Understanding Mental Illness – My Bipolar Life

My Bipolar Life

If you have been diagnosed with, mental illness, or, Bipolar,  disorder,  it means that you probably think of ending your life all the time.  In this episode, I interview Gabe Howard, who was diagnosed with, Bipolar disorder, at age 25.

Before then Gabe said that he did not know he was sick. His parents thought  he was just acting out and would punish him for his behavior. But he remembers thinking of suicide all his life, until he got treatment. No one knew he was, Bipolar.

Today GABE HOWARD is an award-winning speaker, author, and podcast host who lives with bipolar disorder. He hosts the weekly Psych Central Podcast and is the co-host of the Not Crazy podcast. He’s the author of Mental Illness is an Asshole – and Other Observations and has appeared on numerous websites, podcasts, and in many traditional media outlets

Introduction to My Bipolar Life

I was diagnosed with, Bipolar disorder, when I was when I was 25 years old. I didn’t know that I was sick. I had all of these, mental health, symptoms. They were causing me a lot of personal problems. I had a drug and alcohol problem, hyper sexuality was an issue, my relationships were just being destroyed, all because of, mental illness, but I didn’t know anything was wrong.

Then one day I ended up in a psychiatric hospital, because I was ready to end my own life. I thought about suicide as far back as I can remember.

I just thought it was normal to want to die.

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What is, Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme changes in mood from high to low, and from low to high. Highs are periods of mania, while lows are periods of depression. The changes in mood may even become mixed, so you might feel elated and depressed at the same time.

The problem Gabe says is that when you are in the middle is when you get the job, the girl, the promotion, get married.  You usually loose these things when you are depressed or manic;  being in the middle is where you want to be.

I became an advocate because I consider myself to be a smart person and I don’t have like some story about how my parents were awful. My parents are good people, they loved me very much. My dad was a truck driver my mom a stay-at-home mom and they did all the things right.

They were engaged, they loved me, they were present and none of us knew that I was, Bipolar, None of us got me any help. I thought wow if I didn’t know, if my family didn’t know, if all of that love and engagement and connection and caring and they just missed it. There must be other people that are in my shoes. That’s why I became a, mental health advocate.

I just wanted to talk about, Bipolar, openly so that there just wouldn’t be other people wandering around sick and scared and symptomatic. They could get help, because I was really lucky.

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What is Mental Illness?

My Bipolar Life
My Bipolar Life

Mental Illness is an Asshole!

In his book Mental Illness is an Asshole – and Other Observations

Mental Illness is an Asshole is Gabe Howard’s first collection of articles about living with mental illness.

All the articles date from 2014 through 2018 and include his observations on reaching recovery, stigma, and living well in spite of depression, bipolar, and anxiety. Totaling over 380 pages, Gabe even shares the story of his :): logo for the first time.

For years, Gabe Howard’s entertaining articles and essays have been educating people about living with mental illness. His observations cover everything from practical advice to family relationships to the fears that people with mental illness experience.

In essays such as “Anxiety Says Everyone Hates Me,” “I Have Bipolar and I’m a Hypocrite,” and, yes, “Mental Illness Is an Asshole,” Gabe makes mental illness less scary and more understandable.

I had a suicide plan and I just happen to run into somebody that understood that understood mental illness and it she looked at me and asked me “are you planning on killing yourself?” Her training allowed her to ask that question and I said yes! She he me committed to the psychiatric hospital.

I was diagnosed with, bipolar disorder, and of course once I was diagnosed with, bipolar, to go on and lead good life. This is why I always say that I was lucky.

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What is, Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, is commonly described as extreme highs to extreme lows. From suicidal depression all the way to God like mania. As a, Bipolar, you will have to battle depression where you want to die, and feel like you want to die, you feel like you want everything to end. When you are in Mania, you feel like the whole world revolves around you.

Then there is the middle. Everything is normal. That’s when you get the job, that’s when you meet the girl, that’s when you get married, buy the house, have all the friends; all the things that you lose when you become symptomatic.

Psych Meds for, Bipolar Disorder, the Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Psychiatric medications are the religion and politics of the mental health advocacy world.

In this episode, we cover the good, the bad, and the ugly surrounding medications. Like whether or not you should take them. We tackle side effects like feeling numb and sexual dysfunction and share our personal histories with medication therapy.

If you have any form of, mental illness, that you need Meds to function. Medications are amazing, they saved my life. I want to be very clear. Without my medication I cannot live the life that I live. So many people mistakenly believe that psychiatric medications are magical that you just need to take the pill and boom everything is fine and it’s simple.

