Mental Health

My Experience in Support Groups So Far

I have been to many support groups so far. Some I liked, some I didn’t like, and some that just did not happen. These stories are based on my experience and should not be solely used to persuade or dissuade finding a support group.

My first attempt at a support group falls into the “Just Did Not Happen” category. In 2017, I wanted to go to a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) support group for people with mental illness (there is a support group for family members of mentally ill people too). This was because I had given up on therapy back then and wanted to learn tools and techniques. However, the advertisement on a local newspaper printed the wrong date so there was no meeting that day. The support group was usually on Wednesdays and Wednesdays are kickboxing days.

Years later (in September 2020), I decided to join an online support group for autistic people who were either professionally diagnosed or suspect that they’re autistic. This is where I found AANE. My second attempt at a support group also fell into the “Just Did Not Happen” category, but this was due to the facilitator being unable to log into Zoom. I have returned to that group and have had fun ever since. More on that later.

I really wanted to go to a support group this past September, so I went to another support group (also with AANE). I didn’t have as much fun because I had a headache and introductions took up most of the time. It also wasn’t at my desired time, so I switched back to the aforementioned group time.

October 2020 was the first time I experienced a support group in which I enjoyed. I thought that the group facilitator forgot to show up in September, but I found out that the facilitator had technology issues. There were not as many people in that group that month as is typical, so I had a lot of fun talking with the facilitator and other group members. This month, I had even more fun! With this group, it isn’t as structured regarding topics. We introduce ourselves and we talk about things based on what someone said. I learned from someone that I may find comfort in logic because I am a musician for fun and music can be logic-based. Well, that explains why I wanted a music theory book.

Going slightly off subject, I will talk about AANE support groups. This is not an endorsement for AANE and I am neither an employee nor facilitator of their support groups. With AANE support groups being virtual now, it gives people living outside of the New England area of the United States a place for support. Heck, there have been people living outside of the US attending the meetings! Many of the facilitators either have a family member who is autistic or the facilitator is autistic. Not only are there support groups for autistic people, but there are also support groups for non-autistic people who have an autistic partner (this support group is not free), parents with autistic kids, grandparents with autistic kids, women, etc. Events are listed in a calendar format here. These groups require registration ahead of time since you will need to register to get the Zoom link. This also means that your name on Zoom needs to be the name you used to register because the facilitators’ Zoom is set with a waiting room and they check your name against the name in their registration list before you get in. Due to this, I will not tell you which support group I attend. I will also not disclose myself in the support group if you happen to show up to the same one I attend and say that you found out about the support group because of blogger DiaryOfSelf. You would know my real name if I did that and I prefer to go by “Dia” or “Cara” in certain online spaces. I hope there can still be virtual meetings once in-person meetings are safe again because there is only one support group in my state.

I decided to try a women’s group as well! However, I came out of it feeling hopeless because they made me realize even more that an autism diagnosis will cause issues with medical support (they mentioned the problem with doctors and female patients as well as doctors and the problems with neurodivergent patients) and disclosing a diagnosis will mean that any REASONABLE accommodations I would need will likely not be given to me. However, my doctor takes me seriously and the way that my job works, I can declare a disability online without my supervisor knowing. I would probably talk about any accommodations needed with my role’s lead (not my supervisor). I may go again in December to see how I feel, but I think I am going to stick with the group that causes me to have a lot of fun!

It took some time for me to find a group that I liked, and this may be the case for you too. Figure out your expectations for support groups and find support groups that meet your expectations.

Self-Discovery

(Re)Discovering Me (Part 1: The Journey of Unmasking)

Masking is when someone changes their personality to fit societal norms. People of all genders mask their emotions because “boys don’t cry” and “successful women aren’t emotional.” People know the advice “Be yourself!” fails because being yourself could lead to bullying or teasing. Many neurodiverse people mask to avoid bullying or to try to fit in with popular or neurotypical peers. For example, autistic people may mask their symptoms by forcing themselves to have eye contact or force themselves to not stim. As a possibly-autistic (not formally diagnosed since no one here is doing neuropsych evaluations during this pandemic) person who has been confirmed to be neurodiverse, I will talk about masking through a neurodiverse lens and how I have been masking so I can start my journey of not wearing my mask all the time.

