Alternatives to hospitalization, suicide, and loneliness.

I’ve talked a lot about the ideals and research and experiences and proofs of the efficacy of peer programs, peer respites, peer hospital diversion programs, peer everything, and I probably have a lot more to say in drafts that I just having refined for publishing. However, what I haven’t done is talk about how these programs are growing throughout the United States and spreading internationally.

This is a good thing. Other things like Ebola, that spreading, that’s bad. Peer programs good. Remember; Ebola: BAD. Peer programs and respites: GOOD.

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Although these systems are fairly new, the research, the propositions, have been around since about the 1980’s from my knowledge, but they haven’t gotten good footing until recently. It’s hard to get good footing when you’re pushing up against a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s hard to get funding for good, credible research (in the eyes of science and the APA) when psychology research is  more often than not funded by those multi-billion dollar industries. I.e, Big Pharma.

But this isn’t about “fighting the system”. I suppose in a subtle way it is, but it isn’t about the system really, it’s about the people, which is something the system is not about. For us, it’s about communication and connection and relating and processing: processing emotions, processing whatever you yourself considers illness, disability, disorder.

It’s not about diagnosis. We don’t care if your diagnosis is schizoaffective, we just care about what you’re feeling, how you’re reacting, and what we can do to support you through that. Schizoaffective is the last thing on our mind. In fact, we won’t even know a thing about diagnosis unless you tell us: and that’s only if you want to.

And in case you’re confused, peers are people with lived mental health experience supporting you through your experience, whatever that may be.

Most respites have a phone line you can call. We call ours a warmline, I’m not sure what others call theirs, maybe it’s all mutually exclusive. It’s 24/7. It’s not a suicide hotline. If you’re in a crisis and need to chat, and we think maybe you need further support, we can talk to you about how you feel about getting more support. It’s not about calling the police. Obviously immediate, drastic crisis is different. But I’m someone with frequent thoughts of suicide and frequent plans and I’d feel ten times more comfortable telling a warmline that than a hotline that because hotlines just keep asking me “can you guarantee to me that you can be safe tonight?” And I don’t know what the fuck that means and if I say no, they want to get my location and if I say yes then they say “have a good night and stay strong”.

Warmlines are different. We know the feelings you’re feeling and we process them with you to the best of our abilities. I’m not saying we can connect with everyone. I know I’m not a person who has managed to connect with everyone. I try my best, but it’s like life: you’re not going to get along with everyone. Everyone tries their best.

There’s no script or series of questions we have to ask. I like to call it supportive conversation, not active listening. It took me a while to really understand that and be able to offer support through words and not just an ear. I’m still working on it.

You can call for anything. You feel like your thoughts are racing? Call. Feel like your neighbors are watching you? Call. Aliens chatting to you and annoying you? Call. Feeling harassed? Call. Seeing demons nibbling on your feet? Call. Feeling depressed? Call. Feeling anxious? Call. Feeling stressed? Call. Whatever it is, Call.

I’m saying these things to give you alternatives. Alternatives to hospitals, to suicide, to loneliness.

I don’t know the exact places of every respite house in the country. I don’t know which communities have established peer programs or peer hybrid programs, whatever. Take initiative to look it up.

But in the meantime, I do have a list of some respite houses and programs here. They have descriptions and where they’re located. If you don’t see your state or whatever listed, google, google, google. Call, call, call.

They’re out there.

Want more information? Email me.

What is This.

Good Evening, all. 9/6/16

I read a very touching story for my creative writing class entitled “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan. There’s a PDF of it floating around the internet ether if you’d like to give it a read. It’s a short six pages.

For my American Literature class, I was supposed to read and skim through a section entitled “First Encounters: Early European Accounts of Native America”.

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You can guess I took one read of the bullshit and set it down.

My more recent followers may be a little confused by my discontent, and I’ll briefly explain: I’m mixed race, a portion includes Native American, and I’m no stranger to the mountain of hell historical truama has put that part of my family through. I come from a steady line of slaves and ancestors who were forced along the trail of tears. I therefore come from an open, unhealed wound, riddled with alcoholics, depressives, and oppressed people. The last thing I feel like reading is a piece of shit from some old “explorers” who felt entitled to do what they did.

I know there are natives and aborigines all across the world who still feel the repercussions of similar histories. And one day I’m sure it will happen again. And again. And again. If there is life on other planets, I’m almost certain it’s happened there as well. There always seems to be a power struggle between creatures somewhere, somehow. Plants fight for the beams of the sun and there are vines that suffocate other brothers and sisters of theirs for just that.

Perhaps the other planets have found a way to heal. There are some countries on our planet who have learned to heal from that kind of truama, but America isn’t one of them. And therefore I don’t take lightly people saying “that story doesn’t make sense” and then laughing at the world resting upon the back of a giant turtle in an Iroquois story. I don’t take lightly the fact that when some European described watching some tribe wail every morning at a certain time at the death of their son for an entire year as “ridiculous” or hearing them laugh at that.

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A Representative Picture of Me In class

Whether or not there was something lost in translation, have some fucking respect.

Sometimes it takes three generations to heal from truama. It’s not inconceivable that there were different forms of mourning in different tribes. Mourning too long isn’t always a sign of depression you spiritless idiots, it’s also a form of healing. You have to feel that pain, you have to let it out, and you have to reconnect with yourself and your surroundings. Grief is extremely powerful and it needs to be treated as such. Trauma is very powerful, and it needs to be handled as such. If you can’t understand that, they keep your mouth shut.

I should have spoken up in class. The way they were talking, I could feel my blood boiling. But something held me back. Remnants of oppression, perhaps? Habit? I’m used to people talking that way about cultures I’m apart of. They don’t ever seem to talk shit about that straight up Polish/Irish part of me though.

