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.

Progress and Advocacy

I didn’t think I’d make it to 23. I thought for sure I’d kill myself before then, or get possessed into damnation and die while the priest tried exercising the demon. After the Las Vegas shooter and the stint of psychosis and hospital visits that succeeded it I wasn’t sure what was going to come next. I certainly didn’t expect to move out of my parent’s apartment, start looking for a new car, a second job, and start school again.

I still remember the first day paranoia hit me like I’d never experienced. That was the day I learned the difference between anxiety and paranoia. I was no longer anxious, I was fearful, I was suspicious, and I was sold on the idea that those classmates were jealous of me and formulating a plan to get me kicked out of college. I was for sure they were reading my blog posts and wanting to shut that down as well. On top of that, I believed a coworker was invading my body and controlling my movements, intercepting my thoughts, and preventing me from speaking. I spend days sitting in front of my computer watching YouTube with the lights off and a blanket over my head. I couldn’t go out into the kitchen and get a damn bowl of cereal without feeling my movements weren’t my own.

That was almost two years ago to this date.

Then some conflict happened at work that made me question the trust I had in myself and trust I put in others. I had just begun trusting people for the first time in my life and when that was broken things spiraled quickly out of control. I was convinced the shooter was possessed by the same demons who were possessing my coworkers and they shot all those people as a warning to me. I started seeing women with their heads spinning around like the exorcist and hearing voices telling me to strangle my cat, telling me I was a “dead man walking” (even though I’m a woman) and making my footsteps echo like I was walking through the halls of hell. They showed me where I would be in hell through dreams, and tormented me in ways that would seem normal: nightmares, bad thoughts, e.t.c., things that don’t make me look “crazy” so they wouldn’t be caught. I’d see faceless people following me down the street at night.

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I can’t put these events in order because everything sort of blends together. I worked 4 or 5 days out of the week for two consecutive weeks and it broke me. I ended up back in the hospital and that’s where I received a diagnosis of Bipolar 1, on top of my past diagnoses of PTSD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Major Depression, and GAD. Out of the hospital, I received a revised diagnosis of Psychosis NOS: considering I’ve never had a stint in Mania in my life, it made sense from a professional standpoint.

I don’t tell what my diagnoses are not because I’m ashamed but because they don’t really matter. What matters is the experience, how I cope, and how others can cope. I don’t define myself or anyone by diagnosis, I don’t call them sick, I don’t call them “mentally ill”; in fact, I regard that as an insult.

If we want to reduce something like stigma we need to advocate for ourselves in a way that shows we are the same as everyone else, but with a different perspective on things in life. The brain is as unique as a finger print, I’ve said it many times on this blog, and that essentially crushes the idea of standard identity: no one is standard, there is no standard. There is only variety.

If we want people to take mental health seriously, we need to show them we aren’t dangerous, we aren’t crazy, we aren’t sick, we aren’t ill, we are strong, empowered people who struggle and are able to cope with that struggle in whatever way we can. We are people who have a lot of offer to this world, and perspectives to share with the world. We can work, we can live independently, we can choose to take medication or not and if you don’t believe me (even though I’m walking proof of that), please refer to Soteria house with Psychiatrist Loren Mosher and this post here.

And that’s today’s Mental Truth.

The Culture of Mental Health

We’ve talked about the culture of fear before, I think it’s time to talk about the culture of mental health. Yes, that exists. It exists because I name it. And we all know as soon as a human names something, it automatically exists beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stigma is a problem. Will anyone deny that? “Let those free of sin cast the first stone”.  Of course no one will deny that. What fuels stigma? Well, there are a bunch of different perspectives. Asking someone in the mental health community that is essentially allowing yourself to tunnel down the rabbit-hole without a flashlight. I’ve done that before. It’s not fun. Things attack you from the dark.

I’ve heard several arguments about stigma. They are as follows:

  1. Others don’t understand. They don’t have the knowledge, so they judge.
  2. People use mental illnesses as adjectives too often, so people don’t take it seriously. #stopthestigma #you’renotOCD #suicideisn’tfunny #medicationpride

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    Source: Google
  3. Mental Illness isn’t given the same respect physical illness is. Not even doctors take it seriously.
  4. The media portrays us as monsters and murderers. That’s fueling people’s opinions about us! We need to boycott movies like “SPLIT “and that one show everyone is talking about that apparently showed a suicide.
  5. People see mental illness as weakness, so we get treated differently. It’s not fair, really. We’re not weak, we’re sick, it’s an illness.

A breath of fresh air. Breathe it in. Take it in for a moment, all these arguments, and let them fester in your head for a bit, flow through your blood, influence your thoughts, control your mind, plant a chip in your brain, and signal the government to bomb your house with a drone.

