To CBT or not to CBT: Is that the question?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2013 by tokenthreads

When I decided to go through with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for my diagnosis of Pure O/OCD, I truly believed that there was no other hope. If this did not work, I would be doomed to live a life bordering on staving off the urge to commit suicide more frequently than I would like to admit. Fortunately, the stars aligned for me when I was seeking out therapy for OCD rather than relying on medication every day.

WAY back in the day—1998, there was definitely not as much information on the internet as there is today, and in fact I had to search for days and days to find qualified OCD specialists and websites that could even explain what CBT was!? I had no idea how important ‘key words’ were then!! However, one day in my awkwardly worded web searches, an article popped up called ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, (http://www.ocdonline.com/articlephillipson1.php) and I literally screamed out loud as I read it as everyone in the library computer lab gave me evil looks and shushed me from all directions. I couldn’t get enough…I scoured Dr. Phillipson’s website soaking up every single word thinking I had FINALLY found someone that GETS ME!!!!!  I knew then I had to contact this man and no matter what the cost financially or emotionally, it was imperative that I become one of his success stories.

And shortly thereafter, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Dr. Steven Phillipson ensued.

15 years after that therapy, I still use the techniques instilled in me to manage my obsessive thoughts as they arise. I am still so grateful that I took the leap, that I held on to hope, and that I threw myself into the therapy 100% with my full trust in a Doctor who my blind faith in him completely paid off. I owe my life to that man.

I am absolutely a CBT success story. Of course, I am not cured of OCD, but I live a relatively normal life and manage all of my obsessive thoughts and have control over my life whereas at one point in my life, OCD was almost responsible for my death at my own hands. But, just because I feel confident in my experience with CBT does not mean I did not have the SAME doubts and fears that you have or will have if you decide to go through with it. Here were a few of my fears during CBT:

1. Even though Dr. Phillipson has helped many people with the same OCD spike that I have, I believe I am different and he won’t be able to help me;

—-Dr. Phillipson was completely prepared for this fear and in fact, he said that almost everyone he treated had the same fear! While hearing that I was not the only one did not make the fear dissipate, it did confirm that I could trust my therapist and have more confidence that he knows people who have OCD inside and out.

2. What if I go through with the therapy and it doesn’t work? I am afraid that will mean that I do not have OCD and that my obsessions are real!!?

—-As part of CBT, Dr. Phillipson was aware of this fear because I repeated it to him very many times, but he was careful not to reassure me—he needed me to realize that there are always ‘possibilities’ that we can never prove or disprove. Again, I had to just trust him and know that he would probably not treat me if he truly did not believe that I had OCD. Since then, I have learned that MANY people experience this fear as a secondary fear to their OCD. When I am involved in an OCD cycle, this is hard for me to grasp and understand, but it is true and you can take comfort in knowing that professionals are qualified to diagnose you with OCD—-even though OCD may FEEL real, it is NOT real.

3. Dr. Phillipson let me know that the therapy will not make the thoughts go away, but that it will help me to not react. THIS TERRIFIED ME! WHY AM I PAYING MONEY IF THE THOUGHTS AREN’T GOING TO GO AWAY!?!?!??!?!

—-This was the most difficult fear to deal with. Up to this point when I was not on meds, I could not imagine my life without the fear and all of the ruminating and anxiety that went along with it? I WANTED the therapy to make the thoughts GO AWAY! Well, it is hard for us who suffer with OCD to understand this because we are conditioned by our brain to fear the thoughts. The TRUTH is that we have bizarre thoughts all of the time but because they are not accompanied by the anxiety, we do not perceive them as a threat. CBT is designed to transform the obsessions into those petty everyday thoughts that are not charged by our reaction. Once I got through 3-4 exercises and realized that the point was to eliminate the ANXIETY rather than the THOUGHT itself, I began to understand the concept.

Every person’s experience is different with OCD and treatment involves so many different factors. But here is my advice if you are thinking about CBT:

1. Find the right therapist for you: Not every method works for everyone. Dr Phillipson was VERY matter of fact and had little emotional connection to the therapy. This worked for me because I needed someone to take control and not give me any options. It was that tough-love attitude that made me want to succeed. MAKE SURE when you seek out a therapist for OCD that the therapist performs CBT and ERP—otherwise they may not be adept in treating patients with OCD. Interview several OCD Specialists and make sure they are the right fit for you in order to set you up for success.

