One,Two and Three – A 3 step process to reboot your mind

If you want to change your actions, you have to change your thoughts. If you want to change your thoughts, then you have to change the way you perceive yourself. If you want to change your perception about yourself, you must change the experience.

Yes, an experience with your true self.

 

Often, we approach fixing problems like developing an algorithm. An algorithm has a few major components – the inputs, the processing logic/storage and the output. Quite frankly, that is analogous to how our mind works. It observes the actions, words and emotions of others in our environment, stores it in the database called the subconscious and we somehow adapt to these actions, thoughts, emotions without even realizing we are doing it.

But, often what we consider self-awareness is more of what we are NOT than what we really are. We tell ourselves things based on comparison with other people. After every task you complete, your mind automatically compares the same kind of task done by someone else in a different manner, hence implying you didn’t do your best.

This never ending fight with your self-image, leaves no room for growth.

The reality is the polar opposite of what we tell ourselves. No matter how disgusting our delusions are, how negative we think of ourselves, how we judge ourselves, we are human. We have infinite potential, to pause, refresh, and resume. The three step process.

It’s a 3 step process!

Every single time a notification pings in your mind that reads ‘ YOU CAN’T DO THIS ‘ , PAUSE.

Instead of berating yourself that you cannot do it, switch to ” I DEFINITELY CAN DO THIS GREAT” condition yourself to the opposite of what your irrational thoughts are telling you. Thus, you are refreshing your negative self-talk.

Finally, resume doing whatever you were doing with a bit more self-compassion, and a lot of love.

 

Constantly feeling the need to do something, to be occupied with work is the fear driven trap, sometimes based on experiences of previous trauma.  Our mind uses it as an escape mechanism to avoid dealing with inconvenient emotions.

 

Let’s do this affirmation, pause for a moment. And think of this beautiful word that the internet came up with, called “Sonder”. It’s not an actual word in the English dictionary, though “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows”, the website that created it, defines it as the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

We share our world with 7.7 billion others like that. People lose their loved ones, their dream, their homes,  sometimes themselves and yet wake up the next morning and hustle. Some grieve about it for days and heal in isolation, Some grieve by destroying things, while some heal by creating new.

Each of us are finding ways to be happier, to seize the moment as it is, to love, to be loved.

We’re all so strong, even on the days when we feel like choking on sadness,

On the days we feel heavy, on the days we feel the void inside us, on the days we don’t feel like moving.

Why? Because we find a way – we keep going. No matter how many times we’ve told ourselves to give up. In reality we don’t really lose, we don’t really fail, we don’t actually give up.

We’re always told we will be where we want to be with whom we’re meant to be. But we are there right now, where we belong.

It warms my heart to know, to be around each and every one of you. You are so strong and you don’t even know that yet. Also, did I tell you that you did your best this week?

 

And it’s okay even if you do 0.001% more the upcoming week.

 

 

– Haniya Ahmed

 

 

 

 

 

The Aftermath

Life after depression is a silent revolution that takes place within a person. It is so pleasing to watch a life ahead of the darkness, you’ll enjoy the good days, learn from the bad ones. Be a part of important occasions, being available for sharing, being physically and mentally present, looking forward to the future and loving what the universe is preparing for you, Looking in the mirror and like what is seen there.

The core of mental well being is striking a balance of emotions. We’ve discussed how depression is an illness that makes your brain sick. The symptoms, the journey, than survival. 

What happens next?

Every illness is considered to be negative, frowned upon as it affects the normalcy of the functioning of the human body. The difference between the illness of mind and the illness of the body is that it affects us in a completely different perspective. Physical illness gets rid of toxins from your body once in for all. Or after a series of medicinal attention. While mental illness opens a door to self-awareness. It forces you to learn a lesson, take a chance, try new things out of your comfort zone. It teaches us a lot. Although it takes an awful lot of you and replaces it with something much more bigger and different, what happens when the depression finally does leave you? What happens when you finally heal? What does it feel like to find the light at the end of the tunnel?

image1.jpg

Well, all of these questions are hypothetical in nature. You are never ‘healed’ from mental illness. However, things start to get clarity, people suddenly become approachable. Someday, you’ll wake up and just feel better. You’d want to look good,  wear new clothes. The days after depression are extremely odd. After living in a mindset of ”I don’t deserve anything I have and I want” for a very long period, this will make us doubt ourselves, the self-doubting again lands us in the vicious cycle of ‘Am I good enough for this yet? ‘

And for a split second, it’ll feel like you’re spiralling back into the person you used to be during the depression. Here’s the thing about recovery, you’re never fully healed. It never truly leaves you. The way things feel will change, they will become more optimistic and open for learning. 

