Author:Paul Gilmartin

Dean Trippe

The comic book artist and father talks about the role superheroes have played in helping his imagination and creativity heal the trauma he experienced as a child, and trying to break the cycle of abandonment his father never could.

To read some of his graphic novel Something Terrible click here

To order a hardcopy edition of Something Terrible click here

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Inside His OCD – A Guest Blog by Michael Kane (no not the actor)

I’m used to relying on my intellect. I’m no genius, but I have to survive on my wits, because my looks aren’t paying the bills. Over the course of my life, I mostly trusted my capacity to reason, as did co-workers and professors. So, once I went off my antidepressant meds, and OCD falsely told me that I was a pervert, a rapist, a murderer and about a million other things, you’d think I’d still be able to discern fact from fiction, and dismiss OCDs outrageous claims. Nope. For years, I viewed these strange thoughts and fears as the result of a moral flaw, as evil thoughts that made me crazy, but that I could not tell a soul about. I was eventually hospitalized for a week after my body could no longer handle the perfect storm of OCD, anxiety and depression.

I became paranoid, considering every hypothetical possibility. “What if I had uttered threats? Would the NSA hear me in my cell phone?” This thought would occur to me despite being in the midst of a prolonged period of silence.

Life gets really small when you’re afraid that everyone is listening to things that you didn’t say, but fear that you might have. I wanted to be sure that my worst thoughts had not become reality, though in fact I had done nothing wrong and sought to avoid hurting others. In fact, I’d just been sitting there.

Going to restaurants was particularly difficult. I had developed a fear of harming others, particularly my family, kids and the elderly. In other words, the people I would never harm. So, I’d push the knife aside, and cut my softer meal with the fork. I would continually ask for reassurance – “I didn’t say anything bad, did I?” I would avoid the bathrooms for fear of being accused of flashing or touching someone. I would ask, “I didn’t bump into that lady, did I?” I would cry in the car or at home after being unable to complete a meal without panic.

I gave myself low- bar affirmations. “You haven’t humped anyone’s leg. You haven’t tipped over any wheelchairs. You haven’t talked about raping or stabbing anyone.” But until medicine and therapy took hold, my anxiety dismissed the facts: that I was a boring, innocent man who wanted to help, not hurt, to love, not assault. My rational mind knew my deep desire to be good, but my anxiety and OCD didn’t let reason win out. My intellect would have even bet money that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I lacked certainty. And that’s what I craved – a 110% certainty that I hadn’t been bad, that I wasn’t bad or shameful or evil. So, the anxiety overrides intellect. It says, “Nope. Sorry. Guilty.” I lived in hiding from imaginary guilt, imaginary charges, an inevitable ruin rooted in nothing but blurred fears that I confused with memories.

What’s amazing is that while the intrusive thoughts can get pretty icky and absurd, it’s not the content of the fears that is key, though I can talk about it now.  Rather, it is a quest to not be as bad as these random horrible thoughts that jabbed at me. I sought a level of self control that is impossible and a level of certainty that does not exist.

Therapy has helped. Medicine has helped. My OCD is pretty much under check. I still have depression, which has its own stories, and I get nervous about bumping into people, but I’m no longer convinced I’m a monster. As Freddie Mercury sang, “I’ve done my sentence but committed no crime.” So, I’ve made progress, with some ups and downs, the only real kind. I look back on how many times and places my OCD made me fearful of harming others. Study abroad in grad school. College. At work. Until 2014, I had no label to put on it but evil thoughts.  With treatment, I don’t just have a label, but real strategies to put these thoughts in their place. I am grateful for the lessons learned, and the relief of treatment.

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Weird Phobias email

The following is an email correspondence between myself and “Marie”, a listener who messaged me via Facebook.   She gave me her permission to post this.

