Thursday, April 30, 2009

To clarify something....

After some thought, I am not sure I stated my ideas accurately in the last post, about the movie, The Soloist. I found some issues with it that I thought I would point out here, but I would like to say, more importantly, that it is great to see serious mental illness portrayed in a meaningful, non-accusatory manner in a film for the general public. So many times, a "crazy", "psycho", or "wack job" character appears in movies, and in television shows, where mental illness is made to be equivalent with dangerous, threatening behaviors - and this is obviously exactly what we do not need. This obviously comes from and contributes to the stigma that enshrouds mental illness around the world today, and has throughout most of the history of time. So, I hope my post doesn't result in people looking down upon a rare film that portrays a mentally ill man is a living, breathing human being with a normal heart and soul, plus some obvious talents. That kind of film is rare, and should be appreciated for what it is - something so different from the humdrum stigma-spreading garbage that infiltrates the mass media.

So, I just wanted to make that clear.

I was just critical of that film because, although it did portray Schizophrenia in an accurate - or somewhat accurate - manner, there were things that could have been done better, in my opinion. The fact that NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, endorsed this film gave me high expectations. Also, I believe there is some wisdom in the idea that you have to criticize the things you love. I look forward to a day when mental illness is given the kind of serious attention in films that it actually deserves, and the ridiculous caricatures and stereotypes are the exception, rather than the norm.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Soloist - is this accurate? Really?

When I heard about the movie, The Soloist, I got excited. I heard that it had an accurate portrayal of a person with Schizophrenia. NAMI endorsed the film, and they even have a website up about it. I thought this was impressive, and I made plans to see the film. Originally my mom was going to go with me and my friend Kathy. Then my mom had a mood issue, which led to an argument, which led to her turning her car around and me getting out of the car, which led to me and Kathy going to the movie alone. Enough said.

So, about this film: I was impressed. Robert Downey, Jr., when he's not playing some half-robot-half-human thing like in that dreadful movie he did a few months ago, is a good actor, in my opinion. So is Jaime Foxx. The story is a true one, and the story is interesting. One thing on the
plus side of this film is the way the voices the man with Schizophrenia hears are portrayed, which I thought was a pretty accurate portrayal of the way voices sometimes work with some people (it would take a pretty complicated film to present all the ways voices happen for all people, and might not be possible).

I think one of the best aspects of this film is the portrayal of people with serious mental illnesses becoming homeless, staying homeless, and living as homeless people due to the effects of their illness and their lack of money or treatment. But the film stops short of really getting to the bottom of that issue, of showing how helpful treatment would actually be to some of the film's characters, and in particular, the main character, Mr. Ayers (played by Foxx). The one person in the film who works in a social services field is a man working at the homeless shelter, and this man says to Robert Downey Jr.'s character something like, "I don't get into diagnoses". And "The last thing this man needs is another person telling him he needs medication." I found these statements to be stupid, and insulting. For anyone who hasn't lived through the nightmarish hell and torment of psychosis to say that medication isn't really important is beyond naive, and borders on callous disregard for human lives.

I know that everyone won't agree with me, but I feel that the question of whether or not a mentally ill person needs medication or does not need medication sort of becomes mute when the person is so floridly psychotic the person can't hold a conversation, is living on the streets eating garbage, and has no income to be ridiculous. Obviously this man needs help. If you happen to have this illness yourself, perhaps you know what kind of help might benefit him. I did say "might", because I am well aware of the shortcomings of medications, the fact they for some people none of them work at all, and for some of us they only work part of the time. But medications save people's lives and rescue people from the depths of the hell that is psychosis.

I know, I know, I know, forcing pills down people's throats is not a solution, is inhumane, and will not work. But I would argue that it is more inhumane to watch a person suffer through psychosis and do nothing to help really improve his situation in a concrete way. I know that the message of this film was that to be the friend of a person with serious mental illness is a real contribution to the person's life and really will help. That is true. Having friends is good for anybody, and being a friend to someone is a real, tangible contribution to that person's life. But if someone is drowning, and you say, "Hi there! I'm your friend, and I know you don't want a life jacket, so I'll just sit here and have a conversation with you while your lungs fill up with water, Buddy, because that's what friends are for!", are you really helping that person much??

Would you watch a person's flesh burn up in flames and consider yourself a friend because they didn't know that water would stop the fire, so they never asked you for water, and you never gave them any because you assumed they didn't want it? Is that humane? I would say it's not.

