Important Update

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Hi readers,

I just received word that my grandmother, who raised me, passed away this morning at the age of 93. I had been bracing myself for it for a while so it’s not a shock, but it’s still hard to deal with.

What I’m going to do right now is finish some homework for my online class, email my professors and prospective therapist (I was supposed to have my intake on Tuesday), and try to chill out until my fiance gets home around six-ish.

I’ll keep you guys posted.

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Update!

explanations, housekeeping, Uncategorized

Good afternoon, readers!

I have not abandoned you–on the contrary, I’ve been busy doing research for the upcoming series on deinstitutionalization and the history of psychiatric hospitals here in the United States. (I’m also back in school now and taking three classes–counseling techniques, diversity and social justice, and legal and ethical issues of counseling–all of which are very interesting!)

I do post more regularly on the Facebook page for The Dissociated Press, so you can check out (and like, if you’re so inclined) the page for updates and other bite-sized posts.

I hope to be back on a more regular posting schedule soon!

-Jess

News Day Tuesday: Election Anxiety

a cure for what ails you, anxiety, Uncategorized

Good afternoon, readers! It’s that time of week again!

First of all, for those of you who don’t follow the Facebook page for The Dissociated Press (and if that’s the case, why not?), I have some exciting news to share: Last night, I found out that I’ve been accepted to Johns Hopkins’ Master of Science program for Counseling Psychology! I’ll be starting in the spring.

Now, on to the main event for this week: election anxiety. I’m sure most of us have felt it at one time or another, and for many, it’s probably coming to a head right about now. Today’s article comes from K5 in western Washington state.

Bernice Imei Hsu, a registered nurse and licensed mental health counselor, stated that around 85% of her new patients come in to discuss anxiety related to this year’s presidential election. Some of the clients began presenting with these concerns as early as May of this year.

Hsu has some great tips for helping with election anxiety:

Hsu first assesses how well her clients can handle conflict and change. She then helps them come up with a plan for how they might react to election results.

She asks clients to identify people in their lives who can help them discuss their anxieties and needs. She also encourages clients to practice “relentless self-care.”

“Maybe they need to take a little break, maybe they need to turn down the volume a bit of their social media feeds, stop screaming in all caps, or reading other people scream in all caps, turn it down, tone it down, and take care of themselves,” Hsu said.

The first time I voted in a presidential election was in 2008, and I remember being incredibly anxious. That anxiety was even worse in 2012. This time, I’m feeling oddly calm about it, though I think that’s because I’m in a better place mentally and have already set up some fun activities for tonight to keep my mind off the results (even though I’ll inevitably end up watching them roll in).

I have coloring and cross stitch on the list, as well as my ever-expanding Netflix queue, which is always a good distraction. I’ve realized that while I can vote, I ultimately can’t do anything about the results and that it’s better not to waste my energy worrying excessively about it. Whatever happens is what happens; I find this point of view very calming.

What about you, readers? Do you get election jitters? How do you combat them?

Recovery is a verb: It’s what you do!

a cure for what ails you, anxiety, call for submissions, medication, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder, relationships, three hopeful thoughts, Uncategorized

I’m not going to lie–moving to Baltimore has been a bit of an adjustment for me. The whole new city, new places, new people thing doesn’t faze me, partly because I’m here with someone I love and care for deeply and can lean on, and partly because I was so desperate to get away from the Midwest, to start fresh and re-invent myself again.

The part that’s scary is not having much of a support system yet. I’ll admit it; I’m frightened because right now I don’t know many people and the ones I’ve met (and like immensely!) are my fella’s classmates. I’m in that awkward transitional phase where an introvert suddenly has to start over and find friends in the area to hang out with, and as someone who’s generally a homebody, it’s tough. It’s especially hard right now because I’m taking a gap semester to adjust, work on the blog and CTL, and find a grad school down here to continue my work toward a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. What that translates into is a lot of long days where I have to figure out what to do with myself.

