YouTube.

Something I’ve noticed about this world today, and maybe you’ve noticed it too, is that social media has become the main platform for not only giving news, but receiving news, updates, and connecting with people. You all know that I’ve got a Twitter (@Ipenned), and an Instagram (@Written_in_the_photo), as well as a Booksie account (@ImpulsivelyPenned) and this blog. One crucial element I feel that has been missing from my social media life (besides Facebook which I rarely ever go on) is a YouTube Account. I’ve been talking about making one for ages and I think I will finally follow through with my talk.

I will be starting it up in the next few days. What will I talk about it, you ask? What will it be about? I’m thinking of weaving some mental health stuff in, information about peer support, where to find it, how to find it and how to give it.  Maybe some gaming, some rants, a little bit of everything, and some shoots of the ocean to show you the life I live and the travels I go on.

If there is anything you would like to know about me for the first video, or about peer support most importantly, post your comments down below or email me some questions through my contact page. I will be answering questions in the first video. I would also like to collaborate with people who are also up-and-coming YouTubers, people who are just beginning, or who have begun and would like a new face on their channel. If you are any of those people, or any other people, contact me through my contact page and I’ll surely address you.

This is an exciting time for a millennial like me, all this new technology, and I figured I might as well take advantage of it, despite the hate I may get. I think one of the best ways to get a message out there is to try. And YouTube seems like a great way to connect with people I’ve never had the change to connect to before.

So again, have any questions or comments or maybe even concerns, shoot them in a comment below or send them to me through my contact page. We’ll see where this journey leads us.

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Who’s In Your Driver’s Seat?

It feels good to be back. And by being back I mean reading articles that really have meaning to them, reading tweets that aren’t just about the memearific Kim K shoot. It feels good to be reading and reporting on articles that support and disapprove of my stance. I read one this morning called “The Corruption of Evidence Based Medicine–Killing for Profit” by a Doctor Jason Fung, a Nephrologist. You can read it here.

I mostly report on the corruption within the medicine of psychiatry, but the same happens in the sector of physical health.

This isn’t surprising. As I’ve said many times, medicine is a business. It shouldn’t be, but it is. It’s the same sort of business Tobacco is: it feeds off of people’s weaknesses. That’s not to say at least medicine has the quality of “helping” some people. Without my dad’s blood pressure medicine, his pressure rises into the 200’s easy. They’ve already seen he’s had a few mini strokes none of us knew about. So I’m not here to say we need to abolish the current system. I’m here saying we need to take a closer look.

It’s not your physicians necessarily that are in on this, it’s the researchers, the pharmaceutical companies, and if you live in the United States, the insurance companies. It’s a shame the only research that gets published is the research that very obviously supports the pharmaceutical or the procedure.

Fung quotes Doctor Marcia Angell when she stated the mean truth:

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to reply on the judgement of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor.”

It didn’t take me two decades to reach that conclusion, and I wasn’t reluctant about it. As soon as I read anti-psychotics were given to three year old’s for tantrums, I knew something was screwy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientists to see the profit within that.

Some psychiatrists and physicians aren’t even aware of what they’re doing half the time. My last psychiatrist wanted to raise me to 15mg of Abilify even though the research says anything about 10mg shows no real efficacy. And yet, how high up do they go in miligrams? 30. Think about that. 2mg of Abilify is 939 dollars a prescription without insurance. Abilify is one of the top-selling Antipsychotics in the U.S. Think about it. It took me digging through a lot of papers and research to even find the truth about the efficacy.

Soon all the rage will be these injections. The easiest way to trap someone on a medication is to give them one they can’t refuse. They are, of course, for the more “difficult” patients. So not only are you a patient with no rights, you’re also a patient with no rights who knows they have no rights, so you stand up to that, and that makes you difficult. Or, your experience of psychosis hasn’t been properly approached yet, and therefore you are left to sizzle in your own mind with only the fleeting hope an injection will change things. Maybe for some it does. But at what cost?

Fung makes a good point: “Evidence based medicine is completely worthless if the evidence base is false or corrupted.” 

