Monthly Archives: January 2018

Adobe Spark (7)

In the last post, I mentioned the DSM board’s attempt at preemptively striking against textbook psychosis. There’s a whole other world out there in the mental health field dedicated, and quite passionately might I add, to prevention psychiatry: stopping the progression of certain experiences, mainly psychosis, before they turn into something they can label as schizophrenia.

I have nothing against their passion. But I would like one of the members to explain how creating several new disorders like attenuated psychosis syndrome would do anything other than create a new label multitudes of teenagers would be diagnosed with, fed medications that aren’t researched on teenagers, and make them fear their future more than they should.

So, where do we start?

If you ask me (no one did), preventive care, if that’s what it’s to be called, includes family dynamics, relationship dynamics, and self-dynamics, not only diagnosis and medications.

Family Dynamics

This is an important but difficult portion for me to write. I find myself grappling with words that sound rehearsed and disingenuous, because I’m not quite sure what a healthy family dynamic would be. But I understand that what you are taught, what you see, what you experience as a child heavily influences what you teach, what you see, and what you experience as an adult. This includes behaviors and thought patterns that may be seen in the world of psychology as abnormal.

The family as a whole must be looked at in preventive care because it may very well be that the problem starts somewhere in the family, perhaps in the history of the family. Substance use, abuse, neglect, perfectionism, other illnesses of family members that fall on the responsibility of the child. Every moment of life becomes a little more traumatic, and the brain is our rock, it must do what it must to protect us from processing emotions we don’t fully understand. As helpful as that can be in the moment, it becomes something to wrestle with for many years in the long run.

As a child, I never spoke my insecurities, my emotions, or opinions. I didn’t feel safe physically or emotionally. I didn’t learn healthy outlets for anger, and I didn’t learn healthy outlets for sadness. I didn’t know my pain was worth mentioning, so all of it meshed together somewhere in the back of my mind, and eventually came out as panic attacks, depression, psychosis, and self-harm.

Does this mean my family is to blame? No. What it means is that the dynamics were not healthy. It means when looking at preventing further development of experiences like psychosis and depression and self harm, regardless of whether a diagnosis is the main goal, we have to look at how the family functions/functioned as a whole.

Relationship Dynamics

What’s been learned in childhood and adolescence inevitably bridges into the relationships we have throughout life, and if there is a pattern of bumpy relationships–friendships, romantic relationships, acquaintanceship– then it’s time to also take a look at why. Everyone, even the most introverted person, needs a close friend once in a while. The inability to have an open, comfortable, a mutual connection with another person may force a person inward.

It may also signify an inability to understand what healthy relationships look like, another one of my own personal weak points. Part of preventive care should be focused heavily on providing a person resources on how to learn to have these healthy relationships, even if it’s just one person. And I’m not talking about just therapy, I’m talking about workshops and intensive analysis. Having someone in your corner makes all the difference when you feel lost or disregarded or confused.

Self-Dynamics

How does the person regard themselves? How does the person treat themselves? This is the most important aspect of preventive care, because in the end you really only have yourself as your largest support force; if you’re not on your side, who is? This is why I believe adding another diagnostic label telling someone they’re developing a life-long “illness” that they will need long-term medication as treatment doesn’t really empower them to look at their life with healthy vision.

Is the person stuck inward? Do they value themselves? Do they value others? Do they have painful outbursts? I point out these behaviors for a reason: they are most often questions asked and behaviors people want to change. I don’t believe preventive care should be about changing anyone, but rather giving the person a chance to see a different perspective and a different side of things. The personal transformation which transpires from that will help the person loosen up in the way they are meant to loosen up, rather than forcing a way of being on them. We’ve seen that force isn’t a healthy dynamic between “patient/client” and doctor many times.

Where Does This Leave Us?

