Posts Tagged mental health
I Really Didn’t Think This Through by Beth Evans. William Morrow| May 2018| 172 pages | $14.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-279606-6
Like many others, I discovered Beth Evans on Instagram. The millennial has a quarter of a million followers and posts cartoons about mental health and navigating adulthood. In this book, Evans writes about her struggles with depression, anxiety and OCD and intersperses comics throughout. It’s amusing and touching and honest. She delves into her experiences with bullying, self-harm, dating and how she manages her anxiety while maintaining a bit of a social life. She shares what happened when she first realized she might have depression. She reminds readers to practice self-love and self-care and to ask for help if you need help. With stigmas surrounding mental illness, it’s crucial that people keep sharing their experiences. In her comics and through her words, people will realize that they’re not alone and perhaps find some solace in similar experiences. People may also realize that it’s okay to struggle with mental illness and it’s okay to not have it all figured out. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this is a perfect reminder to take care of yourself.
“For those unfamiliar with anxiety attacks, it’s kind of like being shoved off a ledge without being able to scream. It’s a silent takeover during which your body decides what’s going to happen, and all logic is tossed aside. What makes it even more challenging is that it sometimes happens in public. Then, not only do you have to figure out how to take care of yourself, but you have to try not to alarm those around you.”
“Anxiety is a powerful thing, and when it decides to strike, it can take many different, often demoralizing forms. Suddenly the only thing you can focus on is the absolute, fundamental sense of dread and upset storming inside you. When I’m anxious, I become obsessed with keeping everyone around me calm. It’s almost like the minute I start to feel bad, I need to focus on someone else instead of on what’s happening to me.”
Taking it one day at a time:
“And sometimes that’s all we can really hope for—the feeling of staying afloat. When things really suck, staying afloat seems pretty good. Sometimes it’s okay to celebrate just being here, because that in itself is an accomplishment. Some days I’m just going about my business, like walking around Target, and I’ll think, How on earth did I pick up all these broken shards and function like a normal person today?”
“Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that self-love has to be thinking we’re great 100 percent of the time. Often it’s something much less exciting, like treating ourselves with respect or holding our brains back a bit when we want to attack ourselves. In a world where we’re taught to be one kind of perfect or another, something seeing beauty in the imperfection is the best thing we can do.”
Recognizing that perfection is impossible:
“I think one of the hardest sentiment to wrap by head around is that I’m an all right human being. So often my brain screams that I’m the worst of the worst, and I constantly judge myself for past interactions and failures. I also need constant reassurances form those around me that I’m not a horrible person, which, honestly, is grating for everyone around involved.”
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from William Morrow.
A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives by Kelly Brogan, MD. Harper Wave| March 2016| 352 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 9780062405579
“We are engaged in lifestyles that are not compatible with what our genome has evolved over millions of years to expect. We eat a poor diet, harbor too much stress, lack sufficient physical movement, deprive ourselves of natural sunlight, expose ourselves to environmental toxicants, and take too many pharmaceuticals.”
My psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital recommended this book. A colleague recommended it to her. At my last visit she still hadn’t read it so we couldn’t discuss it. However we have discussed the mind-body connection; that I do not want to be dependent on Klonipin or my current SSRI [I am tapering off Lexapro]; that I believe in homeopathic treatments and see an acupuncturist; that I do yoga and I am a vegan. Going into this book I felt I was doing lots of things right but I still am miserable and low functioning. I don’t take a lot of medications outside my daily psychiatric meds, vitamins and supplements. I listen to my body. I feel fairly connected. My psychiatrist said that there’s a disconnect between my level of education and my level of function. That’s not easy to hear. But I know that it’s likely the truth as I cannot find work and struggle to get paid for anything at which I feel I excel. Writing reviews for example.
