I hate Kanye, He’s Awesome

I have to jump on this bandwagon because I’m hearing a lot of opinions in the mental health social media community (that’s a thing now. Dear Lord.) about Kanye’s recent interview with David Letterman. The interview is on Netflix.

They talked about a few things. Clothes, art, and Kanye’s “church”. I don’t–I won’t comment on whatever all that is about.

Whatever.

When they first get into the mental health stuff, Letterman attempts to sum up Kanye’s bipolar diagnosis in an “easy” and “simple” way. He states “the synapses get fatigued and say ‘we’re not carrying this message anymore'”. I won’t ding Letterman for this, nor Kanye for agreeing with it because neither of them have probably ever read a neurology or psychology textbook in their life. But to make it clear, synapses aren’t getting fatigued. If we could tell you what was happening in any mental health condition, they wouldn’t exist anymore.

Kanye gets to a point where he needs to get something off of his chest. He says there’s a moment he experienced in his treatment that needs to be changed and if any of you have read even just one of my many posts, you’ll know that I smiled largely as I guessed what that experience was.

He explains that in the moment of one of his episodes, he feels hyper paranoid about everything, that everyone is an actor, everything is a conspiracy. I’d say that’s pretty similar to what many of us feel. He says, “you feel everyone wants to kill you and they handcuff you and drug you and put you in the bed and they separate you from everyone you know. Something I’m so happy I experienced myself so I can start by changing that moment.”

He’s talking about forced/coercive treatment, but also about the general vibe when you’re hospitalized. The last time I was taken against my will, no family was allowed to visit me until I was transferred to a different hospital an hour away where no one could come visit me anyway. While in the crisis unit, I continuously called my mother asking what the hospital staff were telling her, because they wouldn’t be honest with me and I didn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t. People were possessed and impostors and unreal and I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t feel that also extended to their family.

Kanye very openly, and rightfully so, regards this as “cruel and primitive” and I agree to an extent. Is it smart to have all ten family members crammed in the hospital with you while you’re crippled by voices and dread? Probably not. But if, for whatever reason, you have just one person you can even remotely trust for two halves of a second, blocking that contact with the outside world only pushes you further in your head. As Kanye said: “This is like a sprained brain, like having a sprained ankle. And if someone has a sprained ankle, you’re not going to push on him more.”

Then, the big controversy comes: the meds.

I figured his opinion wouldn’t be very popular.

He said he has been medication free for eight months. Some of the crowd claps. I would have. Wouldn’t you clap for your friend or parent who was able to come off their blood pressure medication? Do they run the risk of raising it with bad eating habits and lack of exercise just as Kanye runs the risk of being carried away by mania while refusing to take care of his mental health in other ways? Can’t your friend’s blood pressure rise again for no clear reason, just as Kanye’s mania can come unprovoked? Doesn’t your friend run the risk of death just as Kanye theoretically would were he to dip into a serious low? If everyone in the world wants to compare mental health to physical health, then compare it that way too.

But, Kanye is very clear he’s not advocating for everyone to go off their meds. How have people missed this? I have the quote right here, verbatim: “When we clap at the idea of not being on medication–my form of mental health I think is like the luxury version of it. There’s people who can’t function without medication. So I’m not advocating–I’m telling you MY specific story.”

It’s the same thing I tell others. All. The. Time. Yes, I’ve gone off and on meds. Yes, there were times the meds were extremely necessary. And there were times they were a detriment. And for ME, my PERSONAL DECISION was that I have always felt better off medication than on. And I needed to choose: be compliant with meds 100% or leave them alone 100%. It was the on again off again that was torturous.

So even with Kanye stating specifically his personal experience, we think we have the right to tell him what’s better for his body, basically stigmatizing our own. I’ve never once told a mental health peer to go off their meds. But I’ve been told thousands of times by peers to go back on meds. That’s like a religious fanatic: don’t tell me about your atheist or Muslim or Jewish views, but let me tell you about the love of Jesus Christ and why you should accept him into your heart because that’s what’s best for you, that’s what will save your soul.

