Gun ownership is a hot-button issue in the United States right now: after multiple mass shootings that clearly involved perpetrators with mental health problems, many wonder whether or not EVERYONE should have the right to bear arms.
For the purposes of this blog, I will make a few quick points to get the politics out of the way. I’m NOT here to discuss politics. This blog is about helping individuals and families afflicted by Borderline Personality Disorder, a serious mental health condition.
1. Rights are not unlimited. All rights come with responsibilities. Decades old legislation and supreme court decisions have already excluded certain populations of people from owning firearms. Contrary to popular belief, this hallowed right is technically “infringed” upon quite regularly. Even the first amendment is constrained: you can not spew hate speech or incite violence without being held accountable. Like it or not, ALL of our rights as Americans have limitations.
2. If you have ever been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, you might still be able to legally buy a firearm depending on your state’s laws and the specifics of your committal. Privacy laws with respect to mental health are complicated. In most cases, you’re only flagged for “mental health” in the Federal background check system if a court of law determined you to be incompetent. Otherwise, if you were horribly depressed and cutting yourself, and were subsequently sent to a hospital per order of your psychiatrist, your name will probably never make the Federal database. Emergency commitments are different than legal commitments (please consult an attorney for further guidance).
3. “Locking up the crazies” is not the answer. The people spouting this nonsense typically have a few screws loose themselves. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of people with mental illness NEVER harm anyone. Some might not even self harm. Mental illness is not always permanent, and when treated correctly, people can lead full, normal lives. People with mental health challenges are more likely to hurt themselves before anyone else. Although there have been a few noteworthy cases of people with BPD who have committed murder, they represent a miniscule percentage of the entire BPD population.
Don’t confuse anger and emotional instability with a lack of empathy. People with BPD aren’t necessarily psychotic or sociopaths. Quite the opposite: most people with BPD have a keen sense of empathy (understanding the feelings of others) but are operating from an extreme emotional handicap that prevents them from interacting with people normally.
All of that being said, if you have a BPD diagnosis or know someone who does, a firearm/gun should be given to a trustworthy individual for safekeeping until further notice.
Suicide is often highly impulsive. Having a gun within arm’s reach makes suicide quick and easy. When someone is prevented from committing suicide, they often wonder what they were thinking after a couple weeks of emergency therapy. When abated, suicidal impulses will pass. This is well documented medical fact. People can eventually live happy, productive lives.
Of course, people will say suicide prevention is useless, since there are a myriad of ways to kill oneself. This is an intellectually dishonest position that fails to take into account the complications of jumping off a bridge, slitting one’s wrists, overdosing, or stepping in front of an oncoming train. When attempting suicide “in public” there’s a good chance others will stop you from being successful, hence the conclusion that suicide attempts are actually “cries for help” more than actual death wishes. Overdosing requires easy access to lethal medication and the ability to go absent long enough to die. Slitting one’s wrists is extremely painful and one can lose consciousness, and then wake up hours later in an emergency room after being found by a loved one. Suicide by firearm is extremely efficient and much different than other methods.
People with BPD are also prone to rages during which they will act violently, perhaps temporarily falling into a state of psychosis when under extreme emotional duress. Quick access to a firearm can have deadly consequences for a lover, friend, or family member unlucky enough to be in the path of a full blown BPD explosion. Yet, hours later, the individual with BPD will realize that their homicidal impulse was wrong and completely irrational. With therapy and medication, rages can be less violent and prevented. Like suicide, access to firearms makes homicide profoundly easy.
I have officially had BPD for 13 years. I do NOT own a firearm. I have self-harmed and acted violently, but never hurt anyone physically except for myself. There are a few scars and burn marks on my body to prove it. The damage I have done to others is mostly psychological and emotional. That doesn’t make it better than physical harm or “right”, but it does mean I still have a chance to salvage the relationships I have ruined.
If you have BPD and own firearms, large knives, lethal medication, or any other dangerous object, please give them to someone you trust during a moment of clarity for safekeeping.
If someone you love has BPD and they have access to dangerous objects, remove these items from their possession.
You will thank me later, especially if you or someone you love is suffering horribly at the hands of Borderline Personality. Firearms only complicate matters.
Over the past 10 days, I’ve bounced in and out of depression. Instead of having a productive day, I’ll get up, eat breakfast, and then be back in bed within 2 hours. When I attempt to sit down at my computer to work, I feel lethargic, uninterested, and drowsy. Sleep feels better.
The trouble is, I can’t always get to sleep. I end up rolling around in my bed feeling anxious or experiencing unsettling thoughts. Luckily I was able to sleep 2 days last week, and was helpful. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up with my exercise routine and fell off my work schedule.
When I don’t have a productive day, I get anxious I will not regain the focus to bounce back. Obviously we all need time to rest, but I fear “rest days” will turn into a permanent crutch opposed to a brief time to recharge.
What might be causing my depression and low mood?
