Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I know I said here that I wasn't having any psychotic thoughts. And, at the time I said it, that was true. But they come back, little by little, just to prove I can't get rid of them entirely. They come to say, "We still know how to find you." And I see them and say, yes, you do. I know. I know that they're not real. I know that the sounds I hear are different from the sounds that actually are being created. I know that the double speak is in my mind, and the secret messages are only heard, only interpreted, only noticed, by me. But they're still there. And, as Anne Sexton wrote in a letter, "Aye, that's the rub."
I wish I could say Risperdal cured me. I wish it did. I wish I could believe there was a cure out there. But there is no cure. There is treatment, and it can work well, but, there is no cure. Sometimes I hear people make comments about the fact that I do not work full-time. One such person works in my physical therapy place. She'll just make a remark off hand, about how lucky I am I don't have to work full-time. She insinuates that I'm lazy. She does it because, I guess, she can. I never told her to shut the hell up, but I've thought about it. She needs to shut the hell up. What I really want to say to her is, "You try living in my shoes for a day, and then see if you can work part time, witch." Because she couldn't. This whiny woman couldn't handle a full time job if she was hearing voices all the time. Most people couldn't. Many can't work part time because they're hearing voices. I am lucky, lucky I can work part time, which happens to be mandatory for me to actually survive. I am the farthest thing from lazy that you could imagine.
Or, maybe not the farthest, but close to it.
Lazy? I berate myself every day for all the goals I cannot accomplish at this time, even though my concrete reasons for not being able to accomplish them are quite obvious to anyone with half a brain. I do not enjoy living in poverty and not having a full-time job. I hate it. I don't relish the fact I never finished college. I'm still trying to finish. I don't know if I'll ever be able to, but I do know that if I was able to do so easily, I would have done it by now. It's hard to read, or concentrate on a lecture, or write essays, or solve algebraic equations when you're living inside a delusional world and hearing constant auditory hallucinations. Anybody who doesn't understand this should try playing a radio at the highest volume possible, while sitting in front of a TV with its highest volume possible, while listening to a group of people all talking about different things at the same time, while reading a book.
Not so simple, you know? I am glad that the volume has turned low for me now. I am glad it's not like living inside a bee hive; it's more like having individual bees harass me here and there. I'm grateful that my medication works as well as it does, and that I have a way to get it paid for so I can actually get it. I am glad I'm not totally delusional right now, and I wasn't yesterday either, and I probably won't be tomorrow (though I never know for sure about that). But I wish that there were no goddamn bees. I wish for peace and quiet and solace, and a life without the cues, the voices, the double speak, the confusing thoughts. I wish for once that I could have my self back, the young woman I was before all this started, the person whose brain worked - even though it might get clouded inside depression or an eating disorder - it worked well enough that I could cover up those things much of the time.
Now, I get questions, like, today my boss asking me, "Why aren't you taking any classes in the fall? Are you too tired or something?" and I have no answer I can give without setting myself up for discrimination (as I learned at my last job). So I just end up letting people think what they want. They assume I'm lazy. It's their problem they're so ignorant. I can't worry about it too much.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
But alas, Medicare decided that the community mental health center I go to needed to have a doctor sign off on all therapy appointments, or, basically, Medicare would no longer pay the center. Since the center had no funds to hire such a doctor, what happened was that a lot of people got cut off from getting therapy because Medicare would not pay for it anymore. I could ostensibly go somewhere else for therapy, but I don't want to start over from atom when I already have a helpful therapist who knows me well. So, my therapist has worked it out that I can still see her via group therapy, as twice a week for the past couple years that is how it has worked: I go to a group; the other two weeks I had individual therapy. Now there is just the group. The group consists of only myself and one other person, so it's still helpful, but it's not as helpful as weekly therapy was.
