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Thank You for your support; It has been an eye-opening experience RE: Mental Health

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Thank You for your support; It has been an eye-opening experience RE: Mental Health

Old 07-18-17, 09:36 AM
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Thank You for your support; It has been an eye-opening experience RE: Mental Health

Hello All:

My recent few posts about mental health, my own mental health, seemed to be tempest in a teapot, so to speak. Most people here were concerned and supportive, at least one was cruel, a few others just thought I was an "Internet Troll," playing some sort of game, to what end I can't imagine. It is what it is, people can believe whatever they want to about me.

So, I wanted to thank all of you who said some supportive, kind things, both about dealing with a mental health/mental illness situation in general, and in particular just about my feelings two weeks ago about a particularly bad ride, which really was not about that ride per se, but about how I view(ed) myself in general. During my life, I have had a few "proud" moments, like when I completed my first 5K on a cold, windy New Years' Day, or the day I opened the envelope with my first ABA membership card. But 99% of the time in my life, I have viewed myself as lower than what someone would wipe off the bottom of their shoe after following a herd of cattle down a country lane.

I honestly thought that facing this thing, which I guess I could classify as an existential crisis, would be the end of my life as I knew it, and a downward spiral into some kind of oblivion that would be particularly ugly. I spent a great deal of time thinking the most possible catastrophic thoughts, and a great deal of time second guessing and in some ways regretting the decision I had made a few months back to contact MH professionals and seek help with these issues.

The thing I feared most was rejection, even "banishment" so-to-speak. I've heard too many comments about family and friends staying away or cutting contact, and about employers finding any pretense to let an employee go, people unable to work so therefore unable to pay their bills ... the basic horror stories. My basic viewpoint of "mental health" was the kind of portrait, albeit antiquated, found in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. And, I figured that was what I had in store in my future.

I was definitely in a very anxious mood about all of this; but it really only felt "real" and hit home, like a sucker punch to the gut, when I saw an official diagnosis "on paper" from the trauma therapist, PTSD and Dysthymia, that was about 4 weeks ago, give or take, time has been moving at a strange pace for me, I lose track at times. I guess the reason I felt somewhat compelled to post about my experiences with this here on 50+, rather than some more appropriate place such as a mental health forum, was because this represents a "neutral public audience" and also because it was a "safe" place to test the waters. Safe in the sense that, if I didn't like what I saw, it was a throw-away, no "real world" loss. Much safer than risking it with anyone in real life, which was a terrifying thought.

I have learned one thing, I need to give the vast majority of people MUCH MORE CREDIT for human decency, compassion, and understanding than I did. Frankly, I expected the same thing online that I expected in real life, the angry mob bearing pitchforks and flaming torches, coming to haul me off or do me in, not literally of course. It wasn't a rational expectation, but I did expect the modern-day version of lynch mob; I assumed people would block my calls or e-mails or texts, unfriend me on social media, or just cut contact and stop coming around. This was based on extreme anxiety extrapolated to the worst-case scenario, bordering on paranoia. It was pointed out to me that paranoia is an irrational fear of the non-existent or impossible, I suppose I agree with that basic definition (I may not be stating it well), my fear was certainly not an impossibility, just unlikely to occur to an extreme degree.

That was NOT my experience here, and it was not, in a very dramatic way, my experience in real life. I have "come out" about MH in my social/personal life and at work. The reaction was really something. I've never felt more loved, supported, or appreciated - honestly, I had NO IDEA people thought of me or about me the way they do.

Coming from an abusive childhood - my therapist actually wrote the following in a letter I asked him to write to my employer: "His primary caregivers were not able to provide a basic degree of safety and warmth, and in fact, perpetuated acts best described as psychological torture." Well, the only inaccuracy in that is the use of the plural "parents" - while it's true my mother didn't provide safety, there was never a lack of warmth on her part, I am who I am today because of her. Even though it has been hard for me to ever accept emotionally, I'm a fairly decent guy it turns out, or so people have been telling me. I don't blame my mother at all for staying, I completely understand her motivation to stay in an extremely abusive relationship - fear, the same fear I experienced. Extremely abusive and jealous spouses, especially men, can be very dangerous if the partner tries to escape the marriage/relationship.

So, I was very WRONG about all of that - but, I am afraid and saddened to think that my experience is not typical of everyone's, since I know that many people with various mental health issues do face stigma, discrimination, and isolation.

