Mental Illness: The COVID Effect

For me, my struggle with mental illness began 30 years ago. At that time, those with mental illness were thought to be weak because they could not “just get over it”. I lost friends and family either from not understanding or just because I had spoken up about family secrets.

About 15 years ago, the word trauma entered my like. Events that at the time I thought were normal were explained to be a mode of abuse. Words like racing thoughts, hyper vigilante, DBT, and flashbacks were introduced to me. At least, I now had a name for my symptoms.

Trying to find a treatment provider who knows about severe trauma is difficult and time consuming. I spend months attempting to try to explain why I needed a trauma therapist and psychiatrist. How this illness can be misdiagnosed or misunderstood by someone who does not have experience.

Fast forward to last night. My phone alerted me. I was surprised to see the headline that companies are going to begin to expand mental health treatment due to COVID. I was so upset. Not leaving the house and not being able to see people for 18 months is now a mental health crisis. Why, it is a socially acceptable problem? Even suicides related to COVID are deemed worthy of attention.

Where were these companies over the past decades during which so many others that have a mental health diagnosis were struggling to keep their proverbial head above water? Why weren’t all of the people that were de institutionalized given proper care and access to medications?Instead many of them became homeless. The mentally ill became societies secret.

I have been told I should be empathetic toward people who have been affected by the quarantine. I just cannot find that in me when the same people called me crazy and a waste of space. Even the names of the illnesses have been changed to a socially acceptable label.

I feel like those of us who have been struggling for years have been cast aside. We still are going to fall through the cracks because our illnesses are not COVID related. What am I and others like me to do?

Lack of Treatment Providers

Trying to find a quality psychiatrist for trauma is almost impossible. Regular psychiatrists have been so overwhelmed by my diagnoses that many have turned me away before even seeing me.

Trauma is not just prescribing a pill to take everyday. There are no medications that specifically treat complex PTSD. Instead, the doctor has to know what background diagnoses and symptoms there are as well as know the patient.

During COVID, telehealth became a popular option and has continued even though people are going out and seeing friends again. The issue with telehealth is that the provider does not really “see” the entire person.

It is hard to see symptoms. Providers sometimes miss appointments and some do not remember who I even am. How is this adequate care?? How can someone hear me talk about impulses and then not even acknowledge them?? Why am I a write off?? The only treatment I am provided are pills that are not effective.

I am tired of hearing how hard it is to treat me and how there are not enough providers. Maybe it is time to begin to find solutions so that everyone regardless of insurance or distance can find quality care from a provider that gets to know and become familiar with their patients.

Gutted

When I was young girl, I could not connect to others. My parents rarely spoke to me, did not have friends, and barely spoke to each other. Silence was the accepted condition of the house and I learned how to be invisible.

In school, I felt like an alien in a sea of students who knew how to talk and laugh with their friends. I could not start a conversation with anyone because I did not know how too. I accepted the loneliness that came along with my awkwardness.

As an adult, I am on my second failing marriage. For the past years, I have lost communication with 2 out of 3 kids, my mother has disowned me, my family cannot relate to me, and I do not have any friends.

Having a history of trauma going back as long as I remember does not help the situation. How am I supposed to talk to anyone? People do not want to hear difficult experiences and that seems to be all I have to speak about.

I am trying to meet new people, yet nothing seems to be working. I just cannot carry on a conversation. I am living my entire childhood over with people leaving after only a short amount of time. The silence and loneliness are so difficult to deal with. Right now, I am trying to figure out what path I should take. Kept trying to make connections or just accept that I will be alone.

Working on Anger

NOT LETTING ANGER GET THE BEST OF ME

For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded my anger. My dad was mad at the world. Every drive included cursing and derogatory comments. Throwing things was also involved. I learned to express anger outwardly.

I have been working on how to dial down my anger. Nothing was working. Gauges, colors, a cooling image.

In the past few days I have been getting better at not going off on those around me. What has worked? Internal communication. It is not easy!!! Yet, I think about what those around me must see by playing it internally. So far, nothing has been worth getting angry about or even bringing up.

All of this is so new and I need to figure out the details, yet for me this is a big jump. That something may not even be worth the anger that I intend to express toward it. I will see how it goes!

Mentally Ill: The Label

Mentally ill. Those two words cam mean the difference between what life could be and what life actually is for a person. Over 15 years ago I received my diagnoses. To me, they did not define me. I just intended to get better and move on with my life.

Unfortunately, that is not what has happened. Due to my symptoms of hyper vigilance, flashbacks, and time loss; I have not been able to keep a job. When I separated from my first husband I lost my kids because I was considered “to disabled” to take care of them.

I attempted to go back to school and maybe begin another chapter in my life. Because the court records are public, I did not even make it through three weeks. The told me that I was a danger in the field.

Even among the mentally ill, the label of complex PTSD is difficult to treat because there are not any FDA approved treatments or medications that will help the symptoms. There are treatments that if I had $2,000 – $4,000 that may be available to me.

Those with some diagnoses eventually find a medication that works. They are the lucky ones. Some of us never find that and remain just on the edge of everything.

Recently, I have tried to meet people, yet because of the severe abuse that caused my PTSD, I have nothing in common with them. My family of origin was sick. The events of my life do not line up with other people. I do not trust others and push people away so that I do not get hurt.

