This Is Why You’re Depressed

Sunset in Santa Cruz-0092

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.

Trust Your Dopeness-0181

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Soteria, Peer Respites, and The Future.

In honor of 7/10: a special piece on a particular psychiatrist who helped catalyst alternative thinking within the psychiatric system. July 10th was the 13th anniversary of his death. He was also one of many sporadic voices focusing a harsh light on the cracks in the dam of the system, particular the APA of which he was a board member for 35 years. In his resignation letter on December 4, 1998, he stated clearly the truth:

“Unfortunately, the APA reflects, and reinforces, in word and deed, our drug dependent society. . . at this point in history, in my view, psychiatry has been almost completely bought out by the drug companies. The APA could not continue without the pharmaceutical company support . . .”

He had a few choice words about the organization NAMI.

“In addition, the APA has entered into an unholy alliance with NAMI (I don’t remember the members being asked if they supported such an organization) such that the two organizations have adopted similar public belief systems about the nature of madness. . . NAMI, with tacit APA approval, has set out a pro-neuroleptic drug and easy commitment-institutionalization agenda to move forward. . .”

And of course, his words on the DSM:

“And finally, why does the APA pretend to know more than it does? DSM IV is the fabrication upon which psychiatry seeks acceptance by medicine in general. Insiders know it is more a political than scientific document . . .”

We’re talking, of course, about Loren R. Mosher, M.D. If you’d like to read his letter of resignation, you can click here. It’s fairly short, but highly powerful. He speaks on the fact that there is no damning or solid evidence to support that any “mental illness”, particularly schizophrenia, is a “brain disease”–which still holds true to this day. The studies conducted on the flow of neurotransmitters during “active” phases have two invalidating, but obvious, issues:

  1. In early experiments, people were on neuroleptics. That obviously effects neurotransmitters. Invalid.
  2. We have nothing to compare this to: the so-called “decreased white matter” or “increased dopamine” could be a result of so many things, including years of antipsychotics, and without tracing this person and their exact brain chemistry since fetal development and birth, without having a clear image of their brain chemistry before the onset of their experiences, there’s no possible way you can conclude, and be valid in your conclusion, that those two observations are the result of a “disease”. INVALID. INVALID. INVALID. 

Mosher felt the acceptance of schizophrenia as a “disease” was essentially just a function of “fashion, politics, and money”.

Don’t feel invalidated by that, because he’s not invalidating individual experiences here, he’s invalidating the economic leverage organizations like the APA or NAMI or Big Pharma receive from promoting this idea of “brain disease”, by publishing weak data the public would never notice if they didn’t take five psychology research courses in college. How many of us with mental health issues have taken five psychology research course in college, including behavioral statistics? How many of us, when we read a research paper, really know what we’re reading? 

Many of us never read the actual paper, we only read what’s been reiterated in other articles. That’s like playing that game “telephone” when you were a kid: whispering different phrases in each other’s ear and when the last person says what they heard, it’s never what the first person said. That’s exactly what this is like.

Mosher didn’t just run around spewing “psychiatry is a lie! You’re being dooped!” with a sign on his chest saying “THE END IS NEAR” and a tin foil hat. He was born in Monterey  California, obtained his first degree from Stanford and his medical degree from Harvard where he received his psychiatric training. To me, that means nothing. What he went and did with it, I respect.

He visited Kingsley Hall in England (more on THAT in a different article), learned what he could, skeptical of the level of support, returned to the U.S and became the first chief of the NIMH Centre for Schizophrenia studies. Within those years, inspired by many past theories, philosophies, and attempts, Soteria Project started.

This wasn’t your average experiment. This wasn’t 30 days with a few questions, a sugar pill, and a checkmark by your name. This was a lengthy study, and the community stayed open from 1971-1983, with a two year follow up, and not-so shocking results–depending on who is reading the research.

Here’s a quick overview of the project.