I fell silent that class period. I refused to speak or participate or listen to a word anyone had to say. Maybe it was my anger, maybe it was my way of rebellion: maybe it was my middle finger to the world. I don’t know. But if it happens again tomorrow, I won’t hold back.

My professor said the book does a good job of expressing native american views. Among the hundreds of settler stories, there is one native american creation story that was probably written down by a settler.

Yes, there are tons of documents by natives believe it or not, because I read many of them in high school when I took a college american history course.

How I see my professor at this point:

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9/7/16

I stopped that post last night. This morning the tides turned and I awoke how I always do: balanced on the edge of my mind willing to either fall and land steadily on the surface to my left or the abyss to my right. I ended up fighting a little harder than usual and the result went something like this:

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Man in pinned stripe suite falling off a cliff.

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And yes, I switched gender and race in the process.

Something took over my mind today and I ended up not going to that English class I specified above; I sent an email saying I had an appointment I couldn’t miss. I got a call from work for a shift, and for some reason it spiraled out of control after that. I had to spend a lot of courage attempting to call them back (to which the phone wasn’t answered) and it just reminded me of the fact that I have a letter to still give to the accessibility center, an appointment to reschedule because someone gave me the wrong room for it and I missed the appointment, and that I still have to dish out all of the accommodation letters to my professors  which means I have to approach them during office hours.

I got extremely overwhelmed. And when I get overwhelmed I have no tools to stop my mind from freaking out. I try explaining the process but I’m assuming people think “why are you freaking out about nothing” and then decide there’s no point in talking to me about it. That frustrates me even more as I don’t tell the inner workings of my mind to just anyone. In fact, I rarely tell them to anyone. So to be blatantly rejected when I do manage to share some of my stress only pushes me further downward.

It’s like climbing up from a hole and getting your knuckles stomped on and your face kicked back down.

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In my creative writing class I couldn’t focus. My mind does not have the capability to shut up. I think there were a few times I whispered something to myself or I started rocking, I’m not sure, I wasn’t really present for the class.

Then comes the suspicions: is that person next to me asking the other person next to her a question to spite me? She knows it pisses me off. She’s doing it on purpose. She was nice to me earlier but now that she knows I’m insane, she’s refusing to speak to me.

I figure both people at my table can hear what’s going on in my head and that’s why they were quieter this class. Maybe I was whispering too loud, I don’t know.

Maybe I didn’t whisper at all and it only felt that way because my mind was so loud today.

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To be quite honest, I don’t know what the fuck went on in class.

It’s been very stressful lately, and I know what happens to me when stress hits me: my moods jump around like a ten year old on a trampoline for the first time, I’m suspicious of everyone around me (have I told you at this point I only trust my manager at work?), I shut down . . . and during that shut down I force everything in the back of my mind, putting pressure on my subconscious. Then she erupts with fury and vengeance and that, my friends, is what I call a panic attack. Then I get sent to the hospital, miss classes because the Ativan IV puts me to sleep for a good day and a half, and then I wake feeling like a complete fuck up of a person.

I would know as this has been happening systematically for the last two years. It’s the reason I am not yet out of this mind fuck of a junior fucking college.

So I try to let my stress out. I try to talk to people. But what happens when that fails as well? Where do I turn? This blog? And bore all of your eyes to death?

I don’t know.

What is this blog anymore, even?

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A Personal Glimpse

Often I don’t post personal writings on here. However, tonight I decided could be an exception because I’ve come across two poems (I had previous lost) that I scribbled down maddeningly one over two separate depressive episodes about a year ago. I cannot say that they are not amateur. I cannot say that I’ve tuned my non-existent poetry skills as often as I have my fiction skills. I also cannot guarantee that they make any sense at all. Bare with me here. All I can say is that they are written in a form that kind of seems like poetry, so I tentatively consider them so.

 

#1)

I feel I’ve been fighting a million years

Under the ruse of a pacifist.

 

Suffering is tolerated for the sake of living;

Living is tolerated for the sake of others

In the world in which I live.

Any truths behind the smile,

The reflex,

The Façade,

Is shrouded.

Only a downy pillow brings cotton comfort

Until the light brings forth another day.

 

I feel I’ve been fighting a million years

Under the ruse of a pacifist.

 

Black,

White,

Dark,

Light,

There is no between

Under the influence of two extremes.

What’s real is the present,

What was, only falsity;

The future: a gross inaccuracy.

What words go where,

What feelings should be felt,

What thoughts embraced

When their meanings change with the tide?

 

 

I feel I’ve been fighting a million years

Under the ruse of a pacifist.

 

He descends,

My most worthy opponent,

Arms extended,

And I cower

As any rational being would.

Light cannot pass through the absence of itself;

I cannot soothe the shell of myself.

Relinquish control, I do;

Resume authority, he does;

And we dance the devil’s dance with experienced precision.

We are one and I am none;

He is I

And I am a memory.

 

I know I’ve been fighting a million years

Under the ruse of a pacifist

Because my smile manipulates the world’s beliefs.

She’s laughing: she’s fine;

She’s joking: she’s fine.

I will joke no longer,

Laugh no longer,

Because he hates the sound of joy

And I hate the burden of deceit.

 

Reality cannot be grasped

By the slippery hands

Of a ghost.

 

I’ve fought for a million years

With the shadows in my head;

They have no use for a pacifist.

Neither do I.


#2)

Who watches me while I drive down the street

Or walk on campus,

Or lay down to sleep?

Troubled spirits perhaps

Who carry the same burden as I:

Invisible,

Alone,

Waiting to die;

Whatever that means.

 

Twirling through limbo is an awful chore

With no one to love and nothing to adore.

In reality,

Nothing exists

There is no difference between life and death

When the space in your head knows only dread, dread, dread.

Constant hounding,

Constant crying,

Constant lying,

Constant pounding,

But in an abyss with no one,

Nothing for miles.

