Author:Paul Gilmartin

Dese’Rae L Stage

The photographer and activist talks about her bookwormish childhood, coming out in high school, the abusive relationship she couldn’t bear to leave and her project which documents the stories of suicide attempt survivors (she is one) Live Through This.  To check out Dese’Rae’s website go to www.livethroughthis.org and follow her on Twitter at @DeseraeStage This episode is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  To participate or support their Out of the Darkness Walk which takes place on Sept. 20th in Chicago, go to www.chicagowalk.org This episode is sponsored by Bulu Box.   To learn more and get a MIHH listener discount go to www.bulubox.com click on the microphone in the upper left hand corner and use the offer code “happyhour”.

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Freedom From Childhood Trauma (part 1/3): A guest blog by DP

Freedom From Childhood Trauma part 1

By DP

I remember the day when I took the 357 Magnum with hollow point bullets and put it to my head. I’d been rehearsing this for months. This was a way for me to get rid of the pain. I had bought a folding shovel so I could dig my own grave and the only thing that frustrated me was that I could not figure out a way to kill myself and burry myself afterward. I did not want to be found.

Today I look back at that behavior and clearly recall my pain. The insanity of my alcoholism, drinking every night, passing out over and over, drinking some more and itching. Itching all the time, all over my body.

I remember a time growing up when I was punished almost every day after coming home from school. One day the belt slipped and the buckle hit me in the eye leaving me with a black eye. My mother sat me down and told me about a “white lie.” Had someone confronted me at school the next day it might have saved me from the escalating violence that followed.

A few years later my father took me into his workshop and worked me over with a bamboo curtain leaving most of my back cut open with bleeding wounds. This was the first time I left my body in horror. I almost dared him to kill me. I knew the scars would last, and they have.

I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and suffered from PTSD for most of my life self- medicating with alcohol, drugs and sex to take away the pain. I finally wound up in treatment and learned that I was not only an abuse survivor but also a torture survivor.

Today my story has vaporized, gone like a puff of smoke, it has finally left me. Inside I am happy… very, very happy. Peaceful, serene and able to reach out to other people in ways I never imagined possible. At age 59 I finally got the help that I sought for so long. The help that it was my right to receive when I was an innocent 10 year old child.

My journey is long, much longer than the period of my abuse. I grew up in hell likely parented by people best understood as hungry ghosts and lived in hell until I created a hell of my own by trying to survive my abuse by acting out.

The first time I found a way to deal with my pain was when I found marijuana in high school. I was finally free or at least I thought I was. So I self medicated with marijuana for about 10 years until it cost me the most important relationship of my life.

And when I paid that price, the price of the most significant relationship in my life, I vowed to never smoke pot again. And so I stopped but the pain inside of myself continued and without realizing it my drinking escalated. When I started gaining weight I switched from beer to rum and then to vodka.

Not aware of the impact drugs and alcohol were having on my life I began having blackouts. The problem I learned much later on was that after a blackout one simply does not remember what happened. During the time I smoked pot I was jumbling up experiences in my life so that I could no longer recall what the heck happened and when the hell it happened.

Left without a way to cope with trauma my alcoholism worsened. I had no understanding about how alcohol would destroy my life even though I was overwhelmingly aware of alcohol abuse by the adult perpetrators in my family.

Experiencing even greater levels of despair in midlife I began reaching out for help while I was still drinking. I found a book and then off to a therapist who then sent me to a psychiatrist. I was prescribed large doses of Prozac so large that I began experiencing seizures. I had to take another medication to suppress the seizures so I could continue with the dosage recommended to me by my psychiatrist. And I was to take this medication every day for the rest of my life. Looking back I realize how important it would’ve been had the psychiatrist simply asked me if I were drinking. Not drinking like a normal man, but drinking to pass out over and over again all night every night. It never occurred to me that the seizures I was having might possibly be related to my drinking. Frustrated because we could never hit the “sweet spot,” the spot where I felt good about myself and connected with the world for very long. And so I stopped this medication thinking to myself, “what a quack.” It was of course the psychiatrist whom I perhaps labeled with my own disease.