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Source: Google

I think everyone has a valid point from their perspective. Everyone experiences the effects of stigma differently, and those experiences will influence (in a mind-controlling evil government way, of course) how someone will define stigma and its causes. I also think stigma is a major contributor to what I’ve called the “Culture Of Mental Health”.

Because stigma happens on both ends. Outsiders might not understand, they might think suicide is funny, or use OCD as an adjective every five seconds and the media may very well assume the word schizophrenia is synonymous to “murdering-murderer” to get some good views, but those of us in the community stigmatize ourselves as well.

I’ll be careful with this. Because I don’t want it taken out of context and I want people to feel attacked.

I’m not blaming us or our experience. But we end up agreeing–or at the very least sending a message–that we’re separated from everyone. We’re sick. We’re abnormal. We’re ill. What that belief does is inadvertently tell others we’ll never be like them, we won’t relate to them and they won’t relate to us. What that does is stigmatize what it really means to go through a mental health experience. It sends a message that control over ourselves is something we don’t have. It gives people the idea that saying something like “that’s your disorder talking” or “you have a chemical imbalance, that’s why you do that” is okay, and takes away our own personal responsibility and sense of independence.

For some, maybe it’s easier to blame these things we call disorders.

As someone who has struggled and still struggles with a long list of mental health thingamabobs, I know what we experience is very real and hard. I’m not saying it’s not. I’m saying we’re looking at it wrong.

I’m saying a brochure about “bipolar disorder” isn’t going to convince your family or your friends or your community that you’re a human who struggles. It’s going to convince them you’re sick, possibly unmanageable, unpredictable, chemically imbalanced, and out of control. They won’t challenge you to achieve what you want in life because maybe what you want in life is out of reach because you’re ill now. If that’s how you would like people to see you, keep up the hashtags, the endless lists of information about every disorder known to man–how many are there now? Is being human a disorder yet? It will be soon enough.

'Two black eyes. Solitary. Lethargic. Definitely in the DSM-V.'

This is the culture of mental health. What happens then is a stigma inside the mental health community. People start comparing “sicknesses”. Suddenly there’s a level of “sick” you have to be to get taken seriously medically and with other peers. Suddenly you need a label.

I say this after the stars in the sky morphed into eyes and sent me a message through the trees I’m still trying to decipher. I had to take pictures of the damn trees, the way they were contorted, because I couldn’t memorize the letters. Imagine me running around about one in the morning doing that. I say this after I’ve spent today in my weekly routine of weighing the pros and cons of living. The pros always outweigh the cons and I always go to sleep and wake up the next day. Next week I’ll weigh it again. And again. And again.

I also say this after being rather unpredictable myself. One day I’m smiles, the next day I’m in the hospital or the ER with veins full of Ativan–at this point my tolerance for it is so high the maximum dosage does nothing to me. One moment I’m fed up and overwhelmed and ready to call it quits, the next moment I’m excited about the future. Sometimes I feel trapped in this cycle because I do take my commitments very seriously and they end up being one reason I don’t give up, break, and lose my mind. That sounds like a good thing, and it probably is. It also keeps me stuck in a painful limbo because there’s no release.

Pros and Cons. They’re about equal in that.

I’d rather be summed up by my qualities and characteristics of my being, by what I accomplish and what I don’t accomplish, by how I handle my struggle, than be summed up in a bunch of terminology in a brochure that thinks it can explain all aspects of me and my struggle the way it explains everyone else’s aspects and struggles. Humanity doesn’t work like that. We’re not robots.

Stigma isn’t something that can be solved by shoving psychology textbooks down the mouths of the public. Stigma is something that’s perpetuated by both sides, unknowingly and knowingly sometimes, and is something that can be lessened the more we–the mental health community–see ourselves as human beings, treat ourselves as human beings, integrate ourselves back into society and demand we be treated as human beings.

But we can’t demand we be treated as human beings while simultaneously summing ourselves up to words in a textbook. Food for thought, once more.

The Treatment of Us

Opportunities are often snatched from chaos. They don’t drift by idly. They come as a result of coincidence often, of hard work, of belief. Sometimes they come to you because they were meant to come to you. Never leave any stone un-turned.

I’ve been amazed this past few months where much of my writing has taken me. It’s increasingly won scholarships and the recognition of professors, professionals, and magazines. Much of what I write about surrounds mental health, as you all know, and because of that I’ve run into many road blocks.

