Tag Archives: Attitude

A – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to the #AtoZChallenge on mental health. I discussed many topics related to mental health already last October for #Write31Days. As I menitoned in my theme reveal post for the #AtoZChallenge, I’m going to give short descriptions of several words for each letter (sometimes though I have only one). For today, my letter A post, I have quite a lot of words. Here goes.

Acute unit


Also called “admission unit” in the Netherlands, here is where people go if they’re in crisis. The acute unit is for short-term treatment only: up to three months. Even so, some people stay there much longer. Like, I spent sixteen months on an acute ward because the rehabilitation unit didn’t want me.

Addiction

Though addictions are typically treated in separate units or even by separate agencies than mental illnesses, many people with a mental health diagnosis also have an addiction.

Admission

The process of getting admitted to a psychiatric unit. If people are admitted to an acute unit, this is usually through the crisis service or psychiatric liaison in the emergency department. On treatment units, such as for eating disorders or personality disorders, people usually get admitted through their outpatient treatment team. An admission interview typically consists of a brief assessment of one’s symptoms and some standard questions (eg. does the patient know where they are and what date it is). Details of the patient’s initial treatment may also be discussed.

Aggression

Aggression is quite common among mentally ill people, especially those in inpatient care. This may not be a politically correct statement but it’s true. Most times, this consists of verbal aggression, but nurses and patients sometimes get attacked physically too.

Alcohol

Alcoholism is not as common among mentally ill people in inpatient treatment – they often take their addictions out on other drugs. However, still you get the occasional alcoholic on an inpatient mental health unit. Most instituttions don’t serve alcohol in the cafeteria, though near my institution is the railroad store where they do sell alcohol.

Attention-Seeking

Us mentals are supposed to crave attention more than do people without mental illness, hence the common belief that a mental illness is “attention-seeking” behavior. Well, let me tell you: mentally ill people often keep their symptoms hidden for a long time and most don’t crave attention more than do mentally healthy people.

Attitude

A similar myth about mental illness is that it’s an attitude problem. It’s not. I wrote a post on mental illness and attitude last October. The idea that mental illness is an attitude problem is very damanging to people with mental illness, who often have a lot of shame as is. There is a group of people wiht an attitude problem here and they’re the people who think they can judge another person’s attitude like this.

Mental Illness and Attitude #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 9 in the #Write31Days challenge on mental health. I should honestly be writing my posts earlier in the day, as once again I’m very tired. I also don’t read the other 31-dayers nearly as often as I should. Today though, I caught up with Anita Ojeda’s 31 Glimpses Into the Unquiet Mind. This is a series of posts on Anita’s daughter Sarah’s experience of depression and an eating disorder. What shocked me today was how both Sarah and her mother initially confused mental illness iwith a negative attitude.

Like I said before, I have in some ways always had mental health problems. I was often thought of as having a bad attitude, being selfish and lazy. Though I didn’t experience my mental health problems causing me to self-blame a lot, I did internalize other people’s blame of me.

I remember when I was admitted to the psychiatric unit in 2007, getting many comments from family and relatives that essentially said I was just having a bad attitude. I was, in a way. I was very much a pain in the butt for a long time, like many people with borderline personality disorder. I was myself responsible for the negativity I spread, whether I was mentally ill or not, but that didn’t mean that all I needed was a good kick in the pants.

Let’s face it: mental illness is an isolating experience. It can actually turn otherwise cheerful people into bitter ones. It can amplify the pessimism in people who already have a negative attitude to begin with. Please remember, even though people choose their behavior, they don’t choose to have a mental illness.

Also please realize that a mental illness sucks away energy from the person it affects. When you can hardly make it out of bed, you’re going to have especially little energy for being polite and cheerful towards others.

Many people erroneously believe mental illness is a weakness of the will. Though mildly depressed or anxious people can sometimes will themselves into keeping up appearances, those with more severe mental illness cannot. For your information: mental illness is not a weakness of chracter. Note for example that optimistic peope can be afflicted with depression. If depression and other mental illnesses are a weakness of character, only those who naturally gravitate towards negativism will develop them.

