Friday, August 29, 2014

I like living AND I got my fur babies back home

I read this just now, on an old little calender book with quotes by women on it. It seems appropriate right now, because this is how I feel, and even though things are difficult, it is definitely not as difficult as being dead.

"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Agatha Christie
Quick update on things with me:

-Got my apartment almost to tip-top shape. It's cleaner than ever, but now I have to put away all my tons of clothes that were cleaned for me by my mental health housing agency. That is work, but I can do it a little bit at a time. I will also be needing to vacuum weekly from now on, even though it kills me with the Fibromyalgia, because I have to keep control of the flea problem.

-I've been doing artwork for fun, pretty much every day. This morning was kind of bad, I woke up at 1:30 AM and never went back to sleep. I took my PRN Ativan and it didn't do a thing. So I'm still awake (and at work), but I'll go to bed early tonight. Anyway, what I did in the middle of the night was work on my book of collages I'm sending my sister.

-My cats are home!!!!! I missed Spooky and Ribbit sooo much and they missed me too. They wouldn't even eat at my mom's house unless I came over to visit.

This is what I had to do to get them home without fleas:
  1. Buy flea shampoo (a cheaper, milder one than the heavy duty stuff), 2 bottles of lemon juice, a spray bottle and a flea comb.
  2. Found a long sleeved flannel shirt at my mom's house that I could wear so I didn't get clawed to death.
  3. Put both cat carriers in the bathroom, so that as soon as the baths were over I could stick them right in there and take them right home (my mom thinks her house has fleas now and I had to do whatever possible to make sure they did not bring any home with them).
  4. Bathed BOTH my cats. Spooky tried to kill me, clawing her way onto my back to try to escape (this is really a 2 person job, but I had nobody to help), and they both made horrible, growling noises like I've never heard before in their lives. But I got it done.
  5. Sprayed both cats with lemon juice. I've read this is a safer, natural way to kill fleas especially when they have already been treated with the pesticide gel stuff twice in six weeks.
  6. Stuck 'em in the cat carriers and brought my babies HOME!
They are so happy to be home! They are both eating like little piglets and coming up to me for me to pet them, Ribbit did his common thing of trying to take over my bed last night. And their fur is so soft, and clean, and shiny, that they look great.

I'm going to get them both low-cost vet care when I get the money but that money does not exist right now.

I also found two charities that are willing to help me with a little of my rent and half my electric bill!!! That was wonderful news. So this week I have to go places to get that taken care of.

My medication nurse who visits me asked me if I had enough food because I mentioned I plan on going to a food pantry again on Thursday, and she wanted to see for herself. So I showed her what was in there, and she was like, "Um, Jennifer, you have nothing to eat!!", and she actually went to the store, and brought me back bagels, a loaf of bread, spaghetti sauce, a half gallon of skim milk, four cans of tuna fish, and mayonnaise. Is that nice, or what?? I hope her agency reimburses her for it.

Alright, leaving work now and gotta go. I hope you're having a good day.

Please do not forget that September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day (you can read my post about it below or Google it). Some groups are recommending everyone light a candle that day at 8PM in honor of all those who have lost their lives to suicide.

If you are feeling suicidal or know someone who might be, Click HERE

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th

I encourage my fellow bloggers to post something about World Suicide Prevention Day on your blogs. If you don't have a blog, go to Facebook and join

Warning Signs for Suicide

Call 9-1-1 or seek immediate help from a mental health provider when you hear or see any of these behaviors:
  • Someone threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself
  • Someone looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
  • Someone talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
Seek help by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral should you witness, hear, or see anyone exhibiting any one or more of these behaviors:
  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
If you are suicidal or you think someone you know is, we want you to know that help is available and recovery is possible. Start by learning the warning signs, and do whatever you can to get yourself or someone you care about to the help they need so that they can return to living a fully functioning life.
This list of Warning Signs for Suicide was developed by an expert review and consensus process informed by a review of relevant research and literature. Additional information about the warning signs can be found in the following published article: Rudd, M. D., Berman, A. L., Joiner, T. E., Jr., Nock, M. K., Silverman, M. M., Mandrusiak, M., et al. (2006). Warning signs for suicide: Theory, research, and clinical applications. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 36(3), 255-262.

From PEMHS (Personal Enrichment Through Mental Health Services - the local crisis center where I live in Pinellas, County Florida:

FALSE: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like
“you’ll be sorry when I’m dead”, “I can’t see any way out”, - no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicide feelings.
FALSE: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself, must be crazy.
Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and
emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
FALSE: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live
and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop.
FALSE: People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.
FALSE: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true – bringing up the subject of suicide and
discussing it openly, is one of the most helpful things you can do.

