by Nishoni Harvey
My husband is ALWAYS joking and saying, “When I die, just stick me in a big, black garbage bag and plant me in the backyard.” …At least I think he’s joking? I hope… Anyway…
I found out the other day it REALLY IS legal to bury your loved ones in the backyard!!😮 –though not in a trash bag… No, I wasn’t being weird and searching for it in particular. I was looking at “Weird Things You May Not Know”, or something similar, and that came up. Definitely weird!
There are some things we must bury to protect our mental health. I don’t care where, but when is very important. Sooner is better! Let’s get these things buried quickly and completely! What things? I’m so glad you asked!
- THE PAST
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety-related condition that causes you to relive certain traumatic events of the past. Out of the 247,813,910 adults living in America, 7.7 million have PTSD. Treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not as easy as forgetting the past. I know that. I have PTSD.
What Causes PTSD?
No, I wasn’t in the service. Many other risk factors may lead to the development of PTSD. Assault, whether sexual or physical, surviving a disaster, such as 911, or even a severe injury can also cause PTSD. Being a rescue worker or emergency response person, seeing horrible things, can also lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Do I Have PTSD?
There are many signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I have listed a few of the most common symptoms below. These and others can be found on a helpful website for Veterans, called “Make the Connection.”
- * Do you have concentration difficulties?
- * Do you struggle with reoccurring vivid dreams, nightmares, or flashbacks, which are relivings of the experience?
- * Have you lost interest in previous hobbies or other things you used to care for?
- * Do you find yourself irritated with small things or having outbursts of anger?
- * Do you feel like you are constantly in fight or flight mode–like your body is always on high alert?
- Do you feel emotionally isolated?
- Do find yourself upset easily over things that seem little to others, but remind you of the incident that caused the PTSD?
- Do you have sleeping difficulties?
- You may have PTSD.
The scary part about PTSD is that it can lead to further symptoms:
- Are you a workaholic, needing to keep your mind busy?
- Do the thoughts, however distasteful to you, cross your mind to harm yourself or other people? These thoughts make me feel like a horrible person!
- Do you avoid going anywhere that may bring back unwelcome memories? I do. In fact, I’m to the point that I won’t even go out at all without my husband! Get help! Don’t get there!
- Do you pull away from those you love, refuse old or new friendships, becoming more and more isolated? You may.
- Do you try to numb your feelings with consistent alcohol or drug use? Many have reached this point. Others have found other ways to numb themselves, simply cutting themselves off from the world, which includes their family, losing all they love in the process.
These symptoms can be life-disrupting!
What Do I Do?
So… Now what? How exactly do I bury these past memories? They don’t just go away.
The biggest reason I share my feelings and distresses with my husband is to keep myself safe. He knows my crises plan and holds me to it. Another is that he offers me support and encouragement when I’m up and motivation when I’m down. Just talking to someone, getting everything out in the open, takes a load off my shoulders, thus making me feel lighter, happier, and more cordial.
I also have a few trusted friends I tell, thus building a network. They offer some of the same benefits Matthew does. On top of that, they offer to help with the kids when I need them to and help me get to emergency appointments since I don’t have a second car and live outside the bus zone. (On top of that, have you checked out the taxi prices for a vehicle large enough to fit a mommy and four kiddos lately? Crazy!). They also help me realize when I need more intensive treatment, like a hospital stay–I don’t always recognize my condition. You see, I also have a few other mental illnesses that, even standing alone, cause severe issues for me. I’ve been hospitalized six or seven times just in the last five years.
Before you begin, prepare by thinking about what your goal is in sharing your story with them. Is it for your spouse or partner to be able to understand you and your personality and quirks better and not take your angry outbursts or stand-offish behavior on a personal level? Is it for him to understand the process whereby the healing will take place? Is it for her to realize the symptoms of PTSD or for the two of you to communicate with one another about how to support each other through this process of recovery better? There are many possible goals. What is yours?
You must be specific with your partner. Your emotional and physical reactions, triggers, and PTSD symptoms are specific to you. You may not even understand them all yourself. Explain them the best you can. Explain your boundaries around people and places and the whys, whens, wheres, hows, and to what extents. Tell them your strengths and weaknesses, which, if you’ve been together very long, they are already familiar with.
Finish up by being compassionate about their needs. How are they feeling now that they know about your disorder? Are they relieved that the angry outbursts are not their fault–that they have nothing to do with them? Are they angry that you hadn’t told them sooner? Are they sad that you have a mental illness? Are they happy that you shared your intimate secret? How do they feel?
