Tag Archives: mental health

A fascinating read from a member of the DDD community

Have I mentioned before how much I love the Doing Defies Depression community on Facebook? They are a wonderful bunch of people.

Last Monday, I was feeling quite anxious before leaving the house, and a strange little thought popped into my head which made me smile and made it easier to get out the door. I posted about it, and didn’t visit Facebook again for a while. A few hours later, the post had been liked and commented upon by many people, all with lovely things to say – talk about a beautiful experience!

That was an affirming event, but today I had been going to mention an article which a DDD community member posted to the Facebook page. You can read the article for yourself here. It addresses the causes of addiction, challenging the century-old chemical model of addition, that it’s the substance itself which hooks people. Johann Hari looks at animal studies, human behaviour and decriminalisation success stories to build a case for an alternate model of addiction.

I guess it reminded me that treating depression successfully requires more than medication. Hey, I knew that – I’ve known it for years! – but it never hurts to be reminded just how important it is to take care of our whole selves, physically, emotionally, and socially.

That’s enough of my opinions for now; back to my favourite addiction – TV drama!

Enjoy your Sunday.

X

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Abandoned again: psychological irresponsibility

I really had hoped I’d seen the last of “psychological irresponsibility” in my life, but it seems I attract mental healthcare professionals who like to end our professional relationships with cruel abandon. Thankfully, I have the rest of my far more reliable care team backing me up – though the shock of D’s departure was enough to increase my depression to the point where hospital was required. (Yes, I’m back in hospital. No, I don’t want to talk about it.)

Am I angry? You betcha.

This time, the news was broken in a phone call. His tone was chipper: “I told the hospital last week that I’m leaving to focus on my private practice.” I accessed his services through my hospital’s outpatient outreach program, which is designed to help people stay well and prevent admissions – yet here I find myself again; ironic much?

He didn’t even suggest we have a final wrap-up session. I asked for one, and we made a time, but I was certainly left with the impression that this was something of an imposition. Would you believe he sent me a text asking to reschedule that session because he had a lunch to attend? Mate, sometimes it’s best to give a little less information: I don’t want to know that finishing up our work together is less important to you than a social outing.

I called his supervisor the day after the news. (The psychologist in question wasn’t available, or I would have had a conversation with him.) I reminded him that, about a year ago, he’d asked me to “give [this psychologist] a go” after an administrative reshuffle meant the excellent worker who had had my case was re-assigned. I reminded him that I’d had reservations about welcoming a man into my home, that it had taken a great leap of trust on my behalf to make that OK. I also let him know – since he seemed unaware of the fact – that my mental health had been deteriorating over prior three weeks. He asked that I give the next worker assigned to my case “a go”. I put down the phone with a shiver: those words no longer inspire confidence.

Having left the supervisor in no doubt as to my displeasure, I tried to put the matter out of my mind; but, as I was driving to the post office nine days ago, I suddenly remembered the original phone call with awful clarity. I remembered how cheerful the psychologist has sounded, how he delivered the news as though he were commenting on the pleasing results of a sports match.

If you’re new to this blog, you won’t know my history with abandonment and health care professionals. I had a close professional relationship with my first psychiatrist who treated me for almost five years, then stopped with five days’ notice. The rupture of that therapy came at a time when I was vulnerable on many fronts, and eventually resulted in a complete breakdown. This psychologist knew of that history. I’d made sure of it, and included it in the PowerPoint presentation I made summarizing my medical history when we started work together.

Anyway, I was driving to the post office, and I heard his voice on the phone again in memory’s ear. My reaction was immediate and physical. I felt numb. I walked into the post office and stood at the counter with my parcels. The clerk said something to me from across the shop, but the words didn’t penetrate the fog which had wrapped itself round me, filling my ears and eyes with thick whiteness. I mailed the parcels, walked back to the car, and started the engine. I was only as I approached the corner that I realized the clerk had asked if I was all right. I’d completely ignored her! I drove around the block and walked back inside.

“I’m so sorry about before,” I said, and felt tears on my cheeks. “I think you were talking to me, but I didn’t hear what you said. I probably seemed rude.”

