Tag Archives: alchoholsim

Politics, Exclusion, and Mental Health

Sometimes as I prepare an article, my brain is racing with current events, the endless “Breaking News” banners which are seldom pleasant, the division that has become the norm in the United States.  Many of these issues are causing people pain and stress and anxiety to the point that there has been a name coined for it.

I have largely avoided addressing them directly, but sometimes the constant barrage of shock and awe makes me want to publish a reply that necessarily involves politics.  If it affects me like burning coal in my chest, I know that others feel it too. A comment from the White House even caused me to self-reveal some time ago.  Now as I find myself slipping further into anxiety and depression, I will address them, but I will try to be as non-partisan as possible.  If it affects mental health in any way, I will bring it here and talk about it, and I will offer resources and comfort.

I will address it.  That is my reason for this page.

Consider this: is there anyone reading this article who has not had their guts ripped out by the footage of little babies and children ripped from their mother’s arms?  The recording of them screaming from cages?  Reports of drugging, and sexual assault?  Parents deported without their beautiful children?

This should not be a partisan issue, this should not be red vs. blue, this is a human issue.  How the hell could it be otherwise?

This travesty is just the latest, and one of the most horrific, that is hurting everyone, and for us, it can be the final straw, as it were.  That one thing that is just too much to deal with that leads us back to booze, drugs, self-harm, or worse.  I can’t ignore that.  I just can’t.

Look, what’s happening right now is painful, no matter your politics. So many people are hurting and holding their own truth to their hearts. But can we agree that some of the actions of the current administration are far beyond the pale?  Can we agree that what is happening to children is a crime against humanity?

Can we agree that some things should not lead to an ugly interchange, that we can agree to take care of each other?  Yes, there are bridges too far to cross, I won’t seek common ground with Neo-Nazis for example, but can’t reasonable people agree that this particular example is absolutely inexcusable?

I really hope so.

Nightmares & Laughter is first and foremost about advocacy and safety for people with mental illness, addiction issues, suicidal ideation, or anything under that umbrella.  It’s also for people who have someone in their lives dealing with these issues.   Sometimes this pain and anxiety will involve things that are happening.

USED Politics Exclusion...
We cannot work for a better future if we disappear. 
Find a way to breathe.

I want to be clear, no matter where on the political spectrum you hang your red or blue hat, you are welcome here.  I very much want you here.  I am not doing right by my community if my words push you away.  But to fulfill the purpose of this blog, sometimes I will be calling out behavior or events that will likely fall to one side.  My concern is for our collective health, and I will address it as I see the need.  I don’t want to chase away anyone, I really don’t.  But I can no longer sit on my hands when little children are locked away or devastating fires in my home, California, are callously dismissed.

I will not, however, use this blog as a strictly political platform.

I include two resources in case the world is getting to be too much, or you are finding yourself in a bad place.

Take care of yourself and please, take care of each other.

 

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

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

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Exciting News!

I am over the moon to announce the release of my autobiography, Life Songs – Discussions with an Angry Child.

It’s a unique collection of poetry I had written from 11 to 25, poems about my mental illness before I knew what it was, addiction, abuse, fantasy, and rage.  I spoke to each poem from the perspective of these 50 years that I somehow managed to survive.  I know!  I am as surprised as anyone!

It is painful, funny, surreal, unflinchingly honest, and quite literally my life’s work.  It means the world to me.

When you click the link below, you can read the entire Forward for free in the preview, which will give you my detailed explanation of what brought this about and how to get the most from the journey.  You are a participant, sitting next to me.  Just don’t eat all my salsa.  I hate that.

 

Life Songs – Discussions with an Angry Child

 

Sue_Life Song (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for the Crash – Processing Healthy Sadness

I am currently preparing myself for a crash.

I’ve been on an up and down since October, but the ups have been stunning and glorious.  I don’t mean manic highs, just the kind of excitement and anticipation of finishing my book which means the world to me.

