Reblogged: This Is Me

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Little Sketch by Anna Vanes

The importance of early psychological disorder diagnosis is extremely evident in Tamra’s beautifully written blog-post, This is Me, – which must be read in its entirety – in which she provides a lucid biographical outline of her journey from childhood with anxiety and type 1 diabetes to middle-age and living mostly house-bound, suffering a variety of serious health problems.

Tamra’s case, albeit anecdotal, of multi-morbidity, long undiagnosed, suggests that early psycho-therapeutic attention is vital, especially, in such cases of concurrent conditions. Her type 1 diabetes diagnosis helped to obstruct her family’s attention to her psychological difficulties and also became another to ‘reason’ to hate herself for ‘inadequacy’ or ‘inferiority’ and engage in a lifelong pattern of self-harm and, later, self-medication. From this, as Tamra outlines, her health deteriorates, step-by-step, exacerbated by moments of misfortune.

“I come from a family thick with type 1 diabetics. There are six of us that I know of, my father, an aunt, one of my brothers, two cousins, and myself. Type 1 diabetes does have a hereditary link, but not always, and it is extremely rare for it to be so prominent in one family as it is in mine. I was diagnosed at age eight. I felt frightened, I knew what this disease is, I knew how dangerous it is, I knew I would forever have to take shots, prick my fingers, eat carefully, and would probably lose a leg, go blind, and die young. It was the mid 1980’s and these were the possibilities at that time.”

At the age of eleven, she lost her father, as a result of a stroke caused by complications from his type 1 diabetes. Tamra’s rage and self-harm only increased, as she paid little or no regard to her body and condition, “always running sky high blood sugars.”

She began to skip classes and then whole school days as she developed agoraphobia symptoms alongside her social anxiety. Her problems went unrecognised, even by herself. Though she graduated, she went on to suffer similarly in college and in the workplace: “I went through part time minimum wage jobs like a person with a cold goes through tissue. As soon as the anxiety of responsibility mixed with the anxiety of social environments and the outside world got too much, I would up and quit, take some time to recoup and then find a new job.”

Marriage and friends would bring new stresses and risk, alongside benefits. In her 30’s she describes using social drinking and smoking to suppress her pain and fear. A series of serious health crises followed. She underwent triple-bypass heart surgery necessitated by damage caused by her poorly managed diabetic condition and exacerbated by consumption of alcohol and her smoking. She then had multiple eye surgeries and would go on to suffer from hypothyroidism.

At this belated stage, however, her social anxiety and agoraphobia were diagnosed and she started medication and therapy. However, the impact of hypothyroidism and accompanying problems with obesity interrupted her treatments, as did a bereavement and serious accident.

Currently, she describes herself as being mostly house-bound, suffering insomnia and hypersomnia as well as some dysfunction with conscious awareness: “My dreams are so vivid (nothing new there, they always have been) I sometimes think they are real, and my reality feels like a dream. I also have trouble with my memory sometimes.”

It is notable that Tamra describes her brother’s childhood response to her father’s death as to become “militaristic” about taking care of his blood sugar levels – the opposite of her heightened reckless and, even, self-harming response. One can speculate whether the diagnosis of social anxiety and agoraphobia, as a child – even if subsequent treatment had zero effect on symptoms – would have reduced negative judgement of her by others and by herself,  by explaining her behaviours and difference, and, whether the pattern of self-harming could have been diverted.

Image by Anna Vanes

To read Tamra’s full blog-post at her site, tamrakgarcia.wordpress.com, click below.

Reblogged: social fucking anxiety!

My demons by Anna Vanes

Social anxiety is often defined as an overwhelming fear of negative judgement or social situations. In her latest post, the blogger linked below presents her own interpretation of her social anxiety as a sense of being unsafe in others’ presences. More overt in such a definition is human threat, as well as vulnerability. The blogger suggests that the ‘codependency’ integral to her family’s culture, particularly, amongst the women, has been, at least, a barrier to recognising and starting to overcome that sense of vulnerability. She has been helped by therapy but continues to search for a way to feel safe with people.

“in an entire 2 weeks, my grandma could not name what she wanted to do that made her happy without referencing helping someone else. her idea of fun was buying me pants on a whim – while i know that money is tight, while i know that i don’t need them and expressed that sentiment, and i was served a sweet side dish of i-have-difficulty-accepting-things-of-all-kinds. monetary, quality time, love – all of it, but that’s a different story.”

The blogger replicates this ‘generosity’ or what might be considered as a ‘safety behaviour’ by giving people, “my 150% listening ear – in an effort to appease them, take the attention off of myself, and establish myself as a nonthreatening person so they are less likely to hurt me.”