Marie
Please have a show about weird phobias. I have a fear of answering the telephone  along with a lot of other anxiety and depression.
Paul
I will keep that in mind. Can you tell me more about your phone phobia? Is it related to some trauma or uncomfortable moments from the past around the phone?
Marie
I think my phone phobia started in the 4th grade. I was a very shy child and had a teacher who made each child get up in front of the class and pretend to talk on the phone to practice phone etiquette. My relationship with my dad was like yours with your mother. I always had an uncomfortable feeling with him from a young age though his behavior never really crossed the line. He did things like always kissing me on the mouth or rubbing my legs saying how pretty they were. I remember once he called me and my sister into the bathroom ( I was in the 4th grade then also) and said look what I can do. He had a wash cloth over his penis and raised the wash cloth up over his erection. Moving ahead he and my mother divorced in my teens and my siblings and myself had to take care of my mother emotionally. He would call frequently and I would be afraid to answer the phone because I knew my mother would give me the 3rd degree about what he was saying to me. When he would come to visit us kids I would take a book and my dog, and hide in the woods because there was always a confrontation between he and my mom. Moving to college, he started calling my dorm room almost daily. I always made my roommates answer and give an excuse for me. To this day when the phone rings I have a panic attack, heart racing, sweating. I have Cymbalta and Xanax prescribed by my family doctor. Sometimes I have to take double Xanax to make a phone call. I know in my head that this fear is irrational, but I can’t stop myself. I have given you a real cliff note version here of my issues. My mother also did a number I me growing up. I went to a counselor twice in college and came out so sad and crying so much I couldn’t bear to go back. I know I need to give it another try. Thanks for all you do to bring light to mental illness. Oh. I also have agoraphobia and can see myself becoming a recluse.
Paul
Marie,
I’m so so sorry you had to experience those things. They are clearly over the line and sexually abusive. Your phone phobia makes perfect sense to me. I really encourage you to get back into therapy. What happened to you is every bit as serious as a child who experienced fondling or penetration by their father. You were degraded, objectified and subliminally told that you don’t matter. You are an incest survivor whether you want to call it that or not. OF COURSE the world is terrifying to you. The person who was supposed to protect you was the very person who abused you.

Hug,

Paul
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Maggie Mull

The 28 year-old writer shares about being unemployed and an only child, her fear of abandonment, being born with club feet, body and sexuality shame and the depression that often makes everything feel like an effort.

Follow Maggie on Twitter @IAmMaggieMull  Check out her Tumblr Page “Artwork: Me Style!”

This episode is sponsored by Sharri’s Berries.  To purchase them and support our show visit www.berries.com, click on the mic in the upper corner and use our offer code MENTAL.

This episode is sponsored by SquareSpace.  For a free trial with no credit card required visit www.squarespace.com and use the offer code MENTAL at checkout for 10 percent off.   To see the SquareSpace site that Paul built click here.

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Oops I Went Off My Meds: A guest blog by Jenny McIlroy

In retrospect, I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. But I didn’t know what was wrong with me — or if anything was even wrong with me — and I certainly had no idea that I could feel any differently until I was nearly 25-years-old (I’m 32 now). That’s when I went to my doctor, spurred by my dad being diagnosed with depression. He had described to me how he felt and I recognized it as the same thing I had felt all my life — most notably, the sense of going through the motions of a life and not truly feeling much. He was prescribed Lexapro and it made a huge difference for him. My curiosity was piqued; I wanted to see if this pill could do anything for me.

It changed my life.

I remember swallowing the first pill before bed, hearing the doctor’s words echo, “It may take a month before you feel any effect.” — I had no faith and I felt hopeless that night. I woke up the next morning with something I would describe as a tiny “buzz” in my brain. It was as if a teensy switch had been flipped on as I had slept. Later that night, I went to see a Swedish metal band called In Flames play (go ahead, judge away) and had the best time of my life. I had been to countless other shows over the years and always believed I had had a great time, but that night I was able to really enjoy myself. I had a genuinely good time out in public with friends; and that was brand new territory for me.

That little pill gave me the ability to open up my brain to experiences and thoughts that were previously foreign to me. I had no idea it was even possible for me to feel like a real human being who entertains genuine emotions. I stayed on Lexapro — or some generic form of it or Celexa — for 6-ish years. I weaned off anti-depressants in May of 2013, confident I would be OK.

Then, in May of 2014, I had a full-body, straight-up nutzo anxiety attack. Although, I believed I was having a heart attack, as nothing like that had ever happened to me before and heart disease runs in my family. I thought, “Holy shit! Im having a heart attack, even though I exercise daily and eat better than most of the bipedal beasts roaming around these parts!” I went to an urgent care, where I was checked out to make sure I wasn’t dying. My body was fine, of course. The problem was in my brain. However, the physician informed me that they do not prescribe anti-anxiety medication for anxiety attacks. As I left the examination room — simultaneously holding in vomit and nervous shits — the physician said, “I dont know if youre religious or not, but please know that god never gives you more than you can handle. So just breathe through these thoughts youre having.” As odd as this sounds, her advice brought me comfort. With those simple words, she let me know I wasn’t alone in my abject lunacy.

The anxiety attack happened on a Friday afternoon, so I tried to maintain until Monday, when I could make an appointment with my doctor. However, the anxiety attack turned into what could probably best be described as a nervous breakdown of sorts. I simply could not function. I worked hard to get my mind off my mind; I even made some really sweet-ass picture frames out of old barn wood that weekend. Nothing worked however, and I ended up going to a different hospital’s ER on Sunday morning.