If you are a provider, take into account everything. I’m sure that’s something that’s taught over and over again, in fact I know it is because I’ve heard it in every psychology class I’ve ever taken. But sometimes we forget. And sometimes we don’t mean to forget. Sometimes we get wrapped up in what our job is versus what our job could be. And that’s when it’s important to take a step back and really engage with people, understanding them on a personal level. It’s a two way street here: while it’s up to us consumers to take our health into our own hands, it’s also up to providers to guide us appropriately when we might not be able to take our health into our own hands.

There’s a notable difference between doctor’s who are genuinely curious about what’s ailing you and those who want to help, but come equipped only with the DSM.

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Adobe Spark (5)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the middle man lately, us “moderates”.

In the current system of mental health, there are three labels which determine the level of “care” you receive: “Mild”, “Moderate”, and “Severe”.

There’s no doubt that some people face deeper challenges than some of us, someone always will. But have these organizational categories really organized the system into something that’s useful?

Mild

Alright, the milds. I was in this category for a brief period when the only diagnosis I held was Social Anxiety. First I was told I’d grow out of it. Secondly, I was told I’d grow out of it. Thirdly, again, GROW OUT OF IT.

I was called shy, told to “speak up” so frequently the phrase has become something I despise. The worst thing I think, though, was when people walked up to me and said “you’re so quiet”. I–I’m aware I am, I’m glad you’ve realized it as well. That too, I began regarding as an insult. I’m still highly sensitive to these words.

Because no one really saw the level of distress I held on my shoulders, and because I couldn’t properly express that distress because I didn’t understand it, I was told by therapists that I just needed to get out there and expose myself to social crowds. I did. It didn’t help much. And when I said that, well, it’s because things take time and I wasn’t trying hard enough.

The mild category is where those of us with anxieties, sometimes depression, and other experiences like phobias are tossed away. We’re taken serious, but often not serious enough.

Severe

This is where you want to land in the world of mental health IF you want serious care. This isn’t where you want to land in the world of mental health if you want to maintain dignity and independence, because sometimes the “Care” that’s provided steals those right from under your feet. You won’t even see it coming. Like a snake in the grass. Wear high, rubber boots if you’re wading in this swamp.

Damn, my jokes are lame.

This is often where you’re placed briefly if you’re being hospitalized. It’s also where you hear of the “severe mental illnesses”, people labeled with schizophrenia or bipolar 1, schizoaffective, DID, sometimes OCD, and so on.

Of course there are different layers to this thing we call diagnosis because it’s SO scientific, and someone labeled severe can eventually jump down to Moderate and even mild depending on what kind of treatment they receive, what they are told about themselves, and what they choose to believe about themselves and their life.

With my most recent hospitalization, all previous diagnoses were thrown out the window. Four options were put under a microscope: Bipolar 1, Depression with Psychotic Features, Psychosis NOS, and Schizoaffective, and there’s still no consensus as different opinions yield different results. Psychiatry is very scientific, I’m telling you.

I’m not one to chase a diganosis, but what they put on that little piece of paper will determine, in combination with my experiences, the level of “care” I’m given (with insurance limitations), regardless of what I feel I really need. Complicated.

Those with the “severe” label often are those who are homeless, who can’t have a “coherent” conversation (to the outside observer), who can’t take care of personal hygiene, and who can’t work. Disability benefits is often one of their life lines.

Moderate

I think this category wasn’t created intentionally, but as a result of people who were a combination of both of the above. For myself, there are times when I am what they call functional, and times where I am what they call not functional. Where do I go? In the moderate pile. What do I get in the moderate pile? Well . . . not much.

Therapy every couple of weeks is nice I guess.

Often, those of us who have been neglected and/or abused in some way in the past, whether that abuse was intentional or not, have trouble speaking up for ourselves. We’re trapped in that victim mentality, and that can render therapy useless at times. It also means we need a little more guidance and help understanding what is healthy and what isn’t–because we never learned. This means: what is a healthy way to treat ourselves? What is a healthy way to treat others? When do we know our relationships and friendships aren’t healthy?

