the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero


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Breaking the cycle: Another link

This will be a little cryptic as I’m still struggling to process the immediate implications and the long-term, big picture impact.

I’ve been communicating with an estranged family member for a few years now.  Today, I took a gamble, tried to ask questions to figure out more.

I lost.

My instinct said not to go there, that it was the proverbial can of worms.  It definitely was.  Self-imposed isolation.  Pain.  Much like a sister of mine.

I talked to my father after I decided to lock the door behind me and to get rid of the key, for now.  He told me basically what I already knew, but in a little more detail.  This is his older brother’s eldest daughter.  I told him yes, she’s preparing to shut everyone out, including him.

What did I ask about?  Those of you that know me very, very well should be able to put together some of the pieces.  It’s another side of the coin to what triggers me.  My pain.  But more like a mirror image.

I tried to explain myself, but, I still shut the door- probably getting rid of all of my explanations.  Intuition says she’s not ready to hear it.  Unfortunate, but, I prepared for it, at least logically, if not emotionally.

It stings like hell.  But I had another ace in the hole: the mammalian dive reflex, part of the T.I.P.P. strategy.  Invoke the reflex with a cold pack between eyes and cheek bones, bending at the waist, holding my breath for 30 seconds- as if I was diving into icy cold water.  I’d read about it before- it’s saved children from drowning in in the same.  An evolutionary remnant, the reflex shuts down the body, and in a #DBT context, it forces the body to slow down immediately, overriding the fight/flight/fawn/freeze response.  Maybe like a soft reboot- not a hard reboot, like I’ve had when the lights go out, but I stay at home in the back of my mind- if I understand Claire Cappetta just right.

It didn’t work immediately; I’m not sure if I did it perfectly right.  But I feel calmer.  And what felt like a loss at first- feels more like a victory.  I’m one step closer.


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Binge eating — one of the last of my dirty little secrets

Please also see

The Lines Project

jak-lines

When I did the Lines Project back in December with my wife and my daughter, I was reluctant to put a yellow line on my arm for eating disorder. I thought, “It doesn’t count!” A little voice said, “Yes, it does.”

I enthusiastically participated in The Lines Project last December, as my daughter and I deal with self-harm issues.  It was hard enough drawing some of the lines- but as I had come to an understanding of my cPTSD, and some of the very real dissociative episodes I had sometimes when the stress got to be too much, I figured I could count the orange and teal stripes.

Several others I thought were pretty self-explanatory, although purple was something that was also self-realized relatively recently- I mean in the past decade or so.  (I’ve written a little on my issues of sexual orientation, but not at great length.  I’ve been burnt by polarized discussion.)  By contrast, bullying, suicide, and such were very much a fixture of my childhood.

The yellow one was hardest to draw.  Much of the resources I read on eating disorders were mostly about anorexia and bulimia, and they seemed to suggest they were women’s issues– and only recently, did they start addressing men, but again, much of what I read was limited, as in the cases of men were effeminate gay males.  (How did I come to that conclusion?  The resources didn’t really talk about body image from what I thought was a masculine man’s perspective, especially as there was little talk about exercise, i.e. “Fitspo” ideals.)

I learned about binge eating in middle school, incidentally (late 1980’s) with a classmate and neighbor conducting an anonymous survey about eating disorders, but all the literature I read on it was virtually dead silent about it.

But at about the same time I was participating in The Lines Project, someone I greatly respect had something interesting to say:

We talked about it more, in public tweets and private DMs.  We’ve actually had a lot of discussions on Twitter about men’s issues– especially as I said I was aware of the men’s movement of the 1990s (Robert Bly uses a lot of Jungian archetypes, which dovetails with many subjects I blog about here).  I would dare say we’ve been virtual brothers-in-arms, discussing male vulnerability, sensitivity in men, and honest plans to address such when social norms and politics du jour seem to discourage a lot of it, or twist it in directions we feel are disingenuous.

Of course, I have yet to meet Rick face to face.  It’s also another matter to discuss a painful topic (such as binge eating) with someone in person, someone with some authority, and also someone who is a woman.

