Mental Health App Review: Pacifica

The Pacifica app is a new find with a bit of everything to track and treat your mental health on the go. There are some great aspects of this well rounded app and some things I’d like to see improved. If you want the condensed version, Yes. I would recommend this to a friend.

What you’ll see first is the “Mood” screen. You can log your mood between “great” and “awful”. If you’d like, you have the availability to write in details associated with the logged mood. From this page you can also quickly navigate to a journal/thought log which you can do a minimalist version of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which is recorded and can be referred back to.

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This feature allows you to write a distressing thought, highlight the inaccurate or negative parts of the thought/feeling and recognize the cognitive distortions. What I appreciate about this bit of the app is that while it’s on my phone, I can conveniently plug in my negative or obsessive thoughts without having to scribble them down elsewhere and then transfer them to a journal I keep specifically for CBT. Seeing as how it’s usually too much of a hassle to keep my CBT logs together I don’t do them, this allows me to have them in some form. Cool, right? What I don’t like is that if you want to go back to edit the thought later, there is no option to.

There is also a Goals section. You can choose a long term goal (mine is “feel less stress or anxiety in social situations”) and choose daily goals. Write your own or pick from a large selection of pre-made challenges such as ‘sit in the front during class or a meeting’. There’s a tab that logs your completed challenges. Though this is nice in concept,

The Health section allows you to decide what goals you’d like to meet for yourself every day to stay well. Hours of sleep, minutes exercising, etc. If midnight rolls around and you forgot to check in, you can tap back a day and fill out the information (this feature is unavailable on the website). This is great for folks like me who tend to neglect remembering to fill it out until 12:02am and then have to back up.

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Social aspects of the app include Groups (“Groups are private chats centered around peer support”), and Community, which is more of a forum than a chat room. Again these are great concepts. I feel that Groups lacks the depth it could have. With hundreds of members in a 1 section chat room it’s hard to lose focus or let everyone have a turn like you can in a forum setting. However, in Community, which offers some more of that depth, it lacks in the availability of mental health support groups. I love that it has forum space for things like books and general community, but I would prefer to be in a forum about Bipolar Disorder (and OCD) rather than a chat room about it with people that tend to dominate the conversation and a lack of back to back chatter that makes a chat room a great place to communicate (you’ll see people responding every few hours or so instead of seconds).

For $3.99 a month you can unlock all of the meditations (“Relax Now”). There are 15 altogether. You get the first 4 free. I took the bait and gave them my money for a month and was able to review all of the meditations for you guys. I mean the only way to tell if they’re worth it for you personally is to try it, and I believe that they ought to give you a one month free trial option to begin with. I also think that one thing that would make a subscription worth it is if they were to give a different meditation every month or two. Even if they switched it out and gave a different one to replace it, I feel like I’d be on board for that subscription. For all the searching I’ve done for guided meditations, I find these pretty good. They’ve made fitting 5-20 minutes of meditation a day into my routine very easy. 1-5 a day is my goal, but the meditations don’t drag and are to the point which allows for the option of multiple before bedtime.

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Breathing is largely practiced across all meditations. Each meditation also has the opportunity to have either “No Soundscape” or any of these options to accompany the meditation: Ocean Waves, Thunderstorm, Summer Night, Rooftop Rain, Forest Morning, Bach Cello Suite #1, Underwater, White Noise. When the meditation is finished you can “return” or continue sounds. Minor interrupts are noticeable in some soundscapes when sound loop ends. They are most noticeable in the “unguided meditation” which I’ve found soothing to fall asleep to.

