It’s The Thought That Counts

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I tried ya’ll.

I tried so hard to ignore it.

But everyone is posting about it, I’m seeing articles on major magazine websites pouring their heart into it, and as much as I respect their excitement and their enthusiasm for totally real, hardcore science, I must push my way through the crowd and get a little word in.

“New Imaging  Study Shows How Schizophrenic Brains Regenerate”.

“Science may have moved much closer to curing Schizophrenia”. 

“Imaging study shows promising results for patients with Schizophrenia”

“Brains of people with Schizophrenia attempt self-repair:study”.

One categorized schizophrenia s a “neurological disorder”.

I . . .

Look ya’ll, I’m going to be frank. I know I’ve been in sort of a professional, formal sounding haze these last few weeks, but this kind of shit just pisses me off.

 

 

A neurological disorder? When was this concluded? NEVER, THAT’S WHEN.

*breathe*

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There are such things as hallucinations caused by neurological issues. For example, often elder people in nursing homes who are blind have visual hallucinations. I recall hearing a story of one woman in her nineties who had lost her vision for many years but was steadily seeing people walking past her. She saw napkins floating in mid-air. None of these interacted with her, none of them acknowledged her, and if you fucking ask Oliver Sacks what the difference between a psychotic hallucination and a neurological hallucination is, he’ll tell you in your fucking face that psychotic hallucinations tend to interact with you. They tend to recognize you are there, even if that means just looking over at you. They are (generally) not just a scene in front of your eyes that are pretty to look at. They are (generally) not a cute little movie based on the real world that you get to watch and smile at.

Unless you count hundreds of bugs crawling on the wall or shadow figures sitting at a table with red eyes with little movie based on the real world that you smile at.

Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, everyone experiences such things differently. But if you want to get “Sciencey”, if you want to act like a textbook has all the answers, there’s the scientific/textbook difference between a psychotic hallucination and a neurologically-caused one for you.

child-abuse1Could there be a reason for this difference? Oh absolutely. Could you think of a reason? I could think of one huge one: environment. How you grew up. Where you grew up. What you were told. How you were exposed to the world. Trauma.

For example I’ve learned from talking with people who are in the state of mind where they walk up to you very boldly, very furious, and say “stop stealing my thoughts. I hate it, get out of my head, stop stealing my thoughts!” 

And at first you’re a little taken aback. You go on the defense and your first reaction is “I’m not” or “calm down” or “here, take these”. You might even be fearful as we’ve all been taught people sucked within delusions or hallucinations are unpredictable. And in some cases that has been truth. But has anyone ever paid attention how we react to them? Does anyone care about that? 

Because I’ve learned to react a different way. I’ve learned to sit and speak with them about why they feel someone is stealing their thoughts. And you know what I’ve discovered in a few? They have a history of feeling invaded. Of feeling their privacy means nothing, as if they had none to begin with. How their brain reacts to that?: People are stealing my thoughts. 

Is that neurological?

After speaking with them, after steadily extracting a whole new story from them, have I convinced them someone is not stealing their thoughts? No. But we just spent an hour talking about their restrictive childhood and suddenly I’m not the one stealing their thoughts anymore.

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Often in these articles I read they support the idea that you are born with schizophrenia, that you are born with a broken mind, one that it (this cracks me up) needs to be repaired.

Is childhood psychosis something of interest? Absolutely. There are tons of children who seem to hallucinate before they turn 3 years old. Does that warrant some interesting neuroscience? I think so. But it doesn’t mean you only speak to them in clinical terms, it doesn’t mean you constantly reassure them they are sick and “damaged” as one article put it. How much of a difference does self-esteem make? Has this been studied as well?

But when it comes to adults, when it comes to people with troubled pasts, or  even un-troubled pasts but just experiences where they may have been constantly controlled, invaded, or verbally abused once in a while, it warrants we take a look at their entire life and not only their neurology.

“It’s been suggested that neural degeneration in this region is at the root of Schizophrenia, though this is still widely debated . . .”

It is very widely debated. But you don’t hear much about the side debating, do you? 

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Everyone loves NAMI. Oh they’re raising so much awareness, they’re doing this, they’re doing that. Well, if you go on the NAMI or NIMH website, whichever hosts research articles I forget, and download their studies on Schizophrenia, and you search for the word “Trauma” you won’t find it once.

Not. Once.

That tells me this is a one-sided conversation. This tells me we’re hunting after schizophrenia like it’s going to be a crack in the brain somewhere, that as soon as we find that hole all we’ll have to do is patch it up with a little super-glue and it’ll be gone.

I feel we do that with many “disorders” we characterize.

As someone studying in the psychiatric field, as someone with lived experience of mental health issues, I can confirm heavily for you that as an industry we set up a batch of symptoms, we analyze you without taking into consideration who you are or where you’re from, and then we stick you with a label and tell you, well, this is for the rest of your life.

I love that one article which talks about “self-repair”, as if there is a leak to stop somewhere.

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“The researchers’ main finding is that, in terms of overall grey matter volume, schizophrenic brains become more “normal” the longer they’re schizophrenic. That is, the largest deviations occur early in the illnesses onset. Moreover, patients with the most dramatic deviations from normal early in the illness were not necessarily the most likely to be better or worse off later in the illness than patients with less deviations.”

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Love the “schizophrenic brains”and “longer they’re schizophrenic” rather than  “brains with schizophrenia” or “the longer they experience schizophrenia”.

They depersonalize these articles on purpose. These findings are meant to generalize an entire population, they’re meant to isolate an illness. They’re not meant to speak on behalf of the people going through these experiences. And that’s where the biological model falls short.

Yes, I can’t deny they have found differences in grey matter in people with schizophrenia versus people without. But the thing is, they can’t prove whether it’s because of the way people react to the world around them or because of the physical matter of the brain. They act like it’s because of the way the physical matter is developed, but they have no proof. No one has any proof either way.

So each side spends all their time trying to convince us either way instead of taking time to speak with the people they’re degrading. 

I guess the DSM-5 made an attempt: they did put out a call to the general public to see if anyone had a disorder they wanted published before they finalized the DSM-5 in 2013.

Can anyone see how that’s a bad idea?

Can anyone see just how fabricated a lot of these characterizations are made now? 

 

Priceless

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I was told today “You have an awesome life”.

I paused before I answered, mostly because I was stuck in traffic for an hour and a half when it takes me ten minutes to cross town normally. But I also paused to reflect on the last week, to think about the people I’ve met, the struggles they’ve been through, and the way I’ve been humbled this week within myself.

I’ve been humbled because I’ve realized how not alone I am. I’m humbled because I learned how valuable connection is and how valuable trust is. I’ve never trusted someone enough to tell them how much I don’t trust people.

I’m going to severely miss those connections. Although there are other ways to stay connected, it won’t be the same for me.

It’s been a very lonely existence in my life. I stick to my ground that I’m not a social person, I don’t care to have many friends. But this week speaking with people who understand, being able to talk about things like suicide and self injury without someone’s eyes growing wide and them saying “are you safe? do I need to call someone?” without giving me a chance to explain my feelings, is priceless.