I don’t mean to sound glibly sexist– it’s not like that.  It’s that some of the people that were so instrumental in my abuse– some of the matriarchs of my family– gave me a lot of really unhealthy attitudes about food.  Food was part of the abuse.  And so I explained such in measured amounts to my nutritionist.

I was in for a follow-up appointment.  It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a nutritionist; this was my third.  With the first nutritionist I had, I lost almost 100 lbs. walking 3 hrs every day, dumbbell weight training 1 hr weekdays, and following a fairly strict diet.  My physician was worried about my obesity and possibly an onset of diabetes.  Pre-diabetes did come this third time around.  I lost around 30 lbs. this time following a counting carbohydrates diet, and lowered my A1C from almost 7.0% to 5.1%.  But no more weight was coming off.

So she started asking me a number of questions to figure out why.  It wasn’t the carbs- my blood sugars and A1C seemed to suggest otherwise.  So she started asking about portions and such.  The more she asked, the more I felt an emotion of panic and fear.  That sort of “oh shit, I’m about to get into so much trouble here.”

Don’t get me wrong.  She’d seen me in distress before, and at that time, I didn’t have a therapist.  She referred me to a contact with the Mental Health ombudsman, because I was loathe to get back into therapy, after 30 years of mostly failure, and dealing with so many arrogant and cowardly jerks for therapists.  That wasn’t an easy start, either- my first counseling placement didn’t work out.  My current arrangement came after contacting RAINN and the local SARC referred me to a therapist who is the Director of Counseling at the MH agency I’m at.

I’m not sure what more to say.  She spared me giving her all the details, although in the past, I was prone to spilling them all.  I felt very uncomfortable sharing as much as I did.

To be honest, I’m quite terrified.  I live in a community that treats domestic violence and eating disorders as primarily women’s issues.  There is slightly more visibility on orientation and gender issues, but… I’ll be honest, it’s not much.  I bristle at folks calling my hometown area backward, but, in a certain way, it very much is.


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A Blogger’s Journey: The Nadir Before (National Suicide Prevention Day)

What a time for pain to be hitting me even harder, dear readers.

Maybe it’s just as well.

Detail of The Death of Socrates. A disciple is...

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, Socrates! Not my method of attempting, but I’d rather be a tad whimiscal here, than dark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suicide is an ugly topic for me.  It cast a long, long shadow and was right at the very beginning of my 30+ years of therapy.  Yes, I mean I considered it myself… and made a very half-hearted attempt.

The bitterly ironic thing was I came much closer when I wasn’t trying as such– like the drug OD, or breathing gasoline fire.  (Yes, a story I haven’t told yet.)

I am a survivor of suicide– one of my dear childhood friends took his own life.  It was very frustrating for me, because I’d had the pleasure of reconnecting with him not too long before, in my church’s young adult congregation at the time (which was huge because it covered over 5 small cities).  The obituary was vague- something about him being stationed in Germany, leaving behind a wife and an infant child.  The horrors of war, with all the PTSD it entails, I can only suppose.

I’ve been harrassed online because I refused to condemn another man who took his own life as selfish.  That too is a long story unto itself– he was a convicted child molester– and many of you may know, that other prisoners view them as lower than the scum of the earth.

But having experienced suicidal thoughts, and other artifacts of the many traumas I have been through– many I haven’t even begun to detail here– I couldn’t.

Image credit: @SPSMChat/#spsm. (Duh!)

Consider joining me on the #spsm Twitter chat to learn more.  It’s intense at times, because the live stream consists of five professionals (psychiatrists, therapists et al) who do talk a lot of job.  But many of them wear pirate hats.  There is good news beyond the lapses into jargon and intellectual words (don’t worry, I freely admit I’m guilty too, especially with technobabble), and there is hope.  Not to mention they are very actively doing good; taking action beyond mere words.

Compassion-Logo-FINISHED1


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A Serious Discussion Regarding Mental Health

I got to be a part of a broadcast with Kenneth “The Culture Monk” Justice, his media/blogging partner/co-host Kylie, and previous guest Dee, only for a minute. But please, dear readers, check it out, because I think they all really hit on some of the concerns we have with mental healthcare in the Western world.