  1. Deep Breathing: (FREE) Text tells you when to inhale/exhale. There’s a visual that also widens/becomes smaller as inhaling and exhaling is prompted. You have the option to ‘play breathing sounds’. You can pick your breath length as well in 1 second increments (between 5-25 seconds – holy lord if you can do 25 second inhale/exhales).
  2. Unguided Meditation: (FREE) Just soundscapes here. Length between 5 and 30 minutes, increments of 1 minute. I tend to throw on 15 minutes of Ocean Waves and go to bed without anxiety of having not turned off the sounds. I love the timer option.
  3. Muscle Relaxation: (FREE) Tense up and release all over your body. One of the best ones.
  4. Mindful: Senses: (FREE) Grounding through the five senses. Guided attention from one sense to another. Good meditation.
  5. Mindful: Breathe: Awareness of body sensations while breathing. Attention to the fact your mind may wander and that it’s okay. What I like about THIS meditation in particular is that at the end you get some closure. It says when you’re ready to return to the space around you. They need this in more of them. The lack of ‘closure’ in some of these meditations is a big turn off for me.
  6. Mindful: Observe: Find a small physical object to hold in your hand during meditation. Focus on this item, guided examination of it, an open and closed eyes exercise. This would be a good soothing meditation in a public place with headphones if you were anxious.
  7. Mindful: Body Scan: Grounding through attention to your body in it’s environment. Virtually the same as the sleep meditation.
  8. Anxiety Emergency: Whereas other meditations start with breathing, this jumps first to tell you you’re going to be okay and these are just sensations that are real. “Trust you’re getting all the air you need in this moment.” Grounding using 5 senses. Good meditation. Then affirmations putting logic and control over anxious thoughts/sensations. I’m not a huge fan of all affirmations such as, “I am safe”. I mean I get it, but what if you’re not?! I think something like, “These thoughts can’t hurt me” would be better.
  9. Visualization: Pick your breath length before you start. It’s hard to navigate if you want to record your own mantra with the lack of instructions. They do have ones to choose from though if you’d prefer like, “This too shall pass” and, “I love myself”. Personally, not a fan of this one.
  10. Sleep: Focus on the body. Guided awareness of bodily sensations. I find muscle relaxation a superior meditation to achieve same end to sleep, personally.
  11. Gratitude: Focus on something you’re grateful for. ‘Analyze’ the goodness. Affirmations after. More generalizable than ‘cheesy’ self compassion mantras in later listed meditation. Nice relaxing exercise.
  12. Becoming the Tree: Visualize a tree you’re seen before with some significance. Attention to the environment that has an affect on the tree and how it stands strong regardless of environment. Tree goes through changes, so do you, blah blah blah. It’s decent.
  13. Difficult Experience: Visualize experience that brought up difficult emotions. Examples to help. Allow yourself not to suppress details and physical sensations. Label what you feel. Make it a physical item. I like this one a LOT, but the ending of it doesn’t make me feel super awesome. Perhaps I need more practice.
  14. Self Compassion: Environmental and inner state mindfulness. There’s a prompt to bring to mind something you’re self-critical about and bring attention to sensations in your body triggered by these thoughts then compassionate mantras.
  15. Intense Emotions: Focus’ on bringing attention to thoughts and feeling and to label them as being just that, while stressing that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. For someone feeling intense emotions, I’d recommend the anxiety or difficult experience meditations before this one, but it’s still a good listen.

Thanks for reading folks. Go on now, give it a try.

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A budding clinical psychologist with Bipolar I & OCD

At the end of the day I’m an angry old man who has been through the ringer with Lyme Disease, Bipolar Disorder, OCD and a LOT of associated anxiety. Right now I’m at the end of my rope with my life, and while I’m resting at the bottom I’m spending my time balancing rage over the poorly run organization I work for, depression, and my physical health. I’m going to make some changes, and I think some of the changes I’m planning on making would be beneficial for other people in similar boats. (Mine is periwinkle blue though and really hard to keep clean).

At work I’m the rock for the 4 women I take care of with intellectual disability. I chuckle to myself that I can play mom and advocate for them, but I’m terrified when I get a phone call or even get a car wash. I’ve had my car for 5-6 years now and never gotten it washed. How ridiculous is that to admit? And why? Pfft, I can do that CBT exercise where you work backwards to find out why it’s so scary and at the end realize, oh I don’t want to look stupid in front of people even if they’re strangers I’ll never see again, but beyond that, periodic exposure therapy hasn’t been that much help.

That being said, my first change is that I’m going to start cutting out sugars. I did some research on the effects of the body and mind and my three major goals are to reduce Lyme symptoms by feeding the bacteria with sugars, increase my concentration naturally, and have more energy. (Sleeping all day when you’re depressed is also really easy, but not very healthy) I don’t like taking 5 hour naps on my days off and feeling like I need to battle to stay awake every single day. It’ll be a slow process. Cut out pops, juices, desserts, drink more water, eat more lean meats and avocados, blah blah. It’ll also help me lose the weight I’ve been working on dropping with exercise 3 days a week. (That’s a healthy choice I’ve already made).

