To Friend, Or Not To Friend, That Is The Question

Friends. Friends, friends, friends, friends. It’s always been a touchy subject for me.

In junior high I had one friend who made friends with an older group and so I integrated myself into their group.

Well, it was much less of an integration and more like a . . . hmm. More like this:

I didn’t talk much to them, they didn’t talk much to me, but I followed them around because the idea of standing against the wall alone felt too vulnerable. Eventually I met a group of people I jived with and who didn’t bring tasers to school and we were all socially awkward together. Some of those friendships have stood the test of time, and one in particular has got me thinking about the nature of said relationships.

I have been friends with this person for many years (12?) and while I endured college and psychosis, she bumped coke and crashed cars. Granted, I was the one who introduced marijuana to her in high school, but I had enough sense to know when enough was enough. She obviously didn’t.

Psychosis and anxiety played a part, I guess. Hard to enjoy marijuana when every hit increases the two things you’re trying to escape.

She’s not quite an addict. The coke stopped when she had her kid. Now that her and her “baby daddy” (dear Christ I hate using that phrase) have split, and he takes the kid some weekends, she’s back to hanging with losers. For a while I struggled too, dipping back into Marijuana even though it caused me to end up in the E.R and the psych hospital, and back into heavy drinking even though I’d wake up crying, depressed, ready to end my life. Now that I’m more settled in my decision to stay off medication, now that I’ve got more of a healthy routine down, now that I’ve recovered from my abrupt break-up, I’m ready to move on with life. And for some reason I felt myself being called back to my old friendship.

So I’ve been hanging out with her for a few months, and it’s been fun, we have a lot of memories together and our personalities are similar. But I’m multiple people: I’m a peer worker by day (and overnight sometimes), I go to trainings and enjoy doing wholesome things with my friends/coworkers who happen to be twice my age (I’m 23). I enjoy being able to have an intelligent conversation and still find humor in so many things. And by night I’d run around the streets with her, driving places, drinking, smoking, “enjoying my twenties”.

I’m over it. That got so old so fucking quick ya’ll. Am I an old person in a young person’s body or something?

What really broke the camels back, or whatever the idiom is, punched the camel, killed the camel, whatever– wow, all three of those are horrible. What’s really made this decision for me (that’s better) was last weekend. As we wandered downtown, some people were catcalling, and while I tend to have a disgusted attitude about this, she feeds into it. The attention she receives from men–she needs it to survive. I believe it’s an insecurity thing, but having a deep conversation with her is literally impossible.

So, she went back to the group and got one dudes number. We ended up passing them one last time, where she decided to sit on the sidewalk and make a scene, smoke some weed on the street corner. Of course the group migrates over to us and while one loser is trying to hit on me, the other loser doesn’t need to do much to get her attention. They decide they want to eat at a restaurant with us, and while I’m not opposed to “making friends”, I am opposed to being surrounded by fucking morons.

Both are in their thirties and have children, young children. Why didn’t I leave? I’m not the type of person to leave a “friend” with two older men we know nothing about. Especially since she was still reeling from the molly and rave of the night before. She didn’t have a car, and I didn’t trust either of them to get her home safely. And so I stayed. I endured. I threw a lot of shade her direction masked by humor, which got a few laughs at the table. Fine. I can be an entertainer.

At the end of the night (2:50am) they took off, after one of them smacking her ass, and I took her home. Although this encounter is relatively mild (besides the constant being hit on) the reason it struck a nerve with me is because this has happened once before with her and me. In fact, my dumb 16 or 17 year old high self got in the car with two older guys (maybe early twenties? or younger. Adults.) that she said were going to take us for a ride. She lied to me. Her plan was to lose her virginity to one of them because she “couldn’t graduate high school without having lost her virginity”, because that’s something colleges and jobs care about, whether you fucked some loser or not.

Put that on your fucking resume. Literally. Your fucking resume.

They took us somewhere I didn’t recognize, and that’s when I got angry. No one would tell me where we were. I got out the car when we stopped and was pissed. She got busy with the dude in the car. The other guy, his friend, tried getting me to kiss him, to touch him, e.t.c, and I had to elbow him in the chest to the ground to get him off me. I was very athletic, strong, and wasn’t in the mood for his fucking shit. He stopped after that. We waited. They took us back to the mall. I called my mom asking her to pick us up, and called my friend a whore. We didn’t talk for a while.

I realize I’ve held onto this friendship because I’m scared of being thrown to the sharks, of having to make new friends. I’ve never been good at it. Ever. But by being around the group I have been lately, I realize what true compassion and kindness and friendship is. I never experienced it before, really. I now realize we’re at different points in our lives. We’ve both had setbacks, and we both are struggling to get on our feet. The difference is I would like to balance and she prefers the wobble.

I hope it doesn’t take her son being taken away from her for her to get the fucking picture. Because I’m done. And I’m probably the only friend she had who would actually stick their neck out for her.

Not quite sure how to start this conversation with her.

The Night I Tried to Kill Myself

I don’t quite know how to put this experience into words. I haven’t written for some time again, due to feelings of inadequacy, depression, and general brain fog. I can’t seem to form coherent sentences as quickly as I used to, nor can I focus for long periods of time on something that I have a deep love for.

Thursday, 10.25.18 I remember walking into the outpatient center I attend for a therapy session. I remember the feelings of utter hopelessness attending with me, like a sack lunch I was carrying to school. I had made the decision to give up. I was tired of fighting, I was tired of trying to fight, and I was tired of the only option being fighting. I was tired of fighting myself, I was tired of, for the millionth time in my mental health career, coming off of medication, and I was tired of hearing I needed medication to thrive.

