More Than A Label: LGBT+ Mental Health

Everyone is made differently- looks, personality, likes, dislikes and even sexuality.

Some of us are attracted to men and women, some are attracted to those of the same sex. Some don’t have romantic attraction towards anyone. There are even people that are attracted to men, women, non-binary people and others.

This is okay. We can’t help who we fall in love with.

I haven’t written a lot about sexuality, but it’s Pride Month. It’s somewhat out of my scope but I’m willing to discuss it.

I previously wrote a post about this topic –Talking About Pride

However, being a part of the LGBTQ+ community can lead to some issues that aren’t always given a lot of attention.

This is My Scope of Knowledge

Mental health issues are common in today’s world, and being seen as “different” can add to an existing condition or even lead to symptoms of a new diagnosis.

Anxiety

Those that identify as non-heterosexual are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety than others – this is the same for adults and teens. This can be a result of issues in home life, school/career and other areas of life. Anxiety is hard enough to handle without questioning your sexuality. Anxiety, of course can lead to other issues, as in depression, drug use and even suicidal ideations.

Coming out to friends and family can be a cause of stress alone. A person might be fully ready to live their life but the idea of telling those they are close to can be difficult. This isn’t to say coming out makes these issues disappear, but it helps.

Depression

Depression is very common in the community. Having to keep your sexuality a secret can be devasting, and so can having to pretend to be someone else. It eats away at your soul and can lead to some very dark thoughts. Not being able to share the person you love is also painful.

Sometimes people become depressed or it worsens after coming out. This can be a result of a negative response to the announcement. There are still many people who don’t agree with the “lifestyle” and can be very judgemental towards people who aren’t heterosexual, even if it is their own child. These thoughts of not being loved/accepted can spiral into actions that endanger lives- substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, etc.

For the record, I do not care if my kids are gay, bisexual, or anything else on the spectrum. As long as they find someone who they are happy with and they’re treated well, then I am good.

For some reason, those who identify as bisexual are diagnosed with depression more than those who identify as a different sexuality. One in four bisexual people in a study have been diagnosed with depression at some point. Other sexualities have lower rates. Some of this has to do with support, or lack thereof, especially at school and/or at home.

This is why it’s so importatnt to support the LGBT+ people in your life, no matter how old they are. It’s hard to reach out for the help you need when you feel as if a therapist will judge you or even not see you because of your sexuality.

Teens go through a lot of changes as it is, and figuring this out can be difficult. Teens struggle more if their school is not a supportive place for them, because they may feel they have nowhere to turn.

Bullying is already a topic that many are familiar with. This can be excruciating for teens that identify as LGBTQ+. It just adds to the feelings of not being good enough, or shame at being “different”. It also makes a teen feel unsafe in a place that they should feel safe. Having to defend yourself 5 days a week can be physically and emotionally draining.

The Importance of Community

I can’t stress this enough- if you are reading this and you need LGBTQ+ support, in any way, please reach out. There will be resources at the end of this post.

It’s not healthy to feel like or even try to go through life alone. Everyone needs someone they can tell about really good or even really bad dates. People need to belong. It’s a basic need.

The feeling you get when you are around others that understand you is wonderful. It’s nice to know you are not the only one.

Resources:

LGBTQ Information on Addiction and Suicide

HRC

LGBTQ Youth Hopkins Medicine

MHA

LGBT Community Mental Health

Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

How Do Co-Morbid Disorders Operate?

It can feel draining, to say the least, to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. This can feel even more so if you have more than one. Sometimes these disorders operate independently of the other OR you can show symptoms of both regularly.

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Stay with me..

The term co-morbid (according to Lexico/OED) means that a person has two or more conditions simultaneously. In my terms, it means that a person has two diagnoses at the same time- for example, many people with addiction (of any kind) also have anxiety, depression or another mental health diagnosis. That diagnosis can lead to addiction. Some people aren’t aware of this until being seen for a substance abuse issue, like going into a rehabilitation program. This can also apply to medical terms – for example, I have rheumatoid arthritis and migraines. Both are chronic conditions and on bad days, I’m in pain and have a migraine. (This is no fun at all, but thankfully, it doesn’t happen much, it’s usually one or the other.)

