BC2M/Overcoming Anxiety and the Disease to Please

If there’s one thing I regret so far this year, it’s not getting a flu shot. Against my doctor’s strong recommendation, I chose to forego getting the vaccine. I’d heard it only works 60 to 70% of the time, and my stubbornness combined with apprehension of having a live virus injected into my arm, simply as a precautionary method, with no guarantee, didn’t seem worth the risk. I was afraid of adverse reactions and side effects that might have had a negative impact on my mental health.  My attitude has since changed. Completely.

What began as queasiness, while watching the Golden Globe Awards, rapidly took a turn into the land of Flu-Ville.  For the days that followed, the flu’s nasty and undesirable symptoms showed no mercy. While my muscles and joints ached so badly, every inch of my body was riddled with pain. Even my toes hurt. My ribs felt like they’d been smashed with a baseball bat. As for nutrition, all I could keep down were a few bites of a baguette and vanilla tea with honey. Having the flu was the opposite of fun. Next year, I’ll listen to my doctor and get the vaccine. Lesson learned.

It was during one feverish afternoon that I was partially awake yet dreaming at the same time. I think it’s called a “fugue state” (Breaking Bad, anyone?). Anyway, it was in this bizarre space oddity that I recalled being very sick many years ago when I first started working full-time after college. I came down with a bad case of strep throat. My doctor put me on strong antibiotics and told me I was in no shape to go into the office. Even so, the idea of calling in sick and making my two bosses angry caused me to have a series of uncontrollable panic attacks. The levels of extreme anxiety caused me to hyperventilate – all out of fear of disappointing my higher-ups and having them angry with me.

Back then, conflict brought on severe strikes of anxiety. I could feel orbs of acid eating away my insides while my heart pounded so loudly it hurt my eardrums. But because I was not yet receiving professional help, I didn’t have the tools necessary to deal with this kind of discord. My psychological angst, on top of my physical illness was too much for me to handle. The memory of twisting with worry-filled stomach cramps at the thought of my bosses sharpening their own pencils and making their own lunch reservations still haunts me. The toxic disease to please had spread throughout every groove of my brain. My throat was killing me, as if I was swallowing broken glass, yet I was truly considering risking my health and going to work just to avoid inconveniencing others. I wound up staying home for a few days, but not without dreading going back and facing the consequences of my absence. How ironic it was that when I returned, at least half of the office was out with the same thing I had.

It frustrates me now that I was so hard on myself and consumed with unwarranted self-hatred. The over-the-top fear of making someone angry with me, of not considering my own needs – truly believing that I was a bad person if I disappointed someone else, were classic symptoms of anxiety and depression. I just didn’t know it yet. This kind of self-punishment went on for years before I began Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to overcome those negative thoughts and actions.

The severity of the flu from last week didn’t leave me with any options but to simply rest and wait until the virus exited my system. I fell behind in my workload, had to reschedule appointments and most likely let some people down for canceling plans. Had this been twenty years ago, I’d have been wracked with feelings of culpability, shame, fret and disgrace. Today, I’m simply another statistic of what the Centers for Disease Control is calling an epidemic in at least 40 states, this time with no guilt attached.


Hope Blog/Respect Your Illness

Respect Your Illness

Published by Adrienne Gurman at 12:41 AM under Acceptance | CBT | Coping | Depression |Health | nutrition | Recovery

I find it remarkable that although I’ve come to accept the fact that I have depression and all that comes with it, I still become frightened by how powerful this hardcore illness can be. Last week, I was forced to succumb to the violent strain of flu that’s been making its way across the country. The virus completely took over my physical being, the symptoms robbing me of sufficient sleep, nutrition and essential daily medications.  After a painful four days, when the bug was finally out of my system, the shock of my ghostly reflection in the mirror paled in comparison to the invisible heaviness and despair weighing me down on the inside.

