Tuesday, November 25, 2008

psychotic symptoms still lingering

I just wanted to write a brief update. It has to be brief for several reasons -
1. I can only get online at work right now, as my home computer died on me (BUT - the replacement my brother is giving me will be there tomorrow).
2. I cannot write much right now because my brain is feeling stressed.
3. I'm practically blind because my dry eye problem is really bad at the moment, so I can't see what I'm typing.

So, that said, I wanted to let you know that while I have made improvements such as cleaning and decorating my apartment out of the slums and into the light, and getting to work on time every day, I still am having some problems with psychosis.

I've been having the problems with voices for a few weeks, and it's annoying. I had gotten rid of them for a while before this recent restart of the voices. I mostly hear them as "doublespeak" and codes, not actual phantom voices that come from nowhere. That is the good news, because when I'm hearing phantom voices from nowhere I'm usually completely out of it. And, additional good news is that I have insight into this problem and am very aware that it is happening, which allows me to fight it off. In regards to combatting the voices, I finally joined the modern world and bought an Mp3 player, and I love it! I used to use a regular CD walkman to drown out voices, and the music has always been helpful. Having a little Mp3 player will allow me to access far more music than I could afford to buy and will help me when I am not at work, and am not feeling too well, to drown it out. I highly recommend using music if you hear voices, because - unless you are hearing codes and messages in the music itself - it works like a charm.

There was a time when I heard codes in every song I listened to - which were all songs by the same singer, who was the only one I listened to - but I do not have that problem now.

I have not been able to deal with my college classes at all in some time. I had to drop out of the math course, because I could not focus on it at all, and I asked for an incomplete grade in the other course I'm taking, although, at this time I think I should have dropped that one as well. I am just barely able to manage my life right now, and I had to let everything not a requirement go by the wayside, because I can't get my brain to operate well enough to encompass those other things like college classes right now.

In other news, I would like to let you know that an excerpt from this blog will be appearing in a book that will be published next year. The book is a compilation of essays on juvenile crime, edited by Jill Hamilton and published by the Gale/Cengage group. I will let you know more information about this when it becomes available to me.

OK, that is all for now. I will write more when I have the ability to see again. I used to have plugs in my tear ducts which helped with my dry eye problem that is caused by Sjogren's and made worse by my Seroquel, but the plugs either are no longer there (they are very tiny, almost invisible), or they are no longer working. I am hoping to have this corrected at the eye doctor's office tomorrow so I can read again!

thank you, universe

I do not want this to sound like an Alannis Morisette (ie, "Thank you, India) song, but I was starting to get lonely and depressed, so I thought, better to write something positive and not depressing, with Thanksgiving coming and all. It's not a holiday I really like simce the history of the United States is not usually accurately respresented in the celebration of "Turkey Day", but there is something to be said for the act of giving thanks.

So here I go:

I am thankful for the invention of antipsychotic medication.

I am thankful for my case manager, who literally came to my apartment and helped me pick up trash and throw it out - several times, and who now thinks I am a "success story" because I finally got the place clean.

I am thankful for the internet, through which I have made friends when I would have otherwise been alone and without people to talk to, and through which information can be both located and sent out into the world to help people understand things which they might have otherwise never learned about.

I am thankful for Spooky, my feline baby, who is always friendly, sweet, and loving, and who is also the most beautiful cat in the world - according to her.

I am thankful for insight.

I am thankful for my car, which has gotten me around pretty well for the past year and a half. I have lived for years without a car, in the past, and that experience allows me to fully appreciate the value of reliable transportation.

I am thankful for poetry.

I am thankful for the universe in which I live, which has survived and changed throughout millions of years and the earth in it, which has survived despite everything human beings have done to destroy her.

I am thankful for my family. I have a mother who came to visit me in hospitals and odd living situations, and a father who I did not see for years but who I now visit on most holidays, siblings, a sister-in-law who are smart and funny, as well as a bunch of relatives in another state.

