Choosing Happiness In Spite Of Mental Health Issues

I have been reading a book about a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome and bipolar disorder. I have Asperger’s too, plus bordelrine personality disorder, which has some similarities to bipolar disorder. When I was sad because I recognized some symptoms this woman experienced, my husband said that the experiences I described are entirely normal.

This was a bit of a shock to me. Of course, I’m more than my mental illness. I am a woman, a wife, a blogger, a crafter, etc. too. What shocked me was that, in fact, struggling to an extent is normal. It isn’t like, as a mentally ill person, I am always struggling, and it isn’t like, as a currently mentally healthy person, you’re always blissfully happy.

I also read a post on happiness yesterday. In it, the author writes that, in spite of depression or other mental health struggles, you can choose to be happy. I commented (I think the comment is sitll in the mod queue) about a mental health support group on Facebook that is called something like “Mentally Ill People and Supporters Who Love life”. This, plus the realization about certain “symptoms” not being symptoms of a mental illness per se at all, made me realize that maybe happiness has little to do with mental illness.

Of course, depression clouds our minds and people in (hypo)manic states, like the woman in the book, often feel ecstatically happy. But still, you can choose to be optimistic, to be positive in spite of depression. I have in fact met and heard of and read about many people with major depression who call themselves optimists.

Like with any other outside circumstance, we can change our perception of a mental illness. This requires looking at our mental illness as something outside of ourselves, and that takes mindfulness.

It feels a little counterinuitive to see myself as separate from my mental illness, but maybe that is what it takes to choose happiness in spite of my mental health issues. I may have mood swings and feel depressed, suicidal even one moment, angry the next and then joyful, only to go back to depressed. This doesn’t define me, however. It is in fact possible to look beyond the immediate darkness of depression.

My classical culture teacher in high school once said that there is only one moment when you can be happy in your entire life, and that’s now. Having practised some mindfulness has indeed helped me embrace this statement and choose happiness now. If I choose happiness for a minute every sixty seconds, I’ll be happy no matter what happens.

It of course isn’t that simple. Some people more easily find the peace of mind to choose happeness for a minute every sixty seconds than others. This could be related to mental illness, such as major depression often taking over your entire mind. In this sense, the comment in the linked post that you cannot look to medication to make you happy, is only partly true. While antidepressants don’t make you happy indeed – they don’t do that, and it’s nothing to do with how badly yu want them to make you happy -, they do take away the darkest shadows of depression, so that depression doesn’t completely take over your mind anymore. That way, people with major depression will have the ability to actually practise mindfulness again, because, in fact, severe depression does make this next to impossible.

Medications are not for mild depression or anxiety. They firstly do not work that well and may have side effects. In addition, however, when mental illness doesn’t take over your mind, you still have the ability to look beyond it and enjoy your life in spite of it. Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy works far better for mild depression or anxiety than meds, because it teaches you to choose your thoughts and actions and therby choose happiness.

I have to make a confession here. I have thought of asking my doctor to increase my antidepressant, even though I have only mild anxiety now. I look at those times when I am joyful and wish these occurred more oftne. Now I realize that I in fact have a choice. Anxiety at this point doesn’t take over my mind. If it did, I’d definitely look to medication. This is why I won’t go off my medication, which helped me climb out of the valleys of an unquiet, anxious mind. Medication is there to treat mental illness, and it is quite effective in my case. I won’t say I’m free from mental illness, but with regard to anxiety, for the most part it is mild, more like everyday worry than severe, debilitating madness. I can still manage it if I put enough effort into it. I shouldn’t want a blissful life thanks to my happy pills when I can choose that sense of bliss myself.

Mom's Small Victories
Mami 2 Five

Food

Food. I am addicted to it. Unfortunately, unlike other addictive substances, such as alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, food is something every living being needs. It isn’t like, when you become a part of Overeaters Anonymous or the like, you can abandon food like those in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous abandon their substance of abuse. I still fail to understand the twelve steps when applied to food.