“That’s all right,” she replied, looking at me carefully. “Perhaps you need to go home now?”

“Yes, I think I do.”

“Should you be driving?”

“No, probably not; but I don’t have far to go.”

“OK. Take care of yourself.”

I turned and walked back to the car as though I’d received a full-body beating.

It seems as though my trauma, like my preferred name, is something this psychologist “can’t be expected to remember”. Yes, sadly, that’s a direct quote when I reminded him I prefer to be called “Catie” rather than “Catharine” … three months into treatment.

So: here I am in hospital again. Is it wholly because of the rupturing of that professional relationship? No; my mental health had been deteriorating before that. On the other hand, would I be here if he had handled things differently? No, almost certainly not. This trauma, re-opening the door to that historical hurt, is what precipitated the events which landed me here.

I understand that I don’t know all the details surrounding this incident. I acknowledge that there may be factors beyond anyone’s control which contributed to D’s sudden departure. However, what I do know is this:

  • D had been given the knowledge that an event like this would be extremely triggering to me
  • D had told the hospital a week before he told me that he would be leaving (which implies that he had been planning the move for longer)
  • the therapeutic relationship we’d had was terminated abruptly, and without closure
  • I am now in hospital.

My issue is not that D stopped treating me, nor even that he stopped treating me suddenly. My issue that that he had been given the information that this would be a destructive event in my life, and yet did nothing to mitigate the damage it may cause.

Here endeth the rant.

Have you ever been the subject of psychological irresponsibility? How did you recover?

Therapy ruptured

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The “broken leg” question

Today, on Doing Defies Depression’s Facebook page, I posted:

Question: Which would you prefer – a broken leg, or an acute episode of depression?

It’s a question which has been floating around for years, but it never hurts to run it past a new community and get their responses.

At the time of writing, that post had reached 698 people and had 25 comments, not counting replies to comments. I told you we had an active and engaged Facebook community!

It didn’t surprise me that 92% of respondents said they’d prefer a broken leg; after all, these people had some experience of depression. Most of the comments in favour of a broken leg cited the sympathy and understanding that those with an injured limb will experience, as opposed to those living with the invisible ‘brokenness’ of an acute depressive episode.

For my money, the response of the day was:

Broken leg. People take you seriously with a broken leg. Why don’t you get out more? Oh sorry, I didn’t see your leg. Why don’t you get a job? Oh sorry, didn’t see your leg. Why are you so emotional? Oh sorry, did you want help with your leg?

although the comment saying “2 broken legs” had me smiling.

Of the two who responded that they’d prefer depression, one person’s reason was that a broken leg would prevent her from walking her beloved dog, and the other that a broken leg would prevent him from earning, which would lead to destitution, depression and homelessness (I’m paraphrasing).

Can my little question tell us much? Here are my thoughts, for what they’re worth:

  1. People who have experienced an acute depressive episode would prefer physical pain over psychological suffering.
  2. People in the Doing Defies Depression community – who are far more likely to be living with depression than the general public – retain a sense of humour! Well done, DDD community!
  3. The belief in stigma and misunderstanding of depression is very strong. This is demonstrated in comments like “At least with a broken leg you get the appropriate help and support you need”, “Easy a broken leg … You don’t get comments like – you’ll get over it – pull your socks up” and “Broken leg. Like others are saying people take a broken leg seriously. There’s sympathy and empathy. Depression so few understand it or even recognise it in others.”
  4. Society in general, and workplaces in particular, have a long way to go until people living with depression feel understood.

There’s nothing earth-shattering in there. (Actually, I did have an original thought, but someone came and talked to me for ten minutes so *poof*! Out of my mind it went.) However, these responses highlight the need for greater education around depressive illness.

Out of interest: which would you opt for?

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Filed under Living Well With Depression

It’s all just stories

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my mind’s capacity to tell stories. Of course, I’m not unique in this: story-telling is a gift, a way we make sense of the world; a heuristic which helps us interpret events and act quickly. This concept of the mind as story-teller is one of the tenets of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

I came across this picture recently:

Halos

 

This galaxy of lights – some near, some far; some warm, some cold, some sharply in focus and others fuzzily defined – reminded me of the mind-as-storyteller model.

