So am feeling pretty overwhelmed today.
For the past couple of weeks I have been very confident, over all that I’ve improved enough in my coping skills/ recovery to be ok at a place not mental health specific like Friedman Place. I now know for example the importance of taking my medication. Can’t even go half a day without it! The importance of having stable caring support people in my life especially professionals that get it. I know about my feelings now and understand that expressing them is important and at least with people I trust I don’t feel bad about expressing my feelings whatever they are. And I have other coping skills than just wanting to SI. Though I admit my biggest reason is often the external consequences of my harm reduction care plan. As in there are tolerable boundaries that if necessary I can scratch without the Dr. being called. However I would have to go to the nurse to have it treated. And talk with a staff about it. Which of course some of the reason I would want to SI is due to not wanting to talk with someone which kinda defeats the purpose. Most annoying for me is that even with a small scratch it’s protocol to have this incident report. Which means for three days after it happens your vitals are taken each shift even in the middle of the night! That gets on my last nerve and is often the kicker for me not going down that road.
Anyway in spite of that last thing, I really thought that I’d do pretty well considering where I was before and how much I’ve grown. And I wanted to be out of this environment so badly. And the place I felt would offer the best amount of independence with daily support was Friedman. It’s why I moved all the way to Chicago after all.
So I’ve been going along really believing though there would be bumps in the road provided the staff had some decent understanding of mental illness, and I had outside supports that were strong and I stuck to all my learned skills I’d do well. I do admit I was leaning on the fact that I thought the staff there did have in general a better understanding of mental illness. As they have an executive director who’s a social worker. An awesome social services director as I believe I’ve mentioned, a supervisor of nursing who’s also a social worker. I thought with all that, other staff would have some training on appropriate responses/ a little at least of the ins and outs of things. I knew for example the social service director could due to his training provide psychotherapy and groups rather than just supportive counseling as was the case in the past. With a supervising social worker heading up the nurses and nursing assistants I thought there would be training in that department as well.
So my plan was simply to try and be a patient girl. While my application the initial form, not even the records, was waiting to be processed I’d see about moving to a less restrictive and most importantly quieter environment with residents who were just a bit more in a shared reality and you know conversational and on my waivelength. Then when my number came up I’d scoot on over there, get outside services and hopefully pick my life back up pretty much where I’d left off of course with a whole lot of self-awareness and support.
Well today I got a huge reality check. A friend who lives at FP happened to be talking to a member of nursing staff last night about my applying to come back. This person is really a good hearted lady. One of the biggest advocates for resident’s needs and always there to talk. Unfortunately on matters of mental health she had her oppinions which were inaccurate. For example she could swear up and down to anyone that if a person just exercises, gets out more, has a hobby, goes back to school they won’t have depression anymore. She questions psych meds to the point of after the psychiatrist writes a prescription she questions you about whether you really want it or not. Plus a lot of statements about how she doesn’t think meds are necessary, do more harm than good ETC.
So yeah had some troubles with her though as I said the most well meaning caring person at the place at the time. So anyway my friend was talking to her last night. And she put this question to him: is she healed? Meaning of my mental illness.
Which brings up an important question. Often the general public, and even professionals think that after a certain point of therapy meds ETC you will no longer have symptoms of your mental illness. That this is just something that’s temporary, brought on by stress ETC. For professionals I think this is encouraged by the managed care companies pushing at most only twelve sessions of therapy at least maybe six. And that therapy of course is cognitive behavioral or solution focused. Meaning it’s condensed to giving the person a set of coping skills on recognizing thought patterns that *could* be causing their issues. I say could because contradicting popular belief I don’t think this is always the case. And I strongly believe good therapy should be individualized. For some people perhaps they are going through a life transition like a divorce. And the whole thing has lowered their self-esteem to the point that they are attacked by negative thoughts about themselves their future ETC. In a case like this perhaps using these tools and getting a different perspective on things would be enough to give them like a life jacket to stay above water until things settle down.
However as I said I feel that many many times this isn’t the case, or not just the case. I feel your thoughts and rationality are one part of what makes up a person and their responses and there’s so much more there that needs to be worked with, brought out, put to rest grown ETC. And this doesn’t happen in six or twelve sessions.
But I digress. The point is these therapists/ insurance companies ETC truly believe that CBT/ solution focused therapy can “heal” depression and anxiety. Or else get it to a point where the person can manage it on their own without therapy. Because remember too those limited sessions are all you get a year. So if you need a refresher sorry you’ll have to wait til next year LOL!