Of course, I could abandon candy, chips, and other snacks. I bought a bag of candies twice this week and, each time, ate all of it within half an hour. In this sense, I’m not doing as well as I said on my blog that I was doing on Tuesday.

I tend to fall into the trap of believing that, since we need food, it doesn’t matter if I eat a bag of candies in half an hour. We don’t need those. Candies are addictive. Refined sugar wouldn’t have been approved by the FDA or similar organizations had it been first introduced today.

A few weeks ago, as I was panicking about some kind of poinsonous thing my husband was talking about, he said I ironically do not fear one of the worst poisons that we consume daily: refined sugar. I have to agree.

This afternoon, I knew that really I shouldn’t go to the store when I asked a nurse for a walk. And when I went to the store anyway, my first intention was to buy tomato soup only. Not terribly healthy, but there really isn’t anything healthy in this store. Fruit and veggies aren’t sold in my institution town’s only store, so well. I ended up buying a bag of my favorite candies too and genuinely promised myself I’d eat them mindfully and actually enjoy them. Not so.

Food. I really need to say the first step of the twelve steps of OA, which is that I’m powerless over it. I realize I truly am, but sometimes, I’m stuck in the trap of believing that you can’t be powerless over somethign that, well, everybody needs.

This post was inspired by one of Mari L. McCarthy’s journaling prompts in her free eBook Mari’s 143 Juicy Journaling Prompts. The prompt was to choose a four-letter word starting with “F”, and to journal about it.

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Ten Achievements of the Past Decade

Today in Blog Everyday in May, the prompt is to list ten achievements of the past ten years. Now I already did my 28 Before 28 post in February, so it’s an extra challenge not to repeat myself. I am just going to write, and if I don’t get to ten, well, screw it.

1. Graduated from high school. This happened just shy of a decade ago. I am not particularly proud of myself for graduating, probably because my parents were super over the top proud of me and I still can’t let go of a little parent-defying. I forgot most of what I learned in high school anyway.

2. Learned to clean and cook semi-independently. I went to an independence training home for the disabled in 2006 and 2007, where I learned many skilsl ncessary for independent living. I lost most of these skills again, but the fact that I learned them once, makes me confident that I can relearn them.

3. Overcame a mental crisis. It surprises me that, in the 28 Before 28 list, though I did include my diagnoses, I didn’t include the actual achievement of overcoming the darkest of aspects of mental illness. In all honesty, and I hope this doesn’t get me kicked out of care before I’m ready, I can say I’m much better able to cope than I was back when I was first hospitalized in 2007.

4. Finished two Open University psychology courses with a passing grade. IN 28 Before 28, I did mention that I took five courses in total, but the achievement of passing two of them in 2009 was largely overshadowed by the fact of the three that I didn’t pass.

5. Was able to let go of some of the darker trauma-based emotions and perceptions. As regular readers might know, I’m a childhood trauma survivor, which largely came to the surface when I was at my old rehabilitation unit in 2010. Though I got no evidence-based treatment for PTSD or dissociation, through a lot of talking and some work done on my own, I overcame most of the classic PTSD symptoms. I still have attachment issues, emotion regulation difficulties, etc., but I am confident that I will overcome the debilitating effects of these too.

6. Got married. I don’t usually credit myself for our relationship success, but then again it’s a mutual effort I guess, so I should deserve half the credit. If not, then well, I’m still happy I got married, so this fact still belongs here!

7. Started and restarted yoga. I took yoga classes in 2009 or 2010, but eventually quit because the emotions it brought on were too overwhelming. I recetnly restarted and am becoming quite successful at basic poses and exercises.

8. Was able to participate in group recreational therapy. In my old institution, I used to get individual day activities only. Due to budget cuts, I couldn’t get these for a long while in my current institution so I tried the day activity group. It’s still quite hard, but I can at least usually keep up.

9. Was able to enter the recovery stage with regards to my eating disorder. That is, I comletely stopped purging and recently was able to reduce my binge eating significantly too. I gained lots of weight in the past decade and have only started losing it again little by little over the past couple of months, but at least I’m improving. I also haven’t self-harmed in a few months, but that has not been a conscious effort as much.