Yesterday, when I went to the group appointment, I found out that Medicare has also cut off all funding for my ARNP (the psychiatric nurse practitioner who prescribes all my medications and has for a couple years), so she is not going to be the prescriber I see any longer. She lacked one particular type of certification that Medicare just decided all ARNPs must have in order to be paid by Medicare. This is also disappointing, and it's also obviously a way for the government to cut funding for Medicare. I already went through a couple of other doctors at the center back when my original ARNP left the center, and I had numerous other doctors before that. I had been happy to have developed a lasting relationship with this one and she is a kind and caring person, so I liked her. Now I have no choice but to start from atom with a new doctor. I could ostensibly leave the community mental health center behind and go to a psychiatrist with a private practice, but the reason I have never done that is because I do not have the funds to cover the 20% of costs that Medicare does not pay. So I'm basically stuck going to whoever is assigned to me at the community mental health center.
In a related event, I went to physical therapy yesterday, and one of the owners, who kindly has allowed me to get physical therapy for months without paying that 20% I cannot afford to pay, told me that I will be finished with PT soon, as I am doing better with exercise. I know that part of the reason for this was that I was getting care without paying for that percentage, and it is probably difficult for a business owner to allow that for very long. She told me I can still use the equipment at the center on my own, if I pay a nominal fee. Whether or not I do that just depends on how much that fee is. What some people consider nominal is expensive for others. Nonetheless, I am eternally grateful to her and her partner who allowed me to get into better shape there and helped me with my chronic pain without charging me for that percentage of their services. Most people would never have done me that favor.
So, although Medicare is obviously far better than not having any insurance at all, it still has numerous setbacks. I do not get Medicaid as they decided a couple years ago that my income was too high, which, considering the amount of my actual income, is pretty ridiculous. Due to this, I have piled up enormous debt in medical bills I cannot pay, and continue to pile it up all the time. I will never have good credit as long as I live due to the amount of medical debt that has landed on my credit report over the past 15 years. Anybody who tells you medical debt is looked at differently than other debt by credit agencies is a liar or an idiot, because I learned the hard way that corporations, apartment complexes, car dealerships, and credit agencies do not care where your debt came from; they simply care whether you are able to pay it or not. And I'm not. Such is life sometimes.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
This is the problem with the clothes, though. They piled up, and on top of them, I had the newer clothes that actually do fit me. Only, because I am very disorganized in the housekeeping department, I never had found a place for my clothes. So, generally, I've been keeping all the stuff I wear in laundry baskets, and I just pick them up when I want to wear them. I don't fold them, because that takes time, energy, and motivation - things which I lack in the department of housekeeping (not that I am lazy; I am prone to fatigue for physical reasons). I had lived like this for so long that I no longer thought I cared or realized it was having any effects on me. But after some obvious anxiety regarding my messiness became noticeable, I decided something had to be done. Plus, I'm sick of having to hide my bedroom from the apartment's maintenance people and from any visitors I ever have.
I decided, finally, that despite the fact I'm doing well with losing weight, it is unlikely I will fit into my size 4 clothes again any time in the near future. I decided to look through and make myself give up the things I really don't need or particularly feel attached to. I came out of that process with five large garbage bags full of clothes (I did say it was a lot, didn't I?), which I am going to donate to the Salvation Army tomorrow or whenever they're open. I folded and hung up all my clothes I actually wear too! This was tiring, to be honest, as it took several hours to complete, and I'm not finished yet, but I will be tomorrow or soon after.
As I faced those old, skinny-girl clothes, I felt a lot of emotions. Many of the outfits were things I wore during the years I was with my ex-boyfriend, Jim. I recalled the things I was wearing when I first met him. A lot of these outfits were so tiny, I could hardly believed they had ever fit me, as I don't really remember seeing myself be that thin in my life. I realized that the clothes I was wearing when I thought I was "fat" a few years ago, were clothes that would only fit a person who was very thin. So obviously, the old tapes of anorexia in my brain are still running. It is hard to explain what that is like, but basically when you have an eating disorder, I think the thought processes of the disorder can last long after the disorder is under control. So I resented the fact that I had been thinking I was fat long before I actually was overweight. I used to take it for granted that I was going to be thin for my entire life. I didn't know that it would take the course it took, with my body doubling in size due to medications that I will have to take for the rest of my life. This whole area is a troublesome one for my brain and creates a lot of worrying and stress.