It’s much bigger than that. In addition to psychiatric medication, therapy is very important, learning coping skills is very important, and going to support groups. You have to deal with the trauma of your past and all of these things matter; but all we ever hear about is psychiatric medication and I want to change that. I want to change it to, did you take your meds and did you go to therapy and did you utilize your coping skills?

 

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What is the most common cause of, bipolar disorder?

Biological traits

Hormonal problems: Hormonal imbalances might trigger or cause bipolar disorder. Environmental factors: Abuse, mental stress, a “significant loss,” or some other traumatic event may contribute to or trigger bipolar disorder.

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Mental Health Advocate for, Bipolar

Gabe is a, Mental Health Advocate. He remembers when no one knew he was sick for over 20 years.  He had a plan to end his life and luckly for him, someone asked him the question “Are you planning on hurting yourself” He answered yes and he was admitted to the Psychiatric ward in hospital.

That saved his life so now, he is a, mental health advocate, to help others suffering from, mental illness, or, bipolar disorder, receive treatment and services.

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Additional Resources for, Bipolar Disorder.

The book is a collection of Articles and all of the Articles have something to do with, mental illness, mental health, loving somebody with, mental illness, dating someone with, bipolar,

It’s almost a reference guide that you can carry around for people with, bipolar, or dealing with somebody who is living with, mental illness, and depression and anxiety, don’t just live with, bipolar, you can have just depression, you can have just anxiety. Even people with schizophrenia, they suffer from depression and anxiety as well.

Dealing with Anxiety Disorder after Addiction

https://blog.myhelps.us/understanding-and-managing-compulsive-behaviors/

https://blog.myhelps.us/9-steps-to-effective-advocacy/

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324602.php

 

 

What is the Connection between Sexual Abuse and Addiction?

child sexual abuse
Child Abuse, and, sexual abuse,  Statistics, show a connection between, child abuse, Mental Health, addiction, and depression.
In her book “Call me an addict, war on Women” By Dr Tra Ahia. shares Kreta’s story of, child abuse, and sexual abuse, that started with her biological mother. I think this is very rare. Kreta said her mother was a sick person. Her, child abuse, was by her mother. Her mother used to make her kids do sexual acts on her boyfriend and her. Her mother and boyfriend also had sex in front of her and her brothers and sisters. This, abuse, started when she was about 4 years old.
Listen to the full interview here:

Kreta’s story of, sexual abuse

Kreta was raped by an older boy around the age of 7.

Kreta’s, child abuse, started when she was only 8 or 9 years old when she started smoking weed, crack and sniffing blow. As she got older when she didn’t have money she would perform sexual acts for coke.

Even though she was a good student in school she started ditching school to sleep with older men and eventually dropped out of school.

She started working for a pimp who continued her, sexual abuse, he beat her all the time and had other men rape her and pie on her. After a string of, sexually abusive, relationships She got pregnant several times while still doing drugs. She had two abortions; but decided to keep her third pregnancy – a baby girl.

She went in and out of rehab several times trying to stay clean but always relapsed.

Kreta’s story ended the saddest of all 3 stories from the book “Call me an Addict, war  Her, strange addiction, was out of control. She got so high one night that she stabbed her baby to death. She got life in prison.

Kreta’s has so many of the, Child Abuse, Statistics, in her story

  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Illicit drug abuse
  • Smoking & drinking at an early age
  • Depression
  • Suicide attempts

I want to say that Kreta’s mother surprised me; but I have heard, sexual abuse,  stories like this one before. I had a coaching client who told me that her mother stopped having sex with her husband and when she was 4 years old gave her to her husband to have sex with. Tyler Perry tried to bring attention to this, child abuse, and, sexual abuse,  in his movie Madea Family Reunion .

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Here are 5, Statistics, about, sexual abuse, offenders

  1. Ages 12 to 14 are the peak ages for child offenders.
  2. 70 percent of perpetrators have between 1 and 9 victims.
  3. Child abuse,  statistics, show as many as 40 percent of children who are, sexually abused,  are abused by older or more powerful children.
  4. Sex offenses are the crimes least likely to involve strangers as perpetrators. Although a smaller percentage of, sex offenders, are women, the majority are male. Sex offenders, are generally NOT “dirty old men” or strangers lurking in alleys. They are typically not obviously mentally ill or retarded. In fact, sex offenders, are usually well known and trusted by the children they victimize, and frequently are members of the family, including fathers and stepfathers, brothers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins. There is no clear cut description or profile of a, sex offender. Thus there is no way to recognize a potential, sex offender, and  abuser; and it’s often hard to believe that a trusted individual would be capable of abusing children.
  5. Children who disclose their abuse within one month are at a reduced risk for, depression, or substance abuse and, addiction. Believe your kids when they talk to you and LISTEN. 