A lonely life.

 

Day after day, night after night: failure, failure, failure.

One step forward

Five steps back.

So I wonder in this bed:

Will I remember the beauty of life with a gun to my head?

 

Aren’t I just a Positive Patty?

 

Small Positives

Instead of burning under the fires of negativity, I’ll mention one of the small positives of this week:

I managed to get down to the Accessibility Support Center at my college to ask how to register. My boyfriend had to come with me of course, but I made it. I asked the woman what I would need to do in order to register for services from the center. She seemed nice and very receptive. She said the first step would be to attend one of the orientations that gives us a small overview of the services and a tour of the HUB station (that’s where the support/tutor services are).

The second step, the one I dreaded the most, was to then bring in documentation. She said it could be an IEP, a 504, family doctor records, anything like that. I knew it was coming and the anxiety still took over.

She set me up for an orientation on the 31st at 9:30 in the morning. That day I also have to be at my psych appointment at 11 am. She said it would be finished before then certainly. Then I have to drive back to the school for class at 12:40. That’s a busy day.

I walked from the center rather disappointed. An IEP? A 504? Two things you usually get when you get diagnosed with something as a child? You know, like ADHD?

Head in Hands

Unfortunately for me, when I wasn’t talking, when I refused to interact with children, they send me to a counselor who concluded I was “shy” and would “grow out of it”. I couldn’t even get an ADHD diagnosis for fucks sake.

If I would have known the system, I would have opened my mouth and expressed everything I felt. Instead I sat there, said not a word to the counselor woman, and still somehow got a certificate of completion for it. How does that even work?

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At this point this blog has become one large contradiction. I speak so often about how diagnosis doesn’t matter, how it doesn’t define you, how I feel it’s much less damaging to consider “symptoms” as “experiences”, and yet I’m here kicking myself over the fact that I’ve never gotten a sincere diagnosis past “social anxiety”. If you ask me, it makes me look like one of those preachers who reiterate the Bible, then go out and murder people.

I still believe in experiences over symptoms. I still believe in “this is how I am” over “this is what I have”.

I also know the world is a business and a label maker. And I’m going to milk every last drop of it, because if there are ways to get help out there for school, for housing, for finances, for whatever the case may be at any point in my life, than I think I deserve that.

When she said “family doctor” I cringed. Because I have no doctor any longer. Because I have no health insurance. My doctors never had any part of my mental health record anyway. Fucks sake.

The anxiety part of all of this is that I will be walking into that orientation at 9:30 without a complete record confirming what I experience and be surrounded by people who do. People with perhaps more severe mental/physical struggles than my own. It’s like I’m sitting myself down in a wheel chair with full knowledge that both my legs work, and signing up for a wheel chair basketball team with people who actually have lost function of their legs.

It’s another way for my brain to invalidate my own experiences.

shutterstock_106645070I think my main issue is that I’m very confused. Ever since I started this job it’s made me take a different look at behavior and experiences in different people and in myself. It’s made me realize I have so much more to work on than I thought. It makes doing janitor work ten times more appealing than it had before, and even then it had looked appealing.

Depending on what happens with full evaluations and a complete diagnosis, I may or may not continue working here. I love their concept, I love the “fight the system . . . but it’s really about the people” vibe that they give off. I want to always stay in contact with them and maybe even attend the groups. But working is something I’m not sure I’m ready for yet. I should have learned this lesson after my third job in four months.

Functioning and adulting isn’t easy for anyone, I’m aware of that as well.

Today I went into a hardware supply store and a Rite Aid, in the company of my mother. Both stores are pretty quiet and large and don’t have many crowds.

Three more days until the orientation.

 

 

Urgent Update: Life Is Still Shit . . . But, At Least I’m Breathing

Update: My chicken meter is still very high; I have yet to contact the Accessibility Services Center.

But it’s okay.

It’s not okay, but I’ll pretend it’s okay.

As most of you know I’ve been working at a Peer Respite House since Mid June. It was my fourth job in a six month stretch of me realizing I cannot function in the working world. So far I have yet to prove this theory wrong. Work is stressful, and not in the way you’d think.

You’d think people hearing voices and feeling immediately suicidal and wanting to take all their pills or hurt themselves in other ways would be stressful. You’d think hearing stories of someone ending their life upstairs in one of the closets once and not being found for a few hours would stress me out even more. You’d think knowing things could go from perfectly fine to the ultimate pile of shit in less than a tenth of a second would stress me out.

But you want to know what really stresses me out?

The phone calls.

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You want to know what else?

Conducting Interviews.

Can you guess the next thing?

General conversation.

And last but not least?

Connection. Connection. Connection. Something that’s been absent all my life.

If someone is hearing voices, if someone is feeling anxious, those are topics we can talk about. If someone is upset about housing, that is something we can talk about. If someone says “hey” and then stares, I have no idea what they want from me. In fact, I’m more inclined to smile, say hello, and walk on past.

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It’s not me being absent . . . well it kind of is, but it’s also me not knowing what to do next. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend’s family that I learned (yes, I had to LEARN, at 19 years old to do this) when someone says “hello, how are you?” it’s preferred that you also say “I’m doing good (bad, okay, e.t.c), how are you?”

Unfortunately, at the 2 year mark, that’s about as far as I can get in a conversation with them. It’s better than nothing though, right?

No, no it’s not.

Anyway, always ask “how are you” back. It keeps you looking like 1) you’re human and 2) you know how to have a conversation. Obviously for me it’s a complete ruse because I’m sure I poofed into existence out of blackhole stardust and I have no clue how to hold a conversation.

At 16 I learned how to make eye contact for the first time in my life. It took a year of observing correct technique from my peers, how they interacted with each other and how they interacted with the teachers, and I finally was able to sustain it for more than one second so I too could look normal.

“Normal”.