This book isn’t without controversy. For one thing Kelly Brogan, MD is an anti-vaxxer. I’ve worked as a healthcare professional and get my flu shot every year and have done so for the past decade or longer. Dr. Brogan believes that mental illness is not a chemical imbalance but a symptom of imbalance in our body. It is NOT a disease. I only recently started thinking that mental illness was a disease and a disability because I attended DBSA Boston meetings and that’s what the majority of people at DBSA and NAMI believe. Many receive SSDI.
Dr. Brogan writes: “Depression is merely a symptom, a sign that something is off balance or ill in the body that needs to be remedied.” This is much more complicated to both comprehend and accept. For how many years have we been told that we have some sort of chemical imbalance in our brains and with the right medication we might be able to stabilize it? She adds: “[sic] there has never been a human study that successfully links low serotonin levels and depression. Imaging studies, blood and urine tests, post-mortem suicide assessments, and even animal research have never validated the link between neurotransmitter levels and depression. In other words, the serotonin theory of depression is a total myth that has been unjustly supported by the manipulation of data.”
She also states something that’s way easier to understand: “So many patients today who are being shepherded into the psychiatric medication mill are overdiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or mistreated.” If you are like me, you’ve been to quite a few psychiatrists who churn out the prescriptions – one pill to wake you up, one pill to make you sleep, one to calm you down. And for some people they can handle side-effects such as weight gain and cognitive impairment. Some even seem resigned that they will always have that extra weight because they will always be on medication. Then there are the psychiatrists who speak to you for two minutes and give you an out-of-left-field diagnosis. That’s their interpretation of the symptoms with which you present combined with your lifestyle. You could likely get a different diagnosis depending where you go and who you see. I speak from experience. Brogan explains that over time antidepressants lose their efficacy and can result in chronic and treatment-resistant depression. Instead of helping us, medications make us feel worse. Of course Big Pharma controls the medical industry. It’s all well and good to want to be treated holistically but few insurances cover that. A script for another drug? Absolutely. Transmagnetic Stimulation [TMS], acupuncture, light therapy and cranial stimulation? Not so fast. What’s in it for Big Pharma? How can pharmaceutical companies make money? That’s the bottom line.
What can you do? Dr. Brogan focuses on diet, exercise, sleep, eliminating environmental toxins and meditation. If you’ve read Moody Bitches by Julie Holland, M.D. and/or Your Health Destiny by Eva Selhub, M.D. [which I HIGHLY recommend] this is somewhat familiar territory. Everybody knows that we feel better after a great workout, a good night’s sleep or a big salad. Dr. Brogan believes that inflammation causes depression symptoms and to get rid of inflammation you should eliminate gluten, dairy, GMOs, artificial sugars, NSAIDs and antibiotics. She’s also not a fan of birth control, statins, acid-reflux medications, fluoride and vaccines. Take what you choose from this book. There are definitely some thoughtful and useful tips and explanations. Embracing the mind-body connection remains the best treatment. Of course when you’re completely unmotivated, anxiety-ridden or too tired to move it’s tough to hit the gym and make yourself a healthy meal.
In one chapter, Dr. Brogan explains the importance of quality food to fuel the body. She suggests not eating processed food and to eat whole foods. So consuming products with fewer ingredients and eating more produce, legumes and grains will make you feel much better. In another chapter Dr. Brogan explains the importance of meditation, sleep and exercise. On lack of sleep, she writes: “Otherwise balanced, rational women are rendered near psychotic by the trauma of insomnia and disrupted sleep cycles. Their bodies and minds have “forgotten” how to do it. It turns out that one of the many poorly elucidated lasting effects of antidepressants is their interference with normal sleep patterns.” There’s an entire chapter focused on detoxifying our environment. She discussed everything from tap water to cell phones to cleaning products to dust. Admittedly some of what she claims to do seems unrealistic for many. Who is dusting every single day or using a body brush four times a day (to stimulate the lymphatic system)? In the chapter on tests and supplements, Dr. Brogan suggests certain tests such as thyroid functioning, MTHFR (methylation), and various vitamin levels. To my psychiatrist’s credit [I switched to MGH Psychiatry for a reason], the phlebotomist withdrew about eight vials of blood so I could be tested for a bevy of things including MTHFR. As for supplements, Brogan writes: “Magnesium, zinc, iodine, and selenium are essential to the body’s functionality.” You can read details about these supplements as well as many others. And yes, that can get expensive and insurance does not yet cover supplements. In summation, much of your mental and physical health remains in your control. You need to ask questions, conduct research and remain vigilant. Listen to your body.