2. When you begin CBT, GO FOR IT 100%! CBT will work wonders for you if you dive into it head first. You HAVE to be willing to be uncomfortable—to endure the pain—to take every risk possible knowing that the outcome will be beneficial. Many people find tremendous success with CBT when they get to a point that is almost rock bottom…I knew the only thing I had to lose was my life so I thought that I had no other choice. CBT IS NOT FUN AT ALL, BUT IT WORKS IF YOU ARE WILLING TO DO THE HARD WORK!!!!!!!

3. When you find the right therapist and are ready to give 100%, HAVE FAITH IN THE PROCESS!! I know, I know this sounds way easier than it is…but hang on like hell to hope! Research success and graduate stories that are just like your obsession…read books of OCD success stories…reach out to other people who have gone through the treatment and find a mentor. But, most importantly, TRUST IN YOUR THERAPIST! OCD Specialists WANT you to get better…they want you to succeed. Give them 100% and hang on to faith that You will be a success story.

There are many different treatments for OCD….but in my experience and in many other success stories involving OCD, the answer to ‘To CBT or not to CBT’ is

ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT DOES WORK!!!!!!!

Thank you for taking the time to read. Here are some links that may be helpful:

ocdonline.com, theotherocd.com, effectiveocdtreatment.com

Have a fantastic day

Chrissie Hodges

Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate

Radio Host: ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’

I have a mental illness?…now what?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2013 by tokenthreads

I guess I thought that I was the only one. Or perhaps, I just thought that I was weak or angry. What kind of person takes over a decade to come to terms with a diagnosis of mental illness? An immature, stupid, and incompetent person does…or at least that is how I have thought about myself over all of these years.

It has been over 16 years since my diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That day was probably the first day in 20 years I understood what it was like to have ‘hope’. I guess in my naivety, I thought a diagnosis would sweep away the 12 years prior of pain, suffering, and built up angst of living in a mind I had no control over…but unfortunately, that was the beginning of an uphill battle of struggle with self-acceptance in an attempt to love the monster inside of me.

In a few of my interviews on my radio show, ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’ lately I have encountered an inevitable truth that my ears and my heart have finally become open to accept. Both David, who has suffered with bipolar disorder and George who struggled very many years with addiction talked with me at length about the difficulty of ‘accepting’ the fact that they had been powerless to the illness during several points in their life. They also revealed that coming to terms with knowing this was not an easy and pleasant experience either. David revealed something that struck me to the core—he struggled for many years trying to understand and separate himself from the illness. ‘Where does David end and bipolar begin?’, was a question he wrestled with for a long time.

This was also reinforced to me recently by my dad’s diagnosis of diabetes. When I heard that he had diabetes, I thought to myself, ‘well, he will be fine—he just needs to adjust his diet and amp up his exercise regimen…no big deal’. But, I noticed for several weeks when I would talk to him, he just seemed very down and struggling with the diagnosis. He was forced to change everything that was ‘normal’ to him and he had no power over it. Even though he knew that by taking more control over factors in his life, he would eventually normalize, I began to see that the diagnosis itself can create the feeling of doom…of powerless fear…of the reality that we really are not ever in complete control. My dad took quite some time to cope with the diagnosis and needed to go through the appropriate emotions to come to terms with it. After months, he began to readjust and created different and better habits and he is seeing the diabetes becoming less of an issue and a burden.

Slowly over the last year in sharing my story with others and being someone others can share their story with, I am beginning to accept and forgive myself for taking so long to come to terms with having a mental illness. Almost as equivalent to not knowing that I was sick for so many years in my thought patterns, I was completely unaware that I was grieving over the idea that I now had a label.  Not to mention, THAT label is less than desirable in the eyes of the public.

It feels validating to know that each of us responds change and each of us is entitled to take as long as we need in order to come to terms and cope. I find comfort that each of us are not alone in working through the emotional responses when we get that inevitable glimpse into the truth that control is an illusion.

