Husband’s reaction to mental illness

I joke a lot about how my husband wouldn’t survive if we got a divorce. In my defense, he also jokes about how he isn’t able to function without my help either. While playful banter comes easy to us on a daily basis, mustering up the courage to tell him about my depression felt next to near impossible.

As I explained in the Asking for Help Series, I can confidently say that is not typically how I tell him my feelings. In fact, its far beyond how I share how I feel. I usually fall into his arms and cry. He, in turn, will hug me tightly and ask what’s wrong. This guy has known me for 20 years. So he has learned that sometimes all I need is a hug and the statement “It’ll be ok.” So this shower talk business wasn’t typical and I know I caught him by surprise.

I have asked my husband, to give his honest reaction and response to when I told him about my mental health. This journey is his as well. He has been there from the beginning.

Husband’s reaction

M: What did you first think when I shared my depression and anxiety diagnosis with you?

H: I recall that when you shared your depression and anxiety self-diagnosis with me, I was rather quick to dismiss how you felt, merely chalking it up to a bad day.  I never associated the fact that how you were feeling at that time were true symptoms of what would later be confirmed as having depression.

M: How did you feel?

H : I felt helpless in a way, primarily due to the fact that I knew next to nothing about depression and anxiety.

M: What did you do after my diagnosis was confirmed?

H: I then began researching and reading articles online regarding depression and anxiety.  It was important for me to understand the challenges and obstacles associated with depression and anxiety, so that I can help in the areas of support and encouragement.

M: How has your opinion on mental health changed from the first diagnosis to now?

H: I’d say that I have a deeper appreciation now for the importance of mental health.  It’s certainly an important topic that I believe deserves more credence.

He makes me better

I credit my husband’s unconditional support early on in managing my depression for my success in managing my depression today. More importantly, he will continue to be a big part of why I have been successful at managing my mental health. His unconditional support motivates me to be the best person I can be. On my worst mental health day, he gave me something that many can not grasp in the darkness – hope.

He would text me everyday to ensure I got out of bed. If I wasn’t able to, he would give me a pep talk to make it a goal for the next day. He made himself available during work hours, which is very hard in his profession, for me to call if I needed to talk my feelings through. He was supportive in allowing me to find my self care routine even if that meant I would try unconventional treatments. My husband is a large reason why I am able to share my story with you today.

I absolutely understand that this isn’t a typical response from a Filipino man but I want to encourage you to share those deep parts of yourself with someone you trust. It is the only way you can help yourself begin accepting and managing mental illness.

Do you have someone you can trust to talk about your feelings? Comment below and share with that person why they mean so much to you – today.

Remember – its ok to not be ok, tomorrow is a new day! See you next week.


Series: Asking for help – Part 4: Alternative therapy & medicine

This is part four of a four part series, on helping yourself (or someone you know) with a mental crisis. If you haven’t read my first post, you can catch up here.

I was not an alternative medicine believer. To be quite honest, I scoffed at the thought of using anything besides Western medicine. I believed it was all fake. The only reason I began to look outside of my comfort zone of medicinal beliefs is that I grew tired of taking daily medications and wanted to see what else was out there. While I am still on antidepressants – because I have found that is the best tool for me at this time – I have added alternative therapy and medicine to my self care routine. These are some of the alternatives I have learned about and definitely not the only alternatives ways to manage your mental health.

Eastern Medicine

Medicinal marijuana

Other therapies

I’m sure you are wondering why I only provided links to each therapy. I am no expert, so I did not want to give the wrong information or impression. There is so much I am still learning about and I do not want to sway you in any direction. It is important to get information out to those who need it and that is what I am here for. Alternative medicines have opened my mind to trying new things because I never wanted to try something new.

My current regimen of therapies

Cannabidiol oil and medicinal marijuana

I have not always been a fan of cannabis. It has always been associated with drug addiction in my family. Without getting into too many details, it nearly broke my family apart. While I can say that I am a recovering codependent and I know how to vocalize my boundaries, I do still have a stigmatized view on cannabis.

