Depression Doesn’t Take a Holiday off. Special Guest Author, Alek Sabin With a New Article Share for Valintine’s.

Depression Doesn’t Take a Holiday off. Special Guest Author, Alek Sabin With a New Article Share for Valintine’s.

WISHING ALL MY RECOVERY FRIENDS A Very Happy Valentines Day! 🌹💕💕😸

 

Supporting a Loved One through Depression ~ by Alek Sabin

Watching someone you love and care about go through depression can be a hopeless feeling. Depression can impact many everyday interactions and can become a relationship obstacle to individuals who don’t know how to react or handle it. This happens all too often, as depression has become the number one form of illness or injury in the world, with around 10% of Americans battling it, every single day (those numbers are even higher for women). As such, it’s important to understand how depression works, so that you can truly support the people in your life who suffer from it.

Here are some tips to help you support a loved one through depression…

 

Be Informed

 

You’re already doing your part with one of these tips, simply by reading an article that talks about depression. That’s because depression is something that isn’t really that well understood by many people, who make the mistake of confusing depression with general sadness. As such, the first thing you should do to help a loved one with depression is educating yourself on what depression actually is and how it works.

 

This helps with the understanding that you shouldn’t take a person’s feelings personally, when they are depressed, but also that you shouldn’t disregard their emotions, either. Knowledge is the best tool when it comes to dealing with the effects of depression.

 

Leave Your Judgement at the Door

 

Relationships are all about communication, but depression can impact that communication in a way that you should be aware of. Don’t shrug off what your loved one says about a particular situation or how they are feeling, simply because they are dealing with the effects of depression. Just because their feelings are being impacted by depression, it doesn’t mean that their feelings aren’t still valid.

 

This step is especially important when trying to help a younger person process through emotions when they are feeling depressed. When you approach conversations about depression with a veil of judgment, then you are working to alienate your loved one from sharing their thoughts and feelings, which can worsen the effects of depression.

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Loved One Depression 2
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Don’t Enable Problematic Behavior

 

We need to strive to recognize actions and behaviors that make a person’s depression even worse. Oftentimes, a person with depression will forego healthy habits such as eating well or taking care of their personal hygiene. These actions cause that person to slip even further into depression and show more symptoms. One of the worst things you can do is encourage any of these habits that are worsening an individual’s depression, which can create destructive co-dependency.

 

Support Every Step Forward

 

Don’t think that you should coddle your loved one all of the time. That is just exhausting for both people. However, you should be encouraging when they show signs of real progress in working through the effects of depression. When they begin to develop healthy habits that enable them to work through a depressive episode, take note of it and tell them that you appreciate them taking those steps. They will definitely appreciate that you’ve taken the time to notice, and it builds a rapport between you and them that makes it easier to listen to feedback in the future.

 

Demanding Happiness Is Counterproductive

 

It is unreasonable to expect an individual to be happy all of the time, regardless of whether they have depression or not. However, when they have depression, then this is doubly true. Just because a person isn’t swelling with happiness at every moment, it doesn’t mean that you should take this personally. Oftentimes, dealing with depression means letting people sift through some negative emotions for a while. Don’t be frustrated by this, but instead be patient and give them the time they need to accomplish this.

 

Promote Professional Help

 

When someone is ever suffering from severe side effects of depression, it is always worth the time to actually go and talk to a professional who can help them work through these difficult emotions. As much as you might think you can tackle these issues all on your own, there are people who have studied long and hard to have accumulated years of experience in helping people deal with the effects of depression. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is convince your loved one that it is worth it to simply test out professional help.

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Featured Guest Post and By My Dearest Friend Tony Roberts Who Shares Mental Health Topics Openly Thru Faith.

Featured Guest Post and By My Dearest Friend Tony Roberts Who Shares Mental Health Topics Openly Thru Faith.

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One of my big “flaws” is not being as open and transparent in sharing about my mental health issues and challenges like my dearest friend Author, Tony Roberts. And is why I enjoy sharing and having him often to eloquently share his experiences with his and how he approaches and moves through the bumps and challenges that many who deal with mental health can have.

The difference is, he is open and transparent, as I am still a bit shy in spilling all I go through with my challenges. However, I, like Tony both relie on a power greater to get us through … GOD and our FAITH.

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Feeling Burdened By or a Burden For?

 

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

(Matthew 11.28-30)

 

I grew up in a country church where there was much talk of having burdens. Members, ministers, missionaries all spoke of having a burden for youth, drug addicts, Africa. Through their impassioned speech, the sweat on their brows, and the waving of their leather Bibles, they would stir up in us a burden to give — prayer, supplies, money.

What I got from this early spiritual teaching is that a burden is something God gives a person who then transfers this burden to others. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it had anything to do with a passion to work for Christ. Instead, it was more like a moral responsibility we had to meet to appease a god we could never please.