So let me just be frank here. If I ever go off my medication, I don't want you to have a conversation with me about music, or art, or poetry, or television, or history, or women's rights, while I'm psychotic. I don't want you to write a book about me and how psychotic I am, or to make a movie about me, or to simply call yourself my friend. I want you to help me. If I am psychotic and not taking medication, I want to be locked up in a hospital where the medications are given to me, and where I have no choice but to take them, and I say this from experience because that is exactly what it took for me to start getting better five years ago. It didn't help me to have friends at that time. When you're psychotic and homeless, and you don't know what is happening to you, friends don't tend to know quite what to do with you. Friends would be nice, but they are not enough. What you need is tangible assistance for the medical problem you are experiencing. I would never tell a friend who was suffering through cancer or AIDS that I'll be their friend while they sit at home and die because they chose not to take medication or get chemotherapy for their illness, and then proceed to pretend as if they are healthy and it's not really a matter of life and death.

When you're psychotic, it is always a matter of life and death. When people hear voices, more often than not, they hear voices telling them to hurt themselves. Sometimes people hear voices telling them to hurt others, though that is less common. People hear voices degrade them, dehumanize them, destroy them, over, and over, and over again all day long, every goddamn day for however many goddamn years they go without medication and it is nothing but pure, unadulterated hell.

I would not wish psychosis on my worst enemies, including George W. Bush. I would not wish that nightmare on anyone, and when I have a friend who is psychotic, do you know what I do? I say to them, "I'm concerned because it seems that you are psychotic right now. Are you taking your medication? Have you seen a psychiatrist lately? Can I drive you to a hospital?" I don't say, "Hey! Let's go out for ice cream!". A person who is psychotic won't benefit a whole lot from ice cream. They will benefit a lot more from Seroquel. And I am not trying to give any more credit (or money!) to the pharmaceutical industry, because we all know they don't deserve credit or money any more than already get (since they rake in billions each year). But I am saying, having been there, having been a person who was homeless, hearing voices, and living in constant torment, I do not EVER want to go through that again, for even a day, and I would not EVER sit by and watch another person live out that same nightmare. NEVER. I don't care what it takes to get help for someone. You need to do it, if you care about that person. Whatever it takes, you need to do it. If it takes forcing somebody into a hospital, then you do that. Because not doing it is the inhumane thing.

I realize not everyone will agree with this, but this is how I feel about this issue. So while I recommend The Soloist as a good film, and a touching story, I have to say, it doesn't tell the entire truth of the situation, and it left out some really vital pieces of information. It left out the way that a person might try to kill himself or herself because of psychosis. It left out that many people when psychotic become the victims of crimes, such as rape or robbery, it doesn't show the people who die on the streets and it doesn't show the upside to all of this, which is the simple, amazing way in which treatment can help people. Treatment with the proper medication can simply transform a person's life from a nightmare of living on the streets to a steady, hopeful, happy existence. And to ignore that fact is to do a great disservice to people with mental illnesses. That is my opinion on this.

Monday, April 27, 2009

psychosurgery and other harmful psychiatric treatments

I am finding that I am able to concentrate more these days. It's a seemingly small change, but a very significant one. I can read books again! I have read two in the past couple weeks, the first one being My Lobotomy, an interesting tome about one young man's unfortunate experiences with mental health insanity back in the 1960's. The fact that I can read is a sign my medication (particularly the injection) is working. The story in that book, however, makes me think that someday that medication could be looked at as a barbaric mechanism for treating a psychiatric disorder.

Howard Dully was 12 years old when his stepmother set out to have him "fixed" (she didn't like his personality), by psychosurgery. This psychosurgery was a transoribital lobotomy, performed by a Dr. Freeman, who made his fame and fortune performing lobotomies for many years. The transorbital lobotomy was particularly barbaric, as it involved an ice pick being inserted into the skull above the patients' eye. The ice pick was then moved around inside the brain, squishing neurons and mixing up neurotransmitters and synapses like somebody trying to pry a locked door open with a paper clip. This was medical science in 1960.

Dr. Freeman stopped several times during the procedure to take a picture of the patient with the ice pic sticking out of his/her head. Howard includes such pictures of himself in his book, as he retrieved the pictures from the doctor's archives which are kept at a university in Washington D.C. With the help of a radio producer, Howard's story was first told on NPR, before he wrote his book.