At PEMHS, we have speakers / consultants who can address “warning signs”. We also have direct emergency service workers
who staff our Suicide Prevention line and referrals from 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24 hours a day, or the Family Emergency
Treatment Center (FETC), an urgent care walk-in facility located at 400 – 15th Street North in St. Petersburg may be reached
at (727) 552-1053, where direct person to person interventions are available.
Please remember on WORLD SUICIDE DAY, Wednesday, September 10th, 2014, that suicide is a preventable solution.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Utilizing Creative Coping Skills

A combination of medication and psychotherapy is recommended as the best treatment for most mental illnesses. However, sometimes we may forget the importance of our own coping skills to help manage our symptoms and avoid crises. This fact was reinforced for me during my recent month-long hospital stay, during which I did a lot of work on myself. I wanted to share with you some tips I have learned over the years for managing my illness. One of these is to make a chart with a list of your daily/regularly  experienced symptoms (which can be expected) in the first column, then a list of warning signs that you need to reach out for help in the second column, then actions that you will take when you experience these symptoms in the third column, and warning signs that you are unsafe and need to be hospitalized in the last column. We do something very similar to this but more extensive and detailed in our NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Peer to Peer classes, called a Relapse Prevention Grid, which is one reason I recommend all consumers/people living with mental illnesses try to take that course.

Secondly, an important action you can take is writing down your coping skills and simple actions you can take to manage your symptoms. You can keep this in a safe place, easy for you to refer to such as near your bedside, or in your pocket or purse. You can write it in a journal, or do something more creative. I will tell you ways in which I have done this:

-Make a scrapbook with the words "To Do" on the cover, and with one simple action you can take during difficult times on each page with construction paper and a scrapbook binder. For example, if you are severely depressed or experiencing the negative symptoms of psychosis, you may find that all you can do to get yourself out of bed is look at this book and do one thing listed on one page, such as "take a shower" or "feed my cats".

-Use index cards or small pieces of paper and write down one coping skill on each card, then keep it in a small container such as an envelope which you can decorate with words or pictures cut out from magazines or your own drawing. Then carry this envelope with you so you can refer to it.

-Create pieces of construction paper, wrapping paper, etc. in the shape of something symbolic to you and write a skill or positive thought on each one. For example, my favorite flowers are daisies (in case you haven't noticed), as they are symbolic of survival, since they grow through cracks in the sidewalk, and I am a survivor of many things (hence the nickname Jen Daisybee). So I have made daisy-shaped pieces of paper and written a reason to live on each one, then kept it in a box decorated with pictures of gardens cut out from magazines. I did that in 2002, for the first time, in a hospital in Washington DC while I was living in Virginia. At the time I had an email group of friends which we called our "Gardyn", and we each picked flower nicknames for myself. So gardens/gardyns are symbolic to me. (Also my dear friend Lauren Wildflowyr and I are still friends even though, after all these years, we have never met in person!). 

I did something similar again recently in the hospital,  but slightly different. One each daisy-shaped piece of paper I wrote a reason to live, on heart-shaped pieces of paper, I wrote the names of specific people who love or care about me, and on pieces of paper shaped like butterflies, I wrote ways in which I have transformed or changed my life, since caterpillars become butterflies through transformation.

 If you have trouble thinking of coping skills you can use, here are some examples of mine:

-Drink cold water to ground myself
-Sing to the radio/ listen to music
-Write a gratitude list 
-Take off the mask and tell someone how I really feel
-Call my therapist for an appointment asap
-Change my diet
-Go outside and look at the sky
-Follow a schedule daily
-Tell myself the voices are not real
-Do an art project such as decoupage or making a collage
-Talk to people in my Facebook support groups (closed groups for people with Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia)
-Go to a support group (such as NAMI Connections on Mon. nights in Pinellas County  -which I don't currently attend but may again -or a 12 step group if one is applicable to you such as AA, Alanon, OA, ACOA, Schiziphrenics Anonymous, etc.)
-Remind myself I am a good, strong, capable survivor
-Go to food pantries to save money (financial stress is a big trigger for me)
-Be sure to take all medication exactly as prescribed
-Call my case manager
-Read a poem 
-Try to exercise (go for a walk, go swimming, etc.)
-Snap a rubber band on my wrist every time I have a negative thought
-Put ice on my wrists if I have the urge to cut myself (which I have not done in years, but still think about)

I hope you find this helpful!