I’ve had a rough few days. It always seems to hit around this time of year–I love autumn and it’s always been my favorite season, but as someone with relatively severe bipolar disorder, my brain chemistry doesn’t like the changing of the seasons so much. I’m hopeful that this year it won’t be so bad, as I’ve heard the seasons are a lot milder here in the Southeast. Still, I came to the realization last night that I need to change my meds a little bit, which is nothing unusual for me. (I have some beef with the texture of my uncoated lamotrigine tabs, which makes snapping them in half to add a half-dose for nighttime a little unpleasant texturally-speaking, but that seems pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.)

Important side note and disclaimer: I don’t recommend anyone tweaking their meds without the express permission and guidance of a psychiatrist–luckily, mine helped me develop a seasons guide to use in situations like this, where I’m unable to get in to see a doctor to make adjustments. I’m still within the prescribed dose range and am only doing this to get myself through until I’m able to start seeing a psychiatrist down here.

The other night, I finally opened up. My last relationship–a five-year marriage–was somewhat disastrous and left a ton of emotional damage. As some of you may remember, I was out of work for thirteen months because I was simply too ill to hold down a job with regular hours, and staying inside most of the time with little to do means I got a lot worse before I started getting better. I don’t want to become a dependent. I don’t want to be needy. I want to be a partner, a strong woman who is capable of supporting herself and living her own life and not feeling sad and lonely and, perhaps worst of all, soul-crushingly bored when I’m alone during the day.

To counter this, I’ve been making myself a little “schedule” for each day, just little things I can do to keep myself busy so that at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It helps a little; I don’t feel as melancholy and like I wasted the day. But it’s still very much a process. Recovery is not something you either have or you don’t. It’s not like you either are or aren’t “recovered.”

Each of us has natural ups and downs in life, regardless of how well-medicated we are. We can take our pills every day and go to therapy and exercise and be social and do everything right, and we will still have low periods. It’s the nature of the illness. It doesn’t mean that we’ve failed on any level or that, as I believed for years, that we’re unsuitable partners, sons, daughters, friends. It just means that we have an illness and we’re doing everything we can to fight it. Despite our best intentions, it is always going to be there, and I’ve found that accepting that fact has it a lot easier to live with.

I’m trying to make friends with my brain again. I’m trying to make friends with the ugly voice in the back of my mind that tells me I’m not enough. It’s the same one that brings up such tiny, insignificant things from decades ago and nags me about how these events, most of which I had little control over, make me bad or less-than in some way. I talk to the negative thoughts. I tell them to shut up if I’m feeling peevish or overwhelmed, but I also try to be sympathetic. I try to rationalize with the parts of me that are still trying to drag me down.

I still externalize what I’m feeling and pretend I’m a therapist and my client is me-but-not-me, a person who has the exact same concerns and emotions and neuroses that I do. If I separate myself from the negative feelings and thoughts, it’s easier to cope. I feel a sense of power over the thoughts. I counter them with the A-B-C-D-E method of learned optimism, which, thankfully, is effective more often than not.

And most of all, I am still working hard to be kind to myself every day. When I’m feeling bad, I try to remind myself of everything I’ve accomplished so far in spite of these huge obstacles and the weight I’m still carrying around.

On a happier note, I found out that Johns Hopkins offers free counseling to students as well as family members and significant others, so I’ve put in an appointment request for short-term counseling to get me through until my Medicaid (ugh) paperwork is finished and I can find a long-term therapist and psychiatrist again.

In the meantime, I’m trying to practice good self-care and take pride and enjoyment in the little things in life, whether it’s nailing a tough piano piece or simply tidying up the apartment. I don’t want to go back to my life being all about pain. I want to keep moving forward, to keep doing more. I have huge goals for myself in life, and I refuse to let this illness keep me from accomplishing them. My stubbornness has kept me alive for 27 years, and I need to harness that and use it as a recovery tool.

Where are you in your recovery, readers? Do you have any helpful tips to share?

As always, stay safe and lovely and well. I’ll see you all again next Tuesday for another exciting News Day! And keep those submissions coming–I want as many unique voices and stories on the blog as possible!

Like what you see on Dissociated Press? Check out and “like” the Dissociated Press Facebook page for even more posts, links, and news articles!

“Shrinking” myself.

