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

Tips for Lovingly Communicating with a Depressed Person

© Paulissa Kipp, 2013

Tips for Loving Communication with a Mentally Ill Person

  • Don’t tell your loved one that how he or she feels is “selfish”.  You wouldn’t tell someone that he or she doesn’t deserve to feel ______ amount of happiness.  It’s the same concept, really.
  • If your loved one asks you to stop a behavior because it is causing anxiety, is a trigger, etc, STOP immediately.  Your failure to do so speaks volumes about your love for the sufferer.  Not immediately stopping the behavior ramps up the anxieties even more and when your partner believes you cannot be trusted, all bets are off.  The mind wanders to self-doubt, lack of self-worth, wondering why am I not important enough to respect or protect, suicidal thoughts, thought of self-harm and more.
  • Do not mock your partner when he or she asks for you to stop talking and listen, when told that your noise (radio, voice, etc) is overwhelming.  Do not be facetious.  Do not say things such as “Do I need to send up a flare every time I enter a room because you startle so easily?”  That is not helpful and merely drives a bigger wedge between you and your partner.
  • Do not feign ignorance and say “I didn’t know ______ was a trigger for you” if your partner has clearly communicated that it is.  Your partner isn’t buying it.  Forgetting is understandable from time to time, but your partner will pay attention to pattern and frequency.  Forgetting and do a behavior once in a month or less frequently – you are more likely to be forgiven or believed.  Do it more frequently and it seems like a choice and recklessness with your partner’s feelings and wishes.
  • Beginning a statement with “Why?” can be a trigger for your loved one.  We want people to treat us with kindness, even if they don’t understand our actions. Having to explain to people solves nothing and has the effect of making your loved one feel judged, thereby adding to stigma and anxiety.
  • Beginning a statement with “just” as if it the desired behavior is simple to achieve and your loved one isn’t making an effort to change or cope.
  • “Just think positive.”
    “Just get over it.”
    “Just think about something else.”
    “There are people who are worse off than you.”
    “Stop complaining.”
    “Come on. It cannot be this bad.”
    “Cheer up.”
    “You are making it up.”
    “You don’t have a reason to feel that way, so stop it.”
    “Stop being so selfish.”
  • Comparing one person’s circumstances to your loved ones’.  If your loved one needs inspiration for succeeding with a mental illness, he or she will find it on his or her own.  Your attempts, while well-intentioned, may create further overwhelm.
  • If offering self-help books, frame your offer in terms of “You may find this information helpful.”  If your loved one refuses, graciously allow that to be the end of the conversation.

MORE LOVING WAYS TO COMMUNICATE:

  • Ask what you can do to help.  At times your loved one may need silence, sleep, a massage, music, a hug, a mug of tea, etc.  Do what you can to facilitate that.
  • Offer affection.
  • Let your loved one know that you are concerned FOR him or her, not scared OF him or her.
  • Communicate to your loved one that his or her challenges do not affect your love for that person.  Many sufferers worry that their challenges will lead to abandonment by friends and family.

©Paulissa Kipp, 2013.  Please share freely with a link to this blog and proper acknowledgement of me as the author.

As a sufferer or one living with a sufferer, is there anything you would add to this list?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

 

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”

 

 

The Cycle of Depression – Through My Lens

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ AND SHARE – YOUR LOVE MAY SAVE A LIFE

What’s Right With Me Moment inspired by +Jason Kowing ‘s message of self-love found here:  http://bit.ly/NisXD4

Today had many blessings and challenges, but I only wish to deal with 2 in this post.  Today is World Mental Health Day and this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.  Perhaps in a twist of fate or to raise my own awareness higher than usual, today was a very poignant and heartbreaking day as I watched many friends struggle.  *Challenge*

Yet the *blessing* came in the form of a friend who experienced watching another friend’s depression and wanted to understand the cycle of depression better.  I will share with all of you here what my response was.  DISCLAIMER  I am NOT a licensed therapist.  I AM a PTSD, panic attack and bipolar disorder survivor.  All answers are my personal opinion and my experience as it relates to my diagnoses.

The Cycle of Depression

My friend wrote:  (paraphrased for brevity here) This can be a learning time for me. How does exhaustion or being overly stressed fit into the time of depression? How do you tell the difference between depression and being overly tired? Inform me!

My response: I will do my best to thoughtfully answer your question.  Please keep in mind that my specific answers pertain only to me, though I do have 1st hand observations as they relate to the students I teach.  It would be unfair of me to answer this question on their behalf.  Let me preface this by stating that the experiences of depression are very individual, as is the treatment thereof. PTSD, bipolarity, multiple personality disorder, chemical depression, clinical depression, panic disorder and generalized depression manifest differently in each sufferer.

The short answer is that depression, overwhelm, exhaustion and being overly tired is much like the chicken and the egg question because one can beget the other.  High stress, external forces beyond our control and lack of quality sleep can lead to generalized depression and for those who also deal with panic attacks, can ramp up those triggers.

