Alcohol & Drug Abuse in Mental Illness

Kendra explains the common reasons why alcohol and drug abuse is prevalent in those suffering from mental illness and the inherent dangers

mentallyfit is presented by Kendra Fisher

Podcast length: 14’09” 

Kendra FisherOn this week’s episode Kendra Fisher shares some of her experiences while offering advice and information on alcohol and drug abuse, including prescription medication as it pertains to mental health. She explains with the definition around addiction and how it pertains to mental illness and quite honestly addiction is on the DSM for mental illness. It’s not one or the other. It’s often runs of a concurrent disorder. kendra believes that we have this, especially in the athletic world; we have this belief that we have to be able to maintain ourselves. We tend to not necessarily reach out when we need help and instead we look for the things that we can use to get through on our own.

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[00:00:01] Hello and welcome to mentallyfit the podcast discussing topics related to mental health and LGBTQ issues. I’m Kendra Fisher Canadian hockey goalie and if you’re a new listener to this show you can hear my previous episodes at where you can also find the full transcripts on the show. Listen and then click on mentally fit. The show gives me the opportunity to share my experience with you and offer some advice on how to cope with mental illness. It’s so important that you know you’re not alone and that we have the tools to call on when we need them. I spent a lot of time now giving talks on the subject and on this episode I’d like to share with you some of my information on alcohol and drug abuse including prescription medication as it pertains to mental health. I’d like to start this obviously with a little bit of definition around addiction and how it pertains to mental illness and quite honestly addiction is on the DSM for mental illness. It’s not one or the other. It’s often runs of a concurrent disorder. And I think that we have this especially in the athletic world. We have this belief that we have to be able to maintain ourselves. We tend to not necessarily reach out when we need help and instead we look for the things that we can use to get through on our own.

[00:01:34] And I think that that’s probably in my mind again relating to athletes especially where we get in to a lot of the self medication and and when I say self medication I’m speaking about a lot of the behaviors around using alcohol and using drugs and prescription drugs to kind of maintain our our sense of balance. And as always I like to draw on my own experience. I feel as though I’m I’m certainly capable and within my rights to discuss what I know to be true based on what I’ve been through my diagnosis for those of you who haven’t listened to this show before I was diagnosed with anxiety depression agoraphobia ocd panic disorder and panic attacks at a young age but not young enough. And when I actually was diagnosed I was at rock bottom. I was in my late teens. I was just making Team Canada and I was actually in a position where I was forced to quit. Team Canada but leading into that diagnosis I went through a lot of process around getting diagnosed and a lot of the symptoms that I was feeling a lot of what I was going through. Nobody could explain. Nobody could explain why all of the sudden getting to the rink to play hockey was that much more challenging while being in a car it was make me feel like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. And unfortunately in our teenage years and in those transition years between high school and university especially we we tend to rely on what’s in our environment to get us through. And I think that these are the age categories where we see a lot or people turning to you know going out in the social environment and going out to party. And I found myself in the same situation. I found myself at a place where I was in a new city.

[00:03:35] I was by myself and I had a lot more freedom to to act how I wanted to act without necessarily having the direct supervision of having my parents around and I got to a place where what what began as a very social thing what began as going out with my friends to party on occasion it became something that I started to rely on. I started to feel the symptoms of mental illness a lot greater. And I started to realize that I could drown that out I could drown that out if I had a few more drinks and I could drown that out if I just kind of stayed in that state of I guess oblivion. I guess I just got to a point where I was very much drinking to make those feelings go away and it became an issue for me it became an issue. I was drinking more and more on a daily basis just trying to cope with those feelings so that I could maintain that image of an athlete I could maintain that image of somebody had it together and was strong and was as capable and it became so dependent for me as a tool that I didn’t realize the harm I was causing myself. Skip forward a little bit I get my diagnosis and I’m I’m explain the realities behind the effects that alcohol and drugs have on the health and mental illness. And I learned the really hard lesson that I may have been responsible for for my much quicker decline to rock bottom simply by engaging in those behaviors.

[00:05:28] Alcohol is a depressant and unequivocally if you’re dealing with issues that you feel as though you’re not controlling your mood or that you’re feeling as though you need to be in an alternate state. What I’ve learned and what I found was that actually I was forcing myself further into that state. And the I guess the cycle became one of I believed that I needed that that drink I needed that feeling to escape it. And the reality was when I was coming back out of that influence I would be worse than I was before. And it became such a dangerous cycle. And furthermore less relevant to my story but I’m not suggesting that I ever was without. I absolutely have tried marijuana as well to self medicate and a lot of people speak about the use of marijuana and the use of substances along these lines to cope with anxiety to cope with stress to cope with those feelings of just being out of control and we have this misconception that that you know we will just calm you down. And yes it’s true for some people and yes there’s a whole field of medicinal marijuana that I can’t speak enough to because I’m not educated enough in it and perhaps there are parts of it that can be useful with just with a doctor’s supervision. But what I can tell you when equivocally is that it’s been discovered and realized that marijuana has the ability to push somebody who’s predisposed to living with mental illness into psychosis. It has the ability to trigger something in an individual that may never be triggered otherwise and put them into a state of psychosis and that puts you into a realm of existence that you may never recover fully from.

