Archive for the ‘Self Help/Support Groups’ Category

There’s a hole in my bucket dear Liza dear Liza, there’s a hole in my bucket dear Liza, a hole”.

My grandmother used to sing that children’s song when I was young but little did I know I would have a hole in my bucket (my soul) when I grew up because my caregivers were so focussed on each other and my father’s alcoholism they were emotionally unavailable to me.

As a result I developed coping mechanisms, ways to help me feel loved, wanted and accepted for who I am.  I tried to fill the gaping  hole in my soul  the only way I knew how as a child, by self medicating through fantasy and role-playing.

In essence, I stuck a band aid over my hole when I needed love and comforting.

Band aid’s eventually wear thin and get replaced with new ones, sometimes bigger and stronger.

I still carry my band aid close to my chest but it has served little purpose except to temporarily patch up my underlying problem – pain, loneliness and an inner longing to be loved, accepted and wanted by my family. 

I can scream, rant and rave that life’s not fair but it won’t change the fact that I cannot go back to my childhood to ask my caregivers to meet my un-met needs.

It is now up to me to fill the hole in my soul by reaching out to a power greater than myself to provide me with the love and acceptance denied of me in childhood.

I can do this by reading 12 Step and self-help literature, attending 12 Step meetings, talking to other members and/or attending counselling.

As I watch a few grains of yellow sand fall into my bucket I am reminded of what a slow process this journey is and every now and again the band aid comes away and I am reminded of the deep despair I carry within.


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I was reading some Twelve Step literature yesterday and related to a member’s share about wishing themselves away to another place or wishing they’d never wake up.

I remembered when I was young and had returned home from staying at my grandparents or my aunt’s house that I’d try and wish myself back to where I’d been. I’d dream of being in the room where I slept or being around the people I’d been with. I’d want to be anywhere but at home with my parents.

As an adult I did that too. I often dreamed/fantasized I was in a sanitarium taking a break from all the pain in my life or in hospital where I could just forget what was going on at home and take a break.

My memory made me wonder why as a child I would want to wish myself away from home so often. I must have hated it there so much and that troubles me as an adult today.

You see, I am like many other adult children, I can see some of my past but I can’t feel it. The memories are like a moving picture in my head with no emotion attached. Lack of feeling I believe is why many adult children say their childhood “wasn’t that bad”. They can’t remember the pain, they learned to stuff their feelings down inside themselves to cope, they minimised, denied or dissociated from their feelings/their reality.

There must have been a trigger in my readings last night for after I had finished sharing on Step 1 my partner and I went off to a new hotel that had just opened in our area. We did a little tour of the venue and as I walked into the pokie room I felt immediate anxiety. It was out of the blue, I am certain I was cool, calm and collected prior to entry for I would never had agreed to go out had I felt anxious.

My eyes averted from everyone in the room, my head went down, I felt a fear that someone would recognise me in that room but I had nothing to fear for if anyone did recognise me they would most certainly not be from my childhood nor a threat to me for I was on the opposite side of the city from where I grew up and it was now 26 years later!

The pokie room connected to the sports bar – uh oh! I could see all the men sitting at the table watching the various gambling results on TV, I could smell the beer in the air and I was terrified one of the men would gaze at me. Next stop was the bar – I couldn’t get away, I had to keep walking forward to get out as the hotel was circular.  The smell of beer was revolting and the eyes that looked my way drew a lump to my throat.

I drew a breath of air when we hit the bistro area and decided to sit down and have a cuppa. I was tense but I tried my best to hide it. A woman kept looking at me – did I know her? What was she gawking at! A man with his pants hanging down showing his crack walked past – a reminder of my father’s drunken days. I wanted to yell at him to sober up and pull his finger out!

My Bach Flower Remedy wasn’t working too well and I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough.

I tried to think of other things when I got home that night to calm my anxiety.

I cannot pinpoint the exact problem behind my reaction in the hotel however it is possible it was something to do with when I was bullied as a child. I have determined this because when I walked into the pokie room it was the females I was fearful of being known to, not the males. It was a small group of females who bullied me at school when I was a young teenager and who also lived a few streets from my childhood home. I felt I could not even go out to the shops around the corner from my home because I would be spotted and taunted or beaten up. The fear of being seen by my bullies haunted me for years and still can from time to time. As an adult I looked over my shoulder  for years and even now I still don’t feel safe around the places where I grew up. I can drive through them but hell would freeze over before I got out of the car!

