Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Chipur.com and Bill White

I stumbled across Chipur.com on accident one day during another one of my wild goose chases to cure my condition. It took me to an article about Derealization and Depersonalization. Those of you who know me also know that I suffer with these conditions as well as Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia. There’s just no bones about it. Years of research led me to the same dead end: There is no cure for either Deperssonalization or Derealization. I had spoken to psychiatrists and challenged the sanctity of their intellectual ivory towers from which they proclaimed edicts and treatment plans. The treatment plans all seemed to be centered around a vast array of powerful psychotropic drugs which did no good and actually landed me in the E.R. 

Chipur.com is run by a licensed counselor named William Chandler White or, as he prefers to call himself, simply “Bill”. Now, unlike all the other so-called professionals I have met, Bill has been there. Years of struggling with Depersonalization, Derealization, and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia led him into a spiral of alcohol use to dull the pain and to self-medicate. Mr. White, however, was not your average statistic. He emerged and came out on top—winning the war with his illness and his dependency problem. Now he’s focused on helping others who are ill. 

Mr. White is a straight shooter. He is clever, stubborn, and empathetic. Like I wrote earlier, he has been where many of us are now. Unlike other professionals who charge an arm and a leg for services that usually end with you smashing your head against a brick wall out of frustration, Mr. White charges a modest fee for phenomenal work. Believe me; I have tried to trip him up. I have challenged him. I have voiced doubts. I have cried. I have done all of this in the presence of this man and I can’t seem to shake him. He knows what he is doing. He knows how to get the derailed track wreck of life back onto the tracks with a blend of cognitive therapy and frank common sense.

I have thrown money at many projects over the years. I have studied my own illness obsessively combing through the print for answers. Mr. White offers help and most importantly he offers hope. I am new to this concept of hope. I have read and been told that there is no known cure for Depersonalization and Derealization. While it is true that I am not in full recovery mode, I have been moving forward slowly and with Mr. White’s guidance I have been breaking down some tough barriers in my own mind.

Check out Chipur.com. Read a few articles and drop Mr. White a line. He will answer and arrange a session in which he will evaluate your condition and see if the two of you make a good therapeutic match. If he believes he can help you, he will do just that. Despite his wide range of clients, he has an accommodating schedule for his clients and is generous with his session lengths. He is not another psychiatrist who wants you to pull you in, write a prescription, and then cynically push you back out the revolving door of a doomed outpatient recovery program. Don’t waste your time and don’t waste your money on inadequate care. 

Thanks to Mr. White, for the first time in my life I believe in the possibility of getting well. I don’t know how long it will take and I know it will be challenging but there is no other way. You have to work through your illness. But with someone like Mr. White, you are not alone. He is not the cold and stoic psychiatrist you meet in the clinics. He is not a pill pusher in a suit and tie. He is someone who beat his demons and who can help you wrestle with your own. To my knowledge, there is no other effective treatment for this disorder. And there are even fewer people who have experienced it. Yet, here is Mr. White willing to help and absolutely understanding what you’re going through. So, do yourself a favor and stop by Chipur.com. Healing is a click away!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

State of the Nation: In the Wake of Sandy Hook

No doubt most of you have been entrenched in the news about Sandy Hook Elementary and Adam Lanza. The case brings out a lot of anger and sorrow—and rightfully so. This is a situation where we have babies (yes, babies) between the ages of six and seven being slaughtered. Twenty of them lost their lives and we cannot nor must we ever forget that.

I want to talk about some things on the blog today because there have been some chats in newsrooms across the country that have put me on edge. They pertain to mental health issues which already carry the heavy cross of stigma.

We know two things: Adam Lanza was either mentally ill or evil. There is a difference between the two and let’s not forget it. Now, people have been batting around the idea of him having a personality disorder, Asperger’s, or autism. I hate to burst your bubble, media, but none of those conditions can fairly be held accountable for the actions of Lanza  in that elementary school.

