Author:Paul Gilmartin

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.

To support the show by helping potential advertisers get to know you the listener better please take this short survey.  Your email address will not be given out or sold to any 3rd party, it is only needed in the event you win a free raffle for a $100 Amazon gift card.  www.podsurvey.com/mentalpod.

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Jill Morley

At 40, Jilll took up competitive boxing to work through the childhood PTSD caused by her mother’s physical abuse.  She shares about living with depression, aiding other female fighters and making her documentary Fight Like a Girl.

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”.

To take the listener survey for Paul’s potential advertisers go to www.podsurvey.com/mentalpod  Your email will not be sold or exploited, only to contact you if you win the $100 Amazon Gift Card.

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The Feelings of Power and Shame Being an Escort: by Ashley B.

Maybe what makes me the most connected to the rest of humankind is the feeling I constantly have that I’m so different and disconnected. I’m aware enough of the world around me to know most, if not all, of us feel this way at some point. Still, I feel more different. Or different in ways that are less acceptable. Or maybe it’s just that I’m more honest than most people. I don’t feel the need to hide much and as a rule I don’t shrink away from facing hard things head on. When you’ve experienced the things I have, you kind of lose that deep need to be socially appropriate and you learn to live with the knowledge that running is futile. My first memory of life involves being lured into the room as my father was nude, drying off after his shower. He casually stole my 3 year old innocence as he talked me in to touching his manhood. There were multiple deaths and births in that moment. Shame sprung forth fresh and new, and continued to grow in me well into adulthood. In fact it contributed significantly to many of the choices I made, which I’ll explain more a little later. My father continued to molest me as I grew, becoming progressively more invasive but always gentle. Sickeningly gentle. The gentleness haunts me still, as I try to develop a healthy intimate relationship. The gentleness harasses me more now than the terror that came from the other abuse I suffered, by a group of men my father gave me to at age 6. I hesitate to call this group a cult, as I have no real evidence of such and it makes me feel crazy and like no one will believe me. They did ritualistic types of things though, and wore the cliché black robes and lit candles in the shape of a pentagram, so I don’t know. What I do know is they were the opposite of gentle. Even now, at 35, I don’t think I have really delved very far into the events that took place in this group and I’m not sure when, if ever, I’ll be ready to go there. I mean I’ve jumped in and out of it in therapy, but I’ve never been able to sit in the feelings for long. My dad stopped molesting me (I guess it was rape by this time) when I was 14 and my parents finally divorced. That’s when I guess he passed the baton, and I began abusing myself. I became promiscuous, with boys my own age and one older man. I was a really “good” girl in most ways though. I was the valedictorian of my high school class. I drank occasionally, smoked weed a time or two, but that was the extent of my partying in high school. It was all about sex for me. I had a boyfriend but that wasn’t really enough for me. I wanted everyone to want me. However, I had terrible self-esteem so that held me back from all I really wanted to do.  I didn’t think boys liked me. In college, I discovered my attraction for women and basically wrote men off for those for years. I had a lot of fun but there was also a lot of drama and heart breaking emotions involved. Through it all, shame prevailed and called the shots. After college I went to ministry school, where I was constantly being reprimanded for same sex relationships. I turned back to men then because it seemed the lesser of the two evils. I ended up marrying a man I met there. I wasn’t exactly in love but, he was nice and a good Christian boy and he wanted me so that was enough, temporarily. As the honeymoon period ended and our incompatibility became obvious, I started flirting with other men. Lo and behold, I realized boys did indeed like me! I went crazy with this knowledge. I cheated on my husband several times, once with his own brother. I also lost a lot of weight during this time and my confidence in my appearance sky rocketed. I was acting like the slutty teenager I had always wanted to be. Shortly after I divorced my husband, I really went nuts. I was doing all kinds of crazy, totally risky things sexually. I had threesomes and gang bangs and met random men in random seedy hotels. I hooked up with people from Craigslist (I still shudder to admit that one for some reason).  One of these men drew me in. He was a bit of a thug and I knew it, and I liked it. As I got in deeper with him, he became my everything. I didn’t flinch when he introduced the idea of escorting. Why not make money doing what I loved and was apparently great at? I think he was blown away at how easily he persuaded and educated, a non drug addict, seemingly together girl to go for such a thing. But as I said earlier, shame had always called the shots for me. I wasn’t scared of the prospect of sleeping with men for money, I didn’t think it would make me a bad person. Honestly, how could I get any worse? I worked as an escort for close to 2 years. I had some scary, amazing, pitiful, fun crazy experiences during that time. My boyfriend/pimp became abusive quickly. I was never hurt by a client, but my boyfriend hit me, choked me, spit in my face, left me places, forced me to do things I never would have done otherwise. I borrowed thousands of dollars from my mom, shut out my friends and family, punched a girl in the face (this was so out of character for me that I went in my room and cried for hours afterwards). I shoplifted, stole, scammed. I lied a lot. Everything was a lie. I talked other girls into the business. I crossed state lines. I became someone I never thought I could be. Yet… There was a sick satisfaction in it all. I felt powerful. I used my sexuality as a tool, sometimes a weapon. I OWNED it. If a client did anything I didn’t like, I kicked them out. And kept their money. My confidence was at an all time high. I could do anything. I could handle any situation. I was a goddamn superthug escorting queen. And the beatings, well I deserved them. I had always know I was a bad girl, from the moment I put my hand on my daddy’s junk. It was cleansing fire to be dragged by the hair and humiliated. It was so hard to leave. Until he burnt my house down. Now that I’m removed from the situation, and thoroughly therapised, I of course see how turned around my thinking was. How there was a direct undeniable link between my childhood abuse and my adult mistakes. I’m back to being me now. I’m healing, little by little, one tiny step at a time. But I do sometimes miss being a badass.

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Tyler W.

The 26 year-old law student talks about his struggles with addiction especially bulimia, hallucinogens and nitrous oxide, having diabetes, being a perfectionist, assuming the role of caretaker for his alcoholic parents when he was a child, a jarring move to a racially intolerant “Christian” city, and what he did to find the peace he has today.

PillPack sponsors this show.  To check it out (and to help the podcast) go to Pillpack.com/happyhour. BrainHQ sponsors this show.  For 10% off a monthly or yearly subscription go to BrainHQ.com/happyhour

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