It took me every single moment of 15 years to understand that I am Chrissie and I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I do not define it and it does not define me. It is part of who I have become and I am part of what makes OCD real and an authentic disorder.

None of us are immune to change. When you find yourself facing an uphill battle where self-acceptance is sitting at the pinnacle so very far away, remember to face the journey knowing steadfast that you will summit. And however long the climb feels, every single step is important because there are no short cuts to self love.

Happy journeys my friends.

I never thought I was crazy?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 by tokenthreads

I am giving a presentation tomorrow on the stigma of mental illness and while contemplating the format and content, I keep coming back to something that has been on my mind for several weeks.

How do people not KNOW that they are mentally ill?

In my own personal experience, this is easy to understand. I was eight…I had weird thoughts and even weirder bodily reactions and everything in my being told me to just stay quiet, deal with it alone, and take it day by day. I always thought that everyone just had these odd feelings and no one ever talked about them? As I progressed in age and in obsessive intensity…I began to suspect that I was either a. different from everyone else or b. weaker than everyone else because I could not control the thoughts. Believe me when I say that it NEVER crossed my mind—EVER–that I was mentally ill.

This has been on my mind because of my last two guests on my radio show, The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio. Scott Schneider talked about his obsession of worrying he would become a murderer and while he knew his thoughts were irrational and the chance of them being true were virtually none, he did not even think that it had anything to do with mental illness. When he asked his parents about it, it did not cross THEIR mind that it may be mental illness. Perhaps it is just stress from moving and going to college, he said they justified it as.

My guest Kathy Bacon last week talked about her daughter and some of the struggles she had as a parent watching her daughter’s bizarre compulsions, her spiraling down, and her erratic behavior and it did not even cross her mind to think that there is help available because it could be a mental illness. Perhaps, it is just hormonal or just a phase, she thought. I asked Kathy if she thought her daughter knew and she believes that she did not know either.

This scares me. It scares me because it overwhelms me. Even as someone who did not think I had a mental illness, it makes me feel scared for all of the people out there right this moment by themselves….terrified…ashamed…suicidal.

How do we get to them? How do we spread awareness quick enough that we can reach people before they hit the bottom like I did, like Scott did, like Kathy’s daughter did before they get a diagnosis?

The answer is unknown. But I know I am trying. I hope that you will try too. I hope that even in trying to wrap your brain around the idea that someone could just ‘not know’, and not able to comprehend it conceptually—that you will trust me…trust Scott…trust Kathy that it is real and it is scary.

I will start tomorrow by asking my audience to do a few things for me:

PLEASE BELIEVE that mental illness is real

PLEASE BELIEVE when a person is mentally ill that what they are telling you exist in their mind as the truth

PLEASE BELIEVE there is help for everyone and that the more awareness we spread the quicker we can help

PLEASE BELIEVE that YOU can make a difference by believing, being empathetic, and compassionate.

Mental illness affects 1 out of 5 people. You have the potential to change someone’s life because you know many people who suffer.

Please support not only people like Scott, Kathy, and myself that are advocating for mental health awareness, but our country as we embark on a movement to join together and abolish the stigma of mental illness.

Thank you and have a fantastic week,

Chrissie

The Stigma of Suicide

Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2013 by tokenthreads

I have written about suicide before in my blog because it is necessary for all of us to take a serious look at suicide and what we are NOT doing as a society. I would not ever speak for ALL suicide victims or those that attempt, but it has been reported that an estimated 90% of suicide victims suffered with a mental illness. I know what that feels like and exactly how torturous it feels to think that death is the only relief in sight.

Suicide is still a taboo topic even though the statistics of suicide victims and attempts are staggering all over the world. How can we ignore what is going on? How can we pretend this is not something that does not affect every single one of us in some way? Inevitably, when I discuss suicide in presentations or when talking about my journey with a brain disorder, I almost always have someone say that they have known someone who has committed suicide or they are close with someone who has lost someone to suicide. In contrast, I will also encounter people in presentations as well that as soon as the word ‘suicide’ is mentioned they look uncomfortable, antsy, and become visibly detached from the message. WHY?

