Uncategorized

20 Ways We Might Self-Harm Without Realizing It’s Self-Harm

Trigger warning: self-harm, substance abuse, sexual abuse, eating disorders

  1. Oversleeping or sleep deprivation
  2. Making yourself too hot or cold (knowingly wearing inappropriate clothes, refusing to get a blanket for bed)
  3. Not eating/overeating
  4. Dehydrating yourself
  5. Scratching
  6. Picking at dry skin, breakouts, nails
  7. Substance abuse
  8. Letting people in your life be abusive (in any form)
  9. Over or under-exercising
  10. Working too much or too little (too little to maintain your lifestyle, too much to the point of exhaustion)
  11. Having sex when you don’t really want to, or know you’ll regret it
  12. Punishing yourself
  13. Letting your brain voice be mean to you
  14. Pinching, bruising, or cutting yourself
  15. Holding in your emotions like a pressure cooker
  16. Diminishing your trauma by telling yourself someone else has it worse than you
  17. Not bathing, brushing your teeth
  18. Not taking your medications that you should be
  19. Being mean to those who care for you/pushing loved ones away (leaving you feeling lonely)
  20. Refusing to do the activities that make you feel better (I know it’s hard, but just start with 1 thing)

I made this relatively short list to help others acknowledge their own harmful tendencies. Many of the harmful activities on this list are what I have done to myself without realizing it was self-harm, which is especially dangerous when it is invisible to the loved-ones who call us out when it is needed.

Photo by Lydia Bond on Pexels.com

Take care of yourselves, lovelies. You all deserve to be happy and healthy.

-Lacey

mental health

Mood Fluctuations and Phase Shifts in Bipolar Disorder

Trigger warning: depression, mania, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal ideation

In my life, I am fairly open about my manic depression. My loved ones tend to keep an eye out for signs of a manic or depressive episode, which I really appreciate. However, sometimes I can’t express routine mood fluctuations such as excitement or disappointment without someone wondering if I need to be heavily monitored or checked on repeatedly. Let me repeat, I really do appreciate the support of those who take action when they have concerns. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes with mental illness, the slope of excitement to mania is a slippery one and feeling any type of extreme emotion can trigger a (hypo)manic or depressive episode.

I’d like to break down some of the ways that people who have loved ones with bipolar disorder might be able to differentiate these nuances in behavior. I truly believe as a person who suffers from manic depression and who has suicidal ideations, the over-monitoring is beneficial to me because I am a point in my disease where I consider myself unstable. However, many people with this mental illness are at a place where they find themselves to be stable and feel safe within the realm of routine mood fluctuations – they may not want to be watched over so closely as it is exhausting work to get yourself to a good place. Having someone there to check in can be comforting, but it can also be ostracizing because it feels like no one else has to have someone play this role. The best way to help a loved one is to listen. Please keep in mind that everyone experiences BP differently, and these are cases that I have experienced personally. In fact, most people with a bipolar diagnosis do not experience rapid phase cycling in the same way that I do (rapid phase cycling is more common in women and children, particularly with bipolar II), and these cycles can be transient (2).

Excited versus Manic

  1. Hypomania typically lasts 4+ days (mania typically lasts 7+ days), so if I seem overly excitatory for longer periods of time, then it is appropriate for loved ones to start asking questions and checking in more frequently. If I receive good news and I am excited for the rest of the day, and present no signs of recklessness, I am just excited like any neuro-typical person when they receive good news. Excitement may include: irritability, anger, paranoia, and joy.
  2. Manic episodes tend to be presented as excess. What I mean by this is, my friends were never concerned if I had a couple of alcoholic drinks before my diagnosis, nor were they concerned if I had 6 of them. Now that I have received a diagnosis, if I have a single drink there is immediate concern and pressing questions. People who struggle with manic depression do fall more easily to addictive behaviors – I have abused alcohol in the past. What I want people to know is: please only be concerned that I am having an episode if you see me indulge in more than 2 drinks in one sitting and this amount will vary from person to person. This behavior also involves other types of substance abuse and acts of a sexual nature, for those who are wondering what to look for in their own friends and family with mental illnesses. Keep an eye out for self-indulgence and self-sabotaging behaviors.
  3. Similar to the excessive tendencies that I am known to display when manic described above, I also have a marked increase in confidence (which plummets during a depressive episode). I have racing thoughts, all of which I thoroughly believe are fantastic ideas that I need to carry out immediately. I’ll often make a bold statement about what I need to do, whether someone will join me or not – imagine; me insisting my friends help me spray paint the building on campus that stood for patriarchy (what campus takes donations from a man who is forced to retire because of sexual assault and harassment cases against his female employees???) and having no idea why no one else thinks the idea is fantastic.