First of all, you’re not going to tell your children everything you told your spouse. Simply tell them that something bad happened to you. Do NOT give any details.
Next, you’ll be explaining your symptoms. Explain to them how your symptoms affect you and what they keep you from doing. Tell them, too, that the PTSD is why you get angry easily (if you do) and that it’s not their fault.
Tell them you know it’s been just as hard for them as it is for you. Let them know that you’re seeing doctors to help you get better. Ask them if they have anything they want to share. Remind them that their feelings are important. They may feel like they’ll get in trouble if they say anything about how they feel or if they ask any questions. Assure them they won’t.
Medication may help you. Many psychiatrists prescribe antidepressants along with psychotherapy to help treat PTSD. For instance, these may help with that feeling of numbness, sadness, worry, and anger. There are also other medications that may benefit you in other areas, such as Prazosin. You might consider joining a study for Prazosin to see if it works for you.
Your doctor can help you find a therapist, but some of you may not want to use a psychiatrist. You do not need a psychiatrist in order to find a therapist. You can find one on your own.
A therapist helps you through talk-therapy. They often help their clients to determine a goal to work toward and to keep focused on that goal. There is a therapy called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (A.R.T.). Your therapist can tell you more about it.
Not only is A.R.T. based on evidence-based techniques, but I can vouch for it myself! I used it to help lessen the hurt of the memories associated with my sexual abuse (By the way, parents, be careful!! Guard your babies! You never know what can be going on behind your back by someone you trust). I have another A.R.T. session scheduled soon to combat other hurts of the past that cause me anxiety, thus combatting my PTSD.
Therapy can benefit in many areas and is a crucial step for burying the past.
- THE PRESENT
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
We all get anxious at times. Bills come due, and there’s no money to pay them–BOOM! Anxiety! Our kiddo gets sick, and we have no one to watch them so we can get to work, something that MUST happen because, God forbid, we’ve already used all our personal time. Our car breaks down, the bank account is drained, and the credit cards are already maxed–BOOM! Anxiety! However, when anxiety rules our lives, interfering with daily tasks, that’s when we’ve got a problem. We’ve got to bury that, allowing ourselves to bask in the present with a lack of fear, trusting God to care for our problems instead. I KNOW! EASIER SAID THAN DONE, RIGHT!! I KNOW!! I HAVE AN ANXIETY DISORDER TOO!
This year, 2018, over 18.1% of adults in America suffer from, not just simple anxiety, but an anxiety disorder yearly. To give you a better idea of the vast problem affecting those over 18-years-old, 18.1% accounts for about is 40 million U.S. adults!
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of many of the different kinds of anxiety disorders out there. Others include phobia-related disorders, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Those with GAD understand what it’s like to worry about just getting through the day, anticipating a major tragedy to happen around every corner. They know what it’s like to constantly fear losing their family, home, precious belongings, or other things. They have been given no apparent reason to worry, yet they do. They know their anxiety is extreme–more extreme than necessary, but they can’t stop it no matter what they do, no matter what they try. They know what it’s like to be one of the 6.8 million adults in America that suffer from this disorder.
What Causes GAD?
Psychiatrists don’t really know what the causes are, but they have a pretty good idea. They believe it has to do with the interaction of each individual’s personality, brain function, development, brain function, and the way the body and mind perceive the threats that are presented. They also believe it has to do with genetics, as GAD seems to run in families.
What Happens if I Don’t Get Help?
If you are one of the 36.9% that don’t get help for your GAD, it can keep you from living your life. It can steal your time away from other things you should be focusing on, cause depression, and make it difficult to concentrate, which impairs your ability to be efficient and quick in your work. It can steal away your energy, making it more difficult to spend time with your family and friends, which will deepen your depression and possibly compound your anxiety.
Your Generalized Anxiety Disorder may cause your current health problems to worsen or even cause more health problems. It can lead to headaches, sometimes at migraine strength, issues with heart-health, or irritable bowel syndrome or other bowel or digestion problems. Left untreated, GAD can cause insomnia or other sleep problems.
It can also lead to suicide or suicidal thoughts, panic disorder, drug use, phobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Do I Have GAD?
If your anxiety developed slowly and now you are to the point that you have been excessively anxious on most days for 6 months or more, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If you are overly worried about several different things that matter to you, such as routine circumstances that happen daily, your health, social interactions, your job, or interactions with friends and co-workers, you may have GAD.
Other symptoms include:
- Being On-Edge
- Easily Sweating
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Feeling Out of Breath or Lightheaded
- Being Wound-Up
- Your Mind Going Blank
- Muscle Tension
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Still Being Tired After Sleeping
- Inability to Keep from Worrying or Feeling Nervous
- Easily Startled
What Do I Do?