But since what goes up must come down, I know that when it is done, when I have it in my hands, there will be a crash.

This is just human.  We cannot live in a sustained state of happy, it’s not possible.

Always happy
I shall have this bliss for a million gagillion years!

So I am preparing myself for that.

Here’s what I’m not doing, I’m not trying to set up something that will take my focus away from these feelings, try to push them into the back of my mind.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, and maybe unhealthy, but I don’t think so. I don’t think it is unhealthy to want to feel sadness or even a sort of grieving, which this will be.  I think it’s healthy to want to be with those emotions, to feel them, and then…let them go.

If we ignore these things, that smoldering emotion can show up in other ways.

What should you do at these times?

I don’t know, what feels right for you?

For me, I’m lining up ideas. I’m going to let myself feel whatever it is that’s in my heart, and I’m going to respond however it makes sense at that moment; I’ll no doubt cry, this is a 25 year project which is deeply meaningful to me, then I’ll employ three of my best non-alcohol defense mechanisms; sleep, daydream, hide away in the dark like a troll awaiting its next billy-goat, and process the emotions.

And then, I will center and get to the next thing.

I’m telling you all of this because I think we in the U.S. specifically are too wrapped up in “we must be happy/sadness is bad.”

No, sadness is not bad, sadness is human. Telling someone to “smile, you’ll feel better!” or “oh, it’s not that bad” or my personal favorite “if you changed your gladitude you’d be fine!” (“gladitude” is a real thing that someone actually said with their mouth and larynx and got paid for doing so.) All of these glib phrases can be truly offensive to someone who is suffering, regardless of why.  Pain is not a contest, yours may not be equal to someone else in magnitude, but it is exactly as valid.  So these well-meaning platitudes are rude, actually.

But for us, they can be deadly.

Telling someone with a mental illness to get over it or just smile is beyond dangerous. By its nature depression and its friends tell us that we aren’t good, that we are broken, and other damaging messages. So this could be the last straw for someone already suicidal.

But if you can still talk yourself through the sadness, it’s a good thing to do, in whatever way resonates with you.

It can be an issue for people with jobs, kids, school, anything that takes up your time and energy and leaves you with little left for yourself.  I understand I’ve been there.

If you have the luxury as I currently do, to be with your sadness and process it, that is wonderful.

But if you can’t, if you are too overburdened, I hope that you can find a way to get a moment, even just a moment, to be with it.

If you can’t do this because you are in an unsafe place, if you’re in an abusive relationship or feel too far down the pit of depression to try to do it by yourself, I’ve included some links below that could be of help.  Please do not try to do this alone if you are not sure.

Otherwise, let me know in the comments what you do in these moments for self-care, I’d love to see your ideas.

Because yeah, I’m about to crash.

 

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health Awareness Month

I did not intend to let a month go by between articles.  I have been utterly consumed by a project, finishing my book for publication, so things like self-care, the outside world, and current events have pretty much escaped me.

I’m afraid that one of the things that got past my radar is that May is Mental Health Awareness Month!  I cannot believe I missed that.

I was reminded by a Facebook post, because of  course I was, and quickly consulted one of my favorite advocacy/support organizations NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness.

https://www.nami.org/

I think this site and others like it will provide more information and more eloquently than I can, so I will keep this short.

I just want to be sure that you have this information in case you, like me, didn’t know until half way through the month.

Let me say though, there is something wonderful and healthy about being so wrapped up in your passion that you very briefly* lose all track of time and pass the days feeling excited, fulfilled, and looking forward to starting you day.  I wish that for all of you.

* Very briefly.  If you start to go Howard Hughes, miss paying any bills, or generally neglect the real world it’s time to rejoin us because that would not be healthy.

Snipped out

 

What Did You Dream Last Night?

Note: Given the climate in the United States right now I want to tell you that this article uses a short description of a dream-scape shooting.  It is not graphic and is very short.

