Author:Paul Gilmartin

Julie L

Julie L: Covert Incest Survivor

The French Canadian biologist sits down with Paul and talks about experiencing covert incest by her mother who she believes also had Borderline Personality Disorder, and her complex relationship with her safer but extremely codependent father.  Julie shares about her struggle to share intimacy with her husband and the progress she’s making in releasing some of the trauma thru somatic therapy.

For more information about Paul’s upcoming live podcasts July 20 and 21 in Oakland click here

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Michael Alexander pic-2

Michael Alexander

Paul’s old comedy pal Mike shares about psych wards, not being deemed “black enough”, anxiety, depression, experiencing some classic 70’s Chicago racism and trying to be a better parent than he had.

For more info on Mike and his upcoming documentary about 80’s and 90’s Chicago comedy visit.

http://www.laughtillyourewinded.com

https://www.facebook.com/LAUGH-TILL-Youre-Winded-465246990328735/

For tickets and info to Paul’s upcoming live podcasts in Oakland July 20 and 21 go to

http://eastbay.boldtypetickets.com/events/33953264/mental-illness-happy-hour-live

 

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Zachary&Sarah2

Sarah & Zachary Pt 2

Zachary Goodson shares his story while his wife Sarah sits in.  He talks about losing his mother (actress Diana Hyland) to cancer when he was 3, being raised by an abusive father, learning to numb himself with sex and after bottoming out, finding help.  They also talk about how they navigate marriage and work on intimacy while working through their individual issues.

Zachary is a writer, and it’s been a huge part of his healing process.  He’s working on his first book It’s Always Worse In Your Head. For more info about him or his writing go to www.zacharygoodson.com

The upcoming live podcast recording that Paul mentioned is July 20 $ 21 in Oakland. For tix and info go to www.eastbayexpress.com/mental.

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Journaling to Communicate by Sheryl Kayne

Sometimes when the going gets tough, and we’re not even sure what exactly is going on, the people closest to us turn scared and run away, or shut down, or become frightened and overwhelmed asking far more questions than we could possibly ever answer. As a volunteer, certified mental health support group leader, a common thread I often hear from people of all ages is that “my family and friends just don’t get it. They have no idea what I’m going through.”

 

Which is probably true. A mental health crisis can change your life in an instant. When that happens, although you’re the one going through it, those who love you are frightened, bewildered and trying to fix it. Often when people are upset, confused and intent on controlling the uncontrollable, it can be easier to write than to speak.

 

“When I needed them most, my parents stopped talking to me because I wasn’t talking to them. I couldn’t think straight when I first started taking meds,” says Seth, age 23. “I had no idea I had anything to say until I started writing it all down in a notebook given to me by a social worker. The anger poured out, I began seeing what was happening as more of an observer than a victim. Some things actually began making sense and suddenly I knew what I needed from others.”

He wanted family support and realized the person he most wanted to communicate with was his younger sister. I asked if he would consider journaling with her; not giving up his own private journal, but creating a shared journal that they could both use. He thought it was a great idea and talked to her about it. Since she lives in South Carolina and he’s in Connecticut, they created an online journal which they can also access from their phones. They each make their own entries and responded to each other’s, at least three times a week.

Shared journaling gives you the opportunity to open, or reopen, lines of communication. Sometimes it’s helpful to agree on a few guidelines, such as being responsive to questions asked. If you need more time to think something through, say that. Be open to receiving the information being presented without making judgements or trying to fix everything.

“Growing up, when things were so horrible, I saved myself by writing in 100s of journals,” says Yanni, age 34. “Then I read and read, finding power in my words. It kept me going. I wish I’d known about journal sharing when I was growing up. Perhaps if my parents wrote down and reflected upon their thoughts, they might have been more thoughtful, considerate and flexible with their words.”

www.SherylKayne.com

www.facebook.com/Sheryl-Kayne-Writes-1073800502637870/timeline/

Twitter: @SherylKayne

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How Sexual Abuse Affected My Mind: An Email from Katie M.

So my story is kind of complicated (as if others aren’t).  When I was about 6 years old, I was continually molested by my brothers friend over the course of a month or so while my brother would be at band practice in our basement.

I had grown up with the effects of the trauma and had some very dark days, ultimately leading to being in an ok place with it around last year.

I started training to become a 24 hour hotline volunteer for a sexual assault survivor advocacy non profit in my town, and had to quit the training after a heavy day of discussing how to handle calls about child sexual abuse. It hadn’t occurred to me how young I really was when it happened to me, and I also hadn’t explored the idea of what could have happened if I had convinced my mom to report it.

Then, a few months later, I was hanging out with my brother (who is ten years older than me, and probably my best friend – we have an awesome healthy relationship) when he confessed that it was actually him that was my molester, and that when my mom was suspicious of me being hurt and asked him about it, he had blamed it on his friend. Being a young, impressionable child, I had completely taken on this version of the story as the truth.

