Mental Health Mondays Finale: Questions with a Questioner

Key note: I backdated the post to match with the September Mental Health Monday
series, so it’s easy for those who are viewing at a later date.
This is a late post, and I’m sorry that it’s up late. PLS love me still!

This is the last post of 4, for our month of mental health. I figured that there’d be no better time than now to ask some questions with someone who professionally asks questions: my dad. My dad is a licensed psychologist, with a lot of experience under his belt. Instead of me introducing him, I’ll let him do the honors:

I’m Dr. Bixler, but you can call me whatever you want. Dr. Bixler, doc, Santa Claus… I’ve been called a lot of things I don’t particularly like.

Last Friday, I sent him a list of questions that I thought would be thought provoking, while simple enough, to where I could share with you all. Part of it, is destigmatizing the professionals, so that we can see how they see things, especially when it comes to their end of mental health.

You wouldn’t believe how many therapists and doctors go into their field, because of what they’ve been through. My dad is obviously no different. They look for answers, just as we do, when we go to them.

Sometimes, seeking the answers to these questions make more questions. It truly can turn into a rabbit hole of sorts. This is a little bit of me asking questions, to go down a little bit down the rabbit hole.

Knowing my dad, he likes to meditate on answers, and since I did give him a handful, and he did spit out some suggestions after asking me if it was okay to do so (which is cool), I checked back with him a couple days later, and that’s why this is actually going up late.

We started talking about sea life and life in general, when it comes to the mind, intuition, and diet – something we just talked about here in this series!

When I finally got some answers, this is what I got:

Note: Names have been substituted with an initial, for privacy reasons.

Question: What’s your mental health journey?

The earliest difficulties I recall started when mom had a mental breakdown and we left Japan. I was just turning 9. Dad stayed in Japan, mom was seeing a psychologist in California and staying with her parents, and I was sent to live with Aunt J and Uncle J in Dallas. Aunt J would constantly tell me how weak mom was and that I shouldn’t be such a cry baby. Mom and I’s relationship never recovered from that.

My boughts with major depression started a couple of years after that. I struggled with ADHD, but there was no such diagnosis at the time… I learned to go into trances and hyper-focus, I had to to be able to quietly sit through prayer meetings for and hour or two of people praying in a language I barely understood.

Bipolar 2 didn’t exist either. So I was told I had an aggitated depression. I learned to really harness the hypomania stuff in my doctoral program. It helped fuel my 100 hour weeks. It was the only way I got to work and do that level of schooling at the same time.

I realize now that what many folks think of me being “full of myself ” or “narcissistic” is more a combination of my bipolar 2 during hypomania phases and cycling between I can’t do anything right (depression) so why bother. .. to I’ve got the energy and racing genius IQ to get anything done…

The most obvious question ever: Why did you choose psychology as your profession?

In some ways the first question loads heavily into the second.

I was raised to “minister” to people. I joking (half) say “my mom raised me to be her therapist”. I started college as an archtectual engineering major, and took a 100 level class to fulfill my social science requirements in “the Psychology of Individual Differences” I was taking and struggling through calculus the same semester, I loved it psych course and felt defeated by the math for the first time in my life the safe logic of numbers failed me.

My early psych class opened a door for me… I quit college soon after that first class, went into working full time. After 4 years in retail, starting in Thousand Oaks and ending in Beverly Hills, I found I couldn’t advance without a college degree.

I stumbled back into church to make sense of my nightmares. .. decided I was running from God who wanted me to be a preacher… so I decided to head back to college. Quit Beverly Hills. .. and was preaching and planning on returning to Japan when I met your mom… I felt that I was on God’s path for me… and double majored in psych and theology.

I wanted to help people. I still find deep levels of worth and reward in doing so. I like working with folks no one else wants to. I guess for two reasons: one is the challenge of difficulty. Anyone can do therapy with bored LA house wives, but it takes someone special to work with “x” population. The flip side is I don’t feel worth working with the lucrative and more stable patients.

I wished I’d know more to help my own mental health issues earlier on, as well.

Next set of questions was what is the best & worst part of your job?

The best thing about the job? How much just “being there” for someone helps. It is so humbling to know that my presence and listening mean so much to someone else. That just listening can help them through a hard time. Decades of study mean less than just being there.

It helps my depressed side realize that I am good enough to make a difference. The schooling is just the icing on the cake. Small doses of “me” make a big difference. Larger chunks drive folks insane though lol.

The worst part is always seeing people in dark times. When they get better and live life more fully, they leave therapy.

The worst thing about the job is when someone I don’t expect to die does; one I’ve let myself really deeply care about.

That’s all the questions I got to, and any more sharing seems like a burden to this post. So I’ll share this offering from a professional.

Did you like this series? Did you like this post? Let me know by liking or commenting!

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Mental Health Mondays: The “Eat Healthy, Be Healthy” Movement

Welp, this one will be interesting.

Yes, that was my intro. Yes, I feel that way about what I’m going to be diving into this week. No, I have no idea what I’m getting myself into. Yes, I’ll survive it.