I am now living in the opposite side of the city from my old home.  I feel safe here and I feel safe in the fact that 26 or so years later my face and the faces of my bullies have changed and are most likely not recognisable.

Bullying not only cripples the child but goes on to affect them in adulthood too. I understand there is minimal research into this claim however when I was facilitating an adult mental health support group, a good portion of members had been bullied as children.

Schools have a lot to answer for however I do believe our coping mechanisms begin at home.

Thanks for reading 🙂 

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I recently responded to a request for experience strength and hope in dealing with toxic families who have mental illnesses and possible personality disorders. This is what I said:
“I have a fair bit of experience with mental illness as it runs in my family of origin (depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia) plus I have depression and anxiety & mild agoraphobia and was wrongly treated for bipolar disorder for 2 years and my partner has depression and mild anxiety.
I also run a mental illness support group.
Firstly I don’t know how your husband’s family of origin act (if it is manipulative or aggressive for example) but I have found that dealing with people who are manipulative/aggressive,  I need to stay away for my own mental wellbeing. I have dealt with around 4-5 people in 2 years with Borderline Personality Disorder and I swore never to do it again for they have issues with anger and I would often be the butt of it. To me, those types of behaviours can be destructive to my mental wellbeing and I choose to distance myself from people who have personality disorders, especially ones who have not done D.B.T to help them control their emotions.
On the other hand depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and bipolar sufferers are somewhat “normal” and I find it easier to converse with them possibly because I understand how they feel and I can often make allowances for their behaviours if I know they are acting out of character.
My grandmother has schizophrenia and when she is not herself I feed sad for her and my mother helps her to ensure she gets the right medication to make her well again as the effects of her illness are apparent to my mother and her sisters and they accept it as part of life.
My counsellor on the other hand told me stay away from mentally ill people because they can “zap” me of my energy and serenity and are very needy however if I wanted to continue with the support group then I would need to learn to distance myself or not absorb the negative energy mentally ill people can give off. I chose the latter and being a “fixer”, it is very hard not to want to “fix” everyone who is sick and close myself off to their internal pain.
I do have a friend who is very negative when she emails me (she has bad depression/PTSD) and through this Program I learnt to stand back and let her go her on own journey for I was unable to convince her that I had already been there and done that and it became very frustrating for me. Now if she asks me questions I give her honest answers but I let her travel her own mental illness path. I also talk positive to her (and quite often repeat program talk to her) for I feel that is the best way I can keep encouraging her to move forward.
I have learnt that a lot of mental illness sufferers have their illness because of difficult experiences in their childhood and a lot sufferers would benefit greatly from 12 Step Programs. I don’t think it’s their fault (for it’s not mine that I was brought up in an alcoholic home) but understanding where it stems from helps me feel compassion for people who are in the same boat as me.”

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As I suffer from generalised anxiety disorder and various OCD symptoms such as the need to have things orderly, clean and perfect, I was wondering whether love and sex addiction is classed a form of OCD.

Some experts believe that sexual addiction is literally an addiction, directly analogous to alcohol and drug addictions. Other experts believe that sexual addiction is actually a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and refer to it as sexual compulsivity.

The American Psychiatric Association has proposed that out-of-control sexual appetites be included as a diagnosis in the next edition of the psychiatrists’ bible, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” to be published in 2013.

I located a very helpful article outlining the difference between sexual thoughts and compulsions being an addiction or an obsessive compulsive disorder. It is of course only one person’s view on the subject.

Here’s an extract of the article which summarises the outcome:

It cannot be overemphasized that the sexual obsessions in OCD are the opposite of the usual sexual daydream or fantasy. Normal sexual fantasies are enjoyable and generally harmless. They may consist of wishes or memories of past sexual experiences. However, the sexual ideation in OCD is unpleasant and distressing. The individual with OCD does not want the thought to become real. The idea of acting out the obsession fills the OCD victim with dread. Sexual obsessions in OCD rarely produce sexual arousal because anxiety and arousal cannot occupy the same space. As a result, OCD usually decreases sex drive. OCD sexual obsessions result in guilt, shame, and interfere with ocial functioning or work. Source:

Love Addiction

While I am unable to speak for the sex addict, to my knowledge and experience, love addicts (who can also act out sexually) do not have decreased sexual desire when in the midst of their fantasy or addiction nor do their experiences feel unpleasant or distressing.