For the emotional component, I’ve started praying on the daily. I’m a Catholic but I don’t often get to church (Maybe if I had more energy I would). Seriously though that has little to do with the point of this paragraph. The prayer has given me some empowerment over things I can’t control. A little peace of mind and spiritual balance.

Got an autistic sister who you’re horrified for because she won’t express anything to you and has poor sleeping and hygiene habits and you can’t do anything about it? BOOM prayer for her. Obsessive fear (I’ve had this for years) that your house is going to burn down and everything you own destroyed forever? Pray to prevent it. Hey, I know prayer isn’t for everybody, but some sort of ‘spiritual’ balance could be helpful, even if it’s just a peaceful mindfulness that can be practiced. Throw out your positive vibrations into the world you hippies. Do what you have to do. On top of the praying I’d like to find some good guided meditations and practice relaxing my body and speedy thoughts. In the past I’ve done guided meditation and been talking in my head the whole time. It ruins it. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy I used to secretly look forward to guided meditation days, and tried SO hard to make it through the whole half hour long process without messing it all up by thinking.

Lastly, and this is more or less just for me, I’m at that point where I feel like I’m ready to leave my job. I’ve talked a lot in this blog about the injustice that happens there, and how I’m pretty much not interested in being involved in a place run like that anymore. I’ll try to stay in contact with the women so I can always support them to the best of my ability, but I also will never be able to afford an adult life on $12/hour and am shortening my life with the amount of time I spend upset on the daily. In fact my direct supervisor who is a hard working genuinely caring woman is quitting for the same reason after working there a much longer time, getting out of working with the population entirely, taking a HUGE paycut and going to be making what I make. That says a lot when you want to get out THAT bad. And I understand that 100%.

I’m making a change to work at a hospital or clinic I think, working on my updated resume now. When I have the degree in hand in a few months I’ll be qualified for a lot better jobs and would like the clinical environment experience behind me to nudge me in front of the next guy, even though I already have a a year and a half of experience in “the field” now. Psychology, by the way. And when I apply to grad school, I’ll have a year and a half of (unrelated) empirical research on mental health stigma (in particular, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), to take with me.

I know the rest of you out there on the sea of troubles are all coming out of different ports, but if I pass on my pirate knowledge and experience maybe it’ll help you battle the next sea monster. That’s always my #1 hope while in this blogging community. I mean that’s why we go to group therapy too, right? 

Anxiety: 89/100, Mood: Marvin the Depressed Robot from HHG2G

“Why did the chicken cross the road? Because his therapist told him to do more things that scare him.” I’m not surprised I ended up in the E.R. a couple of weeks ago with dire abdominal pain (Turns out I have gastritis, sudden onset). I swallow my anxiety and anger about things instead of working through my feelings in a healthy way. Like blogging! Whenever there’s a significant lull in my posts or general communication with friends and family I’m likely gorging on negative thoughts and thereafter gagging on my hangover from them. There’s unnecessary  guilt involved in self isolating too, which makes me isolate even more intently because suddenly the thought of anything else is so horrifying it affects me physically. “Want to come over? I miss you.” “Sorry, I’ve just had my legs gnawed off by a koala and won’t be able to make it until they grow back.”

Of course my job requires extreme social interaction, but it’s with a developmentally disabled population and I’m comfortable with them. I turn on the jolly when I get to work even if I’m convinced I won’t open my mouth or smile once that day. I’m also moving up in the ranks, I was hired for the first female CILA! Charmingly enough though, they’ve pushed back my start date three times, and my god. Showing back up to work after having said goodbye twice is one of the most humiliating, anger inducing, depressing feelings in the whole world. I was told I start this Tuesday instead of Monday (today) on Friday after work. Tomorrow I’ll be making the walk of shame one last day before switching, unless my boss who is my boss for one more day, will let me take a day off unpaid. Going to have to wait another 3.5 hours to find out about if I should be so lucky. I can’t see myself opening my mouth or smiling at all at work today. Seriously.