I was taking 10 milligrams of Abilify and 10 milligrams of Trintellix and I couldn’t find the energy to finish homework, or get out of bed, and I didn’t have the luxury of feeling any emotion at all: happiness, sadness, inquisitiveness, passion–nothing. And so I did what I always do: stopped the medication.

This usually happens without consequence. For the most part, I’ll stop cold turkey after a couple of months, struggle through a few physical withdrawal symptoms, and get on with my lifestyle. The last time I stopped these two meds, I regained my energy quickly, breezed through four classes, and managed happiness until the opinions of those I care about convinced me to try the medication again.

So I tried again, For maybe two and a half weeks. Then I stopped. I stopped and I noticed my energy did not come back. My mood was stable until it wasn’t. It plummeted. I focused a lot on what was wrong with me, the disappointment of my relationship ending (yes, I’m still stuck on that), and the worries of the future regarding my education, where I’m going to live after December, and the simple fact that I struggle taking care of myself. Those are the surface issues. There are deeper issues I don’t think I’m in touch with yet.

I’ve struggled with depression since I was ten years old. A low mood was nothing new to me, in fact I welcomed it because the darkness was comforting. It was an old friend, a sinister reminder that life is suffering and suffering reminds us that we’re alive. I was thankful for this friend to return because on the medication I didn’t feel alive.

I started planning fun things to do to keep me from falling further: A concert, an overnight trip to San Francisco, Halloween plans and costumes. I got excited: the week of the 21st would be marvelous.

But I started separating from myself.  I don’t remember when, and I don’t remember how, but part of me blacked out. I know I was around and talking to people because I went to work, had laughs, made plans. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I was there.

By Thursday, the 25th, I was moving slowly, not comprehending where I was, no hope or vision for the future, and I’d even lost interest in Halloween, my favorite holiday. I confessed to the therapist that I didn’t have energy to care much about my life, nor could I answer her questions. I didn’t tell her I’d made a plan to (somehow) kill myself after Halloween. It wasn’t fully developed yet, an undercooked chicken in the oven.

I don’t remember much about the session other than the ending: a mindful meditation seeking to locate my inner child. I remember a lot of pain resurfacing, so deep and profound I had never felt it before, and I snapped. I was gone. She asked me how I felt, and I told her dissociated, separated from myself. I remember that. She made me do some grounding activities to bring me back into my body. I don’t think they worked.
That night I went to a concert. It put me in a seemingly better mood.

Friday and Saturday I spent the days in San Francisco at the Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, Six Flags, and around town. Saturday evening, on the drive back, a sinister part of me reminded me of my plan.

I’m not a stranger to hearing voices. I don’t hear them every day, and I haven’t had a bad episode in a while, not since my last hospitalization last year, but this time was different. This time I heard nothing external, and everything internal.

We all have an inner voice that reads to us, thinks for us, and we are in control of that voice, we dictate it. I’m dictating it now as I read back what I wrote, and as I write. But what I listened to that Saturday evening was not of my own doing. A different voice, a male voice, one inside of my head that I had no control of, which directly told me I needed to kill myself. He instructed me to open the door of the car and jump out in traffic–on the highway–and end it. He addressed me as “you” and I addressed me as “I”. That’s the only difference I can pinpoint right now. When I had a thought of my own, I said to myself “I need to calm down”. When I didn’t, he said “you need to do this. There’s no reason for you to live, you don’t deserve life.”

Was this a demonic entity interfering with my thoughts? I didn’t know. I sat paralyzed in the rental car my Ex drove, crying consistently for an hour and a half. The torment wouldn’t stop. “You don’t deserve to live. There’s nothing good about you. Jump out of the car. End it. When you get home, kill yourself. Hang yourself in the closet, no one will even find you.”

I had plans that evening with another friend, so I did not act on those commands. I did, however, drink quite a bit of whiskey and wander around the downtown city. When I got home, I drank more whiskey and fell asleep.

In the morning I awoke instantly crying. The day was Sunday, 10.28.18. I turned on Breaking Bad: I’ve never seen it before. I don’t remember much of the episodes because my head was so loud: “hang yourself in the closet. Take a knife, slit your wrists. You will never amount to anything. You don’t deserve to be on this earth, you don’t contribute to anything.” I joined in: “I can’t write anymore. I can’t enjoy things anymore. I don’t see this getting any better”.

It was 6pm that night when I finally stood up and searched my apartment for something, anything to hang myself with. I didn’t feel in control of my body, I was just going along with the motions.

“Fill up the tub, get in the water, slit your wrists.”

I grabbed a kitchen knife from the drawer and filled up the tub. I remember this part more clearly than other parts because my heart was beating out of my chest, my hands were clammy, and I couldn’t get a grip on myself, I felt like I was losing myself to someone else.

I got in the water with my clothes on and fought the noise in my head. I tried to give myself reasons to live–family, my cat, work–but it was always overpowered by that other voice. I spent a half an hour sawing at my wrists with a dull blade that could barely cut a tomato. I pressed as hard as I could and my skin barely broke. Eventually, I threw the knife. I remember a lot of crying and banging my head on the wall and hitting myself. The noise wouldn’t stop. I ripped out the string from my leggings I had on and wrapped it around my neck and pulled and pulled and pulled. Thinking back on it, I would probably pass out before I die, given my hands are the one pulling the strings, but in the moment I just needed to cause some sort of harm to myself. I kept trying the knife in between strangling myself and I sent one text message that I don’t remember.

It was a couple hours before I stopped. My neck was sore and I had stopped crying, but I wasn’t back in my body yet. The water was cold and I heard the front door open and footsteps running in.

We spent a couple hours talking, and I was gone completely. I don’t remember an ounce of the conversation. I remember seeing through my eyes my body stand up and go for the knife, go for the string, and my ex preventing me from doing so. I remember telling him I didn’t want to traumatize him.