Orangutans LaughingThere are things we can laugh about that someone without lived experience wouldn’t laugh at. And it’s a different kind of laughter for me, it’s a kind of laughter where you remember a time you were in that situation and you remember how you got out of it, and now when someone is sarcastic about it, you can see the humor in it.

To reiterate, it’s a very lonely existence. I don’t feel comfortable speaking about my issues to people who haven’t had them because I know their level of understanding can only be on an “I care for you level” rather than an “I care for you and I know how hard it is” level.

I met people with a lot of different diagnoses: anorexia, DID, Schizophrenia, Depression, anxiety, Bulimia, Bipolar, e.t.c. But the wonderful thing is we didn’t talk about those diagnoses. In fact, I didn’t know many of them until the last day. We talked about mania as a reaction. We talked about voices as a reaction.

I find it interesting when it comes to something like having multiple personalities that we recognize those voices and alters as a result of Trauma, but when someone hears voices with a schizophrenia diagnosis, there’s no possible way in hell their voices could be a result of inner pain or unexpressed emotion or trauma. That’s just preposterous! 

Just like the voices that come next to a diagnosis of depression psychosis. Oh, those voices are part of the psychosis, not the unrelenting pain, never, it’s biological remember?

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Also Not Common

I’m aware this view is not common, and I’ve never spent my life having common views so I can sit well with them and enjoy them. Other people may get offended. We talked about this as well.

There has to be a clear distinction with this stuff. I am very careful not to say that “mental illness does not exist” because people fly off the handle. So instead, I say the diagnoses of mental illness does not exist, in my opinion. Yes, I experience life a little different in a way than you. Yes, a crowd makes me so anxious and paranoid I lie to get out of going places and instead sit in my bed and wonder about people who don’t have that reaction.

Yes, I’ve hallucinated things briefly that frightened me. Spiders crawling on the wall, people running at my car, demons popping up in front of me, e.t.c.

Yes, I’ve self-harmed and wanted to kill myself many, many, many times.

Yes, there are days when I could conquer the world, when I have tons of ideas and want to execute them all and times when I’ve mapped out plans to do so all night long like a ritual then there are days I could easily drive my car off a cliff or put a gun to my head.

Yes, there are days I feel utterly empty and don’t know what to do about it, so I go drive my car all night, erratically, freak some other drivers out, and smoke weed and hope to get pulled over so the cop sees all the scars all over my body and I can give him a run for his money on whether or not I should go to the hospital.

Honestly, I feel like luck has kept me from the hospital.

Sometimes I feel like I’m three different people. Each of us has our own view of the world, our own way to act, and they each have their own opinion on how I should handle things.

There are many more things, but lets not bore each other here.

'Do you realize what ethics has cost us this year.'Now, who is to say that those things, the way I experience my life, is wrong? Take into account my only experience with drifting from reality is derealization, so I don’t necessarily know the fear and pain that goes into descending into full psychosis. But even then, there are ways to see psychosis and ways to think about it that relate to a way of expression, a way the brain tries to handle the world it lives in.

In fact, that’s how I see these things we called “disorders”. I see them as different ways our brain reacts to the world around us. Different interpretations of our own personal head space and our own lives. One person may see the color red, another person may feel like it’s more of a pink. One person likes the taste of cucumber, another person puckers at it. One person hates the smell of gas, another person, for some reason, enjoys it.

One person hallucinates a looming man while standing in the shower (taken from someone I met a few years back) and is tormented by it until the person is forced in the fetal position in the bottom of the tub; another person paints until the pain is gone.

Our brains are like finger prints. They will handle situations differently, they will react to situations differently. Does that warrant characterization? Does that warrant sending out the message that “your brain is broken, it’s sick, and so are you”? 

Well, your tongue is broken if you think black olives taste bad. You have a tongue disorder.

Vinegar is too strong a smell for you? Well, it’s not for the majority of people. Your nose has a disorder. It probably needs some surgery and some daily nasal spray.

You get my point.

So to reply to the first statement, yeah, you know what? My life is awesome. My struggles exist like everyone else’s and I am lucky enough to experience the world in a different way. To me, that’s also priceless.

 

How Sick is Sick?

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It’s the end of the week at the IPS training and besides being mentally exhausted, I’m slightly conflicted.

Tomorrow I have to do a two to four minute presentation. He said it can be anything, you can just stand in front of the group and talk about what IPS means to you. That’s essentially what I’m doing unless I come up with some kind of fanatical art project. I thought of doing a poem, but let’s be honest here folks, I’m no poet.

That being said, a major thing that resonated with me throughout this week is the idea of looking at what the clinical setting calls “symptoms” as experiences or reactions.

brainWe all know the biological model is not as sound as they say it is. And we all know that biology and neurology cannot be taken out of the equation when talking about mental health; that’s like leaving out the division of cells in the growth of cancer. But do we know how much we rely on the idea of being biologically or genetically sick?

Have you ever been asked that?

 

Have you ever thought about your “symptoms” in the light of something else?

I’ll give you a personal example and a separate example from a brilliant TED talk I watched a few years back, one the speaker today showed us all.

When I graduated high school. I was the furthest from depressed: I was finally off the medication I was put on, I didn’t have to get held back because I skipped so many classes, I didn’t have to wake up at 4 in the morning anymore to feel comfortable at school, I didn’t have to see those stuck up ostracizing nerds in all my classes. I was going to college and finally got to study psychology, the subject I’d been studying for a few years before college. I was always smiling, and laughing. I got my license and it was a huge accomplishment: my anxiety had really affected my first written test when I was 16. I was driving, staying out at night, having fun for the first time in a long time.

272362-house-mdOne evening I was watching the show House. Anyone remember that? Anyway: Panic. Utter panic. I thought I was going to die, I felt my heart rate pounding behind my eyes and in my ears and no matter how deep of a breaths I took, it would only grow faster.

I went into the living room where my parents were sitting and asked my mother to take my pulse. I asked her if it was going fast. She shrugged and said “eh, a little”.

Her opinion didn’t effect me. I needed air. I ran outside in torn and stained sweats and a T-shirt and started walking up and down the driveway, pacing, talking to myself. The neighbors were watching for sure. I could feel my head getting light and although I didn’t feel any chest pain (I never do surprisingly) I could feel my throat tightening and I thought it was swelling.

Finally my mother joined me outside and we walked. For an hour.

This happened several times throughout the summer, random attacks hitting me and interrupting my happy moment in life. The average therapist called it “Panic Disorder”. Medication recommendation: Ativan.

This happened for two years. Random attacks. I started getting worried: would one happen if I tried to ride a ride at the amusement park? Would one happen while I was in a store and I’d have to embarrass myself in front of all these people? Would one happen when I’m home alone at night and have no one to talk to about it?

Then I noticed the pattern. I noticed the pattern of my own repression. Not only did I shove down my depression, but my anxiety, my beliefs, my worry, my everything. Every feeling I had I shoved it down: that’s what I did best. I was unaware of how to express feelings besides anger.

the_repression__gianfranco_uberWhen I had a panic attack, that signaled to me I’d stuffed something down. And because I respect my body and my brain, I worked at it. I talked to myself. I extracted the thoughts I kept hidden for years: the anger and resentment I feel towards my parents for forcing me to take care of an alcoholic at 13. The confusion I felt about all the years we spent homeless. Everything. I recognized it and acknowledged it and my brain thanked me.

