MHA Infographic: Things Adults Say That Hurt Instead of Help

Sharing this from Infographic: Things Adults Say That Hurt Instead of Help

Please Support Me – #NAMIOCWalker – Thanks!

Kitt O'Malley walks to smash stigma against those of us living with mental illness #namiocwalker

Please support me and team STIGMA SMASHERS as we walk 5K for NAMIWalks Orange County 2016. NAMI Orange County has been instrumental in my mental health recovery.

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NAMI Peer-to-Peer introduced me to the concept of mental health recovery and gave me HOPE. I volunteer as a Provider Education presenter and just trained to become an In Our Own Voice public speaker to share my story of mental health recovery.

NAMIWalks provides NAMI Orange County with 1/3 of their operating budget, enabling them to offer free mental health educational programs, meetings and support groups.

 join team stigma smashers

NAMIWalks Orange County

Saturday, October 1st
Check in: 9:00 AM
Start time: 10:30 AM
William R. Mason Park
18712 University Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Thank you for your support!

Folie à Deux

I Am My Mother

Mom and Dad 60s Hazel Filter 672 x 672

Caveat: Please understand that delusional thought processes are SYMPTOMS of mental illness. I feel compassion, even as I feel pain and anger as someone negatively affected by parental delusional thoughts. I, too, have experienced delusional thoughts and bizarre impulses. I’m heir to familial mental illness. I get it.

With great trepidation I wrote the original version of this piece for publication with the Feminine Collective. Will I hurt those I love? Probably. Is it worth it to tell the truth, to let people know what it is like to live under the shadow of unacknowledged, untreated mental illness? I pray that the good outweighs the pain. I pray for understanding and compassion.

Mental illness when untreated and unacknowledged can cause great pain to extended family members. Out of respect for my relatives, this version has been changed. The actual content of my mother’s bizarre delusions is masked, remains a secret here, on my site at least, to protect those she attacked.


This is my story, my perspective, my understanding.

Folie à Deux

Taboo content
Folly of two
Folly, delusion, shared by my parents
I’ve protected them
Partly out of respect
Partly out of fear of the repercussions
Partly, for my sister who is protective of their privacy
We grew up under the shadow of a bizarre distorted thought process
Symptomatic of mental illness
Originated by our mother
Backed up by our father
In front of us, since we were young, our mother would attack our father
Making bizarre disgusting sexual claims with no basis in reality
My sister and I would look across the table
For our reality check
No. Where did she get these bizarre ideas?
There was no evidence for them
They made absolutely no sense
Our mother was crazy
Yes, I am heir to her illness
Anyway, after our mother would verbally abuse our father
In front of us, her daughters
With unfounded claims of disgusting, bizarre and unfounded sexual content
Content from her mind, her thought process, with no basis in fact
She would storm off to her bedroom
Leaving our father with us
Then he, our father, made us apologize to our mother
We would ask why we hadn’t done anything
Mom had been abusive to HIM
(Only later, through therapy, did I realize that it was also abusive to US, for we, as children and later as teens should never have been privy to such bizarre sexual delusions)
We just witnessed our mother’s attack
We did nothing wrong
He would respond that
She just didn’t feel appreciated
She needed our attention
He would throw us under the bus
Use us as his buffer
Not only NOT protect us, but use us
My father would join my mother in her belief system
That thought process, that dynamic
Put a wedge between the outside world and us
Between our extended family and us
My sister and I didn’t even go to our paternal grandparents’ funerals
For fear of how our mother would react
She would have considered it a betrayal
I’ve had to tread carefully over the years
As I’ve befriended my paternal extended family over Facebook
My aunt, my godmother, my namesake
She and I have spoken a few times over the years about this dynamic
I reassured her that neither my sister nor I believed any of it
We knew it was sick
I know my mother is sick and my father has joined her
I once saw a home-movie of my mother
She danced in circles around the rest of her family
I saw myself in her
Twirling rapidly around others as they simply stood still
Shit, I thought. I am my mother.
But with one major difference
I got help

Edited 8/11/16. Original version published at: http://femininecollective.com/folie-a-deux/

Back from BlogHer16

To Confer or Not to Confer

Recuperating from BlogHer16. Wondering if I want to go to NAMI California conference later this month. Prefer intimate get togethers where fellow writers support each other by sharing their knowledge. Do not get much from panel discussions. Plus, staying in hotels is expensive. Besides, I do not really want to monetize my blog. I identify as a writer and as a mental health advocate, not as a web-based entrepreneur.

Blessed to have met so many wonderful women in person, including the amazing and inspirational speaker Clementine BihigaSarah Fader – who also rocked the stage, Julie AndersonHasty Words, Renee RobbinsMarla Carlton, Courtney KeeseeGunmetal Geisha, and Ra (Rarasaur). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet everyone I had hoped to connect with.

