A better life in Columbus   1 comment

When I first came to Ohio after getting treated for drug treatment in a mental hospital, I was barely able to make decisions for myself.  All I could do was to keep a schedule, go to my appointments and meetings, and study about my drug problems.  Later, I started being able to think about managing my money and make plans for my future.  I did some research about places to live.   Cincinnati had outpatient drug treatment programs and some jobs.  However, I wanted to get a state job.  Therefore, more state jobs were available in Columbus, a state capital.  Therefore, I moved there.

Recovery was very difficult in the beginning of my stay in Columbus.  I got involved with some men who were more interested in controlling my life than in working on their own recovery.   One day, I got a black eye because my ex-boyfriend hit me when we were in bed.  I went to counseling that day, and my counselor helped me get out of that relationship.

I went to counseling for domestic violence, and I met my future husband, who was high-risk for domestic violence based on his background.  I was a little scared to get involved with him.  However, he got counseling to overcome its effects and read the Bible regularly.  I also was studying the Bible, and was working with a mentor who helped me to understand God’s plan for my life.  In the past, I relied on men to guide my life.  I learned how to let God control my life.  As a Christian, I am able to use the Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide me through difficult situations and to find ways to improve my life.

Three years after moving to Columbus, I got a full-time job with a government agency.  I worked hard to reach that goal.  I had part-time jobs while looking for a State job, and I filled out many applications and went to many interviews before I finally got that job.  A few months after getting that job, I married the man who helped me learn about spiritual guidance.   I have worked for the State for 14 years, and am still married to the same man.  I like my job, and my husband and I continue to love each other and support each other.  I do not want to go back to using drugs.  I know I have a good future ahead of me.


Learning how to make friends   Leave a comment

Right after my divorce, I still acted like everything was under control except for times I would break down during counseling or talking with a person I trusted.  I have a disability, and when I took a class about that particular disability, I had difficulty looking at myself and how I related with other people.  I always felt like I was different from other people.  Therefore, I told my teacher in her office about my difficulties with my identity.  She was sympathetic and understanding.  I still finished that class, though.

I continued to make good grades, and I completed my bachelor’s degree in Psychology.  I felt confident I could find a good job in Texas that summer.  I found a friend to stay with, and I thought Ron and I would still be good friends.  I did not know he already found another girlfriend who spent a lot of time with him.  I enjoyed my volunteer internship.  I was working with deaf people who were learning independent living skills.  I also got a job working with them in their apartments.  Even though I liked that job, I decided the pay was not good enough to support me even with full-time work.  I also knew I would get bored with it after a while.  I decided to go to graduate school.  I was getting money from the government as a result of my disability, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get better jobs.

I had suffered from depression for many years.  However, counselors did not refer me to psychiatrists.  My depression got worse after my divorce and after that summer in Texas.  Unfortunately, I got medical intervention only after I had become addicted to crack cocaine.

When I went to graduate school, my boyfriend introduced me to crack cocaine.  At first, it gave me lots of energy and made me happy.  I read about the dangers of crack cocaine.  I did not believe the news stories, though.  I decided to find out for myself whether it was a bad drug or not.  At first, I was able to do my schoolwork and use crack cocaine.  As time went on, I had less time for school work.  I was going out late at night to find crack cocaine and going to school before 9:00 a.m. the next morning.  I also had part-time jobs.

I had two major depression episodes related to using crack cocaine.  When I had severe depression, crack cocaine did not help me feel better.  I would sob uncontrollably.  The first time I had one of those episodes, I went to a mental hospital.  The psychiatrist said I suffered from depression and was also dependent on crack cocaine.  While I was in the hospital, I learned to express my feelings (other than just being mad or neutral most of the time), and I learned about Narcotics Anonymous.  I felt very comfortable in those meetings because people accepted me and encouraged me with my recovery.

However, my boyfriend interfered with my recovery.  He wanted to continue to use drugs, and I had a hard time turning him down.  I had a sponsor from one of the meetings close to where we lived.  I would go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings during the day.  I would call her right before my ex-boyfriend offered me some drugs.  I would leave a message, and she would call five or ten minutes later.  By then, I was already smoking crack, so I would not answer the phone.

I went to the hospital a second time for treatment, and this time I told professionals about problems with my boyfriend.  They told me I should break up with him.  I could not figure out where to do and still be close to my boyfriend.  I asked my relatives for help.  I moved to another state and got lots of professional intervention.  I continued to go to meetings (mainly Narcotics Anonymous meetings), and I learned more about making friends while attending those meetings.  I would call my friends, go out for coffee, and encourage them with their recovery program.  I learned I no longer have to pretend I have everything under control anymore.

My first marriage   Leave a comment

When I finished a certificate in medical records technology, I moved to another city.  I had a temporary arrangement with a difficult roommate situation, and I a long-term relationship with an older boyfriend fell apart.  I figured it was time for a change.