Fear turns into ‘things I can get better at if I practice more’. Insecurities change into ‘Yes, I look this way and I can control over it to an extent by eating healthy, keeping myself hydrated.’ Self-doubt turns into ‘I was able to get myself through something as exhausting as depression, I can handle this too’. Frustration and disappointment will turn into ‘I can do this one step at a time.’ 

image2

The process of healing, as a matter of fact, is not linear. The ups and downs are sometimes extreme. The extremes will make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom for a day or more in order to avoid social interaction, Mental breakdowns in a random sequence that don’t really have a prerequisite reason or purpose. The balance of emotions plays a vital role here. On some days, you’ll feel numb.

It’ll drag you down to a point where you’ll feel like you’re back to square one, but this is the exact same moment you need to understand that looking back only means you’ve come ahead.  Let’s not worry now. 

There’s hope, there are new beginnings awaiting. And it’s your time now. 

Step out, Breath. Be.

The Quest for the Silver Bullet

“Depression resembles a vampire”. The statement sliced through the cacophony of noises clouding my consciousness and conquered my attention. Like a beagle who had just got a sniff of a bone, my eyes lit up and darted across the room towards my best friend of many years, imploring her to explain what she meant by the statement. “I feel depression sucks hope and happiness from its victims just like a vampire would suck blood”, she continued. The people around, myself included shared their thoughts on the comparison but the conversation soon moved on to other topics. Somehow, the comparison she made stuck in my mind and my attempt at writing this is an effort at crystallizing my thoughts as to why I found the particular analogy interesting.

Vampires, ghosts, werewolves and other paranormal beings appear in the folklore of many cultures across the globe and are a part of our collective social conscience. Despite modern advances in science and education, belief in the supernatural remains as strong as ever with many surveys showing that a majority of people profess belief in some form of the supernatural. Many theories abound as to how and why humans as a species tend (and want?) to believe in monsters. One interesting viewpoint is that these beliefs are an irrational response to legitimate fears that imbibed in our ancestors a cultural aversion to places and situations which represented a real danger. For example, it is very likely that large aspects of the legends of monsters which roamed forests at night evolved as a result of early human’s fear of nocturnal predators. But as time passed, the creative wonder that is our minds concocted increasingly eerie and frightening versions of these myths and legends. As with every strong cultural belief that has stood the test of time, it involves a combination of fear and hope. While the “fear” aspect of the supernatural legends needs no explaining, the “hope” aspect is in the form of methods that true-believers could use to dispel these monsters. Some examples included garlic being used to ward off vampires. In fact, one object, in particular, has been so widely used in legends as a defence against the paranormal that it is used to denote a specific, failsafe solution to a problem – the silver bullet. In folklore, a bullet cast from silver is often the only weapon that is effective against a werewolf, witch, or other monsters.

With these facts in mind, my friend’s comparison of a mental health issue to a supernatural entity becomes more credible in my opinion. One of the major impediments to mental illness is denial. Just as people choose to ignore the mountains of evidence against the supernatural since it challenges their deep-set beliefs, very often people dealing with issues of the mind refuse to acknowledge that they need help. Similarly like the monsters of legends, paranoia and insecurity are just irrational reactions to legitimate grievances that we do not wish to acknowledge. However, the one similarity that I find most striking and the one that this article is going to largely deal with is the belief that there exists a silver bullet – a magic cure.

From my own experience, while I refused to actively seek out help from people in dealing with my depression, I clung to this fairy tale idea of a silver bullet – one single incident, person, belief or action that would help me overcome my inner demons. At my most desperate moments, my search for the silver bullet became an obsession. This obsession for immediate, painless redemption latched itself into anything that my mind could interact with. Family, friends, God, self-help books, that award that I always wanted to win, that dream job – the list went on. Like a chain smoker who convinced himself that he would quit the next day, my transformational healing was just around the corner. “If only I won the competition, I would gain my confidence and people would befriend me. “, “I just need to pray hard enough and one day, I ll awaken enlightened”, “If only I loved my friends, they would rescue me from my insecurities”. These were the thoughts that fuelled my paranoia as I spiralled further into the depths of anxiety and depression as each and every entity that I thought would redeem me did not. My blind belief in an external agency that would save me only further alienated me from the ones I cared about. My obsessive need for reassurance that they would pull me out spurned irrational thoughts of insecurity and fear which played havoc with the way I dealt with people.

