My Experience with Online Therapy at Breakthrough.com

Yesterday, I had my first session with a clinical social worker and I was in my pajamas. Instead of sitting in a waiting room surrounded by germ-ridden magazines, dusty wall art, and administrative noise… I was in the comfort of my own bed.

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Breakthrough.com is an Online Therapy service that provides access to mental health professionals via web cam. Sessions are conducted as a video call over a secure video system that you download when you register for the site. Sessions range in cost from $50 to $250 dollars a pop, and many have self-pay options for people without insurance.

Form this point forward, I am going to discuss my personal experience with Breakthrough.com and the mental health provider that I selected. There are multiple articles about Online Therapy, and many different websites that now provide the service, and I think that you, as a person who is reading this now and using the internet, are capable of using a search engine to find information about those sites.

I have Medicare parts A, B, and D. None of that provides mental health coverage. Therefore, I searched for a provider who had a self-pay rate I could afford. Breakthrough.com has a great search-filter set that allows you to winnow down to a list of professionals who will best suit you. I chose a young woman who is a clinical social worker. She’s worked with people who have histories of past trauma and abuse, as well as helping with depression and family issues. Her self-pay rate is $60 an hour. Phone sex actors and actresses make more than a dollar a minute, so I feel like this is an excellent deal.

When I selected her as my therapist, I was given the option of a free, 15 minute consultation. I chose to go ahead and schedule an appointment with her, because I don’t feel like 15 minutes is long enough to get into the things that I, personally, need to get out of therapy. When I scheduled my appointment for 2 PM, she promptly messaged me, using Breakthrough.com’s secure messaging system, to ask if I wanted a 30 or 60 minute session.

Her message to me was polite, upbeat, and made me feel like she was welcoming. She let me know that if I had any questions, she was happy to answer them. I did have questions about what would happen before our session, and if I’d have to fill out paperwork. This was information that I later received in an e-mail from Breakthrough.com, however she provided the information happily. I didn’t feel like I was hassling anyone, and I wasn’t made to feel dumb that I had missed the big, green “TUTORIAL” link on the home screen.

Before my session with A (which is what I will call her), she let me know that I’d have to read some terms and information and also fill out a mood assessment. This information only becomes available 10 minutes prior to your session.

Breakthrough.com Is Beyond User Friendly

I’m web-savvy. I can figure things out on my own. With Breakthrough.com, I didn’t have to figure anything out. I asked, and was given information, and the website does an excellent job of making sure that your appointment will go smoothly. They offer a 15 minute test session where your tech issues get worked out. They check your internet connection to make sure that your session won’t be interrupted or lag. They tell you how to turn on your camera and mic. They show you where to download their secure video software. It’s user-friendly as all get out. I had no issues with the software installation.

The only tech problem that I had at all was caused by my son uploading things online when I had asked him not to. He created lag on my end, and there were 3 instances in which my video call with A froze.

Breakthrough.com Gave Me the Best Therapy Experience I Have Ever Had

I don’t want to gush. I’m not a gusher. However, there is praise due to A, and to the way that Online Therapy works as a whole. Below are some issues that I have had with therapists and other professionals in the past:

  • They don’t start right on time
  • They aren’t prepared for my session and don’t seem focused on me at the start
  • They take care of administrative tasks in front of me, such as billing, insurance calls, etc
  • They answer phone calls during sessions
  • They have to start from the BASICS in our first session and ask standard questions as opposed to actively listening and letting me talk about why I am there
  • There’s too much paperwork… paperwork… paperwork
  • They assume that I will be back and want to work with them
  • Waiting rooms suck
  • Receptionists vary from awesome to rude

None of this was the case with my session with A. Here is what was different about my Online Therapy session:

  • My start time was scheduled for 2 PM. My therapist video called me at 2 PM
  • My therapist used information from the e-mails I sent her prior to our session to break the ice, “You say you’ve been in therapy before…” and seemed prepared to talk
  • Breakthrough.com takes care of all of the paperwork before your start time, and separately from your therapy session. I wasn’t charged to do paperwork, and I wasn’t bogged down by a lot of administrative yuck. My therapist merely took notes in front of me
  • My therapist had her phone accessible at the start of the session, and stated that she was having technical problems on her end and was going to call me. Luckily, the website cooperated and she didn’t have to. I never saw or heard her phone again
  • My Online Therapy session was centered around me. I didn’t have to explain why I was there or justify wanting therapy. I was permitted to dive right into my issues and ramble. She asked reflective questions and showed true active listening skills the entire time. It wasn’t until 30 minutes into our session that she began directing the conversation back to things she wanted to get more information about. And when she asked, she was informed
  • She said phrases like, “if you want to work with me,” and “I’d be excited to work with you on these issues.” At no point did I feel that she was above me. She made no assumptions. She praised me for reaching out to someone, and acted humble about the fact that I had chosen her, and that I wanted to keep seeing her for a bit
  • I didn’t have to deal with a waiting room. I didn’t have to talk to a receptionist to schedule my next appointment. My therapist scheduled my next appointment and I received a confirmation on my Breakthrough.com home screen