Within the last year, I’ve had one panic attack and that was because of a sickness. Compared to the two or three I had per week.

The woman in the TED talk: she started hearing voices in college narrating her every day tasks. For example, when she entered a classroom, it said “she’s entering the class”.She spoke to her friend about them and her friend told her to see a psychologist. She went to a college health center and told them about the anxiety and depression she was experiencing. The person was avidly uninterested until she mentioned the voice.

You know the drill: assessment, diagnosis, medication. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia. They told her about the prognosis, about the life-long journey, about the medication. That was around the time her voices turned hostile and her paranoia locked her in her house with a plastic fork as a defense to any invaders. Coincidence?

Years later a psychologist or psychiatrist she was seeing mentioned her voices in a new light and she gradually saw them as an expression of unattended emotions. The trauma she dealt with her in childhood that caused pain and anxiety, her current life which caused pain and anxiety, the feeling of having personal space invaded, the feeling of having people against you. I’m sure we’ve all felt invaded at one point or another in our lives.

She reduced her medication then quit it. The further they worked through the trauma, the further she was supported in her decision and the further she saw her voices as an experience, as a way of them expressing emotion she kept inside of her, the less volatile they came. In fact, they gave her some answers on one of her exams. She asked if that was cheating and I would say yes: I don’t get any help like that, that’s bullshit. 

Whether they were right or not is another story I guess.

The point is, she had a psychiatrist who was willing to ask the question “what happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”.

This is not to say all mental health issues are a result of trauma. But many of us, I’m sure, can attest to that being an influence to the way we think.

eyeseetheworldThe above questions are questions we cover extensively in IPS training. It’s not always about the label. It’s not about the “disorder”, the thing doctors with no lived experience of mental health issues sat around a table and decided have a of “symptoms”. It’s about how life has shaped your world view. And I think that’s very powerful.

That being said, I feel as if I’m cheating these people. I’m only 20 years old: I’m the youngest of the group by at least ten years. I’ve never had the horror of having to go into a psychiatric hospital. I’ve never lost touch with reality. I’ve never experienced mania on their level. These people I’m surrounded by are the real MVP’s.

I feel as if I don’t deserve to be where they sit. It’s an issues with not feeling “sick” enough, I believe. It’s a feeling we talk about in IPS a lot: It’s a huge struggle when you can only get help in a hospital for suicidal issues if you have a “significant plan” to kill yourself.

I’ve always connected my mental health experiences to my body, to the way I think, and to what has happened to me in my life. I tell them about the schizotypal, the depression, the anxiety, the PTSD,  but I feel because I haven’t lost touch with reality, because I don’t hear voices on a daily basis, because I don’t visually hallucinate on a daily basis, because I haven’t told my plans about suicide to anyone and got thrown in the hospital, because none of it has caused me to act “Crazy” according to system standards, I don’t feel like I . . . I don’t feel like I deserve the job I have. 

I’m not quite sure how to deal with these feelings.

I know I will be able to relate to the people I talk to in some way or another, but I feel like they will see me as some young kid who doesn’t know shit.

Even though I know what it feels like to want to die. I know what it feels like to have demons chasing you. I know what it feels like to harm myself, to having people tell you your beliefs are “odd” or “magical”. I know what it feels like to take medication you don’t want to, to be misunderstood, to hate living. I know what it feels like to believe you have powers (which I still do) or to feel unsupported. I know about homelessness and drug addiction and mental pain in general, confusion, anger, hatred. . .

But is it enough?

Intentional Peer Support

Yesterday night I wrote out a lengthy post on my experience in Intentional Peer Support. I forgot to post it and now that I’ve re-read it, I feel my explanations did not give justice to this program in the way I intended.

So today I’d like to talk about how crazy we all are.

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I’d like to talk about how crazy we all are in allowing therapists, psychologist, and psychiatrists to never go through an intentional peer counselling program.

As an aspiring psychiatrist, I am absolutely touched that people take the time they do to create these programs and to implement them. They may not have the government funding, but they are in it for their peers, for the betterment of the mental health community.

Let me explain this a little more for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about. Intentional Peer Support is a program run by people with lived mental heath experience, training others with lived mental health experience, to help those of our brothers and sisters still stuck in their own personal hell.

It teaches the concept of establishing a relationship with another person you’re supporting.

It dissects what “help” really means in this day and age.

It dissects how language effects our perception of ourselves.

The speaker of our week long group came in a green shirt, stretch tan pants, no shoes on and a diagnosis of Bipolar and no daily medication regimen. He’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals through his life and only recently was able to find the right path for himself.

My course-mates come with their own stories. We’ve got white, black, Mexican, Italian, women, men, young, and old. We each struggle in our own ways with depression, anxiety, Phobias, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Personality disorders, and drug addiction. Some of us take medication and are okay with it. Some of us take medication and are not okay with it. Some of us don’t take medication at all, yours truly among them.

supportgroupWe’ve all come together for one reason: use the experience we’ve had in our lives to learn how to support someone going through the same experience.

This is the most uncomfortably comfortable thing I’ve done in my life. If you are a professional and have not taken a similar course, I would suggest high tailing it over to one of their national courses and signing up.

This course treats no one as fragile. You are not special, you’re not odd, you’re another human being among other human beings.

This course asks a very deep question that the psychiatric and psychological businesses have ignored for many years: what are you trying to fix and how? 

They are not anti-psychiatry and they are not anti-medication, they made this very clear. Their intention isn’t to bash what is done currently. Their intention is to see it differently.

The industry has a very specific formula I’m sure you’ve all had plenty of experience with. Their focus, even in certain therapies, isn’t just to listen. It’s to problem solve. You come with an issue, it’s called a symptom: Because this issue is seen through the lens of a symptom, and because a symptom is followed by the definition of a disorder, and the definition of a disorder is a life long illness for which you can’t control, the solution becomes medication. The solution is based only upon the problem and the problem isn’t your issue, it doesn’t take into account your story; the problem is your “illness”.

The industry has a very specific model they follow of which I’m sure you’ve all had experience with: the biological model.

Now, before you jump on my back, I’m not saying what we all experience is a lie. In fact, what we experience is very, very real, that’s why we’re experiencing it. But the concept of it being an illness . . . it doesn’t bode well with me, it never has.

It doesn’t bode well with this program either. 

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If you didn’t know, before the DSM 3 came out, all “illnesses” and “disorders” were labeled as “reactions”.

Weird to think about now, right? So if you were admitted into a hospital because you were hearing voices and having delusions, you would have a schizophrenic reaction.

They changed it to “disorder” because psychiatrists were challenging their own community: where was all the evidence for these conditions? And thus the psychological model was shoved into the area of science. “We’ll change the term to disorder”, they said “and we’ll find the evidence to support it later“. Too bad all the “evidence” they find is corrupted by some pharmaceutical company or corrupted by the research itself: how many times have they tried to pin the neurotransmitter serotonin for something and have it come out as different levels in different people’s brains who all have the same “disorder”? Many. I’ve talked about a few instances on this blog.