The sense of being unsafe or vulnerable around people arose, she states, in her childhood: “i did not feel safe around or nurtured by my parents – physically, emotionally, or mentally – and i was often placed in a position where i had to gauge their moods first because that would indicate how much of their moods would be taken out on me.”

Rather than develop self-dependence and strength, her wider family’s codependency, she suggests, ingrained in her the tactic of self-sacrifice to ingratiate and protect herself generally. Moreover, they may have helped to hide the reality of her vulnerability from herself: “i always thought i was just nervous: nerves were those arresting stomach churning moments where my hands couldn’t stop shaking and i couldn’t sleep the night before, leading to very quick, jerky movements and a spotty memory the following day – right?”

Her therapy, she says, has helped her become more aware of her fear as bodily sensations and her ‘band aid’ of taking care of others. She is “literally burning all of the files in my head on how to be in relationships and writing something up anew. a hypothetical phoenix. a mental health maverick.” However, without the band aid, the sense of vulnerability and feeling unsafe with people, she says, is amplified.

The blogger’s interpretation of her social anxiety in terms of safety is stark. However, it has the benefit, unlike other terms such as ‘negative judgement’ and ‘social situations’, of more overtly acknowledging human threat and, impliedly, the need to develop resistant strength.

Image designed by Anna Vanes
Stock image credits can be found here.

Read the full One Seed at a Time blog post by clicking below or at: http://www.onemillionguavas.home.blog

Reblogged: Me, My Mental Health Battle and I: My University Story

In the blog-post linked below, a third-year university student, with dyspraxia and a multi-system disorder, shares his mental health struggles and crises, especially, during the second-year, and provides useful advice for addressing mental health difficulties, including social anxiety and depression, at university. A key piece of advice he offers, based on his own improvement, is sharing concerns and difficulties with trusted people by reaching out to university mental health and well-being services and amongst peers.

The student, Bukky, presents himself as outgoing and having a close group of friends and, yet, he found himself, in the second year, unable to leave his room – and, at times, even unable to answer his mother’s phone calls. He also describes struggling to eat and to look at people. He ascribes the difficulties to a combination of depression, social anxiety, stress anxiety and his existing challenges with dyspraxia and a rare multi-system disorder, known as Kabuki Syndrome.

“I realised on reflection,” he writes,  “these feelings stemmed from a multiple of reasons, such as being home sick, stressed about course work and deadlines, feel really about myself along with having a hard time progressing from first year to second year along with several breakdowns.” He adds, “(s)ome of my internal struggles came thinking and feeling like I was different, I wasn’t like everybody else.”

Bukky lists actions that benefited him, including reaching out to the university – including his uni mentor and the well-being service for advice and help. He received meetings with his mentor, regular counselling, food vouchers, more time for his coursework and he also scheduled extra time to visit his family. He describes being checked on every day by Student Well-being.

He also shared his difficulties with his family and his friends – who convinced whom to stay on because they “explained their own university experience would not be the same if I wasn’t around.”

Finally, Bukky recognised that he felt different and lacking compared to others. He outlines a series of actions he took on his own to boost his own mood and self-esteem, including listening to music with uplifting and relatable lyrics and reading positive quotes on social media in order to feel his own self-worth.

Whilst no two situations are alike, the experience of this student, who was fortunate to have a supportive friendship network, suggest that sharing difficulties and seeking help from friends and support services can be highly beneficial. They enable communication, attention and a relieving of the stresses of university academic life by, for example, adjustments to deadlines and exams. Moreover, peers can provide a support network to relieve isolation and loss of self-esteem. Finally, personal work to strengthen self-worth through connecting with interests and inspirational stories also benefited this individual.

Read the full blog-post by University of Derby third-year student, Bukky, at his blog.

BukkyLifeBlogs1

1:Introduction

My name is Bukky, I am a third-year Media and Communications student at the University of Derby. I would say my friends would describe me as very smiley, bubbly, chatty, humorous and laidback. As you can look at from the pictures above. However, I went from trying to do my best fortnight moves in Walkabout to feeling very anxious and refusing to leave my room. I’d like to share my story with you, in hope that if you relate, I can support you in improving your mental health while at university.

2:How I struggled?

1:Hold on, let’s rewind – Me refusing to leave my room, yep that was how I felt. Let’s just say, my second year at university was when my mental health really affected me more than ever. I had days where I would be so depressed, for no clear reason, to the point where I switched…

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Integrated practices for anxiety and trauma – an anecdote

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Listen to Music by Anna Vanes

In a recent article, entrepreneur, Tiago Forte, used his experiences of alternative therapies and personal transformation courses to consider the interrelationship between psychological disorders, other disorders of the body and emotional repression. He reflects on how his search for effective treatment for his voice condition, diagnosed as glossopharyngeal neuralgia, causing pain, difficulties vocalising and swallowing, as well as causing him to experience social anxiety, lead him to an understanding of trauma and anxiety and a belief in expressing unconscious or repressed feelings as part of treatment.