Breakthrough.com Allows True Connections with Your Therapist

A, my new therapist, said that I… her meager client, could message her before our sessions with the topics I’d like to discuss. She said that it would give her a chance to look up possible resources for me to use outside of our sessions. She said that if I need her at any time while in crisis, to contact her and she will work with me. She was utterly focused on me and my needs as a human being during our session. Because I was at home, in my comfy bed, I felt so very safe discussing harder topics with a complete stranger. I left the session I had with her feeling like I had done therapy work, instead of going through therapy motions. That is extremely important to me.

Granted, this is my experience with one of their providers. However, I have to speak for those of us who are uncomfortable in office settings, or can’t always make appointments because we don’t feel well, or don’t like to make eye contact. Online Therapy permitted me to have my physical comfort needs met. I didn’t have to look at the screen. I could just listen and talk. She could see me. I could see her. She looked into the camera. I looked to the side. I could fidget. I could take sips of things. I had everything I needed without having to ask for it. It’s tremendous to be disabled or neurodiverse and have access to therapy that makes your environment for you.

Having control over your environment is so important when you’re talking about things that make you feel vulnerable.

Final Thoughts about My Therapist

There is one important thing that A did that no other therapist has done before. She asked what I have disliked about previous therapy sessions in which I’ve participated.

That’s a huge question. We all know I’m a quitter when I’ve decided that something just IS NOT WORKING (for me) and that I bail. I bail hard. I admit to it. I don’t see the point in dragging things out if there is no hope. I’ve left so many therapists.

Why? Well, here is the short list: feeling judged for my relationship style or sexual orientation, feeling like the professional was more focused on how interesting I was than helping me, feeling like the therapist was focusing too much on an issue that I felt was tertiary to the core issues I need to work on, feeling like the therapist had made a decision about something in my life and was exerting their personal opinion in session… etc.

I said all of this to A. She made notes. I told her that I, as a researcher and knowledge-seeker, have been doing my own trauma work and that I am ready to just dive into the deep issues I have from my past. She said she wasn’t sure if that was okay. More than okay. More than okay.

I like her. I hope this works out. Because I surely do like going to her office, aka my bedroom.

Also, I can go to therapy sessions without wearing pants. Bonus.

Payment

This is the thing that everyone really wants to know. I will reiterate that there are mental health providers who don’t require insurance. It isn’t a hassle to not have mental health coverage and the self-pay rates for many are reasonable. Breakthrough.com takes your credit or debit card information when you sign up, and then charges you after your session. It was easy. There was no extra billing to take care of.

Again, minimal paperwork with this site.

Things Breakthrough.com Professionals Can’t Do

They can’t prescribe medication. That’s the biggest thing. And honestly, I don’t go to therapy for medication. I see doctors for medication. I can find psychiatrists who will take mental health recommendations from my doctors if needed. Yet, my neurologist has been managing my antidepressants because she’s my primary prescriber and juggles all of my meds.

They have a long list of Terms and Conditions. As expected. Otherwise, except for the medication thing, I really haven’t seen a hole in what I consider MY therapy needs.

So far, 4 stars for Breakthrough.com and 5 stars for my new therapist.

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“We Did The Thing!” – Self Doubt and Self Care

I wrote the title for this blog enthusiastically and with happy tears in my eyes because I have recently experienced something I want to share with the world. Then, I stared at the screen, started typing, hit the backspace key, typed something else, and stared some more. The truth is that I don’t know how to talk about this in an articulate way. I have expressed parts of the feeling to individuals as I have deemed it necessary, but, ultimately, the emotion is too huge to pin down in a few words.

I am, however, going to try. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a human. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as a woman. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with autism. I think it is necessary for me to talk about it as an individual with chronic pain. I will do my best, and I will ramble, but I will be as sincere as I damned well can be.

I don’t trust easily. I’ve never had close humans whom I’ve felt I could tell anything to or whom I felt I could call if I needed support. I’ve never felt comfortable asking for help. I have always stringently avoided inconveniencing people. I have kept up appearances as much as I possibly can. I have forever tried my best to deal with me… myself.

Over the past few years, I have learned the importance of self care, the benefits of therapy, and how to speak to myself more positively. I had not learned, though, how to rely on others for support (or trust others to support) until two weeks ago.

I like to consider myself a fully-formed emotional being who is self-aware and capable of doing grown-up things. Unfortunately, life, which is complicated and often ugly, can sometimes smack a person around and you don’t always behave as gracefully as you should. Sometimes you break the fuck down. Sometimes the world ends. Sometimes things are just bad. Sometimes you end up in a parking lot somewhere and you don’t want to exist. Sometimes you are in such personal crisis that everything seems dark and dreary and hopeless.