Requirements:

In order to be apart of this experiment, one needed to meet certain requirements:

  1. A diagnosis, by 3 individual clinicians, of schizophrenia (based on the DSM 2).
  2. Deemed in need of hospitalization.
  3. At least 4 of 7 Bleulerian diagnostic symptoms (explained below) by 2 independent clinicians.
  4. Not more than ONE hospitalization for 30 days or less.
  5. Ages 18-30
  6. Marital Status: Single

Bleulerian symptoms: “autism”, in this way meaning a withdrawal from reality into fantasy, and affect (flattened, inappropriate), associations (loose ones), and ambivalence (mixed/contradictory feelings). Hallucinations–mostly voices, thought broadcasting, somatic mix-ups (believing someone else is imposing something on your body), delusions–all those kinds of fun things.

The purpose of the age and the hospitalization requirement wasn’t to exclude old people, it was so the project could hold some validity: the individuals taking part needed to have never been drowned in the system, or muddied up with medication. For comparison, Soteria was running up against traditional hospital treatments: confinement, involuntary medication, involuntary isolation, and stigma.

The Experiment:

Mosher describes Soteria as follows:

 “. . . a 24 hour a day application of interpersonal phenomenologic interventions by a nonprofessional staff, usually without neuroleptic drug treatment, in the context of a small, homelike, quiet, supportive, protective, and tolerant social environment. The core practice of interpersonal phenomenology focuses on the development of a non-intrusive, noncontrolling, but actively empathetic relationship with the psychotic person without having to do anything explicitly theraputic or controlling.”

The key word here, being empathetic. Not sympathetic. Not pity.

Well, there are several key words. Nonintrusive. Noncontrolling. Homelike. Supportive. Not things you usually associate with a mental health facility.

In his words, he describes the role of these “nonprofessionals” as someone who is “standing by attentively”, or “being with [the person]”, or “stepping into the other person’s shoes”. If anything, the point of the staff was to “develop a shared experience of the meaningfulness the client’s individual social context, current and historical”.

They took a bunch of psychology graduates in their mid twenties, and stuck them in an environment with people aged 18-30 who were actively “psychotic”. That’s the bottom line. There was no medication intervention. A psychiatrist stood by as peripheral, but he never was involved in treatment or decisions. He was kind of like a mannequin with eyes that blinked–that’s about as useful as he needed to be.

For many individuals, it took 4-6 weeks for their lucidity to break through and they were able to have conversations about where they wished to go next, what they wished to do, and built a plan around that with staff.

“Subjects” stayed for 5 months. The control subjects who were in for hospital admission stayed 1 month. Regardless of that difference, the cost for “treatment” was the same for both: around 4,000 dollars each.

Results:

The first six weeks there was marked improvement in communication, focus, and wellbeing, regardless of the lack of neuroleptics. After the two year follow up, only 3% of those from Soteria were maintained on medication. Compared to the control levels from the hospital, those at Soteria during the years 1971-1976 two years postadmission had higher level jobs, lived independently or with peers, and had fewer re-admissions.

There were two other Soteria-like programs built: Emanon and Crossing Roads. Crossing roads included clinical staff, medication, and a shorter more “motivation” focused stay: helping people prepare for life in society. You can read the compare and contrast in that straight from the source, linked below.

In order for programs like this to work as well as they did in his study, Mosher developed some guidelines:

  1. The setting needs to interact with the community and be indistinguishable from the community (I.e, a house on a block in a neighborhood).
  2. A small space, fitting about 6-10 people and admission must be informal and thoughtful of the person’s mental state.
  3. The staff isn’t there to bombard or control. They must be willing to understand “immediate circumstances and relevant background that precipitated the crisis”. This is what fosters the relationship and connection that allows staff to step into the other person’s shoes and support them in preparing for the social world.
  4. The relationship has the staff in multiple roles: companion, advocate, case worker, and therapist–without the therapy part. They make on the spot decisions, but include the “client” in the decision. The staff use this as a way to gain leverage in their field when they pursue higher mental health related degrees, and often have an interest in working with those in psychotic crisis. They are usually “psychologically tough, tolerant, and flexible” from lower middle class families with a “problem” member. MD’s are not in charge of the program.
  5. Staff prevent dependency and encourage “clients” to remain in contact with support networks. Clients may report feeling in control of themselves, and full with a sense of security.
  6. Access and departure is easy. Other than readmission, the clients have other means of staying in contact with the program: drop in visits, advice, or support over the phone. All clients are welcomed back once a week for an organized activity.