I have great news for you! GAD, just like other anxiety disorders is treatable! All it takes is medication and psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Therapists teach their GAD patients how to manage their anxiety themselves. They do this using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
On top of the antidepressants that can be prescribed for GAD, your psychiatrist can also talk to you about alternative treatments. Stretching, exercise, and relaxation techniques can all help you.
Preventing the worsening of symptoms if you already experience anxiety can ward off GAD. How do I do that, Nishoni? Here’s your To-Do list:
- Becoming harder to treat the longer you wait, getting help early is vital for every mental health condition. This includes GAD.
- Prioritize! Use a list. I use Trello to keep my list. It’s very handy! Keep what’s important in the forefront and let the rest slip if need be. If you use up all your energy and time doing the little things that aren’t a priority, it’ll add anxiety to your life. Your pressing matters won’t get done.
- Keep track of what causes you added stress and what improves your anxiety in a journal. If you prefer electronics to paper journals, there are apps for that!
- Take your journal to your therapist. If you don’t have one, that’s easy to remedy!
- Lastly, even simple caffeine can worsen anxiety! Nicotine, drugs, and alcohol do the same. I suggest seeing your doctor or using a support group or treatment program to help in quitting. Doing it on your own can cause anxiety.
- One more To-Do! I almost forgot! Lean on your family and friends. Some tips for your family are listed below.
- Tips for parents and caregivers of children with anxiety disorders
- Tips for helping your spouse with GAD
- Tips for helping a friend with GAD
- THE FUTURE
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Many fear the future. It’s normal. It’s part of our fight or flight response. Many fear things like losing their job, losing a sickly loved one, the face of dental surgery, or getting cancer. That is not OCD.
OCD is a neurological disorder. In fact, scientists have found that the brains of people with OCD were inflamed more than those of other individuals by 32%.
Those of us with OCD have uncontrollable thoughts about bad things happening, about harming others, or about hurting ourselves. We believe that if we do not perform certain rituals that those things will happen. These thoughts and obsessions steal away excessive amounts of our day. In the United States alone, over 5 million men, women, and children have lined up with all the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at some time in their lives.
What Causes OCD?
Though the scientists do not know what causes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, they can take a pretty good guess based on research! They say that it may be caused in part by a difference in the brain of those of us with OCD compared to that of those of you without it. Apparently, our brain doesn’t have enough serotonin (the mail delivery system that allows the front of our brain to communicate with the deeper parts of our brain).
The research performed also proves that OCD is prevalent among family units. They say that genes most likely also play a part in OCD. They also tell us that life stresses or coming down with an illness could jumpstart the genes that they have found prevalent in people with the disorder.
Do I Have OCD?
Two people with OCD may not have the same symptoms. They vary widely. As the circumstances in our lives and the things we’ve experienced differ from one another, so do the symptoms and severity of the disorder we develop. Some people do well. Others do not. When your symptoms develop to the point that they keep us from being able to get through our day without fear, we must seek out a professional to help us. We cannot go about this alone. Whether you choose a pastor, counselor, or psychiatrist, or even all three, choose someone.
If you were to interview a group of us, you’d find that OCD is a lot different than most people think. You hear people flippantly say, “Oh, I’m OCD” with a little laugh when they don’t even understand what OCD is. You’d find that some of us would have obsessions, others would have compulsions, and others, yet, would have both. The following symptoms, to differing degrees, tend to interfere in our world, stealing away our ability to live a normal life and stealing away our precious time with others like family and friends.
- Symptoms of Obsessions (strong urges, thoughts, or very real images that fill your mind–all of which you find disgusting and horrifying)
- Images, thoughts, and/or urges to hurting others
- Thoughts, images, and/or urges to hurting yourself
- Unwanted thoughts or images of something happening to others or things you find dear or involving religion or sex
- Aggressive thoughts
- Symptoms of Compulsions
- Arranging things in a particular way
- Counting compulsively
- Handwashing or cleaning compulsively
- Checking to make sure specific things are done or safe
Remember that everyone double checks things sometimes. Everyone does some things compulsively or habitually.
- More symptoms we may experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are:
- These thoughts control at least one hour of our day;
- Although we know our behaviors or thoughts are excessive, we can’t stop thinking them;
- The obsessive thoughts cause problems that can strain our relationships, make our job challenging or even jeopardize it, or cause other significant problems;
- These behaviors may offer them brief relief from the fears of these future things that may happen. For instance, some of us may think that if we do certain things that the image we saw may not come to pass. This is one thing I deal with.
