mental illness, NAMI Convention

All things come to an end.

Today is Saturday.  During the summer, the Bustang doesn’t run their commuter bus on the weekends…so apparently people don’t work on weekends in the city?  I don’t get it and I don’t want to ask Johanna to drive to and from Denver two days in a row just for one session (although it is a research update and bound to be interesting).  I didn’t want to spend an extra $65 for a dinner ticket for Johanna to the closing banquet because (a) that’s an extremely large amount of money for a dinner and (b) that’s a lot of money to spend on dinner (not that Johanna isn’t worth it!  I just think $65 is excessive).


So yesterday was a very interesting day for me.  Got to Denver early-ish for the research update for Depression.  Apparently the guy who was supposed to give the update wasn’t able to so the medical director for NAMI Dr Ken Duckworth came and did a on the fly update.  He talked about a lot of things I already knew-ketamine may lead to amazing discoveries in the rapid antidepressant field, MAOIs are really good antidepressants if you can give up the finer things in life (like cheese and wine) and don’t mind looking at the ingredients label and expiration date of every food you eat while on them, Transcranial magnetic stimulation works for some people but isn’t covered by all insurances at the moment, Optogenetic stimulation that uses light (?) to stimulate parts of the brain through the eyes that helps with depression in animals, and he reiterated to us all that the field is progressing and finding more treatments and there is hope.  He did a really good job for not actually preparing for this session.


The next research update was for Borderline Personality Disorder.

I want to confess something that most people (even those close to me) don’t know. When I was 20, I was diagnosed with BPD.  I was very emotionally reactive, engaging in maladaptive coping behaviors, had a lot of anger, and this caused many problems in my relationships (which is extremely common in people with BPD).  People who were not in my inner circle wouldn’t have known that in addition to my depression and obsessive thoughts, I lived with BPD.  I was good at keeping the facade on for the general public but at home, I was a mess.  My psychiatrist at the time suggested that I attend the STEPPS (Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem-Solving) program at the U.  I begrudgingly agreed.  There I met my current psych clinician who was one of the leaders of the group and at the support team meeting, my dad (gotta love him) said something to the effect of, “Would it be a good idea for someone to have regular therapy in addition to STEPPS?” and he stared pointedly at me when he said it.  haha.  Lynda replied that, yes, it would be a good idea.  Then I got hooked up with her and the rest, as we say, is history.  I can honestly say that STEPPS saved my life.  It gave me the skills to manage my distorted thoughts and differentiate between action urges and behaviors.  Like if you are feeling empty and numb at a level 5 (tornado), your action urge might be to self harm so you can actually feel something and you have distorted thoughts about being worthless but you challenge those thoughts, call a support team person (friend, family, clergy), and therefore, it changes the behavior.  As I progressed with my therapy and STEPPS skills, I actually didn’t qualify for BPD anymore.  And I haven’t for years.  When I’m hospitalized, it’s still in my file from years ago so the nurses and doctors like to bring it up and treat me differently (BPD is one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses right now, I think, even in the medical community).  It’s not listed in my health summary on mychart right now so that’s a very good thing.  I’m going to be 100% honest with you, I’m ecstatic to be free of the diagnosis.  Mostly because of the stigma associated it with, especially in the medical field.  You get treated with kid gloves and people look at you differently.  Some clinicians believe that BPD is always a lifetime thing and cannot be treated effectively and this thought process leaks into the patient’s ideas about the illness and they in turn think they’re bound to feel this way for the rest of their lives.  This couldn’t be further from the truth. People with BPD benefit greatly from skills training programs and social support.  Sure, I still have distorted thoughts but I’m able to effectively challenge them and not participate in maladaptive behaviors (most of the time.  Everyone has distorted thoughts and engage in maladaptive behaviors sometimes).  I just want people to know there’s hope.

So the BPD research update was interesting, though presented pretty dryly.  It was about “Childhood Precursors, Predictors, & Risk Factors”. Follow the link and see the power point but I’ll give you the basics.  BPD has, until recently, only been studied in people 18+ because of ideas that youths personalities aren’t cemented yet and therefore, it would be wrong to diagnose them with a personality disorder before 18.  But this research shows that of the women that develop BPD, the mean age of onset is 16.  73% of the girls experienced their first symptom of BPD by age 14.  Pretty interesting.  If they’re able to identify precursors and treat before a young person develops full blown BPD, it could make all the difference in the world for the outcomes.  So that was interesting.


After this update, it was lunch time.  I was already feeling incredibly alone for the past days of the convention.  Without the young adult track or any structured socialization available to me during the time I was at the convention, it was hard for me as a person with social anxiety and self esteem issues to approach other people, especially of the young adult variety, and socialize with them off the cuff.  If it was a smaller convention or there were specific tracks for different interests (I honestly don’t know), you’d be around the same people more than once and might form relationships with them readily because you’re obviously interested in the same things and might have something else in common.  After I ate lunch, I sat in a hallway near an electrical outlet, charged my phone, and called my mom because I felt pure despair for the first time in nearly six months.  I didn’t know where to go or who to talk to.  You know that feeling when you feel completely alone in a crowd of people that comes readily with depression?  I haven’t felt that way in awhile but it came back full force the past few days.  Tears were running down my face and I just didn’t feel like I belonged…which is the complete opposite of how I felt in 2013 at the convention.  There was this group of like minded young adults who had a deep interest in mental illness and advocacy for one reason or another and I came home and felt that I had found a group of people like me.  Not this time around.  But next time…hopefully I’m well enough that I can fight against what my brain tells me even more than I can right now.


So I went to A New Generation’s Perspective: Generational Shifts and Transformative Change in Mental Health.  A young adult, Amanda Lipp, talked about engaging young adults in programming and things like that.  I was actually at a table with two other young adults and we discussed how our affiliates integrate young people into programs.  It made me feel better about things a bit.


Then my last session of the convention was How to Erase Stigma in the LGBTQI Community and he talked about how individuals with mental illness and are who are in the LGBTQI community usually experience dual stigma.  Very interesting.  Good infographics too.


Then I called it a day.  Headed home on the bus.  When I got back to Fort Collins, I felt at home.  Johanna is one of my best friends and just has this aura of love and peace around her (most of the time!) and she always listens like she actually cares what I’m saying.  We had Colorado pizza (and spinach artichoke dip!) and I went to bed before 10pm!  I started this blog about twelve hours ago.  I think this is my longest blog post on this blog.  Lots of rambling but I felt like I needed to let it all out.


I’ll make another post later about our adventures today.  We have to decide what we’re doing tonight though!


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