A broken brain: Trauma, abuse, neglect in childhood

A paraphrased conversation I had with a friend a few months after –

losing someone special to me in a drunk driving accident,

then losing my belongings in a house fire two weeks later:

(It sucked. A lot)

Friend: “How are you?”

Me: “Not so good. I’ve been really depressed and sad about what happened.”

Friend: “Still?!? That was four months ago!”

Me: “….”

(…Now feeling really shitty about feeling shitty.)

True story.

———

This dynamic sums up my emotional experience as a child.

There are reasons why I and people who’ve had similar experiences are:

“depressed all the time”

“so emotional”

“dramatic”

“so sensitive”

“moody”

———

Experiencing trauma, abuse, neglect as a child —when your brain and sense of self are still developing—fucks with your head, people. It feels like your brain is shattered.

You don’t need to study psychology, neurology or any kind of -ology to understand that some of us have had really stressful, lonely, intense, fractured childhoods.

So, as adults, we’re going to be/feel really stressed, lonely, intense and fractured sometimes.

The impact of trauma is permanent. Memories, thoughts, and emotions of the trauma regularly circle in your head. Forever more.

This happens every day. This is what we carry and what we fight through, regardless of how we appear on the outside — Every. Day. !!

It doesn’t mean we can’t also be happy and funny and easy going. We go through life’s regular stresses like everyone else; at the same time, we’re expending as much energy on regulating our internal worlds.

Yeah. Exhausting AF.

We’re trying to keep the bad memories, thoughts and emotions from distracting us from the lives we’re trying to live. Sometimes they break us down.

——

The next time you see someone who looks, sounds or acts “crazy,” I ask that you consider what they might have experienced in childhood. Try to tap into the compassion and empathy you feel toward people you love and send them to this “crazy” person.

What happens in childhood doesn’t stay in the past. For as many fond and fun memories you may have, there are some of us who can match your stories with shitty ones that we spend so much time and energy trying to forget. The mere topic of childhood in conversation can elicit PTSD.

So, when you think someone gets “soo upset” when you say or do something seemingly innocuous or mundane, there’s a reason for it.

All you have to do is put your judgement down, ask and listen.

(A hug is nice, too.) 🤗

Kate Spade Would Be Alive if We Took Care of Our Minds the Way We Take Care of Our Hearts

How the culture of silence around suicide and mental health is killing us

I don’t recall where I came across a portrait of Kate Spade yesterday morning. There was no headline or descriptor but I had a feeling that she had killed herself.

There’s something about the photos selected for news articles about famous people who end their lives. They’re usually a portrait. A portrait of just them, by themselves. Alone.*

(Why not use a family photo or one in which we can see Kate Spade in a joyous time of her life? Just a thought.)

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*Google image search results for “Kate Spade.” Portraits.
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Kate Spade and family. Photo courtesy of @GettyImages

Mental Illness is Not Like Other Health Conditions – Not.

I’ve known of Kate Spade but don’t know much about her.

When I saw the photo of her, I thought,

She’s a celebrity and in front-page news…suicide, I bet.

People are born fighting to live, to thrive. Our will-to-live is in our DNA.

So, why would someone choose to end their life?!

That’s a big question and one that can’t be fully explained nor understood with words.

***

I’ve been fighting to manage depression and anxiety for over 25 years; in that time, I experienced a series of traumatic events, so I can tell you what it’s like to live with a mind illness (AKA mental health illness). I prefer to use the word “mind” vs. “mental” but I use them both.**

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**Repost from my Instagram account @lady_archivaion

Having a ‘mind illness,’ no mater the diagnosis, makes you feel CRAZY.

Think about it, when you feel heart palpitations, you notice it, acknowledge it, you tell someone — they worry and make you go to a doctor, hopefully.

You break a bone. Everyone — whether or not they’ve broken a bone — can see that you have a broken bone and that breaking a bone fucking hurts.

Or, you acquire a cough that lasts for weeks. It’s your body telling you that something is up and you should probably tell someone and check it out (please!)

But (!) when

you experience
anxiety,
depression,
bi-polar disorder,
body dysmorphia,
bulimia,
Flip through the enormous Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and pick a diagnosis.

…your actions and words, e.g. sleeping a lot, eating a lot or very little, canceling plans all the time, yelling random things in public etc.

These are the parts of your mind illness experience that are detectable, tangible. These are what we call “symptoms.” These are the ones we can see.

But these kinds of symptoms don’t tend to elicit empathy or compassion from others.

People walk away.

They stop sending you invitations.