I’ve carried around many burdens in my life. Many have been anything but burdensome. They have been uplifting. Having a burden for basketball kept my body and mind in good shape to ward off physical and emotional attack. Having a burden for learning put me on an educational path that expanded my mind, giving me a greater understanding about the human condition. Having a burden for ministry built compassion in my soul for glorifying God and serving God’s people.

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But it seems that with every uplifting “burdened for..” there came a debilitating “burdened by…” A dreadful fear of defeat. A critical voice of failure. A demonic despair.

How do we let go of the earthly burdens that weigh us down so heavily and receive the load-bearing yoke of Christ?

Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart…”

Jesus invites us to join him in building the kingdom of God. How? Gently. Humbly. Passionately, sure. But not with a heavy burden that it’s all on our shoulders. It isn’t. It never is. If you think you are flying solo on God’s mission trip, you’d better check your flight instructions.

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Before I was diagnosed with bipolar, I was treated for depression. A family doctor tried out a new medication that had only just been FDA approved. It sent me into what my later psychiatrists called a medication-induced psychosis which had to be treated at a psychiatric hospital. But this medical explanation does little to describe what I went through. It was like this…

God had chosen me for a special mission. The signs were all there. Words spoken in prayer. Looks on faces. Sounds in the night. Everything pointed to this place they told me was a psych center but was, in fact, a safe haven. The staff there didn’t listen when I told them this absolutely logical explanation for why I needed a pass to get out and rescue God’s children from pending disaster. They offered me a sugar cookie instead.

Little did they know those sugar cookies were supercharged energy bars that would give me the strength to break through the security doors. Little did I know, they weren’t. And they didn’t.

Christ’s load-bearing yoke may lead us to face what seems like unbearable burdens, but as we move forward in faith, what looks like a weight too difficult to bear, suddenly becomes like. With Him. According to His Word. By His Spirit.

 
The exact opposite of supercharged bars that give us the strength to crash through security doors.

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You are my strength, I sing praise to you;

you, God, are my fortress

my God on whom I can rely.  (Psalm 59.17)

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Please take some time to visit Tony’s uplifting and Inspirational website of “Delight In Disorder – Tony Roberts” for more amazing articles.


~Catherine Lyon, Author/Advocate 

Gambling Recovery and Dual Diagnosis, Co-occur, or Dual Addictions With Other Disorders. What’s The Difference? I am and Many Are and Growing …

Gambling Recovery and Dual Diagnosis, Co-occur, or Dual Addictions With Other Disorders. What’s The Difference? I am and Many Are and Growing …

When I was gambling addictively and to the point of my first failed suicide attempt in 2002, I was transferred from the hospital to a mental health and addiction crisis center for a 20-day stay and where my gambling treatment began. While I was there my primary doctor and their psychiatrist found after a series of tests that I was also suffering from several mental health disorders.

I wasn’t until my gambling addiction that brought to the surface these symptoms and could be properly diagnosed. They both came to the conclusion as well that I may have been suffering from some of the mental and emotional disorders since birth. Now, the catch was to be properly diagnosed and reassessed after you begin the path of recovery. It took some months to get it right.

See, I was using gambling to escape, and numb out many haunting memories and feelings from my abuse and traumatic past that began to came back and had happened to me as a little girl including being sexually abused. So needless to say, I was suffering from PTSD, severe manic depression, mania, OCD and bipolar one with insomnia at the time I entered the crisis center.

They ordered a brain scan at the time and found I had depleted the “pleasure and reward” chemical and system of my brain from the many years of addictive gambling and had no feelings or sense of pleasure, but thinking I was getting it when I gambled. I was a Hot Mess!

I know, it all sounds confusing and was for me at the time. But, I listened to my doctors and began medication and therapy process that would take a long while and a few changes to my meds to get my mental health under control and begin the recovery work needed to regain my life back and to begin feeling better.

So, what are Dual Diagnosis, Co-occurring, and Co-addictions?  I came across a good article by way of the fine folks of  “Recovery Ranch Center” that really explains the differences when you are treated for gambling addiction. Co-addiction however, just means you are suffering from more than one addiction at a time.

The most recent research I could find about dual-addictions, meaning being treated for more than one addiction at the same time was from an article from 2003: …”About 1.1 million Americans received treatment for addiction to drugs, alcohol, or both on a typical day last year, according to findings from the 2003 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS). Half of those receiving treatment were addicted to both drugs and alcohol.”

I am sure this total has risen in the past 15-years now with the opioid crisis and epidemic happening. Here is the article I found and more about Gambling Addiction and having Mental Health and Disorders as being Dually-Diagnosed …

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Gambling Addiction Often Co-Occurs With Other Disorders
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Oftentimes, when a person shows symptoms of an addiction to something, there are other problems at play in their mind. For the addiction to be treated, the other disorders also need to be addressed, like mental illness.