It’s been a long process in recovery and quite difficult for me to begin making my story public knowing that in doing so I might be confronted by my family for coming out as a torture survivor. I am the black sheep in a long line of black sheep that passes through my ancestry. My father was the black sheep in his family abandoned an early age running away many miles to live on a farm to live off food he could steal until he was old enough to lie about his age and go into the military. I do not know about the trauma that set him up to become a perpetrator but I do know that he was a very violent, extremely angry man with psychopathic tendencies. He loved the look of others in pain. And there were a few incidents where he acted out with animals when I was a child. But it was when he acted out with me in a series of increasingly violent episodes that finally resulted in an incident of torture that would forever, or so I thought, negatively impact my life.

I’m reaching out today as a man who found the answer for myself the answer that I sought for my entire life to questions many of us have: Will I ever be free? Will I ever be at peace? Will I ever live a happy and contented life?

I found the answer and became the change I wish to see in the world. This is not a change that made me rich or famous but simply changed my energy. I changed the way I see the world, changed the way I react in the world and changed the way I give back to the world.

The answer does not include mega doses of medication but does include incredible, tireless determination to find the answer to the question no one else could give, “Do you know anyone who has worked through trauma and is now a happy functional adult?

I remember asking this question of my therapist, an Angel, whom I had seen once a week for 10 years, “Do you know anyone was worked through trauma and is now a happy functional adult?

The answer was silence. And it has always been silence.

I am now completing my journey by facing my fear of confrontation by family by giving back in a hopefully unpretentious and humble way to say there is an answer and to share that answer even if it’s only one answer, possibly one of many, but it’s the only one I know.

To read Part 2 click here.

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Pamela Martin

Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Fibromyalgia, ME, etc) a purely physical ailment or is there also an emotional component related to trauma.  Pamela shares about being an incest survivor as well as the challenges of living with CFS and  being a people pleaser.  She also shares about raising a child with Selective Mutism and learning to be emotionally intimate with her supportive husband.  Pamela is also a singer/songwriter.  To learn more about her or her music check out her ReverbNation Page

 

This episode is sponsored by GoDaddy.com   For a special discount for MIHH listeners, go to GoDaddy.com and when checking out enter the promo code Mental199 and get a domain name for just $1.99   It helps support the show!

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The Mental Toll of Being a Super Achieving Teenager: A guest blog by Emma age 18

       With several AP classes to study for and SATs to worry about, it’s like there’s no time to even think about breathing, because at any given moment there are about 12 different things you have to worry about doing. Staring at homework for hours, I could get to a point where my whole body was so numb with exhaustion that I felt almost outside of myself, like my brain was, with no help from me, balancing chemical equations and telling my hand to write them down without engaging any emotionally active response in my heart or head. It’s not that I didn’t want to engage with what I was learning, or that I didn’t care about it, but there were all these different things barreling at me from all these different directions, and my brain shut down the way it does in times of crisis or trauma, so that only the immediately necessary things got done and everything else stops. I knew the “necessary” things—homework, studying, essays, review—were not as important as my emotional well being, but I made the conscious short-term sacrifice of my a healthy emotional life in order to meet statistical standards that I placed for myself and that selective colleges demanded.  I had emotional responses to things, but they were tangled up in or smothered by stress and the strive for success, and it was hard to find any purity of emotional experience unless I was entirely separate from my own internal push for achievement. 

As a result, my mental health suffered. I’ve always been anxious, but the stress intensified my physical experiences of anxiety. People thought my panic attacks were about tests, but it was the tests and the academic material that I was most confident about because all of my time had been devoted to preparing for them. It wasn’t the academics that made me anxious, but the deep and intense emotions inside of me that I had covered up and set aside as I doggedly pursued academic success. I don’t think the learning environment of high-achieving students is a healthy one by any means, but I think it’s one a lot of people struggle through to get into certain colleges or to pursue certain careers. I don’t think there’s an easy way out of it, and my advice to anyone in that type of environment is to cling to what you love; cling to your friends, and to the knowledge you care about, the knowledge that leads you toward greater understanding of the world and greater empathy and love for yourself and others. The academic system values numbers but I think you have to value more than that, so that if you fail you are left with love for something, so that there is an emotional and spiritual value to what you have learned. Also, if you’re struggling with emotional problems or mental health issues, telling teachers is scary but they will be probably be amazingly understanding with helping you through the academic stuff and supporting you emotionally if need be. Telling friends is helpful too. It gets easier if you can talk about it. 