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I started a blog as a journal. As I found my voice I realized, as the comments rolled in, that my ideas surrounding mental health aren’t typical. I realized that peer support wasn’t something many could put as much faith into as I. I realized that medication and pharmaceutical companies were things many consumers of mental health were things they saw as requirement rather than option–and I completely respected that. I myself have been on and off medication, and as of now I’m on medication again. There’s nothing shameful about that.

What has bothered me is the lack of choice people realize they have. What has bothered me the most is the cold shoulder I’ve been given by many fellow consumers. And while I absolutely respect their point of view, as I at one point believed the same, I can’t help but grow frustrated that those mental health writers in complete support of the medical model, of the ideals that mental disorders are 100% a chemical balance, that we are people who are “ill” and “sick”, get more of a voice out to the mental health community than those of us spreading a different message.

I grow frustrated that my ideas and I are treated as an outcast because we’re not preaching subservience to the portion of mental health treatment run by corporations, by money, and by greed.

What is interesting is that the evidence is very, very clear. Peer programs, when they first began, showed extreme promise. The idea was created for people experiencing “first break” psychosis. It eventually developed into something to aide those with a schizophrenia diagnosis to stay out of psychiatric hospitals, to live independently, and to learn how to cope with experiences like voices. Upwards of 70% (or more), after they went through the peer programs and moved on in their life never fell into the hands of a psychiatric hospital again. Some never needed psychiatric medication again.

Let’s compare that to recent pharmaceutical research, where maybe 174 people in a clinical trial lasting six weeks meant to represent the entirety of a population that would be taking a medication for possibly years, found that there was hardly a significant difference between the placebo pill, an older medication, and the new medication. Those findings are tossed off somewhere in the research lab while the company developing the pill tells the researchers to advertise the drug towards a specific population and say it helps with a specific problem.

The paper is published in a scientific journal without the reject papers. That, my friends, is against the law and the code of honor of research.

And when those reject papers are found and wrote about (there are articles about it across the internet), not many hear about it because the companies settle out of court and get off with a slap on the wrist.

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Everything about mental health consumers, our health, and our livelihood is done without us. So if that’s the kind of care you want to promote on your websites, if that’s the kind of care you want to promote as a mental health writer, go right ahead. I’m not afraid to let go of a writing position or a chance to do a guest article if I’m required to mold to something I don’t believe in.

When I first acquired my peer support position and was dazzled by what I saw, I searched the internet for information. I found several articles about similar programs, and was astounded at the difference and impact respites and peer programs have done–things you never hear about unless you search for it. Things not published on websites who claim to give all kinds of information on mental health and different treatments.

One writer said, as a respect to peer programs:

Dream Two? When all people are able to set aside their need to label and diagnose another human being in order to understand “what’s wrong,” and instead sit at a kitchen table to find out “what happened,” and share stories. This is my dream of what “mental health” will look like one day.

–Yana Jacobs

Written by a woman who is the Senior program officer with the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.

Like it or not, change is coming. You can hold on to the old models all you like. You can feed into bullshit all you want. I personally don’t care what medication someone takes. I don’t care what their diagnosis is. I don’t care how many times they’ve been hospitalized. All I care about is who they are as a human being. I care about their story, where they came from, what they’ve been through. I care about what they have to say and how they express it.

You could write countless “list articles” about steps to “recovery”, or why you’re still “sick” on your medication. You can advocate compliance with the old system all you want. But you’re only perpetuating the idea that we’re all at the mercy of our “illness”, even when you’re trying to put out the most positive message you can. 

I’ve been blessed to have a lot of writing opportunities coming my way. Thank you, Thought Catalog. Thank you to my professor who ran after me in the rain to talk to me about my writing. Thank you to my blog followers who’ve kept me going for over a year now. Thank you to the people who’ve asked me to write an article for their websites. Thank you to the people who email me and ask me questions about all of this. Thank You IPS. Thank you to Second Story Peer Respite for showing me all you have, because without them none of this would be a reality right now.

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And thank you, most of all, to everyone who thinks I’m absolutely insane. You’re pushing me to fight harder to get this message known.

2016 Evaluated

I feel as though I haven’t done a random post in a while and as such have decided tonight shall be the night to put a bit of personal spice back into this internet journal someone coined a “blog”. Although it is not the last day of December, I’d like to reflect on this past year and tentatively avoid political ground for obvious reasons.

There have been a lot of changes this 2016 year. Marijuana was finally legalized in California (there’s goes my promise of political absence, I’m so sorry), in my town Porn producers are now required to provide and enforce their actors and actresses wear adequate protection, i.e condoms. Stores now advertise “Gluten Free” tomatoes.