Connecting With Others #Online

Connecting Online

Guest Post: Connecting With Others Online

– by Fliss Baker for NewLifeOutlook

Connecting with other people is vital to surviving, living and enjoying life. It is imperative in managing our mental health; we are encouraged to talk, talk and talk some more about how we feel and how our illnesses affect us.

However, the stigma of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, and even bipolar communication problems, can stop us from doing so. It is incredibly hard to voice our pain and insecurities to others, particularly when other people aren’t experiencing what we are.

I have spoken to people many times who can’t show real sympathy or empathy because what I describe is too hard to comprehend. It is for this reason I have often recoiled and tried to hide how I feel, which has made my symptoms worse.

Sharing Experiences

The best advice I was given was to talk to other people with the same experiences, where openly sharing is easy and people understand.

I was unable to vocalize my illness and its symptoms eight years ago because I had no idea what was going on, and neither did my family. My diagnosis came about from my father battling for me to see a psychiatrist after my behavior flew from depression to mania.

The struggle was hard but the hospitalization gave me something I hadn’t had before. I was around people who seemed to be having the same problems. If I was unable to share vocally, I could see others in pain with irritability, aggression, upset, self-harm or in the depths of suicide.

I met people from every walk of life, including soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder, mothers with depression, a nurse with self-harm injuries and an artist with bipolar disorder. I suddenly realized I wasn’t alone and there was no limit as to the conversation we could have.

I could wake up and tell the nurses and the other patients that I couldn’t handle life and wanted it to be over. It felt impossible to do that in the ‘real world.’ The openness was crucial in my recovery.

Trust Is Essential

There are so many people available to talk and help us through our illness, moment by moment if necessary. However, the first step is being aware of where to go and who is trusted to support you.

As much as we should be opening up, it is important to go to someone you know will listen non-judgmentally and recommend strategies to help.

I was advised by my psychiatrist to link up with local mental health charities. They have excellent websites that not only educate you on your illness, but have chat rooms encouraging discussion.

I could read different posts with titles I could relate to, such as ‘I can’t cope today’ and read the replies. I didn’t respond to any posts initially as I was nervous to contribute, however, I soon felt able to ask questions and share my feelings.

It is an amazing feeling to be comfortable when you connect with others who simply get it.

I was inspired to seek out other places I could communicate easily and found independent chat rooms online. I was suffering with an eating disorder at the time so I was particularly interested in others going through the same.

However, I was warned by my psychiatrist about certain chat rooms, which can sometimes have a negative effect. I encountered this by coming across a chat room where young girls were sharing tips and picking the brains of others on how to restrict food and lose weight. It was scary and I stopped myself from being immersed as I felt it trigger my illness.

Facebook Groups

There need to be safeguards on chat rooms, and Facebook is often a good place where this is implemented. There are many places to talk about depression, bipolar, anxiety and other mental health illnesses and groups usually have hosts.

This means that any comments that are considered triggering are removed and users are aware of the regulations. Initially I almost felt bad that somebody might be told their comments were unhelpful, but then I realized that with a big group of people, we have to look after the majority to ensure everyone is kept safe and well.

I am still part of the Facebook groups, although I now don’t feel the need to contribute at the moment. I do, however, read the posts and if something is particularly moving and relevant to me, I will post something in return.

Connecting Offline With Phone Helplines

Offline, phone helplines are have been really important to my recovery. I personally find it helpful to listen to a voice at the other end that can listen, soothe and understand.

Charitable helplines are set up with highly trained individuals who know how to treat people who are incredibly vulnerable. They understand if you phone up with any problems where you are distressed and even if you are under the influence of substances or alcohol.

They also know how to deal with suicidal calls and will stay on the phone no matter what — keeping the call completely confidential.

The transition between needing to connect for support and to share support is crucial in recovery. I go through periods where I need advice and recommendations, but then want to share advice and recommendations.

Both roles are very important to me. I show my vulnerability in some cases, then feel real self-worth when I receive a message back saying “that helped me, that got me through my day.” We all know how much we need to have a purpose to keep our mental health in check.

Based on personal experience, talking to trusted people face to face, over the telephone and online using charities and regulated chat rooms is without a shadow of a doubt really helpful.
Because of this I know there is always someone out there for me. The key to is to search for the right places where you feel safe and comfortable to share and receive information.

I have asked my psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurse and mental health community team for recommendations. My only advice is to avoid triggering chat rooms, which could increase your anxiety and exacerbate your symptoms.

Take responsibility for yourself and look after your mental health. That’s the key when connecting with other people.


Fliss-Baker

Fliss Baker was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar in 2008. She’s passionate about ending the stigma attached to mental health and blogs about bipolar disorder. You can find more of her writing on NewLifeOutlook.