I am doing very well right now with keeping my apartment clean, neat, and orderly as much as possible. For example, I have cleaned out areas, like my silverware drawer, which I had never cleaned before, and I have no dirty dishes because as soon as I use a dish I wash it and put it away. I am keeping to a schedule of waking up between 6-8 AM and going to bed between 9:30-11:00 PM, which is working pretty well most of the time. 

I spend time every day working on a book of collages I am making for my sister. I actually do not really miss not having TV in my apartment! I have also gotten the flea problem in my apartment under control (with a lot of help), and last night put down flea killer powder and vacuumed my entire apartment. I keep a calendar with the dates of my appointments, I keep an appointment book in my purse, and I write things down all the time so I do not forget as my memory is poor. 

Though I know for sure now that I have Lupus (I saw my rheumatologist Friday, as I had a major flare-up in the hospital including the distinctive "butterfly rash" on my face which is definitely caused by Lupus). My rheumatologist recognized that there is still a rash on my face, and I have swollen glands, and she sent me for extensive bloodwork. HOWEVER, I am not spending a lot of time thinking or ruminating about this. I've been told I "might" have Lupus since 1997, so it's not as though I was feeling great all this time and suddenly became ill. I've been ill for many years, just not definitively and correctly diagnosed. I can manage to live with this illness, and I am going to go back to the chiropractor soon, and am also taking all my vitamins and supplements along with my medications daily. I can manage this. Lupus will not win! Schizoaffective Disorder, will not win! I will live with them and they will not defeat me.

"Buy daisies, not roses."
-Anne Sexton

"Life can be wildly tragic at times, and I've had my share. But whatever happens to you, you have to keep a slightly comic attitude. In the final analysis, you have got not to forget to laugh." - Katharine Hepburn

"Above all, challenge yourself. You may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have, what you can accomplish." - Cecile M. Springer

"Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?" - Fanny Brice

"Attempt the impossible in order to approve your work" -Bette Davis

Thank you all for reading and leaving supportive comments! I care about each of you.

Check out my book at

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'm home from the hospital and doing VERY WELL!! I love you all for your concern and for taking the time to read my blog.

Hi Everybody!

I apologize that I have not written anything in over a month. I had to go to the hospital for a much-needed mental health break and medication adjustment. I attended group therapy with an excellent therapist named Tonya, art therapy (which I LOVE), did a ton of journaling (I filled up three composition books), and worked with my wonderful doctor, Dr. Shah, on many medication adjustments. I also received help from my mental health housing agency on getting my apartment cleaned and straightened up and some other things. I also received help from my lovely and wonderful friends Kristyn, Don and Judy (from NAMI - an EXCELLENT ORGANIZATION which you need to check out at, wherever you live in the US), and Phyllis (from NAMI), and my family who came through for me in ways they never have before this crisis.

Things I have recently learned or realized in ways I never have before:

1. Stress leads to anxiety which leads to psychosis and a flare up of Lupus, so I need to decrease the amount of stress in my life, especially the financial stress which is a huge trigger for me.

2. People genuinely like me and care about me even when I don't realize it. For example, when I first got to the hospital I thought people were talking about me negatively and I was experiencing auditory hallucinations, but the patients and the staff continuously told me that they did like me and by the time I left I believed them and every patient hugged me (even though touching is technically not allowed). They also voted for me twice to be the "Unit President" and I started the goals group every day by saying "Hi, I'm Jennifer, otherwise known as......" and they would say "Hillary in 2016!"), and I would introduce the Vice President as "This is Kevin, otherwise known as...." and they would say "Fidel Castro!"  because he was very strict about enforcing the unit rules whereas I was more liberal (hard to hide that). One day a patient was reading his sheet that you have to fill out every day with your goals for the day, and he ended it by saying, "Jennifer for 2016!" which I thought was really sweet, cute and funny. It's good to laugh!

3. The universe wants me to be alive. I am meant to do important work as a NAMI ambassador (I told everyone in the unit about NAMI and all the services we provide - for more information see if you live in Pinellas County or if you live anywhere else). It's extremely important for me to feel that I am making a difference in the world and I believe I can.

4.The universe makes things happen for a reason (synchronicity), and there may be no such thing as simple coincidences. For example, I had a roommate who was really sweet and caring and kind and helpful, and one day while she was there, I bought a Diet Coke from the soda machine outside, and it had her name on it (Coke and Diet Coke bottles now have this thing where it says "Share this Diet Coke with...a person's name).

I got fired from my job while I was in the hospital, and I became hysterical over it. This call came the day before I was meant to be discharged. If this call had come while I was at home I may have ended my life, but the call came while I was in a safe, secure place. And the next day, after I made clear that I would sue the employer for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, I got my job back!