Sad versus Depressed

  1. One of the ways my psychologist determined I had bipolar disorder II, as opposed to bipolar disorder I, was the duration of my hypomanic episodes (around 4-5 days) and the severity and longevity of my depressive episodes (usually at least 2 weeks at a time). With both of these disorders, the phase shift between mania and depression is important. For example, if I am in a manic or hypomanic state for a few days and suddenly begin sleeping for excessive amounts of time or cannot get out bed (or any subset of depression symptoms) suddenly, I have likely experienced a phase shift and am entering a depressive state. However, if I receive some bad news or am just having a rough day (maybe I overslept or maybe traffic was awful), I am allowed to experience sadness as any other human would. Before questioning your loved one, consider the circumstances and try to imagine how you might be feeling in the same situation. My neuro-typical partner is just as easily frustrated by traffic as I am, so seeing my repeated eye-rolls and heavy sighs is not a sign for him to be particularly watchful over me no matter how irritable I may get.
  2. Similar to the examples above for mania, assess the risk-associated behaviors, the length of time that symptoms of possible depression are occurring, and see if these symptoms are in excess. Oversleeping one day before work is not a sign that I am experiencing major depression; sleeping for 14 hours several days in a row is a sign that I am experiencing major depression and I would appreciate it if someone reaches out.

Remind your friend or family member that episodes of sadness can become episodes of depression, and that you are only asking because you care. Sometimes I don’t want to acknowledge that the sadness I experienced when learning my grandfather has lung cancer triggered a depressive episode. It became obvious that I phase-shifted when I lost the desire to do anything pleasurable, stopped taking care of myself (bathing regularly, washing my clothes, exercise), and began experiencing more frequent suicidal ideation. I knew it was a trigger, but I didn’t want people to dismiss my genuine sadness over the situation as “just another depressive episode.”

Another confusing aspect of dealing with bipolar disorder (from the first person point of view or as a loved one) is the existence of mixed episodes – now called mixed features according to DSM-5 (1). The most basic explanation of this term is that it is used to describe to either a manic episode with depressive features, or vice versa. To me, mixed features are typically noticeable by my level of anxiety. I have much higher anxiety during bouts of mixed features than I do otherwise. When I am manic, I feel indestructible and care-free. When I am depressed, I feel numb and empty. When I am experiencing mixed features, I am usually hypomanic with simultaneous anxiety due to my desire to essentially go out and be reckless but incapable of feeling pleasure from doing so or being unable to do anything at all. I also am most likely to dissociate during a mixed feature.

Whew, self-awareness is exhausting.

You can help by just taking the time to listen to someone who has mental health struggles, but if there is someone you are close to, buy them a pack of cool pens and a workbook appropriate to their diagnosis – I have a CBT/DBT Bipolar II workbook. It is likely that the workbook will include a list of symptoms to look out for, and my book in particular has a section where I filled out what my triggers are, what early warning signs of a manic or depressive episode look like for me specifically, and general behaviors that I should look out for. If the person you are concerned about is comfortable enough, they can share some of these pages with you (I shared with my partner because sometimes I like to ignore these triggers and early warning signs).

It is common that changes in a person’s schedule, particularly sleep, or stressful life events can trigger a phase shift.

