To Be Or Not To Be “Disabled”. . . That Is The Question.

How do you respond to failure?

How do you respond to not “doing your best”?

I think these are two questions we have to ask ourselves constantly when dealing with our mental health. How do you respond to feeling “unwell”? How do you respond when you feel your “symptoms” or as I like to say, your mental health experiences, start interfering with your daily, hourly, tasks?

As I am only 21, I feel I am striving to improve on this daily. My current response is “curl in a ball and ignore the world”.

es-7-26-13-forum-voc

I’m not sure how far that will take me.

What are your healthy and not so healthy ways of dealing with your struggles?

I’m sure you can guess by reading my “This Is Me” portion of my blog, that my diagnoses have always hopped across the spectrum of “mental disorders” as the DSM calls them, and I’ve never been through enough services or in enough crisis situations to warrant a decent one or two. This creates many problems.

This creates many problems because when you are not labeled, you do not get extra services. You don’t get your tests proctored in other rooms. You don’t get social security (you just hop around from job to job every couple of months hoping something will stick, knowing full well you’re not prepared for anything just yet), and no one believes what you say because a doctor hasn’t signed a little piece of paper.

It’s frustrating. Not to make psychosis seem like a walk in the park, because I know it’s not, but Christ sake, if I was running down the street without any clothes and covering myself in mud so the CIA satellites couldn’t track me anymore, or if I went to the ER and said “the FBI put a chip in my head, they’re recording my conversation, you need to surgically remove this right now” or I went into therapy and said “Every time I read a book Satan removes the words from my head and laughs at me, he follows me everywhere”, I would get some attention. I would get a very strong, and adamant label. Life would be very confusing and it would be hell to be stuck bouncing in and out of that. But I would have a label. 

74b9c0ca0dac4d07fc12bd4efc44f26f

The small pile of “magical beliefs” or whatever the hell part of my personality that got me the “possibly, maybe, who-knows” “semi-partial, not really official” diagnosis of Schizotypal PD is not enough to count for anything. They probably messed up on that too: I’m more paranoid about demons following me and people conspiring against me than I am “magical”. Or is that magical too?

Whatever.

And this is where I’ve ended up: arguing back and forth with people over characteristics of myself.

Today I wanted to go to the Accessibility Support Center at my college to hopefully register with them, meet with a DSS (disabled students services) coordinator and be able to get accomodations like tutors and my tests proctored in a different, sound proof room with no people so I could concentrate for once.

Unfortunately, two things stopped me from getting out of my car.

  1. I can’t go places by myself. I drove all the way to campus, stared at the sign and drove off. I’ve never been able to shop for myself or go anywhere by myself. There is one market I can withstand about fifteen minutes from my house by car because it is large and it’s rarely ever packed, at least not during the hours I go. I don’t get my hair cut. I don’t shop for clothes, shoes, or anything I can’t get at that one market. I don’t go into the financial aid office the enrollment office or any office on campus without a friend with me. I can’t even print a piece of paper without someone with me. How the fuck am I going to walk into a place, say hey, I have mental problems, I’m fucking crazy, let me take my tests in a sound proof room please? 
  2. I don’t have a label. I’m walking into a place where quadriplegics, people with learning disabilities, Down Syndrome, severe Autism, e.t.c all go to say “hey, I need this help” and I’m sitting there looking normal, acting normal, without papers or documentation asking for something the person across the counter is going to assume I don’t need. This part is my anxiety of being judged.

You ever have anxiety of being judged as not having a mental struggle? That’s a new one. That’s when you know you’re fucked up. 

dependentFrom where I stand, I am extremely dependent. People go to the store for me. They do laundry for me most of the time (it’s hard for me because the laundry room for the apartment complex is very loud, the washing machines are loud, and if a cricket breaks its leg on the window sill the crack echos off all four walls. It’s just sensory overloading. Not to mention running into other people in there. That’s my nightmare.), they make appointments for me, phone calls for me, e.t.c. Sometimes the depression fatigues me so I can barely put something in the microwave.