A webinar that focused on how to counsel the pathological gambler revealed other disorders that often co-exist with a gambling addiction. Dr. Jon Grant, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and supervisor of an outpatient clinic for those with an addictive-impulsive disorder, discussed other mental health disorders and other addictions that are associated with gambling addictions and offered ideas on how to treat those individuals.

WHEN A FULL HOUSE CAN WRECK THE HOME

People start gambling for multiple reasons. Some enjoy the thrill, the risk-taking, and the power. Some, who feel isolated, use it as a way to feel social. Others use it as a way to relieve stress and anxiety or even to try to cure their depression. Yet, one addiction cannot properly heal another.

Gambling addictions are associated with multiple problems that weaken personal and family life:

  • Poor physical health
  • Poor mental health
  • Losing a job
  • Bankruptcy
  • Criminal behavior
  • Divorce

Sometimes those problems come before the gambling problem, driving the person to look for satisfaction in a dangerous venue if not controlled. Those who already suffer from a mental health disorder are more at risk for addiction when gambling. For others, gambling addiction is the cause of the other family and personal problems that come later.

ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS ASSOCIATED WITH GAMBLING

Those with gambling addictions also often suffer from substance abuse. Dr. Grant states that substance abuse is seven times greater in those who gamble. Nicotine and alcohol are the most commonly used substances.

Grant also mentioned that disorders with symptoms of being impulsive and risky were also frequently seen in those with gambling addictions. There were associations between individuals with gambling addiction and those who also had problems with impulsive shopping, stealing, eating, and sexual behavior.

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH GAMBLING

Pathological gambling has been associated with serious mental illnesses, sometimes as the cause and other times as the result of untreated mental illness. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental illnesses associated with gambling addiction. Some hope that a roll of the dice or the spin of the slot machines can help them have some fun in life and help them relax. In reality, over time it often makes the depression and anxiety worse.

Dr. Grant revealed that 76 percent of a gambling addiction treatment group suffered from depression. Astoundingly, 16 to 40 percent of pathological gamblers suffered from lifetime anxiety. For some, the pressure becomes too great. The risk of suicide is higher in gamblers than non-gamblers.

Other mental illnesses associated with gambling are bipolar disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Of a study group, 24 percent of pathological gamblers had a lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder. Twenty percent had symptoms for a life-time prevalence of ADHD or OCD and most likely born with them.

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Dr. Grant stresses that when treating those with a gambling addiction, all of their disorders should be identified and prioritized for treatment. Through methods such as medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support those with a gambling addiction can find healing and become a winner for life.

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I Hope you find this article and my sharing of my recovery from gambling addiction having still today, managed mental and emotional disorders. I make sure now I make all my doctor visits and get a physical each year to remain healthy and managed. If you don’t have your health? You can’t be of help to others. And maintaining recovery means having to put YOU! First including your Health!

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~Catherine Townsend-Lyon, Advocate/Author 

 

 

 

In a New Year … No More Suffering In Silence. Stats of Problem Gambling, Suicide, and Mental Health.

In a New Year … No More Suffering In Silence. Stats of Problem Gambling, Suicide, and Mental Health.

Welcome Recovery Friends …

Our Guest Article Today is courtesy of the fine folks of Southern Region Problem Gambling Conference and The National Council on Problem Gambling … They both put on conferences about Problem Gambling that are informative for many State Councils like Georgia, North Carolina, and all over the US to spread information and awareness about the negative impacts problem gambling has in all our States and Communities …

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Suffering in Silence: Suicide and Problem Gambling

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“With high profile deaths such as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, the issue of suicide and the stigma surrounding mental health have remained the center of many conversations throughout the United States and abroad. A recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that from 1999-2016, suicide rates have steadily increased throughout the United States.

In the states like Florida, suicide rates have risen approximately six to eighteen percent (6-18%).

How does this affect the field of problem gambling?”

 


Prevalence of Suicide Among Problem Gamblers

Problem gambling, known as the “Hidden Addiction,” gets its nickname due to the fact that many symptoms do not present themselves physically as is the case in substance addictions. This means that many individuals suffering from Gambling Disorder often do so alone, potentially increasing feelings of isolation and depleting self-worth.

According to the FCCG’s Annual HelpLine report, twenty-six percent (26%) of 888-ADMIT-IT callers reported having suicidal ideation. Additionally, sixty-six percent (66%) of callers reported having depression, and seventy-two percent (72%) revealed they are struggling with anxiety. It is important to continue to recognize this population of problem gamblers and increase efforts of prevention and treatment.

Although we are unable to pinpoint the exact reason for such a strong connection between suicidal ideation and Gambling Disorder, it is possible that finances play a role. Research indicates that historically, suicide rates have been higher during economic downturns.