The article offers an examination of the options that exist, especially, for those for whom ‘talking therapies’ do not seem to address root causes of disorders. It provides an intriguing case, albeit anecdotal, for treating a variety of psychological and psychosomatic conditions through an integrated approach that includes socialised ““bottom up” somatic practices” which engage and make accessible, emotions and memories, alongside cognitive therapies and medicine.

Forte describes initially attended the transformation course to seek help for his anxieties – “intense, instinctual fear of being scrutinized, of being revealed somehow” and “hypervigilance – an unexplainable feeling that I had to be watchful and on guard all the time.” Historically, he experienced social anxiety as a result of the difficulty his voice condition caused him with vocalising. At the start of the course, he shared his intention as a desire to learn to be more vulnerable: “(t)o share what was really going on with me and to ask for support more readily.”

A cognitive approach was used to analyse thinking on the course – examining the beliefs, logic and fairness of one’s own thinking. This was conducted in a group environment in a context of compassion: “Love for ourselves, and for the person sitting in front of us. Love communicated in facial expressions, in body language, and in an unmistakable “presence” in the air.”

The cognitive work was used to release emotions. Particular focus, it seems, was applied on what was called “externalisation” – the turning outwards of negative thoughts about oneself and seeing self-criticism as a form of abuse. A session on expressing grief followed this: “We got in touch with the tenderness we had steeled ourselves against to survive in an unforgiving world. We accessed the child inside us who had been shut away for fear of being hurt. We allowed our hearts to be broken again and again by the sorrow that is part of every life and allowed it to come out in whatever way the body needed.”

The “somatic” methods, thus, worked with the cognitive in unblocking and openly expressing emotions of anger and grief. Forte describes his initial difficulty with accessing his anger: “During the instructions before we began, I raised my hand and asked, “But what if we don’t feel any anger?” However, “(w)hen my turn came, I laid down and began the breathing exercise, curious to see if anything would come up. And boy, did it come up.”

“Suddenly, a white-hot rage came rising out of me like molten lava. I began to see flashes of scenes from my past – getting spanked as a child for something I didn’t do, being mocked in class for a wrong answer, being bullied on the bus to school. I felt small stabs of fire upward into my chest, which were instantly suppressed, the anger converted into fear, guilt, embarrassment, and deep sadness. I could feel my body react, deflect, and do absolutely anything it could to avoid feeling the full force of that anger.”

Forte and his fellow participants worked together to act out their anger using a tennis racket on a futon. He describes experiencing, afterwards, “a sense of peace and safety I couldn’t remember feeling. It was the pleasure of knowing I could defend myself, of knowing I could stand up for myself.”

“A deep level of emotional openness” was encouraged. Forte shared his experience of his voice condition in the group. Throughout the article, Forte chronicles this earlier journey seeking treatment for his voice condition, which was causing him pain, difficulties vocalising and swallowing and social anxiety. The long search eventually lead to Vipassana meditation and considering the role of the vagus nerve, which conveys signals throughout the body during experiences of fear and anxiety. He came to the conclusion that trauma played a role in his symptoms. He revisited the vagus nerve during the transformation course, considering ways to soothe agitation and arousal.

As a result of the course, Forte describes feeling greater sensitivity and compassion: “My defense mechanisms are less active than before. It doesn’t feel as much like there’s a fragile ego inside that I have to protect…I feel an affection and a curiosity toward all aspects of myself that I didn’t feel before.” He is able to access self and emotions more readily, describing imagining his boyhood self: “(t)he love that I felt for this boy turned to grief.”

He also describes a greater self-awarenesses – whether physiological, such as the relationship between the vagus nerve and his voice condition – or emotional: “My resistance to feeling anger, seeing it as the antithesis of the love that I tried to live my life by, evaporated…In the months since, I have made an astounding discovery: there is a river of emotion flowing through me at all times.”

The necessity to express anger was a key discovery for him: “repressed anger eventually turns into resentment, and I found myself stuck in a pattern of distancing myself from people I cared about rather than telling them how I truly feel….I felt them connect deep inside – anger tempered and directed by love and love energized and purified by anger.”

Forte’s anecdotal experience at the transformation course cannot be generalised but it offers examples of potential approaches and tools for combining emotional, relaxation, social and cognitive treatments to empower individuals.

Image by Anna Vanes – stock image credits found here.