Friday, March 18, 2011

The Long Road Home © Megan Snider

"Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves-- regret for the past and fear of the future"
--Fulton Oursler

This is going to be a long-winded blog, but I want to stress that it may help some of the people dealing with Panic Disorder, derealization and depersonalization. I thought about dividing it up into different posts, but I thought that this would be confusing and some of the posts may be hard to locate. So I’m going to do this under the style as one cohesive blog cut into sections to walk you through some therapy processes. Do not worry if this therapy does not apply to you; in the coming weeks I will be adding more self-help techniques and strategies. Keep heart!

For most of the information In this post, I am indebted to Fugen Neziroglu, Katharine Donnelly and Daphne Simeon for their brilliant collaboration upon the book Overcoming Depersonalization Disorder: A Mindfulness & Acceptance Guide to Conquering Feelings of Numbness & Unreality. The therapy techniques highlighted in this book will briefly be discussed, boiled down and simplified so you can use them in your own area of crisis.

Concept One: Rumination and Obsession Does No Good, Use Mindfulness Instead

Obsessing and ruminating over your condition does no good. Try to stop your intrusive thoughts and live in the moment. This concept of living in the moment and shifting your focus to be aware of only one thing instead of flooding your senses is called “Mindfulness” Mindfulness is focusing on the present and, if in the midst of a panic attack or derealization or depersonalization, it is the act of focusing on one thing such as your breathing for example.

Concept Two: Acceptance and Mindfulness

This is still a hard one for many people to struggle with and that’s ok. It asks us to accept misery and discomfort and pain as part of the human condition. You cannot alter your particular psychiatric affliction, but you can accept it. Acceptance of the feelings of fear, numbness, unreality and pain are better than fighting them. Use mindfulness to help you stay in the present moment. Don’t jump ahead and make unfounded conclusions. Never make absolute statements like, “I will never get better” or “I will feel this way forever.” Accept the feelings for what they are.

Concept Three: Observation

Instead of letting your emotions rule you and keep you in a pattern of avoidance and fear, it is best to only observe your emotions. It is important to realize that everything you think is NOT true. You may think, “I’m going to have a panic attack while driving tomorrow” but that doesn’t make it true. While it is a sad fact of life that many people with psychiatric conditions have negative and unrelenting thoughts, this DOES NOT make them true. Simply observe your thoughts passively and let them slip through your mind as a stream edges through the landscape. Don’t stop to ponder one bothersome thought—simply observe it and let it go.

Concept Four: Commitment

We should not let our negative emotions guide us. We should let our values guide us and accept that in order to attain our values, we must be willing to experience some pain and discomfort in life with our psychiatric illnesses. In fact, pain is simply a byproduct of a rich and eventful life. Everytime you go after something you want, you risk pain. It is no different with psychiatric illnesses. There is much pain involved in accepting and experiencing them and to engage in life again, but the alternative is to stagnate and end up alone. Struggle against your fears using acceptance, willingness to face discomfort and fear and use mindfulness to stay in the moment.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought for today. I hope I have done a good job of presenting Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to you. If you still have confusion or want to do further resource, simply search for “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy”. There is an excellent Wikipedia article about it. That’s enough thought digestion for today!

© Megan Snider

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Derealization and Depersonalization © Megan Snider

"One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from the unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition."
--Alvin Toffler

I have a mastermind plot for this blog in the next coming weeks and we will see how I manage to expound upon it due to my reading load and my other writing responsibilities online. To get to this master goal of offering more self-help articles for people who are suffering and may not have access to any other resource except the internet, I am going to have to do some back-tracking.

The catalyst for this site is Panic Disorder with Derealization and Depersonalization commonly abbreviated as DR and DP. Now, from what I’ve read derealization is not a stand-alone order, but there is a disorder called Depersonalization Disorder which does encompass derealization. Together they are holy horrors and eat up everything of value in your life and mind. 

Let’s start with basics. I am sure I have stated this before on the site, but let me give you the brief definitions of these disorders before we move any further along. Derealization is the sensation that the environment or your world is not real while depersonalization is the sensation that you are not real. They are dissociative symptoms by themselves but can accompany other mental illness such as Panic Disorder, Affective Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder. 

Not much is known about these two phenomena because the brain so eludes our science and they seem to be such mystical states of being. They have varied effects on people; some people go numb to the bone with them and some are terrified out of their skin with them. They frequently cohabitate and occur together because they are related disorders. I have heard them described as symptoms of psychosis and dissociation so I guess the jury is still out on that one. 

In my mind dissociation makes the most sense for these unnerving altered states of consciousness because they literally remove the association from the self and from the world.

