Well being

I wrote the following for my work blog but thought I’d repost here because it’s good info for all:

In the US there are pretty strict privacy (HIPAA) laws regarding health records. In addition, a diagnosis of of clinical mental illness would afford you protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So there shouldn’t really be any fear of your manager or the company finding out you are seeking mental health treatment.

I understand there is stigma attached to a mental health diagnosis but until we speak out and advocate otherwise, it will not change. Whatever your condition, whether cancer, clinical depression, diabetes, bipolar disorder, there should be no shame. And there should be no shame in seeking treatment.

I see a psychologist on a regular basis. It took several interviews to find the right therapist. Don’t settle for seeing someone who doesn’t share your values and with whom you don’t make a connection. You have every right to shop around for the health care provider who works for you.

And it shouldn’t be an expensive privilege to seek counseling. It is covered much the same as an office visit to the doctor (co-pay, deductible, etc.). In addition, if you participate in the flexible spending account deduction, you can use that reimbursement for those costs.

I am active in National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). This resource is a wealth of support and information. They can help you navigate the system if you’re struggling. I co-teach a class called Family-to-Family which educates families with loved ones affected by mental illness. It helped me immensely and I would highly recommend it. No one should feel alone. There are people out there who can help. For those of you in Oregon, the Washington County affiliate is very active and has many programs that you may find helpful.

I have also found the following online resources to be very helpful:

National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research focused on the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health.

Mental Health Network
Information and tools to help you manage your stress, depression, anxiety and more.

WebMD
MayoClinic

I’ve been dealing with this for a long time and it comes and goes depending on many factors. The past year at my company has had a huge impact on my sense of well being but it’s much easier to manage stress and/or depression with the support of others. You can’t just will it away… it takes positive action!

Take a breath

I had an interesting meeting with my manager today. He helped me remember that I have a choice whether to stress about EVERYTHING. He also asked me what kinds of things I want to work on. I couldn’t answer that question. Unfortunately, Intel doesn’t have an art department. Anyway, he gave me this workbook to help me analyze my strengths and preferences. Creativity and aesthetics were two important things that were reinforced by the activities I completed. Now I need to create a plan to help me map out the path to get to my goals.

I’m co-teaching this class at NAMI called Family to Family. It’s held weekly each Saturday. The people in the class all have family members who have a mental illness. It is really intense and emotional. But it is my way of giving back because the class helped me so much when I took it. This is the third series I’ve co-taught. So far, we’ve taught four classes so we’re a third of the way through. I don’t think I’ll teach another class; it really takes so much out of me. One really great thing about doing this is that Intel will be matching my hours with dollars. In the past they’ve only matched educational volunteering so this is a plus. If you do have a mentally ill family member, I would highly recommend this class. Plus, it’s free.

And just like that, she’s off

I’ve had a years worth of drama in the last few months.  My daughter–need I say more–is at the center of the chaos that has been my life lately.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but I am completely drained: emotionally… physically.  My body aches from the weight of the stress I’ve been carrying.  My sleep is never restful.  I have a hard time concentrating.

Well, she left today.  She’s going to her other life.  A relief that she’s out of the house (guilt overcomes me for thinking such a thing) but SOOO worrisome.  I wish she was wrapped up with school or work or a boy friend even.  I keep hoping.  I always hope.  I hope someday that all the positive programming I did while she was growing up kicks in.  I ask myself if there is more I can do to intervene in her life.  But I don’t want to push her further away.  She’s my only child.  I love her.  But if’ I’ve been enabling her, I’ve got to quit.  Her mental illness is no excuse, there still have to be boundaries.

Some would say I’m strong but I know I’m not.  I self-medicate with food.  It is a socially acceptable addiction and I have it.  I reason with myself: “At least I don’t have a drinking problem…  At least I don’t smoke…  I deserve this food considering what I’ve been dealing with…  I really don’t care about my weight anyway.”  The reality is being overweight is so shameful.  I haven’t always been a big girl (my euphemism for fat) and haven’t always used food this way but there’s always some addiction.  Nothing illicit but harmful nonetheless.

With the greyness and cold enveloping me, this time of year is difficult.  Add to that the resolutions and expectations to be healthy in the New Year.  I notice that people treat you differently when you’re a big girl.  Or maybe it’s the aura  you cast when you’re unhappy.  You don’t attract positive.   My mood is already low and piling on goals to be healthy is counter-productive.  Believing you’ll be successful isn’t enough to facilitate that success.  I’ve tried to kick this eating addiction but another takes it’s place.  I wish there was a magic potion that would ease the emptiness, the self-loathing, the unhappiness.  I’m working on it and taking things slowly.  Change is easier that way, don’t you think?

Where’s the Christmas spirit?

I’m deeply disturbed by a family issue that broke wide open tonight. My nephew and his wife decided that they do not wish to expose their children to my daughter, Amber’s influence and if she’s going to show up at Christmas, he and his family will not be attending. I am flabbergasted. I cannot believe this is happening. My parents are upset, I’m upset, my daughter is really upset.

Mental Health

Today someone at work posted a message to his blog regarding burn out.  I wrote back to him and I think what I wrote was worth reposting here.  I apologize if this is more information than you’re interested in but maybe it will help someone deal with similar issues.

You are not the only one.  I recently had a burn out myself.  I had been asking for a day off and it just wasn’t happening.  Everything was so intense (work issues, the guy whistling across the way, the girl eating in the next cube, not to mention home problems) that when I got an annoying phone call, I literally lost it.  My therapist was concerned enough to authorize my leave. 

I have suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.  I have been in therapy for many years.  I have made a lot of progress but I still struggle at times.  My 20-year-old daughter is bi-polar, self-medicates, and is a total risk-taker, which makes things so difficult.  I have tried almost every med on the market and hated the way they left me feeling flat and dull emotionally.  It wasn’t until the most recent break down that I found one that seems to be working: Lexapro. 

If you haven’t done these things already, I would recommend the following:

  • Get in touch with your local NAMI affiliate.  This is an invaluable resource for information as well as support for both you and your family members.

  • Find a therapist you like.  If you don’t feel comfortable with one, interview another and another until you find the right fit.

  • Work with your doctor to adjust your meds if needed.

  • Listen to your body and take time for self-care.

  • Keep talking.  Until we break down the stigma, people will continue to misunderstand mental illness.