Friday, January 17, 2014

wording - is a qualitative difference indicated by whether or not the title of a mental illness is used as an adjective or a noun?

It's a Friday night, and I can't quite bring myself to not stay up late. Silly, really, and I even know it. But oh, well.

Only, I should go to sleep soon, because I'm supposed to be somewhere by noon tomorrow, however I first need to take my car to the shop. It took up making this absolutely horrible sound whenever I put on the brakes. Which still braked, so don't panic. It just sounded really bad. So I plan to actually get up early (i.e. on time) tomorrow to see if I can get it fixed.

But I just remembered that I have neither oatmeal nor cereal for breakfast. Terrible.

Anyway, I really did have a point.

The informal OCD blogging community has been discussing wording, stigma, and mental illness. So I thought I'd chime in.

When a noun that labels a psychiatric disorder is used as an adjective, it seems to me it is usually being used in the casual, careless way. "You are crazy." "That's crazy." "Crazy kid." In my experience, these don't mean clinical craziness (if there even is such a thing).

But the same thing goes with depressed and OCD. "I'm OCD about keeping my house clean" typically doesn't really mean clinical OCD. "I'm so behind at work, I'm depressed," possibly means clinicly depressed, but more likely means someone is feeling a bit down.

Depressed happens to legitimately hold both a clinical meaning and a non-clinical, every-day meaning. Thus, if I just say, "I'm depressed," people tend to think of the every-day casual meaning. So instead, I say, "I have depression."

Similarly, I might say I struggle with OCD, or I have depression and OCD.

And while I'm pointing out wording, "Behavioral Health" drives me crazy, in the casual, every-day meaning. Leaves me feeling like a naughty person who never learned to behave as a child. Who now is working on "improving" my behavior. And it just seems to encourage the idea already there that if we just did the right things, we would be healthy again. Thus, I'm very strongly in favor of sticking with "Mental Health," even if someone somewhere decided "behavioral health" was kinder to those of us needing such services.

Conclusion: Ha! You can draw your own. PS. I wonder if it is some minor compulsion that makes me want to wrap up all I'm trying to say. Or if it is merely evidence of my superior writing skills. :) My wanting to perfectly wrap up a day, mentally conclude it somehow (there is, of course, no known way to actually completely satisfactorily do this), that probably is one of OCD's deposits on my life. So let me hurry to bed in an imperfect state now. And don't you love the irony of trying to go to sleep mid-exposure? Because planning to cut a potential ritual out of your bedtime routine feels pretty risky, at least on the planning side. (I usually find exposures are much easier to actually do than I expect, with the exception of major issues.)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What I really want

There seem to be some mysteries in life. Things that I'm just not going to completely understand at this point. I might just barely understand them, if even that. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like a few answers spelled out with mathematical clarity.

My small group at church decided to go through a book about the Holy Spirit. Not the Bible, though, just one of those books where a guy tries to express what he thinks the Bible says on the subject. Perhaps you already know my skepticism regarding Bible teachers. Well, that flared a bit. But it wasn't so much that specifically.

I was afraid the book would make me upset. And it did. I got a good cry in last night. Not even so much from what the book said as from what it reminded me of.

I remembered how I felt some church people around me had terribly failed me. Not on purpose. I presume most of them were trying to help, and I appreciate that.

But I remember being so far down, that spot where you are hanging on by your fingernails to life. When the thought of living for a whole day seemed way too long, so I'd stick with an hour or a moment. That point when I for positive sure was past any "pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps" state - not that people or even one of my psychiatrists were past reminding me to do that.

But what help did people have? "Try reading your Bible more." "Maybe this is an attack of Satan" (actually, that one wasn't so bad because judgement was not implied). "Pray." "Be thankful." "Obey God." Those aren't bad advice exactly. Some of it is very good. And trust me, I did pray. And I was intentional about being thankful. So maybe only 5 things a day instead of one thing every 5 minutes, which I'm sure would be much more spiritual.

But this is what I wanted: I wanted to understand how God could be with me, how His joy could be with me when I longed for my pain to end. I wanted a God who could handle severe depression. Oh, and a God who didn't see severe depression as a moral failing or a lack of surrender to Him. I don't mean that He would think I was completely innocent of all sin; I just wanted Him to understand that I was just ill, at least for the most part.

Well, and here is what I have for you. I believe that my God can handle severe depression. I even think He can handle it without rushing down to scold me for "how stupid I had been to let myself go so far into depression." I think it is an illness. I know He was still with me then, even when I didn't feel it. So here is the thing: I don't understand it. I can't explain it theologically point by point (as if you wanted that anyway - but I sure did/do). I can't prove that mental illness is just another illness effected by our genetics, our environment, our choices, life circumstances, and who knows what else. All I know is that God really is great enough to be there for me when I'm severely depressed. But I sure wish I could reason it out!

