Fully Reversing My (Claim to) Mental Illness?

Do these two Pinterest pins seem equivalent to you?

I’m going to ignore for a moment the implication by a UK PTSD charity that PTSD is “fully reversible” with CBT and EMDR. I’ve tried both, and I’m still waiting for that reversal. (Of course, given how many unique traumas the 9th Circle of Hell as dumped on my brain, including these past two months, how would I know if one ’bout’ of PTSD had ever cleared up before another re-inserted itself?!)

I want to point out, instead, the claim on the left that “PTSD is NOT a Mental Illness.”

I’d like to claim I’ve been doing something really productive with my not-FMLA. However, all I did Thursday was be kept up all night by nightmares preceding my most recent meeting with 9th Circle of Hell officials, then crash out after it and sleep for 15 hours. Apparently, my body thinks that “self-care” means hours of watching non-triggering reality television (think shows like Naked and Afraid where survivalists pit themselves against the elements or Wicked Tuna, where fishermen pit themselves against fish) and staring robotically at Pinterest at 3am when that reality television has been replaced by infomercials. My body thinks that “self-care” means not sleeping, then sleeping long enough to try and recoup six months of spoons at once after physical distress overwhelms mental distress. Would that spoons worked that way, body…

Pinterest really wants me to pin both images above. They keep showing up in my feed. I don’t have a particular problem with the image on the right. (I did read once that Healthy Place promotes some pseudo-scientific claims alongside their generally sensitive memes, though, so I’m still careful about anything they produce.) I do have a problem with the image on the left. Isn’t PTSD just mental illness resulting from self-protective mechanisms persisting so long after psychological (and physical, emotional, sexual and bullying, too!) abuse until they ultimately become maladaptive?

The definition of mental illness is a set of health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior that cause distress and difficulties in functioning for an individual. While dissociation has occasionally been neuroprotective during the worst abuse, I haven’t found that being unable to speak while my boss yells at me as I watch the encounter from outside my body to be anything other than “distressing.” I also have yet to see how nightmares are a viable part of any coping strategy – even a maladaptive one – even during periods of active abuse. Abuse and the covering up of abuse have resulted in most-likely permanent changes to my brain that cause me significant distress and difficulties in functioning. That sounds like mental illness to me.

While I deeply hate that other people caused those changes by being abusive assholes (especially abusive assholes that have, too often, gotten away with it), I don’t see how the fact my brain changes were done to me somehow makes me superior to someone who is distressed and impaired in their functioning by endogenous Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder. I don’t see how the fact that PTSD is, by definition, exogenous spares it from being a mental illness. The fact that advocacy groups would try so hard to suggest it does spare it gives off an unpleasant whiff of mental illness stigma. What is the purpose of going to great artistic lengths to convince others that PTSD isn’t a mental illness other than to distance it from that a thing that is somehow lesser, namely mental illness?

Continue reading “Fully Reversing My (Claim to) Mental Illness?”

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The Religious Wronged (a #metoo story)

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts talking about both the recent spate of sexual harassment/abuse allegations against Hollywood/political officials and how difficult the holidays can be for people with mental health challenges.

I feel a little guilty that I’m fortunate enough to be able to opt out of half of the holiday problem. From the time I first moved out on my own, I have adopted my own way of dealing with the disconnect and pain of the holidays: I leave the country. It turns out if you are diligent, buy your ticket in September, are willing to go to literally wherever in the world is the cheapest when you put in to “anywhere” on the ticket site, are willing to travel to countries that don’t necessarily celebrate Christmas as a national holiday and are just generally privileged, you can hide from American Christmas. On the one hand, I kept that up even on a grad student stipend while readily admitting that others might have said there were better uses for my money – but I never found them and probably needed travel to keep my sanity during my improperly medicated grad school years. On the one hand, my ability to just leave the country, even in the cheapest most Airbnb-before-it-got-cool way, is still deeply privileged. I get that, and I feel a little guilty suggesting that as a solution since it truly isn’t viable for so many others. Thus, I sometimes feel a little guilty when others talk about all the triggers inherent in the holidays. I am triggered by them too – but I opt out in ways others can’t.

On the other hand, I can only opt out of half of the holidays, and the other half often makes up for what I miss on Christmas.

Continue reading “The Religious Wronged (a #metoo story)”

Where’s Whoopsie #5: Like Red Before The Bull$hi7 (Er, bull. Er, cow, as the case may be.)

I write anonymously. I write anonymously because I am aware of what the consequences could be at my work if everyone – including my boss who hates knowing any personal information about any employees – knew my inner thoughts and challenges. I write anonymously because my trauma history isn’t mine alone, and I don’t want to take away someone’s voice and someone’s story without their consent, even if it is my story, too. I write anonymously because I have C-PTSD. I don’t inherently trust that the world is a safe place, and sharing my name is making me even more vulnerable. It might make me a target.

I write anonymously, but I admire those who don’t. It takes a lot of guts to own your story that way, and to have silenced the bully-in-your-brain enough to stick up for the bully-on-the-street’s next victim. Thus, I am both furious and afraid to have learned about a specific online abuse site targeting Spoonies. Apparently, this group has been trolling dysautonomia message boards, and now dysautonomia online spaces are warning others that what they post on Facebook, on blogs, and on support forums is not necessarily private. They have not caught the member who masqueraded as a dysautonomia sufferer to take the screenshots and make the abusive hate posts. The group may have targeted dysautonomia sufferers lately, but based on what I saw of their website, they have targeted all Spoonies at one point or another. They also post photos – again with real names – of people they consider fat, ugly, slutty or any characteristic you can think of to shame someone with.

Continue reading “Where’s Whoopsie #5: Like Red Before The Bull$hi7 (Er, bull. Er, cow, as the case may be.)”

Hey Dysautonomia International: My anxiety is only “all in my head” because that’s where my brain is!

I had a dream last night that I was in high school again. That’s never a great start to any day, so I’ll blame that for the fact that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I’ll blame that, work, and all the usual hassles of my diagnoses, but I’ll write this semi-ranting post anyway because I also partly blame Dysautonomia International.

In my dream, one of my friends in high school was trying to convince me to partake in her stash of alcohol. I wasn’t a huge party girl in high school, but I did occasionally drink at her parties. In my dream, I tried to explain to her that going to the party had used up all my spoons for the day. Drinking wasn’t an option. She replied that depression, which is all I was diagnosed with at that point, didn’t count for Spoon Theory. It wasn’t a chronic illness: chronic illness only includes the physical! Then I woke up.

I got on Facebook to see what that friend was up to now. Her attitude in my dream was purely the bully-in-my-brain’s invention. She is still – as far as I can tell – a bit of a high-lifer. She is/was also a lovely person. While on Facebook, I saw another friend posting about her difficulties completing day-to-day tasks during a bout of depression. She referenced Spoon Theory, and someone in the comments stated that she has the physical capability to leave the house and, thus, shouldn’t appropriate Spoon Theory. It sucks that her mind wouldn’t let her leave the house, but she could leave if there was a fire. My more-aware-of-social-concepts partner explained to me that appearing to show concern for someone on the Internet – but putting someone down in the process – is called concern trolling.

Continue reading “Hey Dysautonomia International: My anxiety is only “all in my head” because that’s where my brain is!”