It’s hard to feel accepted with a mental health diagnosis. It’s even harder when your own people are against you.

Letterman then goes on to explain his own experience with medication and the advances in medication targeting specific areas of the brain (which is just misinformation) and says that medication is what helped him see clearer. Kanye, at some point, reflects that it’s great for him that he found a medication with the least amount of side effects that works for him. That’s the only way to respond. That’s the way I often respond.

My point? Why does Letterman get praise for pushing the efficacy of medication he has proven he doesn’t understand the chemistry of, and Kanye get flack for choosing to go through his mental health journey in a different way? Because medication works for you? Because it’s saved your life and you want to save him too? What if he doesn’t need saving?

This ties into so many topics. Coercion, publication bias, and this idea that we know what’s best, that we have the right to force help on someone.

This isn’t a man in a coma who would never want to sign a DNR. This is a man who is conscious, albeit not in your reality. And that makes you uncomfortable–maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve seen how families can fall apart. Whatever it is. But the point is we must eradicate your discomfort by subduing his experience.

This is coming from someone who recognizes this need to help is innate and out of good intention.

This is also coming from someone who recognizes and has experienced the terror and pain that we go through. This is coming from someone who knows first hand that sitting in two week old dirty clothes, ratty hair, no food while listening and believing voices telling me I’m going to die soon, that I won’t be on this earth anymore, fucking sucks. This is coming from someone who absolutely appreciated the moment medication helped bring me from that. This is also coming from someone who recognizes medication isn’t always a life sentence.

This is coming from someone who understands that you can’t talk to your high blood pressure, but you can talk to your voices. I’d say that’s a pretty big wedge in the whole “mental health should be treated like physical health” argument.

But talking–that’s rarely encouraged in traditional psychiatry. A shame. A lot can come from it.

My point? Don’t stigmatize each other. Don’t act like we as a species have all the answers in the world. Don’t act like anyone really understands the mechanisms of any medication. And don’t thwart someone’s individuality because it clashes with your beliefs.

Processing Things

In the shower this morning I found a piece of anger within me that I have yet to fully eradicate.

The thing about dealing with mental health problems is that you will always have days you feel like you can manage, and you will have days you feel like you can’t manage. Sometimes the days you can’t manage are consecutive and go on for months, maybe even years. And the shitty thing about that, other than the fact that you are struggling managing life, is that other people will not understand that.

Everyone has their own pain that they deal with and everyone deals with it differently. Some people can breeze through a truama and choose to put it out of their head while others develop Post Traumatic Stress and dissociation issues. I don’t think there’s a right way to deal with trauma, but generally what works is facing it and working through it. Sometimes when you do that, it takes a while and it takes a lot of pain. And that pain can shut you down for a while, maybe some weeks, months, years even.

For me, learning more about myself and what goes on in my head is proving to take some months, coming up on a year now. And for the past year it is true that I have been withdrawn and I have avoided other people, mainly because I’m struggling believing people have respectable motives towards me. I feel that they’re against me, and that if they say they aren’t, they’re lying.

Trying to explain this to someone who doesn’t experience it is almost impossible.

And I feel that since this was a part of the conditions of my recent breakup, that I should address this on this blog so I can also process it for myself.

Last November was a tough time for me going into the hospital and losing touch with a lot of reality. When I came out of the hospital, I didn’t really have anywhere to turn, at least that’s what it felt like. I still struggle with reaching out when I need some kind of support because it seems like whenever I do, it’s never enough. That’s my own issue I need to work on.

But knowing what I’ve been through, knowing what I’ve gone though, it should go without saying that It’s going to take me years to really get to a point where I feel comfortable “being outgoing” again. Unless I stop this infernal medication and go manic.

I just don’t feel like any part of me was understood in this break up. It was another trauma, because I’ve never had anyone so close to me misunderstand me so entirely.

And I respect his decision, and I respect that this has been an issue between us for a while. I don’t have any problem with someone making a decision that’s best for them. I just wish it wasn’t because of my mental health. I finally understand that saying: if someone can’t handle you at your worst, they don’t deserve you at your best. 