There’s a block on my memory of the conversation, what I said, what he said. I remember being on the couch wrapped in blankets, soaking wet, distraught, eating pizza. I didn’t remember the last time I had food. It couldn’t have been too long. I took a Seroquel. I only had three or four left. It’s a shame I didn’t have a full bottle, or I would have just swallowed them all and called it a night.

The next day I didn’t awake until 1pm. I could barely move, my mind was paralyzingly loud, and I turned on more Breaking Bad. The urge to die was so strong. People took turns watching after me, texting me, calling me. I refused to let anyone call 911. The hospital is not a place to be when you’re in a crisis.

Today is Halloween. My head isn’t loud. I came back into my body and have trouble remembering what the depression felt like because I feel I wasn’t the one to feel it–this entity within me, whether it’s paranormal or just a fractured part of my self, is hell bent on destroying me.  I haven’t experienced a dissociative experience so destructive since high school.

Am I still depressed? I think. Mildly. Or it’s so severe that I’m incapable of comprehending the severity of it.

I didn’t learn to love life from this attempt. I didn’t learn to appreciate the little things or find new meaning or purpose. I still feel lost and confused. A hospital visit isn’t going to change that. What I did learn is that I’m more committed than ever to never taking psychiatric medication again in my life. After 7 years of being a guinea pig, I’m done.

My outpatient group counselor asked me why I despised medication so much. I told her it’s poison. She asked in what way. I told everyone in that room that long term treatment results in heart issues, liver issues, physical ailments that permanently scar your internal body and shorten your life span.

She said okay,  well, then would you rather kill yourself now and not have a life to live, or have some little problems a little later?

I said that was a dumb question, and that heart arrhythmia’s aren’t little problems. I said I’d rather kill myself than subject my body to synthetic chemicals.

And through this experience, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the only two ways I will die is by my own hand or nature’s hand. I will not slowly die at the hands of greedy monsters making a profit off my death. If anyone is going to shorten my life span, it’s going to be me.

Should 911 have been called on me? Probably. I’m worried what I will do after Halloween–my original plan–and where my mindset will go. I’m worried I won’t be able to receive the support people are offering because I don’t know how. I’m convinced there is nothing left for me and that the only thing keeping me alive right now is fear of the unknown and a low threshold for pain. I’m worried this depression will slide past, unnoticed, and sky rocket into something more. I’m worried I’m not going to find a purpose again, that I’m not going to find a reason to live. I’m worried I’ll never feel passionate about anything again, or optimistic. I’m worried I’m shutting down, like the last stages of liver cancer. I’m worried I’ll pass as functional and be in misery for the rest of my life, however short or long that is. I’m worried someone will convince me to go back on medication. I’m worried that the only thought in my head right now is that I give up.

I’m worried that, recently, every time someone offers their help, my response now is “I don’t want it.”

How Sick Are You, Pt 2

Another long stretch since I’ve written. I spent some days adjusting to medication, some days hating myself for taking medication, and other days deciding to come off of medication.

Experiment number 2984719374:

Hypothesis: I will have a burst of energy and feel-good neurotransmitters flooding the gates of my synaptic terminals, followed by an immediate and harrowing decline which will, therefore, push me inevitably towards reuniting with the medication I so despise.

Methods: I will stop both the Abilify and Trintellix and monitor my moods and/or whatever aspects of psychosis that may rear its ugly head.

Results: TBD

Discussion: TBD.

Now that we have that settled, let’s talk a bit about mental health and awareness. There are so many great people out there doing great advocacy online and in person. There are so many great Non-Profit organizations doing the same. There are even clubs dedicated to such a thing at my college campus. And yet, there are still people wary and ashamed of their mental health. Let me give an example of how this thought process is still prevalent.

Today, while sitting in my Cognitive Psychology class, we were going over, for the umpteenth time in my life, neurotransmission, synaptic terminals, receptors, antagonists and agonists, Dopamine, Gaba, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin, some of the main receptors you learn in an introduction class. It follows that we should then speak about the dis-regulation of some of those neurotransmitters, and discuss the THEORY of chemical imbalances: regarding primarily dopamine and schizophrenia, serotonin and anxiety/depression.

Again, the idea of a chemical imbalance is a (repeat after me kids):

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which means it can never be proven, only dis-proven.

Anyway, that brought up the topic of SSRI’s, their side effects, and their withdrawal symptoms.

One young woman, who was probably younger than I am, raised her hand and said this:

“I was wondering about the withdrawal symptoms, because I take an SSRI, and I noticed that–well, I don’t have depression, it’s for some nerve problems–but I noticed that when I didn’t take it even for just a couple days, I was sleeping a lot, I couldn’t focus in this class . . .” and yada yada yada, personal life bullshit.

But what struck me is that she immediately discounted the experience of depression. She wouldn’t want her classmates thinking she’s “mentally ill” now would she?

And this is why I advocate for changing the culture around this term “mentally ill”. Because people are ashamed of that, of “being ill”. But what if we weren’t “ill”? What if we were perfectly well humans with a variation of neurons (a very, very, very large variation of neurons) that just so happened to result in different experiences? What if believing we are “ill” is keeping us, well, “ill-er”?

What if the perception of those experiences changed from unpleasant to being perceived as unique, variable, malleable, valuable, curious, and wonderful?

That’s not to say the struggle isn’t hard, because it’s very hard. But the harder we believe it is, the harder it will get.

Now, this could all be the feel-good neurotransmitters talking, because I started my little experiment about two weeks ago, and that is about the amount of time it takes for this poison to slowly remove itself from my body. Although, if you know anything about half-lifes, it never really goes away.