You can take this quiz to screen yourself for OCD.
What Do I DO?
Not only in America, but around the globe, over 1 in 100 people suffer from OCD or some other disorder related to it. It is not curable, being a chronic disorder, but it is treatable! There are two things approved for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Cognitive/ Behavioral Therapy and medication, which must be prescribed by a psychiatrist. Although we may feel better once utilizing starting the medication and therapy, we must not stop, or we run the chance of relapse.
- As already stated, one of the things approved for OCD is medication. This is pretty self-explanatory, so I will not spend much time here. Besides, we’ve spent time on it in earlier points.
- The medications increase the Serotonin in your brain, allowing the neurotransmitters to function correctly. Anti-psychotic medications are also sometimes used to help calm the thoughts.
- Because Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a chronic disorder, if you quit taking your medication, you will most likely find yourself in the same predicament you were in before.
- There are some websites, like Drugs.com, that have all the approved medications listed, their safety rating during pregnancy, reviews on them, and more.
There are other sites where you can download prescription cards to save on the prescriptions themselves. For instance, my Abilify, usually $940, was $5 through the prescription card my doctor gave me!
- Some cards give you discounts off prescriptions in any and every pharmacy! Now, they differ by what prescriptions they cover and what discount percentage they offer, so you’ll have to compare them.
- Yes, medication does help, but, as with most mental illnesses, it is not enough. You also need a therapist to teach you how to deal with those thoughts, urges, images, and compulsions you have. You see, medication only takes 60-70% of the symptoms away. It is not a cure to this chronic disorder, just a treatment that helps to give relief.
- Cognitive/ Behavioral Therapy (CBT)–Because psychiatrists believe OCD is genetically based and believe it to have behavioral components, they don’t classify it as psychological. Due to this, talk therapy will not do much good. Instead, we, the patients, need a different kind of therapy, which can be divided into two separate parts. Both techniques are evidence-based. In fact, more than 85% of patients who have gone through, and completed, all their CBT sessions have seen their OCD symptoms reduce dramatically!
- The first is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This must not be done without the help of a treatment provider!
* First thing first: You must tell your psychologist or counselor all about your compulsions and obsessions. Be as descriptive as you can! Don’t worry, you won’t get in “trouble” unless she thinks you or someone else is in immediate danger. Even then, it’s just a hospital stay to get your meds straightened out. They will NOT take your kids! This was my fear.
- * The psychologist creates a list from this to follow during the ERP sessions.
- * She will complete this list, starting with the easiest obsession/ compulsion for you and moving on step by step toward the most difficult.
- While in these therapy sessions, the psychologist will expose you to things that will bring on one of your compulsions and/or obsession.
- You will try to avoid performing the obsessions/ compulsions when these triggers are presented.
- You will be exposed to them for increasing amounts of time.
- Your anxiety will probably come to a head during this time, then, due to the exposure and the realization that nothing terrible happens without the compulsion, your symptoms will reduce and sometimes even disappear.
The other part of CBT is the flip-side of the coin–Cognitive Therapy (CT). This trains you to effectively respond to the automatic thoughts of disaster and feelings of foreboding without behaving compulsively to keep that future thing from not happening.
- First thing first: Your psychologist asks you to keep a thought diary. There are a few that you can print off from online, though your therapist will probably give you some sheets to take home.
- Because you’ll be recording them through this diary, you’ll learn to become aware of your obsessive thoughts, what the triggers are, and the result. The result will most likely be a follow-up thought and/or a compulsion. A follow-up thought might be, “How could I think that?! I’m a bad mom/ person,” “I can’t cope with this,” or “I’ll never get better.”
- On the following visit, your psychologist will look over your thought diary, explain where your follow-up thoughts may be faulty and ask you to state how and why. If you can’t, using Socratic questioning and reasoning, she will gently guide you through to an answer.
* When we can see our compulsions and obsessions for what they are, simply fears, or anxiety, of the future and the need to keep them from happening, our psychologist will take the next step. She will begin to give us “homework.” She will give us challenges to complete before our next session that will disprove our erroneous thought that, if we do a particular thing, it’ll keep a bad thing from happening–cause and effect. These experiments on our end will prove to us that these thoughts are not true, and the beliefs will begin to go away.
- LAST, BUT NOT LEAST: It’s crucial that you only use the right type of treatment provider. This would be one that is well versed in treating OCD and in cognitive behavior therapy. This could be a psychologist with anything above an M.S. degree, a counselor with an M.A. trained in CBT, or a social worker trained in the same.