5. I need to stick to a schedule, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, write down all the doctor's appointments and therapy appointments I have on a calender (which I am doing), and a schedule book I am carrying now in my purse. I need to pay the rent the first week of the month without fail. I need to stick to a STRICT budget (which I am doing), and for example, I cannot afford cable/internet at home, going to the movies, buying new clothes, or eating fast food anymore at all.

6. Today - for an example of how things happen for a reason -for example, today I went to the Unitarian Universalist Church (which is the only church I will willingly go to and where agnostics and atheists are accepted), after being invited by my long-time friend and former professor, Dr. Byrd, to see his daughter play the cello (she is amazingly talented), and my other favorite professor (from USF), Dr. Allen, who taught all of my social work classes and who convinced me not to drop out when I was feeling overwhelmed and experiencing psychosis, so I kept with it and got an A in all my classes, well she was there because she also attends that church. Dr. Byrd is one of the strongest supporters I have ever had in my life, and Dr. Griffin is the reason I didn't drop out of college like I almost did a couple years ago, and they both attend that UUC church, and I want to go there on a regular basis now, because I have been there before and really enjoyed it (they even read poems during their service, and I absolutely love poetry), and this will help me with having a reason to get up early on Sundays and not sleep in (need to stick to a regular schedule), and it will also bring some more peace and serenity to my life.

7. I am not superwoman. I cannot do all the things I want to do all the time, and that is okay. It is okay to ask for help and there are people who will help me when I really need it.

8. I do NOT need to resort to suicidal thinking when I am overwhelmed. I have a lot of coping skills which I can use, and am using, and will continue to use. (I am even carrying a collection of cards with my coping skills on them inside a little envelope that I made in art therapy in my purse).

9. I can and will accomplish my goals eventually, it just might not be as quickly as I want it to be,

10. Even though my Lupus and Fibromyalgia are flaring up badly right now and I am in a lot of pain, I can still manage to keep active and do the things that are most important and need to be done, and I have hope that I can get better with the help of my rheumatologist who I am going to be seeing on Friday (She thought I had Lupus for the past seven years but she only officially diagnosed it a couple months ago - another thing that overwhelmed me, and while I was in the hospital I developed the butterfly rash on my face caused by Lupus and a rash over my arms and legs and chest which the medical doctor said was from Lupus and not a result of being allergic to any medications so I had to deal with realizing that I actually do have Lupus and I will have to deal with it for the rest of my life).

11. I need this blog! And I deeply appreciate everyone who ever reads it greatly, especially all of you (like "Borderline Lil") who are kind enough to make comments and care about me. Much love to you all.

12. It's very important that I take things one day at a time, try not to worry and have racing thoughts, and focus on one task at a time. I also need to write down everything I need to remember since my memory is very poor right now (possibly due to Lupus), and I am doing that. It's very important that I not overwhelm myself.

13. I do experience manic episodes, even though I believed I hadn't been manic since approximately 2004, which causes my racing thoughts and not sleeping for days at a time and - in the hospital - led to rapid speech and extremely high anxiety - so I need to take a mood stabilizer and I am doing that now, which evened me out a lot.

I think that covers it! I have limited internet access now since I have no internet at home, I don't have much time to go to places with free wifi, and I need to focus strictly on my job while at work so I might now write as often as I used to or would like to on this blog, but I will try and keep you updated and find interesting topics to write about as often as I can.

Thank you for being there, for taking the time to read this, for trying to learn more about Schizophrenia and/or Schizoaffective Disorder (my accurate diagnosis which means a combination of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder), for caring enough to learn about mental illness even if you are neurotypical, and for caring enough to leave comments which make me know people are actually reading this.

Love to you all, and have a great day! Try to think positively!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've only identified with this poem for 25 years. I can't take much more. I really can't.

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,   
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought   
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   
(Still the dead one lay moaning)   
I was much too far out all my life   
And not waving but drowning.
Stevie Smith, “Not Waving but Drowning” from Collected Poems of Stevie Smith. Copyright © 1972 by Stevie Smith. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: New Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1988)
I can't pay my rent, I have not got enough money. The electricity got cut off yesterday so had to use rent money to get the electricity turned back on. I can't pay ANY of my bills and am hounded by calls from collection agencies day and night. I am fat and nothing I do to try to lose weight works; I am not cut out for OA. I am taking myself off Clozaril, and I haven't slept in three days. I can't afford food so people have given me food or I have gone to food pantries. There is no money left for gas in the car. I can't pay my phone bill, so the phone will be cut off soon. I can't take much more of this.


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