You may be familiar with other barbaric treatments done under the name of psychiatry. Insulin treatments, thankfully don't happen anymore. Electroshock does though. It's still done at the local hospital where I live, and in other hospitals around the United States. Many practitioners say it is helpful, and it's not as barbaric as it used to be, when it was a violent zapping of the brain that caused torturous pain. I just know I don't want anybody to ever be able to do that to me.

But what of medications, then? I take twelve different pills in a Byzantine configuration of chemicals meant to help my body including my brain, and to control a variety of physical and mental symptoms. Some of these pills have never been tested in a long-term study. so no one really knows how they'll affect you if you stay on them for life. No one knows how some medications affect women at all, since men are typically used in studies and women aren't. And no study has been done on the exact compilation of pills I am currently taking, so there is no data on how this will affect my brain and the rest of my body, exactly. It's like playing Russian Roulette, but the problem is, I don't have any other solution. Therapy helps me with some things, but there is no help for psychosis other than pills. There is no help that will balance out my depression, much, other than medication. No help for the voices that taunt me and the double speak I hear that confuses me and takes up an enormous amount of energy. Just swallow the pills, I tell myself. There is no better answer right now.

Someday, there will probably be machines like on The Jetsons, where you push a number, and out comes the food concoction you need. There may be a little hand-held device like an Ipod, or a cell phone or a Blue Tooth, that you can click and send your brain the correctly managed amounts of neurotransmitters and correct the imbalance of brain chemicals you have. Maybe with one, quick zap a person will be cured for life. And then people will look back on the days when someone took 12 medications every day and got an injection of a medication every two weeks, for many years as the most barbaric, ridiculous thing they've ever heard of. Someday....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

being heard

I'm having some second thoughts about my first name being attached to this blog. I never used my name here until a few months back. So for years, this blog had no connection that would be easy to find with my real identity. Now it does. I'm not sure I like that, and I feel uncomfortable not knowing who might come across the blog. I don't really want anyone I know in real life (ie, offline) to find this blog. I know some have, but I prefer they don't. For some reason, though, I've given out the link more than once, and now, I regret that.

Anyway, anxious thoughts aside, I am too tired to write much of a post. But I will tell you about my doctor's office visit today. I go to a rheumatologist for this illness I have called Sjogren's Syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease like Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. I've been dealing with this illness of various names for about 15 years now. So I reported to my rheumy doc that I've gone back to being a vegetarian, but that I have been sluggish, depressed a bit, and continuing to gain weight, which is, most likely, related to my thyroid being low. She looked at the test results and said this was correct. It's so nice to be taken seriously and to be believed by a doctor when you have spent half your life just dealing with doctors, I can't even tell you how gratifying it is to hear some doctor affirm my reality. She also made a note on the records so when I take them to the yet-another doctor I see next week (endocrinologist) he will see that the thyroid really is low, and she said, "Hopefully he won't just blame it on you being overweight, which I have seen other doctors do to other patients in the past." She rocks. Dr. Michele Spuza Milord, M.D.

And I'm going to bed now.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

please don't die

I am so sad. I haven't been sad like this since my boyfriend left me a year and a half ago.

My grandparents are dying. Three out of four of them are very sick. On my mom's side, my grandfather has been dealing with prostate cancer for years. We are not close, but I still feel badly for him.

On my dad's side, my grandmother just recently fell, as she has several times now, and when taken to the hospital, she found out she has congestive heart failure.

My grandfather has dementia, then recently developed blood on his brain. He has been through two brain surgeries in the past couple of weeks - one on each side of the brain. He is not getting better. He is hallucinating at night, and getting very agitated, so he has been put in restraints, I was told. He's claustrophobic, and so am I and I know exactly how horrible it is to be psychotic, and tied down to a bed when you're claustrophobic. I know because of experience. And he's 77 years old, and his prognosis isn't a positive one.

I lived with my dad's parents from the fall of 1998 until the summer of 1999. They fed me. They even bought diet foods for me because I wouldn't eat regular food some of the time. They let me sleep in their house. My grandfather even went to Washington DC with me to see a doctor down there. My grandmother told me when she kicked me out of her house, "Jenny, you need to see a psychiatrist". And that pissed me off at the time, but obviously she was right, and in retrospect, if I had seen a psychiatrist, it might have helped.