However, it’s not like I’ve been unproductive in my mental unease. I’ve been on a fantastic cleaning and re-organizing everything my family owns spree. “Today perhaps I’ll move all of my art supplies to another area in the room!” “I think the decor on the TV stand needs a complete revamping!” “Oh no, I’ve finished washing ALL the clothes in the house. WHAT DO I DO WITH MYSELF NOW!?” It’s relaxing for a half a moment following an accomplishment, until something else to obsess over pops up. Usually it surrounds my ongoing intrusive thought that something will spark from an outlet and my home will burn down and I’ll lose everything and my life will be ruined.

There’s also a few new developments in life that are kind of devastating…to me, and I’m masticating those at the moment because they’re fresh meat. Like…I just found out that even though I’ll be OFFICIALLY done with EVERYTHING this semester and able to graduate, I’m 4 months past the due date for graduating in December, and 2 days away from missing the deadline to graduate in May of NEXT YEAR. Wow how great it feels. I think if I can make it through today, I should be able to cope a little better by breaking things down, but this whole going to work thing today is pretty much a big glue ball of stress that’s grabbing with it all other things I need to deal with and making it slightly impossible NOT to want to hide in my head. CBT and all that are just too energy consuming right now and I’m probably not going to get more than an hour or two of sleep as is.

Accumulation of Frustration, Fear and Anxiety

I realized something while my mind was hosting a tea party with its mind teddy bears. When I came back to school from the year I missed to Lyme Disease, I was placed in an alternate school program four hours a day alongside taking my high school chemistry class on campus. I was 17 at the time. I was a hard worker regardless of my classroom and it frustrated me in this alternative program I was “stuck” with a bunch of delinquents who did as little work as possible in order to earn their high school diplomas. Of course bad behavior wasn’t the only reason people were in there, but the room was a challenge and the program a joke. In my opinion at least. There were ancient Apple computers running green screen programs that my peers would hold down the enter key to get to the quiz at the end in a matter of seconds and press random answers until they selected the correct answer and completed the assignment for the day. I remember sitting there with pen in hand taking meticulous notes on physics so I could honestly take the test and learn the material. It irritated me to no end that guys in the class would sit with the female “teacher” (and I use that term VERY loosely) and chat so they didn’t have to work. The male teacher gave slightly more attention to making sure the students were completing their work, but not by a landslide. The two were more friendly businessmen than instructors. Aka they were pretty lazy at their jobs. Now here’s where the point comes in.

My co-workers at my job are just as incompetent in an environment in which the clients and the state rely on us to assist in the development of daily living and work skills for an equally challenging population. It’s just a perfect example as to why it’s important I continue my education and work as hard as I can in the social services field, because the other guys are not. Chit chatting with high functioning clients and sitting on your phone’s while leaving low functioning clients to stare at whatever was plopped on the tables are just unacceptable behaviors. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system.

Aside from my work frustrations my anxiety is boiling quietly in the home stretch to improve my research paper into its final form by April 30th. My fear of failure is hosting its own tea party. In order to project my stress I’ve been engrossed in a MMORPG and making impulsive purchases with impending regrets. I’m mindful enough at least to remind myself to stay mindful.

It’s one of those periods where I’m taking it one MINUTE at a time. I am hypersensitive emotionally and physically right now to the NNNth degree.

When It’s Out of Your Hands, What Can You Do?

Decay. It’s a generally awful emotional and physically sour feeling that’s only offset by the new LED (color changing) tea candles I placed in glass holders I got from the dollar store yesterday that are illuminating my dark room. Since I started working full-time this has become a routine feeling on Sunday nights. Usually Sunday’s are when I sit down with myself and rage about the big depressing offenders in my life whether I want to think about these things or not.

Tonight’s reasons why I feel like I’m decaying are as follows:

1. Finances. Two weeks ago I slipped and sprained my spine and neck. I’m healing, though slowly, and I missed out on a week’s pay as well as gotten written up for poor attendance even though I had three doctor’s notes. You know 9/10 times a co-worker who sees something drop will not pick it up for me even if I’m wearing a back brace and knows I’m not allowed to bend? For example, a client in a walker’s hat fell to the floor. The co-teacher subbing for my regular partner saw this, and passed both of us by.