I picked up a job at this Respite house not to “get through school” like I feel the staff fucking thinks, but so I could find people like me and hopefully gain some social skills. Because my social ineptitude is solely related to my social anxiety and my social anxiety is solely related to low confidence. . .

Right?

That’s what I was told. I have trouble in conversations because my amygdala hijacks the rest of my brain.

R . . . right?

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I’m questioning this diagnosis as of now. Because my confidence is no longer an issue. I’ve worked hard on it for many years. Yet my anxiety seems to have sky rocketed. And it seems, even in situations where my anxiety is low, my social skills are, well, not there.

I was used to not feeling connected to people outside of the world of mental health. But now that I see I struggle even to communicate with people who are “like me”, I took a step back and did what I do best: find patterns. And for the last month and a half I’ve basically come up with the following theory:

What if my anxiety is a direct result of my brain not understanding the world around it? What if my social anxiety presents itself not because I’m scared of someone judging what I say, but I’m scared of them judging how I say it: that is, interrupting–which I do all the time accidentally because I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk or not. Through observation, I’ve learned over the years that if there is a break in conversation, you should be free to speak . . . but if that break is too long, it becomes weird to speak because mentally everyone has already moved on. That being said, if you do decide to talk in the break, for the love of God stay on topic, don’t just jump to something no one was talking about. That makes you look fucking weird apparently.

'Jeffrey, you're going off-topic again.'

What if my anxiety is related to the fact that I know damn well when I try to speak, I can’t express myself properly. There are so many words rushing around my head that they crash into each other and I can’t say what I need to. So I either gather everything I’m supposed to say before hand and spew it out my mouth at the speed of light before it gets screwed up, or I speak very slowly and stutter over my words.

Of course the more comfortable I am around someone, the less this happens, which indicates anxiety plays a part. But it’s not the whole story because it happens regardless of where I am or who I am with.

What if there’s a reason I feel so lost and confused in conversations? What if there’s a reason I can’t understand things verbally and rather need them written or drawn besides me being a “visual learner”?

What if there’s a reason I was reading and writing in kindergarten, but not speaking?

What if there’s a reason I can’t leave the house without someone?

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I was a master at this for a long while.

What if there’s a reason I still cry at the slightest indication of criticism or being told to “stop”.

What if there’s a neurological reason for my social anxiety besides the idea of feeling “judged”?

What if there’s a reason I’m an observer, a mimicker, someone who knows how to smile and repeat phrases like a robot to people so that I appear that I know what I’m doing? 

How I can’t keep track of a conversation if it’s more than just me and one other person.

How, if I’m talking to someone, one little noise (a crack, a bang, a voice, laughter, several voices, e.t.c) will force me to fall silent until it passes because I can’t think with noise going on. Hence one of my reasons I hate talking on the phone besides also hating people listening to me.

How finger snapping, a mumble from a television in the living room or dim/bright light or snoring can get my blood boiling and possibly send me into a rage if I’m already on edge.

How I can’t say anyone’s name to their face. I don’t even say my own name. I would give some examples to prove my point, but honestly it’s one thing I’m extremely embarrassed about.

shoesWhat if there’s something from the time that therapist/counselor told my parents in elementary school that I was “shy” and “I’ll grow out of it”, to all the interest I rarely showed in my peers or their interests, to the days I spent riding around making lists of every brand of car I saw,  drawing their emblem symbol next to the name, and illustrating how their front, sides, and backs looked until, at 9, I could recite the make, model, and year of a car from looking at it. I still can.

I still have my toy car collection by the way, I treasure it.

How, when I became obsessed with psychology, I listed every psychoactive medication, their generic and chemical names, the class of drug they were, and what they were typically and atypically administered for, until I was 15 and reciting it to my high school teachers and doctors in the hospital.

You know when you get a gut feeling about something and you just know something doesn’t add up?

That’s my gut feeling. And if this is a result of what I think, I’m going to be very furious at some very important people in my past.

FYI: it’s not my parents.

P.S, feel free to leave an opinion. I’m opening to hearing interpretations. In fact, please, leave an interpretation I’m desperate here. 

A Testament Towards Feeling

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We are all fighters.

Survivors.

Warriors.

And I will never deny that fact.

To deal with whatever pain you experience day after day, minute after minute, hour after hour (physical, mental, terminal) means you have some kind of strength within you to keep going. It means you’re not willing to give your life up to something that wants to take you hostage. The people who have been through your pain, who can share in your pain, know the exhaustion you put yourself though and they smile and they say you’re strong. They say you’re resilient. They say you can make it because you’ve been making it. And all of their words are beautiful and heart felt and you trust them.

A connection makes all the difference.

disconnect-old-phoneSo what of those of us where connection has never been felt? What of those of us who use humor to interject ourselves because we have no other way of communicating? Those of us who get confused on when to say something, what to say, and how to say it? Those of us who consistently misinterpret someones tone of voice or facial expression to be malicious or crippled with ill intent? Those of us who have suddenly come to realization that this issue has caused a pattern of problems throughout their life?

What of those of us who have the crushing feeling that they’ve been copy-catting their way through life?

What does that mean? It probably means different things to different people. To some extent, we all copy someone else. We adopt each others mannerisms and ways of speech when we’re in a group. We see an outfit on someone and want the same. Some people call it being unoriginal, but I call that type of copying admiration–you like the outfit, it’s cute, so you buy it to also look cute.

To me, copying is a way of protecting myself. It’s not done for fun. In fact, I loathe myself for it deeply. In a conversation I copy the answers and mannerisms of the people around me not so they will like me, but so I don’t reveal how completely clueless I am in the rules of the flow of conversation. I don’t care if they like me. But I care if I look like the socially inept fool I am.

In the midst of two other people, I will not speak. Not because I don’t have something to say but because I’m not sure if it’s right to say. I’m particularly not sure when it’s appropriate to interject.