While the above examples work for MY illness, they aren’t universal to everyone with bipolar disorder. The biggest tell that someone is in crisis or unstable is a change in behavior, especially radical or sudden changes. If you suspect that someone is in crisis or suicidal, my personal belief is to reach out – even if you have to explain your concern at the risk of frustrating your loved one, it is always better to be there when you aren’t needed than to not be there when you are needed.

If anyone would like to reach out with further questions, I can be found at:

References:

  1. American Psychiatric Association
  2. Very Well Mind
mental health

A collection of phrases that I find relatable and/or comforting….

Mature language warning

If someone makes you happy, make them happier.

You are not a burden.

You’re not the exception to recovery – give yourself time.

My anger is a signal; it is time to talk to myself and relax.

The only thing I can control is myself and how I express myself.

Self-care tip: Pretend you’re a demon inhabiting a human’s body and you must look after it, treat it well, because humans are weak and you must protect your host.

All situations are temporary, and you’ve survived the most difficult moments of your past.

It is okay to pretend to be fine – put that placebo effect to work for yourself.

Always strive to find the balance between: I can’t let this illness ruin my life and I have to listen to my body and rest.

If you can’t handle me at my worst, remember that I can handle me at my worst which makes me stronger than you.

Get some fucking sunlight.

It is more important to feel okay than say you are okay, but both are acceptable.

If you feel shitty about yourself, genuinely compliment 3 people without doing any self-deprecation.

If you’re ever scared that you’re a bad person, remember that bad people don’t care about getting better. Keep striving to be good.

Drop that tension in your body. You heard me: let your shoulders drop, unclench your hands and jaw, deep breaths friends.

When you feel incapable of performing a self-care task for yourself, do it for a friend: write them a card, buy them a candle, send them a sweet text. And then maybe find the motivation to do it for yourself too.

Romanticize your own life. Your morning commute is cute and fun. Every cup of coffee is the best one yet. You are charming and beautiful.

All found on Pinterest and Tumblr

mental health

The Bipolar Miracle Drug? Let’s talk: Latuda; Part 1

I am currently on day 5 of what my psychiatrist calls, “the bipolar miracle drug.” I have plenty to say on that statement, but I’ll get to that at the end. Let’s have a casual discussion about this drug.

I’m going to ride the wave of contentedness until it breaks.

Latuda is a drug that is intended to treat children, teens, and adults with bipolar depression. I have bipolar disorder type II, or manic depression. First impression: it is expensive. I have insurance and the copay was expensive. I’ve never paid more than a few dollars for my antidepressants with my insurance and Latuda cost me an unexpected $150 for the month. My psychiatrist recommended that I take my 20mg dose with dinner and a ginger capsule to help with possible nausea – I forgot the ginger capsules and have been fine without them. The day after my first dose, I was struggling to hold my eyes open, yet constantly fidgeting. I was shaky and light headed and very, very, hot. I was so scared the miracle drug wouldn’t work for me.  The list of possible side effects is quite long and intimidating, like all of the medications one might prescribed for any mental illness.

Now, I am under the impression that it may be what I needed. I haven’t had any other side effects since then, although we are going to be monitoring my weight for any major changes (Zoloft gave me an extra 40 pounds of love), and I’ll be tapering off my current antidepressant which is an SSRI. The consensus is that it may take 3-4 weeks to see how Latuda will really work for an individual. However, I’ve remained more stable over the last few days than I have in months. My usual mood swings have been fewer and I’ve yet to fall into a major depressive episode. I also have had very limited suicidal ideations, though I have experienced frequent dissociations – nothing new.

“the bipolar miracle drug…”

 Analyses have found little evidence that antidepressants are an effective treatment plan for those with bipolar depression (partially due to effectiveness, partially due to side effects). It is less controversial to use antidepressants in combination with mood stabilizers to treat bipolar depression.