I "came out" to a core group of my friends, the most important people in my social life, just before and around the 4th of July long weekend, after a couple of trying experiences in the public eye where I certainly was not at my composed or rational best. I just felt I had to get this off of my chest, level with the people in my life, and let them make up their own minds about what future relationships, if any, we would have. Keeping secrets is one of the things that my father did very well, and we were forced to be complicit in what amounted to a farce; the "perfect family" in public, a nightmare in private.

Well, I was very, very sure that, after I told my friends - who are all very involved in fitness, sports, some into cycling and triathlons, in other words, the people I aspire to be like -- that I would probably never see any of them again - I even told them that I would delete all contact information I had for them if they wished. I took great pains to explain to them that what I felt about myself, inhuman, defective, not worthy of existence, was never because of anything I had done to anyone. My conscious is completely clear on that front, I haven't ever "done anything". In my mind, my extreme self-hatred and toxic shame was only about who, or what, I am.

Survivors of child abuse, which in my case was physical, sexual, and psychological/emotional abuse, tend to develop an extremely negative self-image and view themselves as essential worthless. In my case, I legitimately went through my entire life, save for some particular moments or achievements, feeling not just sub-standard, but like a complete failure; the details of my life actually speak to the opposite, I've got several degrees, a great career now primarily in taxation, which I really enjoy, a nice home in a nice community, a big sloppy loving Labrador retriever. It isn't reality, it's symptomatic.

However, everything broke last week. I hit the final wall, - a week ago I told both my therapist and my trainer that I felt not even human, and like I had no soul, an abomination before God and the Universe. And, I asked them, both ... what possible redeeming thing could you, or anyone, see in me that makes me worth saving? Because I felt like I was not worth saving, but should be culled like a rabid dog. The answer my trainer gave me really caused the dam to burst - "because you try harder than anyone I've ever worked with" - which I hope is really true. But it is true that I have never given up, despite how hard things have been at times. I've come close, very close, but I always come around to making the right choice, which is press forward and keep trying to improve, day after day after day.

So, my birthday was last week. 52. I was very surprised by what happened - literally brought me to tears and a place of warmth like I've never experienced. Instead of the angry mob, I walked into a situation I never would have anticipated ... an impromptu surprise party, with a big outpouring of love, well wishes, and a lot of real-life support, which hasn't just been lip-service, but people checking in with me via text, e-mail, phone, social media multiple times a day. Not to mention invitations to dinner, social events, a planned trip downtown for a concert and dinner in the early autumn with a large group of friends.

I felt like a real-life version of George Bailey. A therapist and a personal trainer were my Clarence the Angel saviors. A group of significant people in my life were my friends and neighbors in Bedford Falls. It really was wonderful. I'm still in the "was it a dream" state at times, but it was real.

Unreal. I was SO WRONG about the reaction I thought I would get by disclosing that I have Complex PTSD and Depression. SO GLAD TO BE SO WRONG.

Something has really shifted in my mind. The "negative" side of my thought patterns always predominated - fear, anxiety, depression, intrusive memory, feelings of pain or illness best described as somatic memory or somatic illness. That side still feels like it's there, but it is bottled up, contained in a very small area of my mind, under 24/7 guard in a locked cell. I know I could tap into those feelings, memories, and emotions, and no doubt will be triggered in the future, but I think I have a different outlook.

The neurology and neurochemistry of long-term trauma is quite interesting. I am very grateful that I went to a neuropsychiatrist - she was able to explain all of this to me in the context of known or suspected physical changes to brain structure and function, as well as in terms of the neurochemistry, which made me feel much less like this was some character flaw on my part. Similarly, finding a fairly young, very competent trauma therapist who had studied directly with one of the major, major names in the field as a doctoral candidate also helped tremendously. As did "reading ahead" trying to figure out the ending to this - I've read about a dozen books on the psychology and psychiatry of trauma; being informed does help.

I also had a very good experience at work; telling my boss exactly what is going on, as well as my co-workers; again, a big expression of kindness, support, understanding, as well as a few private conversations along the lines of "I've been there" or "my wife has had"... who knew, but it shouldn't surprise me.

Physically, I have to confess, the last week has been rough ... I had an appt last week, and added another thing to the mix, a different neurotransmitter protagonist, Wellbutrin, which has made me pretty nauseous, but that is a common and known short-term side effect. NO BIG DEAL. I'm good with pain, I fight through it. It did turn my planned 60-70 mile ride Saturday morning into 6.64 miles, a quick round trip back home after I got sick again in a parking lot at 3:30 in the morning. Oh well, it happens, live to ride again.