You might be thinking what any social security officer or doctor might think: well, you have a job. You went to the interview on your own. You went to the office and did the paperwork on your own. You’ve done your laundry before. You drive.

And I have done all those things. But nothing is ever maintained. Every time I think I’m doing well, I backslide and everything overwhelms my mind. I only work three times a week and I’m already feeling like I can’t handle it. I’m ready to quit again.

I know people say “you can do it, don’t give up!”

Listen. You can’t see the floor on my room. There are crickets crawling around on my computer desk as we speak and I have no idea where they came from. It’s a wonder I haven’t made more attempts on my life with the amount of time I spend thinking about it. My cumulative G.P.A has fallen from a 4.0 to a 3.5, that literally makes me cringe to write. I can’t sleep at night because my heart rate decides to pull a NASCAR and race, I wake up thinking “well, shit” and go to sleep thinking “well, shit”, and today, realizing that I can’t do a simple task to make things easier for me, something for myself, at college has only beaten down my morale once again.

I have to go into work in about twenty minutes. If I make it through this week without banging my head against the wall until I’m unconscious or slitting my wrists vertically, it will be a miracle.

That’s not a joke, I”m a self-harmer.

People need to stop making jokes like that. “Ha, ha, Imma slit my wrist”. How is that funny. I don’t get it.

Anyway.

The Willingness To Change

challenge

Here’s a challenge for you all:

Name one person who has never been nervous or skeptical of change.

Take a few seconds, I’ll wait.

.

.

.

Done? Alright, that was a trick question, of course you can’t come up with an answer. It was a joke. We have fun here. We. . . . we have fun.

350299af4c5d70d2c66e02a144612a1249323a2b463bc758d2363433c55b1158

The point is when we go through moments of change our entire lives flash before our eyes: our current, comfortable lives, that is. It’s like a death or a near death experience. Change can be good or bad, but it is always traumatizing because one thing is for certain: you won’t be the same afterwards.

That alone is a terrifying thought: where will the old you go? You were so fond of that guy/girl, they always bought you chocolate when you were down, you don’t want them to leave you all alone in some unnamed territory with no fucking chocolate, that’s just rude.

But we’re rational beings and whether you have a religious/spiritual background, a secular background, or are just not quite sure whether your background exists at all, (it could or it couldn’t, who could really know anyway?), we all agree that humans have no other option on this planet than to adapt. Those who don’t . . . well, they don’t really live to argue against me, do they?

giphy1

Because we’re rational beings, we also have the ability to make choices. You’re not forced to take a promotion at work. When you have your first newborn, you’re not forced to tend to it’s needs. When that one guy with one pair of sunglasses over his eyes and one pair of sunglasses hanging from his V-neck cuts you off in traffic, you’re not forced to stifle your anger and allow him and his worn out fashion statement to live, you could just as easily murder him. I mean, good deed of the day right?

When you realize your mental health affects your functionality, you’re not forced to put the work into gaining that functionality back.

But you can.

So what we choose is just as important to the way we change and why we change as the change itself is.

What does that mean? That means we have a lot more creative freedom in this life than we think we do. Sometimes we have chains on our mind and we tell ourselves we “can’t” do this, we “can’t” do that, but those are just ways we convince ourselves to choose comfort over change.

We don’t choose to struggle mentally, but we do choose how we react to the struggle. Either it smothers us or we adapt and maneuver and find the advantages hidden underneath all the horror.

If it weren’t for the struggles I’ve been through, I wouldn’t have the interview I do on Friday.

300ace809c3c2dca48f2f55ca39cbab24693a9bd470867d2eb4e869c645acd42

I’ll be an “On-Call counselor” at a local Respite house for people who have voluntarily signed themselves up for the program. There are six beds in the house run by peer staffing (the counselors), meaning everyone who works there has struggled with their own mental health, whether it be a mood disorder, a psychotic disorder, or a very, very serious or “all consuming fear” (think Severe GAD, OCD, or Agoraphobia). In the cover letter I was required to explain my mental health, as they only hire people with disorders.

