What Would You Suggest?

I have the privilege of presenting to a  Human Services class at a local college in a couple of weeks.  I’m extremely grateful and also honored to be asked to talk to these students, because some of them may become (or already are) professionals in the mental health field. I’m determined to help destigmatize mental illness, particularly PTSD, by speaking and writing openly about living with this disorder.

I’ll be talking about the definition of PTSD, some common symptoms, how I’m able to live a full, and purposeful life, even though I sometimes still struggle with multiple symptoms, resources, etc.

I’m really excited about two topics that I have been asked to address during my presentation.

  • What to say and/or not to say to someone with PTSD (or mental illness)?
  • How professionals can better help people who they work with? 

I definitely have my ideas, but I thought about how wonderfully interactive and positive the blogging community is when it comes to comments. I would love to know how you would answer these questions. Either of the questions.

Your input is greatly appreciated!

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph    

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30 thoughts on “What Would You Suggest?

  1. Thank You! I also use lizard brain when I try to explain things and try to explain what happens. Sometimes I get blank stares, sometimes I don’t. 😊 I wasn’t sure if I was going to add that, but I now think its a good idea. Thank You!

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  2. Yes, thank you Ashley. I honestly didnt think of trauma-informed practice. I know there is a lot of information out there for professionals right now (thank goodness!) when I talk about resources, I will steer them to groups where they can get some solid and current information. Thank You!! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate all your comments. They are well thought out and extremely informative And Brave!! I love the acronym and think how cool it would be for you to be giving presentations too.
    Thank You from the heart. I truly appreciate everything. I think we’re all on this journey together and all of us get to have a voice. ❤️❤️❤️

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  4. the thing that i find hardest to explain to people is that it is not something you can think your way out of – i tell people it is my ‘lizard brain’ that is reacting and that it does not go near my ‘thinking brain’. a lot of my friends have managed to understand this and so are able to deal with panics and dissociation without trying to reason with me about it!

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  5. PS: Alexis, since I wrote my two long comments, it has occurred to me that I might be coming across as very pushy, like I think you HAVE to talk about stigma and my acronym CARE. I am so sorry if that’s the case, I don’t mean it that way at all! You need to talk about the things that are important to YOU, according to the way you see things. Despite the similarities in us both having PTSD, your story and experience are different from mine. It is possible that stigma and rejection from friends and family because of your diagnosis, hasn’t been much of a problem for you. I truly hope that’s the case! From what I remember of your story, you had very supportive people in your life already, by the time your PTSD was diagnosed. Lord knows you certainly deserve to have that, after all the horrible trauma you went through!

    Someday, I hope and pray, my memoir will be ready to publish. I am working on it every day. After my memoir is published, maybe the opportunity will come for me to give a talk about my experience, too. And when I do, I will talk about my issues with stigma, and my acronym CARE.

    I know from your writing that your talk will be brilliant. Here’s a big ((HUG)) if you want one. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Maybe tie in the idea of trauma-informed practice and how important it is for mental health professions to recognize that any client they see could have a trauma history, even if the person doesn’t have a PTSD diagnosis.

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  7. Hi Barbara. Thank you so much for sharing with me. You are a great friend. I know the friends in my life who have searched out information on PTSD because they care about me, have made it easier to be my authentic self, however I show up. That wonderful reciprocal friendship, wow..just so cool!
    I think PTSD is considered an illness. I think to think of labels as a jumping off point for getting the right help by having a diagnosis. Yes, for sure that pain and shame is sooo uncomfortable when it comes to having a mental illness. Ugh! I can totally relate.
    Im so glad you reached out this evening. Thank You 😊

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  8. I love this David. Its simply put and direct. I actually really like the beginning, “I know this is nothing new.” It brings into focus what we very often forget. Thank You!

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  9. Thank you!! I love this. That snap out of it, whether it is blatant or inferred is so frustrating to me. And the shame and guilt that comes with the stigma seems like swimming against the stream sometimes.
    I agree, we are more than our illness and labels. Im definitely going to emphasize that for sure. Im sure people with visible physical disabilities or people with chronic illness must feel like they have to fight that too. I bet people in the class will be able to relate to that point.
    Thank you so much. I hope retirement is going well for you. 🙏🏼😊

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  10. Barbara Yelland

    Hi Alexis. I have a friend living with PTSD and your work has helped me better understand some of what she may be experiencing. Clearly I know that everyone has their own experience however what you write about resonates with what I have experienced with her and heard her say that she is experiencing herself. I’m learning, for sure, that there is a lot that I don’t know. Do you refer to PTSD as a mental illness? I read a very good book by Dr. Judith Herman called Trauma and Recovery and she makes a definite distinction. It seems like more than just semantics and I’m wanting to understand this. My friend frequently states that people say or think she is “crazy” and this seems to be a source of pain and shame for her.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank You so much Linda. Wow, this is beautiful. Its honest and thoughtful. I love the CARE acronym. Wow. Im going to read this a few more times. Just so blessed that we are connected. 🙏🏼❤️

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  12. What a wonderful opportunity. I wish I could be there to cheer you on. I know you will be awesome!

    The stigma of having a “mental illness” diagnosis has hurt me as much, if not more, than the original traumas that caused my PTSD. In my case, although my PTSD symptoms began in 1965 when I was 12 years old, my diagnosis did not happen until 2003, shortly before I turned 50. Prior to that, I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia in 1968, and with bipolar disorder in the 1990s. Since 2003, my health care providers have all agreed that I do not have either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. I have PTSD, plus a thyroid disorder, and that’s it.