Let me share some of the stories my mind has been telling me lately.

“Catie, you’re just so stupid.” This one has been loud and clear! It’s in response to my reaction to stressors in the past few months. Funny old mind; I’m not stupid, but it’s a persistent story my mind likes to run to in times of stress.

“You’re brilliant!” This after receiving praise for a piece of research I completed and delivered to the client on Monday.

“Nobody wants me, because I’m such a deeply flawed individual.” I’m looking for work at the moment, which as we all know can be a demoralizing experience as those rejection emails keep pouring in. Obviously, not getting shortlisted for a job means that nobody in the entire world accepts me.

“I’m definitely going to get this job! Woohoo!” Upon being invited to interview for a really exciting position.

I could go on, but you get the picture: my masterful storytelling mind can switch tales faster than a cheesy soap, and is quite indiscriminate about which story it picks up in the moment.

My point is, they’re all just stories. Sometimes I behave stupidly. I am also capable of brilliance. As an individual I have flaws. I may get that job, or I may not, and whether I do or not isn’t entirely within my control, because I don’t know who else has applied and what experience they bring to the table.

I talk a lot with my therapist about being “outside” the story or “inside” the story. When we’re wearing our depression goggles, it can be easy to live “inside” the story: to become totally invested in what the story’s telling us about ourselves; to suspend disbelief and accept its premises without question. On the other hand, being “outside” the story, by reminding ourselves that our mind is a storyteller and we don’t have to accept everything it says at face value, helps protect us from the story’s impact. A simple and effective tool for moving from inside to outside the story is to say to yourself: “My mind is telling me …”.

Two final quick points on the mind-as-storyteller: It’s not a bad thing that our mind tells us stories. It’s an adaptive strategy which gives us many advantages in the world. The problem only arises when we take stories as reality which don’t accurately reflect reality and then have thoughts/feelings/behaviours originating from them. It’s also worth noting that the seemingly positive stories, like “I’m definitely going to get this job!”, can cause problems too. We’re less likely to challenge these positive stories, because they feel good, but they can also be maladaptive.

What do you think of the mind-as-storyteller model?

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Filed under Living Well With Depression

The Intern

Internships aren’t really big in Australia. There are a few theories about why: Australians’ commitment to fair wages, and the ambiguity under employment law, are probably the leading two reasons. However, three weeks ago I advertised for a volunteer intern, and was receiving quality applications within twelve hours.

Claire has been helping me out with social media for Doing Defies Depression. She is an absolute star! We meet once a week to talk strategy, mutual support and mentoring. I am learning a lot from her, and I hope the feeling’s mutual. I’ll let her use her own words as introduction:


 

Hiya!
I am very excited to be taking on this internship with Catie, and I look forward to connecting with you all! Allow me to tell you a little about myself…
I have a background in performance including theatre Acting, Screen Acting, Immersive Theatre, Improvised Performance, Puppetry, Hosting, Directing and various other behind the scenes roles.
Since forming a theatre company last year with other creative professionals (TBC Theatre) I found myself managing our online marketing, I enjoy the work so much that I am now studying full time at The University of Melbourne doing a Masters of Marketing Communications.
Mental health has been a huge factor in my life, whether it’s the little devil on my back, weighing me down and swinging me around. Or it feels like the old friend who welcomes me back into the dark corner where I can cry and never leave the house.
The great thing about working as an actor (or one of the great things) is that I was forced to take a good, hard look at who I was deep down and start working with what I had, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
Personal management, especially when your sinking, is the hardest thing to do. I believe that I am my own hero when I’m lost, and sometimes I need some guidance to give me the strength to be my hero.
This is why I find Doing Defies Depression a very inspiring business, I believe there needs to be an open community of support, so we can find our potential and strength to be our own heroes.
Once again, I look forward to connecting with you through Facebook and Twitter (and soon Instagram!).
Thank you for having me.
– Claire

 

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Filed under Living Well With Depression