This makes the conversations I do manage to have very artificial. They’re sticking their maxresdefault2feelers out and I’m slapping them down by accident because I’m blind to them. I speak few words because of this issue. I’m brief and speak very quickly and often quietly.

I’m an observer. I watch how people converse, how they joke with each other, and I’ve pretty much analyzed all I can. I’ve got all these stray pieces strewn across the floor and I’m trying to come up with a formula that fits them together nicely. For example, in high school I noticed one big thing in conversation is eye contact. Not making it is weird, making it too much is also weird.

So I come up with an approximate time to stare at someone and an approximate, and appropriate time to look away. A good two or three seconds is alright, more if you’re still thinking of a response. It’s good to keep eye contact with someone while they’re talking because it shows your attention level, but it’s generally average to glance away once or twice while you’re speaking so it doesn’t become this creepy staring contest.

I still stare too long because I’m not sure if looking away makes me look more awkward or not. So it’s something I’ve been trying to understand since I was 16.

The missing link is in the flow. I don’t know how to keep a flow or stay on topic. Someone asks a question, you answer, what comes next? Why does anything have to come next?

I feel people think I’m not interested in them because I don’t ask about them. But I never knew I was supposed to . . .if someone wants me to know something about them, why don’t they just say it?

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I go silent often and people find that rude.

These are things I’ve thought about for the last year or so, things I’ve been recognizing in myself that I feel are the root cause of my social anxiety (next to my mistrust of people’s intentions, which probably stems from the fact that I can’t see anything but malice in their expressions or their words).

It came up today during supervisions. My supervisor asked me what could happen in the house that would integrate me into the team (I could take that one of two ways: 1) she wants to know how to improve communication throughout the team or 2)I’ve been recognized as the outcast I always am). She also asked if I even wanted to be part of the team (but she didn’t say it in a mean way, I don’t think).

I’m going to choose not to be offended, because experience tells me that wasn’t what she was aiming for, but it feels like I’m going through the same thing over and over again with the people back in grade school who constantly said “you’re too quiet, what can we do to make you more involved in the class?” or “can you participate more please?” or the people at one of my old jobs that said “we’re going to work on making you open up and have you work with [enter coworkers name] to make you a little louder on Thursday”.

It triggered me subconsciously I think and I put my guard up automatically.

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I said I did want to be part of the team. And I don’t think I lied. But I see how they operate, everyone is open with each other and it flows nicely and I don’t fit. I’m highly aware of that. I said I didn’t know what anyone could do. I wanted to say I have trouble making connections but I got lost in my speech as I often do, so I don’t really remember what I said.

It was something rehearsed, something I always say in response to these types of things because feelings are hard for me to distinguish when it comes to people. So I recite the feeling that is most common, that I hear most often, that makes the person the most happy, depending on the situation.

But personally, I go blank. The only feeling I’ve ever experienced from people is mistrust and anxiety from not understanding how they operate. So how could I answer a question like the above?

When she asked me whether or not I wanted to be apart of the team, I studied myself carefully. And felt a pull in neither direction. Blank. That was probably really awkward because she had no idea why I was silent.

book-1110648_960_720Anyone from any job could have asked me that, and my reaction would be the same. This is where I feel people misunderstand me: my feeling blank isn’t a testament to who they are as people, it’s a testament to my own feeling.

I don’t see why that is so hard to understand.

These people are not evil. Their not mean or horrible. In fact, they’re the best set of people I’ve met in my short life. But they are human, as most are, and that simple fact keeps me from relating. I’m distanced. Always have been.

So where do I go from here? I don’t know. This happens every job I go to, every class I’m in, every group I work with, every casual or focused conversation I have . . . it never changes, and it never has. Perhaps it will one day.

And I believe in order to change things, I need to understand this more clearly. I need another opinion. Even if that means spending 230 dollars on a 90 minute psychiatric opinion.

If you follow me, you know very well I’m not fond of “professionals” because of their lack of experience. But I have lack of experience being human and they have an abundance of it.

I have ideas from past psychologists and my current one. But perhaps it’s time to get a medical opinion as well, just something else in my arsenal of “tools I’m using to find myself”.

 

 

In The World Without The World.

I’m not an open person. I have been trying to be an open person for the majority of my short life.

missing_something___by_lillele-d31vg49I must be missing something. I’m not understanding the algorithm (I can’t tell a derivative from my ass with the amount of time I’ve been out of math) or I’m missing the software to conceptualize and understand the process.

The possibility of not being encouraged or praised for ideas as a child was thrown out in the air for a reason why I don’t speak up when I have something to say. That’s all fine and dandy, but I feel I lack a connection to the rest of the world. I feel distanced. Not dissociated, but distanced. As if there is a glass wall separating me from the remainder of the human race.

I have empathy. I can relate to people’s pain, I share in people’s pain, and it hurts me when others are in pain. But to connect with someone on a human level, on a personal level, without focusing only on their pain but to then also focus on mine . . .

I’m still struggling with that.

To have a simple conversation . . . that’s a whole other algorithm. How do you do it? When do you know what to say? When do you butt in? How do you not misinterpret their facial expressions or their tone of voice? All I hear are malicious things, mocking, deceit, half-truths, people saying things just to appease me.

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Even in an environment where I’ve been told I’m completely supported, I feel the most isolated. Over the years I’ve learned it’s not them, I’ve learned it’s me.

It’s me who sees their expressions twisted. It’s me who hears their voice tone wrong. It’s me who distances myself because I think they’re just there to play with me. I think they form a little tirade against me where they can gossip and set up tests around the office and the house and coach guests to be a certain way so I have to deal with it, so they have something else to gossip about.

