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Dear Caregivers: You Are Making a Difference

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I have bipolar disorder. My husband is my caregiver. He didn’t sign up for this gig when we met, except for later vowing the part about “in sickness and in health” when we married. I could not negotiate life without him. I try to thank him daily.

My mother was my father’s caregiver when he was dying of multiple myeloma. She knew she was doing a good job of taking care of him, but she asked me to tell her that. She needed someone to tell her she was doing it right.

So this is for my husband and my mother, and for caregivers everywhere.

Thank you. Good job. We need you, and we know it.

Some of you are unpaid caregivers who help loved ones. All of you deserve our thanks.

Some caregivers receive pay, and you deserve our thanks, too. There are many other professions or jobs you could be doing, but you chose to help those who need it.

You work in homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, schools and group homes. Your work matters more than most people may realize.

Respite care workers deserve recognition, too. You allow caregivers to continue their work refreshed. You give them a space to catch their breath and recharge their spirits. You are caregivers as well.

The care you all give is not easily definable. It can involve meeting physical, spiritual, mental and emotional needs. It provides sustenance, both literal and figurative.

Recently I wrote a blog post called “Caregivers Need Care Too.” It talked about what I believe caregivers need in return for the attention, care, support, assistance and love they give. In it, I said that those who care for others need something from those they care for, and from the rest of society. They need appreciation, validation, time away to refresh and re-energize themselves, understanding, support and recognition.

So, please accept this from me, one who has known caregivers and benefited from caregivers, and loved caregivers. Your work and your devotion do not go unnoticed, even if the one you care for may not be able to say “thank you.” You are appreciated. You are worthy. You are loved. You are respected. You make a difference. You have value. You are valued. Even if you never hear these words from those you care for, please accept them from me.

I am grateful.

Follow this journey on Bipolar Me.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image by sanjagrujic

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25 Things You Do as an Adult When You've Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse (1)

25 Things You Do as an Adult When You've Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse

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It has been said that “no one escapes childhood unscathed.” But sayings like these can have an especially significant meaning for a person who has experienced emotional abuse as a child. The effects of emotional abuse can be both debilitating and far-reaching, often extending out of childhood and into adolescence and adulthood. For many, experiencing emotional abuse at a young age can affect their self-worth and relationships. For some, emotional abuse may even have contributed to a current struggle with mental illness.

We wanted to know what kinds of effects childhood emotional abuse can have on adulthood, so we asked our mental health community to share one thing they do now that stemmed from the emotional abuse they experienced in their upbringing.

No matter what your experience of childhood abuse was, it is important to remember hope is never lost and there is help out there.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. “[I] can’t stand conflict, loud sudden noises, shouting and screaming or aggression in any form. [It] triggers my fight or flight, instantly.”

2. “I can’t accept compliments. When someone [compliments] me, my response would just just be ‘umm yeah’ or I’ll just smile awkwardly. I just figured out why… During my childhood, people just [noticed] my mistakes and not my achievements. So now it is hard for me to accept compliments.”

3. “I’m an overachiever. At everything and anything. I still feel the need to prove I’m good enough. I obsess about doing a job/task to perfection. And then I obsess about how I could do it better. [I worry] about others’ opinions way too much.”

4. “I always feel like I am doing everything wrong… It’s very hard to convince me I am good at something.”

5. “I become apologetic over everything. If someone doesn’t text back, I’ll believe they’re upset with me, and I’ll apologize. If I ask for something and annoy them, I’ll apologize. Everything becomes a situation where I feel like I’m to blame.”

6. “I’m basically a hermit. My home is my fortress. I have BPD, PTSD and anxiety. It’s so hard to work or apply myself in school or just life when every time I want to apply myself, I can’t help but run to the nearest exit to catch my breath. I constantly fear everyone around me.”

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7. “I have problems trusting people. I keep people at [an] arm’s length. I never really let them into my life. I don’t allow them to know of my health problems and my mental illnesses. If I do let them in, it is rare and they [will] have known me for years. It takes a long time [for me] to build trust.”

8. “Indecisiveness. [It feels like] every choice I make is wrong even if I choose the option I’m told to take…I’m afraid to [be a] parent because I don’t want to ‘mess up’ my kid.” 

9. “I avoid saying anything that others might not agree with, which means I’m never being myself. I wear a mask of complete neutrality in any situation, because I’m so scared of anyone feeling negative towards me.”

10. “I’m very defensive which can come across cold or nasty. I also portray quite a lot of negativity which seems to be my barrier so I don’t get hurt.”

