The Future of Preventive Care

Adobe Spark (7)

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

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

So, where do we start?

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

Family Dynamics

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

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

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

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

Relationship Dynamics

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

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

Self-Dynamics

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

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

Where Does This Leave Us?

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

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

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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.

 

 

To be a Psychiatric Critic

What does it mean to be a critic of the psychiatric industry? There are a couple ways we could go with this, considering there are many people who claim to be critics, who claim they recognize “there are some flaws in the system”, or that “things could be improved”.

That doesn’t tell me much about their understanding of the industry. What that tells me is that they have general knowledge that nothing in this world is perfect and that everything, theoretically, could use improvement. Why is this not a criticism? Well, because it’s well understood, it’s not unique, and it doesn’t require any real knowledge of the system to say.

I could walk into a Wells Fargo Bank, turn to the person in line behind me and say “wow, this building could really use some improvements, look at that crack in the ceiling.” You wouldn’t call that a true critique of their building, of their establishment, of their maintenance crew, would you? I made an observation a million other people have before me, and a million other people will after me, and I still know nothing about why the crack is there, what’s halting repairs, who the crew is who should be patching it, how much of a budget there is for repairs–all the things I’d need to know to really understand this situation.

There are enough cracks in the psychiatric system to ruin fifty thousand Wells Fargo Bank buildings.

 

To be a critic of something like psychiatry you need a little more gut than what it takes to have the same opinion as everyone else. You have to be willing to put in the effort it takes to read the research and understand that what isn’t being said to the public is much more powerful than what is being said to the public.

To be a critic of something like psychiatry you need the ability to put aside your personal beliefs sometimes and view the facts:

  1. Big Pharma is, well, a BIG corporation.
  2. There is no definite research that proves any mental “illness”, including schizophrenia and bipolar, are diseases. THAT is a theory.
  3. There is no definite research that proves any mental “illness”, including schizophrenia and bipolar, are a result of chemical imbalances. THAT is a theory.
  4. Know what a theory is. Know that it can never be proven, only disproven. 
  5. Know that the APA (they write the DSM), Big Pharma, and insurance companies speak with each other.
  6. Understand that none of this means you should immediately stop all of your medication. I’ve done that. It. Sucks.
  7. Understand that the only scientifically verified chemical imbalance occurs when medications are taken.
  8. Understand homeostasis in the brain and what happens when it’s disrupted.
  9. Know the history of psychiatry; know it’s a business. 
  10. Understand the politics involved in the business.

The two in bold are fairly important. They’re important because it is impossible to truly understand a system without knowing where it came from, how it started, and what philosophy drove it into existence.

Knowing about theories seems so incredibly basic, but a lot of people misunderstand it when they read about chemical imbalance. So let’s debunk this a little to further drive the point of an actual criticism.

Chemical Imbalance Theory: Things called mental disorders/diseases/illnesses, whatever, possibly caused by an imbalance of natural chemicals in the synapses during neurotransmission. The evidence consists of studies done on the brains of people who have taken medication at one point, or who are currently on it. Studies done of people during hallucinations or mania or depression. Studies done on small groups of people, once or twice, with results being generalized and any possibilities of traumas in the past being disregarded.

Let’s think scientifically here, and disregard any opinions we may or may not have about mental “illness”. Let’s also keep in mind that the neural connections within the brain are unique for each individual, like a finger print, and they change with our experiences in life.

If we are doing studies on people who are, or have been on medication, it can’t be ruled out that the experiences aren’t being worsened or created by said past/present medication.

If we are doing studies on people who have been having these experiences for years, and have never done a study on them in infancy (I’m talking 0-3 years of age), then we have no standard to hold it against: it can’t be an imbalance if there is no “balance” as a control. And for those saying they have scanned the brains of people who don’t have these experiences, how can that be considered a true control when every brain is uniquely different in their neural connections? Scientifically, that makes zero sense. To the general public, it makes a bunch of sense. We really need to start putting more funding into STEM programs if the general public is accepting sub-par experiments like this.

