Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth about Mental Illness and Sensitivity

I initially had the idea of focusing on BipolarDisorder and Schizophrenia as it pertains to sensitivity, but realized a single focus leaves out a lsrger group of people who also face these challenges on a daily basis.   

Five years ago, after several failed attempts at holding a job for more than a few weeks, countless severe depressive episodes and medication adjustments it was decided that I should consider apply for disability.  It was a hard thing to accept, while I welcomed the idea the realization that I was not able to hold a job was difficult to face and yet relief at the same time.  When I received my letter that I had been approved I became depressed, suddenly I realized that everyone (doctors, the state, and the disability system) saw me as not good enough, crazy and unable to function in society.  The one thing that was to make life a little easier and take some of the stress and anxiety away from me actually caused it.  In my mind I had this idea that I was damaged and not worth anything anymore.   I cried and yet felt relief at the same time.  The confusing world of mental illness and over sensitivity at its best, maybe they did know what they were talking about after all.   It took some time, but I accepted what I knew was the right choice and in the end realized that I could still contribute to society in many ways, but had the ability to do it on my terms, in my time and if I needed to walk away and take a break I could.  So, I began writing again and found a new love of photography. 

So, how does this all relate to sensitivity, you ask.  Well, for many people being sensitive is just part of who they are.  Everyone is sensitive at some point and in some way, its human nature.  However, for those who live with a mental illness, being sensitive becomes a challenge of mere survival and the trying to find a healthy balance. 

Being overly sensitive to a situation or comment made is called a trigger, or some may refer to it as having a switch that is flicked on.  These actions or words are seen as an insult, the assumption that someone does not like you, or you are simply not good at your job or an activity you are involved in.  While you know these are not true, the brain does not offer an objective picture of the situation and the ability to feel what is real and what is not is clouded.  The challenge is to learn how to see these triggers for what they are, ideas that developed from the actions and words of others with the absence of evidence.   Be aware that when you begin to use the words; always, everybody, never, nobody, etc., it is a sign that you may not be hearing what is being said in the right context. 

To help change the thought pattern and distorted thinking, it should be looked at as a learned skill.  For instance, when an incident occurs consider writing it down. 

Form four columns with enough room to write about the occurrence in detail.

  • ·         The incident or trigger
  • ·         What you felt at the time (how it was perceived)
  • ·         How could it be seen another way (the other side of the coin)
  • ·         How can your reaction be adjusted in the future

By doing this exercise, over time it can become second nature and train your mind to face these incidents with less stress anxiety in the future.   In addition to writing these situations down, it is also important to find additional ways to relax and calm your mind such as, exercise, talking with someone, such as a trusted friend or therapist, as well as painting or writing.  

I know for myself I need to learn and relearn, sometimes on a daily basis how to combat what I encounter.  As my mind battles the challenges of Schizophrenia, I need to continually remind myself that what I am feeling may not be the truth, as I know I am overly sensitive to conflict and criticism (or what I may perceive as criticism).   It is not  uncommon for me to play a situation over and over in mind for days, creating different scenarios in my mind of what I should have done or what I can do in the future,  and at times I find myself having the conversation out loud.  Maybe that is a good thing, they say when rehearsing a speech read it out loud to see if it makes sense. 

By learning what your triggers are and how your mind processes information, you have the most powerful weapon in defeating the effects of your reaction to being overly-sensitive to what we face in the world on a daily basis.  

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