11. “I have trouble accepting any kind of love because growing up, it was always given with strings attached or used a tool for manipulation. I don’t trust that others have the capacity to love me unconditionally, so I hide away parts of myself, never allowing myself to experience the vulnerability that comes with being loved, chosen and accepted by others.”

12. “I feel the need to please everybody I deem ‘of authority’ and thus have a hard time getting my needs met. I strive too hard for [a] perfection that doesn’t exist, and then eventually, melt down when too many things are not up to the standards held in my past.”

13. “I find myself always explaining my every move. I explain why I bought something, why I did what I did, etc. I feel like people think I’m lying to them, so I owe them a detailed explanation. Also feeling as though if I say ‘no’ to someone, they’ll hate me. So even if I’m inconveniencing myself, I’ll say ‘yes.’”

14. “I avoid asking help from anyone because I don’t trust anyone. I believe if someone offers me a hand, there will always be something they [want to] ask in return. I have friends but I don’t have a best friend. I keep my distance from people. Automatically, my wall blocks anyone.”

15. “[I have] attachment issues, trust issues [and am] paranoid that everyone will leave me. A lot of this is part of my BPD. My sudden divorce also contributed to these behaviors.”

16. “I’m overly shy around people and struggle [with] having a voice. [I believe] no one wants to hear anything I have to say.”

17. “[I] won’t let anyone see the ‘bad’ side of myself.”

18. “I constantly think I’m not good enough and I’m not smart enough. [I] was told [this] all my childhood… I’ve gone back to university to prove to myself that I am smart enough, but it’s always there in the back of my mind, like a poison, reminding me I’m not good enough, not smart enough.”

19. “My whole childhood was emotional abuse. It is extremely hard for me to accept I have people in my life who actually care about me. That’s the worst one. I am nothing to myself so why would I matter to others?”

20. “I have a hard time making eye contact with people. I look away a lot when I’m speaking. I get startled very easily and it takes me awhile to get my heart rate back to normal.”

21. “I have major issues with anxiety and depression because of my childhood. The biggest factor is I cannot communicate well and I don’t know how to express my feelings with others because I am so used to just holding them inside because I wasn’t allowed to share how I felt. When tense situations arise, I get nauseous and uncomfortable, [and] my anxiety levels sky rocket. Definitely have a lot of emotional scars from my past, it’s been the hardest thing to conquer.”

22. “I never, ever fight back. I may cut toxic people out of my life with the help of amazing friends and professionals, but whenever a conflict is actively going on that involves someone attacking my character… I completely shut down. I let whatever they want to say wash over me until they tire themselves out. That’s what I had to do when I was younger. It was so much worse to fight back. I learned to let them yell themselves out.”

23. “Blaming myself for everything. I have to fight the urge to beat myself up constantly. I’ve also struggled with feeling like I’m not good enough, which makes things like school, dating and applying to jobs really hard.”

24. “I don’t really know who I am or what I truly think. Virtually everything I say seems to me to be a lie I’ve just fabricated for that particular situation. I have real problems trying to identify what I’m feeling.”

25. “Several things, but the main one was lashing out on social media for years. Controversial and angry statuses, just due to the anger inside of me. I have texts I sent my friend where I described just how much I felt this unsettling anger in my chest. Emotional abuse from peers at school to family [can] really [mess] you up. I then finally found a therapist who could help me and I’ve come a long way.

Thinkstock photo via openeyed11.


25 Things You Do as an Adult When You've Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse
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18 Songs That Have Helped Survivors Find Hope After Sexual Assault

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

The aftermath of sexual assault trauma is complex and different for each individual experiencing it. While music cannot “cure” the pain left in the wake of a traumatic incident, for many individuals, music can be a comfort in recovery. Sometimes, songs can meet us right where we are in our struggle and give us hope for the future.

We wanted to know what songs gave sexual assault survivors hope, so we asked our mental health community to share what songs helped them in their recovery.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga

“It just sums up all the raw emotions I’ve felt over the years… It reminds me to ignore the people who victim blame because they never experienced what I’ve experienced, and unless they have, they’d never understand the battles I face. Music is one of the biggest things that helped me through those rough times.” — CK D.

2. “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” by Cher

“[This song] helps me throughout this process of reporting and talking to authorities about it.” — Tiana B.

3. “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige

“Cause that’s all it seemed to bring me in some aspects of trusting people… So eliminating the drama (trauma) [helped me]. ‘No one’s ever gonna hurt me again!'” — Knowledge L.

