When Your Brain Stops Talking to Your Body

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One day my brain decided enough was enough. For years and years and years I had hidden my problems from myself and the rest of the world. I didn’t really know what the problem was. I guess I just thought it was normal the way I lived, the constant worry, my head always spinning out of control. Never believing in myself, constantly trying to be more, to do more, to be the hostess with the mostest in everything I did.

There was a catch though. At some point in my life I had developed a self-destruct button I would push whenever things felt like they were going too well for me.

I had convinced myself a very, very long time ago I didn’t deserve all the goodness in life. I had a very boringly normal kind of charmed childhood right up to high school. School was school for me, but my finger was always hovering just above the self-destruct button. Whether it was to do with my grades or friends (it didn’t really matter what it was) self-destruction was never far away.

I developed a coping mechanism that if I made things, bought things, gave people things then they would stay around. It seems really silly to write it down and say it aloud. But it is how it was for me. This is how it has been all my life. Make a gift, buy a gift, make a cake, do something for someone, leave a gift — and around in circles it goes. In between all of this there have been times of drinking — lots and lots of drinking — trying to be the life of the party so that people want me around and won’t not invite me along, though in the back of my mind I was (still am) pretty certain I am the pity friend.

This has really been the cycle of my life. I don’t understand it. It makes no sense at all really, over and over I am told I am loved, needed, wanted — but time and again I self-destruct. Until my mind finally decided it was time for the big disconnect. The biggest of them all.

My brain disconnected from my body.

The left side of my body stopped listening to what my brain would tell it to do. Which meant my arm wouldn’t hold a cup or open a bottle or even lift up when I told it. It also meant my leg wouldn’t walk when I wanted to, I couldn’t walk for a long time without the aid of a stick. There were so many things. Every now and then I still get pins and needles for absolutely no reason, and occasionally I limp when I’m tired.

This brain and body disconnect is called functional neurological disorder (FND). It is actually a lot more common than people know. Functional neurological disorder has been known as lots of different things over the years: Freud referred to it as hysteria, after WWI it was known as shellshock, often times doctors will consider hypochondria or will tell a patient the symptoms are simply psychosomatic. It has also fallen into the somatoform disorders. Currently it sits in the DSM-V as a conversion disorder.

Its cause is unknown and the symptoms are vast including and not limited to shaking, blindness, muscle weakness, hemiplegia, inability to speak, multiple sclerosis-like symptoms and so many more. This makes it more complicated because often doctors, nurses and other professionals just don’t know why things aren’t all working together. Lots and lots of tests are run, and they will all come back within normal limit, which only makes it more confusing for me the patient (or someone else). No one knows what is wrong, so you’re put in the “too hard basket” or the “making it up basket.” You can get sent from doctor to doctor, psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists telling you things will get better in time if you can just work out that trigger. Then there are others with FND who are certain their brain and body disconnect is in no way psychological and was triggered by a physical event such as an operation or virus.

Basically, if we think of the brain as the hardware of a computer and the nervous system as the software, then the issue is how the software is interacting with the hardware. The key is to get the two working together again. This can take a long time to work through, and if there were no psychological issues prior to the FND diagnosis, then they might develop after a long period of not knowing what is wrong and trying to convince everyone what is happening is real.

I can look back over my life and can absolutely connect the dots. I am in no doubt that my FND is related to my depression, anxiety, PTSD, dissociation and depersonalization. That said, it still doesn’t always make sense. It is a long way back from a brain and body disconnect. It doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work, physically and mentally. There was a time not all that long ago walking around the block would have been a near impossibility. Now I can go off on a walk by myself without a walking stick! Physically I have improved out of sight, so I am told. The memory issues mean I actually don’t know how far I’ve come! Mentally there is enough to keep a team of psychiatrists busy for years!

Sometimes it’s hard to not get angry and think why me. I guess the reality is why not me? Why am I so goddam special I should get to avoid mental illness and associated problems. I am blessed with an amazing loving family, there were however, plenty of other things going on in my life, Many little, some bigger. Add them all up they create a perfect storm of exactly why me.

For more information on Functional Neurological Disorder visit FND Hope.