It was in such a moment that I learned that other people are more than just social outlets. Apparently, and this is still new so bear with me, other people who are not family or in romantic relationships with me are capable of caring about me enough to want to help me. Other people do things like show up in parking lots with water and chocolate and hugs. Other people offer to meet for ice cream just to talk without wanting anything in return. Other people check in to see how things are. Other people offer beds and coffee and make dinner and out-of-season Christmas happen. Other people share their ups and downs and feel happy when they hear about ups and sad when they hear about downs in return.

These other people are called “friends.”

It isn’t as if I haven’t had friends all my life, but I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to have this level of friendship with other people before. I had to reach one of the lowest points in my life to finally be able to look up and see all of the hands being reached down to lift me up. And there were so many hands, and they all glowed with unconditional love and compassion.

This is where typing becomes tricky, for the tears, they are a’flowing. It has been a long thirty-five years of striving to feel accepted and loved for who I am by ME, let alone other people. I am trying very hard to let the love that I feel for humanity extend to myself. I know that I am a lovable, likable person. What I have never really believed or understood was that other people see me this way, and I am overwhelmed by how truly cared for and supported an uplifted I feel. I genuinely hope that other human beings have felt this feeling at some point in their lives. I want this feeling for everyone.

I am spending this week engaging in radical self care to eliminate some of the disquiet of self doubt that eats away at me moment by moment. I know that to move forward in a positive way with my life, my relationship with my self, and my relationship with others… I have to regain some of the self esteem that has been lost to years of pain.

I will leave you with this. One of my lovely friends, with whom I discuss aforementioned ups and downs and with whom I celebrate and commiserate, and I have a saying. It is silly and motivational and it puts our intention into the world:

“We did the thing!”

It means that what ever it is that we want or need to do is already done and we were successful. We aren’t going to do it. It is done. We aren’t doing it presently. It is done. We did the thing. The thing is accomplished. Wipe of the hands. Be it difficult and stressful or fun, we did it.

Whatever you have to do, it is already done. You did the thing. But you aren’t alone…

We did the thing.

5 Quick Self Care Tips

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Bad day? Here are 5 things you can do RIGHT NOW to feel better:
  1. EAT, SLEEP, HYDRATE! Okay, that’s three things. I cheated. But, trust me, if you’re hungry, tired, or dehydrated- you can feel better instantly by taking care of it NOW!
  2. MUSIC! Listen to something that soothes you. It could be Enya or your fave death metal. It doesn’t matter what you choose, so long as it speaks to your inner calm.
  3. BREATH! Try the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, or any deep breathing strategy to relax your body and engage  the parasympathetic nervous system. It slows the heart rate and calms the body.
  4. CREATE! Art can take our brains to another place. It can help us focus when we listen, and help us express feelings in a safe way. It can also help us relax. Try painting, colouring, or using whatever you have on hand to get creative. anything crafty will do. Sew, knit, sculpt, glue something! It doesn’t have to be pretty to make you feel better.
  5. CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT! If you’re at work, try taking a quick break. If you’re at home, change rooms. Wherever you are, if you are upset, in pain, or anxious… it can help your mind and body switch gears if you change locations. Work within your limits. If a walk is too challenging, sit on the porch. If you can’t take a break at work, try a quick stretch. Adjust the temperature, change the channel, cuddle something soft. Think of the following words when you’re making a change: stimulate, distract, control.

“How Are You?”

Being asked how I am is a difficult question to answer depending upon the person asking. If it’s an acquaintance, I typically say, “I’m hanging in there,” or “I’m living.” If it’s a closer friend, I might talk about whether I’m having a bad day or a worse day or if I’m feeling down about things.

If it’s my husband or my son, I might outright lie and say I’m fine.

It’s difficult to subject your family to your chronic pain condition day after day. Although I know that it’s not beneficial to anyone to hide my symptoms and try to power through, I also know how heart breaking it is to see how bummed out they are when I’m curled up in pain.

I spend far too much energy trying to act normal for my family so that they will act normal around me, and it’s counter-productive. What I really want is for my family to understand my condition and my medications and my pain levels and see what’s going on with me as a legitimate problem. Instead, this tendency I have to mask it so that they aren’t made uncomfortable blocks me from receiving a lot of the compassion that I need to get through.

Basically, my it’s an emotional nightmare in my home and I feel fully responsible. I know I’m not fully responsible, but I have guilt issues that cloud everything in a haze of, “IT IS YOUR FAULT! DON’T LET OTHERS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!”

How am I? I hurt. A lot. With the exception of this past Friday, I haven’t been below an 8 on the pain scale in 8 months. I’m tired all of the time, and my new medication makes me go to sleep during the day. I have nightmares when I do sleep and wake up in pain. I dream about my pain. I’m constantly anxious and worried. I’m sad. I’m depressed. I cry daily because I hurt and because I’m tired and because I don’t want to be in pain anymore. I think a lot about how nice it would be to never wake up again. Right now, things are ugly in my house and I am very lonely. I’m trying to arrange time with friends to counter that, but I lack a lot of energy or desire to actually be around people. I feel trapped because it’s become very difficult to drive. I feel trapped because my marriage is strained and I don’t know how to fix it or if it can be fixed. I feel trapped because I spend most of my time in my bedroom.