Because there has been such little research on how environment, trauma, and social factors play into the development and constantly changing plasticity of the brain, ignoring those key areas of life is essentially saying the brain only relies on its physical structure to know when to release chemicals. And that doesn’t make sense, considering there are external sources, like a blooming flower, that cause in some of us a rush of emotion like happiness,  a rush of dopamine. Had we not seen the flower, that dopamine may not have been released.

In a very thought-out article on Scientific American you can read here sums this up perfectly and has one of my favorite quotes by neuroscientist Joseph Coyle at Harvard: “Chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that.”

This articles points out, in regard to depression, that although pharma makes claims that there are certain decreased or increased levels of neurotransmitters which cause depression, there are several different antidepressants that act on several different neurostransmitters, increasing or decreasing, that work for different people in different ways. Essentially, that takes the power out of what the pharma companies claim.

DR. Mark Graff, Chair of Public Affairs of the APA said simply that the theory of chemical imbalance was “probably drug industry derived”.

Psychiatrist David Kaiser touches on the exact problem I stated above when he says “Patients [have] been diagnosed with ‘chemical imbalances’ despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and . . . there is no real conception of what a correct chemical balance would look like”.

Just as there are theories in physics, there are theories in psychiatry. They can’t be proven, but they can be disproven, debunked, and through true criticism of this industry that is achievable on a widespread scale.

So the next time you go to rest in that comfortable middle ground of “the system could use some improvements, but everything could”, think about what you mean and how you formed that opinion. We don’t need anymore complacency in this world, particularly not in psychiatry. We need strength and understanding and facts.

To read up further on where I got the quotes above, see this pdf.

To read up on my thoughts on the system published on Mad In America, click here.

The Social Construction of the DSM.

In the magical birth year of classical television series “I Love Lucy”, the DSM-I materialized into existence with 145 pages and 106 disorders.

Based off the Medical 203 (The Armed Forces Nomenclature), this 1951 piece of psychological literature featured short paragraphs describing disorders so psychologists and psychiatrists could look up at their patients dancing across the floor, look down at their trusty Bible, compare their patient’s behavior to their book’s description, and experience that “light-bulb” feeling.

In the medical 203, experiences later labeled as disorders were considered reactions to life, to combat, to habits learned in life from friends, family, social status and environment. The medical 203, you see, included LIFE as a source of altered mental state. What a radical view, right? LIFE and VARIETY being the cause of people’s experiences. So fucking radical I almost spit my juice across my computer screen.

The DSM-I followed those footsteps closely, with the guidance of APA president and first psychiatrist-In-Chief at John Hopkins University, Adolf Meyer. He believed, at first, chemistry and physiology could explain these mental experiences, but after findings in his own research and a glance into reality, he termed what we know as disorders today, as “Reactions”. He saw that emotional states were responses to experiences in life, and life in itself.

The DSM two, in the year of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, contained only 136 pages stuffed full of 182 disorders. There’s a rumor in the mental health community that the DSM evolved from “reaction” to “disorder” because of science–everything is always because of advancements in science, right? They found biological proof of mental disorders, right? They were mapping neurotransmitters and the dopamine hypothesis and the amygdala and the frontal cortex and inserted fancy terms and publicized research papers and they were experts after all . . . right?

The reason the terminology and the view associated with mental “reactions” was transformed stems not from science but from a really, really weak attempt at neutrality: Robert Spitzer and Paul Wilson stated they wished the DSM to stray from adhering to any “specific theories” when labeling disorders. Neurosis entered the scene, the term “disorder” reigned prevalent, and in the year 2017 we have the DSM-5, with over 300 disorders and a creative budget of 25 million dollars.

25 million dollars to write a book that’s been re-written four other times to basically say the same shit.

