(I’ll never miss Trumpy and his wild inconsistencies, lies, contradictions, self-aggrandizing statements, insults and verbal cruelty. That can’t go soon enough.)
I’m also ready to see the last of the coronavirus. It sucks big time.
I’ve been happy for the time to write, to read, watch movies and yak with the wife and I’m feeling busy. But I’d really like to supplement my current activities with some of what one does when things are “normal.” (Remember normal? It was much cooler than we realized at the time as in the Joni Mitchell song: “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…”)
But I don’t want to use this entire blog post to whine, moan and complain (that’s what marriage is for). Instead I thought I’d try to provide an actual service and share some advice for anyone out there suffering from mental health issues, be it depression, anxiety, panic attacks or drug or alcohol abuse. I’m only an authority on these issues in that I have suffered from them for decades and while not exactly (or inexactly for that matter) cured, I have learned to face them and ease the pain that they can cause.
I have offered advice on this blog previously in these posts:
When Suicide Seems An Option and Some Advice,
I Assail a Phrase, Discuss Teaching (Again), Give Advice About Emotional Problems
Surviving Depression, A User's Guide
Do's and Don'ts if You're Suffering From Depression, Panic Attacks or other Emotional Distress
Those will certainly help but I thought that here I would include advice about psychiatry and addiction, along with recommendations on depression and panic attacks and anxiety, all in one post. I hope it helps.
But first, remember: you are not alone.
Advice about drug and alcohol abuse. The first question is, how do you know if you're an addict. The mere fact that you consider the possibility is a pretty clear sign that you do. Here is just one of many websites that provides an easy litmus test. Okay so assuming you "pass" the test, what next? Go to an AA or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting. Of course the coronavirus is making that difficult in most areas but you can often go to an online meeting. Reality check: most addicts who try to quit, whether through twelve step programs, cold turkey or other methods, fail. You don't have to. Go to meetings until you want to. Don't pick up that first drink. If there are elements to twelve-step programs that you object to, that's normal, just take what you can get out of it and be patient. Listen to people, share your story and show up for life and for meetings. If you stick with it you will find it possible to go twenty-four hours, a week, a month, two months, without getting high. Then you'll be ready to learn how to live successfully and happily without drugs or alcohol. Not always easy, but many of us have done it.
Remember: you are not alone.
Advice about panic attacks and severe anxiety attacks. Get help and I mean immediately, no hesitation, right now. You do not want to be saddled with crippling attacks that leave you wishing for death and afraid to go outside or to particular places or to get out of bed. You will likely have to take meds. Maybe for a little awhile, maybe for the rest of your life, depending on the exact nature of your attacks. Sometimes the issue is more a matter of body chemistry and other times the causes are related to events in your life, be they past traumas or your present circumstances. When prescribed meds be sure you are told all the possible side effects and the likelihood of you suffering one or more. Not that that always helps. I was given some meds for depression and was told that there was only seven percent chance I would get a rash from it. Jackpot. I got a terrible rash. Side effects can make the cure worse than the disease. Usually through trial and error you'll find something that works for. But please don't be afraid to use meds, sometimes there's no alternative. You may also want or even be required to see a therapist of one sort or another because of your attacks. I'll address the vagaries of that separately. Meanwhile, don't let well-meaning friends, acquaintances, relatives or co-workers poo-poo what you're going through and give the kind of medical advice that they'd never offer to someone with a physical ailment. Believe me, people who have no clue what you're going through will say some crazy shit. You've got to trust the medical professionals. But also remember that if you're not satisfied by what a doctor says, don't hesitate to see someone else.
Remember: you are not alone.
Advice about seeing a psychiatrist or other therapist. Be careful. While there are many excellent doctors and counselors who can be of enormous help, indeed veritable life-savers, there's a lot of quackery out there too. We are not dealing with an exact science here. I've been seeing shrinks and therapists since I was a teenager -- for fifty years to be exact -- and have been through the mill. Here's a little of what to avoid. If you've got a strict Freudian who nods a lot but hardly utters a word other than,"I'm afraid our time is up," head for the hills. You're supposed to do most of the talking, not all of it. If you've got another kind of Freudian who looks for symbolism in everything and offers no practical advice or direction, get out of Dodge. If you get someone who forgets important details that you've previously shared or clearly is confusing you with another patient, hightail out of there. If you get someone who yawns frequently, either start bringing them coffee or look for someone who is awake. If you get someone who uses your time to try to talk about sports or movies, vamoose and look for someone serious about their job. If you get someone who is forever trying to prescribe you meds for any compliant you have (they're probably getting a cut from big Pharma) be on your way. Yes, I have had, at one time or another, all of the above. One shrink I had made a not so thinly veiled racist remark and another stereotyped Jews. But if you find someone who listens, who provides direction and feedback and shows an ounce or two of empathy, stick around. I struck gold a few times; the main lesson I learned was to be willing to change therapists as needed.
Remember: you are not alone.
Advice about depression. As with panic disorder and anxiety attacks, you're going to need professional help. It is also possible, depending on the nature and severity of your depression, that you're going to need to take meds. Be willing but wary and see my advice above. Depression is a terrible disease because it can defy everything you do to try to drive it away. Mine haunts me still and can sometimes be awful and that's why seeing medical professional and perhaps taking meds are musts. But there are other things you can and must do. Exercise. Go to a gym or take long walks, or swim or ride your bike. Anything to get the blood circulating and releasing endorphins. Be as vigorous as your body will allow. Yoga is also very good for you. Meditation is helpful and if you happen to be an addict, regular attendance at twelve-step meetings is another must. Try to do as many "normal" activities as your depression will allow as normally as possible. Get out of the house, Go to museums, films, sports events, parks whatever it is that brings you joy. Spend time with people. Also let people around you who you trust know about your depression. Ask them to check in on you, particularly if they haven't heard from you in awhile. Meanwhile reach out to people when you're down. Use alcohol in moderation, if at all, and don't go overboard with sweets. Keep your place clean. You can find pleasure out of doing the laundry, washing dishes, tidying the house. Also, if you've got a garden, go for it. Normal activities in which you use your hands and aren't mentally taxing can be just the ticket.
Remember: you are not alone.
I conclude by again noting how difficult the coronavirus is making it for people who suffer from emotional problems. It is especially so because people often need the intimacy of a therapy session or the comfort of the twelve-step group and the occasional hug. Human contact is essential to many with emotional issues. Fortunately you can Skype, FaceTime and Zoom with people, whether an individual or a group. Hopefully sooner rather than later we'll be able to mix again and the nice thing will be how wonderful the world is going to seem when we no longer are forced into isolation. I'm sure these are the darkest times for many people, but I am also sure that is indeed darkest before the dawn.
And remember: you are not alone.