I found a place to stay and spent a lot of time outdoors.  I met an intelligent man at a bowling alley, and I thought he was too good for me.  Ron (an assumed name) seemed to have much better social skills than I did, and he had lots of friends.  He liked to drink and smoke pot, and I thought that was cool because he had lots of friends.  We started living together and we eventually got married.

When we first got married, Ron and I had lots of fun.  We visited his friends and his friends visited us.  I got some advice about working in the medical field from a community college in town, and the counselor told me I needed to get a degree and pass a certification examination.  Therefore, I went to school full-time to finish my degree.  I got a job in the field, and I was not happy at work.  I hated filing and I did a lot of that.  I got in trouble due to filing medical charts in the wrong places, and sometimes I had trouble getting along with doctors.  Some of them resisted having us tell them what to do.  However, we were simply complying with some laws.  Doctors who did not comply with those laws got suspended.  I tried various types of medical records jobs, and I stayed there even though I was unhappy with my job.  I got a good salary, and I did not want to take a pay cut from working in a different kind of office as a clerk or a typist.  One day, they let me go in the spring of 1983.  I was in total shock.  I had been a light smoker, and right after losing my job, I smoked more than usual.

I got training in word processing because I could take short-term training, and I would get good pay for doing that.  I did volunteer work and looked around for another job without success.  I was very self-critical, and I could not find a job I liked.  After six months of collecting unemployment, we knew time was running out.  We decided to move to another state.

We ended up in Texas later that year.  Christmas time was a bad time to look for a job, so I used that time to explore job opportunities and to take certification tests.  I got a full-time job in 1984, and I wasn’t happy with that job either.  I was typing for other people from form letters.  The job was very repetitious.

Ron and I had less and less in common over the years.  He continued to party a lot, and he would drink heavily on the weekends.   I did not have very much in common with most of his friends either.  Their weekends revolved around celebrating birthdays and holidays with their friends.  I rarely went to those events.  I decided to study psychology full-time.  Ever since my early teens, I enjoyed reading about psychology.  I wanted to find out why I had so much trouble making friends and learn about improving relationships.  I tried to make good grades in one of the universities near where I worked, and I did not do well academically.

I had a C average from the university near my work, and I knew I would not get very far with those kinds of grades.  I left my state job and went to another university far away with smaller classes.  I did very well academically there and socialized with other college students.  I socialized mainly with older students because I was in my mid-thirties.  However, Ron did not want to move close to that school.  We had a long-distance relationship.   After one year at that school, I became interested in pursuing a master’s degree, because I would have better job opportunities with better pay if I got a graduate degree.  I enjoyed going to school there and wanted to pursue my graduate degree there.  Ron became very upset and complained about all his responsibilities.  I offered a divorce, and we got divorced that summer.  I thought he would want to keep the marriage instead of getting a divorce.  I felt sad about not being together anymore.  However, I was not done with my bachelor’s degree yet, so I went back to school in the Fall semester to finish my psychology degree.


My early adult years   Leave a comment

When I first went to college, I was so excited about meeting new people.  I went to a college with special services for people with disabilities.  I thought if regular students would not accept me, peers with similar disabilities would welcome me with open arms.  Alas, that was not what happened when I first went to college.

I did not have good social skills.  I was often ignored during  social situations.  I thought people who let situations defeat them were weak.  I allowed myself to get angry at unfair treatment and unfair situations, and I fought back at those times.  I did not pay much attention to my feelings because I thought if I did well with school, everything would be okay.  I was very reserved, and I generally ignored my feelings as long as I wasn’t angry at someone or something.  I had a boyfriend for the first time in my life during the first semester in college (Fall semester), and the man I was dating was a recovering alcoholic who would disappear for three to four days without telling me he was going away.   When he was gone, I was very agitated.  I would go to his dorm room and knock on his door several times a day when he was gone.   After he came back from those trips (he would go away with a friend of his), I would ask him about it.   He would tell me he went away on those trips when he felt stressed out.  I would accept his answer and not discuss it anymore.  We broke up around Thanksgiving.  When we broke up, he told me not to tell anyone about it.  I was angry at him for breaking up with me one week before finals, and I repressed my anger.  I used my anger to keep busy and to try to focus on finishing my classes.  I asked him why our relationship did not work.  He did not tell me why he broke up with me.  I also did not discuss it with my friends because he told me to keep it a secret.  At the end of the semester, I met a male relative and stayed with him at his friend’s house.  I told him I was sad about breaking up with my boyfriend.  He was older than me, and he said not to cry about it.  After that point, I did not talk with that relative about my love life anymore.

At that time, I did not realize depression was repressed anger.  I did not think I repressed any anger.  Later I found out I repressed a lot of anger because things would bother me and I would push them inside instead of dealing with those things.

One summer during my first few years of college, I became very depressed.  In my group counseling, one man, who I thought was a friend, told me I was a terrible person.  I was sad about that, and it triggered my depression episode.  I kept going by doing activities such as reading, going to my counselor, and taking a summer school class.  At other times, I was emotionally numb.  I ate lots of sweets while I read books or studied for school.  I stayed in my apartment during the week.  On the weekends, I would go to church.  That episode of major depression went away on its own.  I was looking forward to going back to school.  I enjoyed going to school, and I took both fun and serious classes.  I knew I was a good student.  In fact, I had good self-esteem when I did well in school.