SO, THANK YOU ALL WHO WERE SO SUPPORTIVE.


There were some negative comments made on my other threads, only one I found cruel, a few I found actually not unreasonable, essentially speculating whether I am who I say I am and have experienced what I have said I have. The bottom line of that is, I no longer feel the need to prove anything to other people. Accept me, disregard me, it's your choice. This is my reality, I know who and what I am, what I've gone through, and where I would like to go. The path forward is getting clearer; I still don't expect it to be easy, but I do expect to get to my goals.

Here's the real bottom line: Stigma, shame, and keeping mental health "in the closet" is the wrong approach. I was mortified to think "did I really just post that online" to several of the comments I made. That was in the relative anonymity of the Internet; in real life, my sense of shame and my desire to cover up my problems like Watergate was pretty absolute.

Which is why that is exactly the wrong approach.
How will anyone learn, expand their understanding and empathy, or alleviate fears and concerns about mental health and people with mental illness if all they see are the news headlines and hear about the horror stories. As with other expansions of rights and acceptance in society, those who are viewed as "other" and not fully accepted have taken up the struggle to show that they are the same as and equal to everyone else despite the differences. That is how it should be.

In my life, this is a blip, one of many, but just that - a passing thing. I don't consider myself to be among the "seriously mentally ill" by any means, and neither do my treating professionals. I have been just as guilty as anyone in my life of stigmatizing and stereotyping - the image of a dirty, disheveled, and disoriented homeless man walking through a parking lot in the inner city, muttering to himself about invisible foes comes to mind, something I have seen - and ran away from, sadly - earlier in my life. That is the stereotype. Changing that means that all people have to realize the person with a mental illness could be someone you see every day; unless they choose to divulge that information, you may never know. I'm NOT going to be afraid to say who I am or what I've gone through; one friend's father suffered significant CPTSD symptoms for decades - I feel he "earned the right" to his problems, since he was the only survivor of his extended family of almost 60 people after the Holocaust, and he endured and survived a number of labor camps, Auschwitz, the death march ahead of the Red Army, and finally Bergen-Belsen, where he was liberated by Allied troops. I earned the same right, to NOT be ashamed of who I am or of the things done to me beyond my control, and I hope I can use all of this going forward to ensure a better life for myself as well as for others around me, even if just in small ways.

Finally, this. I see threads all of the time about peoples' struggles with the normal physical diseases of aging, as well as the injuries and problems unique to cycling. I think it's great that people can talk about those issues and get support. I think we, both here and everywhere, should feel as free and as comfortable to talk about mental health issues as well, without shame or embarrassment or fear of stigmatization.


AGAIN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE KINDNESS AND SUPPORT, BOTH PUBLICLY ON THE FORUM AND IN PRIVATE VIA EMAILS, PM'S ETC.

Last edited by DaveQ24; 07-18-17 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 07-18-17, 09:46 AM
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Good job!
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Old 07-18-17, 11:16 AM
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I'm sure there will be ups and downs. Glad to hear you have real-life support around you as well as support here when needed. Sometimes a reality check is needed. It takes courage to talk about things that you suspect people don't want to hear; you've got guts, you will make it through okay. When you can, find someone else to support in their struggle, it will make you both stronger.
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Old 07-18-17, 11:57 AM
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Got your back Dave, glad that you made it past that bad patch.

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Old 07-18-17, 12:24 PM
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You're welcome, and thank you too.
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Old 07-18-17, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveQ24
It is what it is, people can believe whatever they want to about me.
Yes indeed!
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Old 07-18-17, 08:56 PM
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Excellent!
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Old 07-18-17, 09:14 PM
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Old 07-20-17, 08:53 AM
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Was wondering how you were doing, somehow missed this update until now. The approach you've taken--head on, willing to be honest and vulnerable--seems quite brave to me, and I have mega respect for you.

I understand the disconnect between feeling like cr*p, a lowlife, etc, and having people tell me otherwise. But when I ride, I just ride.
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Old 07-20-17, 11:44 AM
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I hope we meet someday, I'd like to shake your hand.
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Old 07-20-17, 03:32 PM
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Glad things are working out for you and thank you for the update.

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Please dont outsmart the censor. That is a very expensive censor and every time one of you guys outsmart it it makes someone at the home office feel bad. We dont wanna do that. So dont cleverly disguise bad words.
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