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Please Stop Telling Me I'm OK

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I am 47 years old. I have fibromyalgia and some other spinal issues. I deal with it every day. Constant pain. I take meds to quell that pain so I can physically function as somewhat “normal” person. I have come to terms with the physical pain. I am OK with it.

What I am not OK with is the clinical depression. I have struggled most of my life with bouts of depression, grief and anxiety. This time it’s worse. This time it’s more than I can bear. It’s controlling me and I feel like I am losing the battle against it. I have been diagnosed with severe clinical depression and/or major depressive disorder. I am not convinced they are the same thing. It’s spiraling out of control to the point I am now what’s called passive suicidal. I don’t want to kill myself. Let me make that very clear. What I do want is to just not live. If you have depression and are reading this, you already know all about the enormous hurt inside you. I don’t need to revisit that.

I am doing what I should do. I am getting help. I go to doctors, therapists and have meds. I’m trying. I’m fighting not because I want to but because it’s what I am supposed to do. I am struggling to do this, to make myself want to get better, to find hope again. To find joy again. I am not there yet.   

I feel so incredibly broken inside. I am not OK. I want to be OK. I think maybe someday I will be OK. But right now, I’m not OK and I wish people would stop telling me I am. Telling me to “hang in there a little longer” has become an insult to my idea of hope. Telling me I will “get through this” feels dismissive to my pain. Telling me “things are going to change” is meaningless when I feel dark and like everything in life is just failure. When I tell a loved one I feel broken and the response is, “no you aren’t” it only adds to the hopelessness I feel when the person I love the most doesn’t understand. I keep trying to explain this to those I love the most. It feels like an exercise in futility. I do it anyway thinking one day my words will get through to them. One day they will understand. Then I regret the pain they feel for me. It a never ending circle. I try to explain, they hurt, I feel worse about myself, I try to explain, they hurt… and so it starts over again.

If you have someone in your life who is going through this darkness, acknowledge them and their pain. Depression is a real demon people fight with. Help them by doing some research to learn to how help them. Learn what to say and do and mostly what not to say or do. Please don’t argue with them and assume just because you say “honey, you’re OK” the person will believe it. Ask if you can talk to your loved one’s doctor. Maybe the doctor can explain it better. Search the internet, there’s a lot of information out there. If you’re living in a bad place, help the person move. Most likely they don’t have the strength or confidence to do it alone. Do something more than form words that are no more than sounds. If those words help you in your state or phase of depression, that’s awesome!  I am honestly and sincerely very happy for you. I wish I was at that point now.  

I wrote this for those of us who haven’t gotten to that point yet and for those who love us anyway.

Try. Really try. Many times words are not enough. Stop telling me I am OK and help me to become OK.  

Please. Do something.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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What It's Like Going to Class With Anxiety

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I get there 15 minutes early. I’m too afraid to be late. I’d much rather never show up at all than walk in late. My classmates start to spill into the corridor outside the classroom and engage in their own conversations. I can’t speak. I stand there, like maybe in a strange way I’m involved with them. But I don’t actually have any friends. I open my mouth to say something, and no words come out. My mouth is dry, and my throat feels like it’s closing up. “You shouldn’t go in there.” It’s that persistent voice inside my head. It’s the voice that makes it impossible to fight the urge to turn and run away.

I sit down in my seat, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. Not because I’m being rude, but because I’m afraid that by making eye contact they’ll somehow see all of the flaws I’ve been trying so hard to hide. If I look them in the eyes maybe they’ll notice that my breathing is uneven, and my heart is pounding so hard that I’m afraid the girl next to me can hear it. Maybe they’ll notice I’m trying my hardest not to cry or throw up or that I have a million thoughts racing through my head. Thoughts so incredibly loud that I can’t hear what my teacher is saying. I’m shaking, and I’m sweating and my hands and feet are numb. “Don’t let them see what’s going on.” She’s going to ask me a question, I know she is. And there it is. I don’t know the answer, and people are staring at me. I’m so stupid. Breathe. Just breathe.

We’re allowed to leave. I practically run out of the classroom and take a huge breath as I’ve escaped that prison. I survived. I’ll have to go back there tomorrow, but for now I’ve made it through. And I’ll continue to make it. One day at a time.