Perhaps the most enlightening realization that I have had over the past year when I finally decided to reach out and seek professional help is that there is no silver bullet. My belief that one person, thing or event could single-handedly provide me with a new breath of life was badly misplaced. It turned out that defeating with depression wasn’t a quick, painless glorious moment as I had envisioned but instead a long-winding, sometimes messy affair which required commitment from my side and determination to face my darkest fears myself. And while it might seem counter-intuitive at first, the realization that my redemption did not lay in a single object was immensely liberating. I was able to be much more rational and level headed in my relationships with people and my expectations about events. It helped greatly with dealing with my anxiety and identifying and observing irrational thought patterns and I can confidently say that I have become a much happier person than I have been in a long while.

 

Looking back, I can see why I wanted to believe in a silver bullet. It took responsibility and agency for dealing with my issues away from me and helped me live a life of denial and self-hate. Perhaps, it also tied into the fantasy novels that I read which fed into the idea of war being won with one masterstroke or by a legendary hero. Who wouldn’t have been awestruck by the thundering roar of the brave cavalry galloping into the battlefield, trumpets and all as they swoop in to smash the armies of the bad guys to smithereens? It makes for great literature and gripping movies but does not translate well on a real battlefield. The wars in our world are won by engaging in long winding pitched battles, using strategic retreats and by soldiers fighting on in smelly trenches winning territory in agonizingly slow increments. It might not be glamorous but that’s just the way life is.

 

I would like to end with this quote:

“’Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for the shore.”

  • Ray Bradbury

 

When it comes to mental illness, the silver bullet may paradoxically be the realization that there isn’t one. I have stopped my quest for the silver bullet, have you?

  • BloodRaven

The Longing to Belong

There are some days when I don’t see the point in anything I do. 

 

Some days where I still feel the tired drag of my bones and the slow yet constant thump of my heart and I know that it’s going to be “one of those days”. And that’s alright. I’ve learnt how to cope with them. To learn to ask for help and seek support and take it easy till I feel better. And on those days I think, is there really anyone else going through what I’m going through right now, right this instant? I mean through all the 7 billion people of this small planet, there has to be someone who feels the exact same way I do. Right? 

 

Humans have always thrived in being part of something bigger than themselves, in being a community. Whether it came in the form of religion or political views or just something as simple as living with the same area code, we’ve always longed to be a part of something. And that sense of community with no doubt makes us stronger. 

 

The same, I think, is true for mental health as well. A word of encouragement always sounds better coming from a person who has been through the same thing once as you are right now because you know that they truly understand. And to be very honest, don’t we all want someone like that for us? 

 

It is not easy to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to everyone and be open to talk about your mental health issues. It took me the longest time to accept that it was okay to talk about it, that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. And talking about it to confused faces that would not take the time to understand at first was embarrassing and terrifying. And I didn’t do it for a while and kept it to myself like I always did. But then when I pushed myself to take that chance again, one day, one of those confused faces actually turned out to completely understand. They shared their experience with me and was so relieved to know that they weren’t alone in feeling that way. 

15

[Image source: Pinterest]

And that made it all worth it.

 

Now I don’t feel terrified nor do I feel embarrassed for letting me run my mouth about issues when no one understands them. Because I know what it feels to long to belong. To finally feel like you are not alone. To finally know that this is okay and that there is nothing wrong with you and that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of yourself. 

14

[Image source: Pinterest]

So, this goes out to you as well, the one reading this. If you feel that anything you say could help another person, then do it. I know it seems terrifying but even if one other person feel a little less left alone, then it will all be worth it. 

 

Everyone longs a little to belong. And together we are always stronger.

Sunday-ing and taking ME Times

Warning: Use of derogatory terms in writing. 

Fast moving world, this is how I picture it in my head. The busy streets of New York, hundreds of people walking past the Times Square with caffeine in one hand and their mobiles on other. Nobody knows where the person right next to them is headed to, they walk together in total sync for minutes and then turn to their own directions and part ways. Nobody has the time to pause, to reflect. Sometimes it is scary to realise that every passing second of your life is the first and the last time of its occurrence in this version of reality, in this lifetime. Waking up every day, there is always a routine of activities ahead of us that we do throughout the entire day. School, college, work, home anywhere we go the schedule holds us hostage. 

june.jpeg

At the end of the day there is very little time left for ourselves. So, every dawn a voice deep down inside of you encourages you to do better today than yesterday. This voice is unique for everyone. One day it says be kind to others, the next day it says be kind to yourself.