I don't want my Nanny and Pop Pop to die. I feel like a scared little kid thinking about impending deaths. I remember being five years old, going to my grandparents' big, old house on Kenwood and Glenmore in the Overlea section of Baltimore, Maryland, and playing hide-and-go-seek with my cousins. I remember how we ran up and down the stairs with glee, singing "Freak out, Nanny, Freak out!!" to drive her nuts. She would yell, "Bap Bap Bap!! I'm gonna beat your ass, you kids!" and we knew she didn't mean it.

I remember Pop Pop's freezer in the basement, the big horizontal freezer full of ice cream. Gallon upon gallon were kept in there, just waiting for my watering mouth to pick them out. He would pick me up, let me bend over the side of the freezer, and reach in for Rocky Road or Mint Chocolate Chip. He loves ice cream, and would continue to have a freezer stocked full of it in his basement for the next 30 years. Going to the basement with Pop Pop was one of the most special treats I remember in my entire life. I loved it. I loved that big, old house. I loved my grandparents.

I don't want to lose people, and I have no experience with death in anyone close to me, so I am afraid that I will spiral into depression because I won't be able to handle it.

The thought of Pop Pop tied down in restraints and hallucinating breaks my heart.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

a second opinion on my mental health, and my grandparents' illnesses

I have a couple things on my mind. One is my appointment yesterday at the University of South Florida psychiatry clinic. The other is, three of my grandparents are doing really poorly and are very sick - two of whom are in a hospital right now.

So I'll start with the clinic visit. The resident I saw there I first met a month ago. You may recall my post about that. I went there, essentially for a second opinion on the medication regimen I am on, and my diagnosis. It has been very unclear whether or not I have Schizophrenia or a form of it that is also known as a separate illness, Schizoaffective Disorder. The resident I saw at USF sent me for bloodwork, and I got a lot of my records from my community mental health center doctor sent to her. So she reviewed that and then we met again yesterday. She believes I have "Schizoaffective Disorder, of the Bipolar Type", meaning that I have the symptoms of Schizophrenia as well as those of Bipolar Disorder. I don't get a lot of mania, but she seemed to think that periods listed in my medical records where I was not able to sleep well were periods of mania. I don't think she is correct about that, but I don't know for sure she is wrong either. I just know I never have periods where I experience manic energy and get a lot of things done, etc. I haven't had that experience since 2003, so I don't think of myself as having mood swings. I get depression, and I don't get manic. That is my experience.

Anyway, Dr. Peace Campbell did have some recommendations for me. She said I should see an endocrinologist because my blood work showed hypothyroidism, so evidently the amount of thyroid medication (Synthroid) I am taking is not high enough. Hypothyroidism is extremely important to deal with because it can contribute significantly to depression, low energy, feeling sluggish, and gaining weight, because it affects the body's metabolism. I already suspected I was still having a thyroid problem, so it was good to have it actually confirmed with bloodwork.

The bloodwork also showed high levels of Prolactin in my blood- a hormone which can become too high if you're taking antipsychotic medications (and also if you have a brain tumor on the pituitary gland). Also, my Triglycerides are too high, and that is bad news as I might need to go on yet another medication, for lowering cholesterol.

I spoke to Dr. Campbell about my weight gain and how desperate I am to find something to help me lose weight, or, at least to not gain any more weight. She mentioned the drug Metformin which is used in people with diabetes to help them lose weight. I had read sometime last year that this drug was being used in people who were taking antipsychotics for Schizophrenia, in some research trials, so that the researchers could see if the people lost weight on that drug. I had asked my community mental health doc then if she would look into this. I read it on, back when that site was still being regularly updated. Since my doctor never heard of it and didn't want to try it at all, I am glad that the USF doctor now has mentioned that it actually might help me.

In addition, I mentioned to her how I seem to have fewer symptoms the week after I get the Risperdal injection, and then I have more symptoms the following week, as the injection wears off. She said that even though there have been no clinical trials to see if this works, sometimes doctors put patients on the injection every ten days or so instead of every two weeks, and they find that this works better. I am sure my conservative doctor won't do that, but Dr. Campbell suggested that it might be helpful.

Dr. Campbell is writing a letter to my doctor with her recommendations. I am really happy that I at least got some information from this consultation. Dr. Campbell recommended that I continue to go to the community mental health center, because I can have therapy (group therapy now), and my case manager there, whereas at USF they have no such services available. She also thought that, since Risperdal is helping me somewhat, I should continue to get the injections, and that, even though I'm on a complicated and rather strange list of medications, it looked in my records as though that was arrived at for specific reasons and it might not be helpful to see a new doctor. I still think I should go to a new doctor though, particularly to get help with the weight issue. I will set up an appointment with an Endocrinologist first, and see how that goes.