In fact, many of those diagnosed with depression also have another mental health diagnosis, usually an anxiety-related disorder. It’s thought that both disorders have similar mechanisms in the brain so that they appear together. Some co-morbid disorders can be harder to treat because they do show up at the same time. The symptoms can be more severe than they would be in a single diagnosis. More information can be found at NAMI

Things can get a bit complicated with multiple diagnoses. When you are seeing a roster of specialists, sometimes things can slip through the cracks- medication refill issues, remaining compliant with medications and other treatment, etc. All prescribing doctors need to know all of the medications you are taking so that there are no interactions. Some interactions can be serious or deadly.

Example: Cameron had a severe migraine for two days. I called his headache doctor and she was hesitant to prescribe steroids (which are commonly used) because he has SVT. She didn’t want to take the chance of the steroids causing an episode. I appreciated her concern about this- nobody wants to go to the ER for an episode.

It’s important to pay attention to your symptoms so that if things change, you can get help as soon as possible to lessen the impact on your body and life.

Some of this information can be found on Very Well Mind

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There isn’t a lot of research out there on co-morbid disorders, most research is based on a single disorder. This leaves a lot of room for more research and understanding how disorders go together.

It’s 2020. I’m sure this is coming for us and will allow those with co-morbid disorders to live happier lives.

 

 

Dealing With the Unexpected: Mental Health Hospitalization and Your Child

**Note: I am discussing children under the age of 18 in this post, not referring to adult children.**

Parenting is full of the unexpected: broken bones, bad grades, moving, breakups and more.

The life of a parent with a child with a mental illness is a bit more complicated. Watching for signs of self-injury, a meltdown that may require help from professionals, not knowing if your child will be “okay” the next day… it can be exhausting.

There is a point in which some of these parents have to make a decision to place their child in a mental health facility, for emergency short-term treatment or possibly long-term treatment. It’s heartbreaking and most don’t really want to. (Some do but that’s a whole different topic that I am not covering because it angers me so much. It would be more of a rant post.)

Thoughts From The Other Side

I’ve watched parents sign the paperwork in admitting while sobbing because they felt like they failed as a parent. Sometimes it’s the last option before something tragic happens to either the child, them and/or someone else, so no, it’s not exactly a failure as a parent. There is a point in which it is a parent issue that they just don’t want to face, but I digress. Those are the parents I’ve seen sign papers and walk out of the building without a second thought.

Some kids come in quietly, some fight the whole process from admitting to the unit. That is not pretty or fun for those involved in the physical managements. Kids don’t always understand why they are in these facilities. Parents are usually able to bring their children in, but some are brought in by ambulance due to the situation they are coming from. They might be coming from another facility, juvenile detention center or hospital.

Many of the kids I worked with stayed long term because of their complex issues- varying from mild to severe autism and other developmental disabilities. Before I went to that unit, I worked with kids with emotional and behavioral issues, so some of them had already been to foster care, juvenile detention, and other placements. The decision to come to this facility had been made for them, of course, based on several factors.

I met these kids after suicide attempts, crimes, fights and all sorts of things that you probably don’t want to think of, but yet, they still kept going, even on days that they just wanted to give up and shut down. We wouldn’t let that happen- thanks to a team of psychiatrists, nurses and of course, the mental health associates that the facility couldn’t function without.