It’s bitter sweet that we don’t live alone in this world. There are people, many people around you. Some make it easier for your voice, while some seem very hard to understand. And it’s natural for us to judge them. If you’re lucky, you’re right a couple of times but you know-Maybe the girl with the “social butterfly” status, who is currently with her 6th boyfriend whom you call a ‘slut’ misses the one true love that happened to her, her first love. Maybe the boy who doesn’t know how to talk to girls and is always with his books needs an 85% to continue his studies with a scholarship to support his widowed sick mother. Maybe the girl who starves in the name of dieting for the so-called ‘boy attention’  has an eating disorder that doesn’t help her gain weight but saves herself pizza every weekend. Maybe the guy who doesn’t hang out with the “Stud-gang” is suffering from stage 3 lung cancer, so he rather stays home writing the novel he always wanted to finish.  Maybe the boy who broke up with every girl he was ever with had a mother who left him for another man when he was just 4.  You know, just maybe.

 

Our job isn’t to fix anyone around us. Every person you meet has a different perception of you, you are bad in someone’s stories and good in others. Somehow we equate our self worth to others perception of yourself and thrive to make it perfect without accepting the fact that it is going to change anyway. 

Self-worth is not your list of achievements, in many dysfunctional families there are comparisons of the siblings involved, one might be smart while the other might be smart in a completely different sense. Pointing people out for their flaws isn’t going to help “change” them and we ought to realise this.

We often think we need to take ‘breaks’ or ‘pause’ or ‘unplug’ only if a very tight and serious schedule was a prerequisite. I mean it is not entirely our fault, we assume our self worth to be equivalent our productivity level and our list of achievements. So, I’m here to tell you. It might sound hideous to a regular person about why anyone would deserve a break if they didn’t work hard enough but a depressed person, takes their entire energy to wake up from his bed and is left with nothing for the whole day.

june2

Mental breaks are essential. Necessary to reboot yourself, cleanse your system, do relearning of your patterns. A few ways to do this creating something from the learning. People resort to painting, drawing, craft making, writing and journaling, creating music, cooking, exercise and more.  Always find something that makes you forget the world for a minute and do it with love every time you feel the need to do it.

june3

Happy ME TIMEs to you!

 

 

 

“Boxing Away” Mental Health

“You have social anxiety? No way! You just spoke on stage, stop complaining”

“Yeah right, you aren’t an introvert. You aren’t shy and you’re talking to me well right now aren’t you?”

 

Well, count these as the most common responses I’ve gotten when I tell people that yes, I do indeed suffer from anxiety and yes, I also realise that I spoke on stage right now. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive. 

box2.PNG

[Image source: Tumblr]

A lot of our perspectives on mental health issues are drawn from what we see on social media. Films that are seeming to include more characters that cover the spectrum of mental health still have a long way to go when it comes to covering them practically. And the rise of internet “slangs” aren’t helping the situation. You see, mental health is not just one thing. Depression is not just “feeling sad” all the time. Not everyone who has depression fit the “symptoms” of depression. There are many who can function normally, still be social but still suffer from overwhelming depression. Same goes for any other mental health issues there are. Personally, the biggest problem that I’ve faced has come in the form of “boxes”.

Allow me to digress for a bit. Everyone you meet is different. They have different personalities and different tastes in music and movies and hobbies. And the same goes for their mental health as well. Ask people you know who are overcoming mental health issues and you will find that none of their experiences is similar even though they might have been diagnosed with the same issue. It is ignorant of us to assume that everyone deals with their issues the same way or goes through the same thing. And with people lacking this awareness, there arise situations in which people assume it is okay to make generalisations and comments, essentially stereotyping mental health into set “boxes”.  

I deal with anxiety and am not an overly social person. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any friends or that I’m shy. I just take some time to talk to people I’ve just met and if I’m with my friends while meeting the new person then I feel so much better and at ease talking to the person for the first time. A lot of people who might be going through the same social anxiety that I am can be shy and just not talk or can be extremely social yet still feel overwhelmed and nervous inside. But all that people see is that I am a competitive stage speaker and hence, I am suddenly not allowed to feel that anxiety pumping through my veins every time I come onto the stage to speak. I realise that feeling stage fright and nervousness are common to everyone but feeling extremely overwhelmed yet pushing yourself to speak through the knots in your stomach is not. But even though the anxiety is overwhelming, I still love to speak on stage. And I refuse to be boxed away for that.

box3.jpg

[Image source: Tumblr]

Everyone you know is going through something that might not fit your assumptions. Chrissy Teigen and Adele openly spoke up about post-partum depression while under the public’s eye and we did not know that they had gone through that until they told us. Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most charismatic people in interviews but has openly stated that she suffered from severe anxiety. A lot more examples can be drawn to make this point but at the end of it all, the only thing that matters is that people turn a little bit more understanding when it comes to how mental health issues manifest themselves. 

box1

[Image source: Pinterest]

If someone tells you that they’re going through something, listen to them. Please do not make generalisations and make them think that their feelings are invalid. The world is a very kind and welcoming place and a little bit of awareness with these issues is all one will need to help a thousand more. Let us not box away mental illnesses or file them away under certain tabs. These issues are complex and we can all do our bit to spread information and awareness. 

