Title Optional

I think this weekend has probably been the best one I’ve had in quite a while, and I say this only about two weeks after my birthday. I got to spend time with friends, one in particular, and it was really a cool weekend.

Yesterday, my friend and I went down to her family’s boat and had dinner there with her family and some family friends, and it was a pretty good time; good food, good company, a baby (her nephew) there to make funny faces, and some good conversation. It’s always cool getting to know more about a good friend, at least for me, and then we came back to the apartments and watched some movies on TV until she felt like heading to sleep.

Today, I got up relatively early, texted with her for a while, then went out to lunch with her and couple other friends to watch the Texans game. While the Texans didn’t end up winning, it was still a nice lunch, and then she was feeling dizzy, so she rested for a while. Then she came over to my place, and we watched movies and talked. Nothing groundbreaking or earth-shattering, but I think it was time well spent, and I really enjoyed myself. I hope she did, too. I like to think I can hide how I feel, but I feel about as subtle as a sledgehammer around her, oddly.

I’m not sure what this week will bring – other than continued job applications and various other appointments – but at least it will be following a kickass weekend.  I think this may be one of the most enjoyable times I have had in years. That is all.

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Giving Advice

I can’t help but be afraid that I may be giving a good friend of mine the wrong advice. My friend has been considering going to Menninger because problems with depression and anxiety have become too much to deal with outside. My friend has been to treatment centers before, but they were focused on addiction treatment, and they didn’t really help with the depression or anxiety.

Now, I have been dealing with severe depression for 14 years. I’ve tried to commit suicide twice; been in three acute care facilities; been on over a dozen anti-depressants; had plenty of ECT treatments; even had surgery to implant a Vagal Nerve Stimulation device. When I initially went to Menninger, I was a little cynical that they would be able to help me; almost 14 years of not-terribly-successful treatment. But after 8 weeks there, I felt so much better than I had a few months earlier that it was hard to express.

That’s what Menninger did for me. But like I’ve said before, it has to be one of the great problems of being in the psychiatry/psychology field that patients with similar, or even identical, symptoms might have nothing in common for treatment. What worked for me might not work for my friend; where I found group psychotherapy extremely helpful, it might not be the same for my friend.

I don’t want my friend to have to go through another stay at a residential treatment facility and be disappointed. Two unhelpful treatment centers is more than enough for anyone, and a third would be, if I were in the same situation, pretty disheartening. Depression is such a hard illness to treat – not that there are easy mental illnesses to treat. I don’t want to be a part of that disappointment because I gave my friend advice that went badly.

It may not be a huge thing to be afraid of, but I really hate letting my friends down.

Trust Company

It’s hard knowing that sometimes the people we love don’t trust us.

Personally, I can’t blame them. In the past, I lied quite a lot. It was part of my effort to conceal how badly I felt; I remembered how hard my friends and family took it after my first suicide attempt. When I realized that I was getting worse, I didn’t think that anything could be done to help; after all, I thought, nothing had kept me from getting worse, so I didn’t think anything would help me get better.

Now, I realize that the impulse to lie, to conceal how I felt was itself a part of my depression. It was one of the most insidious parts of depression as an illness; it seemed to almost have a mind, a will of its own, to keep itself growing more serious until it killed me.And yet, there is no scan that will show depression, no blood test that will make it reveal itself.

I have friends here who don’t always trust me, either, but that is more understandable, at least to me. They have reasons to not trust me, or anyone, really. Whether because of severe anxiety, or trauma, or their own depression, or any one of a number of other issues, they each have reasons not to trust other people. There’s not much I can do about that, except be someone who I hope is worth trusting. 

It’s times like this I know that just because the people we love sometimes don’t trust us doesn’t mean they care any less.

Acute Care

Well, it’s been an interesting week thus far. Two friends in the hospital for mental issues is a pretty lousy deal.Obviously, it’s worse for them; I don’t mean to minimize their problems. But it is hard to sit by and watch, too, because you always want to help your friends. Well, I do, anyway.  I am glad that one of them is hopefully getting out tomorrow, though.

It’s a little odd having been suicidal in the past and now having friends in that place now. People keep worrying that having two friends in such a bad place might cause me to slip backwards. I can see how that would worry people, given my past. But I’ve had plenty of practice over the last several months; I can kind of compartmentalize that part of my mind so I don’t let my worrying about my friends take over my thoughts. So while I am sad that I have friends having such a rough period in their lives, and I worry about them, it’s not consuming everything in my head – it sometimes just seems that way because, honestly, nobody is all that interested about how I cleaned my entire apartment because I thought something smelled funny.

I guess that ability to compartmentalize is due to the skills learned in treatment. I don’t even notice I’m doing it most of the time, and there are probably other things I don’t notice myself doing, either. Not all of the skills learned have become so easy; I still have a lot of trouble relaxing, and I only remember to try to meditate or use a breathing exercise about half the time. Sometimes this results in my jaw hurting from clenching it so often. But still, it shows that at least some of the things learned in treatment I have not only remembered, but made a part of my life.

I’m glad that at least one of my friends is not suicidal anymore, and is (hopefully) well on the way to getting the help she needs. She’s a great person, and deserves better than she has been getting. I hope the other is on her way to feeling better, as well, and that she can finally take some time to relax.

One of the worst things I’ve seen in the last few days has really been the state of general psychiatric care. Now, I don’t mean specialized private treatment centers like Menninger, but rather the places that mental patients come to know as acute care facilities. They are where people who admit themselves (or are forcibly admitted) for being a danger to themselves or others go after the ER is done with them. Some of them are private, and some of them are done by the hospital the ER is a part of, but they are almost universally unpleasant places, in my experience.

Mental patients of all types get placed in the same area, so you may have people who are delusional and violent  patients alongside people with crippling anxiety – which is a bad match, as you might imagine. It can get messy really quick. Alongside a bad mix of patients, add in a staff that tends to be very jaded and uncaring – at my last acute care center, a social worker for a group on community reintegration said she hadn’t bothered to prepare, so she just put The Blind Side on and left until the end of the group. My friend had to file several grievances against the nurses and the psychiatrist at her current facility to get them to even pay attention to her. The facilities are often pretty badly worn out, too, and can be pretty humiliating.

It’s even more sad that these are, essentially, standard emergency care facilities for people with mental illness. If cancer patients were treated this badly, there would be a national outcry, but because mental illnesses aren’t things that can be seen on X-rays or detected by blood tests, they get treated badly. Having visited one friend several times, and probably visiting the other at least once or twice, it gives me a whole new level of appreciation for places like the Menninger Clinic – which is impressive, concerning how much esteem I already hold Menninger in.

Every treatment center in the country – hell, the world – for mental illness ought to be as good as Menninger.

Long Day

It’s been a long day, with a fair amount of unpleasant news and not much in the way of good news to counter it. I don’t know that I am up to talking about it quite yet, but hopefully I’ll feel up to it by tomorrow. Sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to speak intelligibly about the events of today.

The Forge

Video.

I saw this video on another blog, and after watching it, I thought that it would be a good thing to watch for anyone who has ever lost anyone to suicide, or almost lost someone, or almost been lost. I’m not sure if it is true, but it struck a chord in me.