I am thankful for my therapist, who has listened and given me advice every week for the past two years, and helped me to learn new ways of coping with problems and understanding myself, and who reminds me I do not need a college degree in order to accept myself.

I am thankful for my old relationship which ended last January, with my boyfriend who I lived with, because I learned through that situation what I do and do not want in any future relationships I may have.

I am thankful for daisies.

I am thankful for books, bookstores, and libraries.

I am thankful for my clean apartment, which looks lovely now in comparison to how it looked in the past, and has been the first apartment of my own that I have lived in for two years.

I am thankful for music.

I am thankful for the election of a Democrat for President.

I am thankful for progress, and for the activists who work to create it every day.

I am thankful for the friends I do have now or have had in the past.

I am thankful for professors who encouraged me to write, pursue a degree, and believe in myself.

I am thankful for my job, which gives me money to survive and is not too stressful.

I am thankful for you, for reading this blog.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A question of reality

Apparently yesterday was World Philosophy Day, and I came across this interesting article from the BBC online. At a point in the middle of the article, under section 2, the author writes the following:
For you cannot independently check your senses. You cannot jump outside of the experiences they provide to check they're generally reliable. So your senses give you no reason at all to believe that there is a computer screen in front of you."

I found this statement interesting in relation to people who experience psychosis. Hallucinations and delusions definitely confuse a person's ability to know what is real and what is not. I would disagree with what the author of this article states, however, regarding the idea that you cannot "jump outside your experiences". I think that I am able to look at my experiences as an objective outsider would look at them, to a certain degree, which is how I am able to know that I'm experiencing hallucinations and delusions while I'm still experiencing them. This does not come to me naturally, however. This is something I've learned how to do over a period of years, by arguing with the logical part of my brain. Somehow, though of course no one really knows how, antipsychotic medications help me to be able to do this.

I think, however, that a person who has not experienced psychosis themselves might have a difficult time understanding what the experience is like, and that it is indeed much like having to "jump outside your experiences". For me, when I am delusional or hallucinating, or both, now, I usually know that I am, at the same time. I am, therefore, not completely psychotic at these times. However, I am psychotic to some degree - just not completely. It feels much like a battle inside my brain - a civil war, if you will. For example, the other day I went to my therapist's office, because the logical part of my brain knows that it is helpful for me to go there. The psychotic part of my brain, however, hates going there, particularly on the weeks when I go for group therapy. The group is very small - just one other woman and myself now, but groups in mental health settings have always been a major problem for me when I am experiencing psychosis. I always think - with the psychotic part of my brain - that the people in the group are trying to program my mind and are reading my mind, and using hand signals, double speak, and codes to perform mind control. This delusion started years ago, before I was diagnosed, and it continues to be a problem sometimes now.

So the other day, I explained to my therapist and the other woman in the group what was happening, although it is difficult for me to ever explain it while it's actually happening, since while it's happening a large portion of my self believes it's real, and that you are never, ever supposed to talk about it as if it were not real. One way that I talk myself out of completely believing such delusional thoughts is by thinking back to other delusional beliefs I have had over the years, which I know now were actually delusions. For years I thought I was pregnant. I eventually thought I was carrying a dead fetus inside me, and I went to numerous doctors and hospitals trying to get something done that would remove it, without actually telling someone "there's a dead baby inside me", because I knew that this was not to be spoken out loud and that people could only understand it through codes. So, I went to a Christian pregnancy center, a women's health clinic where abortions are performed, called an adoption agency to see if they would have someone adopt my baby, and also went to a gynecologists dozens of times claiming I was pregnant, or using other terms to describe the secret pregnancy.

Not only did I think I was pregnant during this period, but I also thought that many women in the world under the "New World Order" or the "Illuminati" were forced to be "breeders". I thought that doctors were all involved in this conspiracy, and that it was within a hospital where I was impregnated against my will. I thought that babies were used as food for humans when they were eventually born, and that the word "bread" was a codename for a dead baby which was to be used as food. When I was living for a very brief period in a women's homeless shelter, I was told they had a freezer full of bread, and I believed that the term "bread" was being used in that coded way there. During one of my hospital trips, I tried to explain - in code - to my dad over the phone that I was pregnant by saying, "I was baking something", and thinking he would know what I was talking about, because everyone secretly knew the code.

