Children’s book for mental illness

To turn my back around from COVID – 19driving me up the wall, I decided to pour my time and energy into a project that I have been wanting to start for a long time. Which is to write a children’s book on introducing mental illness with a gentle approach and write a book to parents – from a perspective of a child who struggles with a mental illness.

As a child, I struggled with OCD. I had intrusive sensations of having aluminum foil in my mouth for the longest time, where my parents thought I was making excuses from not wanting to study. I had a hard time focusing as different obsessions would come to my head over the years.

It was masked as my lack of discipline, lack of motivation or at times even attention deficit.

As an adult getting appropriate treatment, studying these disorders in-depth and working alongside young children, I started to feel the sincere need to advocate for the younger ones that can’t eloquently describe what they are feeling, or going through.

If there is a “no child left behind” for school, I want to make sure no child is left behind to get adequate mental (and physical) health care.

When I first got into the field, I never thought of working with young children.

While I always loved working with children in an informal setting, I just couldn’t see myself working with the little ones, as I would get impatient and frustrated. But in the past year – the more I engage in working with the little ones, I feel more drawn to advocate on behalf of their needs if they need the support.

I don’t want to rule out any population/setting out of my career, but the general flow seems to be going in a direction that I never expected before.

While I have some ideas on how to approach this, I am looking for ideas and suggestions from my audience.

Any suggestions? Ideas?

The magic wand

I can’t even remember when the last time I wrote here as a collaborator.

Since my last time on here, many, many things happened. I graduated from college, started graduate school and now started my internship as a social worker.
I always imagined how it would be like to be on the other side of the couch, being a provider, not the recipient.
I thought there is a magic curtain that therapists had, and they had a magic journal they kept their notes in.

But the truth is – there is none. As a provider (an intern provider to be specific), I still have my stressors, I still have my anxiety, and I still need help, just like my clients.
There is no magic curtain, and there is no magical way to take notes after each session nor remembering everything my clients share with me. It all comes with training and engaging with each client and their story.
The truth is, my life stressors will not go away, and I will not be able to “therapize” myself.
Being on the other side of the couch does not give me more power, but it rather gives me more compassion for these individuals. Compassion for their strength to keep living their lives, compassion for fighting for what is good for them.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around by the disappointment I faced in the latter half of 2019 as I started in August 2019. By realizing there is no magical healing wand that clinicians have, I felt lost.
Nevertheless, reading the posts by my fellow bloggers that are continuing their journey, encouraged me to get back up and keep fighting for the cause that brought me here. To advocate for equal mental health care for all and adequate resources for all the ones in need.
Until that day comes,
Haelim

Can I “lose” a diagnosis?

About a year ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depression and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). It was a diagnosis that was agreed upon both my psychiatrist and I, as we went through the DSM together to make sure we were on the same page.

Throughout this past year, I went through phases of really struggling with some of the physical symptoms of OCD. But after about 6 months or so, it started to decrease. It shows more of as an anxious mind, then being obsessive over certain things unlike before.

14 months after, I moved to a new city, and met with a new psychiatrist recently.

After talking through my past diagnoses with my new doctor, he labeled major depression and generalized anxiety disorder as my diagnoses as he was filling the prescription. He said my thought process seemed more closely to someone that struggles with anxiety, rather than having the obsessive and compulsive behaviors/mindset.

I had to agree with him, but I was a bit lost.

Whenever I spoke about my mental health, I disclosed to others that I struggle with OCD and Depression – and it felt like it was just a part of me that I live my life with.

But when my new doctor said he doesn’t see the OCD part anymore, it felt like an old bud has left me.

Is this normal to feel this way? Or am I holding on to something strange?

Self-care

As I entered the field of social work, the term “self-care” has been a constant term that has been getting drilled into our minds. Faculties and staff keep on reminding us to take care of ourselves, not only in a surface level – but in also in an interpersonal level.

I always said blogging is my form of self-care, and I still believe it is. However, I feel the need to “step up” my game and do something different as my form of self-care.

I understand self-care is completely up to myself and what others may think doesn’t matter. Nevertheless, there is almost a societal pressure to participate in things like meditation, mindfulness practice, yoga, coloring etc.