That conversation was the hardest one I have ever had. My brother has struggled for years with alcohol and drug abuse, tearing our family apart, all because he was living with this horrendous guilt of what he had done to me and how he had negatively affected my life. I immediately forgave him because being a witness of his struggle over the years, I wholeheartedly believe that he had it much much worse living with that guilt than I had with just living with the trauma.

It feels odd to tell an incest story that has a happy ending, but it’s the truth. My brother is now 10 months sober and doing fantastic, and I’m at a relatively good place with the truth. We still have an awesome relationship, maybe even better than before. I feel safe with him, I feel like I can tell him anything, and I don’t hold it against him at all.

How it has affected my sexuality?

My sexuality has definitely been affected. I was incredibly promiscuous when I was a teacher that, without a doubt, was stemming from the abuse.

However, now, I haven’t been intimate in about 2 years, excluding one drunken hookup. My low libido was coming from my birth control, which I got off of after realizing the negative effects it had on me, but even after being off the medicine for 9 months, I feel the same way.

Porn disgusts me, and the few times I do get turned on it’s from a romantic intimacy scene in an obscure indie movie (that sounds so lame to write out.) Not wanting to have sex really doesn’t bother me. I know people that are asexual, and I wouldn’t have a problem potentially identifying as so, but as a 20 year old woman it’s tough to find a romantic partner that’s down with celibacy.

I can’t recall any uncomfortable fantasies. It could be safe to say that I’m sometimes attracted to men who look similar to my brother, but I feel like I’d be really digging to try to link the two.

My healing has been extremely circuitous. When I was a teenage I did a pretty rough job on my healing process by romanticizing my mental illness/abuse. There would be times where if I wanted to date someone who only saw me as someone who was down to fuck I would pull the “I guess this makes sense, being molested really screwed me up…” which I hate now. I hate that I put myself in that kind of light, and also sort of made my and everyone else’s experiences with sexual abuse a joke just to seem like the “mysterious damaged girl that liked sex.”

In the last episode where you interview Sarah Goodson and she talks about how she would get thrilled from sleeping with someone and being detached, and then having the other person want her, I completely relate to that, but it was a vicious cycle because, in reality, I cared a lot, but wanted to keep this image up of being an emotionally detached cool chick. It was really exhausting and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I think really over the past couple years, I have grown a lot and have done a lot of deep diving into what I’ve been feeling with my trauma, and so that has made it circuitous. Depression and anxiety doesn’t help that either. Something that I want to be able to do is be at a place in my recovery where I can share my experiences with others (preferably teenage girls because I think their emotions and feeling get written of as being a ditsy dramatic girl or having PMS – which is such bullshit) and help them understand the kind of guidance they can really benefit from, and how valid their experiences and emotions are. I know I have quite a ways to go, but as today goes, I am content with my life.

 Katie M.

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Zachary&Sarah2

Sarah and Zachary Part 1

Sarah and Zachary share their stories and how they navigate healing while being married.  Sarah shares her story which includes sexual abuse, codependency, perfectionism, anxiety & a stay in a psych ward.  Zachary’s story will be next week.

This episode is sponsored by SquareSpace.  For 10% off go to www.squarespace.com and use offer code MENTAL at checkout.

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Adventures in Electro Convulvise Therapy: A guest blog

It was still dark as Barb and I pulled into the near empty parking lot. I was feeling groggy since I hadn’t my much-needed morning coffee. In fact I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for the last 12 hours.  Paying the outrageous parking fee we crunched across the icy parking lot and up the salt saturated stairs. We went through the very heavy doors, followed the signs to the room we would be spending the morning.  This part of the hospital was quiet and dark, dark except for a room at the end of a corridor. We walked towards the light. It was the ECT clinic.

 When I think back, I think I always had a depressive personality. I always felt like an outsider, isolated, melancholy and unloved.  Knowing what I know now about depression. I must have had my first major depressive episode in my early 20s. I muscled through it and it eventually lifted, however I believe it never left me completely. I did learn to manage it though with alcohol and being a workaholic. These things could only mask the depression for so long, eventually it crept up and escalated to a point where I couldn’t function any longer.

By the time I reached my late 40s I was barely able to concentrate any longer, hardly sleeping, and had a constant feeling of dread and impending doom, I could barely get out of bed. I had reached a crisis and needed more medical help.

 The psychiatrist I had just started seeing urged me to go to the emergency ward at North York General, which I did and that began the long difficult process of finding effective treatment for a mental illness.

  Treatment for depression as with most mental illnesses is not an exact science; it’s very hit and miss. One needs to try different medications to find one that shows benefit. If there are any benefits from that specific medication, it will only show it self after several weeks. If not, you must start again, and try something new, repeating the process. In can be very frustrating. It is very frustrating. One can start to feel like a lab rat.