They are angry and annoyed with you for always being late and/or grumpy.

You get written up at work for ‘problem behavior and performance’ (true story for another time.)

You’re called any combination of “lazy,” “crazy,” “nuts”, “insane,” “immature,” “weird,” “overly dramatic,” “attention-seeking,” “unfocused,” “hopeless.”

These are the things people with mental illness tend to experience on the outside.

On the inside, inside our minds. That’s where the pain lies. Invisible to everyone else but yourself.

And your culture tells you to keep your invisible pain a secret.

Yeah. Carry it with you fully on your own shoulders. Don’t be a burden on others.

Ssssh. Keep a still tongue and hide your pain. No one is going to understand you, anyway.

Pretend to be OK and exhaust yourself more fully trying to act and appear “normal.”

While you’re at it, feel shameful and guilty about having a mental health condition.

Seriously, What is Wrong With Us?!

In an article in The Kansas City Star, Kate Spade’s sister shares some insight into Spade’s history of internal turmoil:
“Kate Spade’s older sister [Reta Saffo] told The Star on Tuesday that her famous designer sister suffered debilitating mental illness for the last three or four years and was self-medicating with alcohol.”

She shares how her sister was fixated on the news of Robin William’s suicide and speculates that her sister began planning to kill herself at that time.

Yet, in the next breathe, she says about Kate Spade’s suicide, “[it] was not unexpected by me.”

Huh?

This seemingly conflicting response is a symptom of our inability to talk about mental health issues, including sharing our personal experiences with mind illness.

We’ve come a long way since ‘lunatic asylums,’ but we still ostracize and oppress “insane people.” We stigmatize mind illness through assumption, judgement and silence, and it’s reflected in our disappointingly inept mental healthcare system.

I digress.

Is the Image of Being OK More Important to Us Than Our Own Lives?

From the same article, ““Spade seemed concerned how hospitalization might harm the image of the “happy-go-lucky” Kate Spade brand, [her sister] said.”
I’m here to tell you that emotions and moods aren’t black and white. You can be “happy-go-lucky” and live with depression; they’re not mutually exclusive.

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A Kate Spade quote. Photo courtesy of @Pinterest.ption

I’m saddened — and pissed off, frankly — that people choose to end their lives because they’re worried about how the public will view them, how their friends and family will view them.

Our cultural stigma around mental health is so disgustingly powerful. Do we really value holding up the image of feeling OK over taking care of ourselves?

No. I don’t think so either. So, let’s do what we can to change the culture around mind wellness. Brain health. Mental health. Whatever you want to call it.

Sometimes it’s not enough to have a support system and resources. Kate Spade had a loving family who were attentive and caring of her mental illness. She also had the means to afford top-notch treatment.

“…in the end, the ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.” — Kate Spade’s sister, Reta Saffo


Saffo went on to say, “Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves!”

I disagree. I think we can. But it’s going to entail saving people from our culture of judgment and prejudice against mental illness.

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 5.15.02 PM
A Kate Spade quote. Photo courtesy of @Pinterest

Enough of losing lives to the concern over public opinion. No more treating heart issues with worry and understanding, and treating mind illnesses with fear and alientation. 

We can absolutely change the culture around mind wellness through compassion, curiosity and openness.

I have hope that we can support and save people like Kate Spade, who have been victims of an antiquated and out-of-touch societal and systemic stigma.

Kate Spade, thank you for bringing fun fashion, vibrant color and glittery sparkle to this world.

And thank you to the many individuals, groups and coalitions out there who are promoting or providing advocacy and support of mind wellness. And thank you to those who make yourselves vulnerable by sharing your mental illness stories. You are saving lives.


Are you experiencing thoughts of suicide?

Having suicidal feelings or thoughts is normal but they’re a frightening and a sign that you need care and support — and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Do you suspect someone may be suicidal?

Often, people make vague worrisome statements or gestures alluding to ending things.

Connect with them.
Be direct.
Ask if they want to kill themselves.
One question could save their life.


Suicide Prevention Resources

Find a list of suicide hotlines around the world here.

In the US, Canada and United Kingdom, you can text a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.

(I volunteered with the Crisis Text Line and can vouch for their thorough counselors training and compassionate approach. These are people giving up their time to support strangers in need. Use them. They want you to!)

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Originally posted on Medium.com.

Creatively coping since 1993.

Creative coping for mind wellness

I’ve realized that I absolutely need to be creating if I want to maintain my sanity. I’m sure you know what I mean.