If you’re super curious about what that job is like (it was literally the best job I’ve ever had and I still haven’t found another one I have liked nearly as much), please read Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker

There are some tips I will share if you ever have to take this step with your child:

  • Please label your child’s clothing and other belongings with their initials with a permanent marker. The staff will wash clothes at least every other day and this helps a ton. Laundry is usually done at night (kids are sleeping and there is more time) and it’s easier to sort if you know what clothes belong to who.
  • Psych nurses are angels.
  • Mental health associates, for the most part, have bachelor’s degrees, or some college hours, so please remember that when interacting with them. I have one and so did all of my co-workers, we were required. Many family members didn’t treat us as such, but please respect us for our work. It’s hard.
  • Please remember that the admissions office can only move so fast and that getting mad at the staff doesn’t help things, it just slows them down. There’s a lot that goes on in the background that you can’t see before your child goes to a unit/floor. It’s similar to a hospital.
  • We don’t control the food that is made in the cafeteria.
  • If you can, PLEASE make a list of likes/dislikes because this saves time and trials for everyone involved with your child. It helps even more if your child is non-verbal.
  • You are not a terrible parent for admitting your child and do not be ashamed. There are groups you can reach out to. Please ask for support for yourself when your child is admitted or ask their social worker/case manager. That’s what they are there for.
  • If your child has to be physically managed, please realize we don’t enjoy it. I absolutely hated having to be in managements. I can’t think of anyone who liked them. It is only allowed by a doctor’s order and has a ton of regulations and requirements behind them.

If you have questions or thoughts you want to get into, please email me! I’d love to discuss.

How Did We Get to This Point?

Everyone’s situation is different- I’ll just point this out before I get deep into the topic.

I’ve never had to think of hospitalizing Julian, thankfully. I can’t imagine a point in which he would need it. His meds are stable and his aggression levels went down a long time ago. I can’t remember the last time he got mad and turned a chair over.

Obviously, I’m going to recommend calling 911 immediately if things are life-threatening (someone has a weapon, actively hurting themselves, etc). There are some things that you can’t just wait in the ER for.

Otherwise, it may be a good idea to call your child’s mental health provider and/or go to an ER if:

  • Hallucinations/delusions
  • Extreme aggression/destruction
  • Extreme alcohol and/or drug use
  • Not eating/sleeping for a certain amount of time
  • Severe psychiatric symptoms that have not responded to outpatient treatment
  • Other issues that may be seen in your child that are more extreme than usual- self-injury, anxiety, etc.

Some of these may be bad reactions to medication, but it is still better to be checked out. I worked with a child that had hallucinations for two days before his mother took him to the ER. Turns out it was a bad reaction to his new anti-psychotic. He was taken off it immediately, then stayed a few days inpatient to stabilize on new medications.

The Hospitalization Process

Depending on the facility and many other factors, you and your child may have to wait a long time in the waiting room (also called admitting, if you’re at a private facility). You will have to stay with your child the whole time- filling out paperwork, dealing with insurance, and arranging the actual admission.

If you are in a hospital ER and your child is transferred, they will be taken by ambulance and you can follow or ride with them. Once your child is admitted, you will be given all the information you need on contacting your child. You will also be given a list on what your child can and cannot have, and believe me- if you try to give something to your child that is on the “Cannot have” list, it’s not getting to them. This is for your child’s safety, especially if your child has been hospitalized for suicide/self-harm reasons.

Shortly after admission (or in the morning, depending on the time), your child will be assigned a case manager/social worker. These people are fantastic and will do their best to help your child- contacting providers, making a discharge plan, among other tasks. This is the main contact person for you to contact about your child’s care. You can also talk to your child’s nurse.

Your child may or may not attend school while they are hospitalized- this depends on the length of their stay. Many private facilities have a school on the property. The facility I worked for had a K-12 school in the building and every child went throughout the school year, and a bit over the summer. If your child is there for a short stay, they may not attend. You may be asked to sign paperwork to allow for school records to be sent to the facility so your child can attend- they can’t go without it.

A treatment team consists of nurses, a psychiatrist, other staff and the social worker. They meet daily to talk about the progress of the patients on a unit, including your child. If your child needs something like medication changes, diet changes, etc., it’s discussed in this meeting.