 After about a year and more of trying different medications and group therapy sessions I was only having minimal improvement. I was labelled as having refractory depression, or treatment resistant depression.  While things were improving, I still could hardly function. I eventually asked if he thought ECT would be a viable option. I had heard an interview with Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia, where she stated she was having ECT once a month and it had saved her life. He did think it was a good idea, and I was referred to CAMH to pursue this form of treatment.

 ECT stands for Electro Convulsive Therapy, a frightening scenario to think about. A doctor sends a low and brief electrical current through the brain, which triggers a seizure.  During the seizure the brain is flooded with different chemicals, like adrenaline, dopamine, and a bunch of others I don’t know the name of. It has been shown that these chemicals can open pathways in the brain that will lift the patient out of depression or kick-start the medication to work. The history of the treatment is interesting to look into if you are interested.

 So there I was, with my wife, on a frigid February morning, cold, scared, frightened and craving a coffee, heading to the lit room at the end of the hallway. The room was a classic cinder block construction, inspired by Soviet era designed by people who hate people. Painted a drab yellow with florescent lights overhead. Much to my surprise the waiting room was already full. There was room for me to sit but not Barb.

 Scanning the room I noticed an adjacent room where the nursing staff was preparing what seemed to over twenty gurneys with sheets and small pillows. They were lined up side by side, for some reason this really disturbed me. It reminded me of pictures and videos I have seen of war hospitals where the dead and dying all lined up, waiting to be treated. I was also shocked at how many people would be receiving treatments that morning.

 There was nothing to do but sit down and wait. Eventually a nurse came around, took my temperature, blood pressure and confirmed I had not eaten or drank anything over the past 12 hours, and that I had a ride home. The information was added to my chart and placed at the bottom of a pile. The small room continued to fill with people and was spilling into the hallway. The first light of morning was beginning show itself.

After what seemed like forever, a man carrying a brief case hurriedly walked in. He headed towards a second door without looking at the room full of patients. Who was that?  Ten minutes later a second man arrived and went through the same door the same way.

Things were about to get real. The gurney room door was closed, the pile of charts was grabbed, I guess its show time. The first name was called and an older woman went through the mysterious door the two men had gone through. After about five minutes I heard a beep, beep beeeeep, then silence. Fifteen minutes later the next name was called, then the next, until eventually my name was called. I was so nervous, I had only  small idea what to expect.

 Weak kneed I entered the treatment room where I was instructed to remove my shoes and lie down on the gurney. The nurses came at me from all directions, tearing the backs off adhesive tabs that were used to stick monitor leads to both my ankles and chest. A cool gel was applied to top and side my head. The man who had arrived first was sitting next to me and painfully inserted a needle into the back of my hand that a was attached to an IV bag.

 I could now hear my heart being monitored on a smaller beeping machine. The second man who had his back to me the whole time while he read my chart finally turned around, said something to the staff then told me about some drug he wanted me to start taking, and how often and how long I would be receiving the treatments. Like I’d remember any of that, I was very frightened.

  I was told to take some deep breaths, and the head nurse told me to relax that they will take good care of me while I was asleep. I felt the anesthetic enter my arm. Before I knew it I was losing consciousness, listening to the beeping fade with a swooshing sound, staring at the fire sprinkler attached to the drop ceiling.

 When I awoke, I was lying on my side on one of those gurneys lined up in the room I saw earlier. There were people, knocked out on either side of me. My head was killing and I was disoriented. I called out about my head and a staff member calmed me down. After lying there awake for several minutes, I was helped up offered a Dads cookie and a juice, which I took.

I was escorted back into the waiting room where I was required to sit and wait for another hour, just to make sure it was safe for me to go home. Besides the headache I noticed I felt like I had to bounce my left leg and that I was clenching my jaw.

 After that hour I was allowed home, I had a coffee and light breakfast and went back to bed as if in a dream.

 I continued with two courses of treatment. Which meant 3 weeks twice a week then a gradual tapering off maintenance treatments. They got easier to endure as I got more acquainted with the procedure. I did experience some memory loss, which was disconcerting; although handy when watching a movie I had supposedly already seen. Eventually I got to know the nursing staff and got to know my fellow patients. People, who had been not three weeks earlier almost catatonic, zombies now had a spark of life in their eyes and were able to have conversations and show emotions.

The procedure seems archaic, barbaric, torture: mainly because of  “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. While it is quite unpleasant, every effort was made to make it as painless as possible by the staff. I don’t think medicine fully understands why ECT works, but it does. It helped me.  I hope I never need it again.

I still have depressive episodes; they are not as long or as intense as they once were. Suicide doesn’t seem like a treatment option any longer, and because of the illness I have become more active in the mental illness artist community. I have met some of the most genuine, caring people amongst the mentally ill, than I have in the so-called well population. It has helped me be accepting of the things that are out of my control and I think it has help me be a more compassionate and empathetic person. And I guess that’s all right.

Steve In Toronto stevenlewisart.com

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nakki