A Serious Discussion Regarding Mental Health (see also “View Original” at the end for the blog post and video)

If anything, I have more to say in the comments, so, I’ll stop here. I did get a chance to mention Bobbi (Parish), and make a subtle reference to Trauma Recovery University/The No More Shame Project, if not by name.

Culture Monk

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Journey Into the Light: May is Mental Illness Awareness Month

I should have realized this– my blog feed is blowin’ up with posts from bloggers that care about this issue.

Aussa Lorens shared one blog post via Twitter.  (She works for a psych ward, and she tells it like it IS at her own blog!  So why shouldn’t she share a post from another blog about an awesome cause?)

Alyson Herzig wrote in

Laughter is the Best Medicine, Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor – The Shitastrophy:

In honor of May being Mental Illness Awareness month Jessica Azar and myself have launched a call for support and submissions for our Anthology: Laughter is the Best Medicine, Surviving Mental Illness through Humor.

Kenneth “The Culture Monk” Justice is on his “Drinking In The Culture” coffee house tour, and is spending time talking to people, a few who are bloggers and regular readers of his blog at WordPress.  His last two posts have been on the theme of mental health, specifically speaking about frustrations about how medicated Western society has become of late:

Bi-polar disorder & defying doctors orders…REALLY???

Mental Health and Damn Idealism…REALLY???

 

It’s actually a topic that bubbled up from previous posts and previous comments, so I’m not surprised Kenneth decided to write about it specifically.

Why is this an important cause to me?  Because, dear readers, I have a mental illness called bipolar mood disorder type II, and I manage it– it doesn’t manage me.  Now, it’s gotten tough again as chronic pain affects my mood, too, but after 25 years or so of struggling, I finally got the treatment that works for me.

I think an integrated approach is helpful for mental health– humor, humanity, and a holistic approach to overall health generally.  I am indeed worried with the Big Pharma approach that is almost Apple iDevice like (in promoting apps): “Got a problem?  There’s a pill for that!”

We can do better– but I don’t think we’ll get it from the top down.  In my experience, it was to fight for the treatment I felt was appropriate, and to stay that course despite the obstacles.

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Looking to the Journey Ahead: Part 1

There’s a lot that I have on the back burner for the blog here.

One thing that’s really amazed me is that reading so many of your blogs, dear readers– is that the posts, and especially the comments– have inspired me to dig back into the archives.  Posts that I once thought had little importance, little interest to anyone, are starting to have relevance.

Oh no, my mental condition might KILL me!

Oh no, my mental condition might KILL me!

One thing I’ve put off over and over again is Blogging for Mental Health 2014.  It’s still not easy to write about.  My treatment lasted over 25 years, and included referrals to psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, counselors, and therapists.

But I am grateful to those I can trust, that draw it out little by little, in a space I feel safe.  I’ve mentioned Aussa Lorens before, and that what drew me to her blog was her stories about working in a psych ward.  The interesting thing, too, is that others reading and commenting contribute a lot of insights, too, even if they aren’t in the most ideal of circumstances.  The following is a comment thread I participated in, on her post Tales From The Ward: Nurse Ratcheds:

[PurplesShade]: I dunno, think about the fact that when the nurses feel shitty they can take it out *on* the patients.
Nurses do tremendously hard work, but any nurse who treats a psychiatric patient like they are just being a misbehaving child, deserves zero pity and should loose her job.

To quote Aussa “you can’t chastise an illness.” and when someone thinks you can, it means they don’t really believe that person is ill, it means they think they are just choosing to act that way (which they aren’t) if someone thinks like that, they probably don’t have any respect for those people *as people*.

Now imagine, that most of the people around you (the nurses) treat you like you aren’t a person, and the rest of the people around you are deep in the throws of their own personal struggle so they probably don’t acknowledge you as an individual person either most of the time, and imagine that unlike the nurses, there is no “going home” at night.
This is your reality 24/7.

Please consider all the facts before you empathize with nurses over patients. Meds do not make everything okay for most of these people, if they did, they’d be at home and not in the hospital. People for whom the meds make things okay can have more normal life, which living in a pysch ward, isn’t.

