Career Shameer

It’s 10:44 in the morning. I got off of work two hours ago. I am sleep deprived from the last few days, and quite irritable. That’s the perfect time to belch out a post. Agreed?

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but my best cognitive realizations and abilities are birthed from pure, elegant exhaustion. I did much better in Calculus at eight thirty in the morning after four hours of sleep than I did in an afternoon class after a solid seven and a half hours of sleep the night before. My brain is backwards and I appreciate that.

However, I am at a rather jarring crossroads in my life right now. After the last three years of being in and out of psychiatric hospitals, on and off psychiatric medications, jumping around from (ignorant) diagnosis to diagnosis, gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight again, in and out of a four year relationship, it’s left my education in shambles.

Most of you know I currently work as a Peer Support worker at a Peer Respite house and if you didn’t know, now you know. Somewhere on this blog I still have the post I put up about my first day of work there. I’ve been there for 2.5 years by this point, the longest job I’ve ever held. I started when I was 20 years old, a month or two away from my 21st birthday that I don’t remember. In my interview I told them I was a Pre-Med student eager for a career in psychiatry to fight the system.

I am now 23, four months away from my 24th birthday.

I’m not quite sure what happened. I was fully invested in my psychology degree and unscathed by the physics and math required for Med-school. I was a little perturbed about chemistry. I can’t balance an equation to save my fucking life. Another fun fact: put a Calculus equation in front of me, or teach me Linear Algebra and I”ll eat it alive. Put a pre-algebra word problem in front of me and I crumble, I disintegrate. As a writer, you think I’d understand what word problems are asking of me. As someone pretty decent at math, you’d think I’d understand how to calculate what’s being asked of me. Both of your assumptions would be horribly, horribly misled. I’m sure you can, then, deduce how well physics went.

My point in all this rambling is I can’t figure out what I want to study in college anymore. My psychology degree is almost complete and I don’t much care for it anymore. Every psychology class I take I no longer take interest in. Perhaps it’s from 1) living the experience of mental health issues and realizing textbook explanations are pale in comparison, 2) understanding the corruption that lies in the mental health industry/business, and 3) from working in the exact opposite environment that I would be working in were I to pursue my original career choice.

Perhaps it’s my stubbornness. I don’t want to answer to Insurance companies. I don’t want to be solicited or bribed by pharmaceutical salesmen offering me money to push certain drugs. I don’t want to have to deny someone my services because their insurance won’t pay for me because they don’t want medication. I don’t want to make that choice for them, it’s not my business. I don’t want to go into private practice and have to charge 300 dollars an hour and limit myself to an elitist group when we’re all very much aware that the people who need the most help are often struggling with housing, substance use, financial issues, as well as their mental health.

I don’t want to work for a county that would allow me to see that population but underpay me significantly and overload me with cases. I don’t want to only be allowed to see those people for 15 minutes when they need so much more time than that. I don’t want to be considered a doctor that only hands out medication. I don’t do well with rules that are illogical and all of the aforementioned happens to be just that.

And yet I feel that to not pursue this would be abandoning my own people. I feel the difference I wish to make can only begin with legitimizing myself, and unfortunately that requires a college degree in this day and age. But if the passion for the classes isn’t there anymore–where does that leave me? I still have a fiery passion for exposing pharmaceutical companies for what they are, for guiding people through their own mental health journey, for offering other opportunities and healing besides medication and hospitalization, but I just can’t handle sitting through these fucking brainwashing classes and pretend to care about what they’re saying.

So do I start over? Do I accept the psychology degree and switch to a different discipline? Do I follow my original plan, which would require a hard science degree? Do I have the confidence for that? Or will word problems best me? Will I make the same mistake, get the degree, and then not want to pursue the discipline? Will I even be able to get the degree? Or do I say fuck school all together and live the rest of my life check to check, roommate to roommate?

I’ve been off all meds for a couple months now. No antipsychotics, no mood stabilizers, no antidepressants, no sleep medication. I’ve 360’d my diet, and now exercise five days a week for an hour and a half. I’m making a lot of changes and it feels like it’s only natural that my career path do the same.

The real problem is i’d love to have a career in physics and a career in peer support. That just doesn’t seem realistic though. Research during the day, peer during the night? Sounds exhaustive.

What’s helped you choose your career path? Are you still searching for something? Are you at a crossroads too?

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.

Sudoku and Neurotransmission

There’s nothing that can convince me that this life is meant to be as complicated as we make it. There’s nothing that can convince me that we will ever find all of the answers, and to think that we have some already is naive and wishful. These are the things I think about as I backtrack in my Sudoku game, something I used to hate doing as a child because I could never get it right the first time. I have once in my life, but that was in a bout of mania. As much as I like to think it was my own brain power, it was really just a flood of neurotransmitters doing all the work.