But whether or not this is me being euphoric and grandiose, I think we need to expand the discussion around neurotransmitters, and inform the public of just how wrong it is to think that the pathway of ONE SINGLE neurotransmitter leads to something as complex as what we call schizophrenia or what we call anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, any of it.

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You’ll read in a lot of studies released to the public–or at least glorified in the media–that they’ve found another link of dopamine to this, another one of serotonin to that, and it’s just not feasible that with 30-100 different molecule versions of neurotransmitters (granted there are a few that do a lot of the work) and 100 Trillion estimated neural connections plus constant variation of cell death/growth, neural connection death/growth, as well as environmental and genetic influences that dictate those neural connection and sell growths and deaths, that ONE neurotransmitter is going to be responsible for making or breaking our mental health.

Now, we can say that they are correlated. We can say we see increased dopamine in people who experience what we label as schizophrenia. But you cannot, and I repeat, CANNOT use that as CAUSATION.

Fuck I can’t stress it ENOUGH.

Psychology 101 folks: CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. 

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Dopamine may be high during what we call psychosis, but that does not mean that the high dopamine CAUSED the psychosis, or that the psychosis CAUSED the high dopamine. We haven’t learned what “causes” mental health struggles yet, that’s why chemical imbalance is a THEORY.

See how much you’ve learned already today.

And that’s what happens in a lot of these articles that are debriefed by media or science magazines online with writers who don’t know a single thing about psychology. They get hung up on correlations.

It’s also a result of research publications being manipulated to suit the needs of pharmaceutical companies.

It’s a fact that if you give someone a drug that decreases dopamine, you’ll likely see a decrease in what we call psychosis. You’ll see a decrease in a lot of other things too, and those are what we cal side-effects. But are those drugs really doing anything to the thing we call psychosis, or is it just blunting some aspects of the self? Because often “psychotic symptoms” continue during the usage of said drug.

These are all questions I can’t answer, and neither can the magazines that publish articles on published research. It’s important to read these things carefully and really take a moment to look inside of yourself and ask yourself if you want to consider yourself broken, sick, ill, and helpless.

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.

Quantum Biology and Hallucinations

I was on a TED talk binge this morning, and I watched Jim Al-Khalili talk about Quantum Biology. Although this is regarded as a relatively new field, it’s not. It’s been around since the 30’s/40’s and was really contemplated within Schrodinger’s book “What is life”.

Essentially Quantum Biology is the study of quantum properties acting within biological systems, like cells. Al-Khalili gave a pretty good summary of the way we have already provided some evidence of this, like the Robin which uses particles that are Quantum entangled in their retina to sense the magnetic poles around the earth–this is how they know which direction to fly during migration. I think this study is the most well known one. The other has to do with Quantum tunneling.

Quantum tunneling is this:

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Basically, a particle has the ability to pass through a physical barrier. This has been shown to be a process within the sun and is a prime occurrence in nuclear fusion, but it has also been shown to occur within enzyme processes. Enzymes are those little guys that help with digestion and metabolism. They keep processes speedy and accurate. It only makes sense that they would evolve a quantum process to help them keep up speed.

If you would like to watch the video and get a better summary/explanation than this, here is the link to Khalili’s Ted Talk. 

What I find so fascinating about this besides the quantum element is what it could mean were we to ever really understand what we’re seeing. Especially what it could mean for medicine. Could you imagine understanding the real quantum process within an enzyme that has been infected with a Cancer?

We’d obviously be dealing with a lot probability and uncertainty, but I think we’d have a greater chance at really understanding what’s going on with diseases like that were we to have somewhat of a better understanding of the process it goes through, and the processes it disrupts. I’m no doctor, and I’m certainly no physicist yet, but I do pride myself on being pretty logical and philosophical and there are a lot of ideas that come to mind when I watch videos like this.

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There are a few more lectures on YouTube about Quantum Tunneling if you’re interested. When I was in high school I got interested in physics and picked up a bunch of books on the subject. This was before I understood an ounce of math, so I didn’t really get that part of things, but I understood the theories. You don’t have to go to college to learn this kind of stuff if you’re dedicated.

Now that I have taken some physics classes, things are even more clearer. So, honestly, had I not read those books I did in high school, I probably would have had a much rougher time in the classes, and I still had a pretty rough time. Too much group work. I can’t group-think. I have to individual-think.

I think the point in all of this is don’t believe everything you see.

There are so many things out in this universe that we don’t understand.

I was listening to another Ted talk from a man talking about how consciousness is basically all of us hallucinating but agreeing on the hallucinations: that’s what we call reality. He said that the brain uses more information that it’s already gathered about the world to show you what you see, rather than actually seeing what’s in front of you, and therefore what we see and experience are kind of like “controlled” hallucinations. This got me thinking, as he mentioned psychosis and other altered states could then be considered “uncontrolled perceptions”. But because he is assuming that all perception comes from something we’ve already perceived, then what is it that the brain has perceived that makes some people see/hear demons, as yours truly does? What is it in this world, outside of our physical realm, that our brains can sense that we can’t?

You can watch that video here.

Consciousness and the world of quantum mechanics is so convoluted and complicated that anyone who claims to really understand any of it is certainly a liar. Anyone who claims they understand the process of hallucinations is also a liar.

Just food for thought: today’s mental truth.

The Emotional Paradox

If I were required to keep a consistent blog schedule to save my life, I would have been dead months ago. It feels almost foreign to be writing on this page, but here I am.

Why have I been absent?

As a writer, and someone who deals with mental health challenges, it’s not always the easiest thing keeping up on my responsibilities and I can easily admit this is one I’ve let fall to the wayside. I’ve also been struggling with some horrific bouts of writer’s block.