What Can We Do?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of suicide victims are not diagnosed with some form of mental illness or disorder until after their death. It is believed that approximately ninety percent (90%) of individuals who take their own lives were living with an undiagnosed mental illness, illustrating the need to destigmatize mental health in the United States. Continuing to have conversations with friends and family regarding mental health is the first step to ensure fewer people suffer in silence but don’t stop there.

( To interject here, this happened to me after my first failed suicide attempt in 2002. While in the addiction and mental health crisis center, and once I became stable, both my primary doctor and the centers’ psychiatrist and after a full evaluation, I was suffering from severe depression, high mania, and anxiety, and PTSD and went undiagnosed until my gambling addiction brought the symptoms to the surface through my addiction. I was using gambling to escape the trauma and sexual abuse I went through as a little girl and had tried to stuff it away for years.)

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Dispelling Common Myths About Depression (2)

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“Currently and just had a rise from 1% and now 2.6% of our population are problem gamblers.”

Gambling can be found everywhere from physical casinos to a multitude of online websites and apps. It is easier than ever to gamble in the privacy of home or on the go with a smartphone. It’s easy to place bets with PayPal, credit cards, bitcoin, or money-transfer apps. All of this ease has led to an increase in gambling addiction across the world.

Problem gambling can become a compulsive behavior and gambling can be emotionally addictive. Addictions to behaviors (as opposed to addictive substances) are known as “process addictions,” and, just like substance addictions, they require supportive treatment. Specialty rehab programs and support groups are available for people who struggle with gambling addiction. If you or someone you love struggles with gambling behavior, you are not alone. One look at the statistics behind gambling addiction reveals that this problem is prevalent…

The North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help and The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that approximately 2.6% of the U.S. population has some type of gambling issue. That adds up to nearly 10 million people in the United States who struggle with a gambling habit. This issue adds up to approximately 6 billion dollars each year, which impacts the U.S. economy and citizens.

Gambling costs American taxpayers. Public funding for problem gambling went up to $73 million in 2016, but despite those costs, gambling remains regulated by each state and is not federally regulated. Ten states (and the District of Columbia) do not offer any publicly funded gambling assistance. These funding discrepancies mean that public treatment services can vary widely from state-to-state, and the level of care in publicly funded programs also varies greatly.

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The U.S. federal government has largely left gambling regulations up to each state, which means that gambling may be illegal where you live, or it may be advertised on every street corner, as it is in places like Las Vegas, Nevada. The result is a patchwork of awareness campaigns and treatment programs that vary widely in their responsiveness.

States that discourage or prohibit gambling tend to not offer awareness campaigns, and as a result, people who gamble through their phones or computers may be missing information about the dangers of gambling. Awareness of the problem is key to making changes for the better.

Gambling doesn’t only devastate individuals; it is a family issue. Because this particular problem directly impacts family and personal finances, family members who have gambling problems often hide their issue and feel a great deal of shame and secrecy. In severe cases, the problem may go undetected until finances become a major issue. Gambling can destroy relationships, but it is possible to rebuild trust and rebuild finances. No gambling problem has to be permanent.

Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders offers specialized treatment for problem gamblers. A co-occurring disorder happens when someone suffers from more than one problem, such as gambling and anxiety, or gambling and depression … Help is available.

Please Visit or Call Today …

NATIONAL PROBLEM GAMBLING HELPLINE

1-800-522-4700

The National Council on Problem Gambling operates the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (1-800-522-4700). The network is a single national access point to local resources for those seeking help for a gambling problem. The network consists of 28 call centers which provide resources and referrals for all 50 states, Canada and the US Virgin Islands.  Help is available 24/7 and is 100% confidential.

The National Problem Gambling Helpline Network also includes text and chat services. These features enable those who are gambling online or on their mobile phone to access help the same way they play. One call, text or chat will get you to problem gambling help anywhere in the U.S. 24/7/365.

Help is also available via an online peer support forum at www.gamtalk.org.


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Do You Advocate About Mental Health and Want To on a Bigger Scale? Join Tony Roberts as a Patron and He’ll Help You Do So …

Do You Advocate About Mental Health and Want To on a Bigger Scale? Join Tony Roberts as a Patron and He’ll Help You Do So …

 

Growing Delight in Disorder

“One thing I have learned in my spiritual life is not only is it more blessed to give than to receive, but it is more rewarding.”

 

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As a pastor, I observed many who came to church sporadically, made no effort to participate in service and gave only a few small bills whenever the mood struck them. One common feature I consistently noticed in these folks is that their spiritual growth was stunted.  I saw first hand that those who withhold their time, talent, and money from kingdom work, isolated themselves from God’s abundant grace experienced in a generous community.