I’ve mentioned I have a background in biology…. I had to know how this drug worked on a physiological level. The active ingredient in Latuda is lurasidone, an atypical antipsychotic. Lurasidone, like most active agents in psychiatric drugs, work by interacting with neurotransmitters (the chemicals in our brains that make us feel). Lurasidone is supposed to block the receptors for dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. Dopamine and serotonin are thought to be unbalanced in those of us with bipolar depression, so lurasidone eases the symptoms of the disorder by limiting the activity of those neurotransmitters… allegedly. While there is a scientific basis for these claims (substantial clinical trails), the full mechanism of how drugs like lurasidone actually work is not known. Not only that, but there is limited knowledge of why someone might experience bipolar depression (no one knows the exact balance of neurotransmitters appropriate in the various areas of the brain to use as a diagnostic).

I don’t know if I feel better because of the drug already (not likely), or the placebo effect because the psychiatrist gave me a glimpse of hope. Either way, I’m going to ride the wave of contentedness until it breaks. I have mixed feelings about my doctor telling me that Latuda is a miracle drug for those suffering from bipolar disorder. In my opinion, it is unethical. I was at such a low point and I was given a glimpse of hope, and if this medication does not work I will likely hit an even lower point. I would have preferred a more neutral stance on the medication. I appreciate her enthusiasm about my treatment, but to call this drug a “miracle,” without even knowing the scientific mechanism behind it’s active ingredient is a bit egregious. On the contrary, the placebo effect is HUGE when it comes to this genre of drugs, as well as many other medication classes. Since she told me how wonderful the drug is as a professional who has used this drug with patients before me successfully, I believed her and she seemed to thoroughly believe it herself. Here I sit, feeling way more okay than I have been the last few months, wondering if the drug is really working for me or if I’m convinced that the drug is really working and so therefore I must feel better. Either way, I appreciate the few days of relief that I have been given and will update you all on my Latuda experience in a month or two.

Happy Monday! Reach out to me! Email, subscribe, comment, follow; I’d love to hear from you.

mental health

Where Do I Find Support that is Always Available?

This header may sound too good to be true, right? Wrong! And do not worry, it is not one of the e-therapists that you have to pay for (not to dismiss them, I love that these apps make therapy more widely available!).

I find support in many forms, my boyfriend, my best friends, my therapist, pole fitness, but the one supporter that is always ready and willing, excited even, is my dog.

Meet Ace, my emotional support pupper. For those who don’t know, I have bipolar disorder type II (manic depression), as well as anxiety and PTSD. Ace is extremely responsive to my mood fluctuations and is quick to respond. I have other fur-babies at home, another dog and two cats, who do not care whatsoever when I am in distress. Ace was a rescue and he is just as needy as I am. He has anxiety as well, and since he responds to my moods, my fluctuations alert him as a sign of distress which causes him anxiety (sorry little guy!) and he comes to comfort me (and also have that comfort returned).

I’ll go ahead and take a pause here to mention something that is extremely important: an emotional support animal is NOT the same as a service animal. Misusing these terms interchangeably is damaging to the disabled community who rely on their service animals. If you have an animal who falls into one of these categories, I suggest you keep the documentation on your person when bringing your animal along. There are limitations on where an emotional support animal may go with you compared to where a service animal may go with you – it all comes down to what qualifies an animal as a service dog (which includes rigorous training).

With that being said, Ace has been providing me with emotional support since before I knew what an emotional support animal was. I know that if I am at home, especially alone, or traveling (he goes with me if I travel by car), he will keep me calm and bring me comfort because that is his nature.

I love all my babies very much, but I do have a special bond with Ace because he is so responsive to my emotional needs. If I start to panic and my heart rate elevates, or my breathing grows heavy, or even if I begin to cry, he is immediately at my feet or in my arms checking on me. He is able to bring me back when I dissociate and he is a fantastic cuddle-buddy.

I just had to write a special little appreciation post for him, little devil.

mental health

An Ode to Lost Coping Mechanisms

Having manic depression means that most of the time, I don’t get to enjoy doing anything. I still sometimes make the effort to do the activities that should, or used to, bring me pleasure. Sometimes, it even works.

