By Definition

We all want so badly to be right. We just know that what we’re thinking must be superior to the opposing point of view, and we believe if we just yell loud enough that we can convince them of the error of the their ways. It is just so obvious that our answer is the correct one.

I had never heard of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International before today. According to the organization’s website, CCHR International is “a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections.” Sounds noble enough. CCHR International is also committed to “working alongside many medical professionals including doctors, scientists, nurses, and those few psychiatrists who have taken a stance against the biological/drug model of ‘disease’ that is continually promoted by the psychiatric/ pharmaceutical industry as a way to sell drugs.” Perhaps a little strongly worded, but, again, a fairly noble endeavor.

I found out about CCHR International through a video posted on a friend’s Facebook page today. In the video, a series of teens and children are seen wearing tee shirts with the name of various mental disorders (bipolar disorder, personality disorder, social anxiety disorder, etc., etc.) on the front of them. Those stickers are removed as the video progresses to reveal words such as “leader,” “inventor,” “artist,” and “revolutionary.” The video concludes with the words “Stop psychiatric labeling of kids” being flashed across the screen.

In general, I approve of the message the group is sending. Plenty of children who have been labelled with behavioral disorders were acting merely as, well, children would act. And certainly many behaviorisms which could be perceived as negative can actually work in a person’s favor. Many times, efforts to eradicate those behaviors serve more to strip the child of their natural personality and may even leave them more confused about who they are and what their gifts are.

There is a part of me, though, that believes this is not the entire picture. Sure, some kids (and even adults) can push through the haze of a mental illness or behavioral disorder to discover an even greater resolve and a dedicated lifestyle of concentration and effort. Abraham Lincoln, for example, was reported to have major bouts of depression, but was also one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States. Some kids, though, cannot climb these mountains on their own. Whether it be counseling or medicine or a different style of learning, they need a hand to get to the top.

I think back to some of my more difficult years in school. Could I have benefited from some extra help? It’s difficult to say now, but I don’t believe it would have hurt. I remember a time in the first (or maybe second grade) when I would inexplicably burst into tears every day in the cafeteria. To this day, I still don’t know what was going on there, other than remembering feeling really scared. Perhaps I could have used some counseling. Times were very different back then, though. “Depression” was a not a word I grew up familiar with.

Accompanying the video on the CCHR International Facebook page was the following statement: “Childhood is not a mental disorder.” That is very true. Severe depression is a mental disorder, though, and it can scar children well into their adult years. Medicine people versus non-medicine people just doesn’t cut it. Each child has to be evaluated on an individual basis, and then what is best for them has to be decided. In our effort to declare a winner in the argument, let’s not forget that each person is an individual and that blanket statements will keep the conflict going on forever.

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Four Aces

I don’t know why I thought this would work.

It was a pipe dream. I’m too old. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough money. I should have done more research into the financial side of things. I shouldn’t have told anyone I was even thinking about it. There’s no way I can win.

Some of you may remember a little over a month ago when I wrote about my decision to return to college to pursue a degree in psychology. You may also remember how shortly after I wrote about how I was freaking out a little over how I was going to pay for classes. After sizing up the situation, it would seem to make more sense for me to begin classes in the Spring 2015 semester than in the Fall 2014 session. Finances would be better, more time to plan a schedule, etc., etc.

If it all makes sense, though, why do I feel as if I’m failing?Failing-Project

For starters, I signed up for the Fall semester. I had eyes on it, so that’s what I planned to do. Then I had to open my big mouth and tell people I was going back in the Fall, so now I have to explain why that’s not happening. That explanation includes my not being aware of financial aid options for post-baccalaureate students, so I have to basically say I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Worst of all, though, is the feeling that this is just another one of those big plans I had that will never work out.

My chances of being able to begin in the Spring semester are actually looking quite good, however. As with anything in life, though, some measure of doubt still exists, and I hate that. It makes me want to stop talking about it altogether, but, well, since I had to mention it here…

Earlier this month, I ruminated on the dangers of self-diagnosis and the mental disorder known as Borderline Personality Disorder. I mentioned finding a book on the subject titled “I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me,” by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus, at the local library. I finally got brave enough to check it out a couple of weeks ago and concluded after reading just a couple of chapters that I did not suffer from this particular disorder. Particular aspects of it, however, seemed to fit me to a T. Here’s a brief passage on how those who suffer from BPD assess risks:

Unwilling to play the hand that is dealt her, the borderline keeps folding every time, losing the ante, waiting to be dealt four aces. If she cannot be assured of winning, she won’t play out her the hand. Improvement comes when she learns to accept the hand for what it is, and recognize that, skillfully played, she can still win.

Four-aces-hand1967I find myself guilty right now of wanting those four aces. I keep thinking of all these reasons that if this doesn’t work out perfectly, it won’t work out at all, when, in reality, an amended plan (or possibly something altogether different) might work just as well. It’s change, though, and change just doesn’t feel right sometimes. It feels like failing.

I am regrouping, but you might not see me mention much about college for a while. I may not be able to pull together the perfect hand, but I think I’ll at least wait for a winning one before I say much more. It’s just so hard to talk about winning sometimes, though, when you feel as if you’re losing.

Self-Diagnosis

I must be getting old. I found out I was going to have about 30 minutes to kill at the library this afternoon while I waited for my oldest daughter to finish her summer reading program activity … and I was actually excited about that.

For someone who spent so much time studying fiction in school, I hardly ever read fiction anymore. I’m much more into biographies and educational books these days. And since my goal is still to return to college to study psychology, but I’m still trying to figure out the best way to pay for said goal, I often find myself perusing the various titles written on matters such as depression or addiction or any mental behavior that is otherwise out of the ordinary.

I know, I know. It’s not exactly light reading, is it? That’s just the track my brain is on at the moment. Of course, one of the dangers of reading so much about mental disorders is that there is a very high likelihood you’ll run across at least one you think you might have. I mean, if you dig deep enough, there are all kinds of maladies we could ascribe to ourselves. For instance, one time after spending all afternoon trying to straighten one bookshelf, I was convinced I had Attention Deficit Disorder. Turns out I didn’t, but … wait, what was I talking about again? (Just kidding…)

brandon marshallSo today, as I browsed the 600 section of the library, I came across a book titled “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me,” by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus. The tagline for the book is “Understanding the Borderline Personality.” My only real knowledge of Borderline Personality Disorder was that NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall was diagnosed with it a few years ago, so I was curious what the authors had to say on the subject.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to start ticking off the traits I identified with: Mood swings, impulsive actions, lacking identity, etc., etc. And then there was the kicker: The most common type of depression associated with BPD is Dysthymia, known now as Chronic Depressive Disorder … which I was diagnosed with. “Holy crap,” I thought to myself, “it’s worse than I thought!” I got through as much of the book as I could before my daughter was finished, and then I put it back on the shelf because if I took it home I would just obsess over the concept even more.

Now, do I actually have BPD? I don’t know. Self-diagnosis is a dangerous road to travel, and it’s not one I particularly want to go down. You almost become a sort of psychological hypochondriac, jumping at every shadow. Does it hurt to ask, though? Should we stop exploring, stop seeking out new information? How many diagnoses are too many? How many are not enough?

These are just some questions I’ve pondering since this afternoon. BPD is a subject I am definitely not qualified to tackle here, although I would love to hear some testimonies regarding it. Or you just could tell me if I should get a school loan or not. Maybe if I got back in school I’d feel younger and stop wandering around the library so much.