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Posts Tagged ‘life change’

Social media is a trip and a half. It’s communication on steroids, broken down into semi-connected fragments – a little like my Gemini brain seems to be. It mirrors my life, in a slightly warped way.

I have six sets of people I keep up with, depending on which era of my life happens to be front and center at the moment. In real life, none of these subgroups actually intersect. My family is now scattered all over the country so my high school classmates have never kept up with them, my church friends definitely don’t know my bar friends, and my former coworkers have no idea how awesome my online colleagues are. But I can keep up with every one of them, separately and together, on Facebook. I can introduce them to each other, or I can use the extra features to keep my communication group-appropriate. I even found out that two of my friends, who I would have never guessed had anything in common, are already friends with each other because they take the same classes in college. It’s a miracle. I didn’t even know I knew 175 people, let alone 175 people who wanted to be friends with me. That’s a self-esteem booster right there.

But how many different ways do we really need to keep in touch with each other? It depends on how you like to be touched. Need to know everything right now? Twitter. Need to express yourself? MySpace. Need to get up close and personal with a whole group of people at once? Facebook. Need to stick to business and work a virtual room? LinkedIn. Need to simply give and get information? Scores of other websites are just falling all over themselves wanting you to become part of their community.

I gotta tell you, this is doing a real number on my ADHD. I can’t tell whether all these social media options are feeding the way my brain flips from one thing to the next, or if they’re just aggravating the condition and making it worse.

Then you have the new social politics. If you have a friend on Facebook, and you don’t follow him on Twitter, does that mean you’re being rude? What if you digg something you just stumbled upon, but you can’t tweet it because your BFF just facebooked it all over your wall? And if you don’t learn to use the word “friend” as a verb, are you really ever going to be socially acceptable? 

I have to learn to keep all this straight someday… No, seriously. It’s going to make my head spin until I figure out how to put the puzzle together. The prize is that the spinning stops, the headache goes away, and I end up pointed in the right direction. Wish me luck! I’m going to need it. 

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This is the best news story I’ve read today! http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649732.html

Can you imagine the guilt on the mind of the staffer who lets the President bum a cigarette, knowing full well that the President is trying to quit? Somehow I just can’t picture anyone saying, “Sorry, sir, you need to tough it out today.”

Tough it out…isn’t that what quitting smoking is like, though? You have this confidence surge every time you resist the temptation, because it’s hard to put the pack down and you know it. If you can resist for a while, you start feeling tough. You start telling yourself, “If I can get through this, I can get through anything.”

But it’s a fight. It’s a constant battle between your lungs and your brain. If you want to quit but it hasn’t happened, your brain says, “I must not be ready to quit.” If you want to quit and it has just happened, you’re fighting the crabbiness and the agitation, and you’re about three steps away from making it all stop by simply having another cigarette. If you don’t want to quit but you’re being hassled about it, your brain says, “It’s my life.” Meanwhile, your lungs are on fire and you’re in denial about it. But on some level, you know that your time is about up if you ever lose your lungs.

I’ve quit smoking three times, and each time I only stopped smoking when the stress in my life eased up on me. I had a hard time being without a cigarette in my mouth when life wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

Can you imagine trying to go through that as the leader of the free world? I would be lighting up every time I spoke to the Republicans in Congress. I would bring my own carton to a weekend summit of world leaders. I would be frantically signalling staffers to get me an ashtray every time a call came in on that little red emergency phone.

Barack Obama has been going through something similar for at least the past nine months, all while he was functioning in one of the toughest jobs in the world.

If reports of your quitting aren’t greatly exaggerated, Mr. President, congratulations for doing something positive for your health and trying to tough it out. If you can handle this, you can handle anything.

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There’s this big puzzle I’ve been trying to figure out for years, and it’s my brain. I have to catch up with what’s going on in the mental health world, or I feel like that puzzle is never going to get solved. And the more my mood swings grumble at me, the more I go into hypomanic detective mode.