Now, part of the comment has been a bit of miscommunication and misunderstanding, but I thought the comment was EXTREMELY valuable.  So then I responded as follows:

Oh, I had a nurse treat me like a misbehaving child… in OUTPATIENT, about five years ago.

See, in our area, the local Catholic hospital network doesn’t have a ward per se, it has a building where both inpatient and outpatient services are offered. (I’ve been on both sides, but that’s another story.)

Because I admitted I wasn’t perfectly 100% compliant with my meds (I think she assumed worse), she shamed me: “I’ve got a drawer full of patients who want to get well”, and she double-teamed me on another visit with the psychiatrist, who wasn’t terribly gracious himself, either.

I got this vibe that some people working in my area in community mental health were biased and prejudiced of the patients– that they are poor, stupid, and must be treated like children. But I was smart; I knew the hospital’s mission statement, and I used that to my advantage. I had to play a little negotiation hardball with the nurse supervisor, but I finally got a med nurse that treated me with a lot more dignity, allowed me to strip away the meds I didn’t need, and didn’t push any more that didn’t work.

There are blog posts in connection with this story, which I immediately made sure were resorted in the proper blog categories so I could find them again.  If you don’t mind my rambling (and colorful language), dear readers, they are as follows:

Don’t Jerk Me Around Like That, Bitch

I Said: DON’T Jerk Me Around Like That, Bitch

My Turn To Jerk That Woman (Bitch) Around

Dear Aussa– she had this to say in response:

That’s awful that she shamed you like that about your med compliance. That’s one of those situations where you want to grab her by the shoulders and be like “do you know where you work?!” and also– who is she to judge? No one takes care of themselves perfectly or makes the best decisions 100% of the time.

I’m glad that you were able to work with a med nurse who saw you as a person and helped you get your med regimen figured out to where it was right for you.

Things are much, much better now!  Since that time, I stopped seeing a psychiatrist, and asked my physician to oversee my medications.  I finally saw a counselor for about a year to work on PTSD (I would now say complex PTSD) issues.  I can comfortably say now that my bipolar mood disorder is well managed, and the trauma issues are such that I am able to deal with and managed them mostly on my own.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have mental health treatment anymore, but more of it is now addressed with chronic pain management.  Things could change again– as much of that pain is nerve pain, I’d like to have the expertise of a neurologist, but we’ll see.

There will be a few more posts in this series of “Looking to the Journey Ahead”, of more things I’d like to write about.  I’m also thinking that I may use them to comprise a blogging schedule.  So stay tuned, dear readers!

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Not a Things on Tuesday entry

                          <div>         <p>Where do I begin?  Gah, the visit with the p-doc was mixed.<div><br /></div><div>The good stuff:</div><div><ul><li>Lost 5 lbs. over the holidays</li><li>A1C, triglycerides, cholesterol, etc. back where they should be.</li><li>Generally a report of good health</li></ul></div><div><br /></div><div>The bad stuff:</div><div><ul><li>I have edema in my legs.  The doc spouted some nonsense about drinking less water.  The nurse, I think,  was on it: I need to reduce salt intake and WALK a whole lot more, which is what the back doc and his nurse assistant told me to do post-op anyways.</li><li>Oh, the p-doc, yes, I don't do snappy rejoinders and quick conversation.  Of course, he was probably pressed for time like all community mental health p-docs, but... I want my old one back.  He was a lot calmer.</li><li>Mellaril (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thioridazine">thioridazine</a>) suggested as an alternative to Seroquel to help me sleep.  The Seroquel will not be covered by state/fed insurance at the dosage I'm currently taking, which even then is too much (sends me into a sleepy daze for half the day afterward).  But this new suggestion?  Looks like BAD juju!  (And hey, a zombie reference is MOST appropriate.)  I have to tell the nurse no no NO!</li></ul></div><div><div><br /></div><div><br /></div></div></p>   <p style="clear:both;">      <a href="http://jaklumen.vox.com/library/post/not-a-things-on-tuesday-entry.html?_c=feed-atom-full#comments">Read and post comments</a>    </p>                  </div>