Doctor Relman makes another good point:

“The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”

It’s very disgraceful. This is why I have such a strong moral stance against taking medication, this is why I hate to admit that sometimes, yes, a low dosage of a medication does even out my mood. Yes, a low dosage of a medication does help me better understand and better dictate what thoughts I listen to and what thoughts I don’t.

It’s when doctors push up your milligrams because your voices haven’t gone that is the problem. Maybe the voices will never go away: if you haven’t accepted or made peace with that, that’s not a problem medication will solve. Maybe the delusional thoughts will always be there. The depression. The anxiety. If you haven’t accepted any of that, again, that’s not a problem medication will solve. 

It’s also not a problem to be solved. It’s an experience to learn from. It’s an experience to learn how to experience it in a way where you can still live the life you want to. Everyone has some kind of struggle that holds them back at some point in life. You are no different. And to sit back and say “Well, this is my ‘sickness’, I guess I’m doomed to a life of nothingness” is called giving up. That’s not acceptance.

That’s one thing that I struggle with in accepting this “mental health awareness” campaign everyone has going. They’re making awareness for the sickness, the illness, for this idea of helplessness because “your mental illness will never go away”. We should be empowering each other. We should be introducing each other to new perspectives, new ways of hearing voices, new ways of interpreting delusions, new ways of tackling anxiety, new ways of coping with depressions, new ways of experiencing mood swings. The only way we will avoid the corruption of ourselves is to keep ourselves. We can’t lose ourselves within this idea of being ill, of being sick, of needing this, needing that, being disabled.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

 

Mainstream Psychology & Psychiatry

Alright, let’s talk about this. Some of you probably already know my stance on psychology, psychiatry, and the way the system is set up. If you’re new to this blog, and haven’t been through the ringer with me, check out the quotes at the bottom of the home page and you’ll probably get the jist really quickly.

But there’s a trend on social media that I kind of want to address. It’s this cliche thing of naming what people like to call “mental illness”. I’ll use the term here because they do, but know I don’t believe in it, and never will I call myself mentally ill.

twitter_512I came across a Tweet (yes, I use twitter: @Ipenned) today stating “Social Anxiety disorder is not to be confused with introversion–which is true. It went on to state that people who are extroverted can also have social anxiety, which is certainly true. But then they had to ruin that truth with “Social Anxiety Disorder is a mental illness and can affect anyone”.

Why does that ruin the truth? Well, as someone who has struggled with social anxiety since I was a toddler (4 years old), and we’re talking severe social anxiety, I used to faint if I got called to the front of the class, and once spoke in tongues in front of a whole class because a substitute teacher called on me and my brain stopped working. I’ve made two whole friends in my life by myself. But as someone who has struggled with this, the last thing I want to be called is ill.

I’d rather be told I experience life differently. I’d rather be told not only is it okay to be anxious, but it’s okay to not need, want, or feel pressured to make or be involved in friendships. A lot of my anxiety abated when I went off on my own. Not because I’m some sick loner that needs to get my shit together, but because I actually enjoy time to myself, and the anxiety tires me out if I’m around people too long. That’s not a problem. That’s not something that’s wrong with me. That’s me. And if other people have a problem with it, that’s on them. They don’t have the right to call that part of me an illness.

I don’t consider my psychosis an illness. I interpret things differently, I think about things differently, my perspective is often through a lens of trauma, which becomes a lens of delusion, and once I was helped to understand that, a lot of clarity ensued.

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I don’t consider my depression an illness. I’ve been through a lot in my life, including homelessness, growing up around a lot of alcohol and drugs, domestic violence, violence–that changes the way you think, the way you see things, and the way you feel. Your neurons develop different connections. That’s not an illness. That’s an environmental change, an evolution. That’s called plasticity. Depression has opened up so much beauty in the world to me, I wouldn’t be as grateful, thankful, or happy as I am today without depression. And that’s not me glorifying the situation, that’s me finding the good in what everyone says is bad.

So it frustrates me when I see people on social media promoting this idea of illness. Why are you insulting yourself? Why are you feeding into the labels? I’m so confused.