4. “Recovery” by Frank Turner

“It pushed me to get into therapy and open up more.” — Carrie R.

5. “Warrior” by Demi Lovato

“The vocals are strong and the song is so powerful. It’s a song I could put on and feel like I had overcome so much just by being in the music. Healing doesn’t happen in a day or overnight, but the feeling of strength and power and survival can happen with one moment that sets off the right spark inside. This song set that spark off for me.” — Sarah C.

6. “Sleep Spent” by Death Cab for Cutie

“‘Sleep Spent’ by Death Cab for Cutie, which is odd because the song is more about alcoholism than assault, but the first half of the lyrics really helped me.” — Conor L.

7. “Elastic Heart” by Sia

“My ex was emotional and sexually abusive… ‘Elastic Heart’ by Sia helped me through the process of realizing everything he had done. It still hits me now, but the lyrics really resonated with me [at the time].” — Izzy D.

8. “Hall of Fame” by The Script feat. will.i.am

“Especially the line, ‘You can walk straight through hell with a smile.’” — Abbey T.

9. “Hero” by Mariah Carey

“The entire song, but especially, ‘So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong and you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you.’” — Mindi F.

10. “Not Ready to Make Nice” by Dixie Chicks

“It was my power after everything. I couldn’t change what happened, but I did have a right to my feelings around it.” — Jennifer V.

11. “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” by Simon and Garfunkel

“[This song] seems to be about transcendence and transformation, and resolve, while adequately describing loneliness and desperation.” — Stefanie H.

12. “Why” by Rascal Flatts

“It gave me strength and hope through remembering I am loved.” — Douglas T.

13. “Titanium” by David Guetta feat. Sia

“Sia was discussed during my counseling, so that’s always reminded me of that time in my life and how I’m still here and pulling through the dark days.”

14. “Blackbird” by The Beatles

“It helped me when I was in high school and discovering my sexuality and… [when I] had flashbacks.” — Sam B.

15. “The Warrior’s Code” by Dropkick Murphys

“I didn’t discover it til much later, but it reminds me I’m a warrior.” — Jennifer P.

16. “F*ckin’ Perfect” by P!nk

“[I’ve] been sexually assaulted multiple times throughout my life. Nothing but time and strength make it easier to cope, but music instills a solidarity like no other.” — Jennifer C.

17. “Human” by Christina Perri

“I was constantly guilty and second guessing my actions to be perfect and make him happy. This song reminded me I am only human and that means being imperfect. Even when I would do everything for him, it would never seem enough. This song helped me feel less alone and that what I was feeling was valid.” — Izzy D.

18. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

“Won’t go into much [detail], but my song was and still is ‘I Will Survive.’ Enough said.” — Jan W.

What would you add?

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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What I Find More Supportive Than the Statement ‘Just Stay Positive’

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I will never forget the time I was reading a post on Facebook. Someone posted that their child went into cardiac arrest. I saw several comments to “just stay positive, everything will be fine.” Several hours later, the parent came back and updated that their child had passed away.

During my daughter’s battle with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect, I heard the same statement often. Just stay positive, everything will be OK. But what if everything is not OK? What if someone still dies, like my child did? This statement seems to scream at me “You must not have stayed positive enough, if only you would have stayed positive, maybe you would not have lost your child.”

There are many variations of this phrase. “Just stay positive,” “You need to just pray hard,” “Keep your chin up” or “Only think good thoughts.” In my opinion, these statements reflect our culture. We live in a society that often does not want to face or acknowledge pain. However, running from the crisis does not change anything. All the positive thinking in the world does not change the fact that the situation may be bad; someone could still die or suffer greatly. Telling someone they or their child “will be just fine” might not be helpful.

Another thing I believe it can do is to make a person feel weak in their beliefs or faith. If you tell someone everything will be OK if they pray hard, what is that saying about their beliefs or religion if everything is not OK?

Finally, and what I believe is probably the most important reason to avoid telling someone to stay positive, is that it can be minimizing. If someone has an illness, telling them to stay positive can be like telling them to toughen up. It can stop the person from opening up to you as they may begin to feel that they have to appear optimistic, maybe even happy, despite their pain.  This statement doesn’t allow someone to be authentic in their pain whether physical, emotional or both.