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20 Messages for Anyone Who Feels Going Home for the Holidays Is Hard

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For many, there is “no place like home for the holidays.” For others, not so much. Navigating the social expectation of going home for the holidays can be tricky, especially if you are struggling with a mental illness.

We asked people in our mental health community to give their advice for when it’s hard to go home for the holidays.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “It’s OK to not like going home. Around this time of year everyone tells you the holidays are all about family, but maybe your family isn’t the one you were born into. Maybe it’s your friends, or somewhere else feels like home. That’s OK.” — Kristian H.

2. “It’s OK to be anxious. You have to remember that people may know what you are going through, but they may not understand and that’s OK. Stay your strongest and try to breathe. Everyone is human, and everyone copes with feelings differently.” — Becca H.

3. “You’re gonna get through this! Bring some things with you to take your mind off things for a while like crossword puzzles, coloring books, handheld video games, etc.” — Angelique B.

4. “Choosing to take care of yourself is not selfish. It’s OK to put healthy boundaries in place and do what’s best for you. Don’t lose yourself in the effort to please others!”— Jamie B.

5. “’No’ is a complete and valid answer. You do not owe anyone an explanation for doing what is best for yourself.” — Britny M.

6. “Do what’s best for you. Even if it means walking out, making quiet time for yourself or leaving altogether.”— Shannon D.

7. “Make your visit short if you can, [but] if not, take breaks during your visit. Have some ‘me-time’ to regroup, go get coffee, take a drive, etc. before you head to another event or tackle another family party.”— Erin K.

8. “Set up an alternate support system. Text friends, meet up with people, have someone you can rely on in those tough moments [to] support you and remove you from the situation.” — Jenna H.

9. “Remember you are loved, important and deserving of respect. Even if the people around you lead you to think otherwise.” — Sarah B.

10. “[You can] say no. Say no to toxic family or friends who await you at home. Hang out with friends or volunteer. We [sometimes] feel a duty to connect with people who harm us and I think it’s time we say no.”  — Alicia R.

11. “Don’t feel obligated to participate in every single activity. If you need a break from everyone and everything, then take it. Just explain you need a little while to recharge and rest.” — Jessica E.

12. “Stay in a hotel. Even if your trip lasts multiple days, you still have your own space to go back to.”— Andrew P.

13. “Bring comfort items and bring your strength. If you can’t do it, that’s OK too. Self-care comes first. Always. Regardless [of] what you do, it’s OK. You need to take care of you.” — Samantha E.

14. “Create a safety/wellness plan for yourself before finalizing any holiday plans. [For example,] if you’re not feeling mentally well, [have a] plan to leave early, [with] a reason you’re comfortable with. Create some affirmations you can say to yourself if you begin to feel unwell during the occasion.” — Corey L.

15. “It’s OK to not go home. Our mental health is very important. Don’t feel guilty. You come first. You are important. Your feelings are valid and you need to do what is best for you.”  — Rachel C.

16. “You don’t owe anybody an explanation. If going home for the holidays is something that completes you, then go and have fun. If even the thought of getting out of bed that day makes you want to hide, then don’t go. Take care of you first!” — Alex P.

17. “Have an escape plan. Be clear about how long you’ll stay and what behaviors will make you leave. Sometimes it takes more courage to choose to be safe by staying away than it would to go into a situation you know will be unsafe in.” — Jessa L.

18. “Set clear limits and boundaries before you leave, and stick to them. Make sure your family knows you will need your own space. When you need to leave, do it.” — Kerry K. 

19. ” If your family doesn’t respond to your needs or ignores your boundaries, you don’t have to stay. Decide ahead of time – for yourself – what you want to get out of spending time with them. Sometimes showing up then leaving is the best it’s going to get. When things don’t feel good to you, disengage with love. If you’re triggered and have a hard time responding that way, just disengage. Have a plan B so you have another option to have a good holiday. ” — Davida H.

20. “If you’re an adult, you really do have the right to spend the holidays how, where and with whom you want.” — Kimwa W.