1. Meds changes. I am coming off Welbutrin. I had been on 300mg XR for 10 years. My doctor and I decided to reduce it to 150mg XR for a month. Celexa 20mg was added for anxiety and to balance any withdrawal effects. Now 20 days into the meds change, my body should be adjusted to the decreased Welbutrin. It has a half-life of 20 hours, so I thought the most adverse withdrawal effects (if any) would have already passed. Perhaps the addition of Celexa and Welbutrin XR decrease are messing up my head?
2. Physical exhaustion. I started exercising to lose weight 13 months ago, and it worked. I actually completed my first distance race (a 5K) in 11 years a couple weeks ago. I’m never really content with being “somewhat” in shape and have been pushing myself to get stronger. I recently added long runs to my regimen. The early summer heat in Florida has taken me off guard. Last week before I fell into a depression, I finished a 6 mile run on a hot evening, and experienced some symptoms of heat exhaustion (nausea, profuse sweating, goosebumps, and chills). 3 hours later I recall feeling completely drained. I was depressed for the next two days. Maybe I’m exercising beyond my capabilities.
3. Anxiety. This has been alive and well inside me for years. No need to rehash it in another blog. After a while, the mind AND body tires of the “fight or flight” sensations anxiety produces, and depression can result.
4. Stressors. I have a few things going on in life that are stressful and have unknown, potentially highly consequential outcomes. I’m anxious about them. On some days I can focus on the rest of my life, but on others these issues consume me. You can only tolerate so much stress before your body shuts down.
5. BPD thinking. Like anxiety, BPD thought patterns are still prevalent, although I do have increased control over them. Battling these thoughts is tiresome. I wish I could have a few days off to truly mentally relax, but that isn’t always possible. Coping with items #1-4 would be much easier without the BPD wildcard, but it is still something I must tolerate.
During my therapy appointment today, it was suggested I should eliminate factors causing my depression by process of elimination, and then retool myself to balance better moving forward.
This is a rational and deliberate approach to addressing my concerns, but my fear is that taking too much time off will ruin my productivity and get me into bad habits.
To be fair, doing the same thing and expecting the depression to disappear on its own is insanity.
The frustrating thing with depression is that it happens in the first place. Why can’t I just be tired and need an extra hour of rest? Instead, my whole sense of self and entire day come crashing down.
It is a warning sign that something needs to be fixed, or that energy must be reallocated to more important areas of my life. Hopefully with some additional rest from exercise and relief from anxiety symptoms, I will feel better soon.
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CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a problem focused, action oriented therapeutic technique for helping people cope with anxiety, depression, and addiction. Patients learn to identify problematic thought patterns, then use various techniques to abate them. The goal is to recondition the mind to think more productively and positively, thereby elevating the patient’s mood and quality of life.
Anxiety has plagued me since my youth. Depression started mid-way through college and has persisted in various forms until the present. Prior to starting medication and formal out patient therapy following a borderline personality rage, I was subsisting on very negative thought processes, motivation techniques, and mental imagery.
Negative self-motivation might sound crazy to some people, but it literally became a way of life for me when I was tired and needed and extra “push” to get things done. Some people involved in sports might think of “negative motivation” as a coach using aggressive, overly critical language (to be mild) as a way to focus his/her players. This works with some people who are already innately motivated by positive thoughts. For those that rely on negative motivation, however, it only reinforces bad habits.
For example, I suffer from intense anxiety before races, sometimes even before intense workouts. This inevitably produces symptoms of extreme panic, including diarrhea and vomiting. Some athletes experience a “healthy” degree of nervousness before a performance event that helps them focus and use adrenaline to boost their competitiveness. In my case, all the adrenaline and “fight or flight” anxious thinking paints me into a terrifying corner that makes competition a horrifying experience. If I don’t vomit before an event, I might vomit during it, or most likely, at the end.
Races are supposed to be a chance to let loose, surprise yourself, and kick some ass. They are the venue where all your training and hard work pays off. The same is true for people who are musicians or singers: the stage is where the money is made. Students in high school or college might be extremely capable scholars but find they become very anxious before taking standardized tests because of their importance relative to moving up the educational chain. Anxiety and panic cancel all the gains made from practice and study before a performance event.
It’s a fairly simple:
1. Identify the negative thought.
2. Think, say, or make some gesture that means STOP. (Disarm the thought)
3. Focus on something else: peaceful thoughts, positive thinking, serenity, assertive thoughts (the glass is half full, etc.)
4. Repeat process if the thought(s) return.
Anyone can use this technique, and you don’t necessarily need a therapist’s assistance unless your thoughts are particularly troubling, pervasive, or so “routine” that you can’t think of any creative ways to interdict them.
The “Stop Thought Technique” is literally a mental exercise, not unlike working out to lose weight, training for a 5K run, or getting ready for football season. You are conditioning your mind to stop unproductive thoughts and replace them with positive thinking. Conditioning of any sort takes time, so you must be patient and persistent. There will inevitably be days when stopping thoughts doesn’t come easy, just as the aspiring basketball player will occasionally struggle with his or her shooting technique.