These last few troubling weeks has got me thinking, really thinking, about what it means to heal, how long that takes–or how short–and what kind of work goes into the aspect of healing. Healing from trauma, healing from emotional pains, physical pains, imaginary pains. Are there stages of healing? How do you know when you’re in one stage and out of the other? Can you even keep track by yourself? How helpful is it to have someone by your side in the process of your healing? Do you ever actually heal?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself because I find myself in this ambiguous position of being someone people come to during their healing, and being someone who hasn’t really healed yet. And for the people who say “this is why you don’t help others if you haven’t helped yourself yet”, yes, I get it. I’m aware.

But this little mental purgatory I float in is an experience that perhaps needed to be experienced for the healing process to continue. Without feeling that ambiguity, I wouldn’t have ever focused on the subject of healing–perhaps things do happen for a reason.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that I feel completely unsatisfied in life and horribly unwelcome in my own skin. And that’s why I haven’t been posting.

This doesn’t mean I want to give up on this website, it’s still something I wish to nurture and foster, it’s just something that’s going to have to go along this little ride with me, much like the earlier version of my blog did. It went through my ups and downs and all of you followers who have stayed with me from the beginning have been absolutely amazing.

I’m thinking, if there are stages of healing, I’m still trapped in the beginning. I haven’t yet developed the skills I need to surpass the stage and enter into a realm where I can really handle the under-the-surface emotions. I haven’t yet encountered a therapy session, or two, or three, that has managed to break the wall I’ve built around myself. I can’t even break it, it seems, or else I could move onto stage two. And yet my intuition involving other’s pain is pretty spot on. I can feel their emotions and understand their hurt, and empathize with their feelings, all without being in touch with my own. And that’s an emotional paradox.

This isn’t the kind of posting I want to be doing on here, but the only thing I know how to do is be real with the readers who take time from their day to click on this little article. And this is part of being human, we all struggle, and this is what it can look like: ditching responsibilities, feeling drained of all forms of peace, being unsatisfied with every aspect of life.

This isn’t depression. I’m not hopeless, I don’t feel worthless, and I’m generally a jolly person throughout the day. This is a much larger beast that’s been feeding off my mental capacity since the day I was born, and that’s not supporting an ‘I was born this way’ genetic view of ‘mental diseases’. It’s a reference to how my environment influenced my silence and my withdrawal. And it seems that no matter how aware of these things I am, the awareness just hovers and nothing gets done.

And so I drown in this feeling of being inauthentic, because the people around me never really experience me. Some people take my silence or awkwardness as rudeness, stupidity, a lack of interest, or boredom, or sometimes they just think I’m not all there (which could be argued either way). I’m not even sure if I experience me, I’ve never been to “me”. I’m silent towards myself.

And I’ve never quite spoken to someone who experiences this similar to me. I’ve had people say they do, talks with people with social anxiety, regular anxiety, but this is so much different than that. It’s not easy to explain to your average person, and that’s why therapy has never worked for me. All of this, too, is why I haven’t been posting.

So I’m not quite sure where things will go from here. I may need this site as an outlet again, and tie these experiences back to the reason why there needs to be improvements in the mental health system. That’s what’s on my to-do list.

 

 

1.2 Billion and Some Change

At a 1.2 billion dollar a year profit, I could understand the temptation. I could understand the temptation to market a product for something that it isn’t.

As a song says, regarding Michael Jackson: “He could fuck me–for 45 million”.

Money, money, money. We say we hate it, but we do whatever we can to get it, and in this world I can’t blame anyone for that. You need it to live. I don’t know if you need billions, but you know, it must be nice to wake up in the morning in satin sheets and eat off of plates made of gold with a meal cooked by your sixteen five star chefs you keep locked in the basement–the basement, of which, is also gold plated with its own set of maids.

I’m assuming that’s what billionaires do. They probably sit in chairs–excuse me, thrones, gold ones–and swing their legs back and forth and whine and whine about how bored they are. That’s how they make so much money. They have time to think up good schemes.

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The 1.2 billion dollars of which I speak of is what AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company, makes on Seroquel XR alone.

In October 2009–get this, because I’m dying from laughter over it for several reasons–they settled on a 520 million dollar agreement against two federal investigations against them. The charge? They’ve been marketing Seroquel as something it isn’t. SHOCKER. From what I’ve seen online, they’re being investigated for this once again.

Remember, 520 million dollars is like getting smacked with a twig on the inside of the wrist to them. It’s not even like the sting of a tattoo. Think about that before you believe they got their just dues for that.

By marketing, we’re not talking about commercials on television. We’re talking about pushing doctors and anyone who can prescribe medications to give their “clients” Seroquel for things like insomnia, panic attacks, and anxiety. Doctors, not knowing any better, do so.

I say this after being prescribed it, but not for anxiety and not for sleep but because I went into my psychiatric appointment pretty distressed and distracted over feeling invaded, internally, by someone having control over my body. It’s progressed a lot since my last post on it, I think, and I am impressed with this psychiatrist. I am. I talked shit about her many, many months ago. But she impressed me because she didn’t say I was a delusional freak. What she said was that it’s okay to have these feelings and it’s okay to have these beliefs.

I was shocked. But, what that did for me was not close me up. I even told her these are things I don’t normally say to people. Towards the end of the visit she of course said that from a psychiatric standpoint it’s a little concerning, and being who I am, I understood that fully. There’s this eerie sense in me. Because this is stuff I’ve grown up with in myself, these kinds of feelings and thoughts and beliefs, and because I’ve studied what I’ve studied, I’m completely aware of how my beliefs sound. That doesn’t mean I can disprove them. I can’t. People expect me to just be like “come on, doesn’t that sound a little ridiculous? Someone telepathically controlling you?”