 

Living a life where every moment is filled with suspicion and doubt – A review of Paranoid Personality Disorder

Paranoid Personality Disorder(PPD) belongs to the class of Personality Disorders. Paranoia involves extreme levels of distrust and suspicion. People with this personality disorder may be hypersensitive, easily insulted, and habitually relate to the world by vigilant scanning of the environment for clues or suggestions that may validate their fears or biases. They are eager observers and they think they are in danger and look for signs and threats of that danger, potentially not appreciating other evidence. Some other common recurrent beliefs include beliefs that someone is plotting against them, they are being watched closely, everyone is conspiring against them among others.

Following is a case study of a Paranoid patient:

A woman believed, without cause, that her neighbours were harassing her by allowing their young children to make loud noise outside her apartment door. Rather than asking the neighbours to be more considerate, she stopped speaking to them and began a campaign of unceasingly antagonistic behaviour: giving them “dirty looks,” pushing past them aggressively in the hallway, slamming doors, and behaving rudely toward their visitors. After over a year had passed, when the neighbours finally confronted her about her behaviour, she accused them of purposely harassing her. “Everyone knows that these doors are paper thin,” she said, “and that I can hear everything that goes on in the hallway. You are doing it deliberately.” Nothing that the neighbours said could convince her otherwise. Despite their attempts to be more considerate about the noise outside her apartment, she continued to behave in a rude and aggressive manner toward them. Neighbours and visitors commented that the woman appeared tense and angry. Her face looked like a hard mask. She was rarely seen smiling and she walked around the neighbourhood wearing dark sunglasses, even on cloudy days. She was often seen yelling at her children, behaviour that had earned her the nickname “the screamer” among the parents at her children’s school. She had forced her children to change schools several times within the same district because she was dissatisfied with the education they were receiving. An unstated reason, perhaps, was that she had alienated so many other parents. She worked at home during the day at a job that required her to have little contact with other people. She had few social contacts, and in conversation was often perceived to be sarcastic and hypercritical.

ppd1

[Image Courtesy: https://infograph.venngage.com/p/63184/paranoid-personality-disorder]

According to the DSM-V, PPD is characterized by a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts. To qualify for a diagnosis, the patient must meet at least four out of the following criteria:

  1. Suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving them.
  2. Is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates.
  3. Is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against them.
  4. Reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events.
  5. Persistently bears grudges (i.e., is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights).
  6. Perceives attacks on their character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or to counterattack.
  7. Has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner.

Many of these symptoms are clearly reflected in the case study.

PPD first emerged as a cluster of symptoms for Schizophrenia. It was in 1921, that Kraepelin first proposed three distinct presentations of paranoia that resembled the diagnosis of schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and paranoid personality disorder. However, for a very long time, PPD was considered only as a cluster of symptoms for schizophrenia. Paranoid personality disorder first appeared in the DSM-III in 1980. The major problem facing the study of this disorder was the initial neglect of the scientists. Secondly, not many patients would agree to participate in research studies. Yet, in reality, PPD is a severe, relatively common clinical problem that is difficult to treat. Fortunately, our understanding of PPD has improved as research has accrued.

But the question is, why is PPD important? One of the major reasons is because PPD heavily dictates the adverse outcomes in the treatment of personality disordered patients. Persons with PPD, when not disabled, stop working earlier than non-personality disordered individuals. In clinical populations, it is one of the strongest predictors of aggressive behaviour. PPD is also associated with violence and stalking as well as excessive litigation. It also has serious implications on the individual’s mental well-being often resulting in depression and has less likeability to be cured despite intense psychiatric treatment.

There are multiple risk factors involved in the development of PPD as no direct biological causations have been attributed.  Childhood trauma has consistently been identified as a risk factor for PPD. Studies have shown that childhood emotional neglect predicted PPD symptom levels in adolescence and early adulthood. In adolescence, PPD has been cross-sectionally associated with elevated physical abuse in childhood and adolescence, but not sexual abuse. In a study of psychiatric adult outpatients, PPD was found associated with both sexual and physical abuse. Although these studies have focused on chronic trauma from caregivers, acute physical trauma in the form of childhood burn injury has also found to be a risk factor for adult PPD traits.

