T-Shirt Giveaway!

I’m giving away two t-shirts to people who send me a picture of their rating and review on iTunes or Stitcher. Just take a screen shot and email it to me at thatbword@stonefruitmedia.net. I’ll pick two reviews at random to get the shirts, and you’ll be helping me out a lot, too. If you want to take a look at the shirt, go to thatbword.threadless.com.

Thanks!

Dangerous

I really try to avoid being very political on both the blog and podcast. I’m not here to discuss politics, not only because I don’t want to alienate any listeners, but because all people, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexuality or religious and political preferences – deserve their mental health be taken seriously. My goal is to be a friend to the community, and by that I mean the WHOLE community, not just those who happen to agree with me politically.

Sometimes, though, politics intrude into our domain. Try as I might, I cannot ignore when a major political figure comments on mental illness as the obvious precursor to violence. I think you all know who I am talking about, here.

For the second time since I started this podcast six weeks ago, Americans have been witness to a tragedy. Sunday morning in Texas a man walked into a church and killed twenty-six people, injuring 5 others. For the second time since I started this podcast six weeks ago, I feel compelled to address the role that mental health plays in mass shootings. It’s a splinter in my soul that I have to address this issue again, and yet, here we are – a nation as divided by issue as it is by color or creed, unable to have a rational discussion on even the most important of topics. The rhetoric is based not on solutions, but on blame. The left blames the right. The right blames the left. The president blames the mentally ill, and we the people are caught in the middle, warned that we must be ever vigilant lest we get shot in the back while we pray.

There are many who think that carrying out this attack in and of itself indicates a mental illness, and it very well could be an indicator. There are also those that would point out that this person served time in a military correctional facility and received a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force because he beat his wife and child. I don’t hear many people claim that this is also due to a mental illness. It does, though, set up a pattern of violence in a man that would ultimately pull the trigger again, and again, and again – twenty-six times.

Can we truthfully say that violence is always the sign of a mentally ill person? Certainly, there are many people with mental illnesses that are not violent at all. I think the numbers are something in the neighborhood of 80 percent of those with a mental illness are not violent at all, but the myth that they are is one of the stigmas that is particularly damaging and difficult to dispel. Once someone is aware of a mental health diagnosis, suddenly their kids can’t come over anymore. Suddenly any minor irritation becomes proof of your instability. Suddenly people are afraid of you.

But is the implication of the president’s words justified? Do all mass shooters have a mental illness? Timothy McVeigh did not (though he was a bomber, not a shooter). The man who shot up Pulse nightclub did not.
Often, Extremism is the cause of mass shootings. But let’s assume for a minute that mental illness and violence do go together. That must mean that most violent perpetrators are mentally ill, right?

And that is what I am afraid of.

A recent article by Fox News goes into detail about the shooter’s mental health, speaking to old classmates who described him as “heavily medicated”. It paints a picture of a very disturbed individual. The article makes references to his being on “psych meds” at an early age and posting about atheism on Facebook, though it was not clear as to what medications he was on. What is known for sure is that he had a history of domestic violence, and it appears that is what precipitated the church shooting, according to The Washington Post.

There is an inherent danger in painting one group broadly with the “mentally ill” brush. Mental illnesses are are different and varied as the people who battle them are. To say that mental illness is as fault here (and diagnosed, treated illness to boot) is to say that any mentally ill person is a bomb that has yet to explode. It suggests that even medicated, treated people with a mood disorder can be considered dangerous.

I don’t know about you, but that scares the shit out of me.

Episode Six: John Emotions of Bipolar Style

In this episode:

The seasons, they are a’changin’. Fall is in the air. It’s my favorite season, bittersweet though it is this year.

I also got my 23 and Me test kit! I’ll be sending it in within the next few days, and I’ll keep you all updated. Let me know if you’re doing it, too. If you want to sign up, go to www.23andme.com/depression-bipolar.

It’s time for Seasonal Affective Disorder to start it’s annual torment. There are a few things that you can do: check your vitamin levels, open up some windows, get some sun when possible, and maybe even buy a SAD lamp.

In news and reviews, Becky looks at a BP hope article about intrusive and obsessive thoughts by Robin L. Flanigan.

Becky talks to John Emotions of the Bipolar Style Podcast. Go listen to Bipolar Style, it’s a lot of fun.