I know that feeling trapped is a symptom of depression. One-sidedness is a symptom of depression. Everything is a symptom of depression.

How I am is not good. How I am is trying really hard and failing. How I am is distraught.

I talked to my son yesterday about his perception of what I’m going through. He just came back from a road trip with another family and he said it was so weird to do things. They just did stuff, like normal people. We don’t do things as a family. He said they didn’t argue, they just did things and had fun. I told him that sounded nice. He says he understands what’s wrong with me, but that he hopes they find a way to fix me soon so that I don’t have to hurt so much and so that my husband and I will fight less.

It breaks my heart that I can’t give him great family experiences and that the thing he thinks about when he thinks about his family is that his mother is in pain and his parents argue.

How do I make things better? I really have no clue. I keep trying all of the tips and tricks I read about in books and online. I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted and I feel so persona non grata in my own home.

Suicide, Depression, T-Shirts, & Deadly Rashes with My Brain Hates Me

Power of Pain Foundation

Donate to http://powerofpain.org/ or become a delegate yourself by clicking here: http://powerofpain.org/delegates-of-popf/

Suicide & Depression Hotlines

United States Hotlines

Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433 FREE

LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255 FREE

Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 FREE

Sexuality Support: 1-800-246-7743 FREE

Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-847-831-3438

Rape and Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673 FREE

Grief Support: 1-650-321-5272

Runaway: 1-800-843-5200 FREE, 1-800-843-5678 FREE, 1-800-621-4000 FREE

Exhale: After Abortion Hotline/Pro-Voice: 1-866-439-4253 FREE

National Alliance on Mental Illness www.nami.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org

SAVE www.save.org

International Bipolar Foundation www.ibpf.org

No Stigmas www.nostigmas.org

Active Minds www.activeminds.org

My Brain Hates Me Stuff!

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Get an original MONSTER BRAIN shirt https://represent.com/mybrain-hates-me

or Lights Out, MONSTER BRAIN shirt https://represent.com/monsterbrainlightsout

What’s the Deal with Reiki?

A good friend of mine recently became attuned in the first level of Reiki and offered me a session. She knows about the amount of pain with which I live. I spent a few hours with her this past Friday and it was interesting and relaxing, and definitely worth sharing with you.

What is Reiki?

Reiki describes both the process a practitioner uses to channel energy through a patient with little to no touch, and the energy itself. According to Reiki.org, Reiki is a kind of life force energy that clears the spiritual pathways of the body and to which practitioners must be attuned. A Reiki Master must train new practitioners to sense and manipulate this specific energy.

Does Reiki Interfere with Current Medical Treatments?

Reiki is about mindfulness and spirit and energy manipulation. It doesn’t affect any medications or treatments or care that you’re currently under. It’s a complimentary treatment. Reiki can be intensely emotional, however, so it is important to listen to the practitioner’s messages before an after your session. The practitioner should make themselves available for any questions. It is not covered by insurance.

The Preliminaries

My practitioner showed up on time, in scrubs, with her hair pulled back in a neat pony tail, with a travel case rolling along behind her. We hadn’t seen on another in a long time, so we embraced and exchanged our hellos and experienced the chaos that is my dog.

I had her set up in my living room. She had a massage table, which she covered with soft blankets and a sheet. She asked me if I had a preference about music that I like to listen to when I relax, and I let her choose something. I’m not picky. Any ambient music will do for me. She used her phone to stream music, and even brought her own speaker.

While she was setting up, she had me fill out paperwork that asked for information about my conditions and current medications and the standard contact information. Then she had a second sheet that she went over with me that covered topics such as what I’d like to address, what was my spiritual life is like, and if there were any other areas on which I’d like her to focus. She then asked if smell bothered me because she occasionally burns sage. Sage is fine for me. Before we concluded the paperwork she stated that she is in training and that she is not supposed to touch me. I granted her permission to place her hands on me because I know her and the session was as much for her to practice her craft as it was to help me. I’m comfortable with her. I merely asked that she be gentle with my head.

What My Reiki Session Was Like

I climbed onto the table and had a pillow under my head as well as under my knees to support my lower back. I closed my eyes and heard her scurry about me. She advised me that I might hear her write things down or turn pages while she worked. She let me know that she would give me quiet forewarning before she did anything so that there were no surprises.

She asked me to think positively and in specific ways. For example, she asked me to think things like, “I am healed,” as opposed to, “I will be healed.” Reiki focuses on the present. She also asked me to avoid mental thoughts like, “I am not in pain.” “Not” is a negative. I replaced that phrase with, “I feel good,” and tried to repeat the phrase over and over during the session.