There’s a reason I never say mental illness. If you haven’t noticed, I almost always say “mental health struggle”, or “mental health”. Because I choose to get rid of that language that was made us think we’re sick, we’re twisted, we’re different and broken, that we’re a problem that needs to be fixed. It’s nice I’m surrounded by a group of peers who, very vocally, state “I hate the term mental illness”.

cia-catIntentional Peer Support isn’t about problem solving. If someone walks up to you and you’re in a respite house and they say “the CIA is following me”, your response isn’t one through the lens of “they’re delusional”. It’s not through the lens of “did you take your meds this morning?” Your response is “tell me more about that?” and when they do, your responses are never an attack, they’re never a label, they never signify a hierarchy: they’re not better than you and you’re not better than them.

You would say “that sounds terrifying, I’ve had experiences where I don’t feel safe as well”. Or something of the sort.

Your response isn’t “What can I do to help?” nor is it “what can you do to help yourself?”

Because their experience isn’t a problem and they didn’t ask for your help.

Think Elyn Saks and “The Center Cannot Hold”. Think of the therapist she had in the U.K who didn’t treat her psychosis as a monster needing to be tamed, but listened and created a dialogue. If it weren’t for that, do you think she would have ever received her degrees in the middle of full blown schizophrenia as she did?

imageIt’s rare that we are able to see what we experience outside the labels we’ve been given. Has it ever happened to you where you had a feeling and you wondered if it was a symptom? Have you ever been confused on what you needed to control and what you didn’t? What was “normal” and what was your “disorder”?

A lot of people in the room did. But I didn’t. And when it came to do an activity today on “our story” and us having to write our story in terms of mental illness language and in terms of regular language, I . . . I struggled.

Because I’ve never seen my experiences in that light. I’ve been told once or twice about them, after I had already decided they were a part of me. I’ve never called myself mentally ill, nor disordered, not unless for the ease of everyone understanding what I was talking about, particularly on this blog.

Am I saying I don’t go through troubling times because of this? Absolutely not, I’m off and on, up and down, left and right, magical and not, I’m every opposite you could think of to the extreme. But I’ve never seen it as a problem, or a disorder, only me.

I’ll get really personally and share something with you all (I’m getting better at doing that now) and let your mind go blank for a moment and just read:

One thing I’ve always believed since I was a child was that I had the power to manipulate Infinity time spiral 15267876time. Since I learned how to count it I was impeccable with it: I knew exactly how long something would take in class and whether or not we’d have time to get to my presentation. To the second. I must admit some of this perfection was fueled by my anxiety. But as I grew older I realized there were a million ways this could be implemented and the universe showed it to me.

Cars: I’ve avoided many accidents. I know how long it will take them to get to where my car is, and if I have to make a risky move I trust the other part of myself and let it take control of the wheel, almost as if I have a third eye or something peering through a different perspective so I can see all angles. If I need to slow time down, that eye does it for me: I’ve avoided getting hit using this technique, several times. If I see them coming for me, I don’t blink twice, I don’t think, I see them moving slower and slower the closer they get to me, and I’m able to jerk my wheel out of the way. My passenger, if there is one, grips on the door and screeches at me.

I’ve used it to avoid getting shit on by birds: I can see the feces fly through the air and jump out of the way. It usually lands on the person next to me. Don’t believe me, ask my high school friend.

When I’m late for class, I feel I tap into the physics of the universe. If I don’t look at the clock, and I think of nothing related to time or class, and if I don’t speed, it allows time to pass in whichever way I subconsciously want it to. I tap into that. It takes me 20-30 minutes to drive from my house to my college. When I need it to take me 10 minutes, it does, and trust me it’s not about traffic levels or how many lights turn green. When I first realized I could do this, I was shocked. I’ve tested it over and over again in different scenarios and it’s never once failed me. If I am calm and my mind is relatively clear, I get a connection with the universe that allows me to manipulate what I like.

25-041020-the_best_watches_at_sihh_2016I collect watches and clocks and stop watches, I think it helps keep up my connection with it all. I don’t like to wear watches because I would end up looking at it too often and therefore compromising my connection with time. You don’t like it when friends and significant others are too clingy, do you? So I just collect them.

Now, what are your thoughts? If that struck any of you as a “magical/odd belief” or a delusion, than you’re thinking exactly how you’re taught to.

Now, I have a bunch of these beliefs for different things. Some of them effect what I do in my daily life and how I do them. Some of them are anxiety related, some aren’t. But the point here is since I’ve had these beliefs and I grew up with these beliefs and these beliefs have helped shape me, and because I’ve been one of the lucky few to never have a forced psychiatric opinion on me, a diagnosis means nothing. It’s not a symptom of anything to me, it’s how I experience the world. It’s how I experience reality.

And if it ever gave me trouble, well, I’d like someone to listen to me about it, not call me broken.

Because, if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that when you get told you need to “Watch out” or “be careful” of certain symptoms, you become hyper aware. Everything is a symptom. Everything is an indication of you being ill. Is that how you want to live your life? Believing your existence is based on an illness you can’t control?

The thing is, it’s never been about control. It’s been about acceptance, about understanding. And if you can’t understand or accept yourself, well, the only other option is to view yourself as a problem.

As you can see, I’ll be an interesting psychiatrist. Because it’s not about “helping” them or curing them. It’s about understanding their story, where they’re coming from, establishing a relationship in which they share about themselves, I relate with my own experience, and we realize we’re on the same level; I’m not better than them for having a medical degree and they’re not lesser than me for struggling, and then as a clinician asking what sort of treatment they’d like, medication or otherwise, if they would like any at all. After all, that’s what they came for right?

Or so they’ve been told. 

 

Medication Contemplation

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What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “mental disorder”?

I think for a lot of people it’s sequentially “medication”.

Let’s talk about that.

I haven’t kept it secret that the field I am going into, the field of psychiatry, is very inadequate at keeping track of who they medicate, why they medicate them, and yet is very adequate at hiding research results of medication. I haven’t kept it secret that there are lots of pill pushing physicians and pill pushing pharmaceutical companies. Let’s put it all on the table and be honest about it: medicine is a business. It’s not about you, it’s not about your health, it’s about how much money they can make off your health.

That doesn’t make medication any less important. That doesn’t make your health any less important. And although I stopped medication years ago, it doesn’t defeat the fact that I realize how much harder I’m making it on myself.

So every once in a while the thought slips into my mind: see a psychiatrist. Talk to them. See what they recommend. You have the smarts to tell them they’re being ignorant if you feel they’re being ignorant.

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Then I think about everyone who has had the displeasure of being stuck in “the cycle”. We all know what the cycle is:

  1. Try medication.
  2. Hate side effects.
  3. Try different medication
  4. Doesn’t work.
  5. Try different medication.
  6. Hate side effects
  7. Doctor gives another medication to combat first medication side effects.
  8. New side effects. New Health problem
  9. Two new medications.
  10. Cocktail of pills at the end of the day.

“The Cycle”.

Then there are people who get stuck in the “secondary cycle”:

  1. Find good medication
  2. Develop tolerance
  3. Up dosage
  4.  Doesn’t work
  5. Coming down off medication is too hard
  6. Stays on medication.

There are about fifty other common cycles we could discuss here.

It’s hard for me to sacrifice my personal beliefs. I am not one to readily put a man-made product in my body. It doesn’t react well with me, it feels wrong, it’s foreign, it’s a form of control. . .