10. Am generally much happier than I was ten years ago. This pretty much sums up all of my achievements. I didn’t earn the Ph.D. or get the high-profile job I thought I envisioned for myself ten years ago, but so what? I’m generaly less angry, less hostile and also less anxious than I was in 2005. I’m still not the shiniest example of positivity on the planet, but I’m trying to keep a positive outlook, and that’s what matters!

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Calm: The Power of Mindfulness

This week, I’m participating in #theprompt once again. I am rather late, because I was quite busy with other things over the week. For example, on Wednesday, I had an intake interview at the country’s top notch autism center, which happens to be in my town. They are hopefully going to assess my needs and provide recommendations for when my husband and I will be living together.

The meeting was quite intense. However, I have been able to feel relatively calm lately thanks to practising mindfulness. Since this week’s prompt is “calm”, I am going to share some information about mindfulness and how it’s helping me.

Mindfulness is, as far as I understand, more or less a western, popular term for meditation. This is at least one type of mindfulness, the type that I practise when stressed. It involves trying to sit with my thoughts, feelings and bodily sensatiosn without judgment. You can try to focus on one aspect of your experience, such as your breathing. When distracted, you should not waste energy on fighting the distraction, but simply notice it and return to paying attention to your breathing.

Any activity can be done mindfully. For example, you might notice that you start eating and suddenly the entire plate or packet is empty and you didn’t realize you ate this much. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of what we’re doing, feeling or thinking.

Mindfulness does not eliminate life’s pressures, but it helps us look at these pressures with more clarity and less judgment. For example, when you’re eating, you might think about all the calories you’re consuming rather than simply noticing the act of eating.

Mindfulness will also teach us to respond more adequately to experiences. This is achieved by creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to it, as in the example above. Mindfulness can help me actually enjoy food rather than binge on it.

In the example of the autism center meeting, I was constantly worried about what if I had to be re-assessed for autism all over again and what if my parents had to be involved and what if they were going to convince the professionals that nothing was wrong and what if… You get the idea. By being mindful, I would look more objectively at the meeting, which went quite well. However, I’d also sit with my present thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judgment. For example, I’d be conscious of my butt touching the chair or bed, my breathing, my current emotions, etc.

At this very moment, I am relatively calm. My fingertips touch the keyboard as I type this blog post. My bum and back touch the chiar as my toes touch the floor (my chair is too high for my entire feet to touch the floor). I could be thinkign about how the car broke down again yesterday. I could be worrying about all the stress of possibly buying a new one. Instead, I let these thoughts go by without judgment. I don’t fight them, but I don’t give them extra special attention either. It doesn’t mean the car isn’t broken or that we don’t have the pressure of buying a new one, but what use is there in worrying about this now that I’m writing?

Mindfulness can be useful in dealing with emotional stress, as in the examples above. It can also help in dealing with physical symptoms, such as pain. After all, we often tend to make the symptoms worse by worrying about them. If I feel an ache, the ache is usually not so all-encompassing that it in itself overpowers every other sensation. There are exceptions of course, but in most cases, the effects of pain get amplified by our thoughts about this pain. Again, what use is there in thinking about an ache? Will it lessen the ache? Quite likely not, and it will distress me. So I notice the ache but don’t give it more attention than it deserves. Of course, we do need to pay just enough attention to pain to take appropriate care, but particularly for chronic, largely untreatable and/or intractable pain, mindfulness can definitely help lessen its impact.

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If I Had to Choose a Career Path…

One of Mama Kat’s prompts for this week is quite interesting. It says: “You have to go back in time and choose a different career path for yourself.” Now I for one don’t have a career, so I could just choose my favorite career. Then again, what’s that?