What can be some effective measures for treating PPD?

In a case report titled, “Paranoid Personality Disorder”, medics Amy Vyas and Madiha Khan have outlined certain major points with regards to treating PPD.

Because paranoid personality disorder patients are unlikely to seek or remain in psychiatric care, relevant treatments for this disorder have received less research relative to those of similarly prevalent personality disorders. Much of the published literature takes the form of case studies or case series. One such case report found cognitive analytic therapy to be an effective intervention,  while another suggested that in the short-term, the use of antipsychotics(drugs) in patients with paranoid personality disorder was associated with improved prognosis. Cognitive therapy has been endorsed as a useful technique for the general psychiatrist. Recommended approaches to psychodynamic psychotherapy for these patients include working toward helping patients “shift their perceptions of the origin of their problems from an external locus to an internal one”, while maintaining special attention to the management of boundaries, maintenance of the therapeutic alliance, safety, and awareness of how the therapy may be integrated into the patient’s paranoid stance.

In conclusion, PPD is a serious mental illness that requires more and more fruitful research and in-depth understanding. No such biological or physiological causes have been found but several risks factors have been identified. With regards to treatment, there is a need for more effective intervention.

ppd2

[Image Courtesy: https://www.papermasters.com/paranoid-personality-disorder.html]

To know more about Paranoid Personality Disorder:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793931/

References

[1]Lee R. (2017). Mistrustful and Misunderstood: A Review of Paranoid Personality Disorder. Current behavioral neuroscience reports, 4(2), 151–165. doi:10.1007/s40473-017-0116-7

[2]Paranoid personality disorder. (2019, March 11). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoid_personality_disorder#DSM-5

[3]Vyas, A., & Khan, M. (2017, May 16). Paranoid Personality Disorder. Retrieved from https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2016.110103

 

Not Alone: Coming to terms with my Mental Health [Trigger Warning]

Trigger warning: skin peeling, mentions of self-harm, nightmares and grief

Think about this for a solid minute.

“You’re 16. What problems you’d possibly have to suffer depression?” ” You are simply over thinking” “You’ll get over it” “There’s no such thing as depression, it’s just a phase”.

Sound familiar?

You see, depression is a very personal feeling. I might be sitting right next to you, joking around about the memes you’ve shared with me or having a very deep conversation about life and the purpose of it or maybe just sitting there, hanging out with you and yet, you will have no idea of the things that go on inside my head.

For almost a year, I slept only around 3 AM. And even then, I would experience nightmares where this soul of mine would be pleading, crying my name out really loud in the darkness; most of the times in the middle thick dark woods. Walking with my friends in school, I’d feel like someone was choking me, trying to push me down and drown me. I used to hysterically cry and begin to laugh very loudly just like a baby, locking myself in my room. I’d cry all night, not knowing why.

This became worse when one night I became downright delirious, trying to make the pain go away, trying to hurt myself while also rubbing my chest to calm myself down. Physically, I had developed so much acne, a very irregular menstrual cycle and a weak immune system. And yes, I even periodically suffered strokes. I’d bite my lips, nails, keep peeling my skin.

What made me such a monster in my own eyes?

pica1.jpeg

[Image source: Gemma Correll]

I’d say the fear of losing my identity that involves this image that I’ve built for myself.  We are not perfect and we will never be. All of us have our own flaws and we learn and grow through our experiences in this journey of life. And it is necessary to go through these experiences in order to learn from them. But never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

We all are very familiar with motivational quotes, “This too shall pass” “Love yourself” “I’m proud of you” do the rounds on social media all the time. But just saying them out loud isn’t enough. Start small, get help if you feel like you can’t make through this journey of acceptance alone. For me, the fact that I wake up ALIVE every morning, the fact that I’m able to still breathe and body is functioning, is something to be grateful for; granting me another day.  The little things, the journey. I accepted.

After the longest time, I saw myself in the mirror and smiled for once.

pica2.jpg

The fact that I’ve been gifted time, ability to take another chance at people and perspectives made me understand that things will start working out, at least someday. Healing can NEVER happen overnight, it is a long road, it’s every single moment you live.

And slowly but surely, you will get better. In fact, it’ll be revolutionary when you wake up one day and can actually feel light enough to pull yourself out of your own bed. There will be struggles and relapses, but there will also be support and love and kindness.

pica3.jpg

Depression isn’t directly proportional to your age group. Depression doesn’t know numbers, doesn’t know care about your sexual orientation or your bank balance. Never ever feel shy to accept this, you’re no less of a human being you deserve to be equally loved.