Everything becomes a test. The dishes, the food, the garbage, everything. It happens at every job I go to, any group event I try to take part in. Everything feels like it’s pushing against me.

isolation-1So I isolate. I isolate so far I quit things. I skip classes, I drop classes, I quit jobs, I huddle in my room where it’s safe, and when I come out of it I’m left with just the static noise in my head. Then I get bored and frustrated with myself–why can’t I function like the average human being? Why I can’t I just “ignore it” all?

Then I get some more confidence. I apply for jobs I’m not qualified for because I know my writing takes me places my mouth never could, and when I get them I brag because somehow “getting” a job equates to “maintaining and functioning” at a job in my brain.

Then time passes and I’m the outcast. The anxiety hits and I’m going to work with an upset stomach and headache and returning with the same thing. Then comes the paranoia: camera’s are hidden in places specifically to watch me, and they’re watching as I type this, I feel it. They use it to gossip more. I had to close the blinds tonight so I could look for my paper check no one told me was sent here and I didn’t want whoever was probably watching me from across the street thinking I was digging through people’s files.

I’m aware that’s something people say is not happening. I’m always aware of how I feel.

It’s all too much. I’m isolating again, slowly but surely, ignoring calls to work or not taking specific shifts just to avoid too many people or too much turmoil.

I just don’t want to fail again. And I feel like that’s what’s going to happen. Then I’ll start the cycle all over again.

arrows missing target

It’s nice to get this out in blog form, but to speak it outloud to someone is my goal. I want to be able to freely speak and freely cry all I need without feeling like someone is going to use that information against me or is going to mock me or feel that I’m the definition of insanity. I don’t know how to feel that way about someone.

I can barely say “hello”, how the hell and I supposed to spill my guts to the world?

My supervisor will be here to take over my shift in 45 minutes. I’ve been here since 10:30 pm (I’m off at 8:30 a.m), got an hour or so of sleep, and one of the guests randomly took all of her belongings and left and when I tried addressing her, she wouldn’t speak or look at me. She didn’t help my situation tonight.

Nothing has been helping my situation.

Status Report Update: I feel like shit. 

 

Isolation Damnation

I was requested to write a post about isolation and how it makes my mind change and feel. So here, my friends, is my probably less than mediocre attempt (the fault of my insufferable writing skills) at fulfilling said request.

I’ve been an introvert since before therapists started calling me one.

I’ve been an introvert since before I knew how to spell my name (and I learned a lot of words before I could finish memorizing a french last name that I later learned doesn’t belong to my bloodline).

I’ve been an introvert since before I knew that I had legs and when I discovered them, I’m sure I was more than pleased–yet, still introverted, so they didn’t get used outside much. I wonder how they feel about that.

I digress.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThere are days I feel it is my calling to be as such, that Locke’s idea of being born with a “Tabula Rasa” (blank slate) in terms of personality, in terms of possibilities, emotions, and other advantages (or disadvantages depending on how full your cup is) is just a load of horse shit. I was an introvert in the womb. I was an introvert when half of me was in an egg and the other half in a sperm.

My point (finally)?

Isolation is my closest friend. It came at me from both sides: it forced itself upon me as a result of my severe social anxiety that eventually resulted in agoraphobia, and it gently caressed my skin as a result of my complete and utter personal choice to be alone with myself.

There are times when it is tough. Where are times when I’m lying on the floor bleeding from a self-inflicted wound or banging my head against the wall, or ready to leap from a cliff because I just can’t handle the floods of thoughts in my head, and I have no one to lie on the floor with me.

reaching-outEven when I make an attempt to reach out, I struggle in describing my experience because I’ve never been fully open with anyone but myself. There’s a disadvantage: I’ve so utterly disconnected with the idea of “sharing emotionally” that I’m not even sure I could define it properly. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the option of speaking with people who share my experiences and thoughts, or perhaps it’s because I am essentially socially inept and wouldn’t possibly know where to start to go about finding these kind of people.

School days were plagued with feeling inadequate matched up to my socially successful classmates, and being mixed race in a school of mostly Caucasian and Hispanic students didn’t go over well–I didn’t act or talk “white” and everyone I came in contact thought I was Hispanic, including the teachers who would give me papers in Spanish without asking. There we’rent enough African American students to even form a group, so that wasn’t an option either.

Race, social anxiety, and my own need to be in my head kept me isolated.

The students in the advanced classes I took were Caucasian and talked all the time about their trips to Greece and Spain over the summer. So socioeconomic status played a part as well.

I skipped a lot of high school. It’s a waste of time anyway, at least in America.

Oh uh, bold statement, I might have just lost a reader or two.

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But it’s not all bad. For some reason a transition from a sheltered “kid” of 17 who was still legally unable to do anything really significant to an 18 year old “adult” signaled a time in my life where I realized how valuable my isolation is to me.

It leaves me a spot in my head where I am absolutely and utterly safe. There is no noise, no distraction, just the ocean of my own thoughts crashing on shore. Sometimes they roar and move swift in a storm, other times they creep onto the sand and only slightly lick the tip of my toes. But no matter their temperament, isolation has allowed me to feel them completely and wholly, with myself, by myself.

I wasn’t subjected to peer pressure. I was on the inside of myself looking out, observing, patterns of typical teenaged behavior and I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t care to move with the crowd: did I need them to live? I didn’t care to go to the mall and get the latest fashion trend: who am I giving my money to when I buy this shirt? I didn’t care if I looked like a loner: I mind my business, they mind theirs. Simple.

The one friend I did have got sucked up into peer pressure; it became a need for her to do as they did; she absorbed anyone’s personality if she stood near them, and took on their attitude, mannerisms, and imitated their actions.

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She did it to me multiple times when we were alone together. In a group, if I wasn’t the dominant vocal member, she would find who was and suck up to them.

