a hard place...

Days of stone are physically painful times. Hard times when my chest is tight, my breathing is rapid, and my stomach is in knots. They are chilly times when even the warmth of the love of friends and family do not provide their warmth in my heart or soul.

But nevertheless, some days are diamond, some days are stone. I love the diamond days. I despise the stone.

Mental illness is like this; especially when it comes on and stays, and stays, and stays (like the in-laws). The depression, then the anxiety. Back to depression and then anxiety may join for the double "whammy" as they say. Does this sound impossible? It is not. Although depression and anxiety seem to be on either end of the teeter-totter; when they meet in the middle, as the teeter-totter seems to be in equal balance, the experience can be very painful and immobilizing. Those of you who have experienced the tag team of depression and anxiety know how this works. Depresson or anxiety can be distressing by themselves. Put the two together and disability results.

I sincerely thank you for your ongoing support, love and prayers,,,

May God bless and heal you.

Have you gone Mental (IV)

As I near the end of my intensive outpatient program, I reflect on my experience. Friends thought my "stay" may be singularly unhelpful and that, with my background, I could teach those topics and faciltate the therapy groups.

Whereas the material IS familiar, I've not been so intensively involved "on the other side of the desk". It is very different going from teacher/therapist a short 8 months ago to patient/client. A wise man once said it is much easier to know and even advise others on how to do their own lives, but is quite troublesome when I need to apply the vital principles to my own life.

The groups of which I am a part, are generally filled with intelligent fellow travelers. We become vulnerable to one another in virtually every group we attend. Among topics processed are "daily check-in"; mindfulness; how to benefit from therapy; depression and anxiety, and harmful personal habits that hinder recovery. The discussions are relevant and robust. I have rarely attended a group in which I have not gained helpful insights and a feelng of close fellowship with those in attendance.

I am grateful for the program I am attending. I truly believe if I were mentally and emotionally healthier I could gain much more from this experience... I guess that quaifies as a "duh. I am working hard to apply the principles and follow the basic practices prescribed by the program.

My lack of significant recovery has little or nothing to do with the intensive outpatient experience. I truly I feel I have been struggling with a serious mental illness that has debilitated me and disabled me to this point. I will continue to
practice recovery principles after I leave the program. I have become committed to them; although not perfectively and not always consistently. Sometimes its a drag being human!

Thank you for reading and for your thoughts and prayers as I continue to reach toward some semblance of recovery. My latest personal affirmation developed in consultaton with my psychologist is, "I choose Life". This is a long way from that
Sunday afternoon when I wanted to badly to choose death.

God bless you all.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Have you gone Mental Ill

As previously mentioned, my first stop following my hospital stay was a partial Hospital Program. Five days, six hours a day, learning to practice a set of ten "basics". These were designed to provide an opportunity to practice the behavior that is recogized by researchers and therapists to move the patient toward healing. I arose each morning in great anxiety that lasted almost until noon each day; no matter what the medication. I made it about four weeks in this valuable program despite my fear of attending due to my ongoing anxiety.

Following my "stay" in the Partial Hospital program, I "graduated" to the IOP (intensive outpatient program). This program was "advanced" in the sense that we were not exposed to basics day in and day out. We've discussed mindfulness, how to benefit from therapy, anger, self defeating behavior, and included daily check-in.
We gather in a circle and discuss these and other topics. Although a 5 days program, I have "progressed" to the point to which I now attend two days each week; this in addition to my psychologist and psychiatrist visits. I sure wish I felt better.

My anxiety and depression continue. It almost seems that when my anxiety is at a a "high" my depressive mood is lower. Conversely when my depession is at a high my anxiety abates. The worse is when they "team up on me" together. My anxiety results in somewhat frenetic behavior. When at home, When anxious I am doing state and Federal paperwork, laundry, cleaning up after the kids and any number of activities. Before my "full blown" illness set in, I was a spend-a-holic, if you will. This has resulted in ongoing financial problems for our family.

When depessed I isolate myself and become very sullen thinking horrible thoughts about myself and my longevity on this earth. This is unpleasant. Major Depession is even more unpleasant than advertized on TV.