I wanted to hear from this community as I am on a quest to find my version of self-care. What does self-care look like for you? This may be a short post, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I can use some suggestions.

Depressed or Sad?

It has recently come to my attention that every time I get sad, I immediately start panicking if I’m relapsing for depression.

Sadness is an emotion that any human beings can experience. Definitely not saying depression is not normal – but sadness is something that we can more commonly experience than feeling depressed.

Missing your friends and family in a different city certainly does make me sad, but it doesn’t make me depressed.

I don’t know why it took me so long to come to the conclusion that just because I get sad, that doesn’t mean that I’m relapsing into another depressive episode.

Does anyone else struggle with this or have struggled with this in the past? 

Realizing this for myself gives me so much peace, knowing that I was able to combat my own thoughts. Nevertheless, I can’t help but to wonder if people who have suffered depression before are just more prone to something like this?

After finishing undergrad in May, I decided to take a risk and take a solo trip to Spain and Portugal.  I am staying with a host family as an au pair (a traditional live in nanny). Thankfully, I was able to find a family in Northern Spain as a live in English tutor and it’s been quite delightful.

The process for me to finalize my decision on making this trip happen was one of the biggest risks I’ve taken. As being an anxious person, I was anxious with all the worst possible things that could happen to me. 

I kept on telling my friends and family that I could have easily died anywhere if it was meant to be, as I was trying to calm my nerves.

I was paranoid that a pickpocketer may steal my passport, take my credit card or even take my phone. I bought all the travel gears you can possibly imagine to prepare myself for the worst.

It’s ironic how my first destination was Barcelona, which is known as the capital of pickpocketers. As I got off the plane, I changed my undergarment with secret pockets (yes, I really did that), wore my money belt, put a lock on my backpack and purse. It probably looked like I had laser beams coming out of my eyes as I was so aware of my surroundings.

As I began my trip, everything was great. I was able to cross off backpacking across Europe and traveling solo off my bucket list. Nevertheless, my mental health problems were still there.

On my third day with my host family (let me just say I´m in a small town with almost everyone only speaking Spanish), I started to feel sadness creeping in. Towards the end of the day, I almost couldn’t eat anything as I wanted to just start crying at the dinner table.

After excusing myself, I ran to my room to pull out my long lost enemy – Klonopin. 

With some Klonopin and texting my friends back at home – I got over the initial hump from my depression. I was terrified that I may have made a mistake of making this trip happen, when my mental capacity wasn’t ready to handle something like this.

Being in a completely different country where you don ́t speak the language, is a change. Not only it took me a lot of faith in myself to make this happen, but my mental health took a big toll as I was preparing for this trip (from being overly anxious).

However, the most amazing thing is – even through my minimal spanish and my host family ́s broken English – I managed to share my mental health journey. Not only this encouraged my host family, but one of the daughters from the host family opened up about her history of Anorexia and her struggles with ADD. 

I encounter so many people that are hesitant to travel thinking their mental health will hold them back. But the truth is, it is only yourself that is telling that lie. I can truly say making this leap of faith was not only the best decision I have made in my life, but it really has been a chance for me to learn a lot more about my self, and to realize, I CAN be an independent person even as I struggle with depression. 

I know just picking up and backpacking across Europe is not something everyone can do, depending on circumstances. But friends, don’t be afraid to make bold moves in your lives.

I am realizing more and more – how much challenging myself and taking new risks has been so good for my mental health. Like the smallest thing of going out to eat by myself at a local cafe or asking a stranger for directions, it’s been immensely helpful for me to tackle my anxiety and depression. 

Friends, what are some things that you want to or have tried in the past to take risks?

 

From Spain,

Haelim

Celebrating my “anniversary”

I’m reaching my first anniversary of my diagnosis (depression and OCD) – July 5th. 

I thought I would be extra sensitive leading up to those days, but thankfully – life has been keeping me pretty occupied to help me not dwell in negative thoughts.

Being part of this collaborative blog, I’ve seen many bloggers writing about their anniversary of mental illness diagnosis. I greatly admire many bloggers that have been battling for many years and I hope to share my story like they do after many years. 

