Mental Health: Stigma, Misconceptions, and Research

Picture taken from Pixabay

I started mental health treatment in 2020, and it has been a very interesting journey. I began therapy for my depression and was quickly diagnosed with major depressive disorder, however, I was soon also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder after spending some time in treatment (I go into a bit more detail about my my experience with receiving the diagnosis and what borderline personality disorder is in a previous post). My first time hearing about BPD was when I joined the blogging community, but when I received my diagnosis, I still didn’t know much about the condition. I decided to do a little research on it and learned a lot. Some of the information was useful and interesting, others not so much. 

One interesting fact I learned is that BPD and bipolar disorder are similar in some ways. In fact, sometimes a person with BPD might be misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and vice versa. One similarity between BPD and bipolar disorder is that people with the condition have a lot of mood swings, sometimes severe mood swings. I’m sure a lot of people have heard statements like “she/he is so bipolar today” before. That of course is a huge misconception that many people have of bipolar disorder. I can’t speak for people with the condition, because I don’t have it, but I do know that people with bipolar disorder don’t flip from being happy to being angry or sad in matter of seconds.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by swings between extreme highs and lows. The moments of extreme highs are called manic episodes and the moments of extreme lows are depressive episodes. In order for a person to be diagnosed with with bipolar disorder, they need to have experienced at least one manic episode, and the episode needs to have lasted at least a week. A depressive episode needs to have lasted at least two weeks. There is also bipolar disorder with mixed episodes (when a depressive episode and a manic episode occur at the same time) and bipolar disorder with rapid cycling (when a person has four or more manic episodes in a year), but these forms of bipolar disorder are also very different from how the general public understands the condition. Changes in mood happen much more swiftly with BPD. A person with BPD can switch from being stable to being completely sad to happy within hours. This is due to the fact that BPD mood swings tend to be influenced by events more than bipolar mood swings are. Bipolar mood swings can happen suddenly with seemingly no trigger. With all this in mind, it would probably be more accurate to say “that person is so Borderline right now”, although it would, of course, still be very wrong to say this too. There are a number of symptoms a person has to be showing before a diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be made, and the same goes for borderline personality disorder. Also, throwing the name of a diagnosis around and making statements such as “I’m so bipolar right now” minimizes the experiences of people who really have the condition.

Another important piece of information I found during my research on borderline personality disorder is that the condition is very stigmatized, even amongst mental health professionals. When it comes to BPD, I think many people fit into two categories: they either don’t know about the condition, or they do and have negative views on it. Although, thanks to the recent Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial, it is very likely that a lot of people who didn’t know about borderline personality disorder know about it now. The mention of BPD during the trial definitely did not help with the stigma associated with the disorder, only seeming to reinforce the idea that people with BPD are manipulative and should be avoided. In the past, even some mental health professionals would try to avoid people with BPD, considering them too difficult to work with. I even came across a recent article warning people about getting into a relationship with someone who has BPD.

The truth is that mental illness and a borderline personality diagnosis does not equal abusive or vice versa. If a person does happen to have BPD or any other mental illness and is also abusive, their mental illness is not an excuse for abusive behavior. An abusive person is just that: an abusive person. Also, a person with BPD is not a hopeless case. There is a particular type of therapy treatment just for people with the disorder called Dialectal Behavioral Therapy. With treatment and support, a person with BPD can develop the skills they need to live productive lives. 

All in all, one big take away from my research on borderline personality disorder is that views on mental illness are still pretty warped. We’re much more open to discussing mental illness now, however, there is still a lot of misconceptions and stigma around. 

Depression and Anxiety: The Start of a Recovery Journey

Hi everyone! 

