Psychology, Mental Illness, and Substance Abuse
Post-traumatic stress disorder can make a person feel disconnected from the world. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, I finally had something that helped explain why I didn’t understand myself and why I had an overwhelming urge to alter my perception with drugs. Right before I got sober, my journals filled up with entries that could probably be used in a psychology class to teach future therapists what their patients might be thinking.
Setting big goals is dangerous because, unless resolutions are understood as flexible processes, the only outcomes available are to fail or succeed. For me, that is a risky proposition. I lack the ability to moderate.
New Year’s Resolutions are rarely successful. Research published by Statistic Brain, a non-partisan independent research group, found that only eight percent of people achieve their resolutions. That number is significantly higher for people in their twenties versus people over fifty. The longer we maintain certain behaviors, the less likely we are to be able to change them with a simple resolution. Overall, 75 percent of people claim to maintain their resolution for at least one week and after that the success rate plummets with each passing week. I have a difficult time understanding the eight percent who don’t fall off the resolution wagon.
Debt wasn’t something I could talk to my boyfriend about. In fact, there were many topics that were too dangerous to broach – that was just one of them. The red flags had been popping up all over the place. A healthy person doesn’t snap at someone for chewing too loudly or too fast. Getting your hand slapped for trying to show a funny YouTube clip isn’t normal. And being in debt shouldn’t result in bruises. But it did.
The first time my ex-boyfriend got violent, we were both graduate students living in Britain and had been together for less than a year. He violently shoved me and then acted like he didn’t mean it and that it couldn’t have hurt. Moments later he did it again. Nearly yanking my arm out of the socket, he threw me down the hallway.
Opioids are highly addictive and sometimes, especially in combination with other drugs, deadly. There is, as of yet, no other kind of pain medication that matches the level of relief provided by opiates, nor is there any comparable high for people who are addicted to the drug. Thus, the epidemic grows and more people die.
Some researchers are unwilling to give up on the search for a non-addictive opioid and they may be getting close to finding one. A report in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences"published findings on a new opioid only named BU08028. The drug was tested on monkeys and found to be as effective at managing pain as the most powerful opioids on the market today. The uniqueness of BU08028 lies in its lack of fatal side effects. It's non-habit forming, is believed not to bring on a euphoric high, and even at extremely high doses is not deadly. The science on this drug is still in the early phases, and some doctors have doubts over the kinds of pain it can manage and whether or not it is actually as benign as these initial tests have found.
Hearing there was a new M. Night Shyamalan movie coming out starring James McAvoy, I was cautiously optimistic.
Depending on which critic you ask, Shyamalan hasn’t released a good movie since either Signs, Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense. Me? I love the twist endings and am always waiting for the next Sixth Sense. When James McAvoy, one of my favorite actors since he appeared in Wanted, signed on to play the bad guy, I didn’t see how it could lose. The optimism faded once I watched the trailer because there is nothing good about the premise of Split. Not even bothering to skirt around problematic stereotypes, the trailer plainly shows that this story demonizes mental illness.
Donald Trump is the President-Elect, and it is not good news for mental health care. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who had acomprehensive mental-health-care program as part of her platform, it’s difficult to discern what Trump’s plan is — or if he has one at all.
On his official campaign website, mental health is mentioned briefly. Trump will “reform our mental health programs and institutions” and support veterans “by addressing their invisible wounds,” increasing the “number mental health care professionals” and making mental health support available to veterans outside of Veterans Affairs.
Trump and surrogates for his campaign, such as Dr. Ben Carson and Chris Christie, have continually blamed gun violence on mental illness. During the third Republican candidates’ debate, in October 2015, Trump perpetuated an untrue and damaging stigma by conflating mental illness and gun violence.
Living with post traumatic stress disorder and her bluesy sister, depression, has drastically changed how I handle everyday life. PTSD changed me from a determined and self-sufficient tigress with a moody disposition, to a wimpy and terrified house mouse. There are days I can hardly rouse myself from the couch, let alone take life by the horns to fight for my keep. I have beat myself up about my inability to follow through. In the pre-diagnosed days of my PTSD, I turned to alcohol to ease the panic and dull the pain. Anxiety and lethargy applied for permanent residence in my body, and I thought I had to fight to have their applications thrown out. Turns out I didn’t have to fight, I had to give up and stop trying to control everything, including my drinking. My saving grace has been learning to cultivate gratitude, even in smallest measure. No matter how down and out you are, there are ways to access serenity during the darkest days of trauma.
It’s the holiday season and the new year is upon us. The holidays are not always an easy time of year—many of us are missing loved ones, while others are struggling with mental illness that stand in the way of feeling happy. This year, let’s explore 10 proven ways that we can all become happier and less stressed people. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution worth trying.
I live in the same city where I got sober. As much as I love the supportive community I’ve built here, I do not really enjoy living in the middle of a huge city. I grew up in the country, and it’s much easier to be an alcoholic in a city with 24-hour public transportation. Not to mention, a fifth of vodka could be purchased for cheap right outside my doorstep. Urban hubs were the ideal locales for this former drinker, they eliminated obstacles to the next drink.
Another day, another university embarrassing itself by making light of trauma. A professor from Loyola University in Maryland, John McIntyre, recently released a video in which he jokes about victimhood and insults all of his former students.
The white haired, bow-tie wearing McIntyre could easily be played by Steve Martin in a frustratingly humorous family film. McIntyre, also an editor at the Baltimore Sun, calls his video a “trigger warning” so students will be aware his class will be hard. Someone needs to remind McIntyre what a trigger warning is (although I appreciate the ample warning to never take one of his classes — not just because he is a self-declared jackass, but because I wouldn’t trust his ability to edit). As a professional purveyor of words in all their complexities, he should know that impact is everything in writing, and editing clarifies impact.
When I came to, I was pounding on the door and ringing the bell even though it was obvious my roommates weren’t home. I slid to the floor. My knee brace was digging into the back of my leg; as I readjusted it, my leg throbbed painfully. I injured myself earlier that week and had the brilliant idea to go out drinking, without crutches. I couldn’t remember getting home and had no idea what time it was. I was sitting on the dirty carpet of the apartment entrance with my legs sprawled out. I searched for my keys over and over again, mainly because I kept forgetting if I had already looked for them. I frantically looked for my wallet or phone but they were gone. I didn’t even have my coat.
I couldn’t remember anything after my first shot at the bar. Before that I had a couple drinks at a friend’s house, but the rest of the night was lost to me. It wasn’t the first time I drank so much that I couldn’t remember what happened, but it was the first time I woke up outside my front door. I forced myself off the floor and went to look for help. I hobbled around the city looking so distraught and haggard that a homeless woman asked me if I needed help.
Everything in moderation, as the old adage goes. As it turns out, that couldn’t be more accurate, as research continues to shed light on how the modern world is damaging our health. We might be living longer today than our ancestors did, but the current era isn’t as health-friendly as we might think.