What Living in the US means for Mental Healthcare

What Living in the US means for Mental Healthcare

Good afternoon, sunshynes! Today, it has been laid on my heart (and mind) to talk about mental healthcare. By the way, Happy Fourth of July! It is INDEPENDENCE DAY here in the United States. It has been a long 242 years since the USA was declared independent from Great Britain. Now, for some reason, Independence Day has led me to want to write on the state of mental health care in the US. Now I was blessed to be born in the grand ol’ state of Oklahoma – land of the most fireworks injuries and highest incarceration rate for women!!! Oh, and probably the land of the worst mental healthcare in the civilized world!!!! (That is not a fact; just throwing that opinion out there.)

What would possess someone to want to be a mental healthcare worker in Oklahoma – the state that makes deep cuts to the mental healthcare budget any chance it gets?? Honestly, I couldn’t give you a logical reason as to why I decided this was for me. I can’t even tell you how many times I have lied awake at night, wondering if I would have to uproot my family to find decent work in my chosen field. I can’t tell you how many times I have cursed myself for my calling. I’ve scraped every inch of my mind trying to find the reason behind my drive toward a life devoted to mental health advocacy. But it’s kind of like similar to my college degrees: what possessed me to get degrees in English and psychology? Literally, what demon entered my soul and convinced me to get degrees in not one, but TWO, of the lowest paying, highest rate of unemployment, and most disregarded fields by the Oklahoma government? Ain’t that swell? I can counsel people and correct their grammar – all while living in a cardboard box down by the river.

Disclaimer: Please don’t point out typos or whatever to me. Most of them are purposeful. Some are just because I don’t care. It’s nice to sit down and write informal articles for the first time in my life. I could recite my entire Advanced Grammar textbook aloud. It is absolutely mesmerizing to actually be able to talk in second person. I cannot even tell you how much easier my life is. Dr. Bruce, if you read this, just know that I am very aware that I should be using dashes instead of hyphens in all those places, but this website doesn’t accept the keyboard shortcut for a dash. I could probably type it into Microsoft Word and copy and paste every time I needed a dash, but we both know I use way too many dashes for that to even be a viable option.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, America, land of the free and home of literally awful healthcare policy. I want to tell you a story. . . About two years ago, I was in my Intro to Counseling class, and we were discussing how difficult it is to find help for an endangered patient. My professor (also a practicing counselor) was telling us the basics about a patient of hers. She was a minor with suicidal ideation and had admitted to the counselor that she was going to attempt to commit suicide. Side note: When a counselor, police officer, teacher, etc., has reason to suspect that a person is an immediate danger to themselves or others, they have to report it. That person is then supposed to be committed for evaluation for 72 (?) hours. So, my professor had a CHILD telling her she wanted to kill herself and she could not find a bed for this girl anywhere in Oklahoma. It took about four days to finally get this girl a bed in a mental facility to be evaluation, and that facility was about six hours away in Texas. Not only did this child’s parents and my professor have to play the role that our state psychiatrists should be playing, but they also had to drive out-of-state to get their child the help she needed.

Now that is outrageous. Here are some more outrageous facts (2017 State of Mental Health in America – Access to Care Data):

  1. Seventeen percent of adults with a diagnosed mental health disorder are still uninsured in the US.
  2. About 56 percent of adults with mental illness received no past year treatment in the United States, and, for those that did seek treatment, 1/5th continued to report unmet treatment needs.
  3. About 58% of Oklahomans with a mental illness received no treatment in 2017. That is over half. Almost 6/10 times, a mentally-ill Oklahoman went completely untreated by a mental health professional. More often than not, Oklahomans go untreated. We aren’t even good enough to get this number below half??
  4. Only 16% of children with Major Depressive Disorder received consistent treatment in Oklahoma!!!
  5. Oh, and Oklahoma has the highest prevalence of children that lack mental healthcare.

 

SO, I’m not sure why I want to be a counselor in a state that CLEARLY does not value the mental health of its constituents, but I do. I want it more than anything. I want to be that counselor that makes a difference in the lives of others – the counselor that overemphasizes self-love and healthy relationships. I want to help others, but this is what counselors are up against. Vote them out. Vote out the individuals that believe mental healthcare is the first budget cut to make. I’m going to provide the best in mental healthcare, but I genuinely hope I don’t have to do it out of a cardboard box. I genuinely hope that my clients, especially children, don’t have to be moved six hours away to be given the help they deserve. But, hey, Happy Independence Day.