So I ran across this article in NIMH’s Science News section. I love this part of their website. I remember when I was a kid – and this was before we even had a color TV – I learned that doctors did research, and I always wondered what they were discovering. Always did like watching PBS more than the Perils of Penelope Pitstop. After I got older, I forgot all about that show…until I got cable TV and found a whole channel devoted to old TV cartoons. Rooby-Roo!!

Okay…focus…

Results of the Study

The researchers found that nearly 40 percent of those identified as having major depression also had symptoms of subthreshold hypomania (mania that lasts less than four days at a time). Compared to those with major depression alone, those with depression plus subthreshold hypomania tended to be younger at age of onset and to have had more coexisting health problems, more episodes of depression and more suicide attempts.

I could have told them that. No, really.

I think the reason I was so interested in what the doctors were discovering is because I knew I was a little off and I wished I knew why. I spent many of my pre-teen and teenage years trying to compensate in various ways for feeling so blue, and usually overdoing it. Then I would go back to withdrawing from the world because in the process of overcompensating, I had usually done something to embarrass myself. The cycle got a little more amplified over time until my late teens, by which time the ups and downs and my inability to deal with them had become painfully obvious.

The more I think about it, the more I remember being sick, too. Looking back, I think it was partly from flipping between being sedentary and being agitated. There were headaches and allergies and upset stomachs – and I remember feeling a lot better when I discovered that four Tylenol were better than two. The MDs didn’t help much. I got diagnosed with nonspecific this or that all the time in my late teens and early 20s. That was before I saw a psychiatrist and life started to make so much more sense.

Of course you’re going to get sick when your body is being unstable. We’ve always heard that it’s so important for us to take care of ourselves and be firm about giving ourselves and our kids healthy foods and a stable environment. I think we’re just now discovering the full effect of WHY we should do that. I guess the researchers can’t just take people’s word for it, though.

Can we get away from the old “because I said so” script from childhood and start being honest about the fact that mental health and physical health are intertwined in real life?

I’m talking to the people who have trouble with everyday struggles, not to the people in strait jackets. It takes practice to watch the ups and downs and to notice when the coping skills are crumbling. It takes a lot of discipline to put your foot down with yourself or your kids when you notice the subthreshold hypomania is trading jabs with the depression and something’s got to give. Find a good doctor and stay on top of your health before you end up in a corner staring at cartoons and hating life.

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1-800-273-TALK. Call this number if you are thinking that it’s time to end it all. Why? You might appreciate it later when you’re in a better frame of mind. It might help you understand that there are people out there that really do care. It might help you see that those thoughts might be just a symptom of something bigger that’s messing up your mind. If that’s all it is, wouldn’t you want to find out what’s wrong so you can get back to the life you really want to live?

There are more and more studies being done to understand how big of a problem this really is in our country. Here are just some of the highlights:

http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/66/4/398

Most suicides committed by males age 18-24 had psych problems at age 8.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2009/black-teens-especially-girls-at-high-risk-for-suicide-attempts.shtml

Female black teens are at risk for suicide, even if they have never been diagnosed with a mental illness.

http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/165/suicide.cfm

Around one percent of adult Americans planned to commit suicide last year, and half of those actually tried it. A little under four percent of adult Americans admitted to thinking about it, and that number almost doubled when they looked at just those between 18 and 25 years old. How many of us aren’t even admitting that we think about this?

Call 1-800-273-TALK. I’ll bet they’ll help even if you’re just worried about someone that is close to you. Pull the old “my friend has this problem” if you need to. Just talk about it with someone who deals with this stuff all the time, and try to find out if there’s something bigger going on that’s making it easier to think that way. You might be surprised at the change it makes in your mood and your motivation to move forward.

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Is it ever appropriate to write the sentence “You need me!” in a cover letter?

What do you say when you’re sending out your 400th resume of the month and you realize that your cover letter has to stand out among 4,000 others? Which line from the job search handbook actually works in real life? Successful job seekers? Hiring managers? Anyone?

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One of the best lessons I ever learned was about the need for balance.  Mentally, emotionally, physically, whatever balance means to you – just not getting buried in one single thought or action so intensely that you lose the big picture.

