8 Lessons Learned From My First Ever Camping Trip

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Ahhhhhh. . .camping.  The great outdoors, s’mores over the camp fire, sleeping in a tent under the stars.  So romantic – until it isn’t.  This past weekend the hubber aka David, a traveling partner and I embarked on a trip.  Ohhhhhh we had high hopes and optimism for the trip:  lots of fun and sun, laughs and memories in the making. We loaded up the van and off we went.

LESSON 1:  Claustrophobia is unpredictable and presents itself in situations that one might not expect.  Especially when one has PTSD and panic disorder.

Yes, I have known about my claustrophobia for some time.  I did not think it would manifest itself on the ride up.  Yet the combination of cramped quarters with no real leg or elbow room, not being able to see around me much and items shifting and hitting me in the head brought on the panic.  The heart began racing, I felt as  though I couldn’t breathe and I had to ask to switch to the front seat.  A solution easy enough to accommodate.  We made the adjustments and continued on our way.

LESSON 2:  Tents make me claustrophobic if the wind is blowing the walls around my face and there is no room to move. 

We arrived and set up camp and went to dinner.  As we were leaving, I stepped into a crack in the pavement and sprained the ankle.  We returned to camp just as the rain began to roll in.  Lightly at first, then intense and  wind-driven.  We took refuge inside the tent and tried to sleep.  Unfortunately, the proximity of the walls to my face brought on flashbacks.  The hubber and I ended up sleeping in the KOA pavilion for the remainder of the trip.  It rained and was cold (50 degree highs every day but the day we left) nearly the entire trip.  Our traveling partner was disappointed that a) I was injured the 1st day and b) that she just wanted everyone to have fun and it was starting off poorly.

LESSON 3:  One can try to orchestrate fun to the extent that no one has any.

When one invests a good deal of time, energy and money into planning an excursion and has firm ideas of what to accomplish, visit, etc in a day, the expectations can become a burden.  Disappointment on the part of the person who did the planning and stress for the person who is unable to keep up for whatever reason.

LESSON 4:  Semantics can divide.  Triggers and boundaries are not one and the same.

Triggers are situations in which one feels vulnerable. These situations are called “triggers,” because they trigger the onset of symptoms. While people with the same mental disorder may share similar triggers, triggers can also be highly individual.  My triggers include claustrophobia, things near my face or throat and feeling as though any expression of my feelings is wrong, not welcome, will be punished in some way (withholding of affection, ending of friendship, etc).

Read more: http://www.minddisorders.com/Py-Z/Relapse-and-relapse-prevention.html#ixzz2Vj6faFes

Boundaries stem from a sense of self-worth and personal values.  They embody both a way of being and an expectation of how others should treat us.  My boundaries include room to move, time and space to process my own thoughts without undue pressure to respond before I am ready and not being expected to only deal with the needs of others to the detriment of my own.

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-recovery/2012/10/importance-of-boundary-setting-in-recovery/

 LESSON 5:  Boundaries that are not respected can BECOME triggers. 

Especially for those who have survived abuse, the disrespect of boundaries can feel like another violation and become a trigger for flashbacks and/or panic.

LESSON 6:  Those who don’t respect clearly and politely stated boundaries are not people you can count on to respect YOU.

LESSON 7:  I need to be given a chance to process information and environmental feedback before being expected to respond.

Demanding an immediate response when stimuli is nonstop (constant chatter, noise, yelling, crying, snarkiness etc.) only plays into the overwhelm even more.  If a response is needed, please ask if I need a moment of quiet or space to think.

LESSON 8:  Mental health stigma is more hurtful when tossed out by a fellow sufferer. Every person has a bias of some sort.

ACTION STEPS FOR DEALING WITH BOUNDARIES & TRIGGERS

1.  Verbalize and enforce your boundaries.  Clearly state what you need.   If you are at the mercy of another, try to level the playing field by taking back your power a bit.  If you are unable to negotiate a mutually affirming environment, focus on deep breathing and progressive relaxation.

2.  Remove yourself physically from the situation.  If a person or place are making you uncomfortable, move or do some exercise to change the energy in the space.

3.  When all else fails, remove the person or situation from your life.  Sometimes the only solution is to remove the toxic factors.

Remember, the only obligation you have is to yourself and your well-being.  All else is secondary.  Above all, love yourself enough to enforce your own limits.

© 2013 Paulissa Kipp

Time to Break Through The Wall of Silence

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Time to Break The Wall of Silence

Okey dokey,

I am feeling verrryyyyyy vulnerable but I know that I am amongst friends so it is time to talk because I am processing a lottttttttt of information but I am committed to authentically facing the challenges and joys in my life.  Here goes:  We have finally arrived at an official mental health diagnosis and it is a bit much to take in.  Here it is:  PTSD/anxiety disorder/adult ADD/bipolar disorder.  I hit every single hallmark for all of the above.  Damn dirty over-achiever lol.  While there is some relief in having terms to place on the manifestations -racing thoughts, the panic, the inability to concentrate, the need to escape, the triggering of fight/flight responses, the anger, the highs, lows, in-betweens and bone-crushing exhaustion – there is also a good amount of apprehension.  That age-old question of what now and how will this affect my ability to achieve the big things I want to do with my life rises up from the deep.  Panic begets panic and looking inward for too long causes implosion on my part.

Soooooooo. . .I choose to look outward; to help where I can, to know that I am worth doing the me-work that will establish better balance and well-being.  I know that the gift of mental illness is that if I am self-aware, it teaches me to actively practice self-care.  I have lots of thoughts and a few fears tonight since each diagnoses manifests worry or angst in me in a different fashion.