The symptoms I am still struggling with on a daily basis are anxiety attacks and insomnia. My anxiety attacks present themselves as pain in my jaw. When my anxiety is really high, I have ringing in my ears, my palms are sweaty, and my heart feels like its going to burst out of my chest. I initially went to my doctor for help and he gave me an anti anxiety medication. He told me to only take it at bedtime, it was addictive and he would only write me one prescription. From that moment, I knew I needed to be open to something else.

After reading articles on CBD oil, I decided to try it. I went to a local dispensary and talked to one of the bud-tenders (yup that’s what they are called). Guys, if you have never gone to a dispensary, GO. They are nice, patient, and informative. I left the dispensary with a full spectrum CBD oil tincture and a vape pen. After months of experimenting with dosages, I think I’ve found the right combination for me. Arizona has not legalized medicinal marijuana, so I am only able to purchase CBD oil. I’m still up in the air about applying for my medical marijuana card (MMC) but I know that if I do have MMC, I’ll have the ability to try more medicines. Only time will tell and I’m pretty happy with my current CBD regimen.

Eastern Medicine

Oh Lord help me, this was the hardest for me to try. Acupuncture, reiki, and Chinese herbals are probably the farther out of my comfort zone. The only reason why I tried it was because it was a free service at a mom’s event. I talked to the acupuncturist, told her about my depression, anxiety, and insomnia. She placed the needles and then I felt like my mind expanded. That is the only way I can explain the feeling I experienced. From that moment on, I was hooked! I went every two weeks for a few months straight and then eventually moved on to once a month.

The acupuncturist also preforms reiki during my session and places ear seeds. Reiki is a crazy experience. There were moments during the sessions where I could feel a warm energy surging through my body, feeling outside of my body, and see colors surrounding my body. Yes it sounds unreal but it is always an amazing experience. I always leave her office relaxed, rejuvenated, and the feelings usually stay with me for about a week or so. She has even helped me with my menstrual cramps and back pain.

My acupuncturist also recommended I take Chinese herbal pills and begin gut therapy. There so much on gut therapy that I really feel that it needs to be explained by someone who is more knowledgeable than me. She recommended I take a Chinese herbal pill (don’t ask me the name, I have no idea what its called), microlingual B complex pill, a refrigerated probiotic (like next to the yogurt – Good Belly is a tasty brand), ingest fermented foods (kombucha, pickle juice, etc) at least once a day. After finishing the herbal pills, I really didn’t feel any different. I still continue the B complex and probiotic. These two medicines seem to have helped my energy levels and bloating. I have yet to incorporate the fermented foods consistently.

Keep moving forward

Through a lot of trial and error, I have learned that some therapies work for me and some do not. I’ve always wanted to play it safe and do what was the most comfortable and convenient to me. I now try “all the things” — within reason — to become the best version of me. The biggest take away from exploring other forms of therapy and medical practices are to not be discouraged if something doesn’t work. Everyone is different and while the road to healing is never smooth, know that all the work you put in is worth it. You are worth all the effort. You deserve to feel good about yourself.

I hope this series has given you a small amount of knowledge of how to go about finding the right treatment plan for you. Be courageous and try new things. I’m sure you will be surprised, just like I was, about what helps you.

Have you tried any of these alternative therapies? Do you have a favorite? Share your story below!

Join me next week as I share my husband’s reaction to my mental illness discovery and diagnoses. See you next week.


Series: Asking for help – Part 3: Tools

Welcome back!

This is part three of a four part series, on helping yourself (or someone you know) with a mental crisis. The focus this week will be the tools available to to begin the healing process. If you haven’t read my first post, you can catch up here.