[00:07:30] And your ability to come back from is going to be limited because you’ve now flipped a switch that has changed the composition of what’s happening in your brain. And I feel like this is such an important topic because we are in a place right now where we are in crisis or around drug use and and mental illness. And when we think as well about all of the other facets around drug use that I had no time to go on about. But I mean you look at the crisis around around fentanyl and the crisis of opioids and people using these things to get through their days and the severity of what these reactions are and what the the overdose rates are getting to be had. I can only speak to Canada unfortunately I don’t know the statistics down in the States. But I mean in Canada right now you can’t get in your car and drive without being recommended to go to your local drugstore and pick up a kit to help somebody in case you come across somebody who’s overdosed and fentanyl was present because it’s become such a crisis. And all in all what I want to say is I very much understand the desire and the drive to rely on substances as a coping tool. But the education behind this in my experience behind this which is is education based. It just it doesn’t work no matter how much you feel as though you were are bettering your situation or controlling the symptoms you are in fact making it worse for yourself.

[00:09:08] And what I want to say to those people is as hard as it is and as much of a struggle as it is this is something else that we really need to reach out for help with because it’s it is not an effective coping mechanism. It’s not a in effect strategy and in fact you are going to come out a bit worse. Unequivocally every single time. And I just I really really want to urge people to take a step back and really learn the science behind alcoholism the science behind drug use and what it’s actually doing to your body in order to numb those those feelings that you feel as though you’re coping with and instead start reaching out for more productive and healthier ways to cope with what you’re feeling. And on top of that especially in the athletics world again coming back to this we need to get a lot more acceptance and having people reach out and say I’m not doing OK which is extraordinarily difficult for somebody to do when they feel as though their livelihood or their ability to succeed in what it is they are doing is directly affected by saying I’m not at my best for an athlete. That means saying to a coach or saying to a therapist I might not be at my best right now. And the fear then is the repercussion might be you’re not on the team anymore. You don’t have the ability to succeed at this anymore. Whereas I challenge those coaches and I and challenge the entire infrastructure of sport and organization to understand that we’re willing to work with athletes on physical recovery. We’re willing to work with an athlete who blows their knee. We’re willing to work with an athlete who you know breaks a leg.

[00:10:50] We need to be as willing to work with athletes who are struggling with drug use and struggling with coping coping tools in general and help them find the healthy and productive resources to cope with what it is they’re going through mentally. And I assure you I can attest to this you’re going to get your best version of any athlete out of somebody whose mental health and physical health are at their best and we need to start treating them as one and the same. And I feel as though this is just something we need to talk about more because it’s something that we privately rely on. And I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Mental illness isn’t something that we should be dealing with in private. It’s something that we need to build a support team around us and we need to be able to reach out and feel as though we have a safe environment to come from. And that means starting to eliminate these behaviors in these these alliances that are just so unhealthy and detrimental to people. I guess that’s kind of where I’m going to leave that today. I know there’s so much more we can discuss on this.

[00:12:00] And please if you’re if you’re looking for further information on any one of these check out check out or information on social media and I’m happy to speak to anything that you question. You can check out my web site mentally for more information as well. We have the resources to share your own experiences and conversations on the web site and engage in conversations around this and find some of the tools to learn more. You can also follow mentally fit on Twitter @ mentally_fit on Instagram @mentallyfitmf and you can find me on Facebook under Kendra Fisher on Instagram @kfisher30 and on Twitter at kendra_fisher30. As well please follow WiSPsports on the social media channels. They’re all @WiSPsports and for conversations from around the world of women’s sports including articles videos blogs podcasts. Make sure you visit visit the web site WiSP Sports Radio is the largest podcast network for women’s sport in the world. With more than 700 episodes across 30 unique shows and a global audience of more than 1.5 million. You can listen on the web site or subscribe to any podcast player such as iTunes TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play. As well I’m going to be back next week with host Chris Stafford on WiSP Sports live daily morning show. Now I believe we’re going to discuss a bit about the upcoming Winter Olympics. If you download Anchor the Anchor App you have the ability to call and take part of the show. We’d love to have you join in on the conversation.

[00:13:39] Once again I’m Kendra Fisher and until next time please take care of one another and just check in on those you love.

[00:13:46] Thank you.

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