I recently saw a post on Facebook with Lanza’s picture. The caption below read: “Like” this if you think he should burn in Hell. We’re seeing the fallout of a serious act of carnage and reacting viscerally. I don’t want to think of Adam Lanza in Hell because I don’t want to think of anyone in Hell. Lanza was once someone’s baby, someone’s son, and someone’s brother. But before you go accusing me of having “sympathy for the devil”, let me get to my main point.

My main point concerns a national dialogue that is beginning to spin out of control. People are wondering how we prevent tragedies like this and in the interim of their attention spans they are playing judge and jury with what should be done with the mentally ill. 

Just yesterday I saw a psychiatrist being interviewed. He was proposing ideas such as vigilance and monitoring suspicious behavior and actively reporting it to authorities. He listed things such as isolation, not being present in public situations, being shy, being aloof, and being pensive and inward looking. None of these things are mental illnesses. In fact, there are “normal” adults who prefer to spend a night at home, who get uncomfortable around other human beings, and accidentally say embarrassing things. Are these people, too, mentally ill? And exactly to whom are we going to report their behavior? The police? Or even worse: the government?

 How short are our memories? Do we not remember the massive stone buildings which now stand empty and silent that used to house people suffering from various ailments which one could conveniently slap the label of “mental illness” onto with the right degree? Have we forgotten the institutions, the suffering, and the permanently silencing of the “undesirables” by locking them up and throwing away the key? Do we really want to go back down that road again? 

My point is this: We had better think hard and we had better make darn sure that we know what we are doing as a society. If acting inappropriately can land you in a new institution then so can speaking inappropriately. Doesn’t that stand to reason? It’s an all too convenient way to do away with people that become obstacles in our daily lives. But is it right? Is this still going to be the land of the free twenty years or so down the line? This is just some food for thought.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Peace After the Storm

This blog is an issue that doesn't seem to want to go away for those whom have mental illness. Not only do you suffer with the illness, lose hope, and may even barricade yourself in a safe place, you also have to put up with the shame of being a second class citizen in society. I would liken mental illness slander to racial slurs. There's not a doubt about that in my mind.

Once again I came up against this problem. People who don't know my diagnosis just simple assume I have every mental illness another person can think up. If you act this way then you have "X". If you act that way then you have "X". This is the best people can seem to do.

I don't want you to lose hope. I'm going to tell you something your probably already know. I'm going to tell you that people are cruel and doubly so on the internet. But still, don't lose hope. If you know God then you know that God wants you to live abundantly. That's a tall order for a lot of us. But we must take joy in what we can find.

It seems as though when you are mentally ill, everything collapses on you harder. The weight of the world, the burden of illness, the frustration of being misunderstood and form together as a weight around your neck. It becomes something that drags you down. The worst part is the isolation. When you do perk up with the courage to make a friend they seem to retreat hastily. The problem is not you. The problem is the other person.

Instead of hurting yourself further with shame and fierce fury, you should try to settle down before you act. This is something that I haven't quite learned to do in every situations. No sicknesses are easy to deal with-- especially when they attack the brain from different angles. 

I want to provide you with some things you can do to help you calm down before you respond to cruel people and play into their hands. Some people just want to goad the ill into being vulnerable and being in attack mode simply for their own sadistic pleasures. Here are some things I can think of to help you weather the storm that assaults your heart AFTER the storm has passed.

1.) Listen to your favorite song.
2.) Practice on slowing down your breathing and heart rate.
3.) Ignore the trespass if you can
4.) Pray or look to your higher power for healing for your heart and mind
5.) Talk to a loved one about the problem but try to remain calm if you can
6.) You can try apologizing but it usually doesn't work with these kind of people
7.) Share your story and use what you've learned from it in the future
8.) Educate people about mental illness and realize stigma and bias are two diseases that are worse than mental illness itself.

If you can think of any other methods to heal anger, hurt, and shame, please leave them in the comments section below. I think it's important that people with metal illnesses need to learn to care for one another. Some mentally ill people share similar circumstances and are more open to hearing and counseling people about their problems.