Can I just say with all honesty, that I didn’t believe in medication, therapy, psychiatrist, group therapy, and all those things related to mental illness because of how much my parents and other Filipino elders spoke about seeing someone for your mental health. So I was very skeptical until I started to do the work and use these tools. While these are not all the tools in mental health but these are some that are the most popular and what I’ve used to help me move forward. Guys, the tools and resources work!! I am living proof that if you utilize the resources around you and the tools that are given to you, it will change your mindset.

Medication

This was the hardest tool for me to accept at the beginning of my journey. It took a lot of coaxing from my therapist to even be open to the idea of taking any type of daily medication. While there is a waiting period to see any improvement in mental state — from two to eight weeks, side effects, and the trial and error to find the right dosage, I do not regret my daily medication.

Here are the different types of medications:

  • antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Simulants

Disclaimer: I am not a profession on this subject, you can find more information about these types of medications here. Consult with your physician or another clinical liaison to find the right medication and dosage for you.  

Psychotherapy tools

Depending on your symptoms, a therapist will also suggest additional psychotherapy in a form of group therapy. This is where others share their mental health journey in a confidential group setting and receive resources and tool of how to deal with these symptoms. The nice thing about doing group therapy is seeing other people who have similar hardships and knowing you are not the only one. Group therapy can be as casual as a weekly meeting to a multi day commitment for hours at a time. It will depend on what you and your therapist deem the best plan of care.

I was not willing to try these tools and was truly forced into using them in group therapy in order to continue with my then therapist. These are some of the main tool I have heard about. I honestly haven’t used all of them but I do have a preference that I will share later in the blog.

Tools given in psychotherapy — individual and group:

No one size fits all

There are no right or wrong tools to utilize in your mental health journey. Everyone responds to things differently. I have found that what works for me doesn’t work for someone else. The ultimate goal is to find the right tool for you to manage your mental illness. Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of energy to go against everything you believe about yourself. Doing the work, everyday is painful, mentally and physically draining but I will tell you — it is worth it.

What tool has helped you the most? If I did or didn’t talk about it in this post, please share your experience below.

And remember, its ok to not be ok, tomorrow is a new day! See you next week.


Series: Asking for help – Part 2: Resources

Welcome back!

This is part two of a four part series, on helping yourself (or someone you know) with a mental crisis. If you haven’t read my first post, you can catch up here.

To be quite honest, I have not utilized medical health professionals enough in my own life. Most of the time, I want to figure it out myself or completely ignore my symptoms. This roots from the screwed portrayal of resilience deeply embedded in the Filipino culture. I suffered through several months of negative self talk, shame, guilt, and the inability to function my daily life.

I  will be discussing different avenues available to managing through a health crisis:

  • Crisis Hotline
  • primary care physician
  • therapist
  • psychiatrist
  • immediate help through
    • in patient mental health facility
    • local emergency room

Crisis Hotline

If you or someone you know needs immediate help and it is unsafe to leave the location, please call 911. Self harm is not the answer — ever. The counselors talk individuals to a safe mental space and present other resources in their local area.

Medical Professionals

Primary Care Physician

This will be your first line of defense resource to help you with your mental health journey. It is the scariest first step to help and I can say that it was the hardest.

Clinical Liaison: Therapist and Psychiatrist

I did not know there was a difference between a therapist and psychiatrist at the beginning of my journey. Both clinicians gave me the steps to take hold of my mental illness.

Therapist

A psychotherapist, also known as a therapist, talks you through your feelings and give tools to manage those feelings. There are some therapists are able prescribe medication. However, majority of therapist do not prescribe medications and refer individuals to a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist strictly notates your symptoms, prescribes medication, and there is minimal psychotherapy. The psychiatrist main objective is to find the correct medication(s) and dosage(s).

Immediate Care: In Patient Mental Health Facility vs. Emergency Room

In-Patient Mental Health Facility

This is the most intense resource you have available to you. In patient stay is based upon symptoms and the patient’s answers.The facility may deem an individual as unsafe to have a temporary stay at the facility.