Don’f forget to rate, review, and subscribe!

Find me on Twitter @thatbword1
On Facebook @thatbwordpod

See you next week. I’ll have a blog up in a few days.

Avoidant

“How are you doing a podcast?” my therapist asked me, one eyebrow raised quizzically. She wondered how I, so sensitive to criticism and socially anxious, could put my vulnerability on display in an environment that is so often unkind (to put it mildly). I can’t blame her for being confused.

I didn’t have a good answer for her.

I mean, I did have answers. I’m doing it to raise awareness, to reduce stigma. I want it to help people. I need a creative outlet. There are a million reasons why I started the project, and I’m happy that I did. It’s incredibly rewarding, and at times heartbreaking.

What I couldn’t answer the question behind her question. Why put myself through this?

My anxiety battles against the very idea of it. To put myself out there, in public, to face possible hatred and ridicule, is terrifying. I lose sleep about it. If I think that I’ve said something (or not said something, or laughed at something) that hurt somebody or made them angry, my anxiety spikes to 11.

I just need everyone to love me, goddammit, is that too much to ask?

Spoiler: Yes.

The DSM 5 classifies Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) in this way:

A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Low self-esteem associated with self-appraisal socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior; excessive feelings of shame or inadequacy.
b. Self-direction: Unrealistic standards for behavior associated with reluctance to pursue goals, take personal risks, or engage in new activities involving interpersonal contact.

AND

2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Preoccupation with, and sensitivity to, criticism or rejection, associated with distorted inference of others‟ perspectives as negative.
b. Intimacy: Reluctance to get involved with people unless being certain of being liked; diminished mutuality within intimate relationships because of fear of being shamed or ridiculed.

B. Pathological personality traits in the following domains:
1. Detachment, characterized by:
a. Withdrawal: Reticence in social situations; avoidance of social contacts and activity; lack of initiation of social contact.
b. Intimacy avoidance: Avoidance of close or romantic relationships, interpersonal attachments, and intimate sexual relationships.
c. Anhedonia: Lack of enjoyment from, engagement in, or energy for life‟s experiences; deficits in the capacity to feel pleasure or take interest in things

2. Negative Affectivity, characterized by:
a. Anxiousness: Intense feelings of nervousness, tenseness, or panic, often in reaction to social situations; worry about the negative effects of past unpleasant experiences and future negative possibilities; feeling fearful, apprehensive, or threatened by uncertainty; fears of embarrassment.

And here is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD):

A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Markedly impoverished, poorly developed, or unstable self-image, often associated with excessive self-criticism; chronic feelings of emptiness; dissociative states under stress.
b. Self-direction: Instability in goals, aspirations, values, or career plans.

AND

2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Compromised ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others associated with interpersonal hypersensitivity (i.e., prone to feel slighted or insulted); perceptions of others selectively biased toward negative attributes or vulnerabilities.
b. Intimacy: Intense, unstable, and conflicted close relationships, marked by mistrust, neediness, and anxious preoccupation with real or imagined abandonment; close relationships often viewed in extremes of idealization and devaluation and alternating between over involvement and withdrawal.
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domains:
1. Negative Affectivity, characterized by:
a. Emotional liability: Unstable emotional experiences and frequent mood changes; emotions that are easily aroused, intense, and/or out of proportion to events and circumstances.
b. Anxiousness: Intense feelings of nervousness, tenseness, or panic, often in reaction to interpersonal stresses; worry about the negative effects of past unpleasant experiences and future negative possibilities; feeling fearful, apprehensive, or threatened by uncertainty; fears of falling apart or losing control.
c. Separation insecurity: Fears of rejection by – and/or separation from – significant others, associated with fears of excessive dependency and complete loss of autonomy.
d. Depressivity: Frequent feelings of being down, miserable, and/or hopeless; difficulty recovering from such moods; pessimism about the future; pervasive shame; feeling of inferior self-worth; thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior.
2. Disinhibition, characterized by:
a. Impulsivity: Acting on the spur of the moment in response to immediate stimuli; acting on a momentary basis without a plan or consideration of outcomes; difficulty establishing or following plans; a sense of urgency and self-harming behavior under emotional distress.
b. Risk taking: Engagement in dangerous, risky, and potentially self-damaging activities, unnecessarily and without regard to consequences; lack of concern for one‟s limitations and denial of the reality of personal danger.
3. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Hostility: Persistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability in response to minor slights and insults.