She opened our session officially with a prayer.

Then the fun began.

I consider myself something of an Episcopagan. I’m a Christian but I was also Wiccan for a decade. I was obsessed with the paranormal and psychic phenomena as a kid and I have always had crystals and paid attention to my instincts. The next thing that happened was peculiar, but not entirely surprising, given the nature of the work she was doing. She asked if sound bothered me. I said that I should be okay. She then rang a chime in different places throughout the room to “raise the vibrations,” and I began to feel extreme pressure between my eyebrows. This is the spot I associate with my Third Eye. It was as if the chimes were waking something up in my body that hadn’t been awake for a very long time.

It was pretty cool.

I heard her warming her hands, which is a sound I’m familiar with from my time with massage and physical therapists. Then I began to feel a different kind of pressure building inside the center of my brain. It was as if something was trying to push its way in, or as if a balloon were inflating in my head. It wasn’t painful, mainly invasive. She then lightly placed her hands over my ears, forehead, and the crown of my head, spending several minutes at each.

After spending most of her time with my head, she then moved down the left side of my body, gently placing her hands at my shoulder and elbow, then elbow and wrist. It continued like this, drawing energy down the left side of my body in the path of my circulation down the left, then back up the right side of my body. She ended by focusing over my torso.

After the Session

When I was ready I moved back to my sofa and we chatted about what she found. She told me that my spiritual side, the left, was fine, but that my right side… the side with all of the yucky things that happen in life, was murky. She said I needed to laugh more. She asked me about some things in my past and present that aren’t common knowledge. All in all she was perceptive, professional, and compassionate.

Is Reiki for You?

Unlike massage and acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, Reiki is non-invasive. It comes from a place of love and compassion and spirituality. You don’t have to believe in it for it to work, but as my friend told me, it helps. The worst that can happen is that you get to relax for a while in a comfortable, quiet place with someone watching over you and wishing you well.

Will I Try It Again?

Yes. I need positive people and forces in my life in different shapes and forms. Spiritual healers who are also my friends? Bonus.

Image courtesy of http://www.healingpausepaws.com/

8 Ways to Distract Yourself from Your Chronic Condition

No matter what you’re going through, be it depression, a chronic condition, or just a rough patch in your life, it’s important to give your mind and body a break now and then. A friend of mine, who is a Reiki practitioner, was over to do a session with me this past week. She told me that I needed to laugh more. I think this is true for all of us. As she said, as so many have said, “laughter is the best medicine.”

I think that laughter is a powerful form of distraction, the most powerful in fact. There are other ways to take a brief vacation from mental and biological negativity, however. Here’s are some things to try:

  1. Laugh. It’s not always as simple as just laughing. I get that. But what are some things that make you laugh? Silly movies? Ridiculous cat pictures? Baby animals? People falling down? Do you have a friend who always makes you smile? You used to laugh, and you need to do it more. Laughing hurts less than crying.
  2. Get creative. I learned to play the ukulele after I became disabled. It’s something I can do with my hands that doesn’t require thinking. I can play happy things or sad things. The point is that, while I’m playing, I’m not thinking about how much I hurt. I also draw and embroider. If you have a condition that limits your fine motor skills, there is always finger painting. I’m serious. Get messy! Make something! I shared the story of a woman I met at the Jefferson Headache Center who makes rubber band bracelets on a loom. She can only manage the energy to work on one for 15 minutes, but that’s enough time to finish. At the end, she’s happy to have a new bracelet. I have friends who are talented crafters, photographers, performers, and musicians… and all of them struggle with something.
  3. Learn something. Sometimes it’s hard to feel passionate about anything at all when you lack hope about the future. However, I bet there’s something you’ve always been curious about. Depening upon the severity of your condition and the level of your daily function, your ability to spend time with friends or dedicate a lot of energy to projects may be limited. But your mind still works, and it’s aching to be used and kept spry. From puzzles to out an out research on a topic to free online courses to actually enrolling in an online university… there are many ways to pursue knowledge and keep your brain in shape. Do you love science? History? Philosophy? Embrace your hunger for knowledge and force the spark for learning. The more you look into a topic, the more you might find you want to know. Not only will this give you something to talk about other than your condition (which is just a fact of life when you have anything with the word “chronic” in front of it), it will make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Netflix/Podcast binge. Yes, I said it.Binge. I know that studies have shown that a binge on shows can lead to negative emotional whatever. Fine. But you know what a binge does for me? It passes the hours upon hours that I spend in bed where I am absolutely unable to do anything other than just be in bed in pain. I can’t even look at the television, but I can listen to it. And if the light bothers me too much, podcasts are a beautiful thing. I spend hours alone while my family is at work and school. Having human voices around is nice. I can’t be productive, but I can listen to/watch things that interest me or comfort me. I can learn, I can laugh, I can feel uplifted… all from the comfort of my fetal position.
  5. Listen to music. Bob Marley said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” I choose to take that in a lot of ways. Music is soothing, there’s no doubt about it. Your favourite tunes can elicit all kinds of memories. Actively creating music by playing an instrument or singing, and listening to music are both equally as restorative. You don’t have to listen to light, fluffy music. If you’re angry about what you’re going through, you might feel better if you listen to some angry music. Get it out. It’s okay to feel what you feel. You have every right to be upset about what’s happening to your mind and body. This list isn’t about sugar-coating your condition. It’s about distracting you.
  6. Do stuff with friends. This is a tricky one. Friends can be a double-edged sword. Your good friends who understand what you’re going through will treat you like a human being and not like a fragile doll. Everyone else might be weird around you and that might be unpleasant. Chronic conditions really show you who will stick by you, and you’ve lost people and made new friends a long the way. My husband and I have worked hard to construct a social life that brings the party to us yet allows me to rest and slip away if I need to. We have people over to our house, we ask friends to help with the set-up and clean-up. We make them potluck events so we aren’t doing a lot of the work. I have friends over for show marathons and silly sleep overs. I wear my pajamas because it’s my damned house. My friends are cool with this. They get it. My friends understand that I can’t always drive. We do ridiculous, silly things. It’s all about finding the right people to spend time with.
  7. Get physical. I don’t mean exercise. You should do that too. I mean touch someone, or have them touch you. Massage, caresses, tickling, even intimate touch can be a great distraction. It doesn’t have to be sexual. As much as I hate to admit it, when I’m having a horrible pain day, it’s pretty awesome when my dog licks my feet. I frequently ask my husband to touch my back lightly. Simply being touched on a part of my body that doesn’t hurt is a great distraction. When I’m home alone, I use a soft ball to apply pressure to sore points on my back. Tennis balls work too. Heating pads and ice packs help draw my attention away from my pain. It’s all about pulling my attention elsewhere.
  8. Meditation and breathing exercises. If you live with chronic pain or depression and you aren’t already meditating or practicing controlled breathing on a regular basis, now is the time to start! Introducing calmness into your world is important for your mental and physical health. I’m not going to try to pitch it to you. I’m just going to tell you that I meditate and I use breathing exercises and they help me immensely. I think they could be good for you and you should give them a shot. That’s just my opinion. Here are some great resources to try if you need some help:

Happy Painiversary, My Brain Hates Me!

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Happy 3rd Painiversary, My Brain Hates Me!

In 2012, something started going wrong with my head. On August 7th, 2012, after my first productive and full day of work in a long while, I went home, sat down in my kitchen, and my head started hurting again. It never stopped. That day was both the last day I remember feeling good, and the beginning of my Monster Migraine.

It’s been a long, depressing, painful, maddening three years. There’s nothing happy about living with chronic pain. There’s nothing fun about being buried under tons of medical debt. There is no reason to celebrate today.

However, I’m alive. I’m alive and you’re reading this. Maybe your body has betrayed you in some way. Maybe someone you know lives with pain. Maybe someone you know thinks a little differently. Maybe you think a little differently. You’re alive too. We’re getting through the day.

This isn’t a joyous day for me, but it’s also not the end of the world. I live in the 8-10 pain range. all of the damned time. Yesterday, I had Botox treatment and a lot of new things were discussed at my appointment. I sleep sporadically. I’m grumpy frequently. I’m pretty darn depressed. I do have a family that loves me, though, and a ridiculous dog, and a roof over my head. Things could always be worse.

Therefore, on this day of sarcastic remembrance, I shall embrace the fact that I have grown as a person because of my pain and that I have accomplished some good things because of my pain, and that not everything is horrible.

Thank you for reading over the past few years, and for continuing to read in the years to come. You’re rad, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Love Your Friendly Neighborhood Pain Grump,

My Brain Hates Me

HOW YOU GET THROUGH IT ALL

howshouldwetreatme:

13 Darkly Motivational Quotes

When getting through the day is my goal, a sappy quote about success and achievement doesn’t motivate me to keep going until tomorrow. I prefer the comfort of bittersweet words that ring true. Sometimes, it’s worse to feel alone with you’re unhappiness than to be unhappy. Here are some quotes that I’ve found motivational over the years:

  • “My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.”

– Cary Grant

  • “It’s possible to love a human being if you don’t know them too well.”
  • “If you’re losing your soul and you know it, then you’ve still got a soul left to lose.”

– Charles Bukowski

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  • “You can’t really be strong until you see a funny side to things.”
  • “The trouble with super heroes is what to do between phone booths.”

– Ken Kesey

  • “How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.”
  • “Do not seek the because – in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”

– Anaïs Nin

  • “Passion is what gets you through the hardest times that might otherwise make strong men weak, or make you give up.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

  • “Time moves in one direction, memory in another.”
  • “For years I have been mourning and not for my dead, it is for this boy for whatever corner in my heart died when his childhood slid out of my arms.”