I was ushered into the ER’s Psychiatric ward, where I was once again told that they would not prescribe medication for an anxiety attack. But I insisted that I needed something, as I could not continue on without some relief — I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was manic and I was scared of where my brain was going to take me next. I knew for certain I could not get out of the state I was in on my own. The ER’s psychiatric nurse somehow convinced the doctor to prescribe the lowest dose of Lorazapam. I’m very thankful for that relief, as I was able to go home and sleep for a few hours before my mind revved back up.

Before I had left he hospital, I asked the nurse if she could help connect me with a psychiatrist, as I had never visited one before. She ended up printing out 17 pages of psychiatrists in the Kansas City metro; each page had 15 doctors listed on it. It felt impossible to wade through. In fact, it was impossible. There was just no way I could dig into it and figure out which ones would take my insurance, then research them and make an appointment with one…Yeesh! It was an overwhelming task at the time. I was fortunate that my youngest sister (who is also a huge fan of Mental Illness Happy Hour, by the way) sees a psychiatrist and was able to refer me to hers. I was able to get in to see that doctor a few days later. She didn’t take my insurance, but I was desperate for relief and happy to pay the price. She diagnosed me with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (as well as an anxiety attack). She put me back on Celexa and added in Gabapentin. I’ve been on both of those medications since the first week of June. She also gave me some Xanax to help get me through the continuous anxiety attack I experienced for over a week after it began.

This whole ordeal cost me thousands of dollars; which is very funny to me now, as anxiety about finances was a major factor in my depressive spiral that led to all of this. I had such a slow and steady mental decline from May 2013 to May 2014 that I didn’t even realize it was happening. I started a business in 2013 (although, looking back, I have no idea how I was able to do that in my depressive state) and I used the tininess of my income — which I rationally understood was normal for a new business — to beat the shit out of myself on a daily basis. That eventually made way for me to turn anything remotely negative about myself (i.e. EVERYTHING) into a nice, girthy beatin’ stick. My broken brain was unable to see the potential of my business and, more importantly, my potential as a person.

I’m happy to report that in the last couple of months (really, more like the last few weeks), I’ve been able to plug in and make plans for the future. I’m so thankful for mental health professionals and medication that have allowed me to gain this new, clearer perspective on my life. My heart breaks for people who have a mental illness, but do not have a support system or the means to get help. To be honest, although I thought I did, I do not think I ever truly appreciated what mental illness is before I experienced this event that rubbed the very serious nature and reality of it in my face.

Spending time in an ER’s psych ward will do that to you, I suppose.

Although I knew I had some form of mental illness all along, I never used to consider it significant or “real” in comparison to others’ problems. I think listening to Mental Illness Happy Hour has helped me to understand that just about everyone has their own struggle with their own dumb, broken brains and it’s pointless to compare our issues with someone else’s. Talking about mental illness and discussing our struggles — no matter their severity — is vital for public awareness and acceptance. Plus, as Mental Illness Happy Hour proves on a weekly basis, sharing on this topic usually leads to some pretty incredible voyeuristic delights; and that’s certainly something we can all get behind.

For more of Jenny follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/friskylisp and/or her posts on FunnyMoms.com: http://www.funnymoms.com/jenny-mcilroy/ (

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My Experience with Police as a Young Black Male: A guest blog by “Dee”

“If you haven’t done anything, then you have nothing to worry about.”

Right. In a perfect world that would be great. Oh sorry. Let me explain. Growing up as a black male, I have heard non-black males say that exact same thing to me. It is in reference to cops harassing black males. Ideally, that quote is correct. If you haven’t broken the law, you should not fear the police. You should see them as your friends. An organization that is out there to serve and protect us. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The following is one account of my run-ins with police officers.

My first major incident happened in 2002. I was at college and was studying for final exams which were in two days. I was a 19 year old freshman. It was approximately 1:45am. I was rather hungry, so I ordered a pizza. I paid for it over the phone with my credit card. I had done this many times before, so it was nothing new. Because I lived in a not so nice area of the campus, the pizza delivery guys wouldn’t actually come up to the room. We would have to go down and meet them on the street. But like I said, this was nothing new. They told me that the delivery time would be about 45 minutes. So while I waited, I watched TV, played a game on my computer, and went to the bathroom. I took about 30 seconds in the bathroom. At 2:30am, I heard a knock at my door.

So like I said before, the pizza delivery guys would never come to my door. So I was extremely surprised that this pizza guy came to my door. I looked out the peep hole and to my surprise was two university police officers standing on the other side. Confused, I opened the door. They asked me where I had been in the past 20 minutes. I shared with them the lackluster night that I was having and told then them that I was waiting for the pizza guy to call me so I could meet him and get my pizza. The two police officers looked at each other and then told me that somebody had taken the pizza from the delivery guy. I told them that I had been waiting in my room this whole time.

