How to Change Your Brain By Accepting that it Can’t be Changed
It’s not easy for me to confess just how often I cried in the fall of 2009. I wish I didn’t care, but I’m still a slave to some old notions. All of which is to say that I cried quite a lot, and I’m ashamed to admit it.
If you found yourself in midtown Manhattan that autumn, around noon, you may have witnessed a 26-year-old man with his hands jammed in his pockets, marching across the city. He’d usually head south to the Village, but sometimes he’d go west to Hell’s Kitchen or east to the river. He’d be wearing an outfit that just barely met the standards of “business casual”—ink-stained khakis a size too big, untucked polo, brown sneakers doing a poor imitation of dress shoes. And if you committed the ultimate New York faux pas and actually looked him in the eyes, you’d see the tears.
The forgettable 26-year-old was me, and I was crying for joy—for the beauty of the world. Who knows what inspired these tears, exactly? Maybe I had watched an old woman teach a young blind girl how to use her cane to detect a sidewalk curb, and maybe I thought, this is someone with real problems, and look at her courage. Or maybe I had phoned my mother in a panic, and she had restored my self-belief with a convincing pep talk. In any case, the bracing truth reached me: “Yes, of course! Life is wonderful, and you never want to leave! You idiot!” So the tears flowed—tears of relief and salvation. more
It took me a quarter of a century (literally) to realize that I experienced trauma throughout certain points in my childhood. It took me another year to realize that my behaviors were deeply rooted in how I responded to that trauma. And it took me even longer to realize that my emotions during those years were not normal.
It seems obvious, doesn’t it?
The thing was… no one told me that the things I was doing weren’t normal. And a lot of times, as a kid, if someone doesn’t outright tell you something, then you have no idea.
I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal to self-harm at twelve years old. All of the friends I’d chosen were doing it so I assumed ALL preteens were doing it. None of us hurt ourselves to fit in with each other (we actually knew each other for quite a while before admitting to one another that we were self-harming), but we were all doing it to cope with something. We were all kids with messy stories, which drew us together like magnets. more
Many people don’t understand how mental illness, in and of itself, can be traumatic. Everything from the emotions, physical sensations, and even treatment – locked in a ward or a hospital, often against our will – is a recipe for trauma. While every person with mental illness is different, most people with serious and persistent mental illness describe being traumatized in addition to the impact of the illness itself.
In this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast, our hosts discuss their own traumas as they relate to living with – and getting help for – mental illness. They both recall their time receiving treatment in the psychiatric hospital and Michelle tells the story of her encounter with a police officer that ended less than ideally. more
Sometimes, trauma can be more deadly than war itself. But the VA’s existing mental health services are woefully inadequate for a growing problem.
I’m supposed to be a statistic.
On July 14, 2012, drowning in grief and guilt, I tried to kill myself. Like so many veterans, I had found civilian life desperately difficult. War had drained me of joy. The sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield had been relentlessly looping in my head. The suffering seemed endless. And so, thinking there were no other options of escape, I turned to suicide.
Luckily, I survived. I avoided becoming one of the 20 veterans who kill themselves every day in this country. But I also witnessed firsthand all the ways that our nation’s mental health resources fail our fighting men and women. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and the military simply aren’t equipped to properly treat sick vets. We must do better. more
After applying for DD214 online and receiving the document, it could be easy to think that the veteran has left everything to do with their service behind.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Many veterans suffer with mental illness after returning from duty and this affects everyone, including the service members and their families.
It is entirely possible that some people may not experience some of these symptoms until a few years after leaving the armed forces. They may also delay seeking help for several reasons, such as thinking that they can cope, fear of criticism or feeling that therapists will not understand.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is perhaps the most infamous mental health problem veterans face after returning from duty. more
Music is an incredible tool for emotional health, daily performance, and sleep.