I have always loved art. I like to paint, to draw, to collage. I’m always looking for a creative outlet. Before I was medicated, before I was even diagnosed, if I was feeling down, I would doodle or put some watercolor onto a page. Or, during a manic episode, I would create full force, with intention and speed. I’d be up at 2 am ripping up old magazines and back at it by 6 am, collecting items from the world around me.

A collage for my 3D Design course as an undergrad (2018). Inspired by Pan’s Labyrinth and writings by Nikita Gill.

I haven’t been able to do any making for too long now…. I was convinced that art was my healthy coping mechanism of choice, but now, I find it impossible. I yearn to collage, I miss it dearly.

The motivation is there:

  • I love the process.
  • It brings me joy.
  • It distracts me from whatever demons I’m having to fight that day.
  • The final piece adds some value to my space.
  • It has always been my go-to feel-good activity.

But if I try to start, I freeze up. I have no idea where to even begin, something I discussed with my therapist. She told me not to think about it, just start gathering supplies (something that has worked for me when I’ve experienced artists’ block in the past), so I did. I now have random magazine clippings that I don’t recall what significance or relevance to me that they have, collecting dust on my end table. It feels like my heart stops when I try to do something I find pleasure in. My body has an adverse reaction, making the activity unappealing or impossible, gives me a sense of guilt, and leaves me incapacitated. So what now? How to do I start doing collages again? What is the next coping mechanism that can help when I’m having a manic or depressive episode? I guess that is TBA.

Part of me blames my medication. I rarely have manic episodes anymore, but I’m almost always in a deep depression these days. Is my medication inhibiting the mania that used to drive my art (but also my substance abuse and reckless behavior)? Am I only blaming my medication because part of me feels lost without that aspect of my personality – I don’t want my mental illness to define me, but it certainly plays a large role in who I am and I am okay with that. I’m feeling a little lost right now, like I’ve just been impersonating someone else my entire life – sweet, sweet dissociation. Who am I? What do I enjoy?

This post isn’t one that comes with a happy ending; it is an honest account of my emotions this season. And these thoughts are where it ends.

Uncategorized

Ambrosia and Care — Shamelessly Self-Promoting

Hello and welcome back to Lacey Talks! I’ve gotten some questions about my work with AmbrosiaAndCare, so I thought I’d discuss and promote myself a little bit.

AmbrosiaAndCare is an etsy shop I opened early this year. I’ve known the art of candle making since my preteens, but finally decided to jump in full force and start making them to sell with an aromatherapy line. Part of my decision was selfish… but I’ll get to that later. AmbrosiaAndCare was born with the idea that people need safe options. Large candle companies are known to use low quality ingredients, harmful paraffin waxes, and wicks with contaminants. At AmbrosiaAndCare, I am using fragrance oils born from essential oil blends which are phlalate-free, organic hemp wicks coated in sustainably harvested bee’s wax, and a soy wax blend which is paraffin-free. I create each candle with the intention of love and healing of myself and whoever ends up burning it as well. The fragrance blends are each aimed at different moods or intentions (I’ll post my descriptions below).

The selfish aspect of my candle company is that I am healing from it, and will hopefully, eventually make some sort of profit. The shop was molded from a personal hobby of mine, a self-care act of both creating and burning candles. But hey, I am firm believer that self-care isn’t selfish, so why not share my creations along the way?

Although AmbrosiaAndCare is only selling candles at the moment, I will soon be sending out “self-care boxes,” with candles, handcrafted bath teas and salts, art pieces, and more with some delightful packaging. I do currently have art available for sale, though it is not posted on the site currently – I usually take custom orders that people seek out.

You can see photos and descriptions below, and check out my site at:

www.AmbrosiaAndCare.com

@AmbrosiaAndCare on IG

AmbrosiaAndCare on Facebook Page

#Treatyoself

As always, contact me with any questions or comments!