I could go back to 2007 and decide to finish my studies in linguistics. When I started, I had it in my head to eventually pursue a Master’s degree in speech and language pathology. You don’t become a speech therapist then, although there was a program at a different university where you could do a speech therapy minor during your undergradaute studies and then become a speech therapist and speech and language pathologist at the same time. The difference is that speech therapists treat patients, whereas speech and language pathologists with a background in linguistics do research and development.

I’d love to be a speech therapist, but it’s most likely not possible for a blind person. I once read a story on the American Foundation of the Blind’s CareerConnect program about a person who was partially sighted and became a speech therapist and audiologist. Both were quite hard. So not that path.

Then I could go back to 2006 and finish the foundation in applied psychology I took at the time. This was an orientation-based foundation where, for the last quarter, you’d choose between psychodiagnostic work and human resource management (don’t ask me why this is one program), social work, social pedagogical care, or elementary education. I chose psychodiagnostic work and human resource management, but if I had to go back, I’d choose social work. This would then become my major during the rest of college and I’d become a social worker. Not quite suitable for an autistic perosn though, and in fact going back in time wouldn’t change the fact that I only passed communication skills training because the teacher let me pass provided I quit.

I could also go back to 2005, when I graduated from high school, and go straight to university rather than taking a gap year for blindness rehabilitation. My intention was to major in English, specifically American studies. I have no clue what type of career I envisioned for myself, because all I dreamt about was going to the United States on a student visa and somehow never returning.

Then again, if I had to choose a career for myself that I want to pursue now, I’d become a journalist. Not very suitable for an autistic person who has the worst typing skills ever, but who cares? I don’t believe any career is suitable for me, which is why I’m on disability. I’d ultimately still like to publish a book, but not sure I ever will.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Parent Appreciation: Realistic Limits

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – so that
it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV)

It’s Mother’s Day today. I am a bit late to post for it, as I couldn’t think of a theme to write on. Then I read Nicole’s post over at One Picky Chick, in which she lists ten reasons why she’s the meanest Mom (and wouldn’t change it) and I thought of the ways in which my parents set rules. The above Bible quote only popped up when I chose a memory verse for a Christian women’s group I’m a co-admin for. My parents are atheists, so they’ll probably not like it that I start a post honoring them with a Bible quote, but it’s fitting. This post isn’t focused specifically on my Mom, as my father was my primary caregiver, but I still want to say I definitely appreciate my Mom.

My parents weren’t perfect, of course. When I was in schema-focused psychotherapy and reading up on the things children need from their parents in their upbringing, I had negative comments on about everything mentioned. However, the last one was “realistic limits”. Though I had some negative experiences with those, most times my parents in fact provided me with good enough realistic limits.

My parents had some non-negotiable rules. School was pretty much the most important thing in life and always came first. We didn’t get to stay home from school unless we ran a fever, because, if we didn’t run a fever, we weren’t sick. Of course, there likely would’ve been exceptions to this rule, but at least it was clear that seeking an excuse to stay home in a slight tummy ache was not acceptable.

What rules like this taught me, is to be quite a rule-abiding person. I only learned in my teens to early twenties that you could actually get away with not doing your chores, but even now, I don’t like to break rules like this one. When I don’t do chores, it’s usually because I flat out forget.

On other rules, my parents were more flexible. When I was young, bedtime was bedtime. However, as I had trouble sleeping, my parents eventually relaxed this rule. I still had to go to bed at a certain time, but I didn’t have to go to sleep right away. Particularly once my sister had moved to a room of her own, this meant a lot less stress and less bothering of my sister and parents (at least at night).

I was an irritable child, but, thanks to my parents’ realistic limits, I didn’t become a defiant child. It also caused me to gradually learn self-determination. For example, the above example about bedtime taught me to regulate myself re sleep. I had my own rules about how much sleep I needed so when I needed to go to bed. I never slept in on school days.

When I think of what I’d do if I were a parent, I think of setting rules in a similar way that my parents did. Some things are non-negotiable and a child will just have to obey. When things are not that important and particularly the child isn’t a threat to themself or others (physically or psychologically), I’d be more flexible. My parents had a hard time with me sometimes, because, though I wasn’t openly defiant that much, I did have quite severe behavior problems. It must’ve been a tough balancing act between giving me too much room for self-determination and not allowing me to develop that sense of self-determination. I thank my parents for setting realistic limits.