I am no longer in pastoral ministry, but I see the same principle apply to my mission here at Delight in Disorder. Over the course of the last five years, I am reaching a growing number of persons impacted by mental illness. These folks need encouragement, support, and spiritual counsel. I have been blessed to be one of God’s instruments of healing, through my book, this blog, phone and video consults, speaking engagements and my podcast. My ministry has grown from a manuscript in a junk drawer to a message spreading across the globe.

My mission here at Delight in Disorder is to foster hope in the lives of those with troubled minds and cultivate compassion within the faith community for those with mental illness. To carry out this mission, I need your help. Your prayers. Your stories. Your encouragement. Your financial support.

 

Why Do You Need Financial Support?

I want to be clear your financial gifts are to grow this mission, not increase my personal lifestyle. God has blessed me with income streams to put food on the table, have a roof over my head, and meet my daily needs. Monies contributed will go to expand the outreach of Delight in Disorder.

Build community among those engaged in advocacy and mental health ministry. Produce and distribute more written content to nourish the spiritual lives of wounded souls. Promote faith and mental wellness online and through other avenues. Provide for direct outreach through workshops and conferences on healing and wholeness. These are just some of the needs I envision to grow this ministry God has laid on my heart and, I hope, yours.

How Much Will It Cost?

To become a patron, you can contribute as little as $1/month or as much as God leads you to give. Again, I want to stress this should not come at the expense of your own needs, your family’s needs, or the needs of your local faith community. Instead, prayerfully consider how much you value this mission and give out of desire, not of obligation.

What Do I Get Out of It?

While it is true there are spiritual rewards whenever we give for kingdom work, I also want my patrons to receive practical benefits. These range depending on giving tiers (with each successive tier including perks of lower tiers):

  1. $1 or more a month — Covenental Clinician: Join private FB community to discuss issues of faith and mental health.
  2. $15 or more a month — Biblical Behavioralist: Receive personally inscribed Delight in Disorder for self or as a gift.
  3. $40 or more a month — Theological Therapist: Participate in a quarterly webinar on mental health ministry.
  4. $50 or more a month — Freudian for Faith: Receive monthly devotional journal (via snail mail!).
  5. $100 or more a month — Apostle for Affirmation: Video dialogue with me about a mental health matter.
  6. $200 or more a month — Manic Depressive Missionary — I will speak at a venue near you.

 

What Is My Best First Step?

The best way to get a taste of this new mission incentive is by becoming a mission partner at the $1/month Covenental Clinician tier. My private Facebook page will launch on November 1. It will be a place where you will find a wide variety of resources. Things like — personal stories from persons like me with mental health diagnoses; news about legislation impacting those with mental illness; discussions about the best way to offer Christ-like compassion for those with troubled minds.

My goal is to have 50 Covenental Clinicians by the launch date of November 1.  As a faithful reader of my blog, I hope you will become one of my founding partners.

I hope you are as excited as I am about this new mission venture. For more information and to pledge your support, go to MY SUPPORT PAGE.

Become a Patron Today and Help Tony Grow Through Faith His Mission at “Delight in Disorder Today.”

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4)

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Who Is Tony Robers?

 

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From Ministry to Madness

In 1995, I was a young, ambitious pastor serving a church in Northeast PA. One Sunday, I delivered a sermon in which I shared these words:

Our ailments may be blessings in disguise. As we listen to our bodies and minds and seek out care, we gain insight more abundant lives.

The next day, I was in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital. I was told I had bipolar disorder, that I would never work as a pastor again, that my marriage would end, and that I would spend the rest of my life in and out of psychiatric hospitals.

By the grace of God and with much help from many others, I served another dozen years of fruitful ministry, was married for twenty-three years and have progressed in treatment to enjoy “maintenance remission.”

From Madness to Mission

As one who has benefited from both faith and mental health treatment, I have Good News to share. And it is this — with Christ’s saving grace, the hellish impact of mental illness will be bearable.

God is with us even in the darkest valleys of despair. We have an essential purpose, to extend fellowship with others who struggle, and to fight the stigma that often leads to dangerous silence.

Many people with mental illness are angry at God, at believers, and at faith communities. People within churches struggle to reconcile medical advances about brain chemistry with Biblical truth.

I have lived in both worlds. I wrestle daily with my dual identity as a Christian who has a serious mental illness and have a hopeful word to say to both.

My mission at Delight in Disorder is to bridge the vast gap between faith and mental illness — fostering faith among those with disorders and diagnoses and promoting compassion within the faith community.

Can we partner together?

Won’t you join me on this mission? There are several ways you can help:

  1. Financially give at any level.
  2. Share this page with someone you know.
  3. Respond with your stories of faith / mental illness.

And lastly: pray for those impacted by mental illness. When we do these things, we reclaim our godly mission in the madness of the world.