Even though I have suspected myself to be autistic over 5 years ago, I was unfamiliar with the concept of masking. Probably because I didn’t start REALLY suspecting myself to be autistic until February of last year when I almost lost my job over social inappropriateness. I didn’t fully have my “A-HA!” moment until August when I switched to a new therapy center and I was asked if anyone has mentioned the possibility of being on the autism spectrum. Since then, I have been working on learning about my gifts and challenges that come along with my differing neurological makeup. After watching a Purple Ella video with my mom, I started understanding that I have masked more than once in my life without realizing it. I didn’t have many friends at my second high school and at one point I had my mom buy me clothes from American Eagle and Hollister because those were the brands almost everyone wore at school and I thought that I’d get more friends if I dressed like them. While it didn’t work, more people talked to me. I was bullied at work years ago, so I now make sure not to do the things that caused me to be bullied. Autistic people are often bullied at school or work. I have tried to hide my anxiety disorder from partners, but that would fail when I experience noticeable anxiety in front of other people. I try not to act weird so I don’t get called weird.

Now that I’m learning about my neurodiverse traits and no longer live with my parents who have denied anything being wrong with me, I want to start unmasking with the goal of not hiding my neurodiverse traits all the time. I want to feel like I can be free to be myself without judgment, though that won’t be completely possible since humans are judgmental. I no longer feel the need to fit in through my clothes since people wear whatever after they finish high school, so that’s one mask I was able to throw away in 2010. However, I still try not to act “weird” because I have been told that people are turned off by me being weird. Being myself has caused guys to not like me (my mom told me that my negativity is what drives men away. Sorry I’m a pessimistic-leaning realist who thinks optimists are stupid). Being myself has social consequences. All I really need to do to occasionally take my “Not Weird Person” mask off is to be around people who like my brand of weirdness, but I don’t do well in social situations and there are barely any online meetup groups that pique my interest.

Autistic people can have a weak sense of self due to the masks and this very well explains me not knowing who I am, so come along in my journey to figure things out as I gain more knowledge about how I fit into the neurodiverse universe.

Mental Health

I Think I Found My Therapy Home

To preface this, I had to leave the therapy practice I have been going to since November. I lost two therapists in under a year due to them quitting the practice. Seeing as how instability breeds instability, I went to another place that had a much lower turnover rate. I wasn’t planning on going to my previous therapy practice due to a review about high turnover rates, but they were the only people to respond back to me when I was seeking therapy. I wasn’t planning on going to my current therapy practice because the bad reviews were due to an in-house psychiatrist that I didn’t want to see if I absolutely had to be put on medication, but that bad psychiatrist has left.

So I started at the new therapy center and it was the first time someone vocally mentioned autism as a possibility. It’s not a definitive diagnosis, but I’m attending a drop-in virtual support group for people with confirmed or suspected autism. I’m only attending this one session just in case I don’t have autism. However, my therapist told me I definitely have a condition that falls under the neurodiverse conditions umbrella, but we will explore it to see which condition I have. It could be ADHD, autism, non-verbal learning disorder, or something else under that umbrella. Years ago, I made a blog post saying that I took a questionnaire during a physical and it was concluded that I have very mild ADHD. My dad doesn’t think I have it because my primary care doctor isn’t trained to properly diagnose and my parents said I didn’t have trouble in school. I did have some struggles, but I was told to try harder. Also, some of the signs of ADHD are caused by anxiety or another condition, so I stopped talking about ADHD on here. I heard of people getting misdiagnosed with ADHD when it’s autism.

Did you know girls present with ADHD and autism in different ways than boys? Studies have only focused on how white men present with those conditions, and some signs of autism are overlooked in girls because it’s seen as normal in girls. Also, I suck at programming and people with ADHD and autism are seen as being successful programmers. I can’t think abstractly like a programmer and I had lots of success as a test engineer because you’re following step-by-step instructions and I do best having step-by-step instructions to complete tasks.