– William Gibson

  • “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”

-Ray Bradbury

  • “Beware of monotony; it’s the mother of all the deadly sins.”
  • “If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time.”

– Edith Wharton

Lost All Hope: Information on suicide methods, statistics and help

Lost All Hope is absolutely the best website about suicide I have come across. It’s factual. I like facts. Facts are comforting. Numbers are real. I don’t like being pandered to or actively listened to. I want someone to give me concrete information.

From the carefully ordered menu that guides you through help and mindfulness, to the cited references that offer further interesting resources… this site is lovingly crafted. A must read for those of us struggling with a lack of desire to wake up in the morning.

 

“Lost All Hope has no angle. The site is non-profit. It has no religious affiliation. It has no political stand point on the whys and wherefores, pros and cons, of suicide or euthanasia. It offers no advice, and has no bulletin boards, chat or forums (although does link to some). It is here as an impartial resource, to help inform you, and make whatever choice is right for you. I hope you find it of use.”

via Lost All Hope: Information on suicide methods, statistics and help.

Why I Talk About Pain & Depression & You Should Too

Depressed vs. Depressing

Many people in my life know me as a cheerful, friendly person. I’ve been called caring and giving. Someone once even went so far as to call me “sunny.”  Those aren’t ways in which you’d expect to hear a person living with extreme chronic pain and depression to be described. When people hear “chronic pain and ” they often think “miserable, awful, unbearable”… “sunny”  is the last word they’d use.

And that’s why I talk about what is happening to my body and my mind. That’s why I share the darkest thoughts that I have, and my bad days, and my painful hours through this blog. I feel that it is important for people to understand that a human being is not the sum of their diagnosis. I am not my pain. I can be miserable and I can enjoy life.

I have moments when I don’t want to live. The remainder of the time I’m thinking about how thankful I am for the time I have with my family. I have moments when my pain is so tremendous that everything else in the world stops and I am alone in a dark room, enshrouded by despair. I also have functional hours where I suffer through putting on makeup and socialize, smiling and laughing with my friends… pretending that the pain doesn’t exist.

Accepting Myself

My pain and depression and anxiety and my ASD don’t ever go away. These are things that are part of me. I used to be ashamed of them. I let people make me feel ashamed of them. I allowed doctors and friends and family to tell me that these were things to get over… from which I had to recover. I allowed other people’s discomfort with my health and mental state dictate how I interacted with the world. Mind you, I’m not saying that I’m not trying to find a cure for my chronic pain or proper treatment options to manage my depression or anxiety. I very much want to stop the pain I live with daily and I would love to live without negative thoughts. However, these things are part of my current existence and I shouldn’t have to hide them. I most certainly shouldn’t have to be ashamed of them.

ASD is not a thing to be cured. My Monster Migraine is not my fault. Depression and anxiety are also not my fault. These are not things I am doing wrong in my life. ASD is how my brain processes information. The rest is unfortunate, but part of who I am now.

But guess what? I’m also a positive, sunny, caring, helpful person who smiles and laughs. I’m silly.

Why I Won’t Shut Up

I talk about pain and depression because they are things that happen to me. I want the people I know to understand what I’m going through. I want people who might be going through similar issues to feel like they aren’t alone. I want the medical community to understand that patients are human beings who share their experiences, deserve the best possible care. Frankly, I also find it therapeutic to talk about my issues freely and be part of a community of people I consider to be survivors of themselves.

I’m not talking about the latest breakthroughs in anti-depressants during entire social engagements. I’m not waxing philosophical about suicide prevention around the dinner table. I am being honest with people when they ask how I am, and correcting misinformation in conversations when I hear it, and updating people if they show curiosity about my condition. Therefore, talking about pain and depression doesn’t have to be a constant endeavor, it just has to be something that I’m open to when the opportunity arises.

Why You Should Talk About Your Pain & Depression

Aside from the obvious therapeutic benefits that being heard and understood can provide, you would be amazed how may people don’t know about your condition. You’d also be surprised how many people know a little bit about your condition, but what they do know is horribly incorrect. You’d also be surprised that for every few people you talk to openly about your pain and depression, you may be giving someone the strength to speak out about their own suffering.

I would not have started this blog had it not been for other people who had the courage to talk about this weird thing going on with their brains. I would not have become an advocate for mental health awareness. I wouldn’t have learned as much as I have about.

You should not be ashamed to talk about suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, or chronic conditions because they aren’t your fault and because there are people who will support you. You may not know those people yet, or you might be surrounded by those people right now and they just don’t know how to help you and support you because they don’t understand what you’re going through.

Talk about it. I do. It helps.