- The first is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This must not be done without the help of a treatment provider!
- Other Types of Therapy
Family Therapy–Obsessive Compulsive Disorder makes for family problems. We, as OCD sufferers, may withdrawal due to our fears or spend all our time cleaning, neglecting our family. Family therapy may help your family understand you and your “shortcomings” or compulsions. This may help to reduce the conflicts in your family and also educate them on how to help you. They will also learn to help you see when you are having a relapse and help you deal with it.
- Group Therapy–Spending time with others who also have OCD will help you not feel like the only one out there dealing with your problems. It will help you to open up and talk to someone who understands. It will also help you to hear the stories of others who are going through what you are. It will allow you to empathize, make new friends, face some of your fears, and hear the ideas that others have for facing some of the things you are.
- THE MOST IMPORTANT
Dr. Fred Penzel, who has specialized in OCD since 1982, said, “Getting well is 50 percent of the job, and staying well is the other 50 percent.” After getting well from your symptoms, you are considered to have gone into remission. If they go back to where they were before treatment, they have relapsed.
After CBT, some people have a relapse. Just as we tend to fall off the wagon on a diet and then stay off the diet, meaning to get back on it every day, those who fall off the CBT wagon have a day of obsessive thoughts, and then go downhill from there.
When someone quits taking their medicine, some people have a relapse.
When some people go through a very stressful situation, they go through a relapse. We must be aware, though, that just like with our emotions and other things in life, we will have our ups and downs. If you have a momentary down, don’t automatically think you’ve relapsed. If you do, you may start on that path to negative thoughts and be headed directly for a relapse!
- What if I Can’t Afford a Doctor or Therapist?!
You NEED help!! You can’t do this alone! Don’t try! Sure, some have, but many people have ended up in the hospital, with ruined lives, or worse. There are programs out there that may help!
- Medicaid–This has the Medicaid website listed for every state.
- SSI— Understanding SSI for the disabled or for the elderly.
- Medicare–This has the Medicare information listed per state.
- Family Insurance–Because the Healthcare Reform Act was changed, you can now have insurance under your parents’ insurance until you turn 26!
- COBRA–If you happened to be under the stress of having recently lost your job, the last thing you need is more stress—the stress of having lost your health coverage! COBRA will let you continue to be on your insurance plan as long as you keep paying your premiums! Pretty cool, right!?
- College Insurance–If you’re an undergraduate student at a state university, you may be able to get a health care plan through your state. Larger universities and colleges might have health care for graduate students or have their own teaching hospitals or clinics where you might be able to be seen.
Finding an Affordable Healthcare Provider
If you’ve tried all the above programs and haven’t found one that you qualify for, you can still find affordable healthcare! Before I give you my list, I want to remind you that no hospital can turn an emergency case away. You will be accepted regardless of whether you can pay or not.
- * Clinics–The clinics in this link perform services for a minimal fee or on a sliding scale. All of these clinics offer health maintenance and general health. Some of them also provide mental health services. Because many of these clinics perform their services based on a sliding fee scale, it is wise to always carry proof of income (the prior year’s W2 is a good choice) and your ID. Some clinics operate like a doctor’s office, with you needing to set an appointment to be seen. There are others that act like a walk-in clinic.
- Community Mental Health Centers–They offer therapy, psychiatric, and emergency care on a sliding scale. If you can’t find a Community Mental Health Center on the website that you’re happy with, you can call your local government for a suggestion.
- Local Nonprofits–My psychiatrist and therapist are both through a local nonprofit. Nonprofits aren’t health clinics per se, but many of those who are associated in the mental health field have psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists that will see you at a low cost or even for free. They will also have information on other resources for you.
- Medical Schools–You may be able to be seen at a very low rate by an intern or medical school student. Don’t worry! They have a licensed professional over them that they report to. 🙂
Resources for YOU!! (This list is from This Is My Brave.)
If you are in need of immediate help, please call 911.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The Crisis Text Line can be accessed by texting: BRAVE to 741-741.
The Veterans Crisis Line is: 1-800-273-8255, then press 1.
- National Resources
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Mental Health America (MHA)
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
- International Bipolar Foundation (IBF)
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)
- The Jed Foundation
- Campaign to Change Direction
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Postpartum Support International (PSI)
- The Stability Network
- Addiction Center
- Homeless Shelter Directory via Tuck.com
RESOURCES USED IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG ARTICLE:
**Some other resources are linked to the blog article itself.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- International OCD Foundation