This has happened to me several times in the past – getting hit with a depression after a bad cold, for example. So much of managing my mental health is based on routine, and when that gets shifted for whatever reason, in addition to the inability to digest food (and meds) and not sleep eight hours per night, it really messes me up. While it helps knowing why I currently feel so blah, I can’t simply snap my fingers and make it disappear. As much as I hate having depression, I can’t pretend it’s not there. I have to acknowledge it and respect it, just like the flu.

Time and experience has taught me to never underestimate how quickly depression can take control of my life. Sure, it would be easy to surrender. I won’t deny the temptation to withdraw, hide away, unplug and disappear. But I’ve done that before and it only makes it worse. While my eyes burn with familiar tears of sadness, I can feel my bodily strength returning slowly. It’s a bizarre dichotomy – mental and physical powers pulling me in opposite directions. Yet, if history has taught me anything, there’s no reason for me to think that I won’t get through this rough time. I’ve done it before and I shall do it again!


The Effing Flu

I thought today would be my re-entrance into the world of the living. I’ve been off the grid, out of touch and out of sight (except for some online Scrabble here and there) since Sunday night when I got struck with this disgustingly nasty flu that’s been going around. There was no warning.  Not even one itty bitty symptom that might make me think I was about to get hit. It was a sudden attack of nauseau, queasiness, a pounding headache and piercing stomach cramps that decided to strike all at once.  I’m just grateful that I didn’t have anyone over for a Golden Globes party.  The last thing I would want or need is to get sick in front of a live audience.

My poor dog Anya seemed confused by my bizarre behavior. Usually when I’m watching television, I’m settled in my corner spot on the couch for hours at a time, with her cuddled next me. She curls up close enough so that one part of her warm furry body is in constant contact with my arm or leg –  even if she’s facing away from me. I know she was really annoyed that I couldn’t keep still and continually broke our attachment. Her eyes followed me like a ping-pong match as I paced back and forth across my living room, waiting for the next bout of “oh no, here it comes again” – as I scrambled out of her line of vision, hands cupped over my mouth.

I had every intention of getting back to my routine today – even though I didn’t sleep for more than 30 minutes last night, thanks to having the cold sweats and a fever. Right now, I’m feeling the wrath of the virus – my body is sore and riddled with muscle aches. Even my eye lashes hurt. My mood is foul. How is it possible that I’ve barely eaten a thing in four days, yet my clothes, stretchy loungewear, are tight on me? What the hell?? Ugh, there’s so much stuff that needs to get done – I’m staring at a pile of paperwork, and it’s making me anxious. It’ll have to wait. Clearly I’m in no shape to do much of anything today, especially since I’m a klutz even when I’m not sick.

So much for my plans for a productive day – it’s bedtime somewhere.

I should have listened to my doctor and gotten the flu shot. From what I hear, it’s not too late – so save yourselves from this nightmare and go get the shot!

Should've gotten the shot!
Should’ve gotten the shot!

My sentiments, exactly

Welcome to my world. This page originated as a place to publish and organize all of the blogs I’ve written for different media outlets and organizations close to my heart. However, I see the opportunity now to go one or two steps further and write about stuff other than mental illness and stigma. Over time, you will find that I have many layers to my personality.   If you’d like to come along for the ride, be prepared – I tend to use NSFW language while sharing my thoughts, ideas, pet peeves and any crap that didn’t fit into my 50 minute therapy time-slot.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about me – I play guitar!

But I don't!
Trying to look like I know what I’m doing.

Truthfully, I don’t play guitar. Or piano. Or the triangle. I have no musical talent whatsoever and that is something that irks me like you wouldn’t believe, since I love, love, love live music. I’m a good clapper, though.

I hope this blogging endeavour doesn’t turn out to be a major train wreck. I apologize in advance to many people I’m sure I’ll eventually offend, but I swear, it won’t be on purpose. Really.

BC2M/Spread the Word

A few weeks ago I had the honor of representing Bring Change 2 Mind on the popular live-streaming news network, HuffPost Live. The topic of the segment was Stigma and Mental Illness. As one of three guests speaking on this important subject, I was able to give a first-person account of living with Major Depression and Anxiety within the context of the different levels of support and compassion one receives when combating a mental versus physical illness.