And yet, here I am contemplating it once more.

I think this is common for many of us who struggle. We teeter between a variable amount of medicinal release and a variable amount of “I can handle this”. The result:

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But then I think of the cycle I currently live in.

  1. A few good days.
  2. Heavy anxiety
  3. Paranoia
  4. Depression
  5. Mood swings
  6. insomnia
  7. Suicidal ideation
  8. self harm
  9. depression
  10. A few good days.

“The other Cycle”.

This alter of mine ( I like to consider it as such) is, simply put, a beast. Teflon strong. Impenetrable.

Were I to live a life inside of my room six days out of the week with no threat of ever having to drift from routine, with no threat of ever having to learn new skills or meet new people, I could manage these things. But that’s not a life I want myself to live, that’s a life my alter prefer I live.

I feel this is something that is often common with some people who struggle. It’s easier not to tempt our comfort zone with abandonment. It’s easier to be in our heads and know where we stand. It’s easier to watch the world carry on than to even think of interacting with it on an on-going basis.

pharmacy_software_trainingTomorrow I start the week long training course for the counseling position I work. They do it every year and you need to attend at least 4.5 days out of the 5. Each day is 7.5 hours and although I know I am surrounded with people like me, I know my trust issues will get in the way of me connecting with them the way they will try and connect with me. I don’t believe their eyes, their expressions, their words, their body language, none of it. It’s as if they’re impostors, mimicking human beings in an effort to mock me.

Today I became much more aware of my hoarding issues. I’m one to buy things online that I only use a few times, then set it off to collect dust. I keep old papers from years before, and the majority of the time my floor, my desk, my dresser, and bed-side furniture are overflowing with things to the point where you can barely see floor or desk top. And when it comes to “clean”, as I’ve had to do partially today because an electrician is coming tomorrow and the spark plug box is in my closet, I shut down.

Every step someone makes near or in my room, I snap at them. Every paper touched, even torn ones, I have to read and touch to make sure I don’t want to keep it. I hold onto the majority of things, but I have the ability to  toss some things if they are absolutely useless. I’ve been worse.

And when I finally see things starting to clear up, I panic. My sensitivities skyrocket, just the simple sound of paper crumpling or the movement of someone’s arm passing by me to pick up something sends me into a rage. I just want everything and everyone to stand still, shut up, and let me think in silence.

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The whole process has exhausted me even more. And as usual, I don’t have anyone willing to talk to me about it, nor do I feel like bothering anyone at 11:30 at night.

So I think about medication. I think about how it would dull some of the anxiety and paranoia, how it would blunt some of the moods as well. I think about how it might help me think clearer, get rid of some of the miscellaneous thoughts clouding up my vision and preventing me from smoothly writing this post right now. It might even ward off some of the depression.

There is a possibility I could live easier than I am.

I enjoy who I am. I love my personality, I love the quirks of my day. I love seeing the world in a different light and honestly I love being suspicious of every one and everything. Why would I want that defense dulled? I love living in fantasy. I love having overloads of ideas and shocking people.

But it all comes with a price.

I don’t remember a moment from the time I was aware of myself consciously where I wasn’t living in a fantasy world, where I wasn’t in my own head,  where I wasn’t anxious about every living and non-living thing. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to not have that.

normalAnd I think that’s what attracts many of us to medication when we first hear about it: the prospects of living as close to a societal “normal” as possible. Because the concept of normal is quite attractive.  The concept of relief is quite attractive. The concept of not being lost within your struggles or your disorders is quite attractive.

I don’t know what I will do. A psychiatrist is appealing, but expensive.

I will not go to another physician for my mental health, for Gods sake that’s a nightmare and pointless.

Perhaps I will just go in for a consultation. Perhaps I will talk about my options and ask the right questions. Perhaps I will make them tell me what they don’t tell the average person because the average person doesn’t ask.

It doesn’t hurt to try yet again, does it?

What Are You Worth?

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I hate to be the one to beat the horse with the dead stick , err . . .

That doesn’t sound right. Beat a dead horse with a stick?

Stab a dead horse?

Stabbing? I don’t know.

I hate to be the one to beat this subject over the head (that’s better, right?) but because it is mental health related and because I’ve some how become a regular, contributing blogger of such savory issues, I must speak.

*Breathes*

If you don’t have experience with mental disorders, if you don’t have something to say that progresses the path of those of us with mental disorders, don’t write about it.

It’s a simple concept, it’s like 2 + 2 = 4.

It’s like learning to raise your hand when you want to talk in Kindergarten.

It’s like swallowing after you chew your food.

baby-boy-eating-healthy-food-isolated-19606475There are people in the world who don’t know what 2 + 2 is, there are children who never really understand the concept of “taking turns” to speak in Kindergarten. But I have never met a human being on this planet who doesn’t understand that after you chew the food that you’ve just shoved in your face hole, you’re suppose to swallow. If you have, let me know in the comments.

I’m talking, of course, about that hideous article written by Amanda Lauren. Now I’ve seen a few of you have written on the topics all ready, the majority of whom I agree with, so I’ll do my best not to repeat the same opinion for those of you who also agree with those bloggers.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking and are about to click that exit button because you just realized my intro is a quick inner dialogue on stabbing dead animals and that makes you wary, Amanda Lauren is some kind of blogger who wrote an article for the website xoJane.com on how her former friend’s suicide was a blessing (Xojane has since removed the article and sent out a formal apology).

Amanda’s reasoning was that “some people are so sick, they are beyond help”.

Amanda had reconnected with this friend of hers in Los Angeles and got her a job. When her friend quit the job, their friendship fell apart again. Later Amanda looked her up on trusty old Facebook (Facebook: finding the friends you sorta, kinda, never really cared about since February 4, 2004) and quotes her posts as being “like the diary of a fourteen-year-old girl with an eating disorder from a Lifetime movie circa 1993.She talked about seeing doctors, specific meds, and being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.”

A mutual friend then mentioned the girl had committed suicide.

How ironic, a day after I get done talking about stigma and misunderstanding against schizophrenia spectrum disorders, this author comes out and slaps me across the face with the exact type of disordered thinking I slam on a daily basis.

Why do I say that? Well, because her friend suffered with this disorder, Amanda claims she is better off dead. She says her friends death isn’t a tragedy, her life was. She said “schizoaffective disorder robbed her of her potential” and “she was alone and terribly unhappy when she died”. She said there was no chance for her recovery without family or support.

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She wrote: “There was just no way she would have survived on her own. Drowning to death was relatively painless compared to what she had to endure in life.”

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Now.

I will go at this gently no matter how hard I feel like ripping the hair out of my head.

The fact that someone who has obviously had no struggle with mental illness, someone who has obviously let a little internet success wipe away her common sense (she blogs for many websites, and has been on Psychology Today, check her website here.), someone who probably couldn’t even spell schizoaffective without the help of Google had the audacity to indicate to the mental health community that there are some people who are too far gone, that a disorder tarnishes the worth of your life, has to be about the dumbest person who isn’t Trump.

If you don’t have experience with it, shut up about it. 