 

I Thank “Facing Addiction With NCADD” For Asking Me To Share My Voice and Story Last Year as “Not All Addiction is Substance Use”…

“Recovery Flashback to June2017 ~ SHARING My Story With Facing Addiction”

Not All Addiction is Substance Use

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“Living in recovery with mental health issues can be a tough journey, as I have learned. I am a loud advocate for gambling addiction and mental health. Many people don’t understand that gambling is a real addiction, just as dangerous as drugs and alcohol. Today, suicide claims the lives of more people with a gambling addiction than any other kind of dependency.

I myself have attempted it twice.”

 
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Catherine Townsend-Lyons 1

 

My recovery journey re-started in 2006.  I woke up in a hospital as the result of another failed suicide attempt, then went back to an addiction and mental health crisis center for a 14-day stay.  The problem wasn’t that I gambled again; the problem was not taking my psych medications for a few weeks.  I thought I didn’t need them and that I could be normal like everyone else around me.  That didn’t work out too well for me.

I had a few severe financial crises happen, and since I had not taken my medication and had worked through all of my savings, I panicked and chose to steal from someone.

What a mess! Of course, they pressed charges. I was arrested, went through the court process, and paid steep consequences for my poor choice.

“My point? You have to do the work in all areas of your recovery, including your finances.”

I had not done all the work necessary for a well-rounded recovery. Even though I was not gambling, my financial and legal troubles told me I still needed to more work. After my problems emerged, I worked with an addictions expert for a year as I went through the legal mess I created.

After this second suicide attempt, I learned I did not have a full plan.  I also learned that God, my Higher Power, had bigger plans for me.  My purpose is helping those reaching out for recovery from the cunning illness of compulsive gambling addiction.  After I was released from the crisis center in 2006 and began working with the expert, I got my mental health under control.  I also began to see the stigma surrounding those of us who choose to live in recovery.  The people who suffer from a mental illness have a huge hurdle in our path.

Being a dual-diagnosed person who lives in recovery and has mental health challenges, obtaining recovery is a wee bit more work.  The addicted thinking habits I’d relied on in the past needed more correcting.  Working with the gambling specialist was eye-opening. He helped me break down the cycle of addiction, and we also worked with tools and skills for dealing with financial problems that may arise in recovery.

I was given a fantastic recurrence prevention workbook as well. Although I didn’t revert back into gambling, this book has helped me develop a plan for any financial or life event that may arise during my recovery journey. You need a plan before life events come.

Another tool that helped was journaling every day.  I have always done this, but my specialist showed me how to relieve stress and learn more from my journaling.  My journals helped in writing my memoir, which is now a published book.  Writing my story and experiences was a very healing process for me.  I shared about my gambling addiction and alcohol use; my past childhood trauma, abuse, and sexual trauma; and what it is like living with mental illness.

By doing this, I hope to shatter stigma around gambling addiction, recovery, and mental health.  I want to be a voice for those who feel they do not have one.  I also want others to know how devastating compulsive gambling addiction is and how one can become addicted. It truly is a silent addiction!

It is time to have a discussion about gambling addiction.  I want to inform and educate people, and I raise awareness of the effects it has on our communities and families’ lives. The expansion of casinos and for-profit state lotteries is making gambling more accessible today and is now touching our youth.

Currently, 2.9% of our population are problem gamblers. Gambling Addiction is the #1 addiction claiming lives by suicide as 1 in 5 addicted gamblers will try.  The best advice I can give?  When starting off in recovery, learn about this addiction.  Work with a specialist or recovery expert to learn the “cycle” and then learn the tools and skills to interrupt it.

Also, a reliable recovery needs to encompass the mind, body, spirit, and finances. There are many ways to recover, including inpatient or outpatient treatment, 12 Step meetings, and whatever works for you. Try anything and everything you can find. Sticking with only one option may not be enough for success and longevity in recovery and being “bet free.” I learned this the hard way.

I have reached over 10 years in recovery from gambling addiction and alcohol. Now, my mission and God-given purpose are to reach out to others and share my story. I hope that one more life isn’t taken by suicide due to gambling addiction, alcohol addiction, or mental health issues.

No more suffering. I am loud, proud, and Facing Addiction!

Important Guest Article Reshare By Amy Dresner, Author of ‘My Fair Junkie,’ A Memoir. This Post Is About Recovery & Depression…

Important Guest Article Reshare By Amy Dresner, Author of ‘My Fair Junkie,’ A Memoir. This Post Is About Recovery & Depression…

Welcome Recovery Friends, Warrior Advocates, and New Visitors,

I am so happy and blessed that Amy agreed to let me reshare her article which comes by way of The Fix Magazine. She is an amazing “in your face –let it hang out” writer and blogger for them. The Fix share news about addiction and recovery from drugs and alcohol and is one of the top resource magazines around!