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A Favorite Childhood Memory: Sleepovers at My Grandma’s

Today, I decided to check the Blog Everyday in May announcement and saw that it isn’t a requirement to post everyday. You are free to participate whenever you like. Not only did I decide to add the badge into yesterday’s post after all, but I think I’m going to try to join in with more prompts.

Today’s prompt is “a favorite childhood memory”. This is a tough one, since I tend to dwell on the negative aspects of many memories. A few days ago, however, I saw my sister had posted a picture of the two of us on a sleepover at our grandma’s. I was immediately tempted to write about that. Not only does it allow me to use a picture in my post for once, but sleepovers at my grandma’s were happy moments in my childhood and, for once, they don’t have a bittersweet connotation to them.

Sleepover at My Grandma's

I wrote about my grandma before. She is one amazing woman and I cherish the days spent with her. Particularly, my sister and I loved going for sleepovers. We went on a sleepover at least once a year until I was around fourteen.

Our grandma had saved many of her children’s toys and also still quilted stuffed animals. In the above picture, you see my sister and I playing dress-up.

At the time this picture was taken in 1994, my grandma lived in a family home in a quiet neighborhood in Zeist. She’d frequently take us on walks. We nicknamed the neighborhood “poo place” because of the proliferation of dog shit on the pavement.

As I said in my earlier post, my grandma would often take us on “expeditions” to explore the town and countryside. There was an “expedition” to the parking lot once she’d moved to a senior citizens’ home down town (to figure out how many stories it consisted of!)) There was also an “expedition” to the wildlife garden and an “expedition” alongside a ditch. The ditch had waterplants growing in it that looked just like grass. We joked that you can’t walk on this type of grass. Now that I look it up, the English Wikipedia has a picture of a ditch in the Netherlands. Wonder whether they don’t exist elsewhere. But I digress.

My grandma, as I said in my other post, volunteered for the local environmental conservation charity. I had lots of fun going to the activity group (the “activigeese” I mentioned), where my grandma would make quilted blankets, animals and such for the charity shop. I didn’t do much while at the activity group, as I’ve never been good at sewing, but I did enjoy chatting to the other ladies going there.

After we stopped going on sleepovers, my grandma did take us on a vacation to Paris in 2001. My sister had just finished her first year of secondary school and I had finished my second, so we both spoke a bit of French. We spent the week at one of my grandma’s French acquaintances’.

Of course, I still had my meltdown moments even when at my grandma’s. She was firm with me but never lost her temper. As I may’ve said in my other post, I just plain admire my grandma’s positive attitude. This is probably one reason that, growing up, I had the best relationship with her of all my grandparents. I undoubtedly drove her crazy sometimes, like I did most people in my life, but she handled it so amazingly. This is one reason why visits to my grandma as a child don’t have a bittersweet meaning to me now.

Found Love. Now What?

Five Inspirational Books That I Love

This week, one of Mama’s Losin’ It’s writing prompts is “book review”. Also, a few days ago, the Blog Everyday in May prompt was “five books I love”. I don’t participate in Blog Eveyrday in May, since I only discovered it yesterday, but I love to find writing prompts. Therefore, I thought I’d combine the two and list five books I love. As it turns out, all are inspirational books.

1. Preemie Voices by Saroj Saigal (2014). This book is a collection of letters from former preemies, born between 1977 and 1982, that describe their lives now and give hope to parents of today’s premature babies and children. Many years ago, I believe Bill Silverman wrote a book of stories from former preemies titled Small Victories. I could unfortunately not get my hands on this book and am so glad I got my hands on Preemie Voices. It is so validating to know that I’m not alone on this preemie journey, even though it’s a bit annoying that the target audience is parents of today’s preemies.