Why is ANY of this important? So I can ramble and make people read my rambles? That’s part of it.

The rest of my reasoning is far more valid. When Spitzer and Wilson reasoned the term “reaction” unworthy against “disorder” and descriptions of “neurosis”, what did they think they weren’t adhering to? The idea that people were struggling in life and therefore reacted to it? The idea that life itself might actually be a bit traumatic? The idea that there is a variety of human brains and human perceptions that could at any time differ from theirs? How is that a significant and scientific reason to dismember a mental health system that intertwined social, environmental, and biological factors? How is exiting the social and environmental portion of this not favoring AND adhering to a biological theory? 

So much for neutrality. 

Gender is a spectrum. This is 2017: Gender and Sex are not the same, Transvestite is not an appropriate term, and non-binary is a thing. We won’t go into the slander of the DSM-2 on sexuality, but we will talk about the transformation of how homosexuality and gender dysphoria was seen in those days versus today.

Because really the only thing that changed was the words. The natural variation of human sexuality and the development of sexuality in fetal stages has never changed: there have always been people who favored intimacy with the same sex over the opposite sex, and fetuses always went through the development process of splitting up hormones and growing certain organs.

Over time, the words changed and in the world of sociology, this classifies things like Gender, masculinity, and femininity as social constructions: no one is born a girl who likes barbies and no one is born a boy who likes toy trucks. At one point in history little boys wore dresses and blue was the color for girls: the ideas and standards we create and burden people with change as society transforms and time passes.

Over the last fifty years or so, How many names have changed in the DSM? How many descriptors have changed in the DSM? See where I’m going with this?

Who’s a good little social construction? Hmm? Who’s a good itty, bitty social construction! You, DSM! That’s right! Good boy!

A bold claim I don’t feel I need to defend, the reasoning defends itself. Abnormal and normal are social constructions: we deem what is “acceptable” behavior, what isn’t, and both categories change as time passes, as new generations gain empowerment, as older generations adapt. If the definition of eccentric behaviors, odd behaviors, bizarre behaviors are based on what is acceptable and not, they too change over time, and they too become social constructions.

Take paranoia around the government for example: all the people who were sent to a psychiatrist and called crazy because they felt some agency was reading their emails–well, in 2017 with the NSA in full-force, who’s crazy now?

This is not to invalidate our experiences or our mental states, only the way they’re being described.

What does it mean for these disorders to be social constructions? Am I saying they don’t exist and should therefore be dragged to the gallows and hanged for my mental health blasphemy?

Short answer: No.

Blunt answer: I could give two shits what someone’s disorder label is, just as I could give two shits if someone is gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and all the other PC names I don’t know. I don’t even give a shit about my own disorder labels. I only care for someone’s experience, because that’s the only reliable thing in all of this. The APA isn’t reliable, the DSM isn’t reliable, medicine isn’t reliable; Medicine is susceptible to human error (and greed), the APA consists of elite, mostly white, cis-gender, non-crazy males, (meaning no representation for the majority of the world) and the DSM is a product of both of those.

But someone’s experience? That’s raw, that’s real, however unreal it may seem. I’ve never seen someone tell more of a truth about themselves and life than when their mental state is so vulnerable they have no choice in the matter–it becomes too much pressure to NOT share. And as morbid as that sounds, it’s also rather beautiful as these states allow us access to a portion of ourselves the hustle and bustle of modern life steals from us. We think deeper and we feel deeper. Sometimes we’re stuck so far inside ourselves we have no other option than to learn to love ourselves. Not many people have that opportunity.

Disorder (as of today) implies something is wrong, defective, shoddy. In another 100 years, it may mean something different. And when that time comes in 3017, when disorder holds a positive connotation, people’s experiences will still be raw, and real, and it still won’t matter how the term is perceived. Crazy, right?

 

 

Why I Let Go Of Labels

Has a label ever really done anything but sit as ink on a piece of paper?

