Health Recovery Tips
by Patty Fleener M.S.W.
How is your mental health? Is this a rough time in your life? Do
you feel you are at the end of your rope and you can't hold on? Are
you in tears more than you are smiling? Do your insides physically
ache? Do you feel alone? That no one will understand? Are you not
sleeping well? Are you not able to relax and experience inner peace?
Are you afraid?
If you saw yourself in the above paragraph this article is for you. If
you are feeling actively suicidal I am asking you to call 911 right at
this moment without question. Do not even bother evaluating this
decision - just do it without thought if you are at risk of seriously
hurting yourself. Pick your body up and go to the phone and dial 9 -
1- 1 and say, "I am in danger of hurting myself. I need help
right away." Then answer the 911 person's questions as openly and
as honestly as you can and again go with the program. This is not the
time to evaluate the 911 person's suggestions. Just do and don't
If you are at the point where you are at high risk of suicide, your
"internal evaluator" is broken. This is the time to rely on
others to get you to safety and to give you the help you need. It is
ok to feel afraid of people helping you or if you need to leave your
home. It is ok to be afraid. Just continue to feel your fear, know
that your fear will not hurt you and let others help you. You will not
continue to read this article, as you will now leave to dial the
For those of you that know me, I have the diagnoses of borderline
personality disorder but do not meet the full criteria anymore; (it
does rear it's head under extreme stress); bipolar disorder I,
generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and panic
disorder. At least these are the ones I am aware of. I seem to come up
with new ones each year. (grin)
I am hoping that this article might be one of the best I have written.
Why? I am writing this one in the midst of a depression cycle. If you
are undergoing some depression yourself, we are meeting "eye to
eye" today. You can't say "Well that is easy for Patty to
say because she is past all that."
Before I get into the depression issue I want to bring up an important
point. I receive a lot of letters from people "admiring" me
for my stability and people want what I have. Yes, it is true that
99.99% of the time I am stable and happy but let me break through some
myths that might keep you from feeling that you cannot reach the same
Some folks think I am stable for these reasons:
I have my M.S.W. so I must have money to be able to afford the best
Dr. in the U.S. Wrong! I live on S.S.D. and have very limited funds
and my prescriber is only a nurse practitioner at the county mental
health. I don't even get to see a psychiatrist unless a crisis
Patty has been a social worker for a long time and knows how to treat
herself to get better and I don't have those skills. Wrong! It is true
that I do have a lot of social work skills as we all have skills from
our profession but the bad news is that these skills don't do any good
when I undergo depression, mania, BPD rage, etc. Why? All of the
problems I speak of are biological disorders.
When I am raging due to mania, BPD, etc. my brain is firing out of
control. It doesn't do a whole lot of good to say "Brain, you
must stop firing out of control." What does help is taking
the right medications to treat the brain. What does help is
getting some counseling. I cannot counsel myself.
My social work skills cannot get me in the shower when I am undergoing
a major depression. However other things like being determined, etc.
Patty's life couldn't have been as bad or as dysfunctional as mine.
I was completely incapable of having a long-term relationship all of
my life until my late 30s. I have never held the same job for over a
year. The grass was always greener on the other side. I was bored
quickly and easily and was always chasing the almighty dollar. I
constantly moved as well. Life was about change and I was constantly
in a crisis.
I was in and out of therapy with little results. It was hard to really
get results as mostly what was discussed was the current crisis I was
dealing with and as soon as I dealt with that, a new one was on it's
way or already there.
I was a "hothead" and proud of it. I verbally abused each
and every boyfriend I had however I was not aware of it at the time. I
just knew that they were bad and deserved to be punished. I was in the
midst of one of my rages once at a boyfriend and I lost my eyesight
completely. I had to sit down with my head down between my legs and my
sight came back. I understand later that I had apparently gotten my
blood pressure up too high and I have never had a problem with my
If I was being abandoned and mixed alcohol with it, I kicked in doors,
busted apartment and car windows, kicked a car and was only arrested
once for driving into an ex-boyfriend's car.
Do you think perhaps I had some mental health issues? (wink)
My point in all this is to remind you that I am no different than you
and probably you didn't kick in doors and get arrested.
So, if I am no different than you and if you are saying "Well, I
can't figure out * why * I can't get stable. I am still suffering. Why
are you normally stable Patty and I'm not there yet?"
All I can do is to tell you what I did to get stable 99.99% of the
time. Then we can discuss why I am depressed, etc.
Here is what I did: Quit drinking alcohol completely. Got completely
out of denial about all of my disorders. Became 100% medicine
compliant. For me this is the key. I was willing to make a commitment
to taking medications for the rest of my life if needed and to be
responsible to take them daily and on time. No, I don't like taking
meds any more than you do but I do like having a life.