2. Miracle Survivors by Tami Boehmer (2014). This is Boehmer’s second book of stories from long-term survivors who were said to have incurable cancer. I didn’t read her other book, but I think I’m going to. In Miracle Survivors Boehmer starts by listing characteristics she’s found long-term survivors of thought-to-be-incurable cancer have in common. Each contributor then tells his or her story and ends it with life lessons they’ve learned through their journey with or their overcoming of cancer. Though some people use alternative medicine and claim to have been cured by it, this is not prominently promoted. Above all, the survivors promote being on top of your own care and advocating for yourself. I feel this is an importnat message even to those who are in the healthcare system for other reasons.

3. Angels at Our Table, 2nd edition by Ann Breen (2012). This is a book of stories from parents of children (and some adults) with Williams Syndrome. People with Williams Syndrome usually have an intellectual disability and may have many health problems, but they also commonly have a very sociable personality and cute facial features. Though many families struggled with getting their children properly diagnosed and treated, particularly back when Ann Breen’s daughter was young in the 1980s, the message in the book is one of appreciation. The importance of support is also highlighted, as Ann Breen founded the Williams Syndrome Association of Ireland. I for one happen to actually like inspirational books about people wiht disabilities, so this one is a good one for me.

4. Real Families, Real Stories by Stephanie Sumulong (2014). This is a book of stories from family members of children (and again some adults) with Down Syndrome. The stories are very short, which is a bit disappointing, because i don’t get to get a deeper understanding of these families’ lives. The intention of the book is to celebrate people with Down Syndrome. For this reason, it is also sad that no adults with Down Syndrome were interviewed. However, the stories do cover many aspects of families’ lives with Down Syndrome, including prenatal diagnosis, adoption, the heart defects that commonly occur in Down Syndrome, and sibling perspectives.

5. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries by Amy Newmark, Carolyn Roy-Bornstein and Lee Woodruff (2014). I have not yet finished this book, but so far, it seems wonderful. Having myself acquired possible brain damage shortly after birth, I find the stories of brain injury survivors somewhat relatable, though of course I did not have a life prior to brain damage. A few months ago, I read a Dutch book of stories from people who had invisible disabilities due to brain injury and I loved it. Being Chicken Soup for the Soul, the stories of course have been selected for being inspirational, but so far, it looks like many aspects of life with TBI are covered.

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Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness: BPD Explained

May is mental health month in the United States. It is also borderline personality disorder awareness mnth. BPD is my current diagnosis. I have written a few posts on this condition already, but most required some previous knowledge of BPD or mental illness in general. In honor of mental health month and BPD awareness month, I am going to write about my experiences with mental illness in this post and will share facts along the way.

I have always struggled with rapidly shifting emotions and mood swings. If it had been popular at the time and my parents had sought help for me, I might’ve been diagnosed with a childhood-onset mood disorder. I do not have bipolar disorder or major depression now, but these conditions are thought to affect children differently. In the current edition of the psychiatrist’s manual, the DSM-5, there is a diagnosis for children with severe mood swings, dysphoric (sad or angry) moods and extreme temper tantrums. This disorder is called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. It is thought not to be lifelong, as it can only be diagnosed in children under age eleven.

I remember as a child of about nine already experiencing suicidal thoughts and making suicidal threats, particularly during meltdowns or tantrums. This is not necessairly a sign that the child is going to attemtp suicide – I never did -, but this is also not just “attention-seeking”. It is, in fact, a sign that a child is in serious distress.

Making repeated suicidal threats or attempting suicide is one of the core symptoms of borderline personality disorder. It is commonly thought that most people with BPD only threaten suicide and “aren’t serious about it”. In fact, however, about ten percent of people with this diagnosis die of suicide.

As a teen, I started self-injuring. Self-injury is also a core feature of BPD. This may have many functions other than “attention-seeking”. Of course, some people with BPD do not know how to ask for attention and instead use self-harm as a way to get it. Even then, attention is a human need and withholding it altogether will not usually solve the problem. Other functions of self-injury may include to express pain, to numb out feelings or conversely to feel something when one is feeling empty or numb.