And I will be back to my best, I will return to myself. And it hurts me that I couldn’t have someone I love walk that journey with me. I guess it’s something I need to walk by myself. Maybe that’s just how it’s meant to be, and that’s fine too. I can’t control everything.

I also know there are people out there who WOULD walk that journey with me, who would research what they don’t understand, who would offer support in a way that will help me grow and get back to myself. And those are the people I need to surround myself with. I’m not quite sure where or when I will find them, but I will find them and I will latch onto them.

It seems like it’s a lot to ask of someone, but I would do the same for them. If they suddenly woke up in the midst of psychosis and ended up in the hospital, I would learn all I could about their experiences. I would be with them in their experiences and I would support their confidence until their confidence could support itself. Sometimes we need someone to do that for us, and it seems like if you truly love someone, that wouldn’t be too hard of a thing to do.

I had a great four years in my relationship. It was great fun, and there were times where I was supported by no one else but him. I acknowledge that. And maybe that was too much of a burden. Maybe it’s difficult for some people to hold that kind of pain and confusion with someone else. I tend to think it’s a rather simple thing because that’s what I do at work at all the time. I also acknowledge it’s different when you’re around it 24/7, or at least more often than three days a week.

So, these are things to be aware of going into my next relationship, whenever that may be. But I never felt like I overburdened him with my problems. I never sat there and complained about myself all day and all night, and I never demanded support. I only talked about my problems when they became overwhelming and I really did try and get out and do things.

I’ve been told all my life I’m not outgoing enough. I’m sick of hearing it. And you know what? I don’t give a fuck anymore. I’m done giving a fuck. Don’t like it? Not my problem anymore. I was ready to put effort into saving the relationship and that was cut off. So I’m not going to try to put anymore effort. I’m not going to try to win you back. I’m not going to bother you all the time. I’m just going to do me. I’m going to move and I”m going to try starting over. This town, Santa Cruz, has nothing left for me. And that’s okay. Everyone has to move on some time.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

Moving Forward Together

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Let me outline this very clearly, because it seems people who are outsiders, people who don’t struggle with their mental health on a daily basis, still don’t get what we mean when we say we need your “help”.

By help, we mean “support”.

By “support” we don’t always mean “advice.”

In fact, very rarely do we mean advice.

If you feel like you can’t “help” us, that’s because you can’t and that’s because you don’t need to. It’s not your responsibility, as someone on the outside, to cure us of our depression, our anxiety, our voices, our paranoia, our thoughts about suicide, or our self harming tendencies. That’s not a burden for you to carry.

If someone in a wheelchair is pushing themselves down the sidewalk just fine, not asking for you to push for them, would you just walk up and start pushing them? No. The same applies here.

3740df239005007563e2530671cf1e58We’re looking for someone willing to walk with us through the fire of the moment, not someone to toss water on the fire with good intention, not caring to pay attention to the fact that the fire is a grease fire, and then storm off offended they couldn’t put the flame out.

Say you were working in construction and you measured a beam wrong so that when you tried to put together the side of a house, the boards toppled on you. Your right leg is being crushed, along with one of your hands and your chest. You’re struggling to breathe, the world is turning black, and off in the distance you see a possible savior. You use your last bit of energy to wave them over and they come running, chest puffed out. When you tell them what happened, they look at your measurements and say “well, you should be more careful when you measure next time so this won’t happen”.

And then they walk away like this . . .

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. . . feeling like they’ve completed their good deed for the day.

Then they get offended you didn’t say thank you to them when they come visit you in the hospital.

That’s what it feels like to us when the people we confide in get frustrated that we’re not responding to them the way they want us to when we’re already struggling to hold our head above water. It creates this feeling of isolation on both parties. You feel like you’ve failed someone you care about, we feel like we can’t ever express ourselves without getting turned away or bombarded with things we don’t need to hear.

This is a gap in a bridge that needs to be sealed.