No one can deny schizoaffective disorder is a serious disorder. No one can deny it impacts functionality severely with or without treatment. No one can deny that’s not a hard life. But if everyone who experienced hardships of that level and greater had no worth to their life, 90% of the population would have no reason to live. I would have been dead a long time ago.

Since when do our struggles, and the hiccups within our struggles, define our worth as a human being? Since when are those of us with mental disorders hopeless?

Now, what really pins the tail on the donkey of this story is that Amanda admitted, in the “essay” about falling outs with her friend and that her former friend had “blatantly tried to hook up” with some guy Amanda had a damn crush on.

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Well, if you really care about something like that to the extent you feel the need to mention it in an essay you’re writing about a former friend from years past who committed suicide, than you really have a personal,  vindictive agenda here, don’t you? You like creating drama, don’t you? You’re subscribed to Nicole Arbour’s YouTube channel, aren’t you?

If this woman wrote an article for the sake of a “last laugh”, or a “ha, you had problems” than I believe I’ve now gathered enough evidence to prove there are some so-called “neurotypicals” who are more disordered than those of us considered disordered.

But I digress as usual. You should all be used to this by now. 

The fact is, whether the woman wrote this article out of spite/high school drama or out of pure ignorance or because she doesn’t have a filter, this is a rampant issue in the mental health community. 

I’m not talking about stigmatized behavior/words (which is still a major issue), I’m talking about people getting involved in mental health services without a real understanding of it. I’m talking about people with no experience speaking for us. That’s what I’m talking about.

thumb_colourbox10510942Psychiatrists make good money. Many of them switched during medical school and have no background in psychology and no personal background in mental health. Does that mean they don’t care? Not necessarily. But it does mean they can only sympathize or pity, and never empathize. And that’s a problem.

I’m proud to not be one of those.

In fact, I’m proud of the mental struggles I deal with every second I’m awake. I’m proud I see the world differently: that gives me absolute certainty I will never think like Amanda Lauren or ever be associated with people who do.

Don’t let idiots with skulls as thick as kevlar is strong speak for us, because some of those idiots will see you as a liability. They’ll see you as lazy, pathetic, and worthless. And they’ll tell you. They’ll tell you so much you’ll believe it. We don’t need to lose someone else, we need you, all of us. So share you story and be proud of it, even the darkest moments or the most twisted psychosis.

The real tragedy here is that Amanda’s friend didn’t get the chance to see how much worth she really had. 

*P.S Do not, I repeat DO NOT click on the link to Amanda’s website I provided and spam her with hate or opinions. That’s childish and petty.*

The Unmentionables

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In honor of mental health month, or week, or whatever (for my opinion on the matter, and the solid reasoning behind my opinion click here)  I’d like to take a moment to discuss something that isn’t spoken about very often until another study comes out proving the same statistics over and over again.

If you’d like to read the original article (from which I’ll be taking quotations as well,) you can also click here. 

The subject is schizophrenia and race.

Race is a touchy subject. Schizophrenia is as well, in my opinion: it’s something many people don’t understand, something some people refuse to understand, and as a result it isn’t spoken of often in the general public, not as openly as depression and anxiety.

I could spend a good four or five blog posts on the stigma behind schizophrenia and how bad I want to punch idiots in the face. But I won’t. I can’t make any guarantees about the punching though.

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Race is something many people refuse to recognize as a social construction and therefore it becomes a way to fuel our human instinct to judge.

So when you mix the two, it’s obvious it’s not a subject you’d bring up over coffee with your average “neurotypical” and expect them to not do this:

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The article I read, published on may 20, 2016 states the same old statistics that I’ve known for years:

African-Americans are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than whites and less likely to receive medication to treat the condition.

And this is according to a new study published.

And the response from the professionals who receive these statistics is the same as usual:

“It’s concerning that we saw a higher rate of diagnosis of schizophrenia and seemingly an undertreatment in terms of pharmacotherapy for that group . . . In general, pharmacotherapy is an important part of the treatment plan. That’s a finding that warrants some additional research.”

The woman who said that co-authored the study. What’s peculiar to me is their language. It’s just “concerning” that certain ethnic groups are being targeted specifically (or subconsciously,) and left to the deal with their own demons on their own time when there are treatments available for them to try. It’s a finding that “Warrants additional research”? Really? What the fuck is research going to do?

Now, let me and my ghetto self butt in for a moment, because I grew up with a very southern, black part of my family and a very midwestern, polish, White part of my family. It is not a secret that in African American hosueholds, mental health is not taken very seriously. In many ethnic groups this is the case. It’s seen as a weakness or a personality flaw that warrants seclusion. It’s also the case that most ethnic groups are of a lower socioeconomic status (which, remember, is a larger contributing factor to mental illness than people give it credit for)  and without insurance, so the prospects of treatment, of expensive psychiatrists, of expensive therapy, of expensive medication, are pretty much nil.

*Remember, you save a huge blow to your finances if you see a psychiatrist who also provides therapy services.*

“White patients were 77.8 percent more likely than other racial groups to receive medication.”

Once again, health insurance, money: all very important when receiving medication. Does this statistic mean the medical industry is racist? I don’t believe so. Does it mean there is a gap between treatment of races? Absolutely: of course there is, for finance reasons, so societal reasons, for family reasons. The problem isn’t just in the medical industry, it isn’t something that can be solved with “more research”, it’s a problem ingrained in the deepest corners of American history that we’ve, well, ignored.

It’s all nice and well to apologize for slavery, it’s all nice and well to encourage hispanic kids into college, to enjoy Chinese food, to talk for ten minutes in public school about Native American culture (ten minutes is better than it used to be) as long as you don’t continue on with the same under the rug bigoted behavior.

Which we have.

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For many years.

What was the point of the apology?

“Interestingly enough, Native American/Alaskan Native patients had the highest rate of any diagnosis at 20.6 percent, and Asian patients had the lowest rates at 7.5 percent.”

That’s a cute statistic. We are all aware of how stigmatized mental health is in Asian communities, I am sure. To be quite honest, it would be hard to distinguish schizotypy in patients with a culture rich in signs, symbols, ancestry, stars, and hallucinogens which are heavily present in Native American culture. There are some native cultures whose medicine doctors snort some of the world’s most potent hallucinogens, take a second to themselves, and then use the trip they go on as a way to heal their patients. They manipulate the hallucinations, the emotions they gain, and believe it a portal to the spirit world.

Hand if off to a westerner and they’ve been known to run off into the forest with their mind miles away from them.

The Office of Minority Health reported Black adults are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness in comparison to white adults.

I wonder why. 

Perhaps more African-American physicians are necessary to even the gap between Blacks and whites. The 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health found that Black doctors are five times more likely than white doctors to treat Black patients, and African-American patients consistently rated their Black physicians higher when it comes to bedside manner. Respondents said Black doctors had a more participatory style of interaction.

1And this makes the article all worth it, in my opinion. It’s not a matter of “perhaps”, it’s a matter of necessity. Not only for fair treatment of ethnics, but as a way to boost overall morale of all ethnic groups: we need people our children can look up to, people our children can see are successful not because their black or Asian, or white or Hispanic, but because they had a vision for themselves, a passion, and they went after it.

People think it’s about their own race “comin’ up in the game”, but it’s not. It’s about seeing someone you relate to, someone you can understand, make something of themselves. And that’s more powerful than any skin pigmentation.