Do you remember your dreams?  Are they vivid?  Do you write them down?

Maybe you’re one of the people who analyze them, look through books and websites about what a symbol means, what your subconscious is trying to tell you.  These can be fine things to do, up until your subconscious tells you to quit your job, buy a unicycle, and ride around town throwing turnips at people.  I might not take that one literally.

I come from the place of the mind not the supernatural, as I’ve written about before.  Your subconscious is telling you something you already know, something that is hidden for some reason, even unacknowledged.  But it’s from you and your beautiful, powerful brain.

Sometimes that brain gets pissed.

Years ago, before I got sober for the I think second time, I was lying in bed in that not really asleep sort of blacked out state, the one where you stumble to the kitchen, drink orange juice right from the carton, and in the morning wonder how the hell a carton of orange juice got in your closet, that sort of thing.  It’s not the most enlightened time for a person, is my point.

This particular night though, I had a dream that I remembered, and it was not subtle.

I was on the porch of a sort of farm style house somewhere in the desert, a place surrounded by swirling dirt and scraggly brush.Creepy Old House

Anyway, a person came out of nowhere with a rifle and was mercilessly shooting everyone in the way, until arriving at the porch.  I had hidden behind a large rocking chair, terrified and crying, waiting to die.  The shooter came up and pointed the muzzle at me.  I reached out, grabbed her wrist, and pleaded with her to not kill me.  “I’m not done yet.” I recall saying.

The shooter, coming as a surprise to no one, was me.  I told you it was not subtle.

From that moment on, I was clean and sober and never had a manic episode or a depression ever again.  The End. <credits>

That’s not how things work, of course.  But it helped, and that always matters.

So what dream are you having that you need to wake up from?  Try to search them for a clue, and when you find it, look at it with unblinking eyes.  If it is painful, try to look at them even more.  You may want to do this with a therapist.

A common defense mechanism for us is disassociation and we are good at it.  But try to stay present, try to hear what it’s saying to you, and be gentle with yourself.

Below is a link to the National Helpline.  If you decide your dreams are telling you something you don’t want to face alone, if you are finding your carton of orange juice in the closet even one time really, or for whatever reason you need help and support, please give them a try.  It’s free and confidential.

And if you feel like it’s too much, if you’re having dark thoughts and considering a way out, I’ve also included the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

It will pass and the world is better with you in it.

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

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

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

 

 

Verbal Free Writing – Finding the Gold in the Sand

When I am writing something, the forward in my book, a new poem, this article, sometimes I get stuck. If I’ve reached a point where my fingers hover over my keyboard and sort of wiggle in mid-air with no real idea where to land, I open a new document and start to free write.

Free writing means I simply type and do not stop.  If I hit a wall, I write something like “damn I hit a wall what shall I write about now I had a carrot yesterday the color orange is funny what hell is Crazy Legs up to out there…” or just one word over and over.  The point is to keep writing, keep focused, don’t edit.

Hidden away among those carrots and cats, I usually find something real, however small, since my brain did not have time to block it.  It may be a creative idea to expand on, the break in the dam that sends the water roaring down.

Or it may be truly enlightening.

Alone with my thoughts, I can write nonsensical ramblings that only I will see.  But there also may be the inadvertent slips of sometimes brutal insight.

Then I get to my therapist’s office.

It’s a quirk for me that I want to sound smart and well-spoken with the current keeper of the “I can send you to a 72 hour hold,” so I choose my words carefully.  I’m so super smart!  You don’t know how many thoughtful things I can say with my face-hole!  So a lot of time is wasted on long pauses while I try to find exactly the right word, the cleverest turn of phrase. (I also feel weird if I don’t make small talk when I get there, but that’s just my usual neurosis.)

Anyway, I told her that I wanted to try an experiment.  In order to get to the heart of the matter I was going to free write verbally, without a “watcher” in my head, an inner critic, any sort of a barrier to raw truth.