    The reason for my history of misdiagnosis is because post traumatic stress disorder did not become an official psychiatric label until 1980. Even then, for many years, PTSD was believed to only affect war veterans. In the meantime, I was heavily medicated for mental disorders that I did not have, walking around feeling like an emotionless zombie, until I finally realized that the “cure” was worse than the disorder, and I did an ultra slow taper off of everything but my thyroid medicine, which is the only prescription drug that I have taken for about 5 years now, discounting the occasional antibiotic type med.

    But here’s the thing: for the last half century, since I was 15 years old, nearly all of my family of origin has shunned me because for being “crazy.” Also, almost every friend that I have had over the years, when I felt close enough to them to confide in them about my psychiatric history, that was it, they were “too busy” after that to ever see me or talk to me again.

    I believe that this extremely hurtful shunning stems from the way the media has portrayed the “mentally ill” over the years. If you have a psychiatric label, that means you are crazy. And if you are crazy, that means you are unpredictable and dangerous. This is how most people have treated me since 1968. Even though, in all of these years, I have never once threatened nor ever tried to harm anyone. Not once. But I have certainly been the victim of abuse, many times.

    And yet, most people tend to like me, if they don’t know about my psychiatric history. In the 1990s I went to nursing school and, to my shock, I was elected class president. I worked super hard and made perfect grades throughout, and I got a standing ovation for my speech at graduation. But I felt like an imposter the whole time, because I knew they would all probably turn their backs on me, if they knew my history.

    The stigma against “mental illness” is horrible. It makes you feel utterly worthless and desperately lonely. It makes you feel like nothing you do will ever be good enough. I published a novel in April 2000 under a different pen name, that sold some copies and got some great reviews. I was on the Oprah Winfrey Show in May 2000, featured in a beautifully done, inspirational “Remembering Your Spirit” segment. With each of these successes, I reached out to my family of origin, thinking that now they would accept me, now they won’t be ashamed to acknowledge me. But no, I still wasn’t good enough for them.

    Today I am so blessed to have a few supportive people in my life who know my full history and have not turned their backs on me. Mainly my husband of 14 years, who has PTSD from combat in Vietnam, my adult stepdaughter, and a couple of friends. But getting to this point of being loved and accepted as the real me, was extremely hard. I almost did not make it to this point.

    Dr. Paul Meier of Richardson, Texas, the psychiatrist who finally diagnosed my PTSD in 2003, told me: “You are Not Crazy! Although for insurance purposes, post traumatic stress disorder is considered a ‘mental illness,’ in reality, having a PTSD response to horrific, overwhelming trauma is perfectly NORMAL — no less normal than it is to bleed if someone cuts you with a knife. Human skin is not strong enough to resist a direct attack from a knife blade. In the same way, the human psyche was never created for abuse. Having PTSD, after the severe traumas that you have gone through, does not mean that you are weak or defective in any way. The world’s strongest man will bleed if you cut him, and the world’s strongest person would have PTSD if he or she had walked in your shoes all of your life.”

    Dr. Meier’s wonderful affirming words, telling me that I am not “bad” or “less than” or by any means unacceptable for having PTSD — this was more healing to me than years of psychotherapy!

    And yet, my family of origin still treats me like a pariah. I friended some of my long-lost relatives on Facebook years ago, when the media was new. One day I logged onto FB and there, in my newsfeed, was a long discussion about how Linda is weird because she has PTSD. When I let my relatives know that, hey, I can see this, it’s in my newsfeed, my relatives said, in so many words, “Oops, we are new to FB, we did not know you would see it.” But there was no retraction , no apology, no kind words whatsoever, and no explanation of what they even meant by calling me “weird.” So, yeah, I don’t do Facebook anymore.

    What our society needs, instead of all this hateful, ignorant, media fueled STIGMA against people with mental health challenges, is to simply learn how to CARE: with Compassion, Acceptance, Respect, and Encouragement.

    I made that acronym up. Feel free to use it, if you like, with the attribution to: Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote.

    So wow, Alexis, you asked a question and I got on a roll……

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Congratulations! I would emphasize that mental Illness, bi-polar, anxiety, PTSD, etc…. are not character flaws or personality faults. It is a disability like cancer, heart disease, stroke, etc… People with physical illness get help. Folks with mental illness get stigma, shame and guilt.

    Nor is a person with a mental illness defined by that label or diagnosis. Yes you need the diagnosis to get well or rather get stabilized but people with mental illness can and do function every day. Personally even though I have depression I am more than that. Society needs to stop saying stupid things like, “You can snap out of it!” As though you are not trying. I know that I’m always trying. Some days I win. Some days the disease wins. However I’m always trying. I’m always looking for ways to heal or at least get better.

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  14. What dissociation is like, and why the “freeze” response doesn’t invalidate that someone went through trauma. Dissociation sucks, but it is so far outside most people’s norms I don’t know how to ever explain without them thinking bad media stereotypes.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. congrats. as to what questions you might put to professionals, i was thinking along the lines of making sure that their clients understand their diagnosis; that they take the time to explain them well. most of what i learned about my ptsd i picked up from blogs, not doctors (of course, i have a tendency not to ask as well, something they could also watch for).

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Jacqueline S Zeigler

    Tell them to really listen when someone says their life is affected by this.

    Explain what it feels like to have hyperarousal.

    tell them never to say -“well that was in the past so now it’s time to get over it. ” Explain why that’s not always possible.

    I know you’ll do a great job!

    Liked by 3 people

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