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January of this year, I acquired a 9-5 that wasn’t 9-5, but all different scheduled hours. The first job I had since 2013. It required gigabytes upon gigabytes of organic brain memory to run monetary procedures for an amusement park. I got a chance to hold and carry a suitcase of twenty thousand dollars to the top floor and across the street with a security guard puffing behind me.

That job ended a few months later.

I experienced a psychiatric hospital for the first time. Curiously enough, that was the same time I experienced a boiling rage ravenous enough to turn all surrounding towns into imitations of Pompeii. Hmm. Odd.

Jack In The Box food poisoned me for ten days; my first experience with that sickness. A panic attack sent me to the E.R that swiftly prompted the doctors and nurses to interrogate me about suspected meth use. No evidence of meth use was found. Hmm. Also odd.

I learned that it’s best to let stupid people be stupid, and fight the urge to constantly reveal their stupidity to them, as stupid people are rarely capable of comprehending their own stupidity.

ips-logo-reduced1In May, I did a training in Intentional Peer Support. It taught me how to communicate in a way that focused on the other person’s thoughts and experiences rather than my own, particularly in confrontation. It taught me how to listen rather than blurt facts or potential solutions as I usually do. It taught me to listen to what people’s voices said rather than get blind sighted by a label like schizophrenia and ignore the person entirely.

In June, I started my peer counselor position at Second Story peer respite. I went in not expecting anything too grand and within a day saw many grand things. I saw healing in process: physical, mental, spiritual healing. I saw community. I saw hope. After growing up in a house with a warped definition of the word “respect”, I finally saw real respect. I saw trust and honesty. It startled me and I didn’t know how to respond. In fact, I got quite anxious and even laughed a few times in my head at the kindness.

I also saw the beginnings of a mental health revolution. I saw an opposition to the ideals of the Medical Model that weren’t extremist points of view.  I remain with that position to this date: the longest job I’ve ever held. I will be eternally grateful to them and it’s a shame my behavior and mannerisms aren’t as emotionally expressive as my writing.

in a few days, I’ll have an article published on Thought Catalog. Wondrous. 

I got a kitten. She’s hilarious. She grips onto things with her front paws and manically kicks at them with her back feet. When surprised or unsure, she emits a noise like a bird call. I got her from a shelter. When she saw me, she ran and slammed into the glass of her kennel, then proceeded to run around, jump, and slam into all of the walls. She wakes me with purrs, meows, and a tail under my nose. She also prefers to sleep like this:

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Everyone always says people change year by year and I didn’t believe it until 2016. I feel the changes and I see them.

I’ve always known I wasn’t alone. I’d just never been exposed to the reality of it, and the moment I was surrounded by people who had been through a manic experience and lived their life, by people who heard voices and lived their life, by people who did take and di not take anti-psychotics and still lived their life, by people who had been through horrible traumas in infancy and childhood to the point they developed different personalities and still lived their life, the moment I saw them with jobs and cars and families and a life, the moment we could all share a space and talk about something other than our mental health, I felt a switch.

There was no more anger. There was less sadness, less loneliness. My youth attracted a couple guys attempting to hit on me and that was a little overwhelming but we remained friends. I didn’t talk a lot, I still struggled with the conventions of interaction, but the fear of interaction was gone. And that I’d never felt before.

So I will say, regardless of the outcome of elections, this year has been revolutionary for me. In fact, this year has only birthed a greater fire within me. My career will never be based around psychiatry like I thought it would be.

My career will be based around people, as hard as it is for me to understand them sometimes. My career will be based around peers, around you all, and around me. Around our growth together, not our fight with pharmaceutical companies, not our fight against stigma, in fact, not our fight at all but rather our transformation. Our development into reminding ourselves that our recovery from what we experience in life can’t be done in the hands of others: we have to take control of it.

We have a saying where I work: Nothing About Us, Without Us. That to me speaks more volumes than anything I’ve heard from my psychiatrist.

P.S: then again, my psychiatrist isn’t the greatest. 

Law Of Conversation Of Oppression

In yesterday’s post, I established my footing in why constantly seeking control in a world powered by chaos effectively leads to a vain existence. Today I will establish my footing in why we are only as free as our most oppressed members of society.

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My heart lies with many societies with factions of people held down under tyranny and dictatorship and religious ideologies that restrict general rights. Being that I consider myself a mental health blogger, I’d like to talk specifically about stigmas and the oppression those of us with such issues might encounter.

Let’s just not forget there are people out there in the world suffering through levels of oppression that keep them from simply having a life.

At any rate, stigma is a huge topic these last few years. Everyone is gunning for the big guys: the media that shows serial killers with voices in their head, or the OCD Target sweater scandal, e.t.c. I’ve advocated for a few years now that rather than force people to view us as regular people, we should group together, support each other, and show them that we’re just regular people wanting just as much respect and trust as any other human being.