As a teen, I wrote to deal with my moods. I didn’t know I was dealing with depression and anxiety at the time but I had a natural inclination to spill ink on pages. Poems, journal entries, short stories, random lines of stories never fleshed out.

My ‘creative coping’ practice moved on to music –playing guitar, singing, covering songs, writing songs– then photography, digital art…

I think humans need to create to survive.

For some of us, survival means surviving mental illness. Not a fun or easy thing to do.

What do you do when depression haunts you? What helps you when anxiety rears its ugly head?


Senescence: A sci-fi about teen depression

21041127_525814914426494_8362697742203486208_n(1)One of my current projects, a sci-fi mental health story, Senescence, is a passion project that incorporates multi-media.

It started out as snapshots of the story. Now, I post longer story segments with original music.

Chapter 2: Shatl Sphere is up!

***

Synopsis: Senescence Space is a 16-year-old hum-bot (half-human, half-robot) and it’s 2117 in Seattle, WA (now called Shatl*Sphere).

Their human mom (Hugh ) and robot dad (Data) are splitting up, and Senescence is going to live in a new sphere with their mom and brother (Gravatar.)

They’re moving from Belle*Sphere, where most humans live, to a robot city called Shatl*Sphere.

Senescence is nervous about moving to a new city and leaving their partner-friend Styron, a human living with depression (The Dark Cloud).

Senescence and Styron decide to stay together but their feelings start to get muddled when Senescence meets a mysterious transgender robot named Stymphalian.

Brain chemicals bounce around.

Every now and then, I go thru a —what I call— creative blitz.

I think it’s part of what we call “mental illness,” depression, anxiety.

Creating is survival when my brain chemicals bounce around, as they do on-the-reg.

Creating is survival for me and many others.

For some, incessant creativity is how we got through childhood.

It’s how we get through now, as well.

It’s how we(‘ll) get through life.

To smile at people. awkwardly

It took me 8-or-so years to finish undergrad.
I was in-and-out of university numerous times.

Over that period,
I experienced multiple:

  • bouts of depression —if it ever really let up—
  • a few suicide attempts
  • counselors (one of whom fell asleep as I was talking) Um.  #YESway
  • doctors, shrinks, medication (I couldn’t tell you what all of them were, off-hand)
  • quick starts-and-ends of relationships
  • friendships in limbo

…packing in and out of dorms, apartments, houses, Fairfax Hospital in-patient, a house on fire, stranger’s beds.

In that time, I cut my wrist with a Cutco knife while fighting with an ex.
My words didn’t feel like they were able to carry what I was feeling.
I was a #fRacturedGirl. living with a dizzying head on still shoulders.

I clawed through most days;   barely surviving,

just:

to open my eyes.

to get up.

to go outside.

to be normal.

to do work.

to smile at people.       awkwardly

to act unafraid.

It took me 8-or-so years to finish undergrad.
I was in-and-out of university numerous times.


And, now?

I’m trying to figure out where to hang my framed diploma from Antioch University Seattle for a master’s degree in Psychology. I couldn’t be more proud of me.


If you’re struggling and the future seems hopeless.
If you feel like there is no end to the excruciating battle.

I beg of you, please. DO NOT GIVE UP.

Reach out. You’re worth it. People love you. People care. I care!

All of those things that the trickster voice in your head tries to get you to believe – they’re lies.

You, my friend, are a fucking warrior.


This freewrite was inspired by a post that popped up in my Instagram feed:

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Image source: @Instagram screenshot of a repost by @mentalillnessquotesinfo

Note: Links to mental health resources are within text, i.e. “depression” hyperlinks to the 24-Hours Crisis Clinic site.


Bonus:  13 Mental Health Resources That Are Absolutely Free (Huffpost)

Buckle Up with Seattle’s Alt-Rock Band, Gypsy Temple, at The Funhouse Tonight!

I think you can’t have a conversation about powerful artistry without including one about mental health. For me and Gypsy Temple, music is an outlet for our physical, spiritual, and most critically, mental health.  — Cameron Lavi-Jones

Cameron Lavi-Jones
Gypsy Temple Frontman, Cameron Lavi-Jones. (Photo courtesy of Gypsy Temple website.)

Gypsy Temple
is the second

fantastical teen Seattle band

I’ll be hanging out with for my

Teen Music & Mind Wellness

project, &

they have a show TONIGHT!*
Wed., Feb. 7
6:30-10pm

Tix avail @ the door still! $12

@ The Funhouse
109 Eastlake Ave.

Gimme Directions!

 


Frontman, Cameron Lavi-Jones, reached out to me to participate in this project with an enthusiasm that inspired me.