So that is my latest medical update on myself.

Most people who read this blog probably aren't aware of this, but back in 1998 and 1999, I lived with my grandparents (my father's parents), in Baltimore, Maryland. Right now both of those grandparents are in a hospital. My grandfather has dementia (or maybe Alzheimer's) pretty bad, and he recently went through two brain surgeries for blood on his brain. My grandmother fell again last night, and was hospitalized. She was told at the hospital that she has congestive heart failure. So things are not going well for either of them. I am worried about them, and I wish that I could fly up to Baltimore to see them. Unfortunately, I do not have the funds to do that, and I do not really have a place to stay there if I did go up, since I don't have much contact with my family members there, and haven't been invited to stay at any of their homes.

This entire situation makes me very sad. I am sad that my mental illness caused me to have to move out of my grandparents' home abruptly. I was delusional in 1999. It was the first time I was in that state. I thought my dad was going to murder me one day when he was there and I was alone in the house with him. He had held his fist up to my face as if to punch me, and I locked myself in a bedroom and dialed 911.

Nothing between myself and my family was the same after that. My dad did not speak to me again for six years. My grandparents kicked me out of their house, and I ended up living in a homeless shelter. I never heard from anyone on my dad's side of my family again until 2005. To this day, I don't have much contact with any of them, and I feel like a total outcast from my family. Nobody in my dad's family talks about health problems much, and they never talk about mental health. I don't think any of them would want to know about my illness, so I am afraid to even let them know about this blog, because I really do not want any of them reading it. This is a space where I feel safe and free to discuss my real life. I don't feel like that with my relatives.

I took a brief trip to Baltimore a year ago, and I stayed in my grandparents' house that I once lived in. They were not in good shape, and I tried to make them understand I was sorry about those past issues and that it was all water under the bridge. I think that my grandfather probably didn't remember it all anyway, and my grandmother didn't seem to care anymore about that history. We didn't discuss it, since we didn't discuss anything. We watched TV together and played Scrabble and ate dinner. After that I had to go home.

I don't know today if my grandmother knows how sorry I am that I brought the police to her house when her oldest son was a high-ranking member of the police department. I still feel badly about it, and I hope she doesn't remember that nonsense now. I have apologized for it in writing, and there is not much more that I can do beyond that. In my family, people don't talk about problems much. My grandmother has never been able to talk on the phone in my lifetime because of her hearing problems, so there aren't many ways to converse with her, other than visiting her in person. Maybe I will have an opportunity to do that in the future. I hope so. I am glad that I got to see her and my grandfather a year ago, before things got so bad for them.

If you could keep my grandparents in your thoughts, I would appreciate it. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

managing symptoms and longing for life

Thanks for your comment on my last post, Kate. I appreciate your input. After having gotten some more sleep and some time to think about it, I am relatively sure that the man I was discussing does not (probably) really work for the CIA or the FBI. I cannot, of course, state it with certainty, but I know that these things come to my mind when my mind is confused and tired, and not functioning up to par. I know there have been times when my mind did not have these kinds of thoughts, and my medication seemed to be the reason for that. Luckily, I got to have a final session with my therapist, last night, and we discussed this topic.

I really like my therapist. She has helped me through a lot of things, and I have been seeing her every week for two and a half years. Unfortunately, I found out a week ago that Medicare is no longer going to pay for me to have therapy, so my individual sessions will not longer be happening. I will, however, get to remain in the group I go to with my therapist and another woman - with a new person who will be joining the group. What happened is that Medicare wanted the community mental health center to have a psychiatrist sign off on every therapy session a person has, and since the mental health center does not have the funds available to make that happen, they had to cut out therapy for a great number of people. My therapist mentioned that she alone had 52 clients, and many would be affected by this problem. Once again, the cuts in mental health have negative effects on those of us who need help the most.

Since she is a kind, and generous person, my therapist somehow worked out a way for me to see her last night without any funding to pay for it. I have no idea how she managed this, and I did not ask specifics. I just said, thanks, because I was grateful to have that last session. I described the specifics about the man that I thought was an agent, and why I thought this, and how likely or unlikely it might be that I was correct. Eventually, I realized that it was likely he was not an agent and that the idea that he was one did not sound logical to other people. So I am now going to go with the assumption that he was just an odd guy who sat next to me for no apparent reason. I know that if I continue to indulge in the thought that the man really was a secret agent, I will go further into a realm of questionable reality and possibly dangerous delusional beliefs. Thanks, Kate, for pointing that out to me. I appreciate your help.