The two police officers leave for about two minutes, then come back to my door. They tell me to get some shoes on because they want to ask my some questions down at the station. I said sure. So they escort me down the stairs, out the door, and finally out to the courtyard. In the courtyard is a large crowd of students. You see, they were all attracted to the two police cars that were illegally parked in the courtyard with their lights flashing. They then tell me that I have the right to remain silent and read me my rights. Confused, I asked if I was under arrest. They told me not yet. Then they handcuffed me and put me in their car. I then see them talk to a man who I now know is the pizza guy. I see him shake his head yes. They get in the car, and speed down the street to the police station.

We arrive at the police station and I am taken to an interrogation room. They take my handcuffs off so I can write a statement of what I was doing that night. They then ask me to verbally say what I did that night. Scared, the officers then handcuff me to the chair. I know they were scared because one officer said “I have to handcuff this guy, I’m not used to suspects not being handcuffed.” They then call in the investigator. He asks me for my story again. So again, I tell him. Now, what you guys probably don’t know about me is that I am very mild mannered. I mean, I stay calm in most situations. In fact, my personality served me well when I was an EMT on an ambulance. But I digress.

So during this, what is now an interrogation, I remain calm. The investigator tells me that I am lying. He instructs me to “tell the truth”. I tell him the truth…again. Again, he tells me that I’m lying. Then tells me that they not only have me on camera, but they have my accomplice in the other room. And of course my accomplice said that I did it. I asked to see the video. His answer was, that’s official evidence and I can’t show you. I was questioned for about four hours. The entire time telling him that I not only didn’t take the pizza, but I also paid for it on the phone with my credit card.

They then asked if they could search my room. Not having anything to hide, I consented. They searched my room looking for pizza boxes I guess. And of course they find nothing. They then take me back to the police station to question me for another three hours. The entire time maintaining my innocence. I then ask the investigator if I can ask him a question. He responds with: “This isn’t your place to ask questions!” I just shake my head. I was going to ask him a very simple question: If I was going to swipe the pizza from the pizza guy, why would I pay for it first?

So I then sit there for 45 more minutes. This time by myself in the interrogation room handcuffed. The officers were all fighting about who was going to transfer me to the country jail. Nobody wanted too because their shift was coming to an end. So they waited for a person from the morning shift to come. On the way to the county jail, I ask this new officer if I can ask him a question. He says, “Sure”. I then ask, “If I was going to swipe the pizza from the pizza guy, why would I pay for it first with my credit card?” He makes this confused look on his face and then radios in to the police station. He says, “Yeah this guy I’m transporting says he paid for the pizza.” That’s it though. You see, I already told them that I paid. They even made a copy of my credit card. They didn’t care though. So we arrive at the county jail.

Seeing this place, two thoughts go through my head. The first thought was: I’m gonna wake up from this dream at any time. The second thought was: I’m gonna get raped.

Jail isn’t like they show on TV shows. The cells weren’t these squares with bars around them and an officer just outside the cells. This place was just like the show on HBO called “OZ”. Exactly like it. I had to change into a blue jail uniform. But that was after I was strip searched and made to take a shower in front of a large black guard. And I kid you not, this guy had the nerve to say “You missed a spot.”

To make a long story short, I was charged with felony robbery by sudden snatching without fire. Yeah, that’s a real charge. And it’s punishable with up to 15 years in prison. A few days later, I saw the judge, and was released on a $1000 bond. You see the judge that I saw had a problem with the case. She said that I didn’t even match the description of the man that the pizza guy gave. Three months later, the state decided to drop the charges. I then then had to go through the process of expunging the arrest from my record. $2500.00 went to my lawyer as well. If you think about this whole story, you realize that I was actually the one that was robbed. You see, the pizza company charged my credit card $11.79 for the pizza. I never received the pizza. Ridiculous. But at least I wasn’t raped in case you were wondering.

Was race a factor in this? I’m not sure. But it made me grow up and mature much faster than a normal 19 year old kid. Being stripped searched does that. And it also let me know that we are guilty until proven innocent. But this is just one of many stories.

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Arianna C

The 40 year-old shares about her traumatic upbringing (incest, religious extremism, abandonment) and the ways her body and mind learned to cope; hallucinating, going numb and following strangers and elaborately envisioning how to kill them and get away with it.

 

This episode is sponsored by Shari’s Berries.  To get the MIHH deals and support the podcast click on the link then once at their website, click on the microphone in the upper right hand corner and use the offer code MENTAL.

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Renee M.

The Hispanic, 31 year-old PhD shares about the downside of raising herself up by her bootstraps; growing up knowing she couldn’t depend on her passive mother or gambler father, and now finding her emotional development lacking, especially in areas of trust, intimacy or being comfortable asking for help.

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