So I believe therapists/ professionals feded this quick fix approach. The general public, friends/ family/ anyone who doesn’t understand also has this attitude. That the person just needs to (fill in the blank) for what seems like a relatively short length of time and they will no longer have these issues. This is even more true when someone is talking to/ has heard of a person being in therapy for a year or more or on meds long term. That surely with all this intervention the person will soon be free of whatever’s going on. I think that all this coming from whoever is good intentioned. No one likes to see another person suffer with whatever. Seeing a friend or family member crippled by anxiety to the point they can’t enjoy a family gathering, take their kids to school go to the store ETC is heart breaking. Seeing someone unexplainably depressed to the point that even a small daily routine is impossible, to the point that they’re barely hanging on to life is beyond many people’s understanding. People can get their minds around depression due to the death of a loved one, or a break up ETC. True clinical depression goes against many people’s rational logic of what’s going on with a person. And they want things to be better. And it’s a grieving process I think for the person suffering and their family to come to accept that this won’t go away. It won’t go away but I didn’t say it won’t get better. If a person reaches out to all available resources ones that truly understand that this is a long term illness, that needs vigilant and consistent support over time, just as a physical illness would be. I think people can make huge gains in self awareness better self-esteem being willing to enjoy life as much as possible, and still have that understanding that there is no hard and fast permanent cure. This is just my opinion keep in mind. The recovery movement, which has so much amazing things to offer regarding peer support and self advocacy tools, some do believe that if you follow these principles you won’t have any symptoms anymore. Which I say whatever works. If a person believes that and using all those supports does not have symptoms for their whole life I say wonderful. I myself believe it’s more like diabetes or cancer. If you stop taking your meds you’re not gonna be cured you’re gonna end up in the hospital. (this could relate to any support you get around mental illness, but I actually do relate it to psych meds) I just wish others could understand that attitude.
Jonathan my current therapist has a very solid and I think useful perspective around mental illness. He says when he’s working with someone there are three people in the room: him the client and their illness. He’s the first therapist to separate me from my illness. And I think this gives someone a huge shift in perspective. It takes away the shame of feeling like all this is your fault, you’re not good enough for someone to want to be friends/ love you, ETC. It also helps when you have set backs. Now this “my illness” thing isn’t some cop out. That was a reaction I got when telling actually another person with mental illness about it. You have to take responsibility for your part of things, keeping up with medicine, your treatment being honest ETC. But he does acknowledge that there is a point where chemically and otherwise the symptoms take over your whole mind/ actions. And he doesn’t fault a person for that. He does give accountability. For example he wouldn’t blame a person who’s in a paranoid state from hitting him/ staff. He would tell them they’re responsible for not taking their meds three days in a row.
So anyway he takes a team approach to dealing with mental illness. He says when there are set backs we learn what needs to be learned (because according to him everything is a learning experience) and move on. That when a team loses a game to another team the losing team doesn’t go beat up on their team members. (though I don’t know, not a sports fan at all but I’ve heard of some pretty weird extreme things going on there so I wouldn’t doubt it!) But I get the point.
So this statement about wondering if I’m healed/ will be when I come back really hit me hard. Because it implies: that she still has a ton of misunderstandings/ is far from the mark of the ins and outs of mental illness. In spite of administrators in the know, and many residents not just myself currently struggling right under her nose.
It implies that she wouldn’t know how to help me in whatever I’m going through. And that I’d be responsible for every single thing regarding my treatment. I wouldn’t have the staff to lean on. I’d have to, no matter how anxious/ depressed/ wanting to self injure, seek them out. And may not get as supportive a response as I’d want or need.
And that I could get a lot of judgment around everyday aspects of mental illness from well meaning people like this staff person. And that unfortunately, as was the case when I was at Friedman before, worst of all my symptoms could be unnoticed until they got bad enough for a hospitalization. This was the cycle that was so heart breaking for me. And I thought that this at least had changed with the new social work staff. Discussing this further with the friend that had this conversation he’s confirmed quite bluntly in only a way best friend can, that this is all true. The overwhelming expectations I’d be faced with. For example if I were receiving therapy from a social worker there there’s the boundary so I’ve heard that the social worker will never reach out/ check in with me/ whoever, unless another resident reports a problem or you yourself check in. As many know who experience similar issues keeping up all this responsibility is often impossible.
So I’m left with a lot of questions and strong feelings. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever be ok living there. Because as I said before I’ll always have these issues. The environment there no matter how well intentioned, doesn’t seem to be able to support anyone with any kind of mental health issues that’s a day to day part of their lives as mine will always be. So yeah. Thought this would be a good discussion topic and also update you all on my process.