Hopefully I will not continue to have a lot of trouble with these types of thoughts, but if I do, it will not really come as a surprise. And that's actually a good thing. The fact that I can look back and know there were periods when I was delusional helps me to deal with these confusing things when they occur.

Sometimes it bothers me so much that there is this huge dichotomy in my life, between the person I am (with a mental illness, and sometimes psychotic), and the person I always wanted to be (with a college degree and a number of close friends). I didn't finish college. I didn't go to Smith College when I got admitted there. I still can't read enough to finish college now. I may never finish college. I feel inept and embarrassed that I cannot finish college right now. I feel humiliated that I did not finish college ten years ago. After all, I am 34 years old.

Tonight I went to a dinner for the local chapter of NOW - the National Organization for Women. I have been to two of their meetings, and enjoyed the camaraderie with fellow feminists both times. What I do not enjoy is the discussion when I meet the people there about what we all do for a living. I don't do much for a living. I work part-time at a job that pays very little. What I really do for a living is writing this blog and activist work, for which I get payed nothing, but at least I can say these things make me feel like I am living. I just don't know how to explain, even to the open-minded, intelligent, educated, sophisticated, liberal people in a feminist group, that I have a mental illness so I'm on disability benefits, and I only work part time, but I'm doing as much as I can do right now. I am afraid of what they would think of me, how they would react, and I would be humiliated to reveal myself this way to people whose opinion matters to me.

So I did not tell much about my life to these women. I probably never will. I also came home feeling inadequate because I know that I have the capacity to finish college, that I was meant to do things that I have not yet done with my life which I feel incapable of doing right now, that I missed out on my dreams and lost some of my hopes along the way. God, if I could have gone to Smith and not a homeless shelter, if I had no physical or psychiatric illnesses, if only things had been easier, or at least manageable. But that is not how the story goes. That is not what happened. I must make lemon from lemonade and go on, nonetheless. I just can't help but be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Secret Agent Man (what the mind knows and doesn't know)

Last night I went to an event. I am a big admirer of Amy Goodman and her radio show, Democracy Now, which airs here on WMNF and on other community radio stations around the United States. She was going to be speaking and I had a free ticket that was given to me by someone at an activist meeting I went to recently. I was super-duper excited about this, so I drove to the University of South Florida directly from work and got there very early (which allowed me to get a great seat).

Amy was scheduled to speak at 7 PM, but someone online had posted the time as 6 PM, and I wanted to beat rush-hour traffic, so I arrived there at 4:30 PM, after having been at work since 8:30 AM. I am telling you these time details for a reason. My symptoms get worse, apparently, the more time goes by and the more tired I get. At least, that is the theory my therapist and I have been using. So, by the time Amy was speaking, and it was getting later and later, I started to have strange thoughts. I do not know if these thoughts were based in reality or not. Now, if they were not, then, that would lead one to surmise they were a mental health issue (psychotic delusions). If they were delusional thoughts, one could further surmise that these thoughts should not have occurred, considering the mammoth amount of anti psychotic medications I am ingesting on a daily basis and having injected into my body on a bi-weekly basis. For now, I will leave the question of whether or not these thoughts were reality based aside, because I am not feeling clear on that issue.

So, let me get to what the thoughts were about. Amy Goodman is very far to the left of the radar in the political arena in the U.S., and her speech was about progressive politics, including some issues of brutality and illegal civil rights violations committed by the United States government on citizens. While listening intently to this speech, the thought occurred to me that the man sitting next to me was strange and suspicious. He had arrived very early for the event, just like I did. He had talked to me a bit in the waiting area outside the "ballroom" where the event was held. When we finally got to go in and sit down, this man sat down right next to me. His leg brushed against my leg and I moved my chair to prevent this from happening again, and wondered if he had done that on purpose or not.