Thanks,

Emma

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Pregnancy Loss Resources: An email between Dr. Zucker and a listener

This is a poignant communication between myself, a guest who goes by “G” and Dr. Jessica Zucker (a therapist and former guest)

Dr. Zucker,

My first son died unexpectedly one week before his due date. It has been five months and I’m so deep in grief and guilt and shame, I don’t see a way out and can’t see how I could ever have been a good mother since I am handling this all so poorly.

“G”

Here is what Dr. Zucker wrote to her.

G,

I am incredibly sorry for your recent loss. You must be experiencing incredible amounts of pain and mind-numbing disbelief.

Have you received any therapeutic support since your loss? If not, would you be interested in pursuing some help in an effort to process the grief and heartache? I would be happy to help you find a seasoned psychologist– please let me know what city you live in or where the closest city might be to you and I will do my best to find you support.

Thank you for reaching out to Paul and requesting that we discuss stillbirth on his podcast. I think that is a brilliant idea, as 1 in 170 pregnancies end in stillbirth. Too many women and families are suffering from this excruciating experience. There is not enough discussion about it in our culture which perpetuates feelings of isolation, shame, guilt, confusion, depression, anxiety, etc.

In the meantime, here are some resources that might be helpful–

http://returntozerothemovie.com/blog/helpful-links/

http://returntozerothemovie.com/blog/

http://www.marchofdimes.com/loss/stillbirth.aspx

http://www.nationalshare.org/support-resources.html

http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/labor-delivery/ask-labor-nurse/minnie-driver-movie-talks-about-stillbirth-should-everyone

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyloss/sbsurvivingemotionally.html

It makes me so sad that people who are grieving so immensely are made to feel even more alone by the lack of cultural conversation. It’s shocking. I had a miscarriage when I was 15 weeks pregnant and have never felt so raw, alone, and under supported in my life. And I had a lot of support! It’s partly due to the fact that not enough people are talking about their pain and people fear addressing these very real issues.

If you’d like to read about my experience, here’s something I wrote.

https://medium.com/human-parts/when-what-you-specialize-in-happens-to-you-a593569ed49f

Also, you might want to log onto Medium.com and follow collections related to grieve, loss, pregnancy complications, etc.

Telling a Story of Stillbirth

http://www.amazon.com/They-Were-Still-Born-Stillbirth/dp/1442204125

I wrote the introduction for this book last year —

http://www.amazon.com/Sunshine-After-Storm-Survival-Grieving-ebook/dp/B00FSX5OEQ

Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing

http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Arms-Coping-Miscarriage-Stillbirth/dp/0960945660

http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/stillbirth

http://pregnancy.about.com/od/pregnancybooksvideos/tp/aa030203a.htm

A recent podcast —

http://longestshortesttime.com/2014/07/23/podcast-35-picturing-her/

More —

http://www.stillbornandstillbreathing.com/p/books.html

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/22/losing-iris-stillborn-sarah-hughes

http://www.pregnancylossbook.com/zoetaylor/Surviving_miscarriage_stillbirth._Home.html

http://www.pinterest.com/solacefound/books-on-stillbirth/

October 15th is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day

http://www.october15th.com

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/on-national-pregnancy-and-infant-loss-remembrance-day-a-mother-with-a-candle-to-light/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/breaking-the-silence-of-stillbirth/

Mourning My Miscarriage


http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/21/a-stillbirths-living-silver-linings/

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/fashion/21love.html?pagewanted=all&gwh=E34938A04FAB132D6A2FE1CE3CD65DF9&gwt=pay

Sending these with support.

Feel free to stay in touch. You are in my thoughts.

Warmly,

Jessica

* * *

Jessica Zucker, Ph.D.

www.drjessicazucker.com

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Jason Nash

Recently diagnosed with BiPolar II, the actor and director of Jason Nash is Married talks about his fear of being just like his father by never being a breadwinner and his inability to fully enjoy what others seem to be able to easily enjoy, including being married and a stay-at-home dad.

Follow Jason on Twiiter @Jason23Nash  Check out his Vine videos  And be sure to check out the trailer for his movie Jason Nash is Married which is available to stream on Itunes or Amazon

This episode is sponsored by Bulu Box.   To learn more and get a MIHH listener discount go to www.bulubox.com click on the microphone in the upper left hand corner and use the offer code “happyhour”.