For those who might not know, May is mental awareness health month! It just so happens that I’ve been working on taking care of my mental health during the month, which is why I’ve been a little inactive lately. I’ve recently met an awesome mental health blogger, Chaz from Mental Health 360! She kindly offered to let me write a guest post for her blog, which is about my struggles with my mental health! I’ve been sharing a little about my mental health struggles on my blog, and this latest post gives a more in depth look at my journey over the years! Click here to give the post a read! While you’re there, take a look around Caz’s blog! She’s a retired mental health professional, so you will find a lot of wonderful resources there! You can learn a lot from her blog! 

Remember that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Take care of each other and yourselves.

Until next time,

– Charli

Mental Health 2: Meeting my Mental Health Specialists

Around the end of January, I mentioned in a recent post that I visited a mental health clinic. I was given an appointment to see a psychologist  and psychiatrist two weeks after my walk-in visit. For those who don’t know, a psychologist specializes in counseling and therapy. A psychiatrist focuses on treating mental illnesses mainly through medication. When I met with my therapist, she asked more questions to learn a little bit more about me, why I was seeking counseling, and what I wanted to get out of counseling. She was so understanding, and talked with me about the type of therapy I would be receiving and how it can help me. 

That same week, I also met with my psychiatrist. She asked questions as well, and patiently talked with me about treatment options (whether or not to take medication, types of medications she recommended, etc). Both my therapist and psychiatrist immediately diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder. I was very nervous at the start of the visits, as I have never received treatment for a mental illness before, but my therapist and psychiatrist made me feel extremely comfortable. I even cried more like during my first visit to the clinic. After talking with them, I finally realized how overdo these visits were. I feel like I’m finally taking control.

If you feel that you also need help with your mental health, please reach out for assistance. You might be happy you did. Right now, the world is going through a pandemic, and many people are in isolation. Now, more than ever, might be a time to really take care of your mental health. Getting in touch with your general doctor might be a good place to start. It might not be possible for you to make trips to see a mental health specialist at the moment, but you might be able to have sessions over the phone or online. Your general doctor might be able to help connect you with services. If you ever need immediate help, please call the suicide prevention hotline if there is one available where you live. In the U.S., where I live, the number for the hotline is 1-(800) 273-8255. They might even be able to help you with getting regular counseling. 

Thanks for visiting, and let’s get through our challenges with mental illness together. Checkout the links below for more information on how to deal with mental illness:

Finding Help:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration National Helpline: 

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Dealing with Coronavirus related stress:

  • National Institute of Mental Health:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/messages/2020/coping-with-coronavirus-managing-stress-fear-and-anxiety.shtml

– National Alliance on Mental Illness:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/messages/2020/coping-with-coronavirus-managing-stress-fear-and-anxiety.shtml

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

My Complicated Relationship with Social Media

Picture taken from Pixabay

My first social media account was a MySpace account. I hesitated creating one at first, because of all the horror stories I had heard about social media. Curiosity eventually got the best of me though, and I finally made my first social media account. I immediately started searching for the accounts of everyone I knew, family current friends, old friends, old teachers, you name it. If the person had a MySpace page, I found it. It didn’t take long for me to become addicted, and soon interacting with people I knew only wasn’t enough for me. In fact, there was very little interaction between me and my friends on MySpace, especially since I didn’t need social media to interact with a good amount of them. I eventually decided to broaden my horizons. I start accepting friend requests from people I didn’t know, and I enjoyed the extra attention I started getting once I did. I felt excitement build up every time I saw a new notification.

MySpace started to take up a lot of my time. Every time I went out I had to make sure to take at least one good photo to post on MySpace. When I switched to Facebook there wasn’t much change, except for my privacy settings. I decided to only interact with people I knew. Getting a flood of notifications was important to me, so I started putting up posts on Facebook that would probably help me get some attention, and started to feel a little bitter whenever I wasn’t receiving any. I was always wondering why people wouldn’t respond to my comments or messages, and why my pics or status updates weren’t getting enough likes. Some self reflection forced me to eventually realize that I was building an unhealthy relationship with social media. I felt like I was turning into a different person, and I didn’t like who I was becoming. To fix my problem, I made the decision to temporarily disable my Facebook account, and I was happy I did. I felt instant relief, and was able to focus on all the things in my life that mattered most.