It goes like this, start talking, that’s it.  Just open your mouth and say things with your lips. Do not edit for grammar or vocabulary or syntax, just talk.  You will almost certainly hit on something.  And when you do, stand up and shout “Eureka!” (totally don’t do this.)  When you hit on something, stop and look at it.

The process of healing is sifting through the dirt until you find gold.  You will find a lot of “fool’s gold” in the process, but if you can get through that dirt, if you can sift out the bugs and rocks, you can hold a nugget of gold in your hand and know you’ve accomplished something.

Therapy is old timey gold prospecting, apparently.  I shouldn’t watch documentaries before I write these.

Prospectors
“So you see Jeremiah, if you sort through these dad-burn bugs and confounded rocks, you can find bits of evocative insight!”

Anyway, I encourage you to try it, both written and verbal.  It cuts through the long pauses where we sometimes obsess about how to present ourselves in the best light.  You don’t have to impress them. You’re in therapy, not on a date.

Also, you don’t have to make small talk.  “Hi how are you?” will generally suffice. I’m still working on that one myself.

Dual Diagnosis

It’s the weekend!  A time for barbecues, watching sportball, (football is the pointy one, right?)  or if you’re me at the moment, sitting on the couch with your S.O. and cat, watching the fog roll by, coffee coursing through your veins, a Boris Karloff movie shining its Technicolor glory from your T.V.

It’s also the time that many people drink.  Normally this is just fine, people can have a beer say, and go on about their fog filled summer (I live in San Francisco, it’s a thing.)

But some, like me, cannot do this.

I frequently have to explain to people exactly what this means.  “Well, can’t you have just one beer?” they ask me, adorably.  “I can’t have one six pack.  And one beer leads to one six pack.  It’s like a potato chip, only with gaps in memory and slightly more vomit.”

Many of us who are alcoholics may be dealing with underlying, undiagnosed mental illness; depression, bipolar disorder (present!) any of a myriad of illnesses that likely require medication.  It’s called “self-medicating” and it is very common.

Consider the acronym HALT, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  When you drink are you feeling one or more of these?  Are you drinking to forget?  To numb your mind? Are you finding yourself missing time (blackouts) or getting sick?

Are you waking up wondering what the hell you did the day before and realizing you hurt people, made a fool of yourself, or your money is gone?  Are you in a holding cell?

If you answer yes to any of these, I urge you to get help.  It doesn’t have to be like this.

You can get sober and if you are “dual diagnosis” you can be treated for that as well.  I promise you, you can do this.  I’ve been there. I survived.

I’m including two websites and numbers. Please call. Please get help.  Let yourself be vulnerable, it’s OK.

The world is a better place with you in it.

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

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

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

DSC07150

 

 

Gallows Humor Example – Anorexia and Beer

I thought I’d follow up my post on Gallows Humor, https://bellechapin.com/2016/04/04/gallows-humor/ with examples, things that have happened to me that are really funny and deeply fucked up. Those who already get the joke, just enjoy it. Those who don’t can maybe understand a little more.  If you think they’re funny, then forcryingoutloud laugh!

Somewhere around 20 years ago, I got sober for the first time, but I did not deal with the reasons why I drank in the first place.

So I embraced anorexia as a fun new way to be self-destructive and skinny doing so.

One night something got to me, so I bought myself a 6-pack and went home.  I sat on my floor with my beer, pulled one out and looked at it, paused, and thought…

“I really want to get drunk, but do you know how many calories are in this beer?”

And with that, I laughed my ass off. Even in my starvation addled brain, even with my heart pounding and beginning to fail me, even though all I really wanted to do was die, I still couldn’t help but acknowledge the utter absurdity of this little dilemma.  It stopped me for a few moments, and I laughed for the first time in months.  For a few precious ticks of the clock, everything was funny again. For just a few labored heartbeats, my world made sense.

Oh I drank it, you better believe it.  But the bit up to that is super funny.