In this life we must each be our own biggest fans. No one is going to do it for us. Despite what was said to me, I do not believe that mental illness should be shut in a closet and ignored. That will never cure it and people who suggest that are actually heartlessly berating and belittling people with legitimate illnesses. Stay out in the light and open areas in life. Don't apologize for anything you are going through or experiencing. You have mental illness and you are suffering. If everyone understood this fact about the mentally ill then the world would be a much better place.

My best advice would be it's not really HOW but only WHEN a matter of bias and cruelty will meet you. Guard your heart well and see that you train your unique mind to operate levelly when caught in a volatile situation.

I am rooting for you! Sorry this blog was not as intellectual. I'm still finding out how to get rid of my negative emotions. They seem to be acting as a block on my literary style.

You can find peace on the other side of the storm.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mental Illness and Loneliness

I don’t believe that anyone is as intimately acquainted with the pain of loneliness as the mentally ill man or woman is. The mentally ill are stigmatized, marginalized, reduced, ridiculed, rebuffed, rejected, and feared. One of the worst insults a “normal” human being can inflict on another “normal” human being is to call him or her “crazy”. The very word sends shockwaves across the lobes of your brain, doesn’t it? But what is life really like for the mentally ill? They are our modern day lepers—pushed to the side by ostricization and cruelty—they are left to wither and waste. When they attempt to voice opinions or concerns to others they suddenly become all the more “crazy” and, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, a floodgate or ridicule and shame gapes open to drown them whole. 

Simple daily routines become foreign to the mentally ill. Sometimes, holed in a room with only despair to keep them company, they will forsake showers, hot meals, and hygiene. All these things represent a struggle to live which they feel they are losing day by day. In most cases the human touch or the human voice could rouse their spirits from the dust. But who would dare to interfere with the skewered mechanics of a broken mind? Who would dare to come into their lives bearing unconditional love and support through richer or for poorer?

I believe that as a society we have forgotten how to love. The other day I saw a post about an elderly woman who was obviously in the grips of mental illness. Instead of stopping to help her poster simply joked about her serious condition. Within thirty minutes there was a chain of snarky replies each commenting personally on the elderly woman. It was suggested that the poster call the police on the woman out of desperation. Jokes and medications and hallucinations were followed by harsh “LOL” posting unremarkably. The elderly woman was yet another nameless victim of stigma and had a red badge of shame sashayed onto her chest not because she had dared to sin but because she had dared to suffer.

What would have happened if she would have been having a heart attack upon the steps of her apartment? Would someone cynically bemoan the socially acceptable hilarity of the situation under these circumstances? No, of course not! Physical suffering is real suffering. Mental suffering is comic relief. Once again society is eager to fill in and punctuate the laugh tracks to stranger’s mental calamities and horrendous fears. I have seen no illness met with such disrespect as mental illness. I have seen no one shunned as harshly as the mentally ill. Not only does the public leave them to die a painful demise, but it ensures the demise will be impacted with jagged bouts of loneliness by warning the rest of society not to cohabitate or mingle with the mentally ill. The mentally ill are not given to marriage easily. This both depends upon the severity of the mental illness and a “normal” person’s capacity to integrate himself or herself with the world of a mentally ill person. Most happy singles are unwilling to accommodate for any kind of flaw in a potential suitor—this goes without saying for the mentally ill.

Like lepers, they are left to anxiously, hopelessly pace the spaces between the “normal” society and the ill society. They are forced to the fringes and boundaries of the real world and left to depend upon God or death to bring them to their ultimate resolution. I have even heard it suggested that mental illness is a sin because it is sickness and sickness is a direct departure from God because it is a denial of His power. Is diabetes a denial of the Lord’s power? How about cancer? That must be reserved for the most serious of sinners, yes? 