Yeah, the DSM 5 is very wordy.

Sorry for the info dump – but it’s good info, nonetheless.

Perhaps you noticed some small overlap in the two diagnoses. You might see where I’m going with this.

I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It certainly fits: I hit most of those criteria (Especially those in the Negative Affectivity category). Feelings of Emptiness, check. Dissociating under stress, check. Check, check, check. I’ve lived with this diagnoses for several years now, and while it is still painful, I do have some coping skills which can usually keep me from going into a full fledged meltdown. Usually.

But after stumbling upon a description of AvPD, I felt as if I’d looked into a mirror and seen a new, but clearly me, reflection. It so closely resembles my experience that it’s frightening.

To be clear, I’ve not been diagnosed with AvPD. It’s possible I’m just reading myself into the description through some logical fallacy. But it’s really, really close. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve canceled plans because I found out someone I don’t know is going to be there. I hit on most of the other points, too: fear of embarrassment, low self-esteem, and social anxiety. I especially like the phrase “diminished mutuality within intimate relationships because of fear of being shamed or ridiculed.” BPD demands everything from the other person – total love, total commitment. AvPD refuses to reciprocate, guarding against possible pain and rejection. Hello, mirror.

Now, I’m not self-diagnosing, but I think it would be worthwhile to bring up to my therapist.
There is also some data pointing toward a high comorbidity (occurring at the same time) of BPD and AvPD. In fact, according to one study, within a sample size of people diagnosed with BPD, 40% of individuals also met the criteria for AvPD. They also have some neurological similarities.
It stands to reason. Part of the defining characteristics of both disorders have to do with the fear of rejection and sensitivity to criticism.

See, that’s where I am getting into trouble. The potential for criticism is high in a format like this. Maybe I’ll even get critical comments to this very post.

I once made a comment on a Facebook group that was seized on by what seemed like every person in the group as evidence that I am a terrible, no good, awful person. Instead of brushing it off, I went through each post and apologized, begged for forgiveness. It didn’t help, obviously. It made things that much worse. That day I relapsed into self harm just so I could stop crying.

So why am I doing this, again? Is it, to paraphrase JFK, not because it is easy, but because it is hard? Am I just a masochist? (Ok, granted, I am something of a masochist, but that’s another post). Is there a good reason why I chose to open myself up to strangers, not knowing if I would be accepted or harshly rejected?

I tend to side with JFK on this. It is precisely because I find it so difficult that the thing is worth doing. This is me giving anxiety the finger and doing what I want, anyway. I refuse to spend any more of my life missing opportunities because of the fear that I’m somehow broken, less than, not good enough. I’m not going to let the potential for ridicule dictate my actions any longer.

Does that mean it will go away? I’m not naive enough to think that’s true – not in the short-term, anyway. I’ll still be anxious. I’ll still be scared. Now, though, I’m learning healthy coping skills that will help get me through.

Like the indomitable Carrie Fisher once said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway.”

Episode Five – Bryan’s Story

In this week’s episode:

In news and reviews, Becky covers some results from the 23andme.com depression study.  There is also a bipolar study currently underway.  It’s likely closing soon, so if you want to participate go to www.23andme.com/depression-bipolar.

Another article details the cognitive benefits for those with bipolar in playing certain brain-exercising games. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/887358

Becky’s guest today is Bryan.  He has been living with bipolar disorder and shares his story, including his difficulties in getting approved for disability, despite his frequent hospitalizations.  We talked for so long, some of it had to be cut – otherwise this podcast could’ve been two hours long!  So please forgive any non-sequiturs.

As always,  please rate and review on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts.

email me at thatbword@stonefruitmedia.net

or call the voicemail line at 330-353-9633 – voicemails come directly to me.

find me on twitter @thatbword1

I’m on Facebook, just look for That B Word Podcast.

Should I get a pintrest?  Let me know what you think.

Also check out the Sci Fi and Fantasy Book Club hosted by Becky, Slye and Caitlin.  Our first book is Stormfront by Jim Butcher, part of the Dresden Files series.