My therapist is going to send me a video to watch on neurodivergence and I’m sharing it with my parents and husband too. I did not have proper supports for my mental health issues from my parents and I need all the support I can get, especially since I may have to temporarily move back in with my parents. My husband is traveling out-of-state for work and our state’s policy is that he’ll have to self-quarantine for two weeks and get a negative Covid test result before he can leave the house. I’m not sure if I’ll have to self-quarantine with him, or if I only have to self-quarantine if he tests positive.

Also, I like this therapist so far. I think that’s the other point of this blog. She is a DBT therapist and she will teach me DBT skills because I can’t attend DBT group therapy due to school and work conflicts. CBT did not work for me and my anxiety disorder is therapy-resistant due to not being identified with a neurodivergent condition. Maybe I won’t have to be in therapy for the rest of my life. She also respects the fact that I don’t want to see a psychiatrist right now and I told her about my difficulty swallowing pills. I forgot to express my concerns about being on medication for mental health issues for the rest of my life since I’m already on a lifelong medication. Also, we’re from the same graduating class from the same university. We were in different programs so we were never classmates.

Well, we’ll see what happens next. I’m not sure what, if any, accommodations I will need since I haven’t had major struggles in school and my current job due to my neurodivergent self.

Mental Health · Rant

Rage! Families Not Accepting Neurodivergent Family Members

Warning: I will be mentioning stuff relating to mental health, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, and suicide. Do not read this blog if mental health issues or suicide is your trigger. I want all of my readers to be safe.

If you have a mental illness or a learning disability, you probably have faced issues with your neurotypical family members. For me, my parents don’t seem accepting, though mom seems to try.

In November 2014, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Thinking back, I’ve been having anxiety issues since I was a child. I feel like I have other mental illnesses (like depression, BPD, possibly autism), but no one has diagnosed me yet. I have seen three therapists and I am not fixed (therapists one and three were just talk therapists and my mom forced me to see therapist one. Therapist two was who diagnosed me and did effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but has said a few negative things that kind of seemed harmful). I feel like I am beyond help. My parents not accepting me is not helping me. Despite my parents thinking that I may need to be put on medication, I don’t want to be medicated because that will mean that I have succumbed to my illness.

This blog post is inspired by an episode of My 600-Lb Life that I am currently watching. Steven Jr. has “severe psychological issues” and instead of his dad helping him, he’s verbally abusing his son and is not being supportive of his need for psychiatric help. To the people with a mentally ill family member: THIS IS NOT HOW YOU HELP! THIS IS HOW YOU HURT!

I’m the only one in my family (both sides) with a mental illness. It’s like a big family secret. It’s not the only thing that makes me different from my family (will talk about this in later blogs). My mom does her best, but she can sometimes say things that you never say to a mentally ill person. My dad, he’s a lot worse. He tells me I’m worrying too much whenever my anxiety goes up (and a lot of things make my anxiety go up. I don’t have a specific trigger). I try explaining to him about my anxiety disorder and that my brain isn’t wired differently, but I will not explain it anymore. He tells me to snap out of it whenever I have a breakdown. I almost threw something ceramic at his head. I have threatened suicide many times, but my parents only took me seriously once (never went to the hospital because of it, since I was 21. I’d permanently hate my parents again if they involuntarily committed me). My dad says that people who get off the bridge instead of jumping to kill themselves didn’t really want to kill themselves. YES THEY FUCKING DID! MY BROTHER SAVED SOMEONE FROM SUICIDE THE NIGHT BEFORE MY COLLEGE GRADUATION! DOES MY DAD NOT CARE THAT MY BROTHER GAVE A FUCK ABOUT A SUICIDAL PERSON WHILE HE GIVES NO FUCKS ABOUT SUICIDAL PEOPLE?! HUH?! My dad is also a victim blamer.

PEOPLE! LACK OF ACCEPTANCE LEADS TO SUICIDE!

I know my mental health will improve when I finally move out of my parents’ house, but dad said it will get worse. I am bullied into staying with my parents. I feel like will likely never get out. I even told my dad that I know that I’m not the perfect child that he wanted. Sometimes, I think he wanted another son. I feel like I’m trapped. I feel like people are about to give up on me. I kind of already gave up on myself.

Remember, lack of acceptance leads to suicide, and it would suck for a family member to be what breaks you in the end.