I once heard the clever quote that mental illness effects “one out of one” persons. I find that this seems to be eternally true. It is a unique hell all of its own with a capacity for one. The suffering of the mind soon becomes the sickness of the soul and the longing of the flesh. The mentally ill long for companionship as a man smoldering in hell prays for a drop of water. As the room for love is stretched thinner and thinner, the things of this world become transient for the mentally ill. Why comb the hair that will never be stroked? Why bathe and perfume the body that will never be touched? Why rinse the mouth that will never be kissed? Why adorn the body that is crippled by the mind? And why leave the space that is feels like the only safety for the sufferer?

It is a complex dilemma. Some mentally ill are abusive. Some “normal” people are abusive. Some “normal” people are scared of spiders. Some mentally ill are scared are car trips away from home. Where does society draw the line? Who is loveable and who is not? Does not every man and woman deserve love? Does mental illness hamper desire and right to the pursuit of happiness and freedom? To many people, this question is answered by how much they can withstand. For me it is answered by the size of my own heart.

Friday, July 20, 2012

It's hard to say what impact this blog has had, if any, on the mentally ill and mentally well (if it exists) community. It is important to know that I will not shut this blog down. However, I am trying very hard to try to change my outlook. I am not sure if it can be done. I had a discussion with a psychiatrist today. It dillied and dallied but the main point was that it was not necessary to give into self pity. He said he was not accusing me but he was simply bring up the point. I am unaware of self pity in myself. I had only thought of myself as an advocate for other people going through similar and differing venues of mental illness. However, he said that I have pushed the limits of my understanding as far as it can go. He said that he did not know why any of his patients suffer and I inserted at this point that perhaps it was our crosses to bear. He said this was a good analogy. I had ran out of the lobby a few minutes earlier because I was panicking (as usual) and some kind patients had alerted the doctor that I had returned. I had told myself I'd get a pop (my regional slang for a soda) and come back to avert the panic. Those little trips never work, though. Anyhow, in my own best interest as well as the interest of those who suffer, I would like to give the blog a rest.

Yes, I will still write because that is what I do. However, the scope and intent of the blog may change. I don't want to say it is all hopeless-- even if it feels that way-- because if I begin to see my life as hopeless then I begin to despair.

I will admit to you that I do not know how to go on or where to begin. My doctor has admitted he has been through all the medications he can dig up and he does not want to label me with Depersonalization Disorder because he personally does not believe in that. I don't think whether you believe in something or not should have any bearing on whether it exists to someone else, however; I do not have any power in this situation.

As I try to craft my own personal lobotomy, I will try to keep you updated. All that I write that I feel is of some use will be trafficked here. Currently I am working on an essay about the usefulness of "broken" people.

In the next six to eight weeks I will try to let go, give these old medicines a new chance, and try to renew my sight. That is all I can do. It feels harder to stand still than it does to panic I must admit. T.S. Eliot said that mankind cannot bear much reality. Perhaps this is why things are in such a state with me.

I value this blog and I value people knowing they are not alone. I don't value it because I write it; I value it because you read it. I hope it has been some service to you. As it changes, I hope you will be patient with it and see if it can still apply to you. I will be experimenting intellectually and brining in new ideas. I will also be researching self pity to see if perhaps I have not been victim to it myself and can somehow change the bleak thought process in my own mind.

This is just an update. There is more to come.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Importance of Hope © Megan Snider 2012

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to turn this blog into a religious blog. When I do see correlations between religion and what I am going through as far as my illnesses are concerned, I do write about them. I am in no way trying to convert anyone o to say that I am a better human being because I am a believer. I struggle with my faith because of my illnesses. I simply wanted to share with my readers where some of my hope comes from in this blog despite the fact that those of us whom are ill suffer so gravely. That is my only intention.

As you may or may not know, hope is something that does not come easily for me. I am prone to think the worst about situations and catastrophize. This is much easier to do than to be upbeat and positive. In fact, everyone is familiar with that old joke that exclaims sarcastically, “It takes more muscles to smile than to frown.” I am not necessarily sure if this is true and even if it is, that doesn’t give it the right to be the guiding maxim of your life.