YOU MATTER. There’s Absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of in acceptance.

More power to you.

Of Songs and Anxiety

Sometimes, words fail me.

Allow me to digress for a bit. I love words and I love writing, that is the best way I communicate how I’m feeling and it makes the most comfortable medium for me to get my thoughts out. I dabble a lot in poetry and particularly love expressing spectrums of emotions and articulating them the right way to convey exactly what I want to, to people. However, when the same words sometimes don’t really fit together, don’t really weave themselves into what I want them to, what I want people to understand from them, all I’m left with is this frustrating pit of annoyance and helplessness with myself that I’ve somehow failed. And, for me, most of the time, these conversations happen to be on mental health. People don’t understand unless you communicate well, that much I’ve learnt. But what use is it if you can’t get what has been bothering you in your head, out? How do you make people take a look at all the swirling thoughts in your head and somehow hope that they’d understand what you’re feeling?

So, I suppose sometimes, words seem to fail me.

Or maybe I’ve yet to learn how to place them correctly.

Most of the frustrating moments for anyone battling mental health issues come with trying to make the person they’re talking to understand what they’re feeling. And what people have to realise is that it’s hard, incredibly hard to talk about it, to start a conversation. There will never be a right way to start, a right way to manoeuvre through the feelings and all that comes out is stuttered words spit out after being tongue-tied for so long. And then there is that small sliver of hope. Hope that they understand, that the other person makes sense of the words, to relate, to empathise. And if the other person has dealt with the same or any other of the same sorts, then they will get it and it takes a big weight off of your shoulders. But when they don’t, all you are left with is this feeling of inadequacy and embarrassment and crushed hope.

We’ve all been there.

So then the question becomes, how do we communicate better? Better yet, how do we make people understand?

I’ve dealt with anxiety for quite a while. And I’ve dealt with trying to make people understand why I’m not all that comfortable being around too many new people, with starting conversations, with making small talk with barely known acquaintances, with why I cancel out on plans quite often. But they don’t understand most of the time. I hope they did try to but I don’t blame them for not “getting it”. Humans are creatures of habit, anything we don’t relate to, we don’t really try too much to understand. But it becomes overwhelming when everyone around me seems to be fine and normal while I’m always freefalling with my stomach in knots and my heart in my mouth even at the mere mention of social interaction or any other thing that might trigger my anxiety. And after every unsuccessful attempt at making others understand, I’m always left with the parting thought of “Why can’t anyone just tell me it’s okay and just let me be” And then I just shut up, giving up to ever try making the oblivious listen.

However, there are people who get it, on the internet. So many support groups and forums are on the rise and I see so many other struggling with the same issues relating to each other’s experiences and finding relief in each other. It’s a big leap and one that is much needed yet while it’s comforting to find people who finally know what you feel like and are going through, the bigger picture still remains blurry.

Coming to the main point of discussion, during one of my late night YouTube surfing fun-time, I came across this new song that Julia Michaels had put out. I like her and decided why not take a listen. [Again, the way that music has helped me get through some of my worst days can form another piece on its own]. The song was titled “Anxiety” and I thought, alright then, I’m intrigued, let’s see where this goes. But to be very honest, after the song ended, for the first time ever, I felt like words in my head finally found their place.

It was a very honest, open and vulnerable song on what having anxiety feels like. Suddenly, there I was, sending the song to some who I had tried to explain my anxiety to, getting excited that they would finally understand. And I hope they did or at least I think they know better now. Anxiety can take many shapes and forms and is different to all people. This song might not relate to your anxiety but it is a start. And suddenly there I was wondering how much of a gap music can bridge if more songs were to come out openly talking about people’s experiences with mental health issues and emotions. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful artists and bands that are already trying to do the same, I’m a fan of a lot of them yet there is this invisible glass barrier that has to be overcome still to start a dialogue about mental health. Music is a great way to start conversations and nothing would make me happier than to see music and words come together to help people understand the said swirling thoughts that people can’t bring to explain properly by themselves. There is so much potential to help people and I really hope that more artists come out to create incredible music like this and more importantly, that more people are accepting of them.

Every dialogue starts only when the silence breaks. So why not have fun while we’re at it?

Let me know what songs helped you during your hardest days and take a look at the song by the wonderful Julia Michaels as well.

Anxiety- Julia Michaels ft. Selena Gomez.