I happen to have signed up for there newsletter a while back and seen Amy’s article. Being dual-diagnosed myself and still have bouts of depression at times, I felt this article of hers really needed to be shared with all my friends here.

It is very informative and I just love Amy’s views on a variety of issues and her writing style! I hope you enjoy reading it and learn some from it as I did! Don’t forget to grab of copy of her book (link listed in her bio) if you have not read it.

It is truly a great read and her life memoirs are “one of kind!”  ~Cat 

Depression in Recovery: Do You Have Low Dopamine Tone?

By Amy Dresner 09/10/18 ~ Courtesy of The Fix Magazine
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Mature Woman Depression Looking Away
((The Fix does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor does anything on this website create a physician/patient relationship.  If you require medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, please consult your physician.)

 

I just felt like shit and slept as much as I could. I showed up to work. I kept my commitments. I spoke when asked to, but I felt more than unhappy. I felt like I just didn’t care.

I just came out of a six-week depression. That might not sound very long, but when you’re in hell it feels like forever. Good news: I didn’t bone any 25-year-old strangers; I didn’t cut myself; I didn’t get loaded; I didn’t smoke or vape although I really, really wanted to. I didn’t even eat pints of Ben and Jerry’s while binge-watching I Am A Killer. I just felt like shit and slept as much as I could. I showed up to work. I kept my commitments.

I spoke when asked to, but I felt more than unhappy. I felt like I just didn’t care. I didn’t return phone calls. I didn’t wash my hair. Suicidal thoughts bounced around my head, but I ignored them like I do those annoying dudes with clipboards outside Whole Foods.

I’ve suffered from symptoms of depression since I was 19, so it’s an old, old friend. What really annoys me was that some (dare I say many?) people think at five and a half years of sobriety, you shouldn’t feel depressed. What I kept hearing from AA fundamentalists was:

“It’s your untreated alcoholism.”

“Listen to these tapes about prayer and meditation.”

“You’re not connected enough to your Higher Power.”

“You’re not going to enough meetings.”

“You need to do more service.”

Thankfully my sponsor, who has a foot in the medical world, did not say something along those lines.  One of my big problems with AA is that it looks at every mental problem through the paradigm of your “alcoholism.” If you’re suffering, you should look to the program for relief.

Nobody would tell you to “drive around newcomers!” more if you had diabetes or kidney failure, but if you’re feeling down, that’s what you’re told to do. As it turns out, AA is not completely off the mark: “Addiction is a not a spiritually caused malady but a chemically based malady with spiritual symptoms,” addictionologist and psychiatrist Dr. Howard Wetsman told me.

“When some people start working a 12-step program, they perceive a spiritual event but their midbrain is experiencing an anatomical event. When they’re working a program, they’re no longer isolated and they no longer feel ‘less than,’ so their dopamine receptor density goes back up [and they experience contentment],” he explained. But what if your program hasn’t changed or feels sufficient and you still feel depressed?

What if you’re working your ass off in your steps and helping others and you still feel like shit?
“Well, low dopamine tone experienced as low mood can be brought on by fear and low self-esteem (the untreated spiritual malady part of alcoholism/addiction) but it can also be brought on by biochemical issues,” Wetsman added.

Huh?

So was I experiencing the chemical part of my “addiction” or was I having a depressive episode? Perhaps my whole life I’d been confusing the two. Of course, all I wanted, like a typical addict, was a pill to fix it. But as I’ve done the medication merry-go-round (and around and around) with mild to moderate success, I was hesitant to start messing with meds again. I didn’t have a terrific psychiatrist, and SSRI’s can really screw with my epilepsy. And Wetsman was talking about dopamine here, not serotonin. Hmmm…

Dr. Wetsman has some interesting stuff about brain chemistry and addiction on his vlog. He mentions something called “dopamine tone” which is a combination of how much dopamine your VTA (Ventral Tegmental Area) releases, how many dopamine receptors you have on your NA (Nucleus Accumbens), and how long your dopamine is there and available to those receptors.

Stress can cause you to have fewer dopamine receptors and fewer receptors equal lower dopamine tone. He’d explained to me in previous conversations how almost all of the people with addiction he’d treated had what he described as “low dopamine tone.”

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When you have low dopamine tone, you don’t care about anything, have no motivation, can’t feel pleasure, can’t connect to others. In addition, low dopamine tone can affect how much serotonin is being released in the cortex. Low midbrain dopamine tone can lead to low serotonin which means, in addition to not giving a shit about anything, you also have no sense of well-being. Well, that certainly sounded familiar.

Dr. Wetsman has a very convincing but still somewhat controversial theory that addiction is completely a brain disease and that using drugs is the result, not the cause. I really suggest you get his book, Questions and Answers on Addiction.