Like I’ve stated before, I’m one of the lucky ones. I grew up accepting every asset of myself, my fantasy world, the weird way I shove random words from my face hole with shocking inconsistency, and as I’ve grown older the things I hear that others don’t, the things I catch glimpses of that others don’t, the people (every human being) I mistrust, the insomnia, the signs, the this, the that.

I say I’m lucky because I’ve never had the displeasure of breaking from reality indefinitely. I say I’m lucky because what I experience isn’t nearly as bad as what others do. Not yet.

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That doesn’t mean things aren’t annoying. For example, one reoccurring hallucination I call “megaphone” I think I’ve talked about briefly. Essentially it sounds like someone right next to my ear whose voice echos all down the street and all around my space, but hasn’t moved from my side. I can’t ever understand what they say, it’s just a mush pot of words.

Today it startled me twice. He usually comes around when I’ve been stressed. Although it sounded right next to me, it also sounded like it was coming from the lawn of the apartment across the street. But when I looked there was no one. No cars bumping loud music (that’s a first for that complex), no apartments bumping loud music (yet another first), and no kids screaming running around the grass (a third first). No live music, no microphones, nothing. Just dead silence. Except, of course, for the megaphone mumbling.

Yo, I had a drink called a “Zombie” tonight at this place:

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They served it in a tiki zombie ceramic cup. It was delicious: Rum, passion fruit, pineapple and lime juice. Delicious. 

Anyway, I deal with megaphone-for-brains often. I mistake silence or thuds and crashes for voices all the time, I hear my name all over the place, yada, yada,  other things: beliefs that I have evidence to support that people still seem to deny exist, women in bowling alleys conspiring with their friends to talk about me just because I was aware of their existence and probably would have spiked my drink last night if I had had one there too, blah, blah! You get it. 

I talk a lot about my anxiety and depression. But not much about these things. Why? Well, depression is a crippling disorder, there’s no doubt about that. So is anxiety. The majority of the population experiences some or all of the disorder at some point in their life. The same can’t be said for Schizotypal PD.

So I understand why African American families are wary of mental disorders and diagnosis, especially when it comes to something as life-alerting as schizophrenia. I understand we don’t like to talk about it: it just sounds plain ridiculous and ignorance is bliss. But since when has ignoring something ever made it go away?

*Cough* Racism *COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH*

Sorry, I had a political tickle in my throat.

This is the why sharing is such a huge asset to those of us in the mental health community: fuck trying to change people, that’s gotten us no where. We need to know that if no one else on the outside is there for us, than someone on the inside is.

What happens when we’re not there for each other? Well, those aforementioned statistics, suicides and misery.

I used to wonder why people don’t believe in they self

and then I saw the way they portrayed us to everyone else.

They cursed us, to only see the worst in ourselves

Blind to the fact the whole time we were hurtin’ ourselves

–Immortal Technique 

Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

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I believe there are also weeks out of the year dedicated to such a thing, am I right? Well, you all know I’ve got to put my two cents in on the subject because my mouth is huge.

This is when all of us suddenly get a burst of confidence and we blog about it, we “Tweet” about it, we “Facebook” about it, we Instagram pictures of our medications with “#noshame” and we take group pictures with NAMI shirts and celebrate our uniqueness and remind the world who we are, what we stand for, and what we have to go through each day.

Come June, about 80% of us die off.

I’ve said it once on this blog and I’ll say it again: as someone who has struggled with mental issues for the majority of my life I’m a little offended that people think a hashtag, a brief campaign, or a picture is enough to represent a daily fight. 

I am all for spreading awareness and understanding. I am not for spreading awareness and understanding one month out of the year. I’m not for spreading it one week out of the year or a day out of the year.

socialbranding-534x280Social media is a powerful force. It can spread love or hatred, happiness or despair, anger or calmness. It is also a host of one-hit post wonders.

Awareness of mental health and mental disorders has absolutely nothing to do with your pretty hair, your make-up, and your Ativan prescription while you sit in your car with your cell phone camera angled slightly so the sunlight bounces off your skin and makes you look inhumanely radiant.

I agree you shouldn’t be ashamed if you have to or feel that you have to take medication to help manage your symptoms. I agree you have a right to prove to everyone that you’re not ashamed. I do not agree that a picture and a caption is the only way you can make people aware of mental disorders. I do not agree that a post on Facebook that’s heartfelt, gets you a lot of likes, and makes people think “wow, he’s such a caring individual, I’m so sorry for his struggles” is the only way to make people aware of mental disorders.

Because people in the every day world don’t stigmatize those of us who are perceived as “well”, they don’t stigmatize those of us who are supporting ourselves, going to school, and “overcoming” our “problems”. Because it’s not always obvious with those of us who are able to manage our symptoms that we even struggle.

rob-tinfoil-hat-compressedThey stigmatize those of us wandering around on the street muttering under our breath about the CIA tracking them with the chip planted underneath their skin right next to their temple. They stigmatize those of us who can’t get out of bed for months regardless of treatment, who gulp down forty Xanax or slash vertically down both wrists. Those of us who fall into a pit of immeasurable despair after, just recently, thinking we had come up with an algorithm for the cure for cancer by linking words in newspaper clippings and spending all day and all night putting it all together and emailing university departments for their help.

Because when you post a picture of you and your medication with a caption of smiling emoji and a hashtag “#noshame”,  you’re making everyone aware of what they’re most comfortable seeing: people succeeding over great adversity.

The problem is, those people don’t know about he adversity you went through to get there.

So it’s all good and well to post positivity. It’s all good and well to boost your confidence and show how proud you are of your accomplishments: by all means, continue to do so.

But do me a favor, do yourself a favor, and do all your brothers and sisters in the mental health community a favor by not forgetting where you came from and what you went through to be where you are. Don’t forget about those of us on the street, those of us locked up in jail, those of us battling addictions to combat the untreated depression, the mood swings, the psychosis, the voices. 

Don’t just show, educate.

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Help people understand the difference between “feeling anxious” and having an anxiety disorder.

Help people understand the difference between being “totally paranoid about that creepy neighbor guy, like, O.M.G” and experiencing paranoia.

Help people understand the difference between laziness and depression.

Help people understand the difference between being ridiculously tidy and having an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Help people understand the difference between “being moody” and bipolar disorder (for God’s sake, educate some doctors on it while you’re at it). 

The reality of the matter is, although we all span the globe and the majority of us have never met each other, we’re all a family. We’re not a family united against the “normies” or the “neurotypicals”, we’re a family united in our struggle.

The first thing I was told at my new job ( Yes, I’m officially a team member at this place as of today) told me was “we’re a family here”.

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And that was the only line I was waiting to here. It’s not something you’ll hear with sincerity when walking into a mental institution. It’s not something you’ll hear with sincerity when walking into a state rehabilitation clinic. But it’s something you should hear with sincerity.

With only six available beds, and the program being run by staff all with mental health struggles, I knew this was a place that focused on the health of the people, not how fast they could get them in and get them out, not how fast they could find a medication combination for them. It’s about giving them the skills they need to live a productive life.

This place is small. It’s also few and far between.