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Females on the Autism Spectrum: A Guest Blog by Dr. Joel Schwartz

In general, Asperger’s Disorder is a form of autism. In the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, Aspergers has been combined with other forms of Autism into a general category of Autism Spectrum Disorders. However, there is still some contention about this, and many people with Aspergers prefer the label to Autism.

Unfortunately, the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s is based on a presentation that is much more common in males. Females with Asperger’s tend to be more socially adept. Like their male counterparts, they frequently make social mistakes and are easily overwhelmed in social situations. However, unlike their male counterparts, females on the spectrum tend to be much more socially motivated. Because of this, they tend to learn how to fit in. They are careful studies of social interactions and have learned to copy social behavior. However, because they are essentially faking social competence, it takes a lot out of them. They become easily overwhelmed and tend to isolate for long periods of time or get hyperfocused on specific interests as a manner of coping with anxiety and an over-sensitive nervous system.  However, also unlike their male counterparts, females with Asperger’s tend to have more typical intense interests. Whereas males on the spectrum may have a fixation on a certain type of vehicle, road maps, or weather patterns, female fixations tend to be more gender conforming and are therefore missed as diagnostic. Some examples of these fixations include fantasy novels, fashion, music, body image, or animals. What differentiates this from a hobby is the extreme fixation and inability to “leave it at home” when out in the world. Also, because many females have been shamed or have been told they are annoying for talking about their intense interest, many have learned to hide these behaviors from the world.

Because this can sometimes look like extreme moodiness, they are often misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder.  Also, because their relationships tend be “all on” or “all off” they are frequently misdiagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder. As a result, they are treated like mental patients and are given strong drugs that interact poorly with their extra sensitive nervous systems, often making them worse. Often, just informing and educating these individuals about their diagnosis can bring about immediate positive change. It allows these souls to view themselves as quirky and sensitive people, instead of lifelong mental patients.

Some common experiences of females on the spectrum are:

-Feeling like they are aliens, faking fitting in.

– Moving from social group to social group throughout life because they cannot find a place to fit in

-Social overwhelm above and beyond social anxiety – their brains may literally turn off or dissociate to avoid the bombardment of social stimulation

– Very sensitive senses – hypersensitive to touch (for example cannot wear certain fabrics, bothered by rumples in bedsheets, or require intense deep pressure to help regulate their anxiety), highly sensitive to smell (for example intolerance for any body smells or being able to smell bad food before others), light sensitivity, and picky eating due to difficulties with certain food textures and tastes.

– Intelligent, but strangely incapable of doing well in certain subjects

– Often confused at work because able to get the job done, but cannot fit in socially and is seen as a bad team player.

– Perceived to be snobby or self-centered because of difficulties with typical “back and forth” of social interactions.

For more information, I’d highly recommend a book called Aspergirls by Rudy Simone. If any of your listeners resonates with the above, they can get a psychological evaluation from a psychologist.  However they should be cautioned that our understanding of females with autism is still in its infancy. Unless the professional has specific interest or training in females on the spectrum, they are likely to miss important nuances in the female presentation.

Dr. Joel Schwartz is a post doctoral psychological assistant in Torrance, California with particular interest in psychodynamic psychotherapy, trauma treatment, people on the Autism Spectrum, and LGBT issues. He also conducts psychological evaluations for teens and adults at his private practice and at Center for Discovery residential treatment houses. He can be contacted at dr.jschwartz1@gmail.com.  If so inclined, you may follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/joelschwartzpsyD or twitter @DrJoelSchwartz.

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Pia Glenn

The West-Indian-American writer/performer shares about being raised by a violent and mentally unstable mother who refused to take meds, often leading to 911 calls and police.  She also talks about her own depression, anxiety, perfectionism and relationship struggles.

This episode is sponsored by Bulu Box.   To learn more and get a MIHH listener discount go to www.bulubox.com click on the microphone in the upper left hand corner and use the offer code “happyhour”.

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Lauren Hennessy

The actor/singer and fiance of past guest Chemda talks about being a trans male (male but born into a female body) and despite his religious upbringing (his father is a minister) coming to embrace being transgender.  Check out Lauren’s website at www.laurenhennessy.com and follow him on Twitter @LaurenHennessy.

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