Another good reason: “Scientists SURPRISED to find no two neurons are genetically a like”. 

Really? That was a surprise to you? Dude. IQ of 35 in these researchers.

It’s funny how research that contradicts the current belief that the same type of treatment for the same type of “psychiatric disorders” makes sense doesn’t ever hold weight against the industry. And it’s kind of funny that the researchers for the pharmaceutical companies with shitty, half-assed studies that literally reveal nothing and yet have more weight than the study above.

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Source: Google Images

I’m kidding, this shit isn’t funny, it’s just sad.

In high school I was obsessed with labels. I wanted one. I wanted one so people would believe me when I said I was having trouble–otherwise, no one seemed to care.

I wasn’t good with people, I couldn’t stand in front of the class without fainting, I was super sensitive (a teacher once told me not to put a pencil tip close to my eye and I started bawling because I felt so degraded and stupid), I couldn’t go to school unless I got up at 4 a.m to prepare for the day. I needed three hours, not for hair and make up or whatever, but because I knew the anxiety would hit. Then I’d meet up with a friend, smoke some weed, head to class, and bullshit my way through the day. I’d smoke again at break, then lunch, then after school.

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Source: Google Images

I found something called social anxiety disorder and resonated with it like I’ve never resonated with something in my life. I thought having that would solve my life. I’d see more therapists, correctly this time, things would be better.

Did that. Didn’t work. I was 14 and started thinking maybe this wasn’t the problem. Something else had to be wrong with me.

GAD? I was always anxious, after all. PTSD? I’d been through some shit. Dissociative disorders? I was blacking out, you know, and I couldn’t really remember my childhood. Avoidant Personality? I did skip classes to avoid the mind-splitting anxiety. Anti-social personality disorder? Well, I did have vicious thoughts and I didn’t really give a fuck. Selective Mutism? I never did grow out of my shyness and I always froze up when people talked to me. Higher on the Autism spectrum? Well, I did love routine, I struggled understanding social customs, I stayed in my own world . . .  Agoraphobia? Well, I never went outside of my room, I was too nervous. Paranoia? People were always talking about me and working against me, they all hated me. Or was that just low self esteem? No, it wasn’t, it couldn’t be something that simple. Bipolar? My moods were fucking whacked. Schizoid personality? I rarely showed real emotion and, again, I didn’t give a fuck. But wait, wouldn’t that contradict the bipolar? Hmm, well I did have very active fantasy worlds, I remembered a few hallucinations as a kid and I was totally paranoid . . . oh no: I was totally schizophrenic. Totally.

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Or, I was all of that, and one fucked up teenager.

I was terrified. I was going to go crazy. I had always been a weird kid, I was always being sent into conferences and therapists and teachers were always worried and I brought alcohol to school in middle school and someone snitched on me and I threatened to kill them and they were scared of me until senior year of high school and I knew a lot of bangers and people brought tazers to school and . . . and . . .

And my terror was justified. Because social anxiety was brought up. PTSD.Autistic traits” (Jesus Christ), Agoraphobia. Depression. GAD. Schizotypal. Prodromal Schizophrenia. Schizo this, schizo that, how many words can you put schizo in front of before it loses its luster?

And now, dissociation.

I gave up labels when I was 16 because they all overlap vaguely and the words never gave me the justification I was seeking. I wasn’t really seeking justification anyway. I was seeking help. Hopefulness and understanding. I didn’t really get any of that.

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Hanratty’s asylum

Dissociation isn’t really a label, but it has been brought up again because of what I’ve noticed in myself. The whole, you know, not remembering anything in my childhood. The whole, you know, blacking out and walking into intersections. The whole, you know, going in and out of these states, these states that were thought for a long while to be a precursor to psychosis, where I’m met with a challenge, a thought, stress, flashbacks, e.t.c and suddenly I’m interacting with Thoth, the Egyptian God, which is who I’ve actually spent this last two weeks with, he gave me a message to decode, or battling the impostor in my classmates who has left her body and entered mine, or I’d quit a job at an amusement park because the bosses are also impostors, planning to get me locked up in prison . . .