NOW? I remain in touch with my support team. I still take walks. I write journal entries. I read over past entries. I develop and recite affirmations. I meditate. I pray. I involve myself in spirital contemplaton. I open up to my wife and other "team" members. My wife and I still go on short outings. I can drive now (improving) short distances and to familiar places. I laugh once in a while. I take my medication regularly and as prescribed.

I am preparing to leave the IOP.I have applied for disability. I plan to continue with my psychologist, psychitrist, and my support team. Healing is a long long process.

More later ... thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Have you gone mental (II).

There are no advantages to what I am going through. One thing I learned was how much friends mean to you in times of trouble. My wife, Janet, was the number one support. She took off work to care for me, she drove me to appointments, took me on outings and did other things she thought would help... so often she was right.

Peter and George called every day to check on and encourage me. Both long time friends were shelters in the time of storm ... those I could count on to bouy me each time I was going down for the third time.

My daughter Erin also called me daily sending her special love and even sent me cards. Her daughter Flannery (my beautiful grandaughter) made a special card that still sits by my chair. It is a get well card that was so wonderful it brought tears to my eyes. Erin has been a strong support.

I've also received cards and e-mails from members of my Rotary Club and my former fellow employees at the hospital.

Others, in one way or another, asked if they could join the team of my supporters (inner circle) and were not invited, not because of any feelings they would not be helpful, or be unable to lend support. Quite the opposite! I now am so thankful for their Facebook postings e-mails, cards, and a book on prayer sent by my dear friends, Brenda and Jim. All lent very positive support.

I felt I had to work through this on my own with very few people since my anxiety kept me from being able to communicate regularly with too many individuals. More and more people are very helpful and I feel a great deal of love for them.

My social circle has widened somewhat. Being in public places and with too many people is very difficult for me. I am grateful for all well-wishes and prayers and give thanks everyday that so many of you are thinking about me and holding me in your thoughts.

In the next blog I will expand on my treatment experience ... read along if you have interest. Thanks to Bob, Toni, Brenda and Jim, Suzanne and Terry, my children, my Mom, and so many more too numerous to name.

(I apologize for any typos and things that don't seem to make sense. I hope I can reconcile them later.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Have you gone mental?

I am not writing this to garner sympathy. I hope to show that my story could be anyone's story who has struggled with mental health diagnoses. I offer this partial story this evening as an attempt to describe what I experience that it may encourage someone else, or atleast show them they are not alone in this "fight".

Round about January 2010 I, emotionally and mentally, stepped on a banana peel. The depression and anxiety I have battled for more than 20 years finally got the best of me.

On the 14th or 15th of January I went on medical leave for two months due to excessive depression and anxiety. The mistake was that I thought two months would complete my healing process! I've never been so wrong. The two conditions attacked me as if they had a mind of their own. Each day I arose I experienced tremendous anxiety that continues in this fashion to this day. The depression? It came to the surface to join the anxiety sometime before noon every single day. I was totally demobilized. I began taking short walks, probably in late February. I walked and thought. and prayed. I developed affirmations and rfead them daily. I also journaled.

My medication was prescribed by a very skillful Psychiatric Nurse Practioner until she realized my case was growing more and more complicated and that I needed the services of a Psychiatrist. I followed her direction and also formed a therapeutic relation with a Psychologist.
I still do not fine tremendous relief from the medications I am taking.

On May 30th I had experienced enough. I decided to take my own life. I made what I thought was a good plan; one that would look like an accident so my family would not lose out on my life insurance. (Stupid I know.) About 9:30 AM (on my way to church) I drove along Marine drive hoping to drive off the road at a high speed looking to drive off one of the higher "cliffs" overlooking the Columbia River. As I neared 75 miles an hour travelling east bound, I was looking to take a quick left off the road and meet my demise. Sunday morning traffic west-bound was extra heavy that morning. Each time I found a good spot, an oncoming car or two would come and was prevented. I wanted to die, but was not willing to take someone out with me.

I got home and confessed my desire and my actions to my wife who immediately called a professional for advice, and was I told I was going to the hospital for evaluation. They kept me for eight days. Lying in bed with a visit from a psychiatrist was not extremely helpful. However my strong suicidal ideation left me by this time. My friends and family were in attendance and gave me great strength and encouragement.

After 8 days I was referred to a local partial hospitalization program .......