Therapy can help with that. Support from multiple outlets can help with that. Moderates don’t always have the option of intensive support because we’re decently functional: we shower most of the time, we have a place to live even if that place isn’t healthy, and most of the time we have some source of income, whether it’s part time work, freelance work, or full time work.

The problem with this category is often it can lead to “severe states”. And you have to wait until that point before you’re really serviced.

What Can We Do?

It’s time this “moderate” category get taken serious as a category. Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome, the DSM board’s attempt at bridging the gap between “moderate” care and “severe” care, their attempt at launching a preemptive strike on psychosis, failed majorly.

We don’t need more diagnosis to bridge that gap. In fact, that’s the last thing we need. We just need more of a focus on the moderates. We need programs dedicated towards us. We need care specialized towards us. It’s not that difficult: if we can do it for the “severe”, we can do it for the “moderates”.

This also requires us moderates to really vouch for ourselves. It requires us to step outside of what we’ve been taught and really express the struggle we face. Because what we stuff down has to come out eventually, and that’s what launches those of us in the moderate category into the severe.

“A closed mouth don’t get fed”. Yet another saying jammed down my throat I’ve learned to hate, regardless of how truthful it is.

If you’re a moderate, get involved in something. If therapy is the only thing you receive, and you feel it isn’t helping, reach out your fingers into other options, I know I’ve been trying to. Support groups, peer mentors, community groups, retreats (if you’ve got that kind of money), anything that will support you.

You are your biggest support, until the system catches up.

Mindfulness is the opposite of your reaction during road rage. Let me give a personal example.

Three years ago, a woman and I came to a four way stop sign. We were the only two cars, coming opposite directions. She inched forward. I inched forward. She inched forward. I waved her on and laughed. She flipped me off. I tore after her. I tore after her so hard I left skid marks on the concrete and almost hit her car. When she pulled over to the side of the road, I did the same, enraged, screaming, with my door already open and my feet on the ground, my fists clenched ready to kick some ass. She sped off before we got into a tussle.

My reaction was not mindful, but reactive. Another example. Examples are fun.

Two years ago, I would chase you. You cut me off, I would chase you. One night one man in a Dodge Charger with blue racing stripes sped from behind me, into the on-coming lane, and cut me off. At three in the morning, he was angry I’d been going to the speed limit. So I tore after him, chased him at least two miles, and we weaved back and forth between each other until he made a turn and I jumped the curb. He got away and I was shocked into the realization of my actions, and how I could have easily flew through the living room of the house on the corner.

In Los Angeles, a BMW driver cut me off in the same manner, and I reacted the same, chased after him, slightly inebriated. That could have ended in disaster as well.

We can all agree these choices were unwise and that someone, somewhere must be watching out for me.

My actions were the opposite of mindful because I’d lost a sense of connection to my body. I didn’t notice the flushing of my cheeks, or the pumping of my blood, or the skipping of a heart beat from all the excitement and anger. I didn’t notice the tense feeling coursing through my thigh muscles as I switched from brake to gas to brake to gas in my chases. I didn’t feel my nails dig into my palms as I made fists intended to go through the teeth of the woman in my first example.

I’d lost all sense of awareness of myself and the world around me. Anyone with anger issues I’m sure can relate in some form.

Mindfulness has significantly changed the way I deal with my road rage. When someone does something I deem ridiculous or stupid while driving, I first ask myself some reasons why they may have stopped suddenly: perhaps a kid ran into the street. Perhaps the light changed suddenly and they were uncomfortable going through a yellow light. Perhaps they just spilled hot coffee on their lap.

I’m looking at the situation with a certain level of kindness, taking into account someone else’s place in the world relative to my own. And when the anger hits, because it still hits, not only do I focus on my breath, I also focus on where the anger settles: my ears, my cheeks, my chest, my muscle spasms, my tighter grip on the steering wheel, the flats of my feet. I take notice of those areas, but I don’t force myself to release any tension they might be feeling, I simply let it be because it exists. It’s okay to get angry. It’s not okay to chase someone down the street at three in the morning and almost wreck someone’s house.