When relatives, perhaps in an attempt to be helpful, try to tell the mentally ill person to get their shit together, this may actually cause the person with mental health problems to fall deeper into despair. I received some particularly harsh comments that may’ve been meant to blow some sense into me, but they did the exact opposite. When I was suicidal, I reasoned that if my relatives were more concerned with the costs of my hypothetical funeral than with my state of despair, why should I live on?

I know it’s hard to have a relative with a mental illness. It is hard watching them spiral down into the pit of depression or other mental health problems, especially if they take out their despair on you. Don’t take your despair out on them in return. It may be wise to seek support from family or friends or perhaps other families of mentally ill people so that you can keep supporting your relative in a positive way. Remember that you aren’t a mental health professional, so you can’t drag your relative out of mental illness. Not that a mental health professional can, but you get the idea. Your helpful advice may be taken the wrong way, and this is through no fault of your own or the mentally ill person’s. It just happens and you’ll need to let it go.

#PowerMonday: Pondering Strength

Over at Strength adn Sunshine, Rebecca P. writes power Monday, in which she ponders the nature of strength. She considers herself physically and emotionally strong. I’d like to focus in this post on emotional strength, because I possess little physical strength.

What does it take to be emotionally strong? I’m generally seen as emotionally strong because I’ve been through a lot and made it through. I’m seen as perseverant by some. Others, however, don’t see me as such, because, if I truly were perseverant, I’d have overcome my disabilities and would live independently. Some people see me as someone who gives up particularly soon.

I’d like to think of myself as strong. Then again, aren’t the circumstances I’ve survived merely that, circumstances? In my #AskAwayFriday post last week, I said thaat the greatest challenge I’ve overcome is surviving prematurity. That being said, didn’t the doctors just keep me alive? I can’t know whether I showed any will to survive. Does this assumption that I’m strong for surviving, not condemn the non-survivors for being weak?

I struggle with the idea of emotional strength as a positive attribute, also, because it condemns the mentally ill. We’re not resilient, almost by definition, because we suffer from depression, anxiety or the like. I see people in my institution who are particularly passive or negative. Does this mean they don’t have strength, or does it merely mean they’re suffering from their illness?

There are these sayings going around. “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” In this sense, God is seen as the cause of our suffering, and we’re seen as the cause of our overcoming of it. This is probably a way to sustain our sense of self, believing we’re strong for overcoming something that life (or God) put us through. I’m more than happy to believe I’m strong for having survived premature birth, childhood trauma, disability, and other challenges. It allows me to believe in myself.

Life with a Disability Isn’t Easy

I decided to buy a new eBook again and went with I’m Not Here to Inspire You by Rob J. Quinn, a collection of essays (most originally posted on his blog) on life with severe cerebral palsy. In the first essay, Quinn tackles the assumption among people with disabilities that life with disabilities is easy for other people.

I have seen this assumption, and held this assumption myself. Interestingly, I’ve seen it within the disability community too. When I disclosed my autism diagnosis on a blindness E-mail list, I was told that this need not keep me from living a productive life. Look at Temple Grandin! And since blindness by the philosophy of this group did not need to keep me from living a fulfilling life, there were no limits to me obtaining a Ph.D. Other than the fact that 95% of the non-disabled population don’t have a Ph.D., I might say.

We’d like to believe that all people need to do to achieve a productive life is ignore their limits. When you have a physical disability, these limits in the media are multiplied, and therefore the overcoming of them is a thousand times more inspiring. Reading these stories, sometimes actually endorsed by disability organizations, makes the ordinary disabled person look totally meek. I, for one, have never felt encouraged by Helen Keller or Temple Grandin, at least not by the inspiraporn that surrounds them. People with disabilities who live productive lives can offer valuable advice, but it’s not like their mere existence inspires me.