As a result, those who participated in this program remained socially involved, aware of the support THEY needed, rather than the support being shoved down their throat. They were given a sense of community, developed a sense of self, and that’s when the programs were shut down due to lack of funding.

Insurance companies and HMO’s refused to pay for something cheaper than hospitalizations, that promoted well-being and self-sufficiency without medication. Not to mention backed by extensive research, of which most hospital procedures and models do not have. They never will.

Conclusion:

What Mosher created was a Respite.

What we’ve further developed, upon the same principals with much amendment, are Peer Respites. However few and scattered they are, they exist, still with no big funding from major corporations or companies, nothing that would secure their existence as hospital’s have.

Rather than staff who have graduated with psychology degrees, Peer Respites are staffed with Peers: people who have swam in the deep pool of depression or swung high in the throws of Mania or slapped on that infamous tin foil hat to keep out the aliens. Whatever. I’ve never put Tin foil on my head, but I have wrapped myself in clear packaging tape to keep demons from scratching my skin. Close enough, right?

It didn’t work, by the way. I’m assuming the tin foil doesn’t keep out the aliens either, so I won’t try it. If aliens want my brainwaves, they can have them as long as they make me really good at math and whisper answers to me during tests.

Mini-Tangent over. I’ve forgotten what we were talking about.

Peer Respites. Not staffed by graduates, still not headed by MD’s, and still a community of quiet, supportive, community-based experiences. I have no clue how other’s are run, but the one I’m apart of has groups, outings (beach, hiking, whatever), trainings (for us), and a WarmLine: a phone number to call when you’re in need of support. It’s all very Soteria-esque, and also very modern. It gives those of us who are fortunate enough to “work” there a purpose, and a chance to be involved. Sometimes that means no more reliability upon disability checks. That’s huge.

Independence is encouraged: cook your own meals, wash your dishes, do what you need to during the day, call if you’re out late. We do meals together as well, everyone chips in–as much as some can–and no one is chastised if they can’t. Encouraged maybe, but never chastised. Humanity is a thing here, you see. A pretty big thing.

The wording as changed. For us, no one is a client: we have guests. We’re a house on a street in a neighborhood. We’re voluntary and self-referred. There’s no diagnosis, we don’t hand out medication, and we don’t judge if you’re on it or not.

The idea that humanity, kindness, and understanding is enough to support even the most “psychotic” person isn’t a new idea, you see. It’s just not one supported by the APA or Big Pharma. Most clinicians I’ve spoken with have never heard of such a thing, so it’s not spoken about in training, courses, or conferences unless those trainings, courses, and conferences are solely focused on Peer Support. Once again, not supported by the APA or Big Pharma. Can you think of any reasons why? I can think of a few dozen.

Were something specifically like Soteria to come back, it would be a game changer. To remove this idea that because you’re struggling, you need to be confined for your own safety and the safety of others only perpetuates this idea we’re violent, out of control, and unable to function in society. Not only does it send that message to the public, but it sends it to ourselves as well. And when we believe it, it comes true.

To direct people in crisis away from the system before they ever really become in contact with it, staffed and run by peers–that’s a dream in the making. That’s a recreation of Soteria. That’s a hybrid of Peer Respite. That would take a lot of funding. That’s been a goal of mine since I was 15. It’s been a passion since I learned Peer Respites still exist, and that the idea didn’t die with Soteria’s funding crisis.

It’s amazing what a little compassion can transform.

Links & Sources:

Soteria Review/explanation By Mosher

Bleurian Terminology and what schizophrenia was classified by

Mosher

Resignation letter (in case you missed it)

R.D Laing (Kingsley Hall)

A push against Psychiatry

The Peer Movement