Fellow bloggers, is it weird to “celebrate” the diagnosis of anniversary? If you do “celebrate”, what do you do?

(When I say celebrate, I mean it more of acknowledging the meaning of my diagnosis and doing something to remember that day)

My double sidedness

I originally started my blog – Haelim’s Couch with an intention to be vulnerable and raw with my audience.

Don’t get me wrong, I still am. I share openly about my mental health, and faith as it is a big part of my life.

However, is it selfish of me to wanting to start another blog anonymously – just so I can use it as a space to vent?

I’ve been noticing lately (especially after stop seeing my therapist) that I feel a strong urge to scream into an empty space. I have great friends and have a great relationship with my family members. Nevertheless, there are things in life that I just don’t think it’s either the right time for me to share or just would make my friends and family worry if I do.

As I was driving back home today, I had such a strong urge to go instantly create a new blog anonymously so that I can use it to share whatever I need to get off my chest without worrying about “scaring” anyone away.

Now, before you say the people that get “scared” away by the things I share doesn’t matter whether they’re in my life or not, hear me out.

I’m about to start graduate school training to become a social worker this fall. I am in no means trying to be “fake” and pretend that I have everything all together. However, I feel the need to have a sense of calmness without having to share any “dark” thoughts that I sometimes just need to.

Fellow bloggers, what are your thoughts? Am I being selfish?

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder

Summer was never a hard time of the year until recently. June 21st, 2018 – I started to experience something I never thought was possible.

Heart wrenching sadness, losing my appetite, and losing my desire to live.

From June 21st to July 4th of 2018, it was an absolute nightmare.

Following up to June 21st, I remember being extremely stressed. I had a lot in my mind for the future. While it was my hope to leave that summer feeling accomplished and successful, it took a complete opposite direction.

I had to cut short my fellowship, drastically altered my research – ended up losing my relationship with my mentor at that time, and I was contemplating about quitting my college education with just five classes left.

You may ask, why are you sharing this when it has nothing to do with the title?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – is commonly associated with depression in the winter time due to lack of sunlight.

However, 1/10 people who struggle with SAD have these symptoms in spring or summer. Unluckily, I may be that 1/10 that is experiencing this.

As June is here, I’ve been extremely anxious.

I try hard not to rely on my “emergency” medication (benzodiazaphines), but I had to rely on these pills to calm myself down in the last few days.

During the past couple of days, I felt sadness trickling in. I immediately panicked, thinking this is going to be another full blown depressive episode.

I struggled to get to my phone to get in touch with my doctor to get a refill on benzodiazaphines.

I did NOT get an official diagnosis from a doctor, but I felt the need to self-diagnose my symptoms to make more sense of why I feel this way.

It sucks. It is the worst nightmare of mine to repeat the same from last year. I know I am being treated with medication now, but I am greatly worried that this may be an annual ritual that I may have to “deal” with.

Some tell me to snap out of my own pity, some tell me to pray harder, some tell me to go get more sunlight for a “cure”.

The truth is, all of those will help. It sure will. But what’s even harder is the anticipation of these emotions rushing in. I can’t help but to get sucked in and find myself in a middle of a hurricane.

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When are you done?

I initially refused to start medication because I was afraid I might have to take it forever.

Now, being on it – my fear is gone. I am no longer afraid to be medication for the rest of my life. I appreciate the change it brought to my life, and I am rather very thankful for the help it gave me.

However, not everyone seems to see it this way.

One most frequently asked question from my family and friends would be – “When are you planning on cutting it off? Do you still get anxious and sad if you miss a dose?”

Truly, I don’t know. I don’t know when I would be getting off these pills and yes, I think there are some effect that takes if I miss a dose for few consecutive days.

Why is it that me, the one who is actually facing this is OKAY, doing life with my psychotropic medications have to reassure others that I am okay?

I understand my families and friends are coming from a place of care and compassion.

However, I don’t know how to tell them I don’t plan on getting off this medication anytime soon without giving them the thought that I am “dependent” on it.

What am I supposed to do?