Mindfulness isn’t just about meditation. It’s not contemplation of your feelings, in fact it’s simply accepting your feelings, taking in the present moment as it is. There’s no room for judgement or expectation–there’s no need for either. What is, is, and that’s okay.

We tend to focus on the negative in this world, and how bad the negative is. We rarely stop and simply allow ourselves to feel the depression or feel the sadness or feel the pain: we’re so eager to fight against what doesn’t feel good. Why is that? Is it simply because it doesn’t feel good? Or is it because we hold an unrealistic expectation that we are not supposed to feel depression, sadness, or pain? That it’s bad to feel such things, that they’re the bane of our existence?

I won’t pretend to have the answers or solutions to these things. That’s something for you all to contemplate.

Mindfulness is not about being in a particular state: happy, sad, mad, glad, whatever. It’s about being whatever you are in that exact moment. If you feel your pulse beat, it’s only beating in this moment, not tomorrow’s moment when you’re about to give that big speech. The more present we are, the more focused we are, the more centered we are, and the more connected with our body we are.

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, or take an online mindfulness class, you can head to this link and read/practice to your hearts content.

 

 

 

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Let’s take a look at the fear in ourselves, instead.

One thing I notice that often comes with diagnosis besides confusion, sadness, in some cases hopelessness, is a fear of never living a “normal” life, whatever that means. It might have something to do with the YOU’RE SICK FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE; HEH, SORRY mentality some doctors, friends, and family project.

Then we become fearful of living at all. We become fearful of our “symptoms”, we become fearful of “losing control”, we become fearful of waking up in the morning.

I remember that fear like it was yesterday, because it probably was yesterday, because I go back and forth. Just to show you I am indeed human and not a robot. You can never really tell these days.

I think fear is healthy. It’s healthy to be vigilant of your emotions, your feelings, your person. It’s not healthy to let that fear run you, to let that fear form opinions about yourself that prevent you from living the life you deserve. If you struggle with your mental health, chances are you’ve been through *some shit*, and deserve a break from that chaos.

There are times when I feel I can’t control my thoughts, or the speed of them, what I see, what I hear. Sometimes I feel I can’t control the vibrating anxiety shaking my body from head to toe, or the creeping depression that sits idle until it’s ready. Then I wonder just exactly why I want control. What makes the anxiety so unbearable? Often it’s because I’m sitting there thinking about how unbearable the anxiety is. That makes the unbearable, unbearable.

What makes us fearful of experiencing something? What if we embrace that fear? What if we let it through the door, make it leave it’s shoes at the bottom of the steps, and invite it upstairs for tea? How hard can it push if there’s nothing to push against?

The truth of life is sometimes things need to just happen. Whether that be anxiety or voices, sometimes it just needs to happen. Sometimes rivers need to run down the mountain. Sometimes plants need extra room to grow. What do you expect to happen if you keep a blooming, growing plant confined in its seedling box? Where do you expect the roots to go? What do you expect to happen to the plant? If you can answer those questions for that example, you can answer those questions for yourself.

I get scared often. I get scared of the demons that follow me around and tell me I’m possessed. I get scared of that feeling of being watched, targeted, followed, by something supernatural, something I can’t fight back against, except with spirit. That scares me. And sometimes I fight it: I obsess over it, and that obsession leads to no sleep, and no sleep leads to increased feelings of being watched, touched, yanked on, clawed, and torn apart.

I’ve been learning along with you all. Sometimes in that fear I simply let myself be fearful. I ask myself what’s the worse that has happened? What’s the worse that can happen? How likely is it to happen? What else could these feelings be attributed to? Is there something going on in my life right now that is making me fearful, sad, angry, and it’s manifesting as this spiritual attack?