And what confused everyone was that you wouldn’t know it if you looked at me. And what confused people in the past was that the voices I did hear weren’t causing me impairment and I didn’t hear them every day. I didn’t see things everyday. Was it just stress? Well, I wouldn’t be eating or showering, but I’d look okay too. I’ve babbled before, but I could be focused too. You could have a general conversation with me; I might seem spacey but you’d just blow it off for tiredness or general strangeness. I’m a good trickster, huh?

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hahahahah kill me

There’s been a general back and forth about all this in the world of past psychological services that I don’t talk about because it’s all bullshit.

And my psychologist asks me why I didn’t tell the hospital last October what was really going on. Well . . . I really don’t want to get smacked on a cot and forced drugs, that’s why.  Had I been truthful, I would have lost control and anger would have replaced rationale. They already offered me drugs three times and I was only there for a little over 36 hours.

And when I’m back out of that fog, which could last a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, a month, two, three, whatever, I find I can’t remember what it was that happened before it all. I won’t be able to remember the thought, the stress, the pain, that pushed me to that point.

It’s a protection method, I know this now. After 21 years of bullshit, I get it. What exactly my brain has protected me from the past . . . well, only my brain knows. It must be in a hell of a lot of pain, and have a hell of a lot of empathy to protect me this viciously.

Does that mean I should be labeled with a dissociative disorder now? After all that in the above paragraph? I don’t think so. Keep that shit away from me. Next thing you know there will be a Schizociative Affective Generalized Attenuated Psychosis Post-Traumatic Bipolar Syndrome type IIX and I’ll be the first one labeled it.

I need to know all I needed to know now. It’s all about discovery and healing at this point.

Mental Vs. Physical: Do We Really Need To Debate?

Wording. How important is it?

If you ask a sociologist versed in symbolic interactionalism, they’ll probably put some importance on it. That’s what they spend their life studying after all: linguistics and symbols and blah, blah, blah, my God why do people choose the careers they do? What does Blah, Blah, Blah symbolize? My boredom or my complete illiteracy of symbolic interactionalism? The world may never know.

I read a story the other day off of Facebook from that website The Mighty (of whom I’ve lost any sort of respect for, see this post) about a woman with a rare disease that causes fatty tumors to grow just below the skin on several areas of the body. It’s obviously extremely painful. My explanation of this disease does not give it justice. The only relief she gets during particularly unbearable flare-ups is an unwilling but necessary trip to the E.R.

The doctors easily chalked up her “hysterics” to “just anxiety” that’s “all in her head” and refused to listen to her when she cried for pain medication. She kept telling them what she was experiencing and the nurses said “this is what the doctor wants you to try, this is what we’re trying” and handed her anxiety medications.

Eventually she had to come back to the hospital via ambulance and the doctors apologized for not believing her. Yes, her disease is rare, but let’s break down the two portions of the medical field that ultimately failed her this night.

e901926a29c2c3a58649b1f7723f63deThe ER is often flooded with people looking for a legal high. No one can deny that. It happens so often, doctor’s first suspicions go towards “Drug addict” when someone comes in begging for pain medication. My dad has conned plenty of doctors. It’s not that hard. All these people crying wolf have essentially weakened the trust on the physical side of medicine. Likewise, the overcrowding, the lack of funding, the lack of doctors, the long hours, and, as a result, the lack of compassion, weakens our trust on their judgement and level of care.

The ER is often flooded by people with anxiety. Panic attacks are huge in the ER. Other things are as well: one man started screaming they were taking his ribs and started throwing all the hospital shit around, hopped over the bed like a fucking PRO (I’m pretty sure the guy was superhuman; he probably believes that too), and started trashing the counters. A bunch of nurses ran to him, some doctors as well, and another nurse shouted across the hall for someone to get the Haldol.