The peer counselors need only a high school diploma, a disorder/mental health issue that lasted at least 3 months, and some training of which they provide. I think my degree helped me get a call back within a few hours of me applying.

This is a terrifying situation. On one hand I’ll be working one on one, or one on six depending on how hard they want to push my buttons, with the very people I want to work with once I get my degree: those with heavy psychiatric diagnosis. And I’ll be honest, I could have had the diagnoses they did had I gone to different psychologists in the past and didn’t keep to myself what I keep to myself. They could interpret a lot of things as paranoia, as mood swings, as hallucinations (well, I’ve had a few, but they are audio, far and few in between, and not harmful, so leave them alone #hallucinationlivesmatter). And it’s not as if “Cyclothymia” hasn’t been discussed. It’s not as if “Schizotypal PD” hasn’t been discussed, they all have at one point. 

Maybe I am them, maybe I’m not.

charles-barsotti-businessman-s-thoughts-no-yes-maybe-maybe-yes-maybe-no-whil-cartoon

The difference between me and the people who try and slap their diagnoses where I don’t want them, is that the things I describe I’ve lived with all my life.

I’ve always felt things watching me.

I’ve always felt I was put here with a power no one else has. I have plenty examples I won’t bore you with.

I’ve tried to contact aliens through meditation, in fact I spent months trying it, because I know I have a connection outside of this earth, I’ve felt it since I was a toddler. I was aware of things before people told me about them.

There are personalized messages for me in online ads (well, that’s true, Google tracks the shit out of you), in songs, in commercials, in simple street scenes. They let me know I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m anxious of people judging me as my social anxiety dictates, yet I’m paranoid that they create a coalition against me and lie to my face every day because people are untrustworthy and ruthless.

go_figure_8ggqsfdeng

I could go on for ages. The thing is, because I’ve always thought these ways, and because I’m one of the lucky few who haven’t disconnected with reality, I can accept these parts of me. I live with them. They are my normality and whether or not anyone else considers them such is irrelevant to me.

My job as one of the peer counselors is to share my story and my experience with those who will share their stories and their experience. Through active listening the goal is to teach each other and learn from each other. And I think that’s a big thing missing from the psychiatric world: there isn’t a lot of time taken to listen anymore.

Those who live in the house have freedom in the kitchen, freedom in the outdoors, and people are thankful they’re treated like adults rather than lab mice in a jail cell.

But this position will be live changing for me. It will force me to be uncomfortable. It will force me to connect with people through the feelings of inadequacy, judgement, and distrust. I know I won’t be the same person sitting at this desk after my first day there. And that’s a good thing. I’m ready for this version of myself to, well  . . .  breathe it’s last breath.

I refuse to accept my lifestyle because it’s familiar. What worked five years ago isn’t going to work today. If I’m going to be successful, I need to be willing to change.

This part of my life will always be in my memory. But it’s time to move on.

 

Atychiphobia: Got A Pill For That, Jackass?

This weekend’s depression was not random, it was brought on by stress of this semester that I’ve been fighting ever since it’s begun. I took on a load that I knew I couldn’t handle and it’s biting me in the ass. Therefore, I’ve made the rather tough decision to drop two out of my three classes and retake them next semester.

One of my big reserves for doing this is that I hate feeling like a failure. I’m smart and I know it. It’s what makes me a little too arrogant sometimes. Calc isn’t hard, Chem isn’t hard, but they are both a lot of work and juggling the stress and the depression and lack of energy and lack of motivation and the anxiety makes it nearly impossible to keep up. So I find myself questioning whether this is the right path for me. I know I want to go into psychiatry with a focus in children/adolescents; that will always be my passion. But the path to that man, is fucking rough.