My view today is no different. It was, however, squashed a bit today. I want to give my apologies beforehand out to the mental health community, my peers, as I’ve let us all down a bit today.

Walking through a market my boyfriend and I were mesmerized by some gift boxes and sets. I ran off towards the candles and soaps which I often sniff until I get a headache, and he bolted off with his eyes on the gift baskets of food and popcorn and hot sauce. As we walked side by side, a woman in the aisle over stood with another man. He was slender, tall, dark hair, but very pale and skittish. He held behind him one of the market baskets. The woman seemed boisterous, an attitude mirrored by the frizz in her hair.

Suddenly she blurted words from her mouth that I didn’t catch over the music of the market. She then spun, faced the man, and shouted very blatantly: “No! You have a MENTAL DISORDER, you don’t think right!” 

There were a few words after that crucial line I didn’t catch. My boyfriend and I stared at each other. The man she’d shouted at muttered a tentative “oh”. He fiddled with the basket in his hands. By the time we turned around the aisle, they’d wandered off.

I watched her across the store floor. She talked and talked. The man followed, silent, carrying the basket. I couldn’t guess their relation or age if I tried; it didn’t matter anyhow. 

Driving away, my boyfriend and I both agreed we should have spoken up. I’m not sure why he felt he didn’t, but as I drove home I thought heavily on why I didn’t. I’ve spoken up in situations like that before. I’ve stopped to help strangers and I always say hello to the people in society others won’t make eye contact with.

But for some reason I froze in this situation, and I believe it has much to do with being used to the abuse. I’m used to people thinking the way that woman thinks: you have mental issues, you can’t do things normally. I’m even used to myself telling myself those words.

8fc0a3d3374a8dd7f78114e206f79305And the more I came to this realization, the more I regretted my silence. He needed support. He needed a reminder that words like that were opinion and not truth. He needed someone in his corner in a world where many people are in the corner of the woman.

He was oppressed by a simple sentence, and in turn I was as well; he wasn’t free so I couldn’t be free. That’s how my subconscious reacted in the moment.

I don’t like playing by the rules of the bystander effect. I never have in the past and now that I have, I feel filthy for it. I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.

As I always have, and always will, I encourage you: we’re all in this together. Don’t freeze like me. If someone speaks to you in a manner as blatantly (or subtly) disrespectful as that woman did because of a mental health struggle, a physical health struggle, your religious preference, your attire, whatever is a part of you, don’t mutter “oh”. Don’t fiddle. And remember, an opinion is an opinion. No matter how many times people beat you with words, you can always beat them back with class and intelligence; chances are if they’re using a bunch of words to hurt, they don’t understand the magic of language and in my book if you don’t understand the magic of language then there’s probably a lot of other things your small brain can’t understand.

If you see someone being obviously verbally/mentally abused or disrespected, forget the weird notion that “it’s not your business”. Allowing someone to be hurt in any way possible means you’d be willing to let yourself be hurt in the same way–would you? If not, than it is your business. Not your obligation of course, by all means take out your cell phone and post a video to Facebook. You might go viral and get on the news and everyone will treat you as a hero instead of a bystander. 

As for me, I won’t step back next time, particularly for my peers who I care deeply about.

We’re only as free as our most oppressed members of society.

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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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Incongruity Killed The Cat . . . And I Laughed.

You guys.

Incongruent fucking affect. 

A visual representation of my response:

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Because now it all makes sense. It makes sense why people give me the responses they do.

If your outward appearance doesn’t match your inner expression you might as well slap a mask on your face, pin the tail on a donkey and fire your mistress, am I right?

What does any of that mean? I have no idea.

That’s probably the feeling people get when they’re speaking with me and I’m laughing/smiling at something that, outwardly, I probably shouldn’t be. That’s probably the confusion I see on their face when I’m sitting there talking about something horrible that’s happened and I’m not getting the response from them I was hoping. You know, the consolation/it’ll be okay/come here let me take away the pain responses that many people get. Instead I get the “I’m not sure how to respond to this fucking wacko” expression.

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Precisely

I think it’s relatively common for people to hide how they really feel inside. We all have a “nervous laughter”, we all smile thinly and say “I’m fine” when we really want to take a knife to our throat. And I believe sometimes I do that, just like everyone else.

Then there are the times I don’t know I’m doing it and I walk away frustrated because these people were sitting here laughing at my pain–and I never thought to pay attention to the fact that I was also laughing.

On here I probably expressed how frustrated I am that I’m now out ten thousand dollars because of my mistake of not filing for financial aid. It’s something that causes me nightly anxiety and every time I think about it I want to kick myself in the metaphorical ball sack.