They’re not not used to mental health. But they do have one job and one job only: Calm. Them. Down. And when you’re a physician in a busy ER room, that means assumptions and quick medications.

The problem here–well, there are a lot of problems. But one problem I see next to all the sociological issues (i.e, funding, hours, system of management . . .) is a problem rooted in stereotypes and the way we speak about mental health. If what you’re taught in medical school is that something like anxiety is primarily biological but still somehow just “all in their head” then when you see it, you think you know all about it. When you think you know all about it, you think you can recognize it anywhere. And when you think you can recognize it anywhere, you start confusing Dercum’s Disease with a Panic Attack.

It’s also very easy to ride off someone who has a “mental disorder” because it’s a “disorder”. They’re sick. Let them be sick, give them medication, and get them out of here. Go with the quickest fix: the motto of this era.

I said a long time ago people need to stop calling for “mental disorders” to be treated like physical problems because that already happens–and that’s not a good thing people. That’s why we have categories for people’s “broken brains” to fit into. That’s why psychiatry is a “medical” discipline. Mental health has been treated like physical sickness since the DSM 3.

x-ray-broken-leg-20147835If you snap your shin bone, a surgeon goes in, puts some plates in, some screws, you go through recovery, and you know what? The person next to you who also broke their shin bone had the same procedure. Sure, maybe theirs was a little different: their shin bone is a different size, their blood pressure was a little higher, maybe they’ll have more pain after the surgery and in recovery e.t.c. But the procedure is the same, the plates are the same material, and the reason both surgeries were generally low risk and successful were because those surgeons have done that same thing hundreds of times–you got lucky with the experienced ones.

If you have a psychotic break, and your neighbor has a psychotic break, they are going to be 99.999999999999999999% different. If not that, 100% different. The brain isn’t a shin bone people, you can’t slap the same old treatments to everyone and expect different results! That’s insanity. That’s treating mental health like physical health. So keep campaigning. You’re wasting your time, it’s already like that. 

The more mental health is medically categorized, the more it’s shoved into a tiny box of qualifications, the more disregarded we’ll be. Because that little box you get shoved into has a label on the side of it and when the top is closed, professionals don’t really get a chance to see you. You think having a mental health diagnosis gets you taken seriously? Please, spare me the bullshit. You’re not looking for someone to agree that you’re sick and broken and ill. You’re looking to have someone acknowledge what you go through is very real and painful. You’re looking for healthy validation of your feelings.

That often doesn’t come with diagnosis.

What do people say after they get told what “disorder” they have? ” I get it now. I knew something was wrong with me!” 

If having a mental health diagnosis made a difference for the better, Dercum’s disease wouldn’t have been the new word for “panic attack” so quickly.

 

 

 

 

Quick Fixes. Let’s Talk About It.

For some weird reason, we think the mental health system today is more logical, humane, and helpful than the days of Lobotomy, Ice Baths, and Cold Blankets.

For some weird reason, we think giving someone muscle relaxers before hooking up electrodes to someone’s temples is more humane than just zapping them and watching their body convulse. For some reason, we repeatedly confirm that we have no idea if E.C.T does anything useful, and yet it gets recommended–and very often.

Let’s look at what came out of the Lobotomy era: Thorazine, that’s a pretty big one. The notable “Chemical Lobotomy” put the ice pick rearing mad scientist out of business. In fact, it put all that nastiness into the hands of the pharmacy companies. The only difference is you don’t get a black eye after you swallow a pill. Your organs do, but whatever, no one sees that so it’s okay.

So what went wrong? We go from believing mental health issues come from spiritual unrest (which I’m not going to argue against) to believing it’s hardwired into our system before our birth (which I’m also not going to argue against). That’s a pretty big leap.