I texted Cameron yesterday to ask if he could send me a quick line or two about mental health for this announcement.

Within minutes, he busted out a thoughtful, badass response that made my heart jiggle.

I’ll tease you with an excerpt.

You’re going to have to come back to read it all when I post our upcoming interview.  😉

“Our songs are based on negative emotions and experiences, but through the process of songwriting, performing, producing, and playing the music, those negative emotions become the guide for positivity. Those negative emotions become something we are proud of and something that makes us unique as artists.”


BUCKLE UP!

I have no doubt that this show is going to be fun as heck!

Come say hi, if ya like.

I don’t bite.      usually.

Psssst!  I’ll be streaming a bit of the show live on my Instagram @lady_archiva.

 



 

*The forthcoming post of my interview with Cameron Lavi-Jones will include more details about the other bands. This show is part of the Love vs. Logic West Coast Tour with AMOR.

Full Interview with Foxy Apollo

Full(ish) Interview*

O: I love the fact that you’ve kind of taken the ‘Fine, Fuck It’-DIY-we’ll-just-do-what-we-can-ourselves approach. It seems like that’s been going pretty well.

SA: Yeah. It definitely has.

SS: We’ve definitely been growing in the past couple months, for sure.

O: Been listening to the EP you guys put out, earlier this year, right? It’s really new, right?  Sounds great.

SA: Yeah, it came out a few months ago. Thanks.

O: I don’t know much about funk so I don’t really have much to draw upon in terms of comparisons. Maybe you guys can say a little bit about – Why funk? What your inspirations are…what does funk mean to you?

SA: I’m really into funkadelic. That’s a huge inspiration to me. I hadn’t really been super into. I wasn’t growing up listening to a shit ton of funk…I kind of started…we just started playing it. We started out as a blues band and then we started doing breakouts.

Who’s in the band?

The band is still forming. A few people who started out in the band ended up having to leave but they made a big impact. Currently, Foxy Apollo is Sam, Satchel and Zach, but these are the guys who played the show I attended:

What’s With the Band Name?

SA: It started with me and my cousin jamming a couple summers ago. It was kind of an inside joke. We thought it was funny. It was catchy. It didn’t really mean anything at the time…it got its meaning a lot later.

SS: We’ve jokingly called ourselves Oxy Pollo. (Remove the first two letters.)

O: Or you could be Foxy Pollo – Foxy Chicken.  (haha!)

The Creative Process :: Writing Your Emotions

SA: I’ve been writing songs for a while. I started out imitating a couple musicians – mainly Nirvana. I was in a couple bands that were basically a mirror image of Nirvana.

In high school, I was really stressed out. I was a little down. I got really into writing songs, putting words to how I felt. It kind of just like spills out of you. But yeah, it kind of all builds up and you’re like, Oh shit, now I have a bunch of songs. Now I can do something with these.

O: I started writing when I was 14-15 because of depression. I didn’t know what it was then but, for me, writing poetry…they’re like lyrics. Eventually, it turned into music so I totally get the importance of having that creative outlet.

SA: Yeah. And definitely, as I’ve gotten older, too. We just started going to Edmonds Community College. They have an amazing music program and access to studios so we’ve been working a lot there. Every day we’ve been trying to spill a little bit out.

[At this point in our conversation, Satchel recognized The Roots playing overhead.]

O: I heard some Nirvana and Built to Spill in your music, and my friend said he heard 90’s and 70’s rock.

SA: I could see that. 70’s rock is huge. I grew up listening to Neil Young and classic rock, and I got into indie rock in high school

SS: Definitely 70’s funk like The Brothers Johnson. That’s so tight. I love that stuff.

Songs: Mental Breakdown and I’ve Gone Mad

O: Part of why I’m talking to you guys is because I’m interested in mental health and depression, especially teenage depression. I don’t know what it’s like to be a teenager now. Music is usually a personal thing, so I wondering about your song, “I Think I’m Mad.”

SA: I started writing that song about drug addiction and a lot of self-analysis; more of a bond I shared with my cousin. We were talking about a lot of deep things but writing these really silly songs, covering it up with happy melodies but really kind of writing about more deep things that we couldn’t really completely comprehend.

O: That’s awesome. It’s awesome how music does that.

Teenagers and Ageism

SS: Like Sam was saying, self-analysis has always been a big thing. I think with being a musician sometimes…if you’re like me, I like to practice a lot and you could go six hours and feel like you’ve gotten nothing done and you’re really hard on yourself.