I will be upfront on this topic: I’m still rocking the seesaw on this topic. I’ll share it as I go along, so it’s palatable.

A lot in the self help community say “you are what you eat”, like the health community. It’s the same mentality of “You are who you surround yourself with”, which that phrase in and of itself, I totally get and can get with.

Let’s dive into this “mentality” of “be healthy, think healthy” movement.

Go on this new fad diet:

Well if that’s not a yo-yo effect, I don’t know what is! Fad diets not only send your physical health into a literal yo-yo, but also your mental health. Your brain is no less an organ than your stomach, liver, kidney, or skin! She (or he…I won’t tell you how you identify your brain here) is as delicate, and needs the same attention as the rest of your body.

Fad diets are the worst! Dietitians and scientists alike have commented about this issue. See here, here, here, and here  for some basic references. Want more? Let Me know!

Fad diets are notoriously known for their yo-yo like tendencies. Why? Most don’t look out for long term sustainability. Sure they can last for a decent while, but once you’re fatigued from it, get bored of it, or once you start noticing not so much of a difference as you used to, the hype will wear off. And that’s it: the hype!

Sure, if you’re already in decent health, and want to try something new to make life interesting, then go for it. Even if you’re in a space where you’re happy with your health, regardless of BMI, pound/KG weight, or whatever go for it!

Yet if you’re in for the fitness or weightloss or “I want to not be anymore than I am, with usual factors” issue, these types of diets usually don’t work.

I’ll reference this a lot, but I should start now by saying: everything in moderation!

Try the not so fad diet:

Thought your regime was not under scrutiny? Okay babe. Let’s try again. The problems of things like Keto (positive), Veganism, and even Vegetarianism. Those are the most prominent lately, but Vegan/Vegetarianism has been a thing for over 10 years now (I’d know….2008 I did the whole vegetarianism thing).

Personally, everyone is different, and being in tune with what your body needs, craves (which is a sign of something in that food that your body needs…and I’m not supporting the 3 slices of cake here!), and how you feel afterwards.

In all these “diets”, I’m not dogging on any of these specifically, but my issue is the term diet. Diets allow you to fall off the bandwagon, and “allow for no wiggle room”, hence why people fall off.

Your food intake is just as much apart of your lifestyle as setting your alarm for work or checking your texts too much. Also, how your taste buds, digestive track, and the rest of your body feels, helps what your brain does.

Believe it or not, your brain is like any other organ in your body. With that, what goes in, comes out. It’ll be a struggle to find balance on what your body needs and likes. It’ll be a struggle to keep with it too, and that’s okay! We have the rest of our lives to work with.

Since I love cooking, and am sharing my food journey, would more meals targeting better mental health, but reasonable priced and tastes decent, be of interest? I’ll run a https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fstoryofamillennial%2Fposts%2F242493689945315&width=500” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>poll on my Facebook page for this, so go vote!

What has helped you in the eating/cooking/food realm in regards to your mental health? I’d love to know that too! Comment about it, since I’d love to know, and maybe you could help someone else who is on a similar path!

 

Mental Health Mondays: Conversations Gone Awry

We’ve heard it time and time again: “Talk to me when you need to talk” “I’m here for you”. The worst one? “We need to work on the conversation of mental health and people should reach out when they need it”.

Yes, we do need a reformation of how our mental states effect us. Yes, we need to know who we can go to, when our brains won’t let us just do things. The problem? When our brains are in that state of haywire and out of wack.

As someone who has struggled with metal health issues, for awhile now, it isn’t so easy to allow yourself to reach out to a family member, a friend, mentor, or even a therapist. Our mind tells us “It’s not a good time, it’s 1:39 and I can’t sleep. I know my closest friend said to message her, but she has work in the morning. I’ll just go make a strong drink and hope it allows me to sleep for a bit.”

Sound at least somewhat familiar? You’re not alone.

An issue that I personally have with the conversation (or lack there of, in a way), is that in the western world, we idolize celeberties so much, and the only time the conversation comes up, is when someone dies of mental health problems. Regardless of how they kill themselves, it’s not just a fame and fortune issue.

In China, they have large nets connected to the buildings, for people working at certain companies. The most notable ones are the Apple plant, and the worry about those working for the same mother company, but work on Sony and Microsoft products.

Speaking of which, the Apple Keynote event is tomorrow (updated to watch the event, from Apple.com). I’ll be watching, for curiosity really.

Another issue I see, when it comes to the conversation over mental health, is why we not only talk about when a celebrity dies, but when there’s a mass casualty. Not just when you think about China’s issue, but also in the west. Mass shootings, such as Las Vegas, Pulse Nightclub, to van/car run-overs such as in London and Toronto, is what I’m talking about.

I’m not going into the gun debate here, since that’s not what I’m focused on here. But the talk about mental health behind the perpetrator is what I want to focus on. We talk about how it relates to gun ownership, which is important, but what about operating a car? Even what the person’s mental health is like in terms of how they were interacted with people prior, to intelligence and learning capability, among other things.

