Monday, September 22, 2014

Breakdown is an Opportunity for Something Better - Guest Post

Every breakdown gives you the opportunity to become something better

Have you ever felt like the picture of the watch above, broken into so many pieces that you hardly believe that you could ever become fully functional again? I know I have felt like this. But the great thing is each time we have a breakdown we get a chance to become something better than before. When I was a child I loved to take things apart to see how they worked and see what components that were made from. And tonight my wife God bless her gave me the inspiration for this blog when she seen me taking my road bike apart for a major cleaning, degreasing and wondering why did I not just leave it into the bicycle shop to have it done there in the first place.

The truth is she has a point. It would take less time, I would get less dirty and the cost would be relative low. So why waste a free Saturday morning taking on something that someone else could do quicker, cleaner, better and probably cheaper. This was her question to me. I explained that taking the bike apart has thought me more than I knew before and each time I try something for the first time or that’s new even if I fail, then I’m still learning and she does not really understand the self-satisfaction that I get from not only my efforts, my success but my failures too. I have being asked what is my strongest personality trait and I always answer that I never give up or give in. In fact the more something bothers me, perplexes me, resists me, frustrate me, opposes me then the more determined I am to overcome it. It is this attitude that has helped me overcome my anxiety and panic disorder and function as good or if not better than the average man or woman.

God’s gift to me:
God’s gift to me is that he enables me to function and accomplish the things I set my mind to do. From this comes confidence and from confidence then the ability to take risks without worrying what happens if I fail. I wrote an article titled “there are worst things that death” so if there are worst things then death why should failure be devastating. It’s just another change to try again. When I was depressed from my inability to control or manage my anxiety and panic I tried many things to recover. I tried medication with limited success, I tried natural remedies again with limited or no effect, I tried transcendental meditation it was OK, but not what I wanted, I tried mindfulness and I liked it but on its own it was not enough, I exercised, I rested, I ate well and I exercised self-care but what got me well was my determination to not give up. Eventually I came across the book by Dr Claire Weekes titled “Self-help for your nerves” The minute I read it I knew that this woman had suffered with anxiety herself and her incite was amazing. Her principles are as follows:

Face: Stop running, fighting or trying to manage or suppress your anxiety/panic or depression and instead sit peacefully with it and see for yourself that the only power it has comes from your fear of it.

Accept: Your symptoms and sensations and just ignore them and in time they will pass.

Float: If a person floats on water then there is no resistance rather it’s a bit like having faith that the waters 
beyond will keep your body afloat as long as you trust it. This takes time but it really does work

Letting time pass: Everyone will have heard or being told that time is a great healer and believe me it is true. No one becomes mentally unwell overnight so getting well can take time too. Be patient and let time pass, not always thinking “Ho when am I going to be me again” Trust that your body has the ability to heal itself but even your body need time.

So in essence what I did was compile the things that helped, that worked, that reduces my panic, my anxiety and made my own recovery program. It’s a bit like putting your own tool box together. Instead of putting in every tool I only put in the ones I use and have discovered are best suited to my problem and lead to remission or recovery which even is possible.

Nothing develops overnight:
My determination did not develop overnight, no it was by much trial and error and yes in the beginning I did see failure as a disaster and I even labelled myself a looser. But that looser grew up and matured and the process was like a volcano erupting and great havoc was wreaked at times but just like the earth that was displaced by the eruption it became fertile again. Pain and suffering are unavoidable and yet our very first reaction to any pain or distress is to avoid it so you never have to experience it again. But what if that pain and suffering was designed to mold your personality and spirit into something that would be useful to your community, rich in love and compassion, showing kindness even to strangers because pain and suffering unites us all in ways we never thought possible. 

I’m not saying that you should go looking for pain or suffering, rather I’m saying that when they come examine yourself and see if there is something bigger than you at work in bringing change to a life that needs and deserves it. Every woman who is a mother will tell you that in order to bring new life into the world then that mother has to suffer labor and it’s painful (I am man so I’m not speaking from experience here) yet the consolation of this new baby makes it easier for the mother to forget her pain and God love her go and do the same thing multiply time. If our mothers were willing to suffer pain just to produce new life then remember that the pain you are feeling right now just may be shaping, changing and molding you into the person you were always meant to be.

Reflection and advice:
So going back to was it a waste of a free Saturday to take my bicycle apart well yes and no. I did get it clean and I was able to get it back together despite the numerous parts and screws but my gears are not working as before. If I’m honest it’s not safe to ride yet but it looks good. So I will look up YouTube and watch a video, learn how it should be done and eventually I will be successful but for now I have learned something new and I might just start taking my wife’s advice and enjoy my Saturday in a more leisurely way. 