I will say that fear and happiness do not go hand in hand. Neither does pain and happiness. Some people are graciously able to accept, or rather, feign acceptance of their situations. Others buck and kick against it, hoping to destroy it with their sheer wills. Unfortunately, will itself is not enough to break through any illness. Otherwise, I would have broken through my illness years ago. I have been so mad and frustrated by it as a child and an adult, that I have gone to great lengths to battle it—only to end up losing.

So, why and how can you learn to hope? I don’t mind admitting that hope is something I have to learn. I don’t think hope comes naturally to many human beings. The Bible urges people to hope. In the New King James Version of the Bible, Hebrew 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” There is a strong correlation between faith and hope. If you have faith, you should have hope, right?

Here’s the tricky part. It all boils down to what you hope for. Some of us hope for worldly changes and physical and mental changes in ourselves or others. Some hopefully look forward to the day when ascension to heaven will be reached and the world will be renewed.

I believe God wants us to have hope for our lives, even though they are “but vapor” as is states in Ecclesiastes. We were created from the most delicate substance of all: dust. Dust is easily separated and can be totally blown away by gusts. Sometimes gale storms and torrential downpours scatter our cognizance far and wide and cause them to congeal and form into cakes of filthy mud. It makes sense that we would be uncertain of many things because our own genetic makeup is absolutely unsure and hinged on chance. In his epic poem “The Wasteland”, T.S. Eliot wrote the following line: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” I have always taken this to relate back to humanity’s fear of its own mortality and fear of its own great imposing frailty. That has been among some of the top literary quotes ever made in my own opinion.   

Hope is a funny thing. You don’t necessarily have to hope for anything. It can just be an abiding feeling. You don’t need to say to yourself, “Okay, I will set a goal and then hope for it.” If you have been keeping up with my blogs and writings, you will notice that hoping for something specific may lead to folly because you may or may not just get it someday. And, furthermore, who can really say that they hope for one thing continuously. As I have aged, I have found that some of my hopes are mainstays while some have simply fallen by the wayside. So, to pick one thing and to hope it will make you happy is not really the point of hope.

The point of hope is to give us strength to continue through life. When everything else in completely gone, we still have hope. Hope is still readily available at no cost to the broken hearted or the broken souled.  One of the verses that I used to mock when I was against God and when His hand was against me was Jeremiah 29:11. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” At this time I believed I did not have a future. If you ask me now, I might reply in the same tone. I’m not really expecting much anymore. That does not mean I have given up hope. It means I have not given in to irrational hopes as I had done before as I was younger. See, Jereiah 29:11 does not state that God will give you everything you desire. I’ve pointed this out many times. If you believe in God, yes; He has a plan for you. However, His plan and your plan may be two different things.

As a human, I feel that I have little control over the things that go on in my own life. Even when I am at my deepest and darkest moments, even though I imagine ending things outright, I know that I can’t do that. I don’t think that suicide is a coward’s way out. I know it gravely and deeply wounds families but I know that the people whom commit suicide know that they will be hurting the ones they love. I do not believe they kill themselves to hurt people deliberately in a wide majority of cases. I just think there is a point where pain can no longer be endured nor managed and they only see one obvious exit sign marked in big red letters.

As a Christian, I have an abiding hope. I do not know why and I suppose I must attribute it to God. My life is terrifying. I wake up terrified. I have episodes of panic and DP and DR every day. I am also Agoraphobic. None of these are classified as serious illnesses but they still chip away at the prospects of my life. So, if you think I’m a person with blessed life standing on a soapbox and preaching at you, then you are wrong. I live with conditions that cannot be cured and erode away at the very core of my life like battery acid.