2. Work. I wish the state would make their yearly visit to check up on the facility I work at already and catch-all the sons of b’ches (TEACHERS! STAFF!) who are sitting around on their phones or leaving their assigned rooms to socialize in other rooms OR EVEN SLEEPING DURING CLASS TIMES and teach them a lesson. Also, I’d like them to see how in the lowest functioning room all of the activities are missing pieces or the pieces are all mixed up in different activities to sort which don’t belong together and the only reason those two things are occurring is because of the laziness of the staff. Even the fact that staff see marker’s are sitting there uncapped, they don’t even say anything to the capable clients to cap them OR to take matters into their own hands. When I had to sub for a half hour twice last week in that room I was so disgusted I felt like throwing a HUGE fit. But if I do? Nothing will happen. None of my concerns to my immediate supervisors/boss are addressed. If anything, I’m just set to be made to feel uncomfortable.

You know that in my three-month review I was told that because I told my co-workers we couldn’t go through a client’s bag without their permission because it was against client rights that I have to work on my communication skills with them? No ******* joke. It’s going down in my file as a mark against me. I’m SO glad to be working with “A” in the class I’m in right now. She’s like a trustworthy aunt who shares my work ethic. We’re about to lose some staff when the small group homes open and we’re starting two new male staff in the coming weeks. We had one new female staff start when I was out that week with my spinal injury and my impression of her thus far is that she’ll fit right in. That being said there is nothing positive I have to say about her. Get a job prostitution is my suggestion to more than half the staff. They already suck **** at their jobs. These are intellectually and developmentally DISABLED people that we, the staff are RESPONSIBLE for. It’s unfair.

3. General Health. Following up on the fact that my back still hurts, I also feel that centipedes under your skin hypersensitivity that only Lyme Disease can give you and I’m just straight up physically uncomfortable in my own skin. My sleep is poor and my fatigue is out of control. I’ll likely need a change of…

4. Medication. I need to call the community mental health center and get an intake appointment scheduled. I’m scared about doing it, but I need a psychiatrist I can see at only hours that they can provide. I likely need a little medication tweaking, as well as I’d like to get back on ADD meds which I could benefit from so much right now, and my thyroid may be the source of my fatigue which gives me anxiety because finding an endocrinologist I can see at convenient hours will also be difficult. Especially one that takes public aid.

5. Travel and Punctuality. It’s nearing the 10 days in which I get to dogsit and though I’m THRILLED for the little mini-vacation, I’m going to be doing a LOT of driving to and from work and the apartment, then to school, all places that aren’t very close to each other. The driving doesn’t concern me, but the “Oh god I hope I get there on time.” dread is already getting to me. The days I won’t need to travel and stalk the city streets for parking will be welcomed with open arms.

School. After finding out that my adviser was going to be leaving the university he passed me off to two candidates he felt would be able to help me get my independent study underway. One said she’d be taking a leave of absence in the fall and wouldn’t be able to help me either, the other passed me off to someone else who pretty much stopped communicating altogether and very obviously did not want any part of it. So I sent an e-mail earlier today to the original advisor, letting him know that now I’m an extra semester behind in doing the last thing I need to do so I can graduate. It’s not my job to know exactly what I’m supposed to do without any guidance. If it was, and I did know, I’d be done yesterday. I feel like ALL my confidence I had at the beginning of the semester has been pulverized, and even the anxiety I wasn’t feeling at the beginning of my lab class is catching up with me.

So yeah. By the end of every day since we’ve last spoke WordPress, I’ve pretty much felt pretty hopeless. I hope all of you guys out there are staying strong and kicking ass. I’ll catch up with you folk shortly.

Carve Your Heart Out Yourself

My dad was vacuuming the stairs when I told him I wanted to switch majors from marketing to psychology. He made a joke of it at the time and I felt miserable. Now I wonder of its the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life.