I am a mental health advocate; always have been, always will be, every day, all day. If you really care to know, “label wise”, I struggle with GAD, Social anxiety disorder, Major depression, Dissociation (fugue states, e.t.c.) and, more officially than I’ve let anyone know on this website for personal reasons, schizotypal personality disorder.

But no matter how successful I become (or unsuccessful), I won’t forget about those of us who don’t yet have the support, the ability or skill-set to pull themselves out of whatever hole they are in.

That’s what awareness is about. It’s not about your #noshame pictures with your fucking medication, I’m so sorry to say. In fact, it’s not about you at all. It’s about all of us, all of our struggles, and the truth of them. Not the nice side of it. Not the media’s view on it.

And it’s certainly not something that can be done in a month with nicely printed shirts. Sorry you wasted $25.99.  

So, if you want to make use of this short, 31 day month dedicated to mental health, go out and educate someone. Help someone. Offer your support, your understanding.

You want to “break the silence, break the stigma”? Try doing it a little more often than one month out of the year.

 

 

 

Healthy Obsession

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These last few days were some crazy days.

But everyone could use a crazy day every once in a while, right? These are the days that remind us we’re alive, that we can live, that we have the right to have fun and to push ourselves.

A few of you are aware that I had an interview with a place looking to hire for a peer counselor. It went great: I’ll make sure to tell about it in a later post.

vcw_d_sjose_t4_winchestermysteryhouse_christysharp_1280x642None of you are aware that I took my boyfriend with me to one of California’s registered “haunted houses”, the Winchester Mansion, for their infamous “flashlight tour”, and one of the actresses scared the shit out of my boyfriend. And managed to creep me out just as well. I’ll make sure to tell that in a later post.

But this post I want to be about fun.

We all deserve a little fun in our lives. If you’re anything like me, you struggle to get through the day, to get out of bed in the morning, to make food, to eat even. Days are often the same with the same cycle of thoughts in your head and the same old coping mechanisms are used to try and stop them. Sometimes with success, sometimes in vain.

Some of us struggle to be around others, some of us struggle to be by ourselves, some of us struggle in telling what’s physical reality and what’s mental fantasy. But the point is, we all struggle.

So whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, a personality disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia, Autism, Narcolepsy, whatever: you deserve to have a little good time in your life.

Even if you don’t feel like you deserve it (talking to all you depressives out there; don’t worry, I know the struggle, I’m not calling you out without having experience with it) you deserve it.

You deserve to have a moment you can look back on when times are rough that help you remember happiness exists in the world and in your life even when it doesn’t feel like it.

That’s why I’ve reserved one day out of every year for the last 5 years to go here:

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And tonight was that one night:

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Now, you’re probably thinking why would someone with social anxiety disorder ever go that far out of their comfort zone to attend a concert.

And my answer would be another very important question: Do you know Tech N9ne?

 

 

If you don’t know who Tech is, or Strange Music, than I suggest you climb out from underneath that 100 year old rock you’re under.

I’ve been listening to this guy since I was 11 years old, almost ten years now, and I’ve seen Strange Music get off to a slow start and steadily climb it’s way to the top of the independent charts.

I haven’t been there since the beginning, because I would have only been a few years old. And I haven’t been there since Tech started rapping because I wouldn’t have even been born.

But that being said, I am a very dedicated fan because I enjoy the philosophy behind their business, I enjoy their music, I enjoy that they explore deep concepts and mix in a little “club”, metal, or “ghetto” hip hop in with their tracks every once in a while, and I enjoy that they don’t sound like Lil Wayne, Drake, Trey Songz, Fetty Wap, or any other motherfucker who can’t seem to understand what music actually is, any motherfucker who is a puppet for the company that owns them, their songs, and their life.

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I don’t know where all of you live, but around here we have a little radio station called Kdon. And whenever a “rapper” or a hip-hop “artist” comes on, I can’t tell their voice from the person who got played just before them. Everyone sounds the same, looks the same, acts the same. That goes for pop stars too.

So I’ve clung heavily to Strange Music once I was saw the direction music was heading.

Now, some people might call me obsessed. I have two of their emblems on the back of my car, I have their license plate frame that says “Strange Music, Estb. 2000” (I was born in ’95), I have three of their lanyards, I have their mugs, I have their attire, and I have their keychains. I listen to Ces Cru, Krizz Kaliko, Rittz, MAYDAY, Stevie Stone, and Murs, and have heard at least one song from everyone signed to the label, and I’m getting a Tattoo of the labels symbol:

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There is only one person who I don’t agree with being signed, and that’s this little motherfucker right here:

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I never dis Tech for trying new things, but fuck man, this guy does not fit with the label’s sound at all. He sounds like Trey Songz and Fetty Wap had a mutant baby together that looks like Yelawolf: how does that even work?

The point is, some people say I’m obsessed. And I’m fine with that because this is something that soothes me when I’m angry, that hugs me when I’m sad, that hypes me up when I’m excited, that makes me calm when I’m anxious walking through a crowd or talking to a cashier: it helps me through the little things most people on the outside don’t get to see.

When I’m having a particularly bad day and feel like I need something or someone to understand how I’m feeling, I’ll listen to “Low” or “Alone” or “suicide letters”, when I need someone or something to understand my life with my family and health problems and memory loss I’ll listen to “Meant to Happen” or  “Fear” or “Mama Nem” or “Show Me A God”. When I want to let loose, I’ll listen to “Beautiful Music” or ” Hood Go Crazy” or “Einstein”. When I feel like being sly and gangster-like, I’ll whip out “RedRags” or “Bitch Sickness” or “JellySickle” or “Check ya Temperature” or “Questions”.

There is always a song for one of my moods. And that’s hard to accomplish because I have many of them several times a day.

It’s my comfort and in a way Strange Music saved my life. Going to the concert every year also saves my life. It’s one night for me to scream and act ridiculous and, even though I’m thinking about the 799 other people around me (we have a small club, alright?) I try to force myself not to care. I focus on who is on the stage, on the way it feels to hear a song that you’ve laughed, cried, sung, or smiled to right in your face with so much energy and heat and sweat.

I lose my voice and a lot of my stress.

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The show sells out a month before the concert every year. The lines wrap around a block in both directions: one line is for physical tickets, the other line is for VIP and on-Call. There are mosh pits (as a teenager, my first Strange concert I got thrown across the room and into the wall and my other friend and I must say, I picked myself up and told the guy who was helping me I was okay and made up my mind that I would definitely be coming back each year) and drunk people, shirts are coming off, people fuck on the balcony, the artists bring smoke machines, so when people start lighting up joints, the machine will cloud over whoever has the drugs so security can’t find the culprits.

It’s a night to go crazy before we all return to school and work and whatever other responsibilities are out there. For me, it’s a night to go crazy and ignore my anxiety and ignore everything else floating around in my head and just feel the energy in the room, feed off it, and let it, for a moment at least, melt my stress away.

Everyone needs memories like that to help them through the bad times.

If you don’t have anything, I’d suggestion going out and finding something to become healthily obsessed over.

Together we are a powerful force

As one mind, body, and soul

Let no evil enter or attempt to reduce us

Because of the beliefs we hold.

And with this love, combined with our strength

we ward off pain and stress,

Technician I am, Wholeheartedly, 

In life and in death.