Before she received her MD from Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr. Kelly Brogan earned a B.S. in cognitive neuroscience at MIT. She’s board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine and integrative holistic medicine. This book contains a plentitude of valuable information which may or may not be successful for you and your mental illness. I take zinc, magnesium and a multi-vitamin but may consider adding other supplements. I also want to try to go gluten-free although I adore toast! Mental health might be that element I can control in order to realize my goals.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.
<em> F*ck Feelings: One shrink’s practical advice for managing all life’s impossible problems</em> By Michael I. Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett. Simon & Schuster| September 2015| 370 pages | $19.99| ISBN: 978-1-47679-0015
It is what it is. Don’t worry, be happy. Go with the flow. Life sucks and then you die. You can’t always get what you want (but if you try sometimes you might get what you need). Let it go. These might be cliches but they’re all truisms about how challenging, unpredictable and unjust life can be and that sometimes we need to just accept the bad to be able to conserve energy to embrace the good.
“F*ck Feekings explains that, in most cases, you have not failed and do not need to try harder or wait longer for improvement to begin; instead, you need to accept that life is hard and your frustrated efforts are a valuable guide to identifying what you can’t change.”
Turns out that emotions are just that. Mindfulness is a good thing. You can only tweak and improve yourself and what makes you happy. You can’t change or influence those around you. Shit happens and the best you can do is keep your mind and body healthy and sometimes just stay quiet when you don’t want to or just go with something as uncomfortable as it may be at that moment.
Through chapters on self-improvement, self-esteem, fairness, helpfulness, serenity, love, communication, parenthood, assholes and treatment, Dr. Michael Bennett and his comedy writer daughter Sarah Bennett approach these topics using honesty, humor and sensible solutions. They provide examples. They list what you want and can’t have, what you can actually aim to achieve and how to get it done. Quite useful tips. This is the most refreshing and useful self-help book I’ve read in some time.
“Instead of trying to figure out your problem, use your best tools for managing it, be they finding a rehab program, an organizational coach, or a group of girlfriends whose opinions on jerks you trust.”
“So while it’s certainly worthwhile to try to develop your talents and seek fulfillment, it’s dangerous to say you should be able to make it happen and thus make yourself responsible for producing a solution you don’t control.
“Instead accept the fact that sometimes you can’t and won’t feel good about yourself. That’s no reason, however, for stopping yourself from doing good things and writing off your feelings of low self-esteem as an unimportant by-product of a hard life, perfectionism, or subpar personal equipment.”
“Unfortunately, some people don’t recover from loss, even when they get lots of support and work hard to move on. It may be that loss triggers an innate vulnerability to depression, their personalities are unusually loss-sensitive, or they lack the ability to control destructive impulses. Again, it sounds sappy, but not every broken bone or heart is guaranteed to mend.”
“Again and again, you have to face the fact that someone you love can’t love you back, or you can’t find someone to love when that’s what you want and need. Failed love almost always feels like a personal failure… If you’re extra careful and selective about loving and being loved, you’ll probably find yourself spending more time feeling lonely.”
“Unfortunately, however, many problems do not, in actuality, represent a failure to communicate. Rather, they arise from differences in character, culture, or values, and communicating these differences is a bad way to bridge gaps and a good way to cause disagreements.”