However, on the weight-loss front, I am doing well. I have lost 22 pounds so far, and I can notice the difference. I eat 1200 calories a day, every day. I walk 45 minutes almost every day. I go to physical therapy usually once a week, and do the treadmill and other exercises there. I'm thinking of trying a yoga class, but not sure I could manage it, physically. With Fibromyalgia, exercise hurts. I've avoided exercise for that exact reason since I was 19 years old and diagnosed with FMS. I couldn't deal with the pain. I also never felt "energized" by exercise. I always felt like I'd been run over by a truck. Well, I don't know what's happened with my Fibromyalgia over recent years, but it seems to be less severe. That is amazing and wonderful. I get pain, but it's not incapacitating. I lack energy; but I can still exercise and manage it. I'm doing more physically right now than I ever have done in the past 15 years on a regular basis, and I actually enjoy the exercise somewhat. I like knowing that my body is capable of doing more than I thought it could, and that I am capable of changing my body's condition and putting it into better shape.
To follow along with this food/weight/health post, I wanted to tell you about an amazing film I saw tonight in Tampa. It's called Food Inc., and it's provocative, informative, and a real eye-opener. This film could change the world as we know it. I know how odd that may sound, but it is true. If every American had to view this film, we would no longer be eating the way we eat, destroying the earth and our health as we are, and thinking the way we think. The fact is that the food system we have has changed more in the past 50 years - with genetically modified organisms (cloning, and changing the weight and size and shape and intestines of food and animals that are used as food), the way farming is done, the corporate control of farms by Monsanto and the control over what we eat and how it is created by the fast food industry - than it ever changed in the 10,000 years before.
I am already a vegetarian and have been for most of my life, but this film made we want to buy organic, locally grown foods, and possibly become vegan (though I find dealing with the preparation of food to take up too much time when trying to eat dairy-free, as I would have to make tofu items every day). Because of my health problems, including the mental health ones, I've often wondered if I have some food allergies or sensitivities caused by chemicals or corn syrup. And I've often decided "well, there's nothing I can do about that anyway", and tried not to think about the potential consequences of what I was putting into my mouth.
For the past 20 years, I have drank Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi, nearly every day, and usually all day long. The corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and sodium in that soda may very well have contributed to my enormous weight gain (along with the antipsychotics). Though my therapist used to hand me articles on the dangers of Nutrasweet and Diet Coke regularly, I never read them. I was totally ADDICTED. I literally usually went through an entire 2-Liter bottle of Diet Coke every day for a long time. I know that sounds odd. But all you have to do is get yourself a Double Big Gulp at 7-11 and right there you have a 2-liter bottle or something close to it, and then I'd drink more on top of that. My entire family would say I needed an IV of Diet Coke in my arm, and when we went out to eat recently and I actually ordered iced tea, instead of my usual fix, they all clapped. The reason I continued to drink the massive amounts of Diet Coke, was that I really believed I NEEDED the Diet Coke to get through the day. Without it, I was tired and sluggish. When I drank it, it revved me up. I thought that it was also safe to drink without gaining weight, because it had no calories. But then I read that studies have shown Diet Coke leads to weight GAIN because of the way it acts on the body, even though it is calorie-free.
I am currently on my way to ridding my life of my Diet Coke addiction. I've been letting myself have a little bit every day to ward off the fatigue and the headaches I get from not having the caffeine in my system. But I'm whittling away at this problem, and I'm going to get to the point where I do not consume it anymore. I want to see how I feel without being hooked on this substance, and I want to know that I'm not trashing my body all day, every day with dangerous chemicals. I want to be more healthy and less focused on a quick energy fix. I don't want to be an addict anymore.
So those are some of the reasons why I am feeling positive right now. I also attended a NAMI consumer council meeting today, and am looking into doing some more activities with NAMI. The other members decided they liked my idea of collecting books and games to donate to the local psychiatric wards, and we are going to move forward with that idea. So, that is a good thing.
It's so easy to turn to this blog when I'm having a down day, and to talk about the symptoms of my illness and how they are affecting me, but I also want to come here when I have something to say that has to do with good goals, creating change, and finding happiness.
Managing a mental illness, like managing any other life problem, requires work. And though I may not be hearing voices or having obviously psychotic thoughts right now, I still have the illness and I still have to find ways to tackle it. More than anything, I would like to help others who have mental illnesses by letting you know what works (and doesn't work) for me.