Music is a regular fixture in my daily life. I listen to music to keep me motivated while I exercise, to relax and distract me when I travel, and for a quick creativity boost when I’m writing. My family—especially my kids—have music playing around the house all the time. I also use relaxing music to unwind before bed. Music is an especially effective part of my own Power Down Hour on nights when my brain is wired or I’m feeling tense.
Music is an incredibly therapeutic tool for emotional health, daily performance, and sleep. It has been used as a healing therapy for most of human history. Ancient Arabic cultures had musicians working alongside physicians. The Greeks used music to treat mental illness. After WWII, musicians were brought to US hospitals to aid the healing of soldiers’ physical and emotional trauma. more
Anger, alcohol use and high risk activities are not commonly directly associated with depression.
Depression impacts millions of people worldwide. It is not just those suffering directly with depression, but loved ones who feel the effects too. Recognizing depression and getting appropriate professional help is the first step to cohabiting with depression. But sometimes that is easier said than done.
Evidence also suggests that depression can be hereditary, related to genes. more
No one ever explained my mother’s illness to me, and the trauma I experienced had lasting effects. I worry that young people nowadays face the same challenges
When I was 12, my mother cornered me in the bathroom of our suburban Vancouver home. “Your teeth are too yellow,” she said, handing me a can of Comet.
Though disappointed that little about me ever pleased my parent, I understood from past experience how to get through the current predicament. I sprinkled green powder on my toothbrush and did my best to not let any of it go down my throat while I scrubbed.
The things I didn’t do: report her to authorities; confide in a reliable adult; tell my school friends; cry. Perhaps my mother was right and my teeth were ugly. Or perhaps the shame I felt overshadowed the grievous nature of her request.
As my sole guardian, my mother was the most important person in my life. And under her roof, I played by her rules, no matter how bizarre, because losing her was unthinkable. I didn’t know she suffered from psychosis. I only knew that when she stared at me, her brown eyes near black and glittering with relentless intensity, what she saw didn’t meet her approval.
“an invasive apprehension moved into my nervous system. Just the tap of her heels on the kitchen linoleum sent my heart rate into rapid ascent” more
“Childhood trauma does not come in one single package.” ― Asa Don Brown
Deeply traumatic experiences, especially during childhood, can have an even deeper impact in adult life. They can significantly shape an individual’s personality and life choices, spurring research into the connection between childhood abuse and criminal behavior. In particular, the extent of childhood abuse reported among serial killers has raised the question: Are serial killers born or made?
Nature vs Nurture
Not all abused children become serial killers, and not all serial killers are victims of childhood abuse. However, the connection between the two cannot be dismissed as just coincidence. According to criminologist Dr Adrian Raine, both biologic and social factors contribute to the making of a murderer. Reviews of more than 100 twin and adoption analyses showed that approximately 50% of variance in antisocial behavior is attributable to genetic influences. In his book, The Anatomy of Violence, Dr Raine explains that “Genetics and environment work together to encourage violent behavior.” For example, those with a specific variant of the enzyme monoamine-oxidase-A gene are more prone to displaying violent behavior if they have had an abusive upbringing. A child susceptible to genetically driven violent conduct does not necessarily become a criminal. However, genetics, in tandem with environmental factors such as violent childhood experiences, work together to shape a person. more
A Connecticut Navy veteran who was sexually assaulted while serving in Japan has been awarded an honorable discharge after she challenged the “bad paper” discharge status she had been given.
Bianca Cruz successfully defended her Navy record in an appeal to the Naval Discharge Review Board, which concluded that “she served honorably as evidenced by no punitive items in her record.” She was separated from the Navy in 2015 with a general (under honorable conditions) discharge, started the appeal process the next year and filed her appeal in November 2017. The board ruled Aug. 7 and notified her by email Sept. 17.
Cruz, 24, of North Branford, was assaulted in 2014 while serving on a ship in Japan. She reported the assault, was transferred to South Carolina to get away from her attacker who was also a sailor, attempted suicide, and was ultimately discharged with a status of general (under honorable conditions). more