I’m not going to argue against or for either option because arguing gets us nowhere. What I’ve noticed in the progression of how mental health is viewed in society (western society, mostly), is that it’s a social construction, much like Gender is considered. It changes with time. Homosexuality used to be a mental disorder. Now it’s not. There you go, simple as that. It’s taking terms and calling it one thing or another. That’s all “mental illness” is. It’s a social construction. What we call depression now might not be called that in fifty years, either due to science or enlightenment or whatever. And the funny thing will be that how people experience depression will change with it’s name–not because we’re changing it, but because we believe we’re changing it.

campaign_for_lgbtequalityFrom what I’ve heard from some LGBT communities, is that things aren’t as bad as they used to be. They’re still pretty horrendous, especially for people who identify as Transgender, but . . . the more acceptance there is online, in communities, and in families, the less of a surprise it is nowadays to hear someone is bisexual or lesbian or gay. Chances go up a good half a percent that someone you interact with won’t hate you for your sexual orientation. What kids in our future, provided acceptance continues, experience underneath any gender spectrum label will be ten times different than what kids today do. Not because the facts of the gender spectrum change, but because we see it differently. We treat people differently, so they treat themselves differently.

Now, if you’re experiencing psychosis for the first time and you get locked in a facility where people are grabbing you and forcing you onto cots and injecting you with things you don’t understand–you’re getting a very clear vision of what people think of psychosis. You might not know it at that moment because creatures are crawling out of the floor and nibbling on your toes, but the aftermath, the lack of support for many, the way you’re treated, what you’re told (you’re sick for life, no way around it, sorry): it says it all. It increases a sense of being trapped, controlled, which doesn’t help anyone if they struggle with paranoia or voices. It increases fear and psychosis feeds off of fear.

So what if how we view these experiences we like to call “mental illness” more like a brain’s distress call–kind of like someone giving you all their belongings, and a sealed envelope you’re not allowed to open until they’re “far away from here”. Would you tackle them to the ground and scream “you’re sick, you’re fucking sick! You need help, you psycho!” in their ear?

If we treat these experiences like a distress call, if we see it as an experience that deserves unique attention because each person’s experience is unique, it doesn’t matter whether the person has a “weird brain chemistry” or if they’ve been through trauma or if they’ve damaged something with drugs–whatever. It won’t matter because we’re not looking at what we think their problem is, we’re paying attention to what they experience, and respecting that. Respecting their despair or fear or anxiety or compulsions. We’re respecting their past, if they have gone through trauma, and we’re respecting their shock if their life has been generally good and they suddenly woke up with God talking to them through a walkie-talkie.

For those of us with these struggles, this goes for us to: we have to respect our experiences. I don’t think it’s healthy to fight ourselves. I don’t think it’s healthy to limit ourselves to that kind of existence. I think it hinders our ability to grow and our ability to function.

What do I think went wrong? I think we got too obsessed with wanting answers to everything. I think, as humans, we get so caught up with believing everything must have a reason and that everything in life that isn’t a pleasant experience needs to be made into one. If negativity didn’t have a place in life then it wouldn’t exist. Then positivity wouldn’t exist. Then we’d all just be zombies wandering around the streets aimlessly, taking bites out of each other’s bodies every now and then because what the fuck else are we going to do? We’re propelled by our biological instincts and that’s it, right? Hunger will be our main experience. Looking forward to it.

When I say “mental illness” is a social construction, I am not saying these experiences don’t exist. If I said that, I’d get pounded into a bloody pulp by the comments and I’d be a lying liar. Instead what I’m saying is these experiences that are very real are being described and made into something they might not be.

I’m 21 years old. I could wake up tomorrow with ten times worse hallucinations than I currently have. I could wake up 24 years old at the mercy of delusions that last longer than a few weeks or a month–they could last six months or a year. I could wake up so far gone in my head that I forget my head even exists. But I’ll never call myself sick or ill. Never have, never will.

Food for thought, everyone.