Bipolar Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association describes Bipolar Disorder as “… brain disorders that cause changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. People with bipolar disorders have extreme and intense emotional states that occur at distinct times, called mood episodes. These mood episodes are categorized as manic, hypomanic or depressive.”

A friend of mine suffering from Bipolar Disorder describes it like this, “If Depression is a dark tunnel, Bipolar Disorder is a rollercoaster which takes you deep inside this tunnel and out of it, over and over again.” As a bystander, it was always an enigma as to what she might be going through. Each Day was a different experience in itself.

Her diagnosis came as a surprise. It was during a low phase in her life when her father, who was a Psychiatrist by profession, broke the news to her. It was almost like it broke her. Her father was as helpless looking at his daughter’s condition as she was in her depression.

Bipolar disorder
• Formerly known as manic depression, it is a condition that affects moods, which can swing from depression to mania
• Symptoms range from overwhelming feelings of worthlessness to feeling very happy and having lots of ambitious plans and ideas
• Each extreme episode can last several weeks
• Treatment includes mood stabilisers which are to be taken every day on a long-term basis, combined with talking therapy and lifestyle changes
Source: NHS

The medicines prescribed for a condition like this are called mood stabilizers. When you’re ecstatic, they lower your mood and when you’re deep in depression, they lift you up. The latter sounds like a good idea, making you feel better when you’re in a state of depression,  but when you’re ecstatic why would you want to suppress ?

Well, it’s because if you don’t take your medicines when you’re happy, they don’t work when you’re sad. Sounds complicated right? Imagine dealing with this every single day and convincing yourself that that medication is important for you. And that’s not even the main problem. You wake up every morning not knowing how you’re going to feel. You only wish for the mania to last but all good things come to an end and so do your happy days. One day you’re on cloud nine – all smiles, extremely productive and enthusiastic and the very next day, the light seems to fade away, you lose your will to get out of bed and who once seemed like an extremely positive person turns into negative and introverted shunning everything.

I saw my friend during her highs and I saw her during her lows. It was almost like she was a different person in a matter of weeks. As well-wishers, we always encouraged her to take her medicines but a certain question of hers always intrigued me – “If I need medicines to be normal then is it truly my normal?”

Bipolar Disorder is not when your mood changes each day, it occurs in phases i.e. a gradual process where each stage seems  to be stable for a while before shifting. The two extreme phases i.e. mania and depression could last several weeks or a few months before the shift happens and when it does, you get absorbed in it. Doctors do say that between the two extremes, comes a time which can be stated to be emotionally balanced but one cannot seem to decide when that happens. By the end of the day, you are left in an emotional turmoil, indeterminate and confused.

Problems like these made me appreciate what it feels like to be mentally healthy and appreciate my mental health more. When we feel low, we might ignore it for a really long time but there comes a point where it is okay to accept that there may be something wrong and seek help. Trust me, running away from something like this is not the better option.

It is difficult to comprehend what people having Bipolar disorder go through. That is why it is important to listen to their experiences. Let us look at one such young woman diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and how she is spreading awareness about her condition through art.

Missy Douglas and Bipolar Disorder
Missy Douglas was first diagnosed as bipolar aged 19 when she was studying art history at the University of Cambridge. She said it finally joined the dots as to why she often felt withdrawn and melancholic, or precocious and arrogant.

Fed up with keeping her mental health a secret,she spent a year creating a painting each day to express her feelings. Controversially, she decided not to take her medication during this time, in the hope that paintings demonstrating her highs and lows would raise awareness of her condition. The following are some of the paintings from her collection.

Day 177 by Missy Douglas

Day 177. “I was really in a dark place here. I was completely in a depressive phase.”

Day 236 by Missy Douglas

Day 236. “I was burying feelings and my emotions were all over the place. Very turbulent.”

Day 242 - by Missy Douglas (detail)

Day 242. “I was at the height of mania here, but there was a massive wave of white depression heading towards me.”

Day 314 - by Missy Douglas (detail)

Day 314 – Mania. “I was buzzing and everything was technicolor and beautiful. I was flying and felt invincible.”

Day 359 - Christmas Day 2013 - by Missy Douglas (detail)

Day 359 – Christmas Day 2013. “I was feeling very depressed yet I completely compartmentalised and concealed it. The twinkly forced jollity hid the sadness.”

Day 5 by Missy Douglas

Day 5. “I was really anxious, angry and feeling trapped.”

In 2009 Doughlas left the UK and established her own fine art studio and art school in Brussels. Two years later she headed to New York and now spends her time immersed in the creative scenes of Long Island, Queens and further afield in Seattle.

Missy Douglas composition

Image and information source

 Shristi