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Why, Addiction, and, Depression, are by products of, Child Abuse

Although any type of, addiction, can trigger violence, those most likely to impair judgment, like drug and alcohol, addiction, are most often linked to addiction-related violence. Drug and alcohol use can weaken self-control, it’s not uncommon to see people who are under the influence engaging in behavior they usually wouldn’t if they were sober.

People living with, strange addictions, who commit violent crimes, is usually as a result of intoxication or as a means of obtaining money to finance their habits. According to an article published in Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, more than 75 percent of people who seek treatment for, drug addiction,  report having performed acts of violence, including mugging, physical assault and using a weapon to attack another person.

People who suppress negative feelings like anger or, depression, are more likely to drink or use, drugs, to the point of intoxication and exhibit violent behaviors. If you have Pent-up rage and you are using drugs, you are more likely to act violently because loss of self-control can increase your chances to act on your anger.

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Dr Tra Ahia How does CBT help a, sexual abuse, survivor to love themselves? What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Evidence is growing that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for, child abuse, and, sexual abuse, including those who have experienced physical, child abuse, and other traumatic events.

Most of the studies that have evaluated Trauma focused-CBT have been well designed. This treatment model represents a synthesis of trauma-sensitive interventions and well-established CBT principles  treatment-outcome studies for, child abuse, and, sexual abuse, and otherwise traumatized children. The therapy was developed to resolve post traumatic stress disorder, and, depression, and anxiety symptoms, as well as to address underlying distortions about self-blame, safety, the trustworthiness of others, and the world. The treatment also fits, child abuse, and, sexual abuse, and other traumatic experiences into a broader context of children’s lives so that their primary identity is not that of a victim.

Child abuse,  statistics, show that CBT therapy allows, sexual abuse, victims to learn self love.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Women with Trauma

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Arifah What does, Child abuse, statistics, show about self love?

It shows that if, child abuse, and sexual abuse, victims do the following, They begin to heal.

  • Take your time
  • Recognize that your needs matter
  • Forgive yourself and knowledge of self through therapy
  • Find a support group
  • Learn to practice self-compassion, to rid yourself of shame-based beliefs, such as you are worthless, defective, bad, or unlovable
  • Find time for self care activities (journaling, exercise, mediation, art, hanging out with people that care about you).
  • Gain new experiences (i.e. get involved in the community)
Call me an Addict
Call me an Addict

 

Dr Tra I am curious after listening to 100 stories like the ones you told in your book and from all the data you have collected over your 30 years in this space.  Why do you think fathers and stepfathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and cousins, abuse, little girls?

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I want to comment on one of the, child abuse,  statistics,   the one that says 70% of perpetrators have between 1 to 9 victims.  I remember my,  sexual abuse, It was from a man  who I called grandfather, even though he was no relation.  He used to tell me to bring my friends, and he would do the same thing to them as he did me. In fact he had a reputation of liking little girls.  I never told anyone!

That’s another thing, child abuse, and, sexual abuse, statistics, show,  victims never tell.

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Here are 5 tips for loving yourself after, child abuse, and, sexual abuse, 

  1. Read Positive affirmations
  2. Heal the mind through the body (ie. Boxing, Running, Martial Arts)
  3. Mindful breathing exercises and meditation (stop, breathe and think app)
  4. Channel your pain into creativity ( i.e.journaling)
  5. Ask for help when you need it

 Conclusion, Child Abuse, and, Sexual Abuse 

Dr Tra, Do you support the, child abuse statistic,  that says that if kids who are experiencing trauma of any kind tells someone who offers support, it has a direct and positive effect on the, sexual abuse and addiction connection?

Totally, when you tell someone what is being done to you, you release the shame of thinking you are to blame. You will also get help to cope with the emotions.  When you stay silent it eats away at you all your life and then you self medicate with, drugs,  and alcohol and your, sexual abuse, continues into your adult relationships.