The process, usually, goes as followed:

  • meets with a psychiatrist
    • within a 24 hour period
    • prescribed medication
  • meets a therapist
  • attends group therapy
  • attends alternative therapies
    • horse therapy
    • dog therapy
    • singing therapy
    • art therapy

While I can only pull from my experience with an in patient facility, I would say it is the best help for immediate assistance i.e. self harm. Depending on the facilities protocol, patients stay for a minimum of a week.

Hospital Emergency Room

If a mental health facility is not in close proximity, the closest hospital emergency room is the next safest place. The emergency room staff will place the patient on a medical hold until an appropriate plan of care is established.

The Series Continues…

Each resource has their own benefit based solely on the individual’s immediate need. The ultimate goal for each medical professional, clinical liaison or facility is to treat an individual respectfully through the darkest time in their life. These resources are a good, safe place to start anyone’s healing.

Who helped you in the initial stages of your journey? Share your story below, I’d love to hear it! Join me next time as I discuss tools to help manage mental health conditions.

See you next week.


Series: Asking for help – Part: 1 – Why is this so hard?

Listen, I am the last person to ask for help. I would honestly rather take on the entire burden of the task ahead of me rather than asking for help. A perfect example of this is the ways  my husband and I decided we would raise our kids- utilizing the grandparents as childcare. We came to the agreement that we would only utilize them when it was absolutely necessary. It is very normal in the Filipino Community for multiple generations to live together where the grandparents are the daily childcare while the parents work or the kids get dropped off at the grandparents house for daily childcare. This childcare negotiation is usually free of charge, which is extremely helpful in today’s world.

The husband and I weren’t comfortable with any of these arrangements, so I became a stay-at-home mom and would only work if I could find a time when the husband was home.

While we have sacrificed having luxuries at times, we have what we need.

Now what?

After all of my self-diagnosing, I did a mental check up with myself:

  • Was I a danger to myself or others? No
  • Do I need help? Yes, but I am terrified.
  • Who can I tell first? My husband

When I finally decided to talk to my husband about my struggles, it took me an entire month to muster up the courage to do it. I was so anxious about telling him that I told him while he was in the shower because I felt the glass between us would not allow him to feel my shame, anxiety, and guilt. After I muttered the words I think I have depression, I sank to the floor of our master bathroom and cried myself into a ball.

It was the lowest I have ever felt in my life. My sweet husband stopped his shower, dried off, and picked me up off the floor and gave me the biggest hug. He asked sweetly if I was sure and I nodded still hysterically crying. “Ok,” he said, “we will get you some help. Don’t worry we will do it together,” he said assertively.

This positive response to my need for help is not always the norm, especially in the Filipino community. As I’ve said in my intro post, those with mental health issues are often mocked, laughed at, ostracized, or decide to hide their feelings in fear of dishonoring their family. If you have thoughts of self harm, please, PLEASE know you are so loved and wanted. Contact a person you trust IMMEDIATELY and share how you feel.

If you can not think of a person you can trust, here are professional options for you that can get you the help you need immediately:

How to reach out

If you can not think of a person you can trust, here are resources for you that can get you the help you need immediately:

  • Call your local law enforcement or dial 911
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
  • Lifeline Chat
  • Hospital Emergency Room
  • Mental health facility

If someone shares their mental illness symptoms with you, please be a supportive listening ear. The reason I was able to to begin accepting and managing my mental health is because someone acknowledged what I had to say. It is not easy sharing the darkest thoughts of yourself. If you don’t know the right things to say, just tell the individual support them. A listening ear goes a long way.

Have you shared your struggles with someone in the shower or another random place? Comment below. I’d love to hear your story!

The series continues…

Come back next week as I go through the some of the different resources available to you. Do you know someone that needs a listening ear? A shoulder to cry on? Be that person for someone today.