It’s 90 pages — you could read half of it on the john and half of it while waiting at the carwash. It explains in detail why most of us addicts felt weird and off before we picked up and why we finally felt normal when we used. Again, it’s all about dopamine, and it’s fucking fascinating. No joke.

In his vlog, he explains that dopamine production requires folic acid which you can get from green leafy veggies (which I admittedly don’t eat enough of) but it also requires an enzyme (called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase or MTHFR for short) to convert folate into l-methyl folate. Certain people have a mutation in the gene that makes MTHFR, so they can’t turn folate into l-methyl folate as effectively, and those people are kind of fucked no matter how many kale smoothies they drink.

But it’s not hopeless. If people with this genetic mutation take a supplement of l-methyl folate, their brain can make enough dopamine naturally. Of course, once you have enough dopamine, you’ve got to make sure you release enough (but there’s medication for that) and that you have enough receptors and that it sits in the receptors long enough (and there are meds for that too).

So this all got me wondering if maybe my MTHFR enzyme was wonky or completely AWOL. Dr. Wetsman urged me to find a good psychiatrist (since I’m on Prozac and two epileptic medications) or a local addictionologist in addition to taking a genetic test for this mutation. In his experience, patients who had a strong reaction to taking the l-methyl folate supplement were frequently also on SSRIs. They either felt much better right away or really really shitty. But if they felt even shittier (because the higher serotonin levels work on a receptor on the VTA which then lowers dopamine), he would just lower their SSRI or sometimes even titrate them off it completely. And voila. Success.

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It’s all very complicated, and this whole brain reward system is a feedback loop and interconnected with all kinds of stuff like Gaba and Enkephalins (the brain’s opioids) and Glutamate. But you guys don’t need me for a neuroscience lesson so I’m trying to keep it simple. The basics: how do you know if you have too little dopamine?

You have urges to use whatever you can to spike your dopamine: sex, food, gambling, drugs, smoking, and so on. What about too much dopamine? OCD, tics, stuttering, mental obsession and eventually psychosis. Too little serotonin? Anxiety and the symptoms of too high dopamine tone. Too much serotonin? The same thing as too little dopamine tone. Everything is intricately connected, not to mention confusing as all hell.

Being broke and lazy and having had decades of shitty psychiatrists, I decided to go rogue on this whole mission (not recommended). I mean I used to shoot stuff into my arm that some stranger would hand me through the window of their 87 Honda Accord so why be uber careful now? This l-methyl folate supplement didn’t require a prescription anymore anyway. What did I have to lose? I did, however, run it by my sponsor whose response was: “I’m no doctor, honey, but it sounds benign. Go ahead.”

I ordered a bottle. A few days later I heard the UPS guy drop the packet into my mail slot. I got out of bed, tore open the envelope and popped one of these bad boys. A few hours later I started to feel that dark cloud lift a little. Gotta be a placebo effect, right? The next day I felt even better. And the next day better still. I didn’t feel high or manic. I just felt “normal.” Whoa. It’s been weeks now and the change has been noticeable to friends and family.

Normal. That’s all I ever really wanted to feel. And the first time I felt normal was when I tried methamphetamine at 24. It did what I wanted all those anti-depressants to do. It made me feel like I knew other people felt: not starting every day already 20 feet underwater. I found out later that my mother and uncle were also addicted to amphetamines which further corroborates my belief that there is some genetic anomaly in my inherited reward system.

When I emailed Dr. Wetsman to tell him how miraculously better I felt, his first response was “Great. I’m glad. The key thing is to take the energy and put it into recovery. People go two ways when they feel amazingly better. One: ‘Oh, this is all I ever needed. I can stop all this recovery stuff.’ Or two: ‘Wow, I feel better. Who can I help?’ Helping others in recovery will actually increase your dopamine receptors and make this last. Not helping people will lead to shame, lowered dopamine receptors and it stops being so great.”

So no, I’m not going to stop going to meetings or doing my steps or working with my sponsor and sponsees. Being part of a group, feeling included and accepted, even those things can create more dopamine receptors. But sadly I’m still an addict at heart and I want all the dopamine and dopamine receptors I can get. However, I also know that enough dopamine alone isn’t going to keep me from being a selfish asshole…

But maybe, just maybe, having sufficient dopamine tone and working a program will.

 

 

Amy Dresner

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Amy Dresner is a recovering drug addict and all around fuck up.

She’s been regularly writing for The Fix since 2012. When she isn’t humorously chronicling her epic ups and downs for us, she’s freelancing for Refinery 29, Alternet, After Party Chat, Salon, The Frisky, Cosmo Latina, Unbound Box, Addiction.com and Psychology Today.

Her first book, My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean was published in September 2017 by Hachette Books.  Follow her on Twitter @amydresner.

 

 

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