So how do we fix it? Well, just saying “come talk to me, when you need it” doesn’t always work. Sure some people can bring themselves to open up, and that’s phenomenal, truly. But for us that like to bottle it up, because we don’t want to feel like a burden, feel guilty for feeling and thinking such a way, or don’t feel comfortable to talk to people about our head space? What do we do for them?

Sure, there’s online and text counseling, but that adds issue with how health insurance covers counseling and medication, and cost to the person, let alone some people just can’t get comfortable with counseling/talk therapy at all.

How do we help cope with our brains? One thing’s for sure: we could study and learn more about the brain itself, and what each mental health issue does, to a span of people. That sounds great, and in theory, would be great. But that takes people away from their jobs and personal life, and only a fraction of people would probably be willing to subject themselves to these studies.

In an odd way of looking at it, the things we do with technology (remember me mentioning Apple), we need to do with, or in regards to, the mental health issue and conversation. We love innovating and seeing new things, and creating, even learning.

Why did we leave behind the mental health field behind? We’ve made innovative measures in medicine, technology, food, and transportation, to name a few.

My question to all of you is: What can we do to be more innovative on mental health? How do we make a strong conversation to push the mental health issues we have today?

How can I help? Share with me your answers in the comments, I’d love to know.

Mental Health Monday: September Series Starter

September is not just my birth month, it’s also mental health awareness month. I will be sharing some tidbits each Monday this month, a little different each week. The conversation around mental health is still very touchy and vague, and the only time we still talk about mental health is when someone famous dies.

Not even when a family member dies from mental health, or had mental health issues, but when someone who we don’t really know dies, and how sad is that? I want to help change that. I know I’m only one person, but I believe in the butterfly effect, and if I connect with one person, one time, positively, I’ve done my job.

I was thinking, the best way to get into this mini-series about mental health was to share my personal struggles with mental health. Not to boast, or sound mopey, but to share that even I, someone you may only know through a screen (whether it’s your phone, tablet, or computer), deals with mental illness.

To get started, let’s take a journey into my childhood a bit. I am a statistic, a child of divorce. I was young enough when it happened, that I don’t really recall a life with both parents in the home. I was raised by my mom, and we moved from where I was born, PA, to California, near her side of the family, a few years after the formal divorce ended. This is where I feel some of who I am started.

2,600 miles does a lot to anyone, especially a child who is forming friendships and who they are. Looking back, moving is where I noticed I was more introverted, and didn’t handle meeting new people that well. I managed like any usual kid would, but felt outcasted, and would continue that way through my education. How much I let it bug me, is what would change.

Social anxiety and depression started their way into my life from there, up until recently. Regular anxiety didn’t really happen for me until about middle school, where I started having panic attacks and had some trouble getting to sleep.

At this time in my life, my dad was more in my life, and at 16 I moved back to PA, to live with him, and the step family that he had created a few years prior. This is where the depression became more of a thing in my life.

Since my father is a psychologist, he saw the signs and wanted me to seek counseling, and even see if medication would help. The first time that I took an anti-anxiety pill, I passed out for like 10 or 11 hours. That was the first time I had slept easy in years.

I couldn’t put it into words then, but now, I can see a slight tendency to addictive personality. Grant it, you’re never supposed to self-diagnose, but hey, young and stupid makes you old and wise, right?!

From there, I noticed that the anti-depressant medication wasn’t working for me, and so I at some point stopped taking it. I didn’t want to really be the one to rely on medication, and if the anti-anxiety was working but the anti-depressant wasn’t, that was a sign.

Now, I’ve been living “on my own” for roughly 5 years, and stopped the anti-anxiety medication around the same time. There are definitely days where I wish I had it, because it does help, when you’re jittery and anxious and no self-coping mechanism is working.

I will say that taking the medication mid full blown panic attack doesn’t exactly help, since you’re already in the midst of it, but it helps on the days where you feel it, and can’t get it to calm down.

I actually had one of those days last week, for a few days. It started while folding laundry, and it took everything I had in me to breathe through it and focus on folding my laundry and getting home (our apartment doesn’t have laundry services on site). That was the worst amount of anxiety I’ve had in good while.

For me, now, other than missing the medication for days like I had last week, my mental health has gotten better for the most part. I’m still fighting with being my own worst critic and nit-picking with my own flaws, but correcting myself, and even if it’s a true flaw that needs worked on, I try to make a comment to myself of something good I’ve done lately, or something overall that is good about me.

Yes, working on your thought patterns is a do-able thing. No it will not cure you. It will help you, and help you to be less hard on yourself in the midst of a breakdown of any size.

The spoon theory is also one of my older-time favorite things to remind myself of. The theory focuses on physical health and illness, but your mental state can cripple what you can do physically. Not only do you have physical spoons each day, but you also have mental spoons. You can only pick up so much with each one, and you can only have so many, until you have to set them down and wash them, to be able to use them again.

I’ve never really had too bad of mental illness, but it’s there, for sure.So yes, even a shrink’s kid suffers from mental illness.

Do you want to know how I cope when my head tries to get in the way? Let me know in the comments, please!