Most parents feel guilty, relief, anxiety, sadness and maybe a mix of all these emotions while their child is hospitalized. This is okay. A mental health facility can be a bit intimidating, no matter how welcoming the staff is. Just remember that you can call at any time to check on your child, that you can visit and to take care of yourself. This is important. If you need help with other children and/or other tasks, ask for it. This is a rough time for the whole family.

The Path to Home

It may sound a little weird, but hospitals are required to start working on a discharge plan almost as soon as a patient is admitted. (I don’t run these places, I just worked in them.)

The planning includes information on medication, mental health treatment, placement (if needed), education, housing (if needed). You have to be a part of this process. If you think your child isn’t ready to be discharged, you can talk to the hospital’s complaint department.

When picking your child up, keep in mind that they have just been through a huge transition, whether this is their first or fifth time in treatment. Keep the first couple of days low-key so they can adjust to being home, in a quieter environment. Make appointments if needed and slowly adjust them back to the daily routine.

If you have questions, you can call the social worker that worked with your child and go from there. Don’t think you have to go at things alone.

Parenting can be a tough path- seek out help when you need it, support is always out there. Resources

Information courtesy of MD Coalition

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Talking About Pride

Coming Out of the Closet

I decided to use an actual definition for this one, because I understand that not everyone may be clear on this one. I also think it’s the respectful thing to do. I’ve got friends and family members in the community, so I’m very clear on what this term means. Planned Parenthood- Coming Out Definition

It’s a hard process. Some people choose to wait until a certain time, some never do. It’s an individual choice, and should be respected. If someone comes out to you, please respect that person’s decision to tell you, even if it isn’t within your own values. It takes a lot to say “I’m a lesbian” or “I like guys”, or however it is said.

There is a lot of fear in coming out, however. Many people fear these things:

  • not being accepted. If there is a history of hearing homophobic slurs throughout life, it’s going to be hard to go against that.
  • getting cut off financially/becoming homeless- especially in teens and college students. Some wait until after college for this reason.
  • anxiety, depression or other mental health issues worsening afterwards due to above issues.

There is so much more support these days for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel there is a long way to go in the legal world, but it’s coming.

Marriages were a huge issue a couple years ago and I shed tears when they became legal everywhere. I believe some states are still trying to fight that one. Macklemore had it right when he said in “Same Love”- “No freedom until we’re equal/ Damn right I support it”.

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Pride Events

Have you ever been to a Pride event? I have been to quite a few. Louisville is a big city and every June, there’s a huge Pride event. The event has lots of food (my main requirement for anything), music and a lot of other fun things.

I usually see a lot of friends while I’m there. It’s so much fun. If you’ve never been, and you’re comfortable going, go. If you aren’t sure if there is an event near you, try looking on Google “pride events” and your city or the nearest city to you. Not everyone lives in or near a big city.

These events began as a way for people to get together, have fun, be themselves, meet others and not fear being judged or getting hurt. Of course, this didn’t always go well but over the years, the events have become safer. There will always be those that oppose these events.

The Kid Version

I have a friend, Kate, that is happily raising a son, with her wife, Christy. Lucas just turned two, and he is the happiest toddler that I’ve seen in a long time.

I hope he stays that adorably happy. They got married in Hawaii a few years ago and the pictures were adorable. I know they have struggles like everyone else, but they’re one of the cutest couples I’ve ever known. Lucas is like every other toddler out there- he just has two loving moms.

I wrote a post not long ago, LGBTQ Kids: A Guide for those who need a bit of help figuring out how to navigate the waters of having a child that identifies as LGBTQ.

This is becoming more common than people realize and I wanted to bring that to your, my readers’, attention. If you know someone who could benefit from it, feel free to send them the link.

I think it could help parents who aren’t sure what to do. We don’t always know what to do as parents, or even aunts, uncles, and so on. That’s okay. That’s why we ask others for ideas and read up.

Kids are pretty smart. They can tell who accepts them and who doesn’t. They’ll stay closest to those that do. All kids, no matter their sexuality, need someone who loves and accepts them exactly for who they are. They don’t need or deserve ridicule for who they love. They have enough to worry about.