The other truth of life is that there are many different reasons for things. And to limit yourself to one reason for one thing is only backing yourself into a corner.

 

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Let me explain from the beginning.

Perhaps if you’re just tuning into this website, you’re not quite sure what it’s about or why after all these months I’ve decided to make another post. Well, let me say that not everyone who disappears never reappears. There are some of us writers who need long breaks, vacations, a little time to go crazy in the comfort, or discomfort, of their own room. The latter, applying heavily to me.

I preach. I am a preacher. I preach self-care, self-love. I preach happiness and the dual meaning within it. I preach the importance and skill of being mindful of your emotions, your own inner processes, and the pain which accompanies those two things. I also work at Second Story Peer Respite, a place which values communication, peer support, and mutuality. If you’d like to hear a bit about Second Story, click here. If you’re confused on what a respite house is, click here. Click both, if you have the time.

I struggle in practicing what I preach, and with communication, which is why this website first started out as a whiny, self-centered blog that a bunch of people liked because my sarcasm was over 9000, especially in regards to Alex Gorsky. It’s since turned into something greater, and is still building despite my hiatus. We talk about mental health in different ways here, examining critical perspectives, and every once in a while I post another personal article like this one. I like openness, and for you to know the person behind the virtual paper.

In September 2017, I wasn’t doing well. If you know dissociation, you know the feelings of leaving this world for another. The feeling of unreality and reality merging into one big blur. At home it seemed whenever I walked through the door I’d get called some version of bitch, motherfucker, lazy ass–something derogatory–and that’s a very hard environment to live in for 22 years. I felt myself getting depressed. I’m well versed in depression, since age 10, and knew I’d need to ride this out. So I gripped for dear life.

Why didn’t I speak with anyone? A peer? My psychologist? My Boyfriend? I’m not sure. Sometimes there are things in life you can’t explain, and this is one of them.

But then things were better. I could wake up for work with energy, I engaged with guests at the house, happily too! I felt connected and strong. And then the Las Vegas shooting happened.

Like a lot of people, I was affected. Watching the videos of people running for their life, ducking for their life, screaming for their life, holding onto their loved ones whose blood is splattered across the dirt, hearing the gunshots fire without remorse–all of it was quite traumatic for many, no one more so than those there.

But I became obsessed. I started listening to the conspiracies, believing them. I stopped sleeping, I wasn’t eating regularly (two heavy self-care things) and I knew something was off, but I’d felt this way before–ride it out, you’ll make it, just like the depression: you’ll make it.

Then I went to take some cash out of an ATM two weeks later. Worst mistake of my life.

As I stepped from my car, conspiracies repeating themselves over in my mind in the form of thoughts and voices, I glanced at the grey haired woman with the white stripe. Her eyes locked into mine, her smile sly. I frowned behind my sunglasses. Her head was twisted around–all the way around, like an owl. And she stared. She stared so hard, I knew she was attempting to penetrate my mind. And this is where my memory gets a little foggy.

What I do remember is that, in that moment, I knew possession was to blame for all of this, including the shooting; it only made sense, considering the police couldn’t find a motive at that time. And so I sped home. And I wrote all of this down. Somewhere.

What I do believe, what I’ve always believed, what I’ve been running from since I was a kid, is bad spirits, that I’m here for a reason on earth, perhaps not to preach but to bring some kind of light to the world. And I believe there are spirits attempting to prevent that, and that the Vegas shooting was their way of getting close to me. They split themselves into that man, the woman at the ATM, my family, and my coworkers.

Drama at work lead me to mistrust every body in the house, even people not involved, and I believed they were possessed. I believed it fully. I didn’t tell them that, but I believed it. Have you ever told someone you thought they were possessed? Imagine the conversation. Especially if they really are possessed. Demons don’t like being revealed.

It makes you wonder: you went to work during all this? Yes, I did. If you’ve read the articles above, you’ll understand why. Regardless of what was going on, it was still my sanctuary.