I discussed a few different talking points during the show that I believe keeps suicide tucked way back into the dark, awkward, and misunderstood corner that keep most people safe from having to think about it or face the severity, thus keeping it stigmatized.

One of the most amusing beliefs about suicide victims and those that attempt is, ‘those people are just lazy and weak and cannot handle what life has given them’.  When I hear people say this, I always laugh. Clearly, when someone is obtuse enough to say this, they could not possibly grasp what it is like when life throws you a mental illness.  When individuals that suffer from mental illness are unaware of why it is they are unable to control their thoughts, it is like being trapped in prison inside your own mind. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment, there is NO relief from suffering. How do you think it would feel for you to suffer a heart attack and not be able to get a diagnosis or treatment for an extended amount of time? This is what it is like for undiagnosed individuals…AND they have to function in society like everything is perfectly fine. Anyone who would have the audacity to call someone ‘weak’ or ‘lazy’ for getting to a place in their life where death seemed like the only relief is nothing less than an arrogant and misinformed jackass.

The second stigma that is often associated with those who attempt or commit suicide is that they are ‘selfish’ individuals. Again, I cannot speak for anyone except myself and I would like to believe I represent most individuals that suffer with brain disorders. I spoke with my father about this specific ‘selfish’ stigma. He said that people could be perceived as selfish because they have given up believing the world can help them or offer them anything. I understand his point and can see that in that perspective it could be considered saying because ‘I know best and I now know no one can help me, I will take my own life’. While I absolutely understand this, coming from the perspective of a suicide attempt survivor, my intention was not coming from that of being condescending of the world but from desperation in the world. My father and I both agreed that it is unfortunate that once an individual lands at the absolute bottom and suicide is the only option, it is a low, dark, lonely place where any scouring of every corner turns up nothing but hopelessness. I would be willing to bet everything that I own that those who go through with suicide or attempt would give anything they could just to know that help is there, available, and that one day they could find hope again. For the loved ones who are left on this earth grieving the loss of someone who has committed suicide from a mental illness, I would encourage you to never believe that the victim was selfish but that in their last moments, they truly believed that the only way to find relief…the only way to not disappoint you…the only way to gain control over something that was controlling them was to control their own destiny by death. Before accusing someone of being selfish, think about how much turmoil, how trapped, and how terrified that person had to feel in order to go through with it. Empathy is a much more powerful tool than judgment.

My last point, and I have talked about this before, is the stigma that ‘People that commit suicide will go to hell’. I guess my true reaction to this is that if someone is so self-righteous to judge others to the point of thinking they know where there spirit will go after death…I would think they would be sitting right next to that suicide victim right there in hell. This has to be the most narrow-minded, archaic, sanctimonious, and ignorant statement regarding suicide anyone could ever say. Anyone who would be senseless enough to verbalize this statement is not only delusional but in no way can grasp the ability to understand empathy or compassion. There is no need to even engage in a discussion with anyone who would truly even begin to argue this point.

The amount of suicide and suicide attempts in our country and ALL around the world are creating a pandemic. The suicide rates are growing each year. If we see that up to 90% of suicides are a result of mental illness and the numbers are as high as they are—What can we do as a society to help? What can we do to stop this?

My suggestion is that we start talking about it. We STOP thinking it is a hush hush topic. Those that suffer so tremendously that they believe that death equals relief do NOT need their memories swept under the carpet because families and friends are too embarrassed to talk about it. Each of us needs to create a space within our families, amongst our friends, within our communities of understanding and openness so that sufferers can reach out for help. If people are unwilling to talk about suicide, then those that are contemplating will be fearful to reach out due to judgment, embarrassment, and shame.

Talk to your families…talk to your friends…talk to your churches and your schools! Let people know that there is HOPE—there are OPTIONS—there is TREATMENT for almost anything that someone may be dealing with. But more importantly—make it perfectly clear that your friends and families are not ALONE ever and NO problem or fear is too great that it cannot be understood and worth taking their life for.

It is our responsibility in our society to start changing the stigma—we have to talk about it before it happens! Do not tolerate the ignorant stigmas people may throw around. We can make a powerful difference in the lives of those who are suffering if we make ourselves available to listen, to love, to understand, and believe what they have to say. It is up to us!