Michael Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett will be at Brookline Booksmith on Tuesday, September 29 at 7pm.
sometimes I’m like this:
sometimes I’m like this:
occasionally I’m like this:
I have clinical depression, anxiety and an unspecified mood disorder. the stigma surrounding mental illness astounds me. I’ve never gone off my meds and have always been under the care of both a psychiatrist and a therapist since I was diagnosed at age 27. Currently I’m part of an extensive year-long mentalization program at McLean Hospital. It’s challenging to be mentalizing when I can’t afford anything, I have no career and therefore not engaging in interpersonal relationships as one would in her 40s. Also most of the time I feel McLean doesn’t fucking care about Amy Steele, her mental health and general well-being. I’m just a fucking number. I’m not a person with feelings and emotions and goals.
I’m really stuck. I’ve been looking for work for years. A friendship ended badly several years ago and I’ve been cyber-harassed for four years. I’m tired all the time yet I also have severe insomnia. I can have days (or nights) where I’m extremely sad or unmotivated. I’m insecure but I also think I’m rather cool. I think about killing myself often. I’m just not as professionally and personally successful and satisfied as I thought I would be by this time.
Every day I take several medications. I will always have to take those medications. In addition I exercise for my mind and body and I have cut way down on sugar intake. Two years ago I cut out diet soda and although I didn’t drink it in massive amounts I feel better.
Depression means keeping a mood journal. It means being kind to yourself. It means lots of self-care and not having as many expectations for oneself as you may have had. It doesn’t mean I’m lying about in bed all day and night. I have goals and aspirations. I do a lot but some days I get extremely tired both physically and mentally. And that’s okay.
I’ve had a few hospitalizations– very brief stays– that didn’t lead to much change in my care. After one major breakdown four years ago I changed psychiatrists and meds, I took CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and completed a partial program. One year ago, at this time, I was in the hospital for a week where I was ignored, lost five pounds and then at my insistence got into a program at McLean Hospital (my psychiatrist had to call them but I had a psychiatrist who was a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital). After the partial at McLean in April, I was recommended for the Mentalization program and took a six-week introductory course. In August I started the year-long program which consists of weekly individual therapy and group therapy. Not sure what’s going on in the program and feel as much of a misfit and as judged as I do anywhere else.
Don’t call the police on someone who is depressed. The police are not trained to deal with the mentally ill. If someone says “hey I’m lying here with a bag over my head and I’m about to duct tape it” or “I just swallowed 200 pills” then yes, call 911. Otherwise, call that person directly and suggest a chat or meeting over tea. It’s much more useful and shows empathy.
FACTS about DEPRESSION:
–major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3
–affects 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
— the median age at onset is 32.5
–Women are 2 times as likely to suffer from depression than men.
–20 million people in the United States suffer from depression every year.
— Many creative individuals experienced depression, including Ludwig van Beethoven, John Lennon, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.
–Mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18 to 44.
Finding Peace Amid the Chaos by Tanya Brown. Publisher: LangMarc Publishing (March 2014). Nonfiction. Memoir. paperback. 248 pages. ISBN 978-1-880292-49-5.
“As I eyed the pills, the significant losses in my life that brought me to that rock-bottom pit clicked on, playing slowly and nostalgically in my mind like an old, crackling silent film. I could see Nicole’s beautiful shining face smiling at me, but that was immediately wiped out by the blood at the crime scene, the funeral, the tabloids, the helicopters hovering over our home.”
Part-memoir, part self-help book, Tanya Brown chronicles her mental breakdown a decade after her sister Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder. It’s been 20 years this week since Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder and the OJ Simpson white SUV chase broadcast on CNN. Tanya (at least a decade younger than Nicole) internalized her pain and mental illness until she had a major outburst and took too many pills. I’m not fond of the book’s subtitle: My Escape from Depression and Suicide. There’s really no escape. It takes maintenance, patience and hard work when you have depression or another mental illness.
There’s a reason for the stigma associated with depression and mental illness. There IS no cure. Instead one learns tools to cope, tools to interact with others and tools to survive. Medication may or may not play a part in one’s stability. As someone who personally struggles with depression, I can relate in many ways to Brown. She initially says that she’s not addressing OJ in this book but then spends quite a bit of time on OJ or the trial and her thoughts on him. How can she avoid it? Now a life coach, Brown utilizes the book’s second half to provide tips for others. Clearly Brown studied psychology. She provides exceptional definitions of key psychiatric terms such as breakdown point, meditation and triggers.
