Sunday, March 27, 2022

Charity Sunday March 2022: American Art Therapy Association


For this month's Charity Sunday I will donate $1 for every comment received to the American Art Therapy Association. 

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, non-partisan, professional, and educational organization dedicated to the growth and development of the art therapy profession. Founded in 1969, the American Art Therapy Association is one of the world’s leading art therapy membership organizations.

If that's all you want to know, then feel free to skip my forthcoming blather and leave your "I Was Here" in the comments. On the other hand, if you are bored or otherwise interested in what spews forth from my cross-wired, scrambled, and otherwise askew brain, stick around. You either won't regret it or you will.

You can consider the forthcoming brain spew to be part of a WIP. It has been my goal for many years now to unleash a helpful (or not entirely helpful) autobiography/book of suggestions for developing the confidence not only to create but to unleash your creations on an unsuspecting world of people who don't understand you, don't like you, and don't care about you or your work while hoping to reach that select few who will appreciate it. 

I have started and stopped this project many times. I think I'm about ready to pull the trigger on the starting gun and let it run wild. You can read one of the potential chapters below. Or not. It's up to you.

Here is a link to the other posts. I didn't end up on the list because I'm a stupid asshole and forgot to put myself on there.

In my younger days, I enjoyed mind-altering drugs quite a lot. Anything that allowed me to forget my despised self and my shitty reality was a welcome companion. My party pals thought I was a bit nuts when I said that I'd rather sit in the corner drinking a six-pack by myself than hook up with a random dude for meaningless sex, but I didn't really give a rat's ass what they thought. I liked my substances, and it felt like my substances liked me. 

There are things that I'm starting to understand now that so many decades have passed between me and those days of smoke and drink and the occasional pill or hit of acid. I really hated myself and I was dying to escape the garbage reality that was my life. I wouldn't have minded if I'd literally died. 

I was self-harming, and I made a half-assed suicide attempt that landed me on the psych ward for a weekend. While on the psych ward, I received lots of compassionate help, learned that I was a wonderfully worthwhile young lady, and never touched alcohol or drugs again.

Psych! I'm just messing with you.

The truth is the staff on the psych ward psychologically abused me and I learned I couldn't trust fuckers in the mental health profession. They were more screwed-up than me while thinking they were better than me, plus they were assholes. I was right back to partying as soon as I could get out of the house and I still hated myself. 

There was a bitch of a nurse who told me I was a freak and a freak like me could never be normal.

The clown of a shrink diagnosed me as a "hysterical neurotic."

I was later diagnosed with "borderline personality disorder." Allow me to tell you what I think of the "borderline personality disorder" diagnosis. It is overwhelmingly applied to women and girls. It is the modern "hysterical neurotic." Every girl or woman branded with the "borderline personality disorder" label is struggling with unresolved trauma. 

I doubt that I would be diagnosed with "borderline personality disorder" these days, but it isn't because I've been "cured" of "borderline personality disorder." You can't be "cured" of an ailment that doesn't exist.

So, if I didn't have "borderline personality disorder" and I wasn't a "hysterical neurotic," what was going on?

I had unresolved complex PTSD. I had been misunderstood by my family from birth and abused by my schoolmates from the first day I set foot in a classroom. My mother always told me what an awful baby I was because I never slept more than two hours at a time. When I was a year and a half old, my clown of a pediatrician prescribed phenobarbital. My mother told me I was awake for three days straight after taking it. 

Granted, it was the 1960s so giving a hard drug to a toddler wasn't unheard of, but I don't care. What kind of ass clown gives phenobarbital to a toddler?

My parents came from the school of thought that if you hold a child too much or respond to them too quickly when they cry, you'll spoil them. They never beat me but were quick to whack me on the backside for the kind of mistakes that every kid makes, such as dropping a glass of water. 

From my earliest memories, I was always extremely high-strung, petrified of making a mistake. I was so anxious that I sometimes had painful muscle spasms in my neck. I vomited in secret almost every day because my anxiety made me sick to my stomach. I felt like I was bad, wrong, and a mistake.

When I was in my late thirties, a compassionate counselor diagnosed me as having type 2 bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She was incorrect and in retrospect had a case of seeing type 2 bipolar everywhere because her adopted son had the condition. However, the diagnosis seemed to make sense. 

I was on a constant emotional rollercoaster. I had a history of impulsive behavior. I had (and still have) difficulty with housekeeping. I could keep a job if I landed one that worked with my idiosyncrasies but otherwise, my work history was spotty. I enjoyed a job for a while and then got bored with it and started calling in. I would fall into severe periods of depression because I was so ashamed of my inability to be normal.

I developed type 2 diabetes at age 49, which didn't surprise me because the rest of my endocrine system is pretty much a trash fire. When I was in my early 50s, my endocrine problems plus my many years of working physically demanding jobs started catching up to me. 

By the time I was 52 years old, I could no longer work in the healthcare field. I delivered groceries for a while until I severely injured the median nerve in my left arm. For a little over a year, I delivered food for a cool little delivery-only kitchen in LoDo (Denver). Then my son and I had the opportunity to move to a house in a literal ghost town on the northeastern plains of Colorado and we took it. I applied for disability.