It took a long time for negative thinking to become a way of life, and it will take some time to replace it.
There are a few variations on the “STOP” declaration. Some people use a rubber band to lightly snap their wrist; others might literally scream out loud to scare the thought off; while others find they need a specific environment (ie. sitting quietly in a room, relaxing after work, etc.) to be more receptive to disarming negative thoughts. After stopping thoughts in a peaceful environment, they springboard to more stressful environments.
For me, being persistent will be the key. I’m at the point where I can identify negative thoughts, but still allow them to produce anxiety or rely on them as a motivational tool. The process is also graduated. That means you can’t expect to hit home runs on day one. Instead, like a beginning baseball player, focus on making contact with the ball; then move forward slowly.
Finally, coming up with positive thoughts to supplant the disarmed negativity can be challenging. Start off with a couple basic thoughts that give you peace, no matter how insignificant and build on them. Don’t worry how effective they are at holding off the bad cognition, just realize you are working on a process to improve yourself and that it will take time.
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PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – is a form of anxiety created after witnessing or experiencing an event that involved threat of injury or loss of life. In recent years, PTSD has gained more notice as troops from Afghanistan and Iraq returned home, sometimes after multiple tours of duty. While they were grateful to be back safe and sound, the events of combat created PTSD and resulted in troubled re-adjustment to civilian life. In extreme cases, PTSD has been noted in cases involving homicide and suicide.
You’re not morally or psychologically “weak” if you have PTSD
We expect too much from our soldiers. We can not expect them to shrug off the horrors of war without needing some form of therapy or group counseling with other veterans. In fact, the presence of PTSD in a soldier is evident of a healthy mind that suffered extreme stress, opposed to someone who returns with little perspective other than the number of enemies they killed. The latter case would be an instance of sociopathic tendencies that should immediately raise red flags. There is a difference between doing one’s duty and having callous disregard for human life; enemy or not.
Troops from World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam didn’t have PTSD – is this pop psychology or the result of coddling our youth?
No. Not in the least. The fact to the matter is, PTSD in troops has occurred in every war, we just didn’t recognize it as a sign of psychological stress until recently.
Sadly, our relatives who returned from major wars in the past few decades had little to no psychological support. What inevitably resulted? Alcoholism. Extreme depression. Suicide. Family dysfunction. Paranoia. Flashbacks. Extreme anxiety.
The fact that Uncle John “drank World War 2 away with Jim Bean and Jack Daniels” is neither healthy nor ultimately productive for his family. What might have been a typical case of PTSD went unchecked, and it resulted in an immense toll on John’s family, his relatives, friends, and children. Ask any child of a troubled former soldier what their father or mother should have done after the war, and most will say “get counseling”. Drinking, drugging, and denial ARE NOT viable solutions.
Mental Illness Still Has a Stigma Attached to it in the USA, particularly for our troops
In the USA, we like to think we are super strong, super confident, super tough, go-getters who feel nothing other than our own success and pride. The fact is, buried beneath this jingoistic hubris, we are still all human beings with feelings, emotions, and souls.
That you feel disturbed after watching your platoon mates dismembered during an IED detonation is completely NORMAL.
That you feel intense fear after losing a limb or taking a bullet in the line of duty is completely NORMAL.
That you can’t wrap your head around “normal American life” after spending several intense months witnessing the awful effects of war is completely NORMAL.
Those who deny these feelings are kidding themselves. They are compartmentalizing their lives and will eventually deteriorate, or spend the rest of their lives in a diminished state of living, forever haunted by what they experienced.
PTSD and other post-war psychological stress is best treated immediately, regularly, and among other veterans who know what you experienced. You don’t have lie on the couch of a psychiatrist and spill your guts. Instead, look for support groups, stay in touch with your military friends, and promise yourself you will do everything humanly possible to work through the stress.
One particularly successful method of treating PTSD doesn’t involve traditional notions of therapy at all. In fact, veterans are instead teamed with a trained dog who acts as a companion and helper. It might sound a little flaky to some people, but it has been extremely successful for some of the worst cases of post-war PTSD. Best of all, having an animal companion with you to help navigate day-to-day activities is nothing unusual or suspicious to other civilians: they see a man or woman with an attentive pet, not someone who is “weak” or otherwise deficient in character.
Before setting foot on the battlefield, our soldiers were unique individuals with various personality traits, personal histories, and stressors in their lives. Adding a traumatic experience to anyone’s “psychological history” will undoubtedly cause some disturbance in what is perceived as reality. Some of the toughest people on the outside are actually terrified inside. Their rough exteriors seems impressive and encouraging to others, but there is a cost to faking your way through life as if nothing bothers you.
If you or a family member has recently returned from war and are having trouble re-adjusting to life, you are NOT alone and NOT weak. Talk to other veterans and find the nearest meeting, support group, or PTSD screening clinic for a review. You wouldn’t return home with a physical wound left untreated and festering. Don’t ignore your mental struggles either.keep looking »