Brown’s useful tools to maintain one’s mental health and ideally prevent further issues are worth reading. Anyone who’s been in a partial program or behavioral health program will recognize them. She suggests scheduling everything down to the smallest thing and checking each task off as you accomplish it. She reminds us to remain present. Mindfulness is a key concept for depression. Remain in today, in the now and don’t focus your attentions on the bad events in your past. Brown implores people to break away from negatives, express feelings [avoid the bottle up that could lead to a blow-out and breakdown], commend yourself, pay attention to nutrition and be sure to exercise. She also addresses identifying and managing your thoughts via a mood journal or daily journaling. All these tips take time to work in to your lifestyle. Brown shares some of her methods with readers. For example she avoids driving with the radio on and takes nearly daily walks with her mom. In the epilogue she provides contact information to book her as a speaker or to hire her as a life coach (a bit unusual for a memoir). Worth reading although a bit rough around the edges despite being written with a co-writer.
On the breaking point:
“Each of us has a mental breaking point. It’s that undignified moment caused by the overwhelming stress and aggravation of a volatile situation, when we finally wreak emotional havoc on those around us.”
On holding her feelings in:
“I, on the other hand, bottled up everything, kept my opinions to myself, and stayed in the background as I felt everybody wanted me to do. I worried more about pretending to be happy instead of taking care of me. Our polar opposite ways of dealing with the loss of Nicole eventually came to a head.”
Advice from Nicole:
“Delete the need to understand. We don’t need to understand everything. Some things just are.”
“Meditation, misunderstood by many who don’t do it, can be sitting in silence, meditating on scripture, doing yoga, listening to a guided imagery CD, or doing some deep breathing. It is something you do by yourself that puts you in a state of calmness, a space of solitude and peace. It’s a place where answers come to you because your mind is still, quiet, and calm. It’s a surefire way to shut out the technological distractions of the world and focus.”
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from LangMarc Publishing.
purchase at Amazon: Finding Peace Amid the Chaos: My Escape from Depression and Suicide
Last year executive producer Jennifer Aniston and Lifetime started the FIVE film project which brought five female directors together to direct five short films about domestic violence. This year the focus switches to mental illness with films about bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia and how the illnesses affect friends, family, partners and careers. Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Bonnie Hunt, Ashley Judd and Sharon Maguire direct the films.
Brittany Snow plays Lucy, a schizophrenic, in three of the films. In this film she suffers a breakdown during law school as she goes off her meds. She’s institutionalized and meets and befriends Bruce [Jason Ritter]. They spent quite a bit of time in group therapy and walking around on the grounds of this really nice rehab facility. Lucy’s quite shook up and doubtful about her intended career as a lawyer due to her mental health. A psychotherapist [Academy-award winner Octavia Spencer] convinces her to use her illness to her advantage. Snow’s quite talented. Very impressive and emotive in this role. Not too theatrical or flat. She’s just right. Truly convincing.
With a single mom, played by the venerable Melissa Leo, suffering from bipolar disorder her teenaged daughter [Sarah Hyland] must effectively become the parent. When her mom endures manic and depressive episodes, she hides them from her friends as it’s difficult to explain and embarrassing as a teenager to have an abnormal mom. One afternoon her mom takes her friends on a shopping spree and Grace witnesses her becoming frighteningly unhinged. Hyland and Leo have a strong connection. Director Laura Dern captures the manic and depressive episodes quite well with colors and camera movement.
When Lucy [Snow] returns home it’s to the dismay of her younger sister Allison [Sofia Vassilieva] who brought her boyfriend to meet her parents and never expected to see her sister who she considers unstable. She’s not very understanding or supportive to Lucy. Finally she says, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m afraid of becoming you.” It turns out that Allison’s been worried that she’d develop schizophrenia just like Lucy.