My second big reserve for doing this is money. I get my classes, books, and living expenses (even though I live with my parents) paid, and they’re not going to be happy knowing I’m quitting 3/4ths of my schedule. I’ve been fighting with myself for a few weeks over them. I’ve come to the conclusion that they can have their fucking money back. I always tell people your health is the most important thing and that if your job puts that at risk or your classes or your whatever, then get away from it, and yet here I am dragging myself through mud and glass just so I can try and make everything perfect, just so I can done with school quickly and not seem like a failure. Well, I keep catching mini colds, my anxiety keeps me up at night, my depression keeps me up at night, and I still don’t have enough time to put all the energy needed into these classes. I have to face the blaring fact: these classes are hurting my mental health. It’s time to pull out.

If I wasn’t so serious right now, I’d make a sexual joke about that.

Anyway, I know I exaggerate things. I know for some reason I feel my entire career and my entire life rides on my chem class and my calc class, like I’ll never reach my goal if I don’t pass them right this fucking instant and I’m learning to accept that is not a fact. I’m learning to accept that it’s alright to slow down, take some deep breaths, and know your limits. I’m learning to accept that I need to do some more work on myself before I can expect to exceed as much as I want to.

I’m very afraid of failure. Isn’t there a phobia for that?

Of course there is, there’s a phobia for everything these days. And who isn’t afraid of failure today? If you don’t live up to what everyone else wants you to live up to, you’re suddenly a failure. That makes mommy sad, daddy angry, and suddenly you’re the worst role model for your little brother who mommy says started smoking Crystal Meth because you dropped one of your classes in college. Damnit, You, look what you’ve done to Jimmy! He’s sticking himself with needles because you “couldn’t handle” Literature. It’s all your fault!

Everyone is obsessed with this thing we call “success”. But success is determined by you, I know this now. In order for me to be successful I need to be content, I need to have my mental health in order, and I need to be on my way to completing the schooling I want to do. That’s successful to me. If someone sees me as a “quitter” because I’m having to drop these classes, if they’re “disappointed”, than that sounds like a personal problem they need to deal with within themselves.

Obviously because I’m prone to anxiety, I get worried that I’m doing this avoid things. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve pushed myself to the breaking point this semester, because I don’t want school to be at the mercy of my maladaptive behaviors. I’ve decided this isn’t to avoid anything, this is one step backwards so I can take fifteen steps forward. It’s progress. It might seem backwards, but it’s progress.

I love math and science and I always will. But would I make a great nuclear chemist or theoretical physicist or any of that? Probably not, because I’ve realized that I don’t love math and science like I love psychology and writing. When I’m stressed I don’t go to math, I don’t go to chemistry, I go to my writing. I go to books. It’s what I find the most happiness in. It’s what I’ll always find the most happiness in. Writing can do a lot for others, and so can psychology; nuclear chemistry . . . eh, I don’t see what good coming up with a new element is doing the entirety of the world. That seems like more of a personal endeavor and I’m not that into myself. I guess you can put your name on element “HeadUpMyAssium” (Abbreviated, “Ha”) and go down in history but like I said, what good does that do anyone?

You can do a lot of things with science, I’m just poking fun at the ridiculousness. All these people trying to deconstruct life down to its very core, as if they’re ever going to come to a definitive answer. Life ain’t got time for that shit, humans. It’ll send you through so many twists and turns, so many mind-fucks, you’re going to wonder why you spent ten years in college and thirty years at NASA instead of laying on your back and appreciating the fact that you exist.

At any rate, that was what I spent my day thinking about. I’m sorry to my Chem Lab partner who is going to be left alone now. She’s awesome and I hope whoever I’m with next semester is just as awesome. I’m sorry to my math professor who had to grade through my depression (LOL SORRY BRO). Most of all I’m sorry to myself for not listening to my gut this summer saying “chill out; take your time” because it ended up being right. I need to slow down and take my time and realize that my passion for psychology isn’t going anywhere. As long as I have that, I’ll make it to my goal. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, I’ll make it.

I guess I made this post for me. I don’t do that very often, but it needed to be done. It’s helped me see a lot clearer.