Additional Resources on,  Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse

Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Women with Trauma

https://blog.myhelps.us/whats-your-story-breakthesilence/

https://blog.myhelps.us/10-ways-childhood-trauma-impact-adults-in-love/

https://www.masterproblems.com/2017/02/what-can-be-done-about-child-abuse.html

When Your Child Can’t Speak

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/subabuse_childmal.pdf

 

 

How to Deal with Grief from Death or Incarceration

Coping with, grief,  either from death, divorce, incarceration, job loss, or even loosing your home is devastating. Mental Health counselor, Arifah Yusaf  and, Life Coach, Myrna Young shares strategies for coping with loss.

I have been fortunate at 60 years old to not had to deal with the kind of, grief, that tears your soul out. The kind that of,  grief,  makes you want to die. The kind that  hurt so bad that you can’t get up out of bed for weeks.

I have heard stories, and I have had a front row seat to my daughters grief when she buried her fiancé.

Grief, from Losing a Child:

I was listening to an interview with Anderson Cooper a few months back and he was telling the story of his brother suicide. Then I heard his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt,  talk about it. Put yourself in this scene.

Your 22 year old son wakes up from a nap and comes into your room. Asks you some question you don’t comprehend and then runs out of your room onto the balcony of your 12th story Penthouse suite and jumps to his death while you watch, shocked out of your mind.

Gloria Vanderbilt, had this experience. In an interview she said in her, grief, she stayed in bed for 2 weeks and cried and cried until she ran out of tears. Since then she has not cried once. She says it is as if, she has no tears left.

When a loved one commits suicide the, grief, is even more acute because there is blame wondering what you may have missed, could have done to prevent it, are you the cause etc.

But after hearing that interview, I heard another interview on the, Mental Health Happy Hour podcast, that penetrated my consciousness about the horror or, grief,

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Grief and the Death of a Spouse:

The guest told the story about, the death of her spouse, seeing her husband drown in front of her and how her world changed from that day.

Here is her story. She said her husband Matt was a super athlete very strong. She gave us the mental picture of him hanging from a cliff with one hand and in the other hand pulling up his 17 year old son.

One day before they picked up her husband’s son from the Airport, they decided to take their dog for a walk in the woods by their home. Her husband decided to take a quick swim in the river, something he did several times per week. She decided to keep playing with the dog.

After some time, she said she heard her husband cough once and she didn’t think anything of it. She said to herself, he got water into his mouth again. When she heard him cough again, she decided to investigate. When she reached the river, she saw her husband clinging to a branch in river. She knew something was wrong.

The river looked the same as it always looked, very calm on top; but as soon as she stepped into the river to help her husband, she felt the strong undercurrent. The current took her and her dog up the river for about 2 miles before it spit them out on the shore. She said she was then lost in the woods for about 45 mins before she was able to get help.

They began a search and rescue for her husband, but  after 3 hours it became a search and recovery.

They found him entangled in weeds at the bottom of the river.

Her, grief, extended to having to tell Matt’s son that his father was dead. What it felt like to pick up Matt’s son from the airport the day before his 18th birthday.

Knowing that Matt’s son could never again celebrate his birthday again because it will always be the anniversary of his Dad’s death. She talked about having to call Matt’s parents and tell them their son was dead. She said his father hung up on her he didn’t want to believe it. Calling all his friends in his phone and telling them. Her, grief,  was unbearable.

She said she could no longer practice her profession as a therapist, because she couldn’t listen to other people’s problems anymore. But the point she wanted to convey by telling her story, was that while she was in mystery and her world changed forever, her neighbors world and everyone else’s world continued unchanged.

The sun came up the next day, her neighbor came out the next day and picked up his morning newspaper. She likened it to going to the movies, you pay to see a comedy but while everybody else is laughing your screen split and you are watching a horror movie.

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Grief from Suicide:

My firsthand experience with, grief, was seeing the pain it caused my daughter when her fiancé committed suicide. His mother called me and I thought she was joking when she said ” The boy killed himself” until she said why would I joke about something like that.

I had the unenviable role of telling my daughter her fiancé was dead. I can still hear her screens of anguish. I didn’t know what to do.

Her world changed. She quit school. She was doing her Masters degree at the time.

She went back later; but I had to call her professors and tell them the situation.

Then she had to deal with the funeral and the burial.

I didn’t know what to do, what to say or how to help her with her, grief.

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The therapist said that most people don’t know what to do or say.

Because our culture spins the tale that life must go on and that everything has a purpose.

She feels that is bullshit to sat that her husband died, so that she can use her pain to help other people. What she is doing now.

She said you can’t tell a mother who lost her baby that God had better plans for the child.