I don’t hear voices as frequently as others, usually when I’m stressed I expect them and they come, and I was very stressed. They often followed me into my dreams, and into the waking world, where they told me 1/3 of my body had been possessed as well. They’d taken me down into hell to show me their truth and some rotted, tortured corpses and sent a killer after me who chased me through my dreams and into the waking world, once again. I guess that sounds a bit like Freddy Kruger. I think I watched that movie too often as a child.

Anyway, bottom-line: I wasn’t safe as I slept and I wasn’t safe when I was awake, so I stopped sleeping: I like to see my death coming.

As work drama died down for the others, it only intensified for me. I learned things that made me feel not only betrayed by many, but disturbed. Rather than take some time away, I picked up more than my usual two shifts a week. Twice in a row I worked four or five days, on only a few hours of sleep, while being chased, tormented, and screamed at. I’m not sure how I do the things I do.

I wanted to die. And so I said that. Against my wishes, I was transferred to a hospital 45 minutes away. Best mistake of my life. I got out of town, away from work, away from my family, and away from my town: every source of stress in one swoop.

If you look at the quotes on this website, you’ll infer hospitals, psychiatric medication, and the mental health industry is not something I agree with regularly. This hospital softened a spot in my heart for it all. Not for the corruption, the publication bias, and the lying research, but for the idea that compassionate people do indeed work in this industry, regardless of how clueless they are.

Each staff knew my work place. In fact, they encouraged me to quit: I’m too young and too fragile. I certainly didn’t take that advice, I’ve never been too young or too fragile for anything, quite obviously.

But there was one woman, one nurse, who tuned into something greater than myself, something hidden within my subconscious which she must have seen in my eyes given we’d never spoken. She called me out of the day room, away from my comedic happy place, and into a group room. She asked me why I wanted to die. No filibuster, no opening joke. I appreciated that.

She shared some stories, some words of wisdom. She asked me how I grew up, she asked me about home life, she gathered the facts and truths and she made me repeat something she used to tell herself: “I am enough, I have enough.” I thought it silly, particularly since she made me repeat it a million times, until I found myself balling–and not from the torture of repetition, but something deeper, perhaps feelings I hadn’t yet touched. She asked me when everything started: the voices, the paranoia, the depression, and I told her. She only had one thing to say as a response: It’s a gift.

Something I’d known myself, but it came with greater weight from someone who really had no idea who I was besides what she gathered during this moment we’d shared.

Back in my room that night as I read Plague of Doves by Louise Eldritch, the same nurse knocked on the door and slipped some papers into my hands, one of which was a quote:

“Everything is energy; and that is all their is. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy, this is physics.” –Albert Einstein.

I’m not a big Einstein buff, but I am a physics buff, and philosophy buff, both of which I’m working on degrees towards. She had no knowledge of this, but she grasped on something about me, perhaps the way I spoke, the metaphors I used. And I thanked her graciously for her taking the time to connect with me. She didn’t have to. Only one other nurse did that out of the five or so I interacted with.

So why did she give me this quote? Well, I could go into the relative explanation. I could go into the different theories which support this fact that energy is everything, including the holographic principal. But I won’t bore you all that way, I’m sure I’ve done it in other older posts.

What I’m around, who I’m around, how life is in general, the energy of life, influences your mentality, and if you remain in that mentality it’s all you will attract. It sounds like something out of that quack book “The Secret”, but there is some truth to it. I’m not saying everyone can just snap out of whatever they’re dealing with, if that were true we’d be a perfect society. I’m certainly not snapped out of what I went through. But I am more conscious of myself, my environment, and I’m back in tune with my gut, whether or not it leads me astray sometimes. Because when you disconnect from yourself you disconnect from everyone else, and everything else.

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Will I continue this website? Will I be posting more frequently again? Will the content still be as sarcastic and beautiful as the old days? Yes, yes, and oh yes. Tune in for more.