I have a very interesting former pastor to thank for that one.  He’d say things like, “You can’t teach a pig to sing.  It won’t work, and you’ll just piss off the pig.”  Well, it didn’t go exactly like that, but that’s selective memory for you.  Some of my readers are friends who will remember this guy.  He was a very practical, back-to-basics person, but his main lesson for us was about balance.

It’s interesting that I started to listen to him and think about that before I was diagnosed.  He actually helped me deal with a condition that he probably doesn’t believe is even real.

Being manic-depressive, I bounce.  There isn’t another good way to put that.  The medication has curbed the extremes, but I still have so many interests crowding my head and ongoing projects that it doesn’t occur to me that I should put any of them down.  Once I get in the middle of something, though, I’ll tend to plow ahead and forget about everything else – food, sleep, appointments, deadlines for other projects.  Interruptions break the flow, and I have to work too hard to get my head back into it later.  Balance is in a galaxy far, far away.

I see imbalance in other people’s lives, though, and they’re probably not bipolar in the least.  People get so wrapped up in their jobs that their family life suffers.  Others get so wrapped up in their social lives that their professional life or their education suffers.  Maybe these are the types of people who really do need to see a doctor – I don’t know.

In my world, when I can catch myself when I’m off, it’s easier to flow.  I am learning how to be politically correct when my instinct is to say, “Screw the priorities.  I have to do this.”  Not want to – have to.  I’m fighting both flightiness and obsession.  It’s ridiculous.

If I’m fighting myself, and I’m winning, what exactly does that mean?  I like this message that I saw on a t-shirt:

“I have gone to look for myself.  If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait.”

Meditation is very cool when you’re fighting yourself.  My new mantra is “Balance…family…work…health…outgoing concern…balance…family…work…health…George Clooney…balance…”  Oops…don’t know how that snuck in there.  Okay, he’s hot, but he does try to get involved and speak out when he sees something avoidably counterproductive going on, though.  I like that, don’t you?

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I have to say that I’m impressed.  Brand new to blogging, I’ve done a little surfing lately and found little mini-communities sprouting all over the place.  What hits me the most is how many people fighting in the trenches of the mental health system are using this type of forum to connect with others like themselves.  Those of us who like to write can spout off, share information, and encourage the others with funny stories and empathy.  Those of us who like to write and happen to be having an off-day can poke around and learn from everyone else.  It’s like therapy without all the bills.

Speaking of therapy bills, I have a couple of people I’d like to send my bills to…

It’s amazing to look at all the different types of people reading and posting about mental health.  Concerned professionals write about their experiences and their patients.  Patients write about their experiences and the mental health professionals they work with.  (These two groups had better be keeping in touch with each other – I love the “You don’t know what it’s like!!!” posts.)  Then there are the people who are simply trying to come to terms with whatever oddities they find between their ears.

I like the posts from people who are trying to encourage the rest of the world to understand the complexities of mental health and not lump us all into the “too weird to give a crap” basket.  What we have now is sort of a huge identity crisis.  Seriously – we label someone mentally ill if they’re hospitalized with next to no cognizance of reality, and we give the next guy the same label when he just gets overly excited once in a while.  Some of us are still not sure what to do with the bored housewives who go out and do something completely out of character, except maybe give them a reality show.  Really, the weird thing is that we apply the same term to so many different people.

I’m on anyone’s team who decides to attack the stigma surrounding mental illness.  There has to be a way to make it less of a fright or a scandal when we meet someone who has a problem with their brain.  I know – it’s hard to know how to react to people who are different.  Some people are scary, and some people aren’t.  Some people are fine with medication, and some people are hard to treat because there are other physical problems in the mix.  Let’s start with a little unconditional respect and see where that gets us.

If you have issues, find others who are in the same boat, even if it’s only online.  Keep in touch with each other.  Share stuff about how you deal with mental health.  You never know when you’re going to touch someone and help their off-day from getting worse.

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