PTSD:  manifests itself in alarm, easy startling, a fight response when others enter my personal space uninvited

Anxiety disorder: manifests itself when least expected and is lower if I know that I only have to get through ____ amount of time in a given situation and then I either won’t have to face it again at all or won’t have to face it anytime soon.  Ramps up if there is a stressor that I have to endure regularly.  Still, I believe that exposure therapy is sometimes helpful.

ADD:  Manifests itself by scattering my thoughts, affecting my short term memory and making long periods of intense concentration impossible because I just want to escape.  Necessary tasks are more difficult due to the inability to concentrate.

BIPOLAR DISORDER:  Manifests itself with high and low energy.  During the highs, my energy and mood are boundless.  I am able to multitask well during those periods.  During the lows, the muscle pain is very palpable, exhaustion reigns and it takes everything I have to be any modicum of productive.

Welcome to my world.  Yet I’m here.  Learning. Working. Making a difference and hoping that sharing honestly not only helps me to understand myself but for others to understand that facing life with a mental illness does not mean we are weak but rather that we are courageous as hell.

 

The Witch Hunting of the Mentally Ill

Like many others, I have been processing the events of Sandy Hook on many different levels.  There are many thoughts and emotions involved when something so incomprehensible occurs.

I process events such as these on many levels:

1.  As a law student, I understand the legal requirements of gun ownership/control and the rights of the mentally ill.  On a legislative level, I would like to see the following:  If a person has a diagnosed mental illness, understands said mental illness and has RX medication and chooses not to take said medication and then commits a crime which causes bodily harm to another, I believe at that point the not guilty by reason of insanity defense should come off the table.  If one is coherent to choose not to take meds that will stabilize his/her illness or seek a dr. for a better tolerated medication, he/she is coherent enough to have chosen to commit the act and is therefore responsible.

2.  As the aunt of a 1, 2, 4 and 6 yr old, I feel the loss of potential and dreams that the parents and loved ones of these children held so dear.

3.  As a person unable to bear children, I am sometimes feel relieved that I have no children of my own to be fearful for.

4.  As one who struggles with mental illness and provides services to those with mental illness, I feel the stigma and stereotypes of society when public outcry screams “psycho, crazy, moron, wingnut, sicko” etc before all of the facts are even available.  Even after those facts are revealed, the terms don’t need to be used.  If it were any other illness, we wouldn’t use those terms.  That is akin to calling someone overweight “fatty, bertha butt, a sloth etc”.  It doesn’t help meaningful conversation.  Verbage matters.

Terminology such as that listed above only serves to create another Salem witch hunt in which those struggling and under a microscope while society waits for us to fall on our faces or to magically be cured occurs.  There is a prevailing sense of entitlement that society has to use any term that helps them process things within their comfort zone but using slurs will not help us to have the conversations that we need to have about mental health access (and the lack thereof), the cost of mental health care, screening for mental health issues, etc.  We only serve to push the mentally ill further into themselves or to create even more anxiety and resentment.  It is not useful.

I have seen and engaged in a number of conversations over the past few days in which the OPs have used such terms.  These are people that I love and respect ( a little less so in recent days but that will pass).  Free speech being what it is, I have no desire to shut down important conversations but merely discuss the issues without the name-calling.

At any given moment, none of us know all of the facts and to judge a DEAD person based upon an incomplete set of facts (investigators just now are trying to subpoena medical records and in recent days, it has come to light that the mother was going for conservatorship so that she could have the shooter committed so he could get the treatment he needed).  This mother did what she felt was best, including homeschooling her son and being solely responsible for him.  Perhaps she didn’t get him treatment as soon as the rest of us would have liked, but we don’t know what all she DID do to try to help him.  Society playing armchair quarterback, judge, jury and psychologist will not help.  Only by engaging in loving conversations and including those with mental illness in the conversations about mental health reform will things change.  Name-calling and perpetuating stigma and stereotypes won’t get us there.

Yes, I am hurt by the conversations.  Yes, I process them differently than one without my background but I speak for millions of your fellow brothers and sisters.  If you have read this far, thank you for reading.    Yes, I am angry so I needed to say these things.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. . .

 

Under The Microscope – Tragedy and Mental Illness

So much sorrow and many, many thoughts and emotions as I process the latest mass shooting.  While it is early in the reporting, the implications of mental illness are very much on my mind.

My students and I discussed this in class today because these things are huge triggers for them.  Being mentally ill on the various levels that they are – bipolar, multiple personalities, Alzheimers, anger issues, etc – they are aware, perhaps more than many others of the stigma of mental illness.  They are aware that each time an awful act is committed by someone who is mentally ill and off meds or triggered, etc that many in our community and society in general wonder what it will take to make us snap.  It is a very uncomfortable feeling to be scrutinized in such a fashion.  The mentally ill face significant challenges on a daily basis to function well, to be aware of triggers, to lower anxiety and to do everything he or she can to foster well-being.  Still, overwhelm can creep in and people lash out, break down and yes, commit violence.

Do not misunderstand me:  I am not making excuses for the actions that caused so much collateral damage.  Every aspect of the shooter’s life and influences will be examined in the media, by law enforcement and the armchair quarterbacks will expound upon things of which they have no personal exposure.  Beware of painting everyone who struggles with depression with a broad brush.  We are all just doing our best to live a full and meaningful life.

Signed,

Mentally ill but hopeful,   My students and I

© 2012 Paulissa Kipp “The Beckoning Path”