Depression, once it is triggered -or for the person with bipolar disorder – once that person enters the low cycle – can create a bone crushing exhaustion and sense of overwhelm that makes it very difficult to function and practice self-care.  For example, when I am in a severe depressive state (defined in my case as overwhelm or anxieties that last for longer than a week and do not respond to any meds, any coping strategies, etc) the thought of cooking for myself becomes too much to deal with and I will eat cereal for days.  I become lethargic because the overwhelm tires me out, the joints hurt and I don’t sleep well at night (not entering rapid eye movement sleep has been shown to manifest depression and anxiety attacks).  The exhaustion is very real.  The difference between being overly tired and the exhaustion/depressive cycle is in my opinion, the length of time that the symptoms are present.  If someone is “overly tired” but recovers to a normal state within a couple of days, that is more “situational depression” than clinical or chemical depression.  While allowing that state of overwhelm is not a healthy pattern on an on-going basis, it would not necessarily meet a diagnosis of depression.  That your friend calls it depression means she is aware that the cycle is not healthy.  Hopefully, she is working to either change her lifestyle in recognition of that fact or seeking professional help to learn to make the necessary changes.

Not handling stress well can trigger depressive states but for those with clinical depression and the various types of mental illness, sometimes we become prisoners of our mind.  By that I mean that if I am having panic attacks, sometimes I can recognize a trigger and head it off before it becomes a screaming, crying, hyperventilating, chest-crushing thing.  Other times I don’t know that something will be a panic inducing situation.  The cycle of depression and panic is such that once one has gone “over the cliff” so to speak, there is a fear and hyper vigilance that can be self-defeating.  The panic creates fear of “when and where will this happen again? How much will I be able to handle?  At what point will this interfere with my goals, my relationships, and my ability to hold, find or perform my job?  How much will I have to change my life to cope? “

The sufferer can take positive steps to reduce stress by exercising, working to get at least 7 hours of sleep, avoiding stimulants, recognizing overwhelm and working to delegate tasks, saying no more often, setting healthy boundaries, changing priorities, etc.  Cognitive therapy and medication can help as well.

As you can see, depression is very complex and quite hard to navigate.  Navigating our mind and hearts without blinders is courageous and one of the hardest things that many of us will ever have to do.  Somehow, learning about our strengths and weaknesses can be scarier than the monster under the bed.  Bless you for caring enough to ask the question.  I hope my answers have provided a little useful insight.

© 2012 Paulissa Kipp

I am a Curious Lens Goddess, Writer and Artist documenting the world – the beautiful, curious and often overlooked.  I see the infinitely layered world not only with my eyes, but most importantly, with my heart. Find me on Google+:  https://plus.google.com/116071275946594200077?rel=author

 

Enough of Depression

Be Careful Who You Open Up To. Image via tumblr_mar527vakl1rhn3d3o1_500.jpg

This message brought to you by. . .Depression.  I struggle from time to time with depression.  Even when not readily visible, it lurks in the shadows ready to remind me that self-care and self-love are vital.  Depression is a multi-faceted experience.  It is a word with multiple meanings and the experience varies widely from person to person.  The stigma of depression is very real and palpable.  Bias abounds.  Those who have not experienced depression believe they have the magic pill for we who DO experience it.  If we only _________ enough, everything will be fine.  Suck it up, everyone has tough days.  Sure, everyone has tough days but for those of us with depression, a tough day might mean that we have spent the entire day running through our coping mechanisms to no avail, reached out to people for support and be abandoned in mid-sentence because the listener is “too busy” or we need too much.  A bad day for the depressed might mean a day of tears, screaming, cutting, violence, suicidal ideation or homicidal ideation.  A bad day is not simply a bad day as non-sufferers think.

The hazard of recovery is that one’s needs are poo-pooed.  Recovery occurs at varying rates.  What gets lost in translation is that triggers always remain and will sometimes appear when we least expect them.  Recovery does not mean never experiencing a panic attack again, never being overwhelmed by internal or external forces.  Recovery means self-awareness and reduced frequency of crises.

Therefore, the hazard is the ENOUGH of depression.  Where is the healthy side of enough?

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Enough of Depression

DEPRESSION
A rut
A period of time

An economic downturn
A time of sadness or challenge

ENOUGH
A feeling of being satisfied
A lack of need
The convergence of depression and enough brings stigma
If we simply prayed enough
Played enough
Slept enough
Believed enough
Were enough
Everything would be OK
If we just
ENOUGH    
© 2012 by Paulissa Kipp
I am a Curious Lens Goddess, Writer and Artist documenting the world – the beautiful, curious and often overlooked.  I see the infinitely layered world not only with my eyes, but most importantly, with my heart. Find me on Google+https://plus.google.com/116071275946594200077?rel=author