Chronic feelings of emptiness are another symptom of BPD. Generally, a person with BPD is somewhat depressed or numb. This feeling of numbness is also common with major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative disorders, all of which commonly co-occur with BPD.

Dissociation is the feeling of being disconnected from oneself, one’s thoughts or feelings or one’s surroudnings. Symptoms of dissociation, particularly depersonalization (feeling “unreal”), are common in many mental illnesses. The most well-known specific dissociative disorder is dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. My former therapist, who diagnosed me with BPD, believed that BPD and DID/MPD are on the same spectrum.

Paranoia is also common in people with BPD. However, as opposed to people with schizophrenia or related disorders, people with borderline personality disorder experience paranoia only briefly when under stress. For example, when I am overwhelmed with eotions, I tend to mistrust people and situations, while I am not usually paranoid.

Lastly, people with BPD have difficulties in relationships. Firstly, they often have an intense fear of abandonment and go to great lengths to prevent people from leaving them. Some may push people away (“I abandon you before you can abandon me”). Others, like me, are excessively clingy. People with BPD may also alternate between idolizing and devaluing the people who are important to them.

No two people with BPD or any other mental illness are alike. For a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, you only need to meet five out of nine criteria. I meet between six and eight depending on how you look at it.

Borderline personality disorder bears similarities to post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociatve disorders and mood disorders, particularly bipolar. However, the difference between bipolar and borderline personality disorder is that people with bipolar disorder experience long-lasting mood episodes, whereas people with BPD have rapidly-shifting moods. BPD cannot be diagnosed in children, although of course they can have mood swings. They may then be diagnosed with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Psychiatrists are beginning to diagnose BPD in adolescents starting at arund age fifteen. This is good, because, the earlier someone gets treated, the more likely they are to reach recovery.

Rediscovering Yoga

“The yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough.” – Amy Weintraub

I take antidepressants, which are moderately effective. I don’t do talk therapy anymore, since the closest to a psychologist we have on our unit is a recent college grad. The actual psychologist, who is on maternity leave, deemed him not to be a suited treatment provider for me, so she assigned me a psychiatric resident whom I mostly talk practical issues with. Talk therapy has not been all that effective for me anyway. So would yoga be one of the keys to a calmer, happier life?

I took yoga classes at my old institution for a while in 2009. Though yoga helped me somewhat, it also made me feel rather emotional. Crying in a group just didn’t feel right, so I quit.

I rediscovered yoga a few months ago and bought an instructional DVD to practise in my own room. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work on my computer. Last week, I finally gave up and searched the Internet for good yoga instructions. Boy, have I been blessed!

First, I came across some Dutch sites which provide step-by-step text and picture guides for many poses and series of poses. I of course can’t see the pics, but the text was quite easy to understand. I tried many of the poses and was relatively successful. I could even do the tree pose, which is a balancing pose in which you put one foot onto the other thigh. I later heard from an activity staff, who used to be a yoga teacher, that this is quite a tough pose.

I also subscribed to YogaDownload.com, which has a large selection of yoga video and audio which elite members ($18 a month) can freely view and download. I downloaded a beginner video in the front room, where we have WiFi access, and played it in my room. It was sometimes hard to follow the video as I practised, but it was very relaxing listening to the calm and gentle instruction.

The activity staff member I mentioned, who used to be a yoga teacher, provides me with individual day activities once a week. She offered to help me learn yoga. Next time she comes, we’re going to practise the sun salutation, which is a relatively easy-going series to warm up your muscles to further practice. When done repeatedly, it can also be used as a work-out.

As I practise on my own, I am finding that yoga is a lot more calming than it used to be when I went to yoga classes. I intend on attending yoga classes sometime again, but for now, I feel much happier practising in my own room. I can’t be sure yet, but I do believe yoga is truly a great addition to my current mental health treatment.

Linking up with Inspire Me Monday and Motivation Monday.