We will go through her suggestions for helping others deal with, grief, and what you can do to help later on in this blog

Grief and loss, Transform your mind podcast
Grief screaming

Here is how to deal with, grief from incarceration: Grief Counseling,

In the co-host chair is Arifah Yusuf Mortley, registered social worker, mental health counselor and founder and program director of Lifted by Purpose.

How is, grief from incarceration, similar to losing a loved one in death?

In my experience I have supported both clients in, grief counseling, dealing with, grief, of a loved one who died and secondary loss, such as losing a loved one to incarceration. When speaking with my clients, dealing with the loss of a loved one, I always listen and provide the space and opportunity for them to be heard and share their feelings.

It’s important for them to know during, grief counseling, that grief, is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense your, grief, will be.

Emotional reactions of, grief,  can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and despair.

During, grief counseling, clients may associate grieving with the death of a loved one—which is often the cause of the most intense type of, grief, but you can also experience intense, grief from incarceration,  or losing a loved one to incarceration.  For example, I had a client who was pregnant and her fiancé was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Even though he did not die the, grief, was intense from her watching him get sentenced and taken away the same day, delivering their baby without him present, and raising their child on her own.  She would drive 3 hours to visit him and 3 hours back home once a month and speak to him as often, as she could afford.

Over time the, grief from incarceration, took a toll on her, as this was not the family life she had envisioned for herself.  Likewise, it was difficult for her fiancé in prison, as he felt he was missing out on the experience of raising their child, and the experience of being the father he promised himself and her, he would be.

He felt disappointment in himself and a disconnection to his family. He also, experienced, grief,  from loosing his freedom, and the ability to provide for his family.  He also grieved missing all the milestones of his child’s life (ie. Missing first words, walk, first day of school, birthdays) and intense worry about their health and safety. As well, wondering if his girl would leave him for someone else. The inevitable of not being able to fully control situations, was an intense loss for them both, and sometimes, she would say it felt as if he was gone and not coming back home.

Transform your Mind TuneIn Radio
TuneIn Radio

Steps to helping friends or family members deal with, Grief:

1: Never say get over it or it is for the best.

2: Allow them to grieve. If they want to talk about it listen. They need to feel heard. In fact they will talk about it until they feel heard.

  1. Help them by taking care of daily necessities like child care, cooking, cleaning, taking out the trash, picking up kids from school etc. A person in, grief, is not capable of doing any of these things.
  2. Sit with the thought that time does heal. The therapist went back to work helping others, my daughter went back to school and graduated on time with her Masters degree. She is getting married in December. Anderson Cooper decided to send himself to the war zone and report news. That is how he dealt with his, grief. That launched his career as a reporter.
Grief from incarceration, Transform your mind Podcast
Grief behind bars

How to Deal with, grief from incarceration, or death?

Listen and engage  in conversations about the loss, so they can begin to recognize the reality of the loss and confront their own emotions (e.g. loneliness, sadness, helplessness). These stressors include things like thoughts, feelings, actions, and memories that cause us to feel, grief, and focus on the loss.

I share the Tear Model when working with clients, which focuses in on the following.

 

The Tear Model to help with, Grief

  • Accept the reality of the loss
  • Experience the reality of the loss
  • Adjust to a new life without the person
  • Reinvest in the new reality

 

I often explain that restorationorientation refers to coping with issues related to secondary changes brought on by the loss (e.g., financial, family demands), and adapting to these issues.

A griever will go between confronting the loss and avoiding the loss.

Transform your Mind Stitcher
Transform your Mind Stitcher

Helpful ways to cope with, Grief, and Loss

  • Express yourself. Talking to a trust friend, family member or counselor is often a good way to soothe painful emotions.
  • Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process.
  • Keep your routine up.
  • Sleep.
  • Listen to music or express your emotions using the arts
  • Connect with your spiritually.
  • Eat healthy and exercise.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Honor your special person and treasure fond memories (drawing, photos, music, and memory box).
  • Connect to nature – go for a walk, breathe in the fresh, focus on what you see outside (i.e. Trees, birds).
  • Make a special memento to perverse a loved one’s memory. Write a letter to the person.
  • Lean on support from friends, family, professional support.
  • Learn about grief resources, support groups, grief professionals.
Transform your mind iTunes Podcast iTunes
Download on iTunes

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR COPING WITH, GRIEF

How to Heal Your Brokenness

Life After Death, How an Atheist Became a Believer

How to Find Love, the Second Time Around

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131745/

 

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/11/10/the-singular-sorrow-of-grieving-behind-bars