It is very important that you keep them separate in your mind, however, because they are two different sensations. It is important to be able to differentiate between the two when describing them if you have a problem with them. Depending on your description, psychiatric treatment may take varied courses of action.

We definitely need to do more to look into these disturbing conditions. It is hard to function under the stress of these sensations and it is even harder to relate them to other people despite the fact they are a common stress and illicit drug response— meaning that other people do have these sensations— they are simply afraid to admit to them. When they become chronic states of being and begin to interfere with the normal obligations of life is when you start to feel the crunch applied to the marrow.

I’m preparing a blog on self-help techniques if you suffer from derealization or depersonalization in addition to the ones I have already completed. Hopefully these blogs will delve deeper into self-help and really electrically jolt the heart of the matter so we can get to some soothing and healing for this frightening condition. Have heart and have hope if you chronically feel “not there”, “unreal” or “lost in a fog.” 

I recall reading that 50% of people with severe Panic Disorder have “derealization” or “depersonalization“.I’m not afraid when I’m so depressed I can’t move. I’m not upset when I want to write, but I’m too depressed to pick up a pen. I’m not upset when I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. I’m not upset when I feel the familiar moan of depression radiate through my body when I no longer want to wake up in the morning. I’m afraid when I have a panic attack and I “don’t feel real.”

Just pinch yourself to tell it’s not a dream...

I hear this phrase all too often from psychiatrists themselves who are simply disinterested in their patients and interested in money. This small anecdote does any of us with "DP" or "DR" any good whatsoever. We need concrete plans on how to best this demon.

This is why I will be sharing some help help techniques on my blog.

The coming blogs are intended to help you weather the storm and give you much needed shelter.

© Megan Snider

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Long Term Mentally Ill and Suicide © Megan Snider

If you are considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

According to “Stop a Suicide”, 90% of people who commit suicide have suffered from a psychiatric illness in their lives. Accordingly, it is not hard to trace the snaking path of suicide back to the vein of mental illness and the agony present in the disorder. This takes us back to my earlier post where I expounded on my idea that mental illness is borne out of fear. Fear, desperation and agony are all very good bedfellows. 

Waiting for the end of a psychiatric disorder is bleak. Round after round of medication can be tried and re-tried, new uses can be applied to old pills but still we come back to the same darn shame. We just have a low rehabilitation rate of our mentally ill. If one more person suggests that mental illness is wished into being or that the mentally ill should simply just “play the hand they were dealt” then that is one person too many. Often times playing the hand your dealt may involve a tooth split by the intrusion of a revolver.

The “long term mentally ill” is a term coined to refer to those who do not get well. Fancy papers are drawn up concerning as to what fancy doctors and their fancy facilities should do with them but little concept is actually given to their daily lives, their daily struggles and their adjusted outlooks. Psychiatrists are simply perplexed by the long term mentally ill and it is no wonder they turn to suicide as an effective means of ending the slow erosive torture of mental illness.

By no means however am I advocating suicide. I believe there is an afterlife and suicide will not win you your place of choice in it. That’s what has stayed many hands across the world from stumbling their way across the handle of a dagger. However, suicide is still a voluptuous temptation to those who are counted among the long term mentally ill. When treatment reaches the frayed end of its own ropes so too does humanity. The burden to toil under too great a toll begins to take effect and take flight into fanciful fantasies fit of only a madman.

We must take all threats of suicide seriously. If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and you will be redirected to a regional help hotline. 

Long term mental illness is not the best of terms, but it certainly is not the worst. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will provide you with someone to talk to, someone to hear you and someone who will listen to you. That is perhaps its best commodity. No one will talk down to you any longer. 

Remember, where there is life there is still a little hope.

© Megan Snider

For more resources and hotline numbers, please visit my "Resources" page to this blog.

Sunday, March 13, 2011 Courses

"You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind."
--Dale Carnegie

I will be hosting a class on on how to overcome Panic Disorder if anyone is interested. It is not ready yet because I have a lot of research to put into it and I don't want to skimp over any details. As a long time sufferer of Panic Disorder, derealization, and depersonalization, I think I have some wisdom to offer on this condition. I have tried many medications and self help methods and I would like to invite you to join in on my teaching experience. There is a fee and the course is set up in hour increments, but I am pouring all my efforts into teaching positive coping skills. I struggle with Agoraphobia and driving as well as simple tasks, but find that some things help me get through the fear.

I will also be hosting classes on German and other areas of interest if anyone is needing help in these areas. I have served as a tutor for many classes and find that teaching is something I am passionate about and enjoy.

If you also love teaching, please stop by and begin to set up a course. The sky is the limit!