I am lead to believe that love addiction stems from unmet childhood needs.  For example, codependent mum is too busy with alcoholic dad to worry about children therefore children use fantasy as a way to meet their unmet needs and as escapism from a difficult family environment.

There are various types of love addicts, here’s a link to help you figure out which one you might be: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_addiction

Healing from Sex/Love Addiction

Start by getting a good counsellor who is familiar with sex and love addiction and get involved in a 12 Step Program such as SLAA (Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous), SAnon (for love addicts and partners of sex addicts) or SA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) – for the sex addict). You will find the links to these Programs on my home page.  All three Programs have online support forums if you are unable to attend a face to face meeting.

Try reading as much material as you can about your addiction/s. Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody is a book that is highly regarded in the industry as are books on sex and love addiction by Patrick Carnes. Literature by both authors can be purchased from Amazon.com.

I tried for years to figure out what my problem was and I even sought help from the psychiatric industry for my thoughts, only to be medicated with antipsychotics for them and diagnosed with bipolar disorder (I believe my experience is very common).

It took me until I was 38 to realise that my fantasies were not a normal part of life. They used to (and still can) cause me the deepest depression and despair to the point where I wanted to self harm.

Early this year I accompanied my partner to a face to face SLAA meeting where I heard members speak about their experiences with sex and love addiction. Their stories hit me hard but also gave me great relief. They were talking about my life, I was one of them!  Finally I had found an answer to my problem. I was not alone.  My recovery journey began.

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It never ceases to amaze me about the things journalists come up with in the tabloids let alone the lengths families go to to  save their reputation and that of their loved one who has acted inappropriately.

Matthew Newton, son of Bert Newton – Australian icon. 

Latest article if you are not familiar with the reporting: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/08/30/2996958.htm

Let’s do a quick summary of Matthew’s father shall we?

Bert Newton – alcoholic, psychiatric ward stay, Electroconvulsive Therapy, caught drink driving on numerous occasions, lost licence, well-known assertion Bert assaults Patti (wife) during drunken rages.

Matthew Newton – Ice and Marijuana (and the like) addict, assaults first girlfriend, quashed case, assaults second girlfriend, psychiatric ward, mental illness, suicide watch.

I’m going to be very blunt here and say that it is blatantly obvious to me that Bert never learnt from his family of origin how to adequately deal with life’s problems therefore he turned to the bottle to suppress his emotions which subsequently ignited his internal rage that he took out on his wife using violence.

Matthew comes into the picture and doesn’t learn a healthy way of dealing with his problems from the male role model in his life (his God, his father). He learns by example to suppress not express his feelings and problems and turns to drugs and alcohol to kill his internal pain. He too (under the influence) takes out his internal rage on the women in his life.

Matthew may have a mental illness but I can bet your bottom dollar it was ignited by his drug use. To blame his actions on his illness is what makes society think all mentally ill people are dangerous. This type of reporting only serves to fuel public stigma, not reduce it.

We see and experience it all so often yet the tabloids continue to gloss over this family like they are “perfect” and have a poor mentally ill child.  When will the world realise that children are products of their upbringing?

Sure, Matthew’s an adult but so am I! We are of similar age. Had I have known back then what I know now I would have literally dived into Alanon a long time ago. There are people in their 50’s and 60’s who still don’t understand why their life has always been “up the creek”.

I feel for Matthew and hope that he finds the strength to get into and continue in a 12 Step recovery program like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous to help him deal with his demons for his failure to do so will spread the dysfunction down the Newton line. 

I have made an oath with myself that my family’s dysfunction stops at me.

Where does yours stop?

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The more I talk to people the more I see that “phone phobia” is a real issue with mental illness sufferers.

It’s probably more on the anxiety end of the scale.

I am definately phone phobic.  I never answer my house phone unless I have pre-arranged a time for someone to ring.

The mobile phone I will answer most times except if the number is a private number. Simply if I don’t know who you are I don’t pick up.

Phone phobia not only happens on a personal basis, it happens at work too.

It’s funny that when the topic of phone phobia was bought up in a support group meeting, how many people could relate to it and realised they were not alone. The majority of people in the room preferred email communication or they would monitor their answering machine before picking up calls. Phone phobia continued over into the office environment too with people preferring to email than telephone.