It’s something I expressed to someone at my job and after my bi-weekly therapy session today, and the concept of my affect and incongruity surfaced for the first time, I came to the sudden realization why people at my job and people in general get confused on how I really feel about things. Not only do I give cliche answers, some of which I steal verbatim from conversations I eavesdrop on because I don’t really know how to hold a normal conversation, but I’m always smiling. I smile about everything.

Literally. Even the guests at the house have noticed; they come up to me and say “I notice you’re always smiling, that’s really cool”.

“Yeah, someone stabbed my thigh and blew up my car then sent more death threats to my house” *cue smile*.

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At any rate, I understand why they give me confused looks when I say things like “yeah I have to pay my entire way, it really sucks, I’m extremely frustrated” nonchalantly and rather monotonous and then I smile and giggle.

I bring horrible things up and how I feel inside isn’t transferred to my outside. Sometimes on purpose as a protection measure like an average person, the majority of the time not.

Maybe this is the reason people don’t believe my anxiety or depression. Often I don’t show it, even at it’s worst. I don’t talk about it in depth because I don’t know how to verbally describe it, and then I get nervous about judgement and hide it. I have three forces working against me here.

Don’t even get me started on how fucking paranoid I’ve been at the house lately. We all know I have a “thing” about being watched by unseen forces (possibly demonic) all the time, so I relate to the people I’ve talked to who feel like Satan has been stealing their thoughts and won’t let them read a book because he jacks the words from the page or whatever. But after hearing a rather sad and chilling story from a coworker, just in the midst of casual conversation right before I started my overnight shift, things got weird.

Night time is the worst for me at home, at other people’s homes, at work, everywhere.

It got to the point where the chores I needed to handle were impacted by the fact that I couldn’t turn my back towards any entrances. So I had to stand along the wall as I did things–I felt eyes on me at every turn, and it wasn’t my usual “they probably installed cameras in the office to make sure I’m doing my job and then they gossip about it and conspire against me” feeling.

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I couldn’t get the mop from the back because I knew something was waiting outside for me, so I used a sponge and my damn socked foot to mop the floor. Thank God no one was awake, they probably would have been “well fuck, even the workers are loosing it now”.

I closed all the blinds but there were some windows that had no blinds and I was forced to glance in the pitch black expecting something to fly at me. It didn’t help that someone upstairs was pacing all night and laughing. In fact, it worsened my creep factor.

I kept hearing someone knock from the inside of the bathroom door–I was on the outside, it was closed (as it’s also an entrance to a room) and I heard knocks from the inside. So I stayed away from that area of the house.

I got maybe thirty minutes of sleep that night, simply because I passed out from exhaustion.

Last night I hoped the feeling would leave, but it never has who the hell am I kidding. The backyard light kept coming on and off and I kept staring out the window, sweating profusely, wondering who the hell was outside and why this was happening to me. By the time I lay down to get some sleep, there was a knock at the door: one of the guests happens to pace around the house during the night and got locked out.

Well fuck me, right?

This shitty rambling post, I need to get my shit together you guys, fuck me. 

 

Priceless

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I was told today “You have an awesome life”.

I paused before I answered, mostly because I was stuck in traffic for an hour and a half when it takes me ten minutes to cross town normally. But I also paused to reflect on the last week, to think about the people I’ve met, the struggles they’ve been through, and the way I’ve been humbled this week within myself.

I’ve been humbled because I’ve realized how not alone I am. I’m humbled because I learned how valuable connection is and how valuable trust is. I’ve never trusted someone enough to tell them how much I don’t trust people.

I’m going to severely miss those connections. Although there are other ways to stay connected, it won’t be the same for me.

It’s been a very lonely existence in my life. I stick to my ground that I’m not a social person, I don’t care to have many friends. But this week speaking with people who understand, being able to talk about things like suicide and self injury without someone’s eyes growing wide and them saying “are you safe? do I need to call someone?” without giving me a chance to explain my feelings, is priceless.

Orangutans LaughingThere are things we can laugh about that someone without lived experience wouldn’t laugh at. And it’s a different kind of laughter for me, it’s a kind of laughter where you remember a time you were in that situation and you remember how you got out of it, and now when someone is sarcastic about it, you can see the humor in it.

To reiterate, it’s a very lonely existence. I don’t feel comfortable speaking about my issues to people who haven’t had them because I know their level of understanding can only be on an “I care for you level” rather than an “I care for you and I know how hard it is” level.