No. No it doesn’t. Because I feel it happening. Maybe it doesn’t happen to you because no one wants your shit body or your shit brain, ever think about that?

I get defensive sometimes.

warning-exclamation-triangle-md If you were prescribed Seroquel in any form solely for something like Insomnia, Anxiety, depression, whatever, you’ve been prescribed it “illegally”. Because that’s not what it’s for. There’s no evidence that the benefits for those issues outweigh the risks. Not to mention it’s one of the worst antipsychotics in terms of weight gain and diabetes. Heart problems as well, I believe. Don’t take long term.

Technically speaking, from a lawful standpoint, which is still pretty loose, it’s for adults and adolescents (13-17) for the “treatment” of schizophrenia and bipolar. Now, the adolescent part is a lie too, because they didn’t do trials in that. So really it’s adults with schizophrenia or bipolar.

Now, think about how SMALL of a market that is. As if they’d make 1.2 billion dollars a year from that alone, when you take into account how many of those people probably wouldn’t like it, probably would stop taking it at one point, and probably would never want to be back on it, and switch to something else.

So the trick? Say it works for anxiety, say it works for insomnia. Everyone and their mom has anxiety and insomnia the last time I checked.

That’s not to say some people might feel “better” on it. If you take it for anxiety or insomnia or whatever, I’m certainly not coming after you. I know anxiety isn’t a joke, I’ve lived with it all my life, insomnia too. I’m coming after the people who convinced your doctor that was a good idea. 

The fact of the matter is, people, that when you go to someone who is a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist, or even your GP if you’re more comfortable with them working with you on your mental health, the knowledge they’re spewing at you is knowledge not sent to them from the medical world, it’s what they hear from researchers funded by pharmaceutical companies. You’re not getting accurate information.

You can discredit me by calling me delusional. And I honestly welcome that. Research it for yourself. I’ve been doing so since I was 15.

 

Once Again: CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION

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I tried, ya’ll. I tried so hard. Before I took a personal break from this blog, before wordpress updated everything and my tags went wonky, before Trump figured out he can give executive orders and still have them banned, I told you all very, very blatantly, very calmly and collectively that my hatred for the industry had ceased. That I would focus more in my career and life on expanding and integrating Peer Support services.

I told you all that this blog would no longer be a clusterfuck of my sarcastic droning on people like Alex Gorksy or that guy on his team who wanted to put lollipops in packages of Risperdal for children.

I kept my promise.

Until now.

There is a textbook that has set my brain aflame. My skin has rotted away from words in this textbook. My brain started fucking my rectum because of words from this textbook. I ripped out my own eyes, stuffed them in my ears, and ate fifteen poisonous frogs when I heard words from this textbook.

This college textbook:

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Fuck you, Pearson, and Your 14th Edition

No classroom should ever, ever have a student read a textbook for a health science class with a mental health section as sloppy and bullshit as this one. It’s like the authors wrote all the things they’ve been told about mental health from their super conservative, super gullible, super fucked-in-the-head second cousins all twice removed who all like to staple their heads for YouTube views who thought just because they read an article on google scholar, that they knew the complete biological, environmental, and genetic causes of these things labeled mental disorders.

But, no, it gets better. Oh it gets so much better.

I don’t hate on any textbook, article, or person who believes in the medical model of psychiatry. I understand that it’s the widespread belief, I understand that there’s been research (and that the research has been warped and twisted with lies for the sake of money), and I certainly understand that until there’s more widespread research proving otherwise, people will continue to believe they are sick and defective for life.

However, a textbook that promotes this and attempts to, quite literally, discredit every other form of research is one that should, along with the authors, be stabbed, maimed, thrown in a hole, pissed on by someone with Gonorrhea, then burned.

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And of course they make the most misunderstood, most feared, most confusing, and most stigmatized “mental disorder” their fucking scapegoat for their shitty view of mental health.

This, people, is why stigma exists. Books and classrooms based on this viewpoint are literally the reason stigma exists.

Let me give you some quotes and then discredit the shit out of them with actual credible sources. #Karma, bitch.

First, their definition of schizophrenia was pretty typical. “A psychological disorder that affects about 1 percent of the U.S population”. Yada, yada, heard it all before, right?

They go on.

“For decades, scientists believed that schizophrenia was a form of madness provoked by the environment in which a child lived” (mostly blamed on the mother back then), and “they blamed abnormal family interactions or early childhood trauma.”

Another true statement. They go on.

Basically, MRI and PET scans “[allowed] scientists to study brain function more closely; based on that knowledge, schizophrenia was found to be a biological disease of the brain. The damage occurs early in life, possibly as early as the second trimester of fetal development. Fetal exposure to toxic substances, infections, and medications have been studied as a possible risk, and hereditary links are being explored.”

And it continues.

“Even though theories that blame abnormal family life or childhood trauma for schizophrenia have been discarded in favor of biological theories, a stigma remains attached to the disease.” Then they go in to talk about how the families of people with schizophrenia need extra support.

If none of that really bothers you (YET, wait for it), “support of loved ones and access to therapy [helps] many schizophrenics lead normal lives”.

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Wonderful. Let’s all give this piece of shit book a big round of “a-fuck-you”.

I will not promote the idea that children develop schizophrenia from fucked up mothers. If that were true, a lot more people would, as this textbook would say, “be schizophrenic”. I also refuse to promote this strange idea that we are 100% certain this is a disease.

Because the research is very, very faulty. They’re doing comparative studies, in which they study the brain of someone who already hears voices, sees things, and has cognitive problems, compares them to someone who doesn’t and then says that depleted white matter, or that so called “abnormal” level of dopamine is,  a result of the disease of schizophrenia. The problem? You couldn’t possibly know if “schizophrenia” caused that, or the depletion of the brain matter or the abnormal dopamine or whatever caused it. Basically, you still don’t know shit. Waste of time and money.