I’m not stupid either as I have a second bike so when one bike is out of action then I have the option of the other bike so it’s not like I risked everything if all had gone wrong. Planning is also something I have learned from failure. I could have sold that second bike but experience has thought me two are truly better than one. So maybe you might share your story of how your illness made you a better person as I for one would love to hear from you. So for now keep trying, never give up or give in as someday you will reach the summit of your particular mountain and look down and back at your achievements and declare that: 

“I never knew I had that in me”.
by Michael Groves

Monday, September 8, 2014

Anxiety - Do I or Don't I? - Guest Post

When the experts do not agree then what chance do we have?

As a suffer Living with anxiety and a panic disorder then I have always considered it my business to inform myself as much as is possible about my disorder including the why, how and now. So with so much conflicting information out there how is anyone ever going to get the best available knowledge to best formulate their own recovery and support program that will lead them to the best possible outcome. When experts disagree on what’s best for us, what does that say about our chances of recovery?

Let’s first deal with the why question? OK why me, how come I have anxiety but many of my other sister do not? The experts say that if someone in your family has suffered with anxiety, depression or any other mental illness then you are at a 40% greater risk on having one yourself. Along with this we are told again by the experts that if you experience childhood trauma then that also increases your risk factor of suffering a mental illness again by another 40%. So in my own case as my mother was suffering with her nerves back then I fall into the first risk category but then I also experienced the murder of my brother when I was four and he was nineteen and this increased my risk by the same amount again. Yet only one sister and myself were ever diagnosed with a mental health problem. All the rest of my family are fine (there were eight of us). How come? The answer is the experts do not really know. This is the problem. How can we prevent instead of cure mental health problems when you are not really sure what causes them in the first place. And if I’m trying to inform myself then how does this help in my choices as regards recovery?

So by the age of four I had more than an 80% risk of developing a mental health condition, so how come nobody did anything to help me back then (I was seventeen before I got a diagnosis). And even today there are thousands of children who fall into the same risk category and they too are being overlooked. This is not a blame game, no it’s much more important than that. It is much too serious and needs to be addressed in our schools, our homes and our communities. No vulnerable children should have to seek out help, no instead there should be trained personal who can pick up on the signs of a disturbed, distressed or symptomatic child. Intervention and prevention are always better than a cure. Also we will have to deal at some stage with the labeling of our children/teenagers when that are so young so as to not let their diagnosis become a stumbling block for future employment. 

Disagreement and pseudo-science:

The now:
Now the experts disagree among themselves as regards treatments because they are lacking in so many area’s that people suffering with a mental illness are unable to decide what’s best for them by way of treatment options. 

Let’s just take the concept that mental illness is in fact caused by a chemical imbalance yet we all know, have read and seen very compelling videos to point to the contrary of this premise. We know there is no measurable way to check the chemicals imbalance in any persons brain much less tell us at what levels they should be. So how am I the suffer, supposed to make an informed decision on what’s best for me in the first place. And if the medication you are giving me is supposed to regulate my imbalance when you clearly can’t prove that I am actually suffering from one then I’m taking medication that will not help me at best and may harm or even kill me at worst. 

Is it any wonder we find suffers of mental illness in prison, in hospital or in the graveyard. Because the treatment is so poor an uncoordinated and good scientific information so sparse or too technical that you and I are unconvinced by what is truth and what is a lie. I’m not afraid to admit I’m in the middle on this one. I truly do not know why some people suffer with a mental illness while other do not. We have heard about genetics and the part our DNA plays in the different diseases people suffer and yet there is no mental illness gene identified that can explain my illness and your illness. The experts disagree about the part that nature and nurture play in a person becoming unwell with a mental health condition, and yet we think we are the ones who are mad. The only reason we are mad is for trusting them in the first place. We are not just trusting them with our treatment but with our future. Remember if they get it wrong then we might not have a future at all.