This is where understanding comes in. Giving people pamphlets about the “symptoms” of “mental disorders” is “education” I guess . . . although not very effective, and your #stopstigma tags on twitter are amazingly popular for about five internet seconds, but if people on the “outside” aren’t around us, if they can’t see that we’re just the same as them, if they can’t see us in our best and our worse, and if they can’t come to us and talk with us and dip their toe in the fire for just a split second, then they don’t truly understand what support is. And you can’t #stopstigma without people having a clear understanding about what’s being stigmatized.

dreamstime_xl_52335624And it’s not about us tossing all our problems on someone with no problem, because at that point we’re using them as a scale to measure how “fucked up” we are, we’re using them as a landfill to throw all our trash, rather than a human being to relate to. And that doesn’t make anyone feel good.

It’s about mutuality in the relationship. If they feel you are burdening them by constantly venting without ever letting them a chance to speak or a chance to attempt at making a connection or a chance to express their grievances as well, they should be allowed to tell you that (politely) and you shouldn’t be offended. You shouldn’t turn them away and say “I’m crazy, that’s probably why they don’t care about me”, because what you’re doing is invalidating how they feel, and how they feel is pertinent to the relationship. If they didn’t care about you, they wouldn’t have spoken up.

In the same way, if you feel you aren’t being heard, if you feel something isn’t right, you have the responsibility and right to speak up and tell them so (politely) and if they get offended and take it as “this person is just selfish” than they’re invalidating your feelings, and how you feel is pertinent to the relationship.

Do we all see how this works now?

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We don’t need to reform “mental health” necessarily. We need to reform how we interact with people who experience things differently. Categories, diagnosis, medication, none of that is the fucking issue. The issue is what we perceive as a result of categories, diagnosis, and medication. Let’s face it folks, that stuff makes money, it’s not going anywhere. So lets use it to our advantage rather than our disadvantage.

And that issue of perception doesn’t ONLY fall on the shoulders of people who DON’T struggle with their mental health. It’s our responsibility as the strugglees (not a word, don’t quote me) to be honest about the struggle and to be honest when we feel someone has stepped across a line. Don’t take it as a slap across the face because “you’re crazy” and therefore don’t have a right to speak up.

And if all else fails, if mutuality never develops–because, let’s face it, not everyone is meant to be in your life–if things can’t be worked through, separate from each other in the most respectful way possible so as to preserve their feelings and your feelings. Just because someone disagrees with you or you with them doesn’t mean you have to part ways by hurting each other.

That hurt only carries on into the next mutual friendship/relationship, and the last thing we need is a chain reaction.

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Inspiration from this post came from a struggle in my own personal life just recently and by being honest, without getting into an argument, without screaming, without cursing each other, we managed to come to a conclusion that we both care for each other and want to move forward together.

I only have Intentional Peer Support to thank for this. With my inability to understand how to interact with humans in general, being there for that week laid it out to me logically in a way I could attempt to understand and duplicate. I may be a little robotic about it still, but I’m learning.

I was wondering where all my anger went. . . and thinking back on it, it really calmed down after being surrounded by everyone that one week in may. It’s amazing what taking the time and thinking about how other people feel, and how you react to their feelings, can do.

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Where Was I?

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Tonight I am struggling in a different kind of way.

Something strange is going on.

In the last post I’ve told you all about the passionflower incident in the vault, but I didn’t explain it in detail. I didn’t explain how I really felt about it and the thoughts that went through my head.

I told you all I felt someone was trying to frame me or perhaps send me a warning.

But let me explain this story in more detail.

That day I already woke up feeling odd. Even my new co-worker said “today is going to be a weird day”.

As if she knew.

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We do these things called “runs”. Runs are essentially when you take a Jansport backpack, take money, walk across the park with it, and deposit the money into the machines scattered around the park for employees to use. It’s also how we get record of what they deposited at the end of their shift.

During these runs you can take coin, bills, or both, up to a thousand dollars. Yes, I’ve carried ten, twenty thousand before, but that was with security escort and with another person. Runs we do individually without security.

On the runs where I took coin, I kept coming up short. On all of my runs that day I had to keep writing <.10> or <.20> on the over-short sheet. It looked like I was stealing dimes.

All of the bills I kept depositing kept rejecting at a high rate, so I had to stay at the terminals for longer than usual making sure the ones that were good bills and not crumpled or torn would deposit.