Thank you for taking the time to read

Finding Hope

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2013 by tokenthreads

I was excited and a bit nervous about having my sister on my radio show, ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’. Excited because I knew it would be fun banter but nervous because maybe I do not really want to know the extent of what my disorder can and could impose on other individuals. It’s easy to think about it now because I am in the neutral OCD state which means that I have not been exposed to a threat and my anxiety is at a minimum…but I am never naïve enough to think that it could not change in a second’s notice. I guess when I really think about the repercussions the burden can be on other individuals when I need their support, I can truly see that I could take advantage of the fact that I actually HAVE a support system in place.

I feel very lucky when I think about where I am now in contrast to where I was a mere 16 years ago. I barely even remember who that girl was back then…I have done my best not to remember what it was like to live every single moment in fear. When I read and talk to people who are struggling as much as I was for those 12 years leading up to wanting to die verses getting help, it puts me back into a place of feeling frantic and out of control. This is a space that people who suffer from OCD know VERY well, unfortunately. I am reminded of this even on a slight level when I am exposed to any threat which triggers an obsession—and those are common—but I often wonder what was inside of me that propelled me to seek help despite how painful the therapy was? In the midst of panic, there seems to be no hope in sight even now after therapy and on meds…but somehow I seem to always keep fighting even when I have no idea what I am fighting for.

I have had the pleasure of speaking with many specialists here in Denver who deal with brain disorders and a main thread that runs through their logic and thinking is that it is imperative for sufferers to understand that there ARE treatment options that WORK and that one must possess genuine HOPE that there are reasons to want to push past the demons in the mind. Trust me, the demons will do and say ANYTHING to keep you ensnared in your cage…but beyond the bars of entrapment are beautiful rays of healing—of rational control—of living life on YOUR terms verses what your brain tells you that you are capable of. After living in that prison for so long, it baffles me that I could see outside the darkness and that I chose to believe there really was a light at the end of that narrow tunnel.

When I learned at the age of 22 that I had a choice to live in fear of my brain disorder or dive into the deep end of the most difficult therapy I can imagine there is—Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention (what seems like an OCD sufferer’s nightmare) and take the risk…I have no idea where the strength came from. I have NO idea where the confidence rose from within me to definitively decide that I CAN DO IT! Was it the athlete in me? Was it my stubbornness? Was it the love that the people around me had for my well being? I cannot answer that. But—what I can say with absolute certainty is that no matter how frightened, confused, or angry I was at the time about all that I had to deal with—I am proud of that girl. I stand today in awe of her courage. I celebrate that there is something within me that felt such a deep desire of hope that I was willing to toss a fear that had controlled each hour of every day of my life for years and year aside in order to create the life that I have now. I am forever indebted to the courage that she had 16 years ago despite how terrified she was at the time. And I do believe that when I relapse now as an adult, I recall and remember all that she faced alone and scared and it drives me to be better and to never give up.

Each and every one of us has this courage inside even at our darkest hours when it seems like there is no one else in the world that can understand what we are going through. Courage can get buried beneath fear, sadness, anger, and a plethora of other emotion…but the bottom line is that if you can find the strength to push all of that aside and hang onto any one thing that can give you hope….DO IT. Your life—your future—what you have to offer the world is WORTH it. YOU are worth it. And more importantly, you are never alone. Never alone.

I am grateful to my sister, Joy Hodges Branagan. She is my biggest supporter. I sometimes think that at the lowest points of my life that I can recall, I owe my life to her and what she has done for me just by BELIEVING that what I go through is real. It makes such a difference to know that I am worth taking the time to devote her time and energy to me when I have needed her the most.

‘The most important thing to do is find out as much as you can about the disorder. Don’t be afraid to be completely armed with knowledge—Listen to the person suffering to what they need you to do and what they do not need you to do.

BELIEVE what the person is saying. Do not in any way diminish what they say and what they are going through. You have that commitment to that person if they trust you enough to let you in…you have to be willing to do the work.’ –Joy Hodges Branagan on ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’

Much love to her and to my very special support system. You know who you are and I am forever with gratitude.