It’s gotten to a point sometimes with me, where like, I won’t have any friends at the time, except for Sam, because I’ll shelter myself and then you realize everybody’s out and you’re like. Oh, alright I guess I’m here alone with a pad..messing around.

O: Right, and is that hard sometimes because you don’t have that social interaction with more people?

SS: Yeah but I just put it back into music though. You go and listen to an album so it’s both a good and a bad…

O: Yeah, you have to sacrifice something, right? I mean, if music isn’t something you’re willing to sacrifice then you have a to find a way to be OK with it, right?

SS: Yeah, absolutely.

O: Do you actually practice six hours a day?!

SS: Yeah. I try to. Today I did four. I want to go to music school next year, hopefully, so I’m trying to get as good as I can for auditions.

How does this band fit into your music career? Is it a project band?

SA: I’m always gonna be making music. It’s kind of inevitable. It’s not a sacrifice for me because it’s something I’ll always do. Even if this, specifically, doesn’t work out at some point, I’d still keep making stuff and sharing.

O: When you say that, do you mean that you’re thinking you’re gonna work in the music industry? Like you want to try to be an artist and make money from that or…?

SS: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily about the money thing. I mean, yes, I think we both want to become professional musicians or people who work with audio. Even if it’s just becoming an audio engineer or something, doing that kind of business, but I think it’s just about the love of music. Both of us wouldn’t care living in a shithole for like..I don’t know, 40 years.

SA: What about the industry where you specifically asking about?

O: Have you thought about or considered the fact that maybe you’d have to work in something else to sustain myself.

SA: We’ve been studying a lot of stuff around the music itself, too. We’ve been studying some sound engineering and visiting studios and hearing a lot of audio engineering stories. I still wanna tackle the music industry and see what else you can do around it.

Obviously, there’s a chance I might end up with another job around it but I think it’d be cool to learn about all the other stuff instead of just coming [at music] from one direction.

SS: Do you think you could ever see yourself in a desk job?

SA: Fuck no.

Laughter ensues.

SS: That’s a big “no.”

~18:45 [I blab on about entrepreneurship. Don’t have to be stuck at a desk.]

***

O: There are a couple of things in particular I’m curious about your description of the band on FB.

“Lack of respect that you’ve experienced” – can you tell me a bit more?

SA: We’ve been playing at some bars and people see these kids playing –and I’ve experienced this a lot cause I’ve been playing since I was really young– and they kind of just like…

O: Write you off?

SSel: Exactly.

SA: Yeah. They’re kinda like, “Play your show and get the fuck outta here.” I mean, they don’t really treat you with the same respect.

SS: We’ve played shows where I’ve literally had to set up my drum kit outside the venue and carry it in onto the stage and right after, immediately leave.

SA: ..and get escorts to the bathroom.

O: What?! That’s not cool…

SA: I mean, I get it. They’re cracking down…but it’s less about the concerns of underage drinking and more about how people view young musicians, their perspective of them.

SS: We’re like free entertainment to them and they can just treat us like crap…

O: That’s messed up. It sounds like you’ve found some places that are better about that?

Both: Oh yeah. Those are only a select few.

SA: It’s really opened our eyes and it made us realize that we really want to be doing this ourselves; not relying on others to promote us cause a lot of promoters aren’t doing their part…

O: That’s frustrating.

SS: It makes it fun though.

“Meticulous approach to playing” – What do you mean? Meticulous in what way?

SS: We both play in a very distinct style and they’re both very exact in their own ways, that together makes a whole new sound..it’s different.

SA: Also, aside from the style, we connect a lot to it. Each part of it is telling its own story in a way.

SS: It’s definitely a very thoughtful process…

“Emotions and stories that come through….” that’s kind of what you’re talking about. Channeling your experiences

SS: Working on writing and recording a lot of new stuff. We’ve recorded a bunch, just need to record drums and its good to go. Not ready for a release date yet. [Edit: Foxy Apollo has since released a few tracks, which you can listen to on Soundcloud here.

SA: We’re trying to get into the mixing process too and mix our own music using studios at school.

O: I’m excited to hear what you guys come up with. I think your energy is super cool.

I have a special place in my heart for teenagers because of the age-ism you were talking about. People, culture don’t take children/ seriously.

****

Notes: Sam does most band mgmt (booking shows, art) with help from others. Satchel ends up recording the practices, usually.

****

Note: Some portions of the interview were omitted to respect confidentiality and privacy. Additionally, some portions of the interview were slightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Continue reading Full Interview with Foxy Apollo