During the first couple years of college, I tried different classes, and I looked for a major in the medical field.  However, I was clumsy in the science laboratory(lab).  I was better at book learning than working with my hands.  I was mad at myself for not doing well in science labs.  I kept pushing myself to do well in them, and my efforts did not work.  Therefore, I felt like a failure.

I went from college to college.  I finally found something in the medical field with book learning and no science labs.  I decided to major in medical records.  I figured I would do that work for a while and figure out later which major to pursue for my bachelor’s degree.

The chicken or the egg   Leave a comment

I have a difficult time figuring out whether my depression is from heredity or from my environment.  It seems to work both ways in my situation.  I found out my mom and my maternal grandmother were treated for depression.  Before 1950, people were very ashamed about going to a psychiatrist or a psychiatric hospital.  Even now, mental illness is an uncomfortable topic for many people.  Last week, my co-workers were joking about people who used to stay in a psychiatric hospital.  A few of them agreed they did not want to meet anyone who used to be a patient there.  I figured they were joking because the topic was uncomfortable for them.  They don’t know I struggle with depression, and have struggled with depression for many years.

I grew up with a disability, and as a result, I had trouble making friends growing up.  My non-disabled peers often did not want to talk with me.  My parents enjoyed reading and educational activities.  I focused on doing well academically because I had trouble making friends.  My parents expected me to have a normal social life and wanted me to function like a normal person.  I thought I was worthy only if I managed my life well and had good grades.  I was often lonely, though.  I did not think I had a problem with depression.  I did well with school and kept busy.  I followed my Dad’s philosophy about handling problems.  He said “If something is bothering you, just keep busy.”  It worked well for me until I went to college.

Things that can trigger depression   Leave a comment

I am on medication, and I keep track of my moods on a regular basis during the day.  Here are some things that can cause me to feel depressed: 1.  Disappointment, 2.  Being tired, 3. Being in pain, lots of discomfort, or being sick; 4. Frustration.

I am a Christian, so when I face disappointment or become frustrated, I ask myself how to deal with it based on the Serenity Prayer.  The Serenity Prayer goes like this:  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  I cannot change other people, and some situations are beyond my control.  I can change my response to what is happening around me, and possibly take some action.  Taking action may feel good.  However, I go ahead and take action cautiously.  Sometimes action makes things worse.  I only take action if I believe it will help improve the situation.  Then after taking action, I give it over to God.  When I think about it, I ask myself, “Do I want to take it back (in order words, worry about the situation again)?”  The answer is usually “No.”  When I think about it, I pray about the situation and turn it back over to God.

If fatigue is a problem, I ask myself whether I should keep busy, rest, or get some sleep.  I focus on doing the right thing at the moment.  I make sure I get some sleep.  I don’t function well when I get very little sleep or if I don’t sleep well.

If I am in pain, having a lot of discomfort, or sick, I look for ways to ease the pain and discomfort.  When I am sick, I get extra rest and pay more attention to how I am feeling minute by minute.  I also focus on doing the right thing at the time.  In situations like this, I practice gratitude and focus on positive things.  I thank God for places in my body that feel good or feel relatively good (for instance, I woke up one morning being barely able to walk due to ankle pain.  Then I realized I had sciatica on my left side.  Most of that leg was aching that morning.  I did some stretches and I thanked God because my right leg felt pretty good that morning.  Later in the day, I was able to walk normally again.)  I think about good things and read inspirational books and the Bible even when my body or mind resists those things.  I do feel better when I think positive.

Posted February 26, 2011 by Nancy Mathis in Uncategorized

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More about counseling   Leave a comment

I went through counseling after my divorce.   I based my self-esteem on external events such as getting good grades in school, staying married, and not being dependent on my parents.  I was grieving, and I was feeling worthless.  I went to a counselor who was very confrontational, and I did not like her at all.  My sadness was overwhelming when I saw her.  I told her I was so sad I was afraid to cry.  I was afraid my crying would never stop.  She told me she did not believe me.  It is possible for depression to get that bad, though.  I was still in school, and I sometimes would miss a class due to grieving.  I was not done with my bachelor’s degree yet.

After I got my degree, I decided to go back to the city where my ex-husband, Thomas (a fictional name) lived in Texas.  I did not want to stay with my parents.  I had many bad experiences in the city where my parents lived in California, and I wanted to visit old friends in Texas.  I had many friends there.  I thought Thomas and I were still good friends.  Based on our phone calls, he sympathized with me and listened to me.  I did not know he had a girlfriend who would sometimes stay at his apartment overnight.  I thought with a bachelor’s degree, I could find a good job and be able to stay in Texas.  I did not find good jobs there, so I went back to school and continued my education.

Posted February 6, 2011 by Nancy Mathis in Uncategorized

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