This isn’t the first night I’ve lost sleep over how long it’s taken me to finish my undergraduate degree, but it is the first which I’ve posed that particular thought. I spent the past five-ish years just destroying my life, not doing well in school because of ADHD or Bipolar episodes or that HORRIBLE year long agoraphobia which kicked it all off. I basked in hiding and avoiding and got really good at it. When it came out that I completely SCREWED myself no one was happy, but I was forgiven by my immediate family (The extended family is still wondering wtf my problem is). Watching my GPA fall for no good goddamn reason other than I’m a complete mentally ill screw-up (Chris likes to point out how bad I am at life which doesn’t help my self-hatred) the past few years has been heartbreaking.

I just worked up the courage to do something I’ve been avoiding for nearly a year: e-mailing my school councilor in the department to see if I can make an appointment and see what I have left to graduate. I did it a couple times over a year ago and then ended up getting too terrified to go to those appointments. I’m PRETTY SURE it’s just the Capstone project and the senior lab class…but they both give me insane anxiety. Firstly, I wasn’t properly trained for the SPSS program that gets used in the lab class and I’m terrified it’ll screw me over and secondly I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do for my Capstone. I looked into what classes I would need to finish my undergrad in Anthropology (my minor) or Marketing, but I seem to have several classes left to complete for either. Shit, I was amazing at History in community college, I should have gone into that. I wouldn’t have a Capstone to complete in any of those fields. This fucking Capstone is eating at my insides. Just the IDEA of it has been haunting me the past couple years.

I spent this semester off looking for a job. Well, I’m still unemployed. I have a phone interview coming up for a position as a Behavioral Therapist at an entry level which is INSANELY AWESOME but I’m so run down from being shot down from all the jobs I’ve had interviews with that I feel like there’s no reason to get my hopes up. It won’t stop me from doing my best to get the job though. Being a therapist for autistic children or troubled youth has been something I’ve felt would be rewarding and I’ve been trying to get into. I figured with my degree I’d work my way into being a high school psychologist.

I think maybe I should be able to sleep now getting all that out. All I want to do is win the lottery and never have to think about all this pressure to graduate and make a legitimate living for myself as soon as possible. Some days it feels like I just want to be dead so I don’t have those problems, but I’ve learned that I really don’t want to die, so by default I’m screwed…

Milking the Mind

My daily thoughts and grievances have been thrown into the minds bottomless junk drawer the past few weeks. Items big enough to ruin my day and feed my depression but not clunky enough to blog or talk about. Depression stunts your social skills. All of my unpasteurized thoughts are both rich and creamy, but unannounced to the rest of the world, tainted with the sort of bacteria that sometimes festers in unpasteurized milk. The kind of bacteria that one may be a carrier of, and may pass on to their newborn who, without medical attention, can’t survive. I don’t want to be a bother with my thoughts, and let their bacteria-esque essence damage my words or actions, which leaves me silent, no birthed words for days at a time, followed by a lot of pent-up guilt.

If I can’t bring myself to communicate online or on the phone, I find myself writing in my journal, but not necessarily about the events of my day.

When I was a kid, one way my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder manifested itself was into hordes of information about celebrities (Robin Williams being one- RIP) into a teeny little binder with lined paper and japanese characters. As I got older the lists grew into cataloging every spell cast in the Harry Potter series and what they did. Some years I re-create the same ol’ lists with a few new items tucked in. Artists I’ve listened to (regardless of my liking for them), 13 years of songs I’ve enjoyed written in a by-year fashion, what I’d like to do on family vacations (to the WI Dells and Walt Disney World in particular) as well as what the budget would be for those trips.

It’s calming to write and re-write said lists in every new journal. I’ve even gotten better in the past few years at finishing an entire journal, rather than leaving the last quarter or half blank for no good reason other than the gross need to start all over again in a new one.

Sometimes I cheat. I’ll leave a few pages at the end blank or write REALLY BIG to fill a page. I’ve fallen under the, “write until your hand hurts and then keep going keeping your handwriting and spacing uniform and appealing” spell more times than I can count. Even while journaling, if I need to cross something out it must be neat, and more than once a page for balance or it leaves me unsettled.

Unsettled, yes. I feel unsettled with the world around me. May my lists be long and my tongue un-stick itself so I can go back to showing support to the people who I know care enough to want to support me. Fellow bloggers included.