I met people with a lot of different diagnoses: anorexia, DID, Schizophrenia, Depression, anxiety, Bulimia, Bipolar, e.t.c. But the wonderful thing is we didn’t talk about those diagnoses. In fact, I didn’t know many of them until the last day. We talked about mania as a reaction. We talked about voices as a reaction.

I find it interesting when it comes to something like having multiple personalities that we recognize those voices and alters as a result of Trauma, but when someone hears voices with a schizophrenia diagnosis, there’s no possible way in hell their voices could be a result of inner pain or unexpressed emotion or trauma. That’s just preposterous! 

Just like the voices that come next to a diagnosis of depression psychosis. Oh, those voices are part of the psychosis, not the unrelenting pain, never, it’s biological remember?

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Also Not Common

I’m aware this view is not common, and I’ve never spent my life having common views so I can sit well with them and enjoy them. Other people may get offended. We talked about this as well.

There has to be a clear distinction with this stuff. I am very careful not to say that “mental illness does not exist” because people fly off the handle. So instead, I say the diagnoses of mental illness does not exist, in my opinion. Yes, I experience life a little different in a way than you. Yes, a crowd makes me so anxious and paranoid I lie to get out of going places and instead sit in my bed and wonder about people who don’t have that reaction.

Yes, I’ve hallucinated things briefly that frightened me. Spiders crawling on the wall, people running at my car, demons popping up in front of me, e.t.c.

Yes, I’ve self-harmed and wanted to kill myself many, many, many times.

Yes, there are days when I could conquer the world, when I have tons of ideas and want to execute them all and times when I’ve mapped out plans to do so all night long like a ritual then there are days I could easily drive my car off a cliff or put a gun to my head.

Yes, there are days I feel utterly empty and don’t know what to do about it, so I go drive my car all night, erratically, freak some other drivers out, and smoke weed and hope to get pulled over so the cop sees all the scars all over my body and I can give him a run for his money on whether or not I should go to the hospital.

Honestly, I feel like luck has kept me from the hospital.

Sometimes I feel like I’m three different people. Each of us has our own view of the world, our own way to act, and they each have their own opinion on how I should handle things.

There are many more things, but lets not bore each other here.

'Do you realize what ethics has cost us this year.'Now, who is to say that those things, the way I experience my life, is wrong? Take into account my only experience with drifting from reality is derealization, so I don’t necessarily know the fear and pain that goes into descending into full psychosis. But even then, there are ways to see psychosis and ways to think about it that relate to a way of expression, a way the brain tries to handle the world it lives in.

In fact, that’s how I see these things we called “disorders”. I see them as different ways our brain reacts to the world around us. Different interpretations of our own personal head space and our own lives. One person may see the color red, another person may feel like it’s more of a pink. One person likes the taste of cucumber, another person puckers at it. One person hates the smell of gas, another person, for some reason, enjoys it.

One person hallucinates a looming man while standing in the shower (taken from someone I met a few years back) and is tormented by it until the person is forced in the fetal position in the bottom of the tub; another person paints until the pain is gone.

Our brains are like finger prints. They will handle situations differently, they will react to situations differently. Does that warrant characterization? Does that warrant sending out the message that “your brain is broken, it’s sick, and so are you”? 

Well, your tongue is broken if you think black olives taste bad. You have a tongue disorder.

Vinegar is too strong a smell for you? Well, it’s not for the majority of people. Your nose has a disorder. It probably needs some surgery and some daily nasal spray.

You get my point.

So to reply to the first statement, yeah, you know what? My life is awesome. My struggles exist like everyone else’s and I am lucky enough to experience the world in a different way. To me, that’s also priceless.

 

What Are You Worth?

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I hate to be the one to beat the horse with the dead stick , err . . .

That doesn’t sound right. Beat a dead horse with a stick?

Stab a dead horse?

Stabbing? I don’t know.

I hate to be the one to beat this subject over the head (that’s better, right?) but because it is mental health related and because I’ve some how become a regular, contributing blogger of such savory issues, I must speak.

*Breathes*

If you don’t have experience with mental disorders, if you don’t have something to say that progresses the path of those of us with mental disorders, don’t write about it.

It’s a simple concept, it’s like 2 + 2 = 4.

It’s like learning to raise your hand when you want to talk in Kindergarten.

It’s like swallowing after you chew your food.

baby-boy-eating-healthy-food-isolated-19606475There are people in the world who don’t know what 2 + 2 is, there are children who never really understand the concept of “taking turns” to speak in Kindergarten. But I have never met a human being on this planet who doesn’t understand that after you chew the food that you’ve just shoved in your face hole, you’re suppose to swallow. If you have, let me know in the comments.