Eddie [Mitch Rouse] is a comedian with depression. How could that be possible? He’s married and has plenty of friends too. Depression isn’t about one’s environmental situation. It’s about brain chemistry. Eddie’s in such despair and pain that he’s contemplating suicide. He’s become much darker than usual. Only his wife [Lea Thompson] recognizes this about him though.
Ashley Judd directs Jennifer Hudson as a soldier returning home after repeatedly being raped by her superior officer. She’s suffering from PTSD and ends up having her son taken away from her. Lucy is back and she’s representing Maggie. When Maggie isn’t too keen on it being Lucy’s first case Lucy explains that she understands what it’s like for others not to understand about her mental health. Lucy says: “I have seen thousands of spiders running up my best friend’s face.”
There’s such a strong stigma regarding mental illness that makes it difficult for people to honestly discuss. Anyone who has a mental illness or knows someone with a mental illness will understand and recognize the struggles faced by those in the films. There’s constant maintenance and vigilance. It takes a support system and perseverance. For someone who doesn’t know someone with mental illness perhaps these short films will dispel some misconceptions.
CALL ME CRAZY airs SATURDAY, APRIL 20 on LIFETIME at 8 PM ET/PST
My name is Amy Steele.
I am a journalist, a nonprofit writer, a volunteer, a vegan, a medical assistant, a feminist, a compassionate individual.
I have major depression, anxiety and non-specified mood disorder.
everyone’s afraid of the truth. it’s easier to judge. to avoid. to stigmatize.
When I was 16, I developed bouts of anxiety when traveling to France –had an incident on the plane– but was fine during the exchange program. In college, I spoke to some therapists about feeling sad but no one ever said I needed medication or I was depressed. When I drove X-Country at 22, it got a bit worse. I felt strange driving in some wide open spaces or when camping but I managed it through visualization and breathing. After my first year of graduate school in Washington, DC, my housemate and I drove South and I just couldn’t make it beyond North Carolina. I went home to Boston and finished my masters degree at Boston University. I went to a psychiatrist and he prescribed Xanax which helped.
I really don’t remember anyone officially diagnosing me with depression but I had an awful time finding the correct medication and a decent psychiatrist. I started meds at age 27. I’ve tried beta-blockers, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Serzone, Abilify, Lexapro, Wellbutrin and many others. I’m now 42 and in the hands of a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital department of psychiatry. I’m taking cymbalta for the depression, clonipin for my anxiety and topamax to keep my mood from swinging too far out-of-bounds (don’t want to be yelling or crying too much).
Over the years I’ve gained weight, lost weight and felt crappy. I’ve been briefly and mistakenly hospitalized and lost many friends. I’ve had people unreasonably judge me. I’ve had people who know nothing about me call me “bat shit crazy” or “insane” when I’m not. I’m *still* being harassed online due to my mental illness. I had to change my phone number and email and twitter. I lost my best friend two years ago because I had a breakdown and he cowardly wanted to get married and end our friendship.
People often don’t want to take the time to understand what you’re going through. Those are the people who should feel shame. Those people are despicable. If I had cancer or a physical illness, I wouldn’t be judged at all but because mental illness is just that people think that we have some sort of control over the chemical breakdown of our brains. A guy recently told me it was all “mind over matter” and being on meds was “BS.”
We do the best we can. We need support. We don’t need the stigma. We don’t need to be put into a box and told we’re having a bad day or going off the edge or that we’re crazy or that we’re having a meltdown. Don’t do that to us. You can hug us. You can listen but don’t label us.
I have an illness that I’m managing with a very good therapist (I’ve been seeing him for eight years), an excellent psychiatrist and medication. It’s not easy. I have good days and bad days and better days and worse days. I walk. I eat well. I do yoga.
My name is Amy, and I have No Shame.
Please visit The SIWE Project to share their stories and hear others’ accounts of their battles with mental illness and to check out @thesiweproject on twitter, hashtag #NoShame.