Social media has obvious pros. However, from time being wasted through scrolling to cyber bullying to the pressure to build a large following and gain a lot of likes, the obvious cons of social media are hard to ignore. There has been an effort to deal with some of those cons by some social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Facebook and Instagram added new features that help users manage their screen time on the platforms. Instagram also started hiding likes in some countries. Users are able to see the amount of likes their own content has received, but not the amount likes on the content of other users. This has been distressing to some Instagram influencers, but I believe the feature might be a step in the right direction.

After some time off of social media, I created numerous accounts this year to help promote my blog. My interactions on these accounts remind me of my days on MySpace and why I enjoyed the experience. However, I realize now the importance of protecting my time and mental health. I love spending time on social media, but I don’t want to miss out on what’s going on around me IRL.

Turner Syndrome and My Mental Health: A Second Helping

In a previous post, I mentioned that I have a condition called Turner Syndrome. For those unfamiliar with the condition, it is a genetic disorder when a girl is born with one of her X chromosomes partially or fully missing (boys generally have an x and y chromosome, while girls generally have two X chromosomes). 

The biggest issues with Turner Syndrome is that many girls with the condition are generally infertile, and can’t go through puberty on their own. They usually need hormone replacements. Turner Syndrome can lead to a host of other complications as well. Those complications can include problems with the heart, kidneys, bones, and thyroid gland. Complications vary from girl to girl. Each girl’s experience with the condition varies, and their symptoms can range from mild to severe. 

Girls with Turner syndrome can be diagnosed at any stage in life (before birth, at birth, during infancy, during their teenage, or during their adult years). Generally, the more severe the symptoms, the earlier a girl with Turner syndrome will be diagnosed. Most fetuses with the condition actually have symptoms that are so severe they never make it to term. Turner syndrome is a rare disorder that occurs in around 1 in 2,000 to 2,500 live female births. Around 99 of pregnancies where the fetus has Turner syndrome end in miscarriage.

I suppose that makes me a bit of a miracle baby, or so I like to think at times. I struggled with low self esteem growing up. I always saw nothing but my flaws, and the bullying and I went through during my time in school didn’t help. There was also the fact that I had disabilities and was very dependent on my family. I felt like a burden to them. No matter how hard I tried, I could never fully shake off those feelings, and I hated that. There would be times when someone would say or do something that would make me happy, or I would be doing an activity that would make me happy, but by the time I look around I’m back to feeling low. There would also be times when there was a reason I was down, and other times when I just couldn’t explain why I was feeling depressed. When I was a teen, I kept thinking that one day I will let those feelings go when I finally became an adult. I am now a fully grown adult, and still struggle a bit with these issues. I have learned that what I was going through was not just a phase, or something that I was easily going to get through.

Thankfully, I have a very supportive family. My family has been incredibly patient with me, and extremely supportive. To me, they have been like my therapists. They listen to my concerns, and even encourage me to open up. They never make me feel ashamed of my concerns or feelings when I do share them, and they never make me feel ashamed of my struggles. They also never make me feel like a burden. They are always making sure that I know I’m loved, and that I have a purpose and place in my family and in the world. Considering that I was blessed to be a part of the small one percent of fetuses so h Turner Syndrome to make it to term, I can’t help but to feel they are right. 

My mental health journey is still ongoing. I’m still finding myself, still growing. I’m still struggling with my self esteem. I don’t know why I was part of that small 1 percent, but I do know that I am willing to continue fighting through this crazy journey called “life” to find out.  After all, if there is one thing I know, it’s this: we are all here for a reason.

Note: My inspiration for this post was fellow blogger and disability advocate Amanda Gene, who is also very lucky to be alive today. Give her blog visit and read her story here.

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