Unless your’re big pharma and can cash big on telling people they have an incurable disease that no amount of TLC can ever, ever relieve, no amount of support or activity in life will ever, ever relieve. Medication will correct your brain abnormalities. Because you’re defective.

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*COUGH COUGH*

Correlation is not causation. CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. If you did not study these brains of these children– many, many children, not just 18, that’s not a large enough sample size if you’re trying to define a fucking disease–from the time they were born until the time they developed characteristics of schizophrenia, than you know absolutely nothing about how the brain develops.

In fact, you’d need to study them prenatally.  All those risk factors that you hear about? The flu? All that? You know what they are? HYPOTHESES. It’s called the NEURODEVELOPMENT HYPOTHESIS. They’re not facts, they don’t even have enough agglomerate, valid, credible research to be called a THEORY! They’re hypotheses. Hypotheses with experiments that:

“… provided evidence consistent with an association between second-trimester exposure to influenza epidemics and schizophrenia; further investigations, however, some of which were larger and featured more complete case ascertainment, failed to replicate the association. While similarly designed studies of other infectious agents have suggested potential relationships with schizophrenia, the effects have been generally weak, and few replication attempts have been made” (1)

You know what you need in research to publish a real study? To be credible? REPLICATED EXPERIMENTS.

You can read that publication if you wish to learn about the other risk factors that apparently had a slightly more correlational effect. But once again, CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. BASIC PSYCHOLOGY 101.

Check all the studies you want: Trauma has never, ever been discarded as a major catalyst towards the development of any mental health issue. Never. Not. Once. In fact, it’s never even been studied to a great extent. I have not found, in my search of databases of empirical articles at least, one article that specifically disproves that trauma of any kind changes the physicality and mental state of your brain. How much do you want to bet that it does? 

If none of these reasons disturb you about what our future health students are learning about health, than at least be pissed off they said “schizophrenics”. Come on. That’s so 1980.

If you’re going to make a bold claim of a mental health problem solely being biological, at least have the facts and the research to back it up.

(1): Brown, A. S., & Derkits, E. J. (2010). Prenatal Infection and Schizophrenia: A Review of Epidemiologic and Translational Studies. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(3), 261–280. http://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09030361

The Treatment of Us

Opportunities are often snatched from chaos. They don’t drift by idly. They come as a result of coincidence often, of hard work, of belief. Sometimes they come to you because they were meant to come to you. Never leave any stone un-turned.

I’ve been amazed this past few months where much of my writing has taken me. It’s increasingly won scholarships and the recognition of professors, professionals, and magazines. Much of what I write about surrounds mental health, as you all know, and because of that I’ve run into many road blocks.

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I started a blog as a journal. As I found my voice I realized, as the comments rolled in, that my ideas surrounding mental health aren’t typical. I realized that peer support wasn’t something many could put as much faith into as I. I realized that medication and pharmaceutical companies were things many consumers of mental health were things they saw as requirement rather than option–and I completely respected that. I myself have been on and off medication, and as of now I’m on medication again. There’s nothing shameful about that.

What has bothered me is the lack of choice people realize they have. What has bothered me the most is the cold shoulder I’ve been given by many fellow consumers. And while I absolutely respect their point of view, as I at one point believed the same, I can’t help but grow frustrated that those mental health writers in complete support of the medical model, of the ideals that mental disorders are 100% a chemical balance, that we are people who are “ill” and “sick”, get more of a voice out to the mental health community than those of us spreading a different message.

I grow frustrated that my ideas and I are treated as an outcast because we’re not preaching subservience to the portion of mental health treatment run by corporations, by money, and by greed.

What is interesting is that the evidence is very, very clear. Peer programs, when they first began, showed extreme promise. The idea was created for people experiencing “first break” psychosis. It eventually developed into something to aide those with a schizophrenia diagnosis to stay out of psychiatric hospitals, to live independently, and to learn how to cope with experiences like voices. Upwards of 70% (or more), after they went through the peer programs and moved on in their life never fell into the hands of a psychiatric hospital again. Some never needed psychiatric medication again.

Let’s compare that to recent pharmaceutical research, where maybe 174 people in a clinical trial lasting six weeks meant to represent the entirety of a population that would be taking a medication for possibly years, found that there was hardly a significant difference between the placebo pill, an older medication, and the new medication. Those findings are tossed off somewhere in the research lab while the company developing the pill tells the researchers to advertise the drug towards a specific population and say it helps with a specific problem.

The paper is published in a scientific journal without the reject papers. That, my friends, is against the law and the code of honor of research.

And when those reject papers are found and wrote about (there are articles about it across the internet), not many hear about it because the companies settle out of court and get off with a slap on the wrist.

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Everything about mental health consumers, our health, and our livelihood is done without us. So if that’s the kind of care you want to promote on your websites, if that’s the kind of care you want to promote as a mental health writer, go right ahead. I’m not afraid to let go of a writing position or a chance to do a guest article if I’m required to mold to something I don’t believe in.

When I first acquired my peer support position and was dazzled by what I saw, I searched the internet for information. I found several articles about similar programs, and was astounded at the difference and impact respites and peer programs have done–things you never hear about unless you search for it. Things not published on websites who claim to give all kinds of information on mental health and different treatments.

One writer said, as a respect to peer programs:

Dream Two? When all people are able to set aside their need to label and diagnose another human being in order to understand “what’s wrong,” and instead sit at a kitchen table to find out “what happened,” and share stories. This is my dream of what “mental health” will look like one day.

–Yana Jacobs

Written by a woman who is the Senior program officer with the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.