This has resulted in her forcing herself to lose her virginity before we turned 18 (we’re both 21 now) just to say she did it, it’s resulted in her hanging out with 15 year olds at the age of 21 because the majority of people we have gone to high school with have alright jobs, party only occasionally, and grew up a bit. It’s resulted in her crashing a 12 thousand dollar car her grandparents gifted her within a month of her receiving it, only to get in another car crash a month later, a 1000 dollar ticket, and now a warrant for her arrest as a result of the unpaid fine.

She lives her life for the approval of other people; she has yet to find herself.

I was lucky. I knew myself before I knew knowing myself was a thing to be had. Who did I have to impress but myself? Who did I have to look up to but myself? Who did I have to listen to but myself?

 

While it results in me feeling overwhelmingly alone at times, while it results in me feeling jealous of those who can socialize, those who have friends to leave the house with every Friday night, while it results in me feeling like a freak compared to the social normality of my boyfriend, while it results in my feeling inadequate on many levels, it also results in me having a connection with myself I don’t think many 21 year olds have.

Isolation has ruined my life.

And it’s given it so many gifts.

I wish I could say more on how it changes things, but I have no personal experience with going from “not isolated” to “isolated”. So perhaps that makes my view biased.

While there are times I need a friend or some human contact, I don’t fish for it. I don’t need it to live or breathe or eat or even enjoy myself.

I enjoy making people laugh. I even would go so far as saying I enjoy entertaining, whether it be writing, videos, or just general group humor. But after all that is said and done, after I let the anxiety settle in my system, there’s nothing greater I appreciate than a good solid week in my room with minimal contact, and the title of a vampire.

In many ways I feel isolation is just a bitter sweet result of my many mental health quirks that have freed me from the disadvantages of sanity.

 

 

Cats

You guys.

YOU GUYS.

How come no one told me there are such things as “emotional support” animals? Why is this not a thing I was immediately aware of at the moment of my birth? Why have I been living my life absent of the cuddly preciousness that is a kitten?

dwarf-kitten-01You see, I’m a huge sucker for cats. I lived twelve years of my life with one until she passed and ever since I’ve been trapped within the confines of an apartment which requires a hefty 250 dollar deposit if you have the slightest inclination of bringing a feline or canine into your house that you pay over-priced rent for.

BUT.

You Guys.

If you register an animal as an “emotional support” animal, your apartment complex (as long as it’s larger than four units) can’t deny your animal, nor can they legally charge you a fee to have it.

I would like one order of a nice, fluffy, indoor little buddy who can keep me entertained enough not to stab myself in the throat. Is that too much to ask? IS IT?

I know they have trained service dogs that, in terms of mental health, can help comfort you when it senses you’re having a panic attack, which would be awesome. But a dog would not be happy in this tiny complex and I couldn’t force it to live a claustrophobic lifestyle just so its fluffiness can ease my pain.

I would gladly claim myself “mentally disabled” if that means I can acquire a ball of happiness from an adoption center and not have to pay my apartment complex a cent.

fluffy-puppy-pictures-cuteimages-netI do think an animal companion can be really useful. I bet many of you have animals (lucky bastards) and I’m sure you are much happier when your–insert animal here–jumps on your lap or licks your face or whines at you or jumps on you when you enter the house. At least you know as long as you keep feeding them and you don’t abuse them, they will always love you.

You could feed your human friends all you want and they’ll still drop you faster than you drop a hot skillet.

It’s summer here, and you know what that means: isolation, isolation, and more isolation. I don’t want to be alone in this, I want a kitten to be isolated with me. I can play with it and give it food and watch it learn the world around it.

Summer here for me has and always will be hell. Tourists from the south and the north come and converge in the middle, where we are, along the coast, where we are, and they get their vacation rentals and plug up our hotels and clog our streets and I can’t step out of my apartment without getting engulfed by a group of preppy short-shorters who stare at my sweats and baggy sweater and hood over my head like I’m crazy.

So essentially I’m trapped.

I’m starting to feel it, it’s weighing in on me too. The only time I’m comfortable leaving the house is at night now and what the hell am I going to do at night besides drive around? Eat at Denny’s and pray I don’t get food poisoning?

I can’t even cycle without feeling completely overwhelmed by the amount of people, and that’s the only form of exercise I can happily do outside so no matter how much I don’t eat, I’m still putting on a few extra pounds. So you know damn well I’ve thrown the contemplation of taking medication again out the window: I’ll blow up like a balloon.

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I don’t think I could juggle a class and work this summer, so I’ll be dropping the class. I also think I registered for too many units this semester and will be splitting them over two semesters. Which means I’ll be here for another year.

At this point, I feel the all too familiar claws of failure gripping my neck. My nightly panic attacks are returning, so that means I’m repressing something. It’s probably all of the aforementioned things, the beginning of summer, the reminder that I can barely sustain a manageable amount of discomfort around two people let alone ten every two feet.

I try to believe that people aren’t automatically harboring some wicked agenda against me, but it’s not feasible 90% of the time.

I won’t go into a rant tonight.

I could really use a cat, though.

How Sick is Sick?

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It’s the end of the week at the IPS training and besides being mentally exhausted, I’m slightly conflicted.

Tomorrow I have to do a two to four minute presentation. He said it can be anything, you can just stand in front of the group and talk about what IPS means to you. That’s essentially what I’m doing unless I come up with some kind of fanatical art project. I thought of doing a poem, but let’s be honest here folks, I’m no poet.

That being said, a major thing that resonated with me throughout this week is the idea of looking at what the clinical setting calls “symptoms” as experiences or reactions.

brainWe all know the biological model is not as sound as they say it is. And we all know that biology and neurology cannot be taken out of the equation when talking about mental health; that’s like leaving out the division of cells in the growth of cancer. But do we know how much we rely on the idea of being biologically or genetically sick?

Have you ever been asked that?

 

Have you ever thought about your “symptoms” in the light of something else?

I’ll give you a personal example and a separate example from a brilliant TED talk I watched a few years back, one the speaker today showed us all.