Thank you for taking the time to read,

Chrissie

OCD Is Not an Adjective

Follow me on ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’ on facebook

Ocd.chrissie@yahoo.com

Fear is an Illusion

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2013 by tokenthreads

I am incredibly excited to soon have the opportunity to give a presentation  on the topic of ‘fear’. As an OCD sufferer, I feel like there is no one in the world that can understand this topic more than myself…but that would be where I am wrong.

Every single one of us on this planet experiences fear. We may not experience it in the same ways or we may not fear the same things, but fear is something that is inescapable to the average human being.

As we grow up during childhood and adolescents, we are laying the groundwork for experiences later in our life that will evoke and tap into the fears that were created at those young ages. We may not even know that we are only reacting to ingrained patterns, but if we stop and trace back where the fear we are experiencing at the present moment originates, we will see that fear comes from things that are buried deep inside of us. The reason why it is difficult for us to break it down and figure out the origin of why we are reacting this way is because in the presence of fear, most of us are concentrating our immediate actions to remedy our physical response. That response is usually in the form of anxiety, panic, anger, or ruminating (a term common in OCD defined as ‘trying to solve an unsolvable problem repeatedly in the mind’). These responses are usually unpleasant and most of us are conditioned to resist anything that is unpleasant hence the reason why we will not tolerate fear long enough to investigate where it originated.

I have different views of fear because of my experience with a fear-based brain disorder. The interesting thing is that I can almost step out of my body and mind when I am experiencing it and see how utterly ridiculous I am reacting to something that is irrational…yet, my brain is not consumed with how I feel about what I am fearing…my brain is only interested in making it worse. I can look at the fear objectively, yet like an addict, I can barely resist the temptation of indulging in the ritualistic behavior that accompanies even the most insanely absurd fears.

Oddly enough, I have extensive knowledge about fear and the repercussions that fear has in one’s life, yet the fear that I (and every other OCD sufferer) experiences has absolutely nothing to do with origins. In fact, the fears do not reflect anything inherently true about the character of the sufferer. This probably seems a bit confusing, but one of the distinct defining characteristics of someone who has OCD vs someone who does not is that the OCD fear is irrational and does not have any bases as an actual threat. This is why sometimes it can be even more damaging for an OCD sufferer to receive extensive treatment for the disorder from someone who is unfamiliar with the patterns of the disorder. As I previously mentioned, when people experience ‘rational’ fear, there is usually an origin that if they were to investigate, they would be able to trace why it is they respond in fear when triggered by a stimulus in their everyday life. When people who suffer from OCD experience a fear that is ‘irrational’ in nature which is definitive, there is no origin. The irrational fear is manufactured in the mind…not in any memory. Sure, there may be ties to the fear based on experiences, but there is absolutely no real threat. Because the body of the OCD sufferer responds with anxiety to the threat, it ‘seems’ as though the fear is a ‘rational’ fear vs the manufactured OCD irrational fear.

In both cases however, the fear is still an illusion. It is a response to a greater problem which is why we as humans are lucky to be able to experience fear. I say that, although when I am relapsing I despise OCD and I despise fear altogether…but fear is a sign to us that there are things that are worth exploring and/or there are things that alert us to danger in case we need to protect ourselves.

One final and even more confusing distinction that I would like to add…as someone who suffers from the irrational fears of OCD and the rational fears of everyday life…I am absolutely aware of the difference. Although I may not have control over the reaction my body has to either scenario of fear and/or be able to break myself out of the ruminating cycles, I can easily decipher the two…yet, sometimes it takes a heavy dose of medication for me to be able to control it.

This was a great deal of information and one I would like to break down and elaborate more on in the future. I am happy nonetheless that I will be able to present this sort of material to audiences who may never have had the opportunity to think of fear only as an illusion and not a real and viable thing.

Thank you for reading!

Chrissie

Mental Illness does not equal murder

Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2012 by tokenthreads

There is no doubt that the tragedy that has occurred this week in Connecticut has not affected most of us in a place of fear, sadness, and confusion. A senseless massacre of children cannot be explained and it cannot be understood and it certainly cannot be argued into anything that can be comprehended by a rational mind.