250px-sudoku_puzzle_by_l2g-20050714_solution_standardized_layout-svgI was thinking about this the other day, about neurotransmission and Sudoku, and how they both have algorithms to describe their process. We have more neural connections in our brain than we have estimated stars in our galaxy. 1000 times more, to be exact. Sudoku has a bunch of different number possibilities, but only one answer. I fear neurotransmission is not as simple.

We have an algorithm for the probability of neural transmission: when certain neurons will fire and the chance of that happening, essentially. I believe if we do wish to describe the processes that happen in our brain, math will be the catalyst for success in that field. There are too many connections, too many variables, to settle on an explanation as simple as, say, a chemical imbalance.

I came across an essay in PLOS medicine titled “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the Scientific Literature.” This is a big deal. Although published in 2005, their words are still very relevent today. I’m sure you have heard in commercials about psychiatric medication that “so and so disorder is a chemical imbalance, and [insert drug] works to correct that balance”. Notice they will never explain how or why, because they simply don’t know. We don’t know.

And that’s where my area of study will be, once I do graduate: let’s explore this idea of chemical imbalance and what it may mean. My ultimate goal? Disprove the theory.

That’s a long way off, and it may only be a pipe dream, but I believe I can catalyst a different type of thought in the mental health community by proving, scientifically, mathematically, whatever you want to call it, that something like a chemical imbalance cannot possibly exist. Why?

As the essay says:

Attempts were also made to induce depression by depleting serotonin levels, but these experiments reaped no consistent results [9]. Likewise, researchers found that huge increases in brain serotonin, arrived at by administering high-dose L-tryptophan, were ineffective at relieving depression.

As it also says:

Contemporary neuroscience research has failed to confirm any serotonergic lesion in any mental disorder, and has in fact provided significant counterevidence to the explanation of a simple neurotransmitter deficiency. Modern neuroscience has instead shown that the brain is vastly complex and poorly understood.

And of course, let’s not forget:

There is no scientifically established ideal “chemical balance” of serotonin, let alone an identifiable pathological imbalance. To equate the impressive recent achievements of neuroscience with support for the serotonin hypothesis is a mistake.

comic-bubble-hmm_1609021If there is no established balance, there, logically, cannot be an imbalance. This article focuses purely on serotonin and depression, but this in fact relates as well to the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia and any other neurotransmitter they claim causes certain mental health issues. These studies are indeed correlational and not experiments. What does this mean for us that struggle mentally?

It means the door is open again. It means we can find a different explanation. It means we can focus on genes. We can focus on environment. We can focus on the way society structures thought–how we’re taught to think about ourselves in the first place. We can focus on things we can change, rather than this pipe dream that a little pill that may or may not cause more harm to our bodies/brains than good, can cure anything at all.

To deny that there is a biological component would be ignorant of me. To accept the propaganda that pharmaceutical companies place in front of my eyes would be even more ignorant of me.

There could be a chance that neurotransmission is just like Sudoku, and that perhaps there is one single answer and we just have to back track and back track and back track until we find the right numerical composition. But more than likely that isn’t the case. This isn’t a pattern devised by a computer. This is a pattern devised by universal chaos and quantum processes. What is there to correct? What’s created by nature is created by nature, and for us to label that right or wrong, normal or abnormal, is rather selfish and egotistical.

What else could it be, if not a chemical imbalance then? We could brainstorm ideas for hours. Genetics–if your mother has what we label as schizophrenia, there’s a greater chance you will too. But stop. It also depends on: Environment. There’s a striking number of people who receive this label who have been through some type of sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe emotional abuse, and often voices and delusions reflect this pain. What does that tell us? That deep pain that isn’t processed properly leaves a lasting stamp on our neural connections, and turns something on and off in our genetics. Socio-economic status plays a role: think of all the homeless people you see wandering the street talking to themselves. Assume they are not on drugs, and you’re dealing with a mental health issue. You think it’s easy to get well in poverty? You think there isn’t trauma in poverty? What effect does trauma have on the brain? There are studies on this, but what does it mean for neural connections? What does any of the things I just mentioned mean?

That’s what I plan to study in my life. I’ve given up the fight against these pharmaceutical people. I can’t fight a corporation. But I can fight their bullshit research with real research.

Ironic, considering Research Methods is my LEAST favorite class.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

 

 

The Future of Preventive Care

Adobe Spark (7)

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

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

So, where do we start?

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

Family Dynamics

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

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

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

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

Relationship Dynamics

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

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

Self-Dynamics

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

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

Where Does This Leave Us?

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

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