Where and How to Talk About It

Here is a My Brain Hates Me (very much not a medical or psychological professional) Guide to ways to talk about what’s going on with your body and your mind:

The Poseidon Effect

In 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure,” Gene Hackman leads a ragtag group of survivors through the maze that has been born of a luxury liner turned upside down. Along the way he loses members of the surviving group to various and literal trials by water, fire, and even steam. What was once a glamourous, exciting vacation, became a hellish mirror world, and very few made it out alive.

The movie won an Oscar for “Best Original Song” with “The Morning After.” The line from the chorus goes, “There’s got to be a morning after, if we can make it through the night…”

“There’s got to be a morning after, if we can make it through the night…”

If ever there were a more appropriate song to sing to one’s self in dark times, I can’t think of it. Maureen McGovern’s classically 70’s girl-swoon makes the song sad, and hopeful, and tender. Just what any chronic pain or depression sufferer needs. It’s not too upbeat and happy, but there’s something good in it.

I think about “The Poseidon Adventure” frequently. Perhaps it’s because it’s a movie that I saw many times as a child and it just stuck with me. Perhaps it’s because I like the song. Maybe I just enjoy the film for what it is… a well-crafted disaster movie with an interesting plot.

However, there is some part of me that embraces “The Poseidon Adventure” as a twisted metaphor for my life. I was but a happy traveler and then things went horribly wrong, and now I’m making my way through something that was once beautiful. Now it’s wrong, somehow. Everything is upside down and I don’t recognize much of it. Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. Wasn’t I wearing a fancy dress and glamorous? Why am I disheveled and scared?

Gene Hackman’s character is a non-nonsense reverend. He’s cool, not in the sunglasses sense, but in the cool-headed, guy you’d want to follow in a crisis sense. He spends the entire movie yelling at everyone for being weak while also encouraging them to go on. Today, I feel weak. And I’m beating myself up about it. What I’m missing is the voice that says, “you can do it, damn it!”

I need some Hackman in my life.

Reverend Hackman’s character says, “So what resolution should we make for the new year? It’s to let God know that you have the guts and the will to do it alone. Resolve to fight for yourselves, and for others, for those you love. And that part of God within you will be fighting with you all the way.”

Resolve to fight for myself, and that part of God within me will be fighting with me.

Right on, Hackman. Right on.

What No One Tells You About Trauma « TWLOHA

“It is not something you can just move past, but you try anyway. You try to get over and under and around and through. It seems to block your way forward at every turn. But you keep trying because there’s no such thing as going back.

It is not something that has a reset button. There is no do over. And, worst of all, there’s no off switch. It just settles in your chest and threatens to rise in your throat with every breath.” – Claire Biggs

via What No One Tells You About Trauma « TWLOHA.

The Abyss Looks Back Into Me

There is this metaphorical canyon that I stand on the edge of when I’m depressed. It’s that feeling, you know the feeling, where you’re way up high and for some reason you just want to jump. But you don’t really want to jump. And, goodness, you’re terrified of falling. Yet something in you wants to take a step, bend at the knees, and push off and fly.

You just want to fly.

I refer to that feeling as escape. Escape, freedom… it’s all the same. It feels like weightlessness. It feels like driving somewhere without a plan. Just driving in your car with your phone turned off. No one can get to you and you’re free of all responsibilities. You can’t pay bills in a car. You can’t fight with your spouse because they aren’t in the car. You’re flying in your little capsule of freedom down the highway toward the rocky floor of the canyon. You’ll hit eventually… but for that time between jumping/pulling out of the driveway and hitting the ground…

You’re free.

You’re free and you’re not sad and you just are. You can be an entirely different person.

Photo Courtesy of Silver Hammer Lightgraph feat My Brain Hates Me (c)2010

Photo Courtesy of Silver Hammer Lightgraph feat My Brain Hates Me (c)2010

However, I’m not talking about flying or freedom. I’m talking about escapism and we all know it. Any shrink will tell you that this is all classic escapism. My suicidal thoughts are escapist. My constant fleeing to my girl cave is escapist. My immersions into shows on Netflix are escapist.

The bottom line is that I don’t want to be here, or anywhere. I don’t feel like I have family who knows me or cares about me. But then it’s not as if I reach out to them. I’ve successfully honed my mother’s skill for alienating everyone around me. It’s not as if my son, in his throws of teenaged-hormonal chaos can express genuine affection for me for more than a few fleeting moments. And my spouse, well. He likes me when things are going well. The problem is that clinical depression isn’t conducive to things going well. And the less I feel like he likes me, the more depressed I get. Then the worse we get along.

Therefore the desire to jump is strong. If I just left and became someone else for a few days and sat on a beach in dark glasses and a sarong and 8 layers of other clothing to protect my sun-sensitive everything…

I’m sorry I’m not uplifting today. Sometimes I feel like it’s more important to be honest than uplifting. I think it’s normal to want to be elsewhere. I think that’s truly what my suicidal thoughts are about… I just don’t want to exist as things are. I want to have another existence where people like me and where I feel happy and I don’t hurt.

Although, I’ll still back away from the edge and sit.