I’m confused on why people think injections of medication is a good thing. I’m confused on why that’s not seen as a trap. I get that a lot of people have trouble taking their medication, I’m one of those people, but are once-monthly injections necessary? What if the person wishes to get off and their doctor doesn’t agree? Their power is taken away. And I understand that people really wholly believe their doctor knows what’s best for them. But I’m come across many psychiatrists who instead push their own agenda and don’t listen to a word I say. How is that knowing best? How is not listening to your “patient” knowing what’s best?

I guess I’m just confused in general. I’m sick of being seen as the enemy. I’m sick of people thinking that because I refuse to feed into the hype of pop psychology that I’m in denial of my own issues. If you want to consider yourself disordered and sick and ill and put all these negative connotations on yourself, and then turn around and say you’re not your illness, you go ahead and play around with it, try to make that logically sound. I, however, refuse to play into bullshit and refuse to play into the hype.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

Living and Breathing with Social Anxiety

If there’s one thing I sometimes wish I didn’t exist because of it, it would be social anxiety. For me, it’s more than the occasional nervous butterflies in the stomach when you get near a crowd, it’s more like the crippling can’t-do-anything-in-your-life kind of anxiety. Let me give an example from this very moment.

My new apartment is about 15 minutes from the main library branch in town, which is wonderful for someone like me, who is an avid reader. The problem is, I’ve been missing my library card since I was about 15 or 16. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal except in order to get it reinstated, or get a new one, I have to talk to the librarian.

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Talk.

To.

The.

Librarian.

And some of you might be thinking–wait a second, you’re a peer worker. Isn’t talking kind of your job? And you’d be right. And I’d feel like an idiot, as usual. But you see, being a peer worker is quite different, I’m among my own people and the conversation is more of others talking than me hogging up the space. I can handle that. I can’t handle small talk. And speaking to a librarian about a lost library card is considered small talk to my brain.

So, instead I’m sitting in the library writing this post.

I brought a few dollars with me in case I do decide to get a new card, but with the way my head is spinning and my stomach is feeling, I most likely will not be doing that today. It’s not urgent, but I would like some free reading material.

So how do people live with this? There are some people who aren’t able to step foot outside of their door, and I was one of those people until a couple years ago. What has worked for me may not work for others, but I figured I’d share some things anyway.

add090525_1_560One thing that has helped me was getting to the root of my social anxiety. What makes me most anxious, what makes me least anxious, and where could this have started? For me, what makes me most anxious is crowds. All of the eyes and voices are overstimulating to me, and can aggravate my own voices, and I don’t like the idea of all of those eyes judging every ounce of me. Eyes bother me because I don’t want to be seen. I’ve never been seen before, not truly. When I was a kid I was taught not to be seen or heard by the actions of my parents. Therefore, when I am seen, physically or metaphysically, I am wholly uncomfortable.

What makes me least anxious is one-on-one communication. There is a lot less stimulation. There is still the risk of judgement, but there is always a risk for judgement and that is something I need to get comfortable with, not something other people need to fix. Judgement is within human nature, unfortunately, and some people don’t have the capacity to not judge. Therefore, I need to have the capacity to not care. And I’m working on that.

What fuels my social anxiety is my childhood, and perhaps a predisposition towards anxiety as well. I was yelled at a lot, chased, around a lot of drugs, alcohol, and anger. I wasn’t allowed to speak unless I was being spoken to directly, and not even then sometimes. Silence became my comfort because I knew I wouldn’t get attacked if I stayed silent.

In learning the truth behind my social anxiety I have been better able to manage it. I realize that that trauma is not everywhere. I am allowed to speak if I wish to, and allowed not to speak if I don’t wish to.

58809653-man-at-desk-overwhelmed-hard-work-stress-at-work-fatigue-at-work-vector-illustration-flat-designIt’s easier to say than do. It’s taken a few years of practice, a lot of tears, a lot of frustration, self-harm, suicide threats, hospitalizations–not all related to social anxiety, but in one way or another those experiences have pushed me further towards being less socially anxious, particularly being in the hospital where I have no choice but to “live” with other people.

What has also helped me has been telling people about my social anxiety. I tell people about my paranoia, about delusions, and my mild hallucinations and in doing that I’ve learned to really, really, REALLY not care what people think, because I’m forcing them to judge me. And if you tell someone that when a celebrity dies, their spirit lives with you, they are going to judge you, trust me.