And, as always, stop by my blog to find more musings over mental health disorders and treatments. It will always be free and open to show support and understanding to those who suffer with ANY mental health afflictions. I encourage regular posting, private e-mails to me, and talking between other users as a means of information and healing. I want this to be an informative and positive place where sufferers can come to congregate.

Panic on the Motorway © Megan Snider

"I start sweating and shaking and having panic attacks if I am not at home."
--Daniel Johns

Having panic attacks while driving along with depersonalization and derealization (that is feeling detached from one ’s self and feeling detached from one’s reality) is not uncommon. It is disturbing and causes many drivers to slow in their lanes, pull over for breathing room and face unrelenting attacks while feeling closed in and panicked on the roadway. There are a few things drivers can do to help minimize the panic. It may be overwhelming and cause you to pull over and out of your lane. That is okay. Despite your feelings of unreality, try to minimize the risk of having an accident. If you need to pull over, go ahead and do so and catch your breath. There are a few things you can do to help yourself:
1.   Take benzodiazipines (if prescribed to you) half an hour to an hour before driving. I have noticed taking them an hour before driving gives them sufficient time to settle your nerves and to get into the bloodstream.

2.   Pull over and get some breathing room. Take the trip in small increments.
3.   Focus your eyes on small spaces if you are able to do so. Focus on the speedometer instead of the wide open road which may make you more anxious. Carry some inspirational quotes with you and post them in your car and look at them. Be careful to avoid an accident while doing this.

4.   Listen to a song that really grabs your attention and sing loudly. Engage yourself while driving. Feel the experience.

5.   Recite religious texts to give you a sense of inner calm and control.
6.   Notice road signs, colors, patterns and attractions on the road. Immerse yourself in the billboards and distractions. Notice license plates and car models. Be careful to regulate your driving while doing so.

7  . Listen to talk radio. The inflammatory issues can get your mind working and thinking and distract you away from your panic attack. Just hearing another person’s voice may be soothing for you.
      Make a CD of breathing exercises and practice them while driving. Do not try meditation as this can be dangerous, but sometimes taking deeper breaths and focusing in on your breathing can help minimalize the feelings of a full-blown attack.

9.   Travel with someone if you can. Conversation and just the feeling of having someone else in the car with you may help you stay grounded.

10. Stick to familiar roads and routes in which you feel comfortable.

11. Remind yourself that you are “here” and you are on your way to “here”. Remind yourself of where you are going, who you are, what the date is, what the time is and where you are. Keep yourself in the present and keep yourself thinking logically.

12. Decrease your speed and pull into the slow lane if you need to. Remind yourself you have all the time you need to get where you’re going and there is no need to rush. Safety should come first.
      Sing out loud or pray loudly and immerse yourself in a spiritual connection while driving. Be sure to keep your eyes open as you do so and let your faith help you float through the panic and unreal feelings.

14. Take a small memento with you from home that can fit in your hand. Look at it from time to time and remind yourself where it came from, what it is, and what it means to you. This can help ground you.

15. Take a small scented item with you and take whiffs of it as you drive. Be sure not to make yourself dizzy or sick while doing this. The smell may help ground you. It may even be an unpleasant smell if you want it to be.

16. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it every time you have a negative or fearful thought. Hopefully the pain will bring you back to reality.

17. Run the air conditioner or the heater. Be sure not to make yourself sleepy while doing this. The idea is to get the blood flowing in your body and to wake it up a little.

18. Stay away from caffeine or sugar before or during your trip. These substances could aggravate your symptoms.
Roll down the window and let some fresh air in. Enjoy the breeze and let the air revitalize you.

20. Focus on small tracts of land instead of wide open spaces if you can do so safely. Look at the scenery around you and become immersed in it.

21. Make up little stories about the houses and cars you see around you if you can do so without further frightening yourself.

22. Try to think of funny situations or jokes you have seen or heard recently.

23. Imagine a safe or fun activity you would like to engage in that makes you feel calm if you can do so while concentrating on driving.

24. Bring an ice cube with you and rub it across your skin to get a response from your body to remind you that you are here and in the present.

25. Try to do math problems or logic problems in your head to distract yourself from the feelings of unreality.

26. Engage in simple car games such as “I Spy” or other games to take your mind off the panicky feelings.

If anyone can think of any other tips or have tips to share that have worked, I urge them to share them in the comments section. Derealization, Depersonalization and panic attacks are a prominent and dangerous problem while driving. It is terrifying and makes driving unpleasant and traumatizing. It is important that people with Panic Disorder find effective ways to continue driving, traveling, and participating in social activities so they do not become Agoraphobic and housebound. This must be avoided at all costs!

© Megan Snider