*Some answers have been edited and shortened.

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19 Songs That Have Helped People Get Through Panic Attacks

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Sometimes panic attacks hit out of nowhere, and — unfortunetly — in a public place. But when we feel a panic attack coming on, or if we’re in a place where we can slip in some ear buds, music can be a great way to bring ourselves back to a place of calm, and take back power in a situation that leaves us powerless.

To find out which songs help people who experience panic attacks, we asked our community to share their go-to songs that help them through.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Migraine” by Twenty One Pilots

“And I will say that we should take a day to break away / From all the pain our brain has made, the game is not played alone / And I will say that we should take a moment and hold it / And keep it frozen and know that life has a hopeful undertone.”

2. “Nightingale” by Demi Lovato

“[Demi Lovato] has helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life. ” — Emily K.

“I need a voice to echo / I need a light to take me home / I kinda need a hero / Is it you?”

3. “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine

“And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back / And given half a chance, would I take any of it back / It’s a fine romance, but it’s left me so undone / It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

4. “Hello” by Adele 

“Any song I can sing the words to (even terribly) seems to calm me down. I think it’s because it forces me to breathe normally and focus on trying to sound decent versus [focusing on] my tight chest and pounding heart. A lot of Adele’s songs require some acoustic effort. It draws my attention away from forcing my body to be ‘normal’ without making me focus on all the panic symptoms.” — Mindy A.

“Hello from the other side / I must have called a thousand times / To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done / But when I call you never seem to be home.”

5. “Return to Innocence” by Enigma

The chanting is almost primal and it’s almost like I’m yelling/letting my feelings out when I sing along. It really helps calm me down when I’m being super emotional and panicking.” — Alicia M.

6. “How to Save a Life” (piano version) by The Fray

“It’s my favorite song, and the words can sometimes be triggering, but just the music is familiar and soothing to me.” — Amelia H.

7. “Canon in D Major” by Pachelbel

“It reminds me of my childhood, when things were easier, and I didn’t know how isolated I would grow to feel. It was my wedding song also, and makes me feel safe, like I’ve come home.” — Sarah R.

8. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

“It’s impossible for me to not belt out every word of that song, even in a bad time such as a panic attack. It distracts me from the pain and anxiety by putting me in a more carefree and fun mood.” — Katie C.

“Is this the real life? / Is this just fantasy? / Caught in a landslide, / No escape from reality.”

9. “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons

“This song has helped me get up when I feel too weak as to even smile.” — Angela M.

“So this is where you fell / And I am left to sell / The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell right to the top / Don’t look back.”

10. “Here Comes a Thought” from Steven Universe

It’s beautiful and I love the video as well. That whole show in general is amazing for those who have many different forms of mental illness.” — Gina F.

“And it was just a thought, just a thought, just a thought, just a thought, just a thought /  It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK / We can watch, we can watch, we can watch, we can watch them go by / From here, from here, from here.”

11. “We Know Where You Go” by Blue October

“My kids know the words and sing along when I play it. It brings me back to reality… hearing their voices and really listening to them reminds me they need me and I have to be strong, and the panic will pass.” — Rowen K.

“We know where you go / We’re watching you close / We know where you go / We know that you’ve tried / Your heart’s died and goodbye / Seems the only way to go / But please stay with us.”

12. “Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette

“The combination of intriguing lyrics and eerily beautiful music can sometimes take my focus off of the episode.” — Deborah S.

“But you you’re not allowed / You’re uninvited / An unfortunate slight.”

13. “A Better Son/Daughter”  — Rilo Kiley 

“The lyrics are actually about depression, anxiety and panic attack. It makes me feel like there’s someone out there that just gets what I’m going through. And by the time the music get really loud I start screaming the lyrics until that overwhelming feeling goes away.” — Isabella C.

“Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can’t move / Awake but cannot open my eyes / And the weight is crushing down on my lungs I know I can’t breathe / And hope someone will save me this time.”

14. “Stubborn Love” by The Lumineers

“No matter how hard things can get and how much I let my anxiety interfere with the people I love, I know they love me and are there for me. This song reminds me that no matter how ‘stubborn’ I may be they will keep trying to lift me up.” — Dana S.