Back to the book. I don't know where the author will go. Maybe I'll end up liking his teaching. Maybe I'll just doodle a lot to try to keep my brain from jumping on an angry tirade. Maybe he will have his ducks lined up. Maybe his ducks will be all over the place. From the first chapter and introduction, I'm pretty sure he was making some language assumptions that were incorrect (i.e., he seemed to assume that we didn't experience something because we use different words to describe it). But maybe he will get better. I'd better read the next chapter. I was going to read it tonight so that if it leads me to cry again I can get it over with.

Judgement is so easy. People judge each other so easily. I judge myself so easily, so the slightest judgement from others can feel unbearable for me. So sometimes I just have to mentally walk away. Tell myself, the author doesn't know my particular situation. There are factors he didn't recognize. His life experiences were different than mine. But I can only afford to mourn so much in response to people's unfair judgements. Then I have to move on. Because the clock moves on. And my life moves on.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

a drawn out exposure related to buying fashion boots

I call this a drawn out exposure because I consider any exposure lasting more than 5 to 15 minutes to be long and drawn out. In case you wondered how long I generally engage in an exposure, now you know.

Today, I went shopping. After working on a budget last night, which technically I haven't necessarily blown yet, although I'm close to the edge in a category or few. At first, I made it through the dollar store only purchasing one thing. Then through Walmart only purchasing two things, my internet pass for the next two months, and a pair of leggings.

Then I went on a hunt for boots. Perhaps I should let you in on the fact that my aunt gave me a shirt, but it didn't quite fit, so I returned it to the store here locally, and found a Tshirt and a little dress for less than the original sale shirt (that is why I like 70 - 90% off things... and chance, that I found those two items). Well, that was sort of risky buying those (I have OCDish anxiety about shopping that I'll purchase the wrong thing, and thereby sin). But I was quite excited. Only the dress is short, too short for the winter. So that is why I added leggings to the outfit today. But then I needed shoes to wear with it. I could were my multi-season Sunday shoes, but I'm not sure if that would be a fashion crime. And the lady at the store where I got the dress suggested leggings and boots if I had them.

So I started a hunt for boots. It wasn't exactly an impulse search. I've wanted a stylish pair of boots since I started noticing them in the fall (and especially since one of my toddlers came in wearing a pair of the tall ones). So I figured if I could find one for $15 or $25, it wouldn't be too bad.

Well, at the third store, I found a pair I thought were perfect, except that they were too small. They were about $30 on sale from $80. So I wrote down what specifications on the box label that I thought would help me out. Then I tried the local mall (read very, very small). No success. So I called the department store the next sort of big city over to see if they had my chosen shoes in my size. No, they didn't, but if I went one store further, they did have one pair my size.

I decided to go for it. It would take perhaps 45 minutes to drive over. It would be a good exposure, but actually, it would be an even better exposure because I wasn't sure if I could justify the trip as an exposure (if you have OCD, I trust that will make sense. If you don't, please just humor me...).

Moreover, I would try to be nice to myself on this trip. Since I've been feeling guilty for not being nicer to myself. Oooh, that sounds bad. How would you work an exposure for that guilt/anxiety thought? I mean, be mean to myself so I can keep feeling guilty?

Which brings me to this one, very important bit of information for anyone with or without OCD: OCD specializes in loose-loose situations.

Back to my story. I was actually nice to myself. It was a challenge, felt awkward, and reminded me of when I worked on appreciating myself when I was in the hospital for my mental illness. And I enjoyed the scenery. I mean, a sunset with an expansive view of city lights surrounded by hills that are called mountains or mountains that are really hills or whatever those short tall things are. And the highway with all those cars' lights. I thought it was pretty.

Once I got to the store, I'm sure you will be shocked to learn that I wasn't sure if I really wanted to buy the boots once I got there. I wasn't sure they fit quite right. I wasn't sure they looked quite right. I even went so far as to ask a stranger for fashion advice. (I didn't see it as assurance-seeking then, but I'm pretty sure it could have been, looking back). She said they were cute, but recommended higher cut boots if I was going to wear leggings. So I looked. The other boots were all too this or that. Too high heels, too high of a price (the figure I had in my head, that wasn't strictly based on the aforementioned budget, was 32.99 or less) combined with being too tight on the top, too loose... So then, after I was very hot in my warm winter coat (there are downsides to warm winter coats if you don't take them off), I was left to decide whether or not to buy.

I decided to buy the original pair that brought me the thirty-four miles or so. After all, it was an exposure trip/treat yourself nice trip.

