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 Opiate Crisis: An Ethical Dilemma

How dare they. How fucking DARE they. Prepare for the rant of a lifetime.

I know. I know what you’re thinking.

“Didn’t you just post something saying you weren’t going to post on this website anymore?”

And in fact, you would be correct. But this, folks, THIS requires publication on a site that is relevant towards mental health because those of us who are apart of this marginalized community are being targeted once again. And quite ruthlessly. And have been since the beginning of this pathetic scapegoat of a problem called the “Opiate Crisis.”

Let me clarify: the crisis is indeed real. It is authentic and it is terrifying. People are dying. Children are dying. Mothers are dying. Fathers, sons, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, are dying. Fentanyl is being mixed with Heroin. Doctors are standing on the roof tops of their clinics tossing bottles of 60 Oxycodone pills to whoever cares to play catcher.

Why do I call the opiate crisis a pathetic scapegoat? For one reason and one reason only: it’s distracting us from the true perpetrators of the crisis in the first place. Those of you who have followed this website for the past four years, and specifically the last two years, know where this is fucking going.

*Knock knock* Big Pharma? Big Pharma! Hey, it’s me, open up. We have to talk.*Cocks shotgun*

I just finished watching a clip of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (who I think is such a brilliant replacement for Stephan Colbert, who I also loved) where Trevor mentions Trump’s claims that Mexico is to blame for all the drugs and crime coming into America. I didn’t care about Trump’s words, I’m used to him saying unfounded statements. What I cared about was what came next.

Trevor describes a doctor, one Barry Shultz I believe his name was, who managed to dispense 800,000 opiate tablets over a period of 16 months to his patients from the pharmacy in his clinic, some of which were prescribed with 60 Oxycodone a day. He justified this by stating “Sixty a day is a large number, I admit. But, if it’s taken properly–”

The reporter asks how to take 60 Oxycodone a day properly. The doctor replied, “some people need that dose”.

No. Some people don’t need that dose. What YOU need is that check you receive from the pharmaceutical companies for pushing their product.

Then, came the claims I was waiting for. Then, came the pharmaceutical companies which were caught falsifying information and bribing doctors; if these five specific doctors chose to push a specific Fentanyl spray they, combined, were awarded over 800,00 dollars, treated to lavish dinners, and granted access to specialized strip clubs. That was Insys theraputics. Purdue Pharmaceutical was sued by their state under the grounds that they were personally responsible for launching the opiate crisis. I don’t know how truthful that claim can be, but the company did admit (in 2007) that they had purposefully misled doctors and consumers on the truth of their opiate’s addictive properties.

The company chose to create a strategy to get the feds off their back. In an email from 2001, chairman Richard Sackler, stated quaintly: “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”

Well. Look who’s calling the fucking kettle black. “Reckless criminals.” And what the fuck are you, mister former Purdue Pharmaceutical chairman? A saint? A fucking angel? What a sack of shit.

This is a game people, a game of chess, and innocent human lives are the betting agent.

This doesn’t just happen with opiates, it happens with psychiatric medication too–lying about efficacy, pushing doctors to diagnoses specific conditions to prescribe certain medications, insurance companies refusing to pay for therapy unless a client is diagnosed and medicated. I mean, the history of Johnson and Johnson C.E.O Alex Gorsky says it all. I will forever fucking bash his name.

People seem to forget the history of what is slowly becoming the least dangerous of all opiates: heroin. People seem to forget that morphine, derived from an opiate substance, was also once killing people (and still is) on an astronautical level due to its addictive properties. People seem to forget that a chemist then synthesized heroin, a very pure heroin, and a pharmaceutical company pounced on it. That synthesized pure heroin was advertised as an alternative to morphine that was not addictive.

Little did they know, right?

Cocaine in the united state was processed in a similar fashion. Most street drugs that don’t include a plethora of battery acid and other ridiculous chemicals, street drugs that are derived in some form from a plant, were often first in the hand of pharmaceutical giants. That’s how the public got their hands on it. Why do you think the idea of legalized marijuana is terrifying? I’m not sure how someone could fuck up marijuana, but leave it to people like Alex Gorsky and Richard Sackler and I’m sure they’ll find a way.

My point is that the opiate crisis is not the addicts fault. It’s not the drug’s fault. It’s not even the doctor’s who relinquish their will and fall ill to the temptation of strippers and hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s the company which lies, which manipulates, and which dictates these disgusting actions.

This isn’t an opiate crisis. It’s an ethical crisis. It’s a philosophical, moral crisis.

Change my mind.

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.