Posted on

I Missed Suicide Prevention Week

I missed the national suicide prevention week, which ended on September 15, but this whole month is suicide prevention month I think. I feel like I needed to say something on this topic given that I have lost a few friends to suicide, and given my own history of suicide attempts. I am grateful for all of the efforts of support for suicide prevention and awareness from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walks and events and all other local efforts in between. To be honest, though, I don’t have any kind of big statement to make on the subject. I don’t think I will ever be finished dealing with being in a place where being dead felt like a better option than being alive. I still don’t feel like I’m ever going to feel safe from finding myself back in that place again.

I believe it is important to raise awareness of how sadly frequent suicide and near-suicide is among people who can outwardly appear normal and functional. People often cannot let on that they are struggling so deeply because they’ve been trained not to. We get rewarded for pushing through, denying our feelings, pushing our own self care to the back burner. So it’s important to spread an understanding that people can appear happy but also be struggling.

Then some of us don’t appear happy when we’re struggling. We cry a lot, sleep a lot, eat a lot, withdraw from things that make us happy, stop talking to the people who love us, and find ourselves trapped in a prison where the black depression is all we can see and feel. We believe it’s the only thing we will feel if we stay alive, so our only productive option is…

I’m about a third of the way into TMS treatment and I am in the “gets worse” part of the “it gets worse before it gets better” warning. I am in a severe depression downswing, and I’m afraid to believe that these treatments will make me feel better in case they don’t. So far it feels like I’ve gotten worse, and even though I was fully warned that this may happen, it doesn’t help me feel any better. It feels like I’ve found myself here close to the bottom again after I’ve tried meds, exercise, vitamins, more meds, therapy, diet changes, self care including the ubiquitous mani pedis and bubble baths that everyone seems so quick to prescribe, and now TMS treatment. So why am I still trying things?

I am not suicidal, I am just in a bad place mentally and emotionally. Still, this is why we need more awareness of how serious mental illness can be so that one day people can feel safe getting help before we reach rock bottom. I’m not at rock bottom, but I think if I wasn’t getting the psychiatric professional help that I have now I’d be a lot closer.

Posted on

Religion is Not Medical Advice

Christianity is everywhere. (That’s right, I’m writing a post about religion, but probably not the kind of post you’re thinking of.) Maybe because I live in southern USA, Christianity seems to be more prevalent than Starbucks or any other religion. If I lived in China I’d probably be making the same overly obvious observation about Buddhism. There are very few places that I can go here in Texas and not see a Bible verse on the wall or overhear someone talking about their Bible study. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and the purpose of this post is not to bash a religion. I am tolerant of all beliefs, maybe with the exception of believing that Five Fingered Death Punch is music, or that Justin Bieber is an artist. But there are definitely some situations where there needs to be a clear boundary between religion and professionalism.

The mental health care field has largely failed to recognize this boundary, though they are trying. One thing that bothers me about Christians in a very broad and general term, in contrast to other religious people is that Christians out in the wild tend to assume that everyone else believes the same things they do. Now this is important, I don’t mind when someone tells me they are praying for me. That is something personal that they are giving me because they care about me, and I appreciate it very much. What I don’t appreciate is yesterday being told by a therapist, whom I’m seeing to help me cope with a difficult situation in my life, that all I can do is pray for things to get better.

This is not professional advice. This is not teaching me coping strategies. Why would they assume that I’m even a person who prays? What if I don’t believe in prayer? Then you’ve basically just told me I’m fucked. Now, I understand this is probably not the therapist for me and I should just find someone else that will talk to me on a more professional and scientific level, which is what I need. But this is not an isolated incident. I’ve been quoted Bible verses, I’ve been told to pray, I’ve been told that with God all things are possible and that he won’t give me more than I can handle, and I’ve been told that my bipolar disorder can be healed if I work on my relationship with Jesus. All this with total disregard for the possibility that not only do I have different beliefs, but religion might just be a trigger for me. How is this supposed to help my mental illness caused by chemical imbalances in my brain?

I’ve never had any other health professional say anything like that to me.
“Oh, you have a urinary tract infection? I have some antibiotics, but instead let’s sing hymns until it goes away, and by the way this isn’t optional.”
“X-rays confirmed that your finger is broken. Let us pray.”
I think it’s because there is still so much unknown about mental illness, and we don’t like saying “I don’t know what to do.” God is another unknown, so we explain the unknown with the unknown. We don’t know why medications work or don’t work. We don’t know enough about the roots of mental illnesses to be able to treat them specifically. We’ve come a hell of a long way in the last century, and we’re continuing to learn more and more every day. But I’m just going to come out and say it: religion is not a mental illness treatment.

It helps a lot of people, and that’s great. I believe that people need to practice and believe what makes them feel whole as a person, and do what gets them through the day in their private lives. But religion is not medical advice. Mental illness is a medical condition. I don’t want my mental health professionals telling me, or even implying that my treatment would be more effective if I practiced a specific belief. This is an option, sure, and it helps some people. But like any treatment, (religion is not a treatment goddammit) what works for one person might not work for another.

So please, please stop making the practice of Christianity seem like it’s not optional. Please stop assuming we share the same beliefs when you know nothing about me. Please stop assuming that I’m going to share my beliefs with you at all. Please just treat me for my medical condition. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” I accept that. I just want to feel better.

Posted on

More TMS Updates

I’m coming to you from a stationary bike again while fully engaging my core. I’ve been gym-ing like a motherfucker the past 2 weeks and I’ve lost four pounds. Seven if I’m picking my favorite weight, but four if you I’m picking the accurate one. I’m exceedingly proud of myself. That’s something good that’s happened in an emotional roller coaster of a week. My TMS treatments have been part of the roller coaster, not just because moods can and probably get worse before they get better, but because there ended up being a doctor mandated pause in my treatment.

I’ve been getting treatments on the left side of my brain for depression. On the days of the treatments though I was getting panic attack level anxiety and lost my ability to sleep. The doctor determined this was more than just a side effect of the procedure and had me stop altogether for a few days. I didn’t know what this meant for the long run at first, but I did notice my anxiety improving on the days off.

When I went back the following week I was surprised to find out that they were switching the treatments to the right side of my brain, otherwise known as the anxiety side. They determined that they were over stimulating my left side and it was time to underestimate. Since they told me that this side wasn’t covered by insurance I was worried, but they took care of it for me and I don’t have to pay extra. So I’ve had one day of anxiety TMS and afterward I did not have anxiety. It was the first time in so long that I’ve felt the almost absence of anxiety I felt like I had taken Xanax. It felt a lot like peace.

For the long weekend I didn’t have treatment and I’m back to an uncomfortable mixture of depression and panic attack level anxiety. Roller coaster. (By the way, a woman just sat down on the bike right next to mine. The cardio machines are practically empty and she chose the closest one to me. There should always be a one bike buffer zone whenever possible. I have personal space issues! Move!) So I have my next anxiety treatment later today, and even though I’ve already had one I don’t really know what to expect. Should I expect the same subdued effect I felt after the first one? Can I expect to feel that all the time long term? What about my depression? Since we’re not treating that side anymore is my depression going to improve at all? Am I going to feel any worse before I feel better?

Roller coaster.

Fortunately I don’t run away from challenges and I know that whatever happens, with this or anything else, I will be fine. I may be cranky, but I will be fine.