I remember reading a 1950s fictional book about a teen going blind and going to a special school. In it, one of his classmates, a totally blind boy, wants to run a shop when he’s older. People find him an inspiration, but he says something like: “If I want to run a shop when I’m older, I need to pour as much energy into it as my far-away uncle who sits on the government does.” This book dates from the 1950s as I said, when you could only become a telephone operator if you were blind and living in the Netherlands. However, what it signifies as that living a productive life with a disability is hard.

Like Quinn, I don’t mean this to discourage people with disabilities. However, I want to say that it’s not like a disability has no impact. It’s not like you can just ignore it and say “So what?” to eveyr hurdle and move on. Of course, keeping a positive attitude is better than to dwell on negativity, but it’s not like it will magically get you your dream job. Besides, keeping a positive attitude is not the same as never being frustrated.

What Does Unconditional Love Mean?

On the World of Psychology blog, Eve Hogan wrote an interesitng article about unconditional love. This article got me thinking about the attitude we have towards people who harmed us, and the attitude people we harmed have to us. It is often thought that family members and spouses unconditionally love each other, but what if a parent becomes abusive towards their child, a child towards their parents, or one spouse towards the other?

Hogan says that spouses and family members love each other unconditionally with their hearts, but do not necessarily and should not accept everything their child, parent or spouse does to them. I can relate to this in my personal life, having grown up in a family that loved me with their hearts but did not accept everything I did. I still struggle with this, having a hard time distinguishing conditional love from accepting the person but not the behavior.

Hogan says that spouses really should view their vows as saying that they will love each other with their hearts no matter what, but will only stay together so long as the other doesn’t become irresponsible with money or time, doesn’t lie and doesn’t cheat. This leaves a lot of room for unlikeable behavior which doesn’t warrant a divorce. Similarly the integrity agreement Hogan discusses with teens only mentions not harming their family (or anyone, for that matter). This is where I struggle. I do know that setting limits on unlikeable but relatively harmless behavior such as laziness regarding schoolwork, is okay. This is quite different from not accepting the child or teen into the family home.

There is a grey area, especially with teens and young adults, where parents can decide their child’s life is no longer their responsibility. In this sense, there is a difference between unconditional love and unconditional caretaking. I know that married spousess and parents of children or teens under eighteen (or 21, in some situations) have a duty of care, but, once spouses divorce or children reach age eighteen, unconditional love becomes quite another thing than catering to each other’s needs no matter what.

No Need for Permission to Voice Your Pain

I went to the gastroenterologist last Wednesday, who said I may have irritable bowel syndrome. This diagnosis used to be pretty controversial. It ws only years ago that I heard a doctor on TV say that we used to sit through abdominal pain without complaining and now we take meds for our irritable bowels.

I thought of this when I read a post by Dawn Santos on needing permission to voice our pain. Dawn said she’d tell every normal person who’d complain like she wanted to, to seek counseling. Her post is meant to validate those with chronic pain conditions that they have the right to complain, but as a person who’s suffered from abdominal pain and other symptoms for years without having a diagnosis or often being visibly in pain, I want to say it doesn’t matter whether you are or appear normal.

I am not saying that chrnic pain is not worse than being in pain only every once in a while. What I do say is that the dichotomous line between healthy and ill is arbitrary. I recently read an interview with another doctor, who said he has some form of arthritis but considers himself pretty healthy. I on the other hand have considered myself somewhat ill for some years now, despite not having a diagnosis. I can see why my attitude is not as upbeat as his, and there are many factors to this. Pain levels may be one (I have no clue in how much pain this doctor is on a regular basis). Psychological factors like coping mechanisms, attribution style etc. contribute too.

You may not be able to see whether someone has a chronic pain condition or not. Besides, mental health problems are real problems, too, and Dawn’s comment about counseling made me feel that it’s merely a bad attitude. I want to say that no-one needs permission to voice their pain. Of course, it’s best if you stay somewhat positive and don’t complain all the time, but as an onlooker, you can’t see how much effort someone puts into getting through the day with some level of positivity. Therefore, this should not be a reason to judge someone’s complaining. Getting fed up with it sometimes is okay, but that’s true whether the other person has a (known) chronic pain condition or not.