I had been taking a low dose of Lithium Orotate for years. I didn't want to take Lithium Carbonate because of the side effects and because the therapeutic dosage is extremely close to toxic levels of Lithium. I learned the hard way that SSRIs and I do not get along. They cause me to have psychotic reactions. So I don't take psych meds despite presenting with a major mental health condition. 

While going through the process to qualify for disability, I could not afford Lithium Orotate. I realized I don't have bipolar disorder when I experienced no mood swings without the supplement. 

In the past, my anxiety about work consumed me. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get enough sleep, worried that I'd oversleep, worried that I'd be late, worried that I'd fuck up on the job, worried that I'd fall asleep during my shift, worried about money, and worried about everything else I was doing wrong. It was exhausting. When I no longer had to worry about punching a time clock or working a job I could finally examine certain events in my life.

I knew now that I never had bipolar disorder and the more I read about borderline personality disorder, the more I realized that it was a bullshit sexist diagnosis. I also started questioning the obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis. I started learning about ADHD in adults and realized that all along my family, my peers, and my teachers had scolded and shamed me for behaviors consistent with ADHD.

I never considered that I could have ADHD because my behaviors didn't fit the stereotypical disruptive boy who can't sit still model. Obviously, I wasn't a boy. I was a well-behaved girl. I was shy and quiet. I sat at the back of the class. I doodled a lot totally took notes during the teacher's lecture. I was a B student who turned in my assignments on time and totally never waited until the last minute to do them--nope, not me! 

Part of this statement is true. I turned in my assignments on time. I was a great bullshitter and could determine what teachers wanted in a paper, so I did well in classes like English and social sciences. I did well enough in biology but chemistry and physics confounded me. I had trouble with math beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and I still do. If the world depended on my being able to complete a simple Sudoku puzzle, we'd all be fucked.

As an adult, I had difficulty paying attention during meetings. Office jobs weren't a good fit for me. I did better with jobs that had a physical or technological component. Since women weren't encouraged to go into fields like IT, I ended up doing a series of low-paying jobs such as bundling papers at the local newspaper for dispatch to the mountain towns, working in the cafeteria at CU Boulder, or working at an Orange Julius clone in the nearby mall. 

Eventually, I got sucked into working as a nurse's aide at the long-term care center where my mother worked, and I hated it. Working in this hell hole while pregnant led to my 119th nervous breakdown. I was an extremely troubled young woman, but I got no help. I got scolded for being a fuckup and threatened with the loss of my job.

I am now learning by trial and error how to navigate life with ADHD without taking medication. I don't do well with medications that affect my mind. I long ago got into the habit of always putting my keys in the same place. Prior to doing this, I was always misplacing my keys. Using techniques like this makes life with ADHD more manageable.

Being scolded and berated for having difficulty with focusing and time management does not help people with ADHD, and I don't think that medication is necessary in most cases. Some people swear by medication, and if you are one of those people, by all means, keep taking it. I'm not a doctor. I just know that for me, medications that mess with my brain and nervous system are a no-go. 

I don't respond well to medications or to standard methods of therapy. I don't like feeling like I'm being judged. The few times that I've engaged in what one might deem "art therapy," I've found it very helpful. On one occasion, I painted a self-portrait using only primary colors and basic shapes. I loved the Picasso-esque outcome. Like me, this portrait has a resting bitch face that never rests. After painting this picture I felt relaxed, hopeful, and, dare I say it, I felt happy. 

This is part of the reason I can't only write for submission to publications. If I'm constantly being judged I start to wither. Above all else, my writing must be right for me. Writing is the one thing that I'm consistent with. I don't really know how to do anything else; it's write or die. I'm sure that some people who read my writing wish I'd die. They'll get their wish someday, but for the moment, I'm still here, and since only the good die young, I may be around for a while.

It's time to change the way we approach mental health therapy. Most psychological conditions are maladaptive coping mechanisms rather than organic brain disorders. Conditions such as ADHD result from brains wired differently than the expected norm. These aren't "bad brains" but result in different learning styles than those of a person with a "neurotypical" brain. 

It's time to recognize and work with our differences rather than expecting everyone to conform to the same standards. Trying to fit into a mold that doesn't suit you never ends well. In the end, something has to give. Either you break the mold (please, break the mold!) or trying to conform to the mold destroys you.

~Ornery Owl Has Spoken~

Free use image from Open Clipart Vectors

The Icky, Sticky, Nit-Picky Legalese If You Please (Or Don't Please)

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  1. Great post. I learned from it. You brought up things I'd never considered. This: "Conditions such as ADHD result from brains wired differently than the expected norm. These aren't "bad brains" but result in different learning styles than those of a person with a "neurotypical" brain." Wow...

  2. I hope you do get that book finished.

  3. Hello, Cie,

    "It's time to change the way we approach mental health therapy. Most psychological conditions are maladaptive coping mechanisms rather than organic brain disorders."

    This is so true! Thank you for your honest (and at times quite funny) biographical sketch.

    And thank you for joining Charity Sunday! When I was in the psych hospital, I did a lot of art therapy. Then my shrink and I would discuss what I'd drawn. It did, often, give me some unexpected insight into what I felt and believe.

    Big hugs to you!

    1. You're lucky you got a shrink like that! Mine was this ass clown who came in with a belligerent attitude, started barking out questions like "do you hallucinate?" and proceeded to give me his business card.
      My answer to the "do you hallucinate?" question was "only when I'm dropping acid." He didn't like that.


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