So now, because I have never given birth, had an abortion, or had a baby removed from my body in any way, and I'm not dead from some sort of aftereffects of being pregnant for years, obviously I am able to use my logical mind and say, "I was delusional". I reason with myself by saying to myself, if I was delusional then, maybe I am delusional now as well. I think to myself, if I hallucinated a pregnancy for years, I may be hallucinating now when I think people around me are talking about me and to me in code, programming my brain, or reading my mind.

It also has helped me to learn about the experiences of other people who have Schizoaffective Disorder or Schizophrenia, because I can say to myself, "If that person had the same belief that I had, or a belief similar to the one I had, and they are also diagnosed as Schizophrenic, perhaps it is the illness causing the beliefs". This has helped me, and for this reason I have searched for blogs and books by people with Schizophrenia, and groups online where people talk about their experiences with this illness.

So now, when I am sitting in my therapist's office, and I can see and hear the people in the room with me using codes to program my mind, and I really do see it, and I really do hear it, I am also able to tell myself, "It's not really happening". In this vein, I would argue that the philosopher who wrote the article I mentioned earlier was incorrect in stating tha a person cannot jump outside his or her experiences and look at them objectively. For this is exactly what a person must do, in order to bypass severe psychotic episodes once psychosis starts. A person such as myself has to look at their experiences as objectively as they can, in order to avoid complete insanity. It is an interesting predicament to find one's self in, when you see something, or hear something, and you also know that you are not really seeing or hearing the thing that you are seeing and hearing. I don't know if I have cleared anything up with this post, but I wanted to try to explain the experience a bit for other people who do not have psychosis as a problem.

I think that if more people understood that people who are psychotic can also know that they are psychotic, there would be less stigma attached to psychosis. People would have to stop writing off a psychotic person as a totally insane human being without a brain that works. Our brains do work, and they often work very well. We just have many more mental obstacles to face in our lives than the average person does.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life Stressors

I have been hearing interminent voices and seeing things out of the corner of my eye that are not really there. I have also been hearing a lot of doublespeak, which is what I call it when someone says something for real, and I hear both the thing they are really saying, as well as something I interpret as an encoded message meant for me, that they are NOT really saying, but which I hear nonetheless. I mentioned to my doctor last week that this has occured with basically every antipsychotic I have taken, at some point. The psychotic symptoms always seem to sneak back in. Right now I am on a dosage of Seroquel that is higher than the recommended highest dose, and I am still having these problems. I told my doctor I do not want to change medications right now, because I am afraid of what will happen in the interim, and I also don't know that it would make much difference to go on another new medication, since I seem to have this same problem on all of them.

My therapist looked back into my chart yesterday and noticed that when I was on injections of Risperdal I did not complain much about hearing voices (though,, I know I still had them on ocassion back then). She thought that perhaps this was indicative of some physical problem which is stopping me from correctly metabolizing the medications I take by mouth, and that the injections may have worked better because they put the medication directly into my bloodstream. We discussed some old issues that we have discussed many times, like the possibility that I have Celiac Disease. I have Sjogren's Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, slight hypothyroidism, and obviously since you're reading this you know I have Schizophrenia. All of these problems combined could indicated Celiac Disease - along with gastrointestinal problems and the fact that enamel is missing from my front teeth. I first looked into Celiac probably 12 years ago, but I have never, to my knowledge, actually been tested for it.