Like it or not, change is coming. You can hold on to the old models all you like. You can feed into bullshit all you want. I personally don’t care what medication someone takes. I don’t care what their diagnosis is. I don’t care how many times they’ve been hospitalized. All I care about is who they are as a human being. I care about their story, where they came from, what they’ve been through. I care about what they have to say and how they express it.

You could write countless “list articles” about steps to “recovery”, or why you’re still “sick” on your medication. You can advocate compliance with the old system all you want. But you’re only perpetuating the idea that we’re all at the mercy of our “illness”, even when you’re trying to put out the most positive message you can. 

I’ve been blessed to have a lot of writing opportunities coming my way. Thank you, Thought Catalog. Thank you to my professor who ran after me in the rain to talk to me about my writing. Thank you to my blog followers who’ve kept me going for over a year now. Thank you to the people who’ve asked me to write an article for their websites. Thank you to the people who email me and ask me questions about all of this. Thank You IPS. Thank you to Second Story Peer Respite for showing me all you have, because without them none of this would be a reality right now.

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And thank you, most of all, to everyone who thinks I’m absolutely insane. You’re pushing me to fight harder to get this message known.

The True Qualms Of Existence

A couple years ago, a philosophy professor of mine advised our class to never think about how suddenly we could all die. In fact, she urged us not to as we’d eventually go mad. However, me being me, I thought about it very heavily the moment she made her statement.

I don't think...and yet here I am.

I could poof from existence as I write this. You could poof out of existence as you read this. Perhaps we both poof out of existence at the same moment and because our subatomic particles are somehow entangled, our souls end up in the same version of some afterlife where we can spend our wispy eternity together, haunting people in Halloween stores and hiding as the monster under some kid’s bed.

Death is a serious topic. It touches everyone’s life at least once, usually more often. The older we get, the more we have to endure the passing of friends and family; it’s one reason most people say they wouldn’t enjoy the gift of everlasting physical life.

I cannot and will not claim I understand the full amount of grief someone undergoes after losing someone close to them. I’ve seen the impact it can have: I’ve seen it at work, at home, and heard it from friends. I’ve seen that it can cause turmoil and insurmountable pain and it gives me the greatest respect for this thing we call life: something so elusive, so sudden, so dark, has so much power.

People are afraid of the unknown, right? Those of religious faith perhaps not so much as they know what to expect at the end of their life. But for the rest of us, there is a level of uncertainty and perhaps even arrogance around the idea of death. That we can cheat it with some pills. That we can speculate theoretical possibilities with math and physics to keep our mind off the possibility that perhaps death is just nothingness.

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Never have I ever experienced the death of someone close to me. There are members of my family who have passed away who I had only met once. My pet passed away when I was ten.

There is one instance in which I thought perhaps death would hit close to home. Most of you are aware of my father’s alcoholism history, which he still battles today. During the time he first began having serious withdrawal symptoms (i.e, seizures), I was still very much a night owl and still in high school. Often I stayed up until six or seven a.m. I’d check on him before I went to sleep just to put my mind at ease.

One afternoon I awoke and he was laying face down in a sleeping position he normally slept on. But I heard a wheezing. I glanced over at him once more and saw a pattern indicative of what he experienced after a seizure. His eyes were fixed towards the left and then I saw the blood. Piles of it. His bladder had let itself go. I asked if he could hear me and although he couldn’t speak or move or blink, he growled somewhere deep from his throat. He started seizing a little bit more, just because of the stress.

I didn’t know where the blood was coming from: that was where the panic started. He was laying in it and I couldn’t see if it was coming from his mouth or elsewhere. I later learned it was from a bite in his tongue, cheek, and the rearranging of his teeth from his jaw clenching.

I also didn’t know how long he’d been in this position. Perhaps a half hour. Perhaps hours. And as many of you probably know, withdrawal seizures don’t stop. They continue rolling like a boulder down an endless hill.

The scene, the blood, distressed EMT’s, the fact that I was home alone, the feeling of guilt for having not been awake in the first place caused my meltdown. I fell into a heap and can’t remember anything beyond that.

When he woke up, his short term, and some other parts of his memory, were gone.

I blamed myself for that for a long time. I still kind of do. In fact, this is a difficult post to write because what followed that incident was a changed life. A life of learning to live with someone who forgot what day my birthday was. A life of learning to deal with the anger outbursts from all of us, a life of learning that even seizures can’t stop addiction. A life of learning that life isn’t permanent.

I set up a contraption in my room which tied around my doorknob, went up on the ceiling, through a hanging hook, and back down to a chair which sat beside my bed. I couldn’t sleep for months and if I did, I made sure there were tons of noisemakers near that chair set up. It was there so that when I slept, and if I had a seizure, my leg would most likely knock over the chair onto the stuff on my floor and make noise so I wouldn’t die in such a position.

I didn’t think he would make it that day. I was convinced I’d been partly responsible for his impending death.

Since then I’ve been preparing myself for the big day. Not just for him, but for anyone. I learned to tell myself that I can’t be responsible for someone else’s life choices and that if death came before any of us wanted it to, than I had no say in that either. For months I kept that chair by my bed. I still think about it every now and then, five years later.

This is a story left untold, one I generally avoid because it hits deeper than any other. It plays flashbacks of scenes and feelings I still haven’t processed. Before, I’d never dare speak word of this story. Now I’m telling the internet.

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What I learned is that control isn’t something we have, it’s something we created as a figment of our imagination in a world of spontaneity and chaos. It’s something we wish we could have. I’ve learned to stop wishing for it. The more I wish for it, the more I want it, and the more disappointed I am when I can’t have it.

When the day comes, for me, for him, for anyone I know, it will be another life changing moment and that’s okay. Because if life never changed, no one would live.