This hope keeps me from pulling the trigger or crafting the noose. I just can’t do it. I suppose in my heart I know that even if these illness never go away that there will be things in life I will enjoy. Sure, maybe I’ll never be married. Maybe none of my heart’s desires will come to pass in God’s will. You must remember my reaction to Matthew 19 a few days ago. The reason I won’t simply allow myself to die is because I don’t know what’s around the corner. And, also, small things make me happy. For example, instead of dying, I could just have a chocolate malt and watch television or write something. That sounds horribly silly, but that is the kind of low key activities that I look forward to. Everyone has something to look forward to.

Listen carefully, hope does not mean to sit there and hope that your life will turn out that certain way that YOU want it to. Hope is just the simple abiding feeling of continuing on the journey of life for no particular reason. Even if your life has been darkened by the great arm of illness and sorrow which spreads its long shadow over everything you have known or ever will know, you can still hope. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is the Lord’s response to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Here in this gospel, Paul has prayed three times for a thorn in his flesh to be removed. We do not know the nature of the “thorn in his side.” We simply know it was there and he prayed repetitively for it to be gone. I certainly know that feeling. Finally, regarding his thorn, Paul finally wrote about the Lord’s answer to him. Paul wrote, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Take great notice of that verse. Paul was never healed. This does not mean God is unjust or unable. You must remember that miracles are called “miracles” for a reason. They are called “miracles” because they do not happen every day. If they happened everyday they would be called “commonplace”, wouldn’t they? 

It is a comfort to me to know that I am at least useful to the Lord if to no one else in my crippled state and my blackened disposition. The phrase “My strength is made perfect in weakness” means that in weakness we easily succumb to things—this includes God’s will for us. We have withered and I believe it is God’s delight to surprise up and cause us to spring back up even at the zero hour. Paul also says that he would “rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” People who do not live with degenerating illnesses can find hope and faith a bit easier than those of us that struggle with mental and physical illnesses. I am not saying that “normal” people don’t have problems. Everyone has problems.

However, there is something to be said about enduring constant and repetitive suffering. It bends you and bows you and you crave hope all the more. Just as a starving man will scramble for a piece of bread crust thrown into the dirt so do we too scramble for a dislodged piece of hope originating from the heavens.

Even while being crucified on the cross, one of the thieves being crucified alongside Jesus found peace in His presence. Now, get that through your head. These men were dying slow agonizing deaths and being gawked at by the curious masses. One of the theieves recognizes Jesus and his power and asks for forgiveness. While the three of these men were on the cross, nailed to planks of wood by their hands and feet, with strong metal nails bolted through the fragile line of their tendons, they still had presence of mind. And, in an odd way, two of them still had hope. The two that still had hope were Jesus and the thief who asked for redemption. After asking to be saved, Jesus replied to the thief in Luke23:43 by saying, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Notice that Jesus was not concerned with the darkness he was in. He was wrapped in the blackest darkness of all—being face to face with death. Yet all that was reflected in the eyes of that thief and Jesus was a pure picture of paradise.

I know that many of us asked why we are not cured. But we must remember that Paul was not cured by the Lord and he was very close to the Lord. We also must not remember the failings of Peter and how those failing broke his heart for he loved Jesus dearly. And, most of all, we must remember that although He had the ability to do so with one movement of his pinky finger, Jesus Christ did not save Himself from his own suffering. We all have crosses to bear. I have written that before and it is true. The only person able to help you shoulder that cross is Jesus Himself because he was the original bearer of the cross. No other human being can transport himself or herself into your mind or body and help you shoulder the pain.

Here is where hope comes in. You should always have hope. Remember that Jesus said that all was required of us was to have hope the size of a mustard seed and that would move mountains. If I recall correctly, a mustard seed is very miniscule. Now, you may not move the mountain or obstacle of your choice out of your way, but you may remove other obstacles with faith and hope in the Lord. So, before you throw in the towel, give just a tiny bit of hope a chance.

© Megan Snider 2012

(c) Megan Allyce Snider 2012
Copr. M. Allyce Snider 2012
Copyright Megan Snider MMXII