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I had a wee confrontation via text with some guy from OKCupid earlier. Basically, we started out talking about music and everything was going well, but then he started saying that he wanted to hang out and cuddle, etc. The conversation sort of devolved into total douchebaggery from there, so I’ll leave the rest of the physical thoughts to your imagination, dear readers.

I told him I have a hard time being touched because hey, rape trauma! He was persistent, saying things like (and I quote, grammatical flaws and all), “Aww babe ill love you sweet and heal you, nice and easy and melt your protective shell away.”

Gag.

I tried to explain him a thing about how recovery works but he wasn’t getting it, so I finally just told him that he was making me really uncomfortable. In retrospect, I probably should’ve done it sooner, but I tend to err on the side of politeness (and am therefore prone to being nice to people who don’t deserve it).

These are a few of the “highlights” that followed.

“Well i think you should just take a deep breath and start healing and get some good lovin”

“Well you can have a fun time being my music buddy and getting frisky on me im empathetic to your trauma so just let it go humans have fucked up lives you might as well enjoy it while you can”

So I totally called him on it and tried to shut that down, at which point he went:

“Ok i can see you have no business dating you clearly have massive issues to work through and im not going to play along with your self pity and have you take your man hate out on me”

I felt really bad about myself for a few minutes—after all, what if he was right? What if my “baggage” is so insurmountable that I’ll never be able to make a relationship work? Who would want to put up with me?

Then I had a revelation. I decided to reframe the conversation and look at it from a different perspective. Since I’m currently applying to grad school (for counseling and psychotherapy), I decided to pretend that I was the therapist and my client was the one having the negative thoughts. It went a little something like this:

Therapist!Me: What would you do if someone came up to you on the street and said those things?

Patient!Me: I’d probably tell them to go to hell.

Therapist!Me: Good. Now why are you letting this person you barely know make you feel bad about yourself?

Patient!Me: I don’t know…I’m afraid that he’s right. What if I’m too damaged? What if I’m not ready for a relationship? What if I’m never ready?

Therapist!Me: Well, you’re not in a relationship now, and you’re clearly going places and doing constructive things. You’re trying to heal and improve yourself. You’re focusing on you for the first time in your life, and that’s a very good, positive thing. When you’re ready, you’ll find someone who deserves you and loves you not in spite of your “damage,” but because the things that have happened to you have made you a stronger person.

Positive self-talk doesn’t usually work for me, but trying this tactic really helped me step back from what happened and view it in a more analytical, solution-focused way. I’m slowly learning that the way I see myself is frequently incongruent with how others see me, and that insight has been very helpful. Integrating these two drastically different views is going to be tough, but I think if anyone’s up to the challenge, it’s me. I’ve also managed to set up weekly appointments with my therapist, since I have all the insights I need to start healing but am not quite sure what to do with them yet.

What helps you distance yourself from your emotions and untangle the messes in your life? Any tips on stopping automatic negative thoughts?

Learning to create rather than destroy.

ptsd, self-harm, stigma, suicidal ideation, Uncategorized

I cut for the first time in early January of this year. It happened almost as an accident, and I immediately told on myself (to my husband), vowing never to do it again. Three months later, I’ve done it countless times despite promises to myself and D. that I wouldn’t.

The last time I hurt myself was Tuesday night, two days ago. I want that to be the last time forever and when I was trying to think of alternatives, I looked at the tattoo on my wrist (done shortly after the New Year as a promise that when I die, it’s not going to be by my own hand, and an acknowledgment of my struggle with suicidal thoughts and depression). The answer was so simple…I’d been thinking about eventually getting a large thigh piece in a few years as an apology to myself and my body for the hell I’ve put it through, not just through cutting but through other self-medicating, self-destructive habits.

I can’t, for the life of me, remember what triggered me earlier, but I do know that instead of cutting, I decided to draw a big, colorful design on my thigh, which is where I always self-injure. It actually worked–the urge went away and now I have something cheerful to look at when I get low. When it washes away, I’ll create a new one. I swear I’ll keep doing it until I conquer the urge to hurt myself when I feel sad, lonely, frightened, ashamed, or angry fades away for the last time.

DSCF8438 DSCF8436