After eating, I drove back towards home. And considered the dilemma of an exposure/treat yourself nice trip, which sounds even more contradictory to me now. Stay in your anxiety plus relax and be nice to yourself. That's what we get told by our good therapists, right? The ones that teach ERP. Well, at least mine. Because, at least for me with my mix of depression and OCD, she uses a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Response Prevention and Mindfulness and Dialectic Behavioral Therapy... a nice good mix, with ERP still the crown (well, alongside medication if needed) in defeating OCD. (She seems to promote cutting the OCD mountain into a hill with CBT etc., and then exposing one's self to the hill, and also mindfulness etc.) So how do I do that? Tell myself, "Relax! Stay with the anxiety." (Heart, go slower and race, please?) I've been telling myself, "It'll be okay." Only at our last visit, my therapist thought even my lovely phrase was a compulsion. Which sort of makes sense. But it is also me trying to relax myself. But then, have you ever tried washing your hands to relax yourself? I have. And I'm pretty extremely sure it counted as a compulsion - or a justfiable precaution. :)

Anyway, I made it back to my home town and went grocery shopping in my new boots. Of course, all the ladies I noticed wearing boots had higher cut boots than the new ones I was breaking in. I had a growing assurance that I had bought the wrong pair of boots. And spending another $30 dollars for another pair of boots would take a whole lot more justification than the first pair. Pretty much, it was a lost cause. So I got to sit with my knowing it was the wrong pair of boots.

By the end of shopping, my feet hurt and I remembered why I didn't buy what I had started thinking was the "right" pair of boots; their heels were too high. So I guess I got the right pair, after all. A pair that will give me a few more exposures before I can finally forget the decision (if I ever do). Actually, probably any pair would have provided plenty of exposures. Only maybe if I had bought a cuter pair, my joy would outweigh my anxiety...

So that is what I consider a drawn out exposure. One that takes hours. Sure, I thought of other stuff in between, but it was a pretty good one anyway.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Well, here it is, New Year's Day. It feels like I should write a post on my goals for the new year. Or write why I don't make New Year's Resolutions. It seems that the options are perhaps equally acceptable, if Facebook comments and shares are any indication.

Why don't I like to make New Year's Resolutions? Because they fire up my guilt-producing machine. You know, the one that OCD has fun with. I'm guilty because I don't budget my money (or because I don't budget it better). I'm guilty because I ate too much for supper (never mind that I was forever hungry all day until then, even though I kept eating). I'm guilty because...

Oh, really? Well, actually, I cleaned my apartment today. My sister from a few states away was visiting and we had our day together, or afternoon together. Which was lovely. And which inspired my house cleaning. I even made it all the way to cleaning out my car. I give myself gold stars for all that.

And the time with my sister? You know those times where you enjoy the moment, but keep having pangs of awareness that this is the last time you are going to be with someone you care about in person for several months? I mean, my other two sisters, who knows when I'll be with them in person next. But I still struggle with the one sister leaving for a few months. (To be fair, it isn't that easy to tell any sister good-bye for a long period of time.)

And while I'm being sad and sentimental, how about writing Christmas letters? I'd get stuck on my former toddler student's untimely death. One of the more notable moments in my year. But put it in a Christmas letter? "Hi, friends, here in my one official letter of the year, let me tell you it was great. At least the second half, when my psych meds were working at their best. [The first half of the year seems lost in a fog already, possibly partially related to the meds not working their best.] And then there was the time when my former student passed away at the advanced age of... two years." And there goes my desire to write a Christmas letter.

So when words fail, send pictures. I'm not kidding - this is a good trick if you are ever an overseas missionary. So I sent pictures. But then, even that seems a little strange, so some people got a scribbled note. The kind that has only a paragraph about my year, that doesn't mention the kid that got to heaven before me.

Wow, have I gotten off New Year's Resolutions. I guess I got busy wrapping up the old year. And saying goodbye to my sister.

Well, this new year is here. This year I hope to graduate with my Bachelor's degree in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education. That's pretty exciting. And I expect to keep teaching one-year-olds, along with figuring out how hard it will be to pay on student loans while working a toddler teacher job. And I hope to keep my weight steady - hopefully I've finished gaining my medication-related pounds, or my later twenties pounds, or both, whatever it is. Only, sometimes I question that goal, because I don't like being hungry all the time. (And P.S., trust me, I'm not underweight.) So money management, weight management, and dishes management? Those sound pretty resolution-y to me. Only, the resolution term still rubs me wrong. So how about this. I have a few areas where I wish for guilt-free continued effort to be placed.

But I "resolve"... no, I still don't like that word. But I ... want to keep reminding myself that plain old living is important. You know, the going to bed, the waking up, the eating meals, the going to work, the little things that make up my life. The little things I've worked so hard to be able to continue to do. I hope the depression never makes another strong appearance (I could do without the weak appearances, too, but I think that is too unrealistic), but I am grateful for the appreciation it gave me for being able to live life and even kind of enjoy it.

Oh, I should probably make this sound spiritual or something. No, I probably want to add something to this appreciation of life statement. Like, "and I'm so, so glad that I'm living more easily now, and still with God's arms wrapped around me."

Now for the pictures, the ones on my Christmas/New Years cards.
Happy Holidays! And for those of you who don't like holidays, happy end to the holidays!