If I have to call a client I prefer to email instead. I am a heavy emailer at work and always ask clients for their email address. I often feel like I am bothering them if I have to call them about their business issues. I can be more precise in my emails and not flounder or stutter or admit I don’t know the answer to questions. Emailing feels like a safer way of communication for me.

Where does my phone phobia stem from? Mine started when I had various issues with some of my family of origin. My parents have a private phone  number and would call me on my home phone. A family secret was divulged to me by one of my parents but not to the other parent or my siblings. I carried that secret for 12 months before exposing it. During those 12 months I could not face the person whose secret I was carrying. I isolated myself from my family of origin and carrying someone else’s baggage made my mental state worse during that time. To me, my family was not what I thought it was afterall. We had cracks beneath the surface, cracks that were slowly opening up that the facade most common in an alcoholic home had covered for many years.

Things are still a little touchy at times with my family of origin which is why I am still reluctant to pick up the home phone. (Infact my mobile is ringing right this second but I don’t recognise the number so whoever it is can leave a message if they want something as far as I’m concerned. Now they’re ringing the home phone….don’t they ever give up?!).

I had a discussion recently with a partner of a recovering addict who also had “phone phobia”. Behind his phobia was the fear of people thinking he was a failure in his recovery for he had “slipped”. He preferred to isolate himself rather than reach out to his fellow 12 Steppers for help.

It seems fear rules many aspects of our lives.

How do you conquer your fear?

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Alcohol abuse and depression can be a deadly mix.

Often, a person with depression will also have alcoholism, and vice versa. In fact, 30 to 50 percent of people with alcoholism, at any given time, are also suffering from major depression. Family history of depression or alcoholism puts a person at greater risk for developing either illness.

While alcohol often causes a good mood at first, it is a depression causing drug.

Alcoholism may cause a relapse in people with depression. The depressive symptoms from alcohol are greater when a person first stops drinking. People recovering from alcoholism who have a history of depression should be carefully monitored during the early stages of withdrawal.

When a person suffers from major depression and abuses alcohol, he has a much higher risk of attempting and succeeding at suicide. Other facts:

  • Alcohol abuse can exaggerate depression and increase impulsiveness;
  • Alcohol is often detected in suicide methods involving driving a car or overdosing;
  • Alcohol impairs judgment, which explains its association with painful suicide methods.

Major depression and alcohol abuse are the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders in people who attempt suicide.

Recent studies also indicate that not only can the behavior of drinking parents bring about early childhood bouts of depression, but can effect the cognitive skills and IQ’s of their children.

Studies comparing children of alcoholics with nonchildren of alcoholics also have found that parental alcoholism is linked to a number of psychological disorders in children.

The results of several studies have shown that children from alcoholic families report higher levels of depression and anxiety and exhibit more symptoms of generalized stress (i.e., low self-esteem) than do children from nonalcoholic families

In considering children of alcoholics, it is important to remember that, although there is a genetic component to the vulnerability to alcoholism, children of alcoholic issues are not related primarily to alcoholism itself but to the social and psychological dysfunction that may result from growing up in an alcoholic home.

I am a child of an alcoholic parent. While I have two sisters, they never grew up with an alcholic parent as the age difference between us is 10 -12 years and the drinking had ceased by the time I was 18. Alcoholism can also occur from social pressure to drink. Pressure is on young people to drink to be popular and pressure can present itself in the workforce as well. I went for a job interview in a large legal firm and was told that going down to the pub every Friday night was part of their social culture and everyone was expected to go.

There are a number of ways in which alcohol and depression may be linked. 
  • Stressful life events can precipitate both alcohol problems and depression.  Over the last decade new research has shed light on the way alcohol affects the brain, and in the ways in which the brain is affected in depression. It is now known that some of the systems that are involved in producing the symptoms of low mood, anxiety, poor sleep and reduced appetite in depression are also affected by alcohol.

  • People with alcohol problems report more incidences of neglect and poor parenting as children than those without. These factors may also increase the risk of developing depression.        

Because of the risk of suicide, if you are or someone you care about is suffering from major depression and abusing alcohol it is critical that you seek prompt medical attention.

If you just can’t stop drinking, or can’t keep it to a safe level, you can get help from:your doctor, voluntary agencies that specialise in alcohol problems and self help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or AlAnon and Alateen.

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