But telling people about my social anxiety has helped them also become aware of what makes me uncomfortable and what makes me comfortable, and that has been really helpful for me. There are some people who don’t care, and there will always be people who don’t care. But of the few that do, it’s been really helpful.

Everyone is at a different level of their anxiety. Mine was severe, to the point where I didn’t leave my house and if I did I would cry, shake, and have a panic attack. It’s now to the point where I can pick and choose some days to step outside, have some fun, and explore my limits. It takes work and dedication. But severity can be reduced. And that’s today’s Mental Truth

Reaching Contentment

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Where are you in your journey?

I feel like I spent a lot of time confused. If any of you are reading from the past, you’ll remember all the posts I made while I was in classes, about annoying girls flipping their hair right in my face and Calculus tests and writing workshops. You might even remember that I started dropping classes like flies. Now I’m trying to work on getting back into my classes so I can finish this puny fucking degree.

I’ve always liked school, and I’ve always been rather smart. There were some things I had to work at harder than others, but a lot of that was chalked up to my anxiety and inability to raise my hand and ask for clarification when I needed it–everyone needs clarification sometimes, I don’t care how smart you are. And if you are unable to get that small little aide, you start falling behind. And that’s exactly what I did. That’s exactly what I’m still doing.

Where am I in my journey–I’m not quite sure. I still feel a little lost and a little confused, but I feel like the directions are becoming clearer. I feel like I’m not longer standing at a fifty pronged fork in the road, I feel like I’ve narrowed it down to about 4 prongs.

I will be attending some classes again this semester, but I feel more ready for them, more so than I have in the last couple years. It’s going to feel a little strange being back in the classroom and as I watch my cat jump atop the fridge to get atop the kitchen cabinets, I realize that I have to do the same thing she does: calculate how far I can really leap, and what my limits are. I can’t just be jumping aimlessly. I need to jump with a purpose. That’s the only way to keep what little motivation I have left steady.

Life is such a great learning experience, I’ve learned to appreciate so much over the last three years. I’ve learned to appreciate myself most of all, and the shit I’ve put up with.

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I think what has made this experience one of the best experiences is that I’ve really learned how to feel my feelings. I was talking the other day with someone about how content I was, and how that feeling has been harder to learn to accept than the negative emotions. I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m content. I don’t have to fight with my brain, I don’t have to practice breathing because I’m not anxious, I’m not hearing voices or seeing demons, I’m not suicidal, I’m just kind of sitting in my house content with where I am in the moment. And that’s a new feeling. As with all new feelings, they take some time getting used to.

My intention was to pinpoint ways to become content like this, but I’m not sure if I can put it into steps or even words. I’m still expanding my support force, both with peers and in the professional world, and I’ve dropped a lot of pride. I’m still morally against taking psychiatric medication, but I came to the realization that as a temporary tool they can be useful. I’ve decided to give it a year or two, see how much progress I can make, see what skills I can learn to curb my experiences, and re-evaluate at that point. It felt like a defeat. It will always feel like a defeat.

My cat is scratching to the beat of Chop Suey by System of a Down. THAT was hilarious.

I think I introduced my cat to everyone 2 years ago when I got her, and I said I’d named her Andromeda. That was a lie. I have since named her Jazz. She likes Jazz music and is wild like Jazz can be, and smooth and calm like Jazz can be. Therefore, her name is Jazz and it will forever be Jazz. Here is Jazz now:

 

Jazz Photo
She’s gotten much bigger
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This was her 2 years ago

Now she lays on her back and watches Television. ‘MERICAN Cat.

My posts are going to be haphazard like this until I get back into my writing groove. There is a groove, believe it or not, that writers get into. Some people are content with spewing the first thought from their head, and that is their groove. I do most of my deep thinking when I’m writing, so a lot of these thoughts are carefully calculated in my head as I type. Nothing is too spontaneous. I edit and edit and edit and take what I say very seriously, even when I’m joking about Ben Carson lying about his times at Yale. Carson could never be a good manipulator of the masses, he lies too blatantly. You have to lie subtly, with the intent to make the lie sound real. Nothing he said sounded real. I think he needs to operate on his own brain.