“So keep your head up, keep your love / Keep your head up, my love / Keep your head up, my love / Keep your head up, keep your love.”

15. “Don’t Panic” by Coldplay.

“The title may seem a little obvious, but I find the song so calming and lyrics like ‘we live in a beautiful world’ and ‘oh, all that I know, there’s nothing here to run from, yeah, ’cause everybody here’s got somebody to lean on’ help me regain control of my breathing and return to Earth, so to speak. The whole Parachutes album is my go-to when it comes to panic attacks.” — Emma H.

“Oh all that I know  / There’s nothing here to run from  / Cause here / Everybody here’s got somebody to lean on.”

16. “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes 

“It reminds me I’m loved and that I have people who care about me. My boyfriend is my rocks during attacks when I listen to this song I remember I’m not worthless and I matter.” — Niki D.

“And so I’d thought I’d let you know / That these things take forever, I especially am slow / But I realized that need you / And I wondered if I could come home.”

17. “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones

“Calms me down quite quickly. It’s so soothing, and it was the album I used to listen to when I was being abused by my ex-husband, which resulted in my anxiety and panic attacks along with post-traumatic stress disorder. It helped me cope during the painful years and still helps me now. But I’m survivor of domestic violence! However not doing so well in the recovery. I will get there — it will not beat me!” — Andrea Moth

“When I saw the break of day / I wished that I could fly away / Instead of kneeling in the sand / Catching teardrops in my hand.”

18. “Rylynn” by Andy McKee

19. “We Don’t Know” by The Strumbellas 

“Oh we don’t know the roads that we’re heading down / We don’t know if we’re lost, that we’ll find a way / We don’t know if we leave, will we make it home / We don’t know, there’s hope, then we’ll be OK.”

What would you add?

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.




19 Songs That Have Helped People Get Through Panic Attacks

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My Brain Feels Sick

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My brain feels sick. It doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to, and it feels like it isn’t working right. My brain feels like it needs to cuddle up under a warm flannel blanket, eat a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, and sleep time away on the couch until it recovers.

I know my brain, and what I know of my brain right now is that it’s not working right. The way it’s functioning right now is not how it’s supposed to be. I may tend to be a pessimistic person, but living continuously in a state of hopelessness is not my normal. I may be the biggest realist of all my friends, but flirting with nihilism is not my normal. I may feel down when I think about the world and its problems, but getting stuck in a place of depression is not my normal. And I may be prone to always ask questions that get to the heart of matters, but admitting that I’m questioning my own existence is not my normal.

My brain feels sick.

I want to ask God why He’s letting me go through this. I want Him to show me the good that may one day come of this. But right now, I can’t see the potential good; I can’t imagine the what-may-come-of-this stories. I am trying to keep my head above water as I’m floating in the middle of a vast, endless ocean. My ankle is still tied to my anchor, but the rope preventing me from completely floating away is getting longer and stretching thinner. God, don’t cut me loose and let me float away.

I want to be the person I used to be — someone who was more confident and sure of herself, possessed a sense of purpose, had hope, was less fixated on her own problems, and felt strong in her faith.

Now I don’t want to listen to Christians songs on the radio anymore. What has always been my unwavering daily discipline of bible and devotional reading has become spotty. My index cards of people to pray for have lain untouched on my desk for weeks. My prayers to be selfless toward my family and friends have become selfish prayers of despair and pleas for help. My ambition to glorify God in all I do has been reduced to a fight to just hang on to my tattered faith. I used to feel zeal upon waking in the morning to continue where I left off the day prior; now, I just feel sadness as I’m sucked out of the world of my dreams back into facing my reality. A reality I never asked to become trapped in. An illness I never thought would overtake me like this.

My brain feels sick.

Today is step one — I’m taking my brain to the counselor’s office and will explain to him the symptoms I’m experiencing, as only I know and only I can tell.

Maybe tomorrow my brain will feel a little bit better. Maybe it will, for even just a moment, decide to open the curtain a bit and let me feel the sunlight. Maybe I’ll feel a glimpse of the person I used to be and know that, someday, I will get better.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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