Point of first contact is so important:
A person suffering with a mental health condition first contact will most likely be there doctor or the emergency department. Neither of these is fully qualified in the best treatments of mental illness and as we know making a diagnosis is pretty much a hit and a miss affair. Because if you lie about how you feel and what you are experiencing then how on earth is the doctor supposed to diagnosis you. Your diagnosis depends on how you answer some questions not on some blood test or x-ray results so it’s an inexact science and you and me are at its mercy. Very often we are used as patients in an experiment for our doctors and while they learn we suffer. Also in our support group when I asked the members did they tell the doctor on their first visit the true extent of how they were really feeling then they all answered “no we did not in order not to embarrass themselves”.
In my own experience I use the following to stay well:
• Prayer and faith
• Mindfulness daily
• Plenty of rest
• Cycling for an hour and half daily
• Eat healthy foods
• Hobbies, including reading and listing to music
• Work
• Walking in nature
• Medication (Lustral)

I do all of the above daily and it helps me attain a high level of function but I do not have faith in any one single item, instead each person has to develop a personal recovery and support program tailored to their individual needs rather than on what worked best for someone else. We owe it to ourselves to be the very best we can be while still living with an illness that by all accounts should disable us. But tonight this is my prayer:

Please let the so called experts put away their individual vested interest and the making of money on the backs of those who has already suffered enough and come together and formulate an agreed treatment program where our first point of contact whether it be the emergency department, our doctor, a therapist or any other medical professional can deliver the very best practices available to us to relieve our suffering and allowing us contribute to society like everyone else. You the professionals and the medical community owe it to us as many of you have gotten rich off our suffering.

Is this what you call professional?
I have no axe to grind with any medical professional but the word professional to me makes you responsible to deliver the best treatment possible based on the best available scientific facts and not on tradition, past practices, mumbo jumbo, sudo science and if you do not have enough information then stop calling yourself a professional because when I was a teenager and you were learning a trade we called this an apprenticeship. So if you don’t know what you’re doing and the science is not there to back it up, then tell me straight out so I can make up my own mind what treatments I will submit myself to in order for you to learn.

When I trained as a Healthcare Assistant we were told autonomy was the most important aspect to patient care. In other words the patient was to be treated as an adult, informed, comforted and allow make choices for themselves. At present with so little verifiable scientific fact then it’s impossible for a patient to make up their mind as to the best treatment to bring about recover. This is not our fault. 

To finish I would just say the following: The Hippocratic oath a doctor takes states “he or she is to do good” but just as importantly is the part that states “he or she is to do no harm”. Can you really say that if you don’t know all the facts? No I think not. Please get your act together, stop the squabbling, self-interest and help us the way we deserve. 

This is not a rant, no I’m in too much control for that rather I hope like all my posts this generates a discussion on others personal experiences and how we as a community might better inform and advise our fellow suffers of the pitfalls before they become victims of the medical merry go round that some of us have experiences. For now as always have a great day. Looking forward to your comments. Thanks

Michael Groves

Monday, September 1, 2014

Is there a connection between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness? - Guest Post

One of the basic truths of addiction and mental illness is that they occur together.  As a professional, that was obvious to me.  When I worked in impatient treatment settings, I was exposed to that over and over.  In one memorable case, I watched as a patient detoxed from pretty serious drug and alcohol use....and started to act exactly like Maxine.  From the anger and the lack of willingness to bathe all the way to the fact that she would avoid treatment activities.  As a matter of fact, she would do exactly what Maxine would do.  She sat in the patient break room smoking cigarettes and staring off into the distance for hours on end.  For me, that was the clearest view I have ever had about the relationship between substance abuse and mental illness. I saw the connection between substance abuse and mental illness in most of  my clients.  While I'm not a doctor, I did work with them.  And being relatively familiar with what mental illness looks like, personally and professionally, I am capable of making an educated guess.  Especially since most of my jobs provided me with access to medical assessments.

The other question is, what came first, the chicken or the egg?  Does a person start to abuse drugs and alcohol because of existing mental illness?  Or does the underlying mental illness occur because of the drug use? That is an issue for the doctors to determine.  My interest in this is with the result.  When someone is 'self-medicating' a mental illness, recovery is even more complex.  It means that the person will have even more roadblocks to maintaining sobriety.  Just say NO won 't work.  That is why I believe that quality mental health care is an important part of the recovery process.

Thankfully, I haven't personally experienced the complications of a dual-diagnosis.  My problems with treating my depression are more likely to be connected to not wanting to take drugs.  Even drugs that are likely to help me.  But I really do 'get' the complexity of recovery from addiction combined with serious mental illness.  I also think that true understanding about addiction AND mental illness are enabled by understanding the relationship.  So, as part of that, I am very interested in examining the connection.  I am also interested on using that education to talk with you.  So we can begin to recognize and fight stigma.  Together.  Let me know what you have experienced regarding the relationship between mental illness and substance abuse.  And how that relationship impacts efforts to recover.  What has helped you or your loved one?  Or are you still struggling?  I look forward to hearing your story.

By Judy Schwartz-Naber