When I graduated high school. I was the furthest from depressed: I was finally off the medication I was put on, I didn’t have to get held back because I skipped so many classes, I didn’t have to wake up at 4 in the morning anymore to feel comfortable at school, I didn’t have to see those stuck up ostracizing nerds in all my classes. I was going to college and finally got to study psychology, the subject I’d been studying for a few years before college. I was always smiling, and laughing. I got my license and it was a huge accomplishment: my anxiety had really affected my first written test when I was 16. I was driving, staying out at night, having fun for the first time in a long time.

272362-house-mdOne evening I was watching the show House. Anyone remember that? Anyway: Panic. Utter panic. I thought I was going to die, I felt my heart rate pounding behind my eyes and in my ears and no matter how deep of a breaths I took, it would only grow faster.

I went into the living room where my parents were sitting and asked my mother to take my pulse. I asked her if it was going fast. She shrugged and said “eh, a little”.

Her opinion didn’t effect me. I needed air. I ran outside in torn and stained sweats and a T-shirt and started walking up and down the driveway, pacing, talking to myself. The neighbors were watching for sure. I could feel my head getting light and although I didn’t feel any chest pain (I never do surprisingly) I could feel my throat tightening and I thought it was swelling.

Finally my mother joined me outside and we walked. For an hour.

This happened several times throughout the summer, random attacks hitting me and interrupting my happy moment in life. The average therapist called it “Panic Disorder”. Medication recommendation: Ativan.

This happened for two years. Random attacks. I started getting worried: would one happen if I tried to ride a ride at the amusement park? Would one happen while I was in a store and I’d have to embarrass myself in front of all these people? Would one happen when I’m home alone at night and have no one to talk to about it?

Then I noticed the pattern. I noticed the pattern of my own repression. Not only did I shove down my depression, but my anxiety, my beliefs, my worry, my everything. Every feeling I had I shoved it down: that’s what I did best. I was unaware of how to express feelings besides anger.

the_repression__gianfranco_uberWhen I had a panic attack, that signaled to me I’d stuffed something down. And because I respect my body and my brain, I worked at it. I talked to myself. I extracted the thoughts I kept hidden for years: the anger and resentment I feel towards my parents for forcing me to take care of an alcoholic at 13. The confusion I felt about all the years we spent homeless. Everything. I recognized it and acknowledged it and my brain thanked me.

Within the last year, I’ve had one panic attack and that was because of a sickness. Compared to the two or three I had per week.

The woman in the TED talk: she started hearing voices in college narrating her every day tasks. For example, when she entered a classroom, it said “she’s entering the class”.She spoke to her friend about them and her friend told her to see a psychologist. She went to a college health center and told them about the anxiety and depression she was experiencing. The person was avidly uninterested until she mentioned the voice.

You know the drill: assessment, diagnosis, medication. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia. They told her about the prognosis, about the life-long journey, about the medication. That was around the time her voices turned hostile and her paranoia locked her in her house with a plastic fork as a defense to any invaders. Coincidence?

Years later a psychologist or psychiatrist she was seeing mentioned her voices in a new light and she gradually saw them as an expression of unattended emotions. The trauma she dealt with her in childhood that caused pain and anxiety, her current life which caused pain and anxiety, the feeling of having personal space invaded, the feeling of having people against you. I’m sure we’ve all felt invaded at one point or another in our lives.

She reduced her medication then quit it. The further they worked through the trauma, the further she was supported in her decision and the further she saw her voices as an experience, as a way of them expressing emotion she kept inside of her, the less volatile they came. In fact, they gave her some answers on one of her exams. She asked if that was cheating and I would say yes: I don’t get any help like that, that’s bullshit. 

Whether they were right or not is another story I guess.

The point is, she had a psychiatrist who was willing to ask the question “what happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”.

This is not to say all mental health issues are a result of trauma. But many of us, I’m sure, can attest to that being an influence to the way we think.

eyeseetheworldThe above questions are questions we cover extensively in IPS training. It’s not always about the label. It’s not about the “disorder”, the thing doctors with no lived experience of mental health issues sat around a table and decided have a of “symptoms”. It’s about how life has shaped your world view. And I think that’s very powerful.

That being said, I feel as if I’m cheating these people. I’m only 20 years old: I’m the youngest of the group by at least ten years. I’ve never had the horror of having to go into a psychiatric hospital. I’ve never lost touch with reality. I’ve never experienced mania on their level. These people I’m surrounded by are the real MVP’s.

I feel as if I don’t deserve to be where they sit. It’s an issues with not feeling “sick” enough, I believe. It’s a feeling we talk about in IPS a lot: It’s a huge struggle when you can only get help in a hospital for suicidal issues if you have a “significant plan” to kill yourself.

I’ve always connected my mental health experiences to my body, to the way I think, and to what has happened to me in my life. I tell them about the schizotypal, the depression, the anxiety, the PTSD,  but I feel because I haven’t lost touch with reality, because I don’t hear voices on a daily basis, because I don’t visually hallucinate on a daily basis, because I haven’t told my plans about suicide to anyone and got thrown in the hospital, because none of it has caused me to act “Crazy” according to system standards, I don’t feel like I . . . I don’t feel like I deserve the job I have. 

I’m not quite sure how to deal with these feelings.

I know I will be able to relate to the people I talk to in some way or another, but I feel like they will see me as some young kid who doesn’t know shit.

Even though I know what it feels like to want to die. I know what it feels like to have demons chasing you. I know what it feels like to harm myself, to having people tell you your beliefs are “odd” or “magical”. I know what it feels like to take medication you don’t want to, to be misunderstood, to hate living. I know what it feels like to believe you have powers (which I still do) or to feel unsupported. I know about homelessness and drug addiction and mental pain in general, confusion, anger, hatred. . .

But is it enough?