Being that I was physically very sick for years before I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and because I was in and out of doctors' offices getting differing opinions all the time for years, I now absolutely hate going to see any doctor for anything. I especially hate going to doctors about physical problems, because, in my experience, as soon as a doctor learns you have a history of a psychiatric disorder, they stop believing anything you have to say about your physical health. Perhaps this is why, according to federally funded research, people with Schizophrenia die on an average of 25 years earlier than people without Schizophrenia. It has become very obvious to me over the years that, especially with a history of psychosis, doctors do not tend to take the mentally ill people who see them as real people who have working brains and the very real possibility of a very real physical illness that is not psychosomatic in nature. Therefore, I hate going to see doctors about physical problems. I went through many years of being treated like a hypochondriac, and I got tired of that a long, long time ago, so I don't even go, now, to my rheumatologist who diagnosed me with Sjogren's Syndrome. I haven't seen her in a year, and I was supposed to be continually seeing her and taking medications for Sjogren's.

I stopped going to my eye doctor about my vision problems which are caused by Sjogren's as well. I stopped bothering with another doctor after my repeated infections came back every time I saw her and she did not manage to help me with them. I did not go for my bone density test when I broke my ankle last year and was told I have Osteoporosis even though I am only 33 years old - and was 32 then. Osteoporosis is yet another illness that is common amongst people with Celiac Disease. So I guess it is logical that I actually should see the Rheumatologist again, make sure my thyroid is in check (which - with my ongoing weight issues and fatigue and depression, I am sure it is not) and ask about getting tested for Celiac. Surely, she would order the test, but I just have not bothered to go see her and ask for it.

I feel sort of like I manage the most stress I can handle at all times. When it comes to looking at "extra" problelms - things that are not matters of daily survival, I tend to neglect them, especially when I'm having trouble managing my symptoms like hearing voices and thinking about suicide. I simply focus on what must be done, and leave what also should be done resting by the wayside. I think this is how I have learned to cope, and I'm not entirely sure it is a bad, or even unhealthy method of coping. It is my way, and it is the only way I have. But I might have to try to change this to get some other issues taken care of, whether they are matters of daily survival or not. I have started doing that, by cleaning my apartment and decorating it more than I ever have before in the two years I have lived there. I have taken care of the flea problem in my apartment as well as I can. I manage to get to work every day on time (usually). I try not to eat too much junk food (usually, but not always successfully).

Now I have to start working on some of those other, persistent problems that only get worse the longer I ignore them. I need to return to physical therapy for the Fibromyalgia and Osteoporosis. I need to get on some medication for Osteoporosis, and I need to make sure my thyroid trouble is being appropriately addressed. I need to be back on Salagen for the Sjogren's, and I have at least 10 dental cavities, per the last visit I had at dentist office, which was about a year ago - and probably more (this is a bi-product of the Sjogren's Syndrome). I need to get back on a regular exercise routine as well, or I am never going to lose this weight. I get tired just thinking about all this stuff, and trying to manage it along with my job feels like too much work. But I have to do it, and if I can't manage my own life myself, obviuosly nobody is going to do it for me, and things are just going to get worse. I thought maybe if I wrote about some of these issues here, it would help me to face them head-on, and deal with them like I need to. We shall see if this works.

Friday, November 07, 2008

psychotic symptoms return...

I have been having some psychotic symptoms again. Now that I write that sentence, I think, "when was I not having them?", and I'm not sure what the answer is to that question. It seems that every time I have had an antipsychotic that worked well for me, eventually, it always comes back to this same thing. I get the psychotic symptoms again. However, whereas in the past I usually asked to have my medication either changed or increased, this time, I did not do that. I actually told the doctor, I do not want any changes right now. When I think back to how horrible the time periods during which I switched my antipsychotics have been, and when I consider the fact that no antipsychotic has ever completely rid my mind of psychotic symptoms for very long, it just makes no sense to me to have it switched again. So I'm sticking with 1000 mgs. of Seroquel.

My ARNP (the doctor) said today that sometimes you have to look at medication like you would look at the stock market. You can't buy and sell all the time based on what happens one day. This is basically the way I am looking at the situation right now. I think if I could manage to hold on to my job and my apartment, I would probably check into a hospital and have my medication changed while in there. But I can't do that right now. I can't afford to do something like that unless I have absolutely no other option. At this point, I am still capable of going to work, and doing what I need to do to get the bills paid. As long as I can do that, I'm not going into a hospital again. And as long as I am aware of the psychotic thoughts when they occur - which I usually am - I do not really want my medication changed again. So I will see how this goes.