I’m talking, of course, about that hideous article written by Amanda Lauren. Now I’ve seen a few of you have written on the topics all ready, the majority of whom I agree with, so I’ll do my best not to repeat the same opinion for those of you who also agree with those bloggers.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking and are about to click that exit button because you just realized my intro is a quick inner dialogue on stabbing dead animals and that makes you wary, Amanda Lauren is some kind of blogger who wrote an article for the website xoJane.com on how her former friend’s suicide was a blessing (Xojane has since removed the article and sent out a formal apology).

Amanda’s reasoning was that “some people are so sick, they are beyond help”.

Amanda had reconnected with this friend of hers in Los Angeles and got her a job. When her friend quit the job, their friendship fell apart again. Later Amanda looked her up on trusty old Facebook (Facebook: finding the friends you sorta, kinda, never really cared about since February 4, 2004) and quotes her posts as being “like the diary of a fourteen-year-old girl with an eating disorder from a Lifetime movie circa 1993.She talked about seeing doctors, specific meds, and being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.”

A mutual friend then mentioned the girl had committed suicide.

How ironic, a day after I get done talking about stigma and misunderstanding against schizophrenia spectrum disorders, this author comes out and slaps me across the face with the exact type of disordered thinking I slam on a daily basis.

Why do I say that? Well, because her friend suffered with this disorder, Amanda claims she is better off dead. She says her friends death isn’t a tragedy, her life was. She said “schizoaffective disorder robbed her of her potential” and “she was alone and terribly unhappy when she died”. She said there was no chance for her recovery without family or support.

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She wrote: “There was just no way she would have survived on her own. Drowning to death was relatively painless compared to what she had to endure in life.”

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Now.

I will go at this gently no matter how hard I feel like ripping the hair out of my head.

The fact that someone who has obviously had no struggle with mental illness, someone who has obviously let a little internet success wipe away her common sense (she blogs for many websites, and has been on Psychology Today, check her website here.), someone who probably couldn’t even spell schizoaffective without the help of Google had the audacity to indicate to the mental health community that there are some people who are too far gone, that a disorder tarnishes the worth of your life, has to be about the dumbest person who isn’t Trump.

If you don’t have experience with it, shut up about it. 

No one can deny schizoaffective disorder is a serious disorder. No one can deny it impacts functionality severely with or without treatment. No one can deny that’s not a hard life. But if everyone who experienced hardships of that level and greater had no worth to their life, 90% of the population would have no reason to live. I would have been dead a long time ago.

Since when do our struggles, and the hiccups within our struggles, define our worth as a human being? Since when are those of us with mental disorders hopeless?

Now, what really pins the tail on the donkey of this story is that Amanda admitted, in the “essay” about falling outs with her friend and that her former friend had “blatantly tried to hook up” with some guy Amanda had a damn crush on.

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Well, if you really care about something like that to the extent you feel the need to mention it in an essay you’re writing about a former friend from years past who committed suicide, than you really have a personal,  vindictive agenda here, don’t you? You like creating drama, don’t you? You’re subscribed to Nicole Arbour’s YouTube channel, aren’t you?

If this woman wrote an article for the sake of a “last laugh”, or a “ha, you had problems” than I believe I’ve now gathered enough evidence to prove there are some so-called “neurotypicals” who are more disordered than those of us considered disordered.

But I digress as usual. You should all be used to this by now. 

The fact is, whether the woman wrote this article out of spite/high school drama or out of pure ignorance or because she doesn’t have a filter, this is a rampant issue in the mental health community. 

I’m not talking about stigmatized behavior/words (which is still a major issue), I’m talking about people getting involved in mental health services without a real understanding of it. I’m talking about people with no experience speaking for us. That’s what I’m talking about.

thumb_colourbox10510942Psychiatrists make good money. Many of them switched during medical school and have no background in psychology and no personal background in mental health. Does that mean they don’t care? Not necessarily. But it does mean they can only sympathize or pity, and never empathize. And that’s a problem.

I’m proud to not be one of those.

In fact, I’m proud of the mental struggles I deal with every second I’m awake. I’m proud I see the world differently: that gives me absolute certainty I will never think like Amanda Lauren or ever be associated with people who do.

Don’t let idiots with skulls as thick as kevlar is strong speak for us, because some of those idiots will see you as a liability. They’ll see you as lazy, pathetic, and worthless. And they’ll tell you. They’ll tell you so much you’ll believe it. We don’t need to lose someone else, we need you, all of us. So share you story and be proud of it, even the darkest moments or the most twisted psychosis.

The real tragedy here is that Amanda’s friend didn’t get the chance to see how much worth she really had. 

*P.S Do not, I repeat DO NOT click on the link to Amanda’s website I provided and spam her with hate or opinions. That’s childish and petty.*