Some people have even sent me some good information on how
neuroleptics cause brain damage. I don't know if they do or not. If
they do, I am still sticking with my neuroleptic because without it I
don't have a life, a relationship with my husband, with myself, etc.
If they do, I can't imagine much brain damage, as I know people who
have been on them a long time and they are doing very well.
All this seemingly good info you get in your email, in my opinion,
will only deter you from your own recovery. You may decide not to take
medications and not get "brain damage" but I have news for
you. Your brain is already damaged if you have the BPD or the bipolar
disorder. Still not convinced? Boy you're a tough one!
If you have Leland Heller M.D.'s book "Life
at the Border: Understanding and Recovering from the Borderline
Personality Disorder," take a look at the back cover. He
lists some of the biological abnormalities of the BPD. Here is his
Abnormal neurological exams ("soft signs")
Abnormal REM sleep
Brain wave (EEG) abnormalities
Impaired access to memory
Cases caused by brain trauma and infection
Abnormal circadian (daily biological) rhythms
Abnormal sound and language processing
Abnormal response to some medications
Abnormal cellular biology
Impaired visual perception
Symptoms similar to epilepsy in temporal lobes
Another thing that happened was that I got older. You don't see many
people with the BPD in psychiatric hospitals in their 40's. Many of us
seem to mellow out as we age.
The suicide rate is high with both bipolars and borderlines. I didn't
kill myself along the way. I held out through my most severe
depressions with the hope that the depression would end and that one
day I would feel better.
One of the things that keeps me going is the thought of not being able
to meet my grandchildren. I don't know if my daughter will have
children or not, but I am looking so forward to having grandchildren.
Do my future grandchildren not deserve the very best grandmother there
is? Well then I had better recover if I want to be in their lives
If you are in an unstable relationship, you absolutely must get out of
the relationship to be stable. Yes you will grieve but at the end of
your grief (yes, there is an end) you will arrive more stable.
I cannot advise you strongly enough to stay OUT of a relationship
until you are completely stable with yourself and in your life.
Remember you will attract a person who is at the same level of mental
health that you are at. You won't be able to pass go without landing
in jail first for those of you who play Monopoly.
As I look back on my life when I was very ill I remember feeling like
a happy camper when I was out of a relationship.
If you are feeling extremely lonely without a significant other, this
is a great time to learn how to fill that gap by learning about
yourself and what you enjoy doing. I don't ever remember having a
hobby in the past. I encourage you to learn to feel comfortable with
yourself all by yourself. Start taking yourself out to the movies, out
to dinner, etc. It will be uncomfortable at first but you will learn
that you don't always need another human being to enjoy life.
Join a club. Learn how to play bridge, hearts, golf, tennis, piano,
etc. If you play hearts online as I do you too can learn to swear at
the computer. (grin)
Make different decisions about your life.
Here is an example. My neighbor and friend is crisis oriented and is
in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage. As I predicted, her
husband hit her for the first time recently. Because I had invested
myself emotionally into this friendship with her I began to feel
extremely stressed. In the past I would have continued to worry over
her daily and continued to be her friend at all costs to me.
The other day when she called me on the phone I very nicely and
honestly told her that because I care about her so much I was
beginning to feel very stressed and I needed to back away for my own
peace of mind. I did let her know that she could come and use my
telephone in the case of an emergency. Today I am unstressed vs.
I have learned something new from this that probably most people know
that have do not have a mental health disorder. I have learned not to
invest myself emotionally with a person unless I make my own
evaluation of the person's level of stability. If the person is
unstable and it appears I will likely be stressed by an emotional
investment, I will want to distance myself from that person physically
Every day we make decisions that affect our lives. Evaluate your lives
and the choices and decisions that you make and the effect that it has
on your life.
Do I owe my neighbor friend anything? Nope. Did she take any of my
advice? Nope. Is my friend ready to even deal with her own situation?
Nope. Is there anything I can do for her? Nope. Might I just be
enabling her by always stroking her when bad things happen in her
Here is an area that many of us get caught up with. Whose mental
health is most important? Hers or mine?? Mine!
Ask yourself when you are being codependent and when you are actually
helping. Ask yourself what you are giving up.
There will be many people who will cross your path who will continue
to suck your energy if you let them and they will not give back
energy. This is where boundaries come in. Set strong boundaries in
your life. Peace of mind does not just happen. We must work at it and
Other Today Websites
Mental Health Matters for information
and articles. Get
help to find
a therapist or list
your practice; and Psych
Forums for message boards on a variety of MH topics.
Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All