I have, if nothing else, at least learned some techniques for talking myself out of delusional beliefs, and figuring out when I am hallucinating, over the past three years. I have insight, which means I'm not totally psychotic, and I think that these symptoms are just something I am going to have to manage on my own, for now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, We Are.

Today is a good day to be an American. Today, is a day when American women don't have to fear that their rights to govern what happens to their own bodies will be taken away from them at any moment. Today is a day when people without healthcare coverage can have hope that, sometime in the not-too-distant future, they will be able to see a doctor as they need to. Today is a day when African Americans can know that they are on the map of the United States and they're not going to be wiped off it any time soon. Today is a day when people with psychiatric illnesses can have hope that social service programs which help them survive will not all be eradicated for the desire of some evil emperor to put more money into bombing Iraq and drain the social services of funds. Today is a day when we have the promise of a better future, a day when we can afford to allow ourselves to hope for real, progressive changes in government policies, and when we who fought for this day can say, "We WON." Yes, we did.

Yes, we are America, and we are a very blue America. My home state of FLORIDA went blue last night. That's right, neocons. You don't own Florida today. Today my people own this state, and we're going to vote you all out of office as soon as we can. We are the future. We are the students, the underpaid working class citizens, the immigrants, the people who own small businesses, and the people who work for them, and the people who frequent them. We are the present. We are the AmeriCANS, because we can make progress. We can move forward and not backwards. We can stop funding endless, senseless wars. We can work for lasting peace, and for social justice. We can say, "I'm a community organizer," and be proud of that fact, rather than being labeled an evil Socialist/Communist/terrorist. We can say, "I believe in a national healthcare plan, and I believe we need one now." And we can have the hope that one will come into fruition in the next few years.

We are the future. We are the people who will wait in lines four or five hours long to vote early for the African American so-called Socialist terrorist, because WE KNOW the truth. And the truth is that Fox News is a joke, that the neocons are outdated, washed up, old pastey white guys who do not know or care what goes on in the world unless it affects their wallets. We can know that we can be the change we want to see in the world. We are the change we want to see in the world. And we can know that we are the people who we have been waiting for, as Alice Walker says so eloquently.

So, move over, McSame and pals. Move over, neocons. Take your hate speech, and your sexist, racist, homophobic idiotic banter and go pound sand somewhere. Take your disgusting hateful ads calling the future president a terrorist and go stick them where the sun don't shine. Take your fears of everyone who doesn't look like you, doesn't act like you, and in fact, is not you, and go live on a little island somewhere where there are no other humans and you will have no one else ruining your tax bracket and making you mad because they exist in your little world and you didn't choose to have them there.

Take your backwards, idiotic ideas, your belief that science doesn't matter because evolution is "a myth", and go live with some monkeys who are more civilized and evolved than you on that little island, somewhere in the Pacific. Take your belief that a woman shouldn't have the right to choose what happens in her body, and go have 25 babies you don't want and you can't afford to take care of, and let them live on your little island with you, like, say, Adam. Take your forgotten history, and go write some crappy books that nobody with a brain will ever read about how Ronald Reagan made the world a better place and nuclear power is healthy. Maybe you should forget the island and move to somewhere like Chernobyl where you will surely find some empty land since everybody living there has died of cancer from your nukes. Yes, please go there. Go there today. Don't hesitate! Ours is not to wonder why. Ours is but to do or die, neocons! Get your asses in gear and head to Chernobyl.
You can wait there till Jesus comes back.

In the meantime, the rest of the human race will live in reality, and make progress toward a better world that we create harmoniously with each other, with other living beings, and with the earth. If it weren't so cheesy, I would say "we are the world" here, but you get the picture. Because, we are.