I have read the articles, I have seen the pictures, and unfortunately I have taken the time to read the response on social media from an American public that thinks that each one can rationalize, justify, or condemn whatever or whoever was wrong in this tragedy. It seems that when tragedy like this one occurs, the public all of a sudden shouts off of their soapbox about guns and mental health as if their life depends on it. I understand that this sort of rationalization happens because we as humans need to try to make some sort of sense out of events that cause us fear…but my stand on this issue is that there are some things that we will never make sense out of. There is no way, even to the people closest to the shooter, that could possibly make sense of it…so how can we, as objective Americans?

Let’s start by thinking long and hard about what it is we are making a statement on when participating in social media. The things that have stood out in my mind as the most poignant and damaging accusations that I have read are 1. The shooter had autism or asbergers disease and those are disorders that are prone to violent outbursts, and 2. the reason why we have so many kids willing to become outraged and commit these sorts of acts of violence is because we as a society are not ‘beating’ our children enough in our discipline habits.

Not only did my jaw drop when I read these two statements, but I was astonished at how many people ‘liked’ or commented positively toward them. What in the world, people?

I would like to point out that because I feel this way and will be referring to Adam Lanza in my points does not mean that I have any sort of sympathy for his actions. I believe what he did was wrong and unjustifiable no matter what was going on in his head.

Suffering with a mental illness is a horrific way to live. It is entrapment. It is terrifying to the victim. When I hear about these sorts of events where someone who has been untreated with a mental illness and has gone on a rampage, my heart hurts for two reasons. 1. Because I understand how scary it is to have your brain tell you things that you DON’T want to hear. It is scary to have your brain control you. It is scary to not be able to take control of your thoughts and not be able to exist and reason in a rational manner. We do not know for sure what Adam Lanza suffered from or even if he did, in fact have any sort of disorder, but if he did…there is no way to understand what his mind was telling him in the moments, days, and weeks leading up to what happened. Yes, he was absolutely WRONG in his actions, but someone who is ailing in their mind cannot tell the difference between sane and insane, right or wrong, rational or irrational. The second reason my heart hurts is because YET AGAIN, these acts by these people deemed as ‘monsters’ suddenly become the poster child for mental illness. All of a sudden, people who suffer from mental illness feel the need to crawl back in the shell of denial and embarrassment because we may possibly get labeled as someone who could AT ANY MOMENT fly off the handle and start to murder everyone around them. Mental illness does NOT equal murder. I read that Adam Lanza showed signs of possibly having OCD and I almost began to cry. How do you think that makes people like myself feel to read this sort of information? Will I be associated with a MURDERER the next time I mention that I have OCD?

I cannot help you understand what it is like to exist inside of a brain in which I do not have full control. All I can tell you is that it happens and it is terrifying. I am 35 years old today…but at the ripe age of 20 when I was diagnosed, my mind could not fully comprehend what it means to be sick in my mind…I did not even believe that such a thing existed and I sure as hell DID NOT want to think that I was mentally ill!!! Young people need to be educated…they need to be aware that it is not just crazy murderers who are out on rampages that suffer. Unfortunately, the media does a phenomenal job of painting that picture and America seems to fall right in line with it.

Secondly, I would like to mention that I was disciplined as a child. I was whipped with a belt when I fell out of line and I deserved it when I did because I was rebellious at times!  I harbor no ill feelings for being disciplined and believe I am a better person because of it. But, I STILL have a brain disorder. I STILL tried to take my own life. The disorder is a chemical imbalance in my brain and this can be proved by the balancing of the chemicals through medication. This has NO DIRECT correlation to how I was disciplined.  NO amount of discipline OR non-discipline would have prevented or caused my disorder.

Mental illness is a hard enough struggle without the continuous belittling of the media when these sorts of events happen. My point of this blog is to please be aware to respond, comment, and take a stand that is objective and non-emotional. While there are many factors and issues that need to be addressed, we are a country that is grieving for the lives of the children lost and that should be the ONLY concern right at this moment.

We will never know all of the facts unfortunately. That will be the hardest part on the people directly involved, especially the parents. This is the scariest part about this sort of tragedy…there is no explanation and even if there was one, it would not be enough to heal the pain now or for the years to come.

Thank you for reading.

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