The man didn't fit in with most of the crowd in appearance. He was wearing a baseball cap, shorts and tennis shoes. He had short, trimmed hair, like a very straight-arrow character, and he stood out to me, among the other people there, who were mostly hippies and college students much younger than he was. When he sat down next to me he said something like, "these seats are not bad at all", which I thought was odd. The longer I sat there, the more I thought about this man, and I came to think that perhaps he was a secret government agent, such as a CIA agent or a member of the Office of Homeland Security. It would not surprise me if Amy Goodman - who is not well-liked by many government officials and who has been publicly arrested doing civil disobedience and reporting numerous protests, would garner the attention of the CIA. It would not be abnormal or crazy for one to come to that conclusion, particularly if one was listening to her speech in which she alluded to the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by the United States government on the anniversary of a speech he gave protesting the Vietnam War.

So, I then went on to think (and this progression happens very quickly in my mind), that the man was there to spy on me. I had thought he looked very familiar from the first moment I saw him. Back in the days when I was psychotic, I should mention that I thought most people looked familiar, and I would go up to strangers and ask, "Do I know you from somewhere?", and they would always say, "No".

So I knew I had seen this man before. I knew he was suspicious. And I suspected he was a CIA operative. He gave off that vibe, and I began to wonder where I knew him from. I suspected I had met him when I lived in Virginia, when I was manic and when I saw some strange men from the internet for brief flings. I would rather not go into that subject further, but it was disconcerting to think I knew this man from that time period (five-six years ago). I wondered if I knew him from somewhere more local. I wondered about this on the way home too. I was tired, and I was not feeling well physically (muscle and joint pains and aches), and I just wanted to go to bed. But I kept thinking, all the way home, about this agent. And I was not sure.....I could not be certain, and I cannot even be certain now, a day later, who this guy really was.

It's possible I met him somewhere innocuous, and that he is not a government agent or a threat to me. But other things are also possible, and I am uncomfortable with having to worry about this. It is annoying, and it is disconcerting, and it makes me keenly aware that my own thoughts can lead people to label me as "crazy" at any moment in time, even when my thoughts are rational, or, at least, are rational in my own mind. And that is the situation I am in. I will go to therapy tonight, and my therapist will likely think this was all a delusion. But it's not that simple to me. If it is a delusion, why wouldn't Seroquel and Risperdal prevent it from happening? Why? And nobody seems to have an answer to that question. So I am left without answers.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The precious present

I feel like writing a post for today. Today - not yesterday, not tomorrow, but right now. Because right now, in this particular moment in time in April of 2009, I feel alright. And I think I'm going to be okay.

Today even though my Social Security benefits might be curtailed, I know that I always find a way to pay the rent. Today that issue is not making me so anxious that I have thoughts of cutting and killing myself. Instead, I feel like I want to live. I want to do things that I haven't done before, and to more thoroughly enjoy the experiences that I have in my every day life.

Today, I had an ice cream sundae, and even though I am overweight, I did not berate myself for it for too long because I hadn't eaten dinner, so it all evens out. I ate it at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Safety Harbor, near where my mom lives, and where they sell real fried, green tomatoes.

Today, I went to a bookstore for the first time in I-don't-know-how-many months, and I read part of a book, kept reading until my eyes were too dry and my vision was blurry, and left feeling satisfied that I am able to focus enough to read a little bit of something again.

Today, I spoke to an old friend on the phone, and we made plans to get together so we can catch up on the past couple of years of our lives. I felt happy and grateful to have another friend in my life. I called her and one more old friend today. I also called my grandfather who is ill with cancer and I tried to say some things to cheer him up a bit as he is going through a very difficult time and facing the brevity of life - a subject I often think about despite being much younger.

I saw my mom tonight, and I am glad that my mom and I get along as well as we do now. We did not always have a healthy relationship. We had a rocky one for most of my life, and both of our mental health states were a part of the problem. My mom has often lashed out at me in anger, and it is a relief now that she has not done that in some time.

I feel calm and at peace with myself and the world. Most importantly, I feel hopeful for myself and my future. I am overweight, but I know I can lose weight. I have Schizophrenia, but it is not nearly as bad as it could be right now. I do not have much money, but I have plenty of tools for survival and much more material wealth than many of the poor people on this planet. I am lucky to live where I live - in an affordable apartment. I spent last night hanging out with a good friend - Kathy -and I am glad I have her in my life because we have some things in common and get along well. Today I washed my car - for the first time in probably a year and a half. It was quite dirty and still needs work, but the point is, I got myself motivated, felt the will power to do it, and I went out and did it. And that is how I can measure success in my life, especially considering I've been in a depressive state lately.

I am listening to music and going to bed now. I just wanted to let you know I was having a good day. My Wellbutrin was increased a few days ago and I think the higher dosage is helping.