Stemming from an article written by one of the other guests, Larry Lake, titled “No One Brings Dinner When Your Daughter Is An Addict” the 20-minute conversation gave viewers an inside peek into the reality of just how painful it can be for families who receive overwhelming community support when one member has a disease such as cancer, yet little to no support when another member has addiction and/or mental illness.

One of the benefits of having a live-streaming talk show is that viewers get to post remarks on the site in real-time. It didn’t surprise me that a large percentage of the comments were from people who were the victims of stigma and discrimination due to their own mental illnesses. As someone who is comfortable sharing my own hurdles in dealing with stigma, I spoke of the time I had shoulder surgery a few years ago. Unable to do things for myself by not being able to use my left arm, I received both the emotional and physical support necessary to help me get through the bodily pain and have whatever I needed taken care of by family, friends – even strangers.

On the flip side, when I took a six-week leave of absence from my job to deal with my debilitating depression, the help, encouragement and support I desperately needed was scarce. At first I was angry and felt that no one cared about my well-being, but over time I realized that most people just don’t have a clue that fighting depression, or any mental illness, can be just as physically and emotionally incapacitating as recovering from major surgery – if not more so. Because an illness of the brain doesn’t require arm-slings, crutches, neck braces, wheelchairs or bandages in order to heal, millions of sufferers and their families wind up alone in their time of need.

What I took away from the HuffPost Live experience was very clear. What needs to happen in order to continue to reduce and one day eliminate the stigma of mental illness is to keep the conversation going. The more we share our experiences, the less taboo the topic becomes. It’s really up to us to change misconceptions. If we feel shame about our illness, how can we expect others not to?

Ever since I began taking the steps towards being open, honest and now confident about revealing my depression and anxiety to others, the fear of being shunned or rejected has slowly dissipated. I feel less depressed and anxious just knowing that my written and spoken words have had a profoundly positive impact on other people who’ve suffered in silence most of their lives.

Respectful discussions and conversations, just like the one I had during the HuffPost Live piece, will educate the public and make a real difference in how mental illness is both perceived and understood in the community.

The tremendous online response to Mr. Lake’s story is a true testament of the palpable desire and need for people with mental illness and their families to bond, connect and unite with others who “get it” and have been there themselves.  It’s crucial now to keep the momentum going, to talk about mental illness without humiliation, and most importantly to let others know that they are not alone.



Hope Blog/Blue Monday

Blue Monday

Extra, Extra read all about it – today, January 6, 2014, has been declared the most depressing day of the year. Aces! Now that’s something to look forward to – I’m so grateful to have read about it first thing this morning, so now I can prepare and brace myself for 24 hours full of dread and despair.

The Depression Apocalypse, also known as Blue Monday, has officially arrived and it’s making headlines around the globe. According to the experts, here are the many reasons that make today sad and woeful for so many, as reported by ajc.com:

You’re in debt. 

You already broke your New Year resolutions. 

Everybody is back to work today. (Via ITV)

More than 2 million Tweets have proved that basically, we’re all bummed. (Via Twitter). Tweets related to guilt were nearly five times higher than average on January 6th. That guilt is likely from those New Year’s resolutions already failing. (Via TVNZ)

On a happiness index of zero to 100, Monday, January 6th scored a lousy 49. 

Oh, and, today is also known as Divorce Monday — reportedly the most popular day to file for divorce according to a British website that helps people file. (Via Daily Express)

Now, just imagine if those suffering from Blue Monday are facing all of the rotten, lousy, self-loathing, guilt-ridden and hopelessly dark feelings that those of us with Major Depression deal with daily -could grasp the notion that we are fighting this gloom and doom EVERY single day! The impact could be huge. I bet that they would have a new respect for what can only be fully understood by personal experience.

For most, today’s doomsday depression will subside; lives will go back to normal and if not, hopefully professional help will be sought. I’m off now to plan for the most depressing day of the year. On the upside, I’m quite thankful that, for me, it’s definitely not Divorce Monday Wink

Here’s a link to the full article: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national/why-today-most-depressing-day-year/ncdLP/