Mental Health Issues in The Community

Anxiety and depression are common in many people. When you are struggling with hiding who you are (or feeling like you have to), losing someone you love and having to start over in a small pool of people and not feeling fully accepted,things can get very hard.

Drugs, alcohol and self-harm are three coping skills that are used by this population. Sometimes it can be deadly. There are therapists that specialize in LGBTQ issues.

This may be a good time to look into how you can become an ally or otherwise support the LGBTQ people in your life. How can you be an ally?

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Support Groups: What’s in it for You?

We are not meant to go through certain events alone- serious illness, loss, kids with disabilities and other events that shape our lives. This is when the power of numbers comes in. Being around others in a similar situation can be comforting and sharing your thoughts can help with processing. It can also help someone else realize they are not alone.

Yoga Class and Hope

I haven’t been to an AA meeting since I have stopped drinking. I considered it but realized it isn’t for me. I have read the Big Book and went back for a re-reading. I did, however, randomly find a 12 Step Yoga for Recovery group on Facebook. I was a bit nervous when I went the first time. I’m a bit nervous around people that I don’t know, so it took me a few Sundays to say anything besides my name.

I’ve gone almost every Sunday since November and I really enjoy it. I don’t speak every week, but I do like reading one of the two reflections that are meditated upon. This meeting gives me a chance to think about subjects that I haven’t thought about in a while or, sometimes, not at all. I don’t mind this, because new thoughts can be good. From time to time, the topics may stick with me throughout the week- not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me think about making myself a better person.

I started attending the group for two reasons: I like yoga (and needed a beginner class) and I was struggling. It’s entirely possible I would have relapsed without going to this group. I needed extra support that only others battling the same thoughts and emotions could give me. In the months since I think I’ve lost a few pounds and I’ve become somewhat more flexible.

My airplane pose will probably always be awful on the right side, but I can do a terrific downward dog. I have to sit out the sideways plank because I appreciate being able to use my wrists, but my tree pose is slightly improving. I’m pretty sure my future hip replacement is going to be caused by too many Sundays in the half pigeon pose.

I still don’t say much, but I do like listening to other people’s stories. I got my two year (and first ever) chip at a meeting in January, and next up is July when I hit two and a half years of sobriety. The stories I hear give me hope on the Sundays that I come in struggling and I hope that when I actually do speak, I do the same for someone else.

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Finding a Group for You

Support groups can be online or in person. Online can be a great option if you are in a rural area or otherwise unable to leave home to get to an in-person support group. Most groups are held at hospitals, community centers, churches, or other locations. They can also be led by group members or other facilitators like a nurse, social worker or other professional.

These groups are not the same as group therapy, as those groups are a specific type of treatment for people with similar diagnoses led by a licensed medical professional. Support groups are meant to be informative.

As with most things, going to a support group can have benefits and risks.

Benefits:

  • Feeling less lonely or judged
  • Talking openly and honestly about your feelings
  • Learning new skills to cope with challenges
  • Improving understanding of a disease/condition and your own experience
  • Learning about resources
  • Staying motivated and gaining hope

Risks:

  • Disruptive group members
  • Lack of confidentiality in some groups
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Inappropriate medical advice
  • Comparisons of “who has it worse”

You can tell if a support group is risky if you are pressured to pay high fees to attend, are promised a cure and/or are pressured to buy products. Information found at Mayo Clinic

You got this

Making the Most of Your New Support

Once you find a support group, it’s time to make it work. Talking about your struggles in front of strangers is hard. You don’t have to say more than you want to, but even a little helps when you feel you can. It may help lift a weight off your shoulder that you may not know you had.

Most facilitators are used to new people in the group and can guide you through the rules and processes. If the group isn’t for you, you’ll find out in a few sessions. You don’t have to do everything that is suggested- absorb what works and let the rest go.

Enjoy the new perspectives in your life and thoughts they bring.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Have you been to a support group? Did it help?