Here are some ideas I personally find more supportive then telling someone to “stay positive.” If you want to offer encouragement or support to someone who has an illness, try to do something practical for the family. Bring a meal, do some chores, deliver groceries, babysit, mow the lawn, pick up mail. When someone is going through a hard time, it can be difficult to have the energy to ask for help. So instead of saying “let me know if you need anything,” ask, “What is something practical I could do to lessen your load?” If the person is not able to ask for help, gently suggest something you could do. Another helpful thing is to open yourself up for conversation. Make yourself truly available to hear the pain they are going through, even if it is hard to hear. Take time for the person, ask questions, let yourself feel empathy, acknowledge the difficulty of what they are going through. Nothing has meant more to me as we battled my daughter’s heart condition and dealt with the grief of losing her then when a person cries with me and lets me be true to my emotions.

It is more than OK to send positive thoughts or pray, but my suggestion is not to make any promises. All the positive thinking in the world still may not yield a positive outcome.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image by DragonImages

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Fidgets Are More Than Just the Latest Toy Trend

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Fidget tools are used in the health community for reasons other than ‘just a toy.’

Read the full transcript:

Fidgets are more than just the latestt toy trend.

With their current popularity, schools have begun banning the “toys” for being distracting to students.

But fidgets have been a therapy tool for years…

Helping people with anxiety, autism, ADHD and many more conditions.

They can also be used to create conversation with non-disabled people to learn about differences and coping skills.

“My therapist handed me a fidget cube after I dissociated during a session and struggled to come back into the room.” – Megan R.

“My oldest son uses his when we are talking about uncomfortable topics. After a few days it just became a calming tool.” – Lisa G.

“I have a fidget cube to alleviate my anxiety at seminars at university so I can participate in discussions without physically shaking.” – Bob S.

“I have dermatillomania and dermatophagia and I use it to stop biting/picking.” – Becky S.

“I use it at work when talking to customers. It is inconspicuous and quiet. It helps me talk to and look at people versus looking down.” – De C.

“I love mine. It’s an outlet for the H in my ADHD!” – Kim G.

“Whenever I start having an anxiety attack, I use it to focus and breathe. It gives me something to fidget with as well as focus my sight.” – Alexandra U.

Yes, when used as purely a toy, a fidget may seem distracting.

But we can’t forget how many people need them for reasons past entertainment.

Let’s spread empathy, not judgment.

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The Struggle of Healing After Childhood Abuse

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

I wake up and for a few blissful moments, I’ve forgotten about the night of broken dreams and memories that leave me feeling frantic. I see my sweet baby girl’s grin, hear my son’s TV blaring the ever-present ESPN, smell my husband’s aftershave wafting in from the bathroom, and everything feels right in the world. I check my phone, and there are texts confirming plans for the day. Everything is good. I am loved. I am safe. I stumble to the shower, still a little groggy from not getting much sleep the night before. For those first 15 minutes of the day, I function as a “normal” human. I am OK.

Sometimes, soon after getting in the shower, something starts to change. I feel the sadness start to creep back into my soul. Suddenly, the hot water running down my body doesn’t feel comforting. Suddenly it’s the unwanted, confusing caresses from a much older male, and I’m a frozen, frightened little girl. I feel myself crashing. All the pleasant things that happened this morning fade away. Now it’s his sinister grin in my head, it’s his heavy breathing I hear, the smell of his breath, hot on my face. My plans for the day are replaced by him — the plans he had for me all those years ago, playing out over and over in my mind.

I try to lose myself in cleaning. As I’m scrubbing furiously, something occurs in direct correlation to the intensity of the memory. When there are moments of reprieve, I collapse on the couch exhausted both mentally and physically. I want it to stop now just as desperately as I wanted it to stop then.

I can’t reach out to anyone. I can’t ask for help. I’m afraid to ask for help because it seems like the same thing happens to me, over and over and over. I know what coping skills I’m supposed to use. I also know sometimes they are totally useless. Right now is one of those times. It’s something I have to ride out, learn how to live through again, this time trying to applying some of the truths I’ve learned as an adult, truths I didn’t understand as a child. Sometimes, it takes weeks or months to work through. Sometimes, I think I’ve worked through it and put it to rest, and months down the road, it rears its ugly head.

I get lost in how hard it is to work through these things. I’m stunned each time at how much it hurts. But once I’m on the other side, it’s beyond rewarding to see how far I’ve come — to see all the progress I’m making. It’s the ultimate form of self-love and healing to be able to stare that memory down, knowing it doesn’t have power over me anymore. I am my own person. I am healing. I am living a good life, full of love, full of purpose. No one is hurting me now. No one will ever hurt me like that again.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Archv.

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