When my co-worker returned from her lunch, we were instructed to practice counting the vault to get quicker and more accurate at it. The FIRST thing we counted was the rolled quarters.

I even leaned on top of the wood and swiped m arm across the wood touching all the canisters to make sure my count was accurate.

We counted them over twenty times.

There are always two people in the vault. You need two finger prints to get in and there are three cameras in a space no larger than my room.

After twenty minutes of standing there with my new co-worker just chatting because we were sick of counting the same thing over and over again, I found the pill. Not her, just me. It appeared out of nowhere.

They’re fairly large pills and hard to miss. They look like this:

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They have a very pungent grass smell to them. Because, as I’ve said, it’s just dried flower petals in a digestible capsule. It’s 200 mg, and the standard dosage is usually 500 mg to 1 gram. So, to be honest, they’ve never done anything for me. It was the placebo effect. It takes 2mg of Ativan to even start my eyelids dropping, there’s no way .2 grams of a flower is going to do anything to this system of mine.

The odd thing? I haven’t even been able to take them for two weeks because It’s a struggle for me to swallow large pills, it always has been. The bottle, which I keep in my bag, was locked in the locker in the hall of the basement. The key is on my chain with my work id which is always around my neck. I’m the only one with access to that locker.

My first thought was someone was trying to frame me, send me a warning of some sort, perhaps that snitch from mid-shift or something.

But later I realized something. There are ALWAYS two people in the vault. There is ALWAYS someone monitoring the vault cameras. That means two people would have had to place that pill there.

When my trainer came into the vault after her lunch to see how we were doing, my co-worker and I gave her awkward smiles and my co-worker said we’d found weed (remember, she’s inexperienced about drugs) and I showed my trainer where. But my trainer kept talking about tips on working in the department, like she always did. It was as if she didn’t hear a word I’d said.

Later that night I couldn’t shake the feeling that none of what happened was even real. Tonight, I’m convinced none of it was real.

investigationIt just doesn’t add up. Two people would have had to placed the pill there. Someone would have had to either been taking it themselves, or stolen it out of my locker which is impossible. And none of that explains why the pill popped out of thin air or why my trainer, who loves juicy gossip, wouldn’t respond at all to our exciting discovery.

The management never said anything about it again.

None of it felt real. The whole day felt odd. Either someone was setting me up with the coins and sending me a warning with the pill, or none of it really happened at all. I can’t remember what I did with the last rejected dollar I brought back to the cash room, I can’t remember if I signed the paper.

I’m used to my experience in this reality not feeling real. I’m used to reality not feeling real. I’m not used to external experiences not feeling real. In fact, it’s done a good job of shocking me to my knees. And that’s a hard thing to do.

There’s only been a few scattered incidents of that happening and they were minor, so I ignored them. Much like the time I ignored the day where I kept hearing my name being whispered. I ignored the day I heard my car falling apart while I was at the stoplight and I started freaking out and putting my ear to the dash board and not being able to identify where the sound was coming from because it was coming from all around me and then it suddenly stopped and I fell back into reality. I ignored the words I heard over a megaphone that no one else seemed to hear. I ignored the instances of constantly feeling like someone or something is watching me.

Oh the irony, when Imagine Dragons sings in your ear “Now you can’t tell the false from the real”.

There you go, they’ve just confirmed it. 

Apparently the night of the incident I told my boyfriend someone else could also be using Passionflower but I’ve pretty much eradicated that option because it lacks logic. The incident not ever having happened makes more sense than someone else in that office taking passionflower and leaving it in the vault simply because, like I said, it popped out of thin air. I’d swiped my arm in front of the quarters half a dozen times, moving the canisters around, there was no way in hell we wouldn’t have seen that pill.

It makes me feel as if my co-worker was either also a figment of my imagination or she’s just never existed in the first place.

But that seems improbable because we needed two hands to get into the vault by ourselves.

Unless I was never in the vault in the first place.

Then where the hell was I? 

I hope I’m actually laying in my bed right now.

It all sounds irrational, but it doesn’t feel that way.