Then there are the visible scars from my illness. The ones where even if someone meets me, they are what is the focus. Usually, I do not hear from them again. Being lonely has become a way of life. The label of. “Mentally Ill” changes the way the world and those around me treat me.

So, over 15 years later, I sit here and do not even know how to communicate with anyone but my therapist and even that is strained. I keep working on DBT and managing my anger, yet nothing is going to change that my past is part of me and that those that I trusted the most smashed that a long time ago.

Cave Man Syndrome. What???

The last time I checked what the public health officials call Cave Man Syndrome, it was agoraphobia. Fear of leaving the house because of what might happen if one steps outside.

Those of us who have agoraphobia have been battling this fear for years. Prior to COVID-19 I was often told to just suck it up and leave the house. I was asked what was so bad and why are you even afraid.

Fast forward to post pandemic quarantine. Cave Man Syndrome now tries to say that this is an effect of COVID-19 precautions. Is this latest syndrome trying to normalize behaviors that iI and others have had for years and struggled with for years??

The same behaviors and feelings that I was told to “just deal with”, have become “normal” because of the groups that are affected. Really, I have spent my life battling this . I know people whose mental illness was so frowned upon in their culture that they felt alone and alienated.

My therapist suggested have empathy. I am sorry, that is not going to happen. Due to scars and work history, there is no chance that I may ever work again. Maybe, our public health system really needs an overhaul. Someone needs to wake up and realize that people with these mental health issues existed long before the pandemic.

Tattoos for Healing **May Trigger*

From the beginning of my journey, I have had issues with self harm. Doing it , made me actually be able to calm down, yet it has left me with permanent scars that remind me of those terrible times. They also bring up how hurt I was and how messed up my life has been.

There are still difficult days and times that I feel like acting in my impulses to self harm. I am not sure those impulses will ever go away or if they will always be in the back of my mind.

Six years ago, I picked out my first tattoo. It was made up of the colors of mental health, cancer, and fibromyalgia awareness. Every time I look at that tattoo it makes me realize that I did not want to mess it up. Self harming in that spot was no longer comfortable.

I then had a tattoo in the other arm. In order to get new tattoos my scars need to fully heal. Now, they are a road map of my life. Moments of desperation as well as elation. Artists renderings of pain as well as some of my best memories.

Even with my time loss, I can look at them and the memories are triggered. They have helped me heal and solidify my journey. I am in the process of planning a full sleeve for the next piece. I cannot wait to see what my artists draws and then watch it come to life. Another step to healing.

Medication Resistant

Approving New Treatments

There are two words that a patient with a mental health diagnosis does not want to hear. Medication resistant. When I heard those two words I became hopeless. Now, I realize that myself and others with the same issue need to fight. We need to push for treatments that the VA is using to treat medication resistant depression and PTSD.

One treatment that has shown to be effective is Ketamine infusions. Studies have shown that ketamine can reduce anxiety, nightmares, depression, and other symptoms of mental illness. The VA us using this treatment to help soldiers. Yet, as a citizen with private insurance I cannot get the treatment because it is not FDA approved for use in mental illness.

The FDA approved a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time. Most of the time it takes years for FDA approval. This illness affected people who were working age, contributed to the economy, and were essential. The public cared and the public demanded a solution to stop hundreds of thousands from dying.

I have always felt, that I and others I know with a mental illness are disposable. The drugs are astronomically expensive and psychiatrists are hundreds of dollars a visit.

Insurance will pay for hospitals that are ineffective in treating resistant depression. For me, my latest discharge basically said that my illness would not change and was chronic. Really, that is all that you can do? The last hospital stay for me was almost $30,000.

A round of Ketamine infusions (6 over 3 weeks) is around $3,000. It is 10x’s less than the last hospital bill and has shown to be effective. I will sign whatever waiver I would need to in order to get this treatment and see if it would reduce my symptoms. Big pharma and the government need to recognize that every citizen should be allowed the benefit of a treatment. Not just veterans.

Maybe there are others out there who would like to begin calling insurance companies and the FDA, letting them know that our lives our important. That we deserve to be free if the litany of symptoms that are obviously not being treated my current methods.

Shadow Work

This work has been so helpful for me

I have began to learn so much about my fears, my parts fears, and why this darkness has been with me. The journal prompts are even help me open up in therapy. After 17 years, I feel like I am slowly making a few steps forward.

A New Kind of Therapy Work

For years, I have had trouble talking about all of the events and thoughts that are not acceptable to me. All of the self hate and blaming. I advocated for myself and my insurance agreed that I could go back to my therapist of 15 years.

When he saw me and saw how depressed I was, he was immediately concerned. Then, he mentioned Shadow Work. Since regular therapy, journaling, and medications were not helping; I thought why not try this new type of work. I went on Amazon that day and ordered a shadow work journal.

When the journal arrived there were some recommendations in the front. First there was no wrong or right way to answer the questions. The second, was that there were not judgements, just write what came up first. Having complex PTSD comes with dissociation in most cases. Mine has gone past that to DID. It helps having specific topics and questions to answer. I find that I am surprised at what I am writing.

Each entry also includes a section to write what you like about yourself as well as an event that may trigger memories. There are some surprises about what might have triggered me.

Therapy this week was more productive because I had thoughts to talk about and elaborate on, which then turned into even deeper questions. It has helped a little with the feeling of self loathing. I realize I was to little to control what was said and done to me.

Shadow work seems to be helpful. I am going to continue with one question a day. I am going to use it for topics to talk about in therapy.