I will forever rip him, Trump, and Alex Gorskey a new one at any chance I get. One day I hope at least one of them will read some of the things I’ve said about them. I will be content on my death bed if that is the case.

Throwing Shade.

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Passion

I’m curious what you all think. I mean really lay it on me, tell me all of your thoughts and wishes. Tell me your self-hate speech and what that little voice is like inside of your head. Tell me your positive self speech and what that little voice is like inside of your head. Tell me if you don’t have one or don’t have the other. I’d like to know.

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I’d also like to know what you think about your therapist, briefly, sharing a struggle they’ve had in order to relate to something you’re saying. I know some people don’t like their professionals to “get personal” with them, but I’m curious why this is. I’m curious why you wouldn’t want someone who is there to help with your mental health prove to you that everyone struggles in one way or another at some point in their lives? I thought the whole point wasn’t to feel alone?

I salivate over the idea of mental health peers being counselors, therapists, psychiatrist, psychologists, people who really understand and can share their successes with you and how they got to where they are: that to me is inspiration, not a sign of a bad therapist. I don’t think they should sit there and tell you everything about their life, I don’t want to know about the star shaped mole on their husband’s nether regions, but telling me about a coping mechanism they’ve used for anxiety would be helpful.

Maybe this is just me. That’s why I’m sending it out to all of you, what’s left of you at least, since I’ve taken so many hiatus’ from this blog that I don’t know who actually reads me anymore or who doesn’t.

Since I will be giving a speech on peer supportive opportunities tomorrow, I’m in the spirit of talking about it.

How useful would it be that your therapist knew exactly what severe anxiety felt like.

How useful would it be that your psychiatrist remembers what their psychotic break was like.

How useful would it be that your counselor knew exactly how low your energy got during a depression because they’d been there before.

I think there’s a lot of compassion and empathy missing from the system sometimes, and I think a lot of that has to do with not really, truly, understanding what we go through. I think it also has to do with this “just do your job” mentality that happens from working a career too long–at least for some.

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I know there was a big difference between the physician’s assistant my dad saw in the emergency room versus the doctors that had been practicing for years. You could tell the P.A remembered all of his motivational interviewing skills. He knew how to connect, he knew how to negotiate, and he did it all with some serious humor. Maybe he’ll just be a great doctor one day. Or maybe it’s because he was new.

Somehow we have to keep that passion up. How should we do that? Should we, as patients, clients, residents, guests, members, whatever you refer to yourself as–should we start a ruckus? Should we remind our doctors why they became doctors in the first place?

Then there are the nice doctors who you do connect with who make simple mistakes. But it’s how they handle those simple mistakes that tells me whether or not they are decent at what they do.

For example, the nurse practitioner who handles my psychiatric medications (yes I am once again back on meds) told me that Abilify’s starting dose is 15mg.

It most certainly is not. How can it be if the first “therapeutic” dose is 10mg? I have yet to mention to her that the physician’s desk reference tells us that anything above 10mg hasn’t really shown any true efficacy in all the studies its been through, that will be a conversation for when she decides to try to take me to 15mg.

When I told her that I wanted to start at 5mg because my body is sensitive to this bullshit (I didn’t say bullshit, but I wanted to), she said oh, okay, we’ll do that–and didn’t argue with me. She trusted that I knew what was best for my body and I respect that. Not every psychiatrist or doctor will do that. Some of them pretend to know everything. Throw some Calculus at them, I bet they forgot how to do it. So they don’t know everything. Ha.

I think this also speaks to be able to speak up for yourself. It’s taken me a lot of years to learn that skill when it comes to doctors, because you want to trust what they have to say, you want to trust what they say is best for you, but the truth is only you know what’s best for you. Sometimes that means no medication, sometimes that means swallowing your pride and your arrogance and quelling your hatred for pharmaceutical systems and taking some form of medication until you can better handle yourself.

I don’t believe anyone is doomed to medication for eternity. Including myself. But I also recognize now that it’s an essential aide sometimes in life.

The point is, speak up for yourself. Don’t let someone, especially a professional, tell you that you don’t know yourself.

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The Future of Preventive Care

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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.

Where Do We Fit?

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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.

This Is Mindfulness

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.

 

 

 

This Is Why You’re Depressed

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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.