Secret Life with OCD

Secret Life with OCD

I’ve been trying to find a way to express or even document all the problems I’ve had over the years with OCD. OCD is as special type of disorder. One that has caused me tremendous pain in my life. My thoughts are really scattered. I’m unsure of how to write what I’m feeling – of how OCD has made me feel. It’s a lot of years to cover. Ten years old is when I feel that my OCD wholly manifested. I do not know exactly what age I began to exhibit symptoms, but I do know that it was full blown by age ten. My mother can definitely attest to that. Ten was a year of confusion and anxiety. I wish I could remember my compulsions during my younger years. I wish I had been diagnosed earlier so I would have had time to better organize my long list of compulsions. I wish that we would have known there was a name for what I suffered from. Very few people, even twelve years later, know the extent of my battle with OCD, if they even know of it at all. An SSRI + a serotonin agonist and exposure therapy works well for me. I learned of Albert Ellis over the years and his work with irrational beliefs. Counseling myself and exposing those irrational beliefs is a hobby I’ve become quite good at over the years. But I wish I would’ve have known in sooner. I wish that OCD wasn’t so misunderstood that I was misdiagnosed for years with generalized anxiety. I wish I would’ve known I wasn’t a sinner for the thoughts I had. This post is a huge step for me. And honestly it’s just rambling. But it feels good. It’s almost an unexplainable purge of emotions and worries that have been built up inside for so long. If you met me today, you would never know I have well-managed OCD. My college professors don’t know. Even after four entire years of our lives intertwixt. Albeit, some may have some suspicion that something was wrong, but I don’t think there is a person that has met me in the past 6 years that could tell you I have OCD, besides my husband. He knows from little leftover fragments here and there and from childhood memories. But the thing about OCD is that it’s still inside me. It’s my brain. My brain that has too much or too little of this or that. My brain that works in such a specific way that even medication can’t change it. It makes it easier and less anxiety-provoking to deal with the thoughts & compulsions, but it does not change the way I think. I wish I could construct an exhaustive list of all the repetitive thoughts I’ve ever had. There have been times of some relief. I am aware that my OCD is exacerbated by stress, extremely emotional situations, and not being in control. Control is a huge one. Not being able to control an extremely stressful and emotional situation + my OCD = a very very bad outcome. An outcome that I don’t believe medication could even prevent. So I’ll live my life as best I can. I’ll live it in the most stress-free demeanor. My personality has shifted over the past four or so years. A patience level gifted from God and an incredible ability to remain calm are the two main markers of my present self. My 16-17 year old self had about 1/10 of the patience and relaxation I have now. But this personality change was a necessary evolution. Survival of the mentally fittest. I evolved to a personality that could better tolerate the workings of my brain. It occurred over the course of years, but it really did the trick. I gain more patience with each passing day. I actively try to evolve into a person that has a greater ability to relax and deal with stressors. In the name of full disclosure, I bet you guys are wanting to know what it’s like inside the brain of an OCD sufferer. Let me show you. Car rides seemed to do it for me something extra in my younger days. I still have extreme issues when it comes to car rides where I am not driving. But, for some reason or another, car rides caused me to exhibit some of my most memorable compulsions. I couldn’t talk, listen to the radio, even enjoy the scenery because I was busy counting car lengths. Normal enough? The car lengths had to coincide exactly with the sections of fence. I would tell myself “oh if you get to 100 then you can stop.” But I had to start over every time a car length did not perfectly line up with a section of fence. I never got to 100. Cars doing it some more for me during this same time frame. I had a specific rhythm I had to tap with my feet repeatedly for the entire length of time we were in the car. I was so focused on tapping this rhythm perfectly that I eventually would tap it without even realizing. This compulsion ruined band for me. I couldn’t ever keep the true beat without regressing into my rhythm. I had to shut the sliding door to my grandparents’ van without touching anything but the handle. My body or any other object couldn’t brush any part of the door or I would have to shut it again. This compulsion was a complex one. It has a few more parts to it. If I managed to shut the door within the standards mentioned above, I still had to buckle my seatbelt and have the door shut within 7 seconds. Or I had to do it again. I can’t tell you how many van doors I’ve slid open and closed. The worst part of these compulsions is the irrational belief that went with them: “I have to do it like this or God doesn’t love me.” I was raised extremely religious, and I felt that this was the ultimate sin. In fact, I was so ashamed by this that this blog is actually the first time I’ve ever admitted to it. To anyone. Ever. Because it’s completely irrational and WE ARE SO AWARE THAT OUR THOUGHTS AND COMPULSIONS ARE IRRATIONAL. Please don’t feel the need to tell me that these thoughts are outrageous. I know. But the synapses in my brain just can’t carry that information to the place it needs to be. Medication helps. But it is an everyday struggle against who I am. Against the chemistry in my control center. I wish I could remember more battles I’ve had over the years, but I can’t. I want this to be a post that I can update with recalled memories or new compulsions when they inevitably appear. Excuse my messy thoughts, my brain is broken.