Thanks for coming by here.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I was looking for something and came across an old post I wrote here from 2005. That was when I created this blog. When I started writing here, I believed that I did not have any mental illness. I believed that I was pregnant, with a dead baby because I was a "breeder" for the Illuminati/New World Order/ Nazis who ran the world. I believed (and I promise I'm getting to the point soon) that there were concentration camps all over the US and people were going to be sent to them, including me. I believed I was Jesus sometimes and Anne Frank other times. I had constant auditory hallucinations where I heard people saying two or three things at the same time which they were not really saying. I saw signs and cues everywhere. I thought I had to kill myself and was planning on shooting myself in the head, and almost did.
I was totally, absolutely delusional. I did not know that, however.
So if you read this post, please see the line that says how I wish I were insane and I wish antipsychotic drugs like the ones I had been given in hospitals could work for me. I didn't think they could work because I didn't think any of this was an illness. I had no insight into my illness.
Now, four years later, I have little psychosis these days and have definitely gotten better to a large extent, because of antipsychotic medication. I just wanted to tell you this in case any of you need hope.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I recently came across this article, which says there was a recent study that showed a genetic link between mental illness and creativity. I found this interesting, because I have read numerous such articles and books which mention such a link in the past. Perhaps you are familiar with Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist who works for Johns Hopkins and has written several books, as she herself has Bipolar Disorder and is also an expert in the field. One of her books is called Touched by Fire, and describes numerous artists, musicians, and performers who have or had mental illnesses. The book delves into the idea that there is a link between one's creative abilities and mental illness. I have always been interested in this possible connection.
I have often thought that, although there does seem to be a connection (particularly between mania and creativity), the fact that people who have become famous for their creativity have also had mental health issues is sometimes used to romanticize mental illness, as if it is somehow a gift from God (if one believes in a god, which not all of us do) which one is lucky to have. Creativity is wonderful, and I would call it a gift. Mental illness, however, is obviously not something most people wish for. Mental illnesses can be disabling, and can lead to an early death. They can incapacitate people and cause unbearable misery. They destroy people, sometimes. I do not consider the pain, distress, financial difficulties, isolation, and discrimination people get from mental illnesses to be thing that are outweighed by creative abilities. I would rather not be creative and not have a mental illness, thanks. Schizophrenia isn't really so enjoyable.
I am just trying to explain why these comparisons can go awry, and why they often annoy me. I feel that there are many people who have made great gifts to the world, while they also went through hell with mental illnesses. But I don't think most of those people would choose the mental illness even if it was par for the course with creativity. However, even as I say this, I think of Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Hemingway, and many others who have made lasting, substantial contributions to society in art and literature. I am grateful that these people were able to create as well as they were. I just wonder, if they did not have to live with mental illnesses, how much longer may they have lived and how many more creations might they have contributed. I don't doubt that there is a link between mental illness and creativity. I just worry that it gets overstated, that people with mental illnesses who do not happen to be creative are viewed as somehow missing the boat, or not living up to what they should have been able to do as a person who is Bipolar or Schizophrenic, because they were not able to make huge impacts in art or literature....I think we should value others, and ourselves, for everything we contribute to this world, especially when those contributions are made despite overwhelming obstacles. I appreciate the blogs people write, for example, about mental illnesses, and am glad those people have the ability to write. If they didn't have that ability, I think it would be a loss to society of people who are able to educate the world about their experiences. If they did not find it easy to write blogs, however, they would still be worthy human beings deserving of support and appreciation for being just who they are.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts in this topic as well.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Anyway, while shopping today at the ever-trendy Goodwill (actually it's a new one I discovered with my madre), for household goodies as I love decorating my apartment which no one ever sees except me and maybe the maintenance guys (though decorating, you must understand, has nothing to do with "cleaning", something at which I am profoundly inept), I overheard a store employee say to another employee (male saying it to a female), "watch her", and I knew he was talking about me. I always know that they are talking about me when I hear this. I still remember sometime back last year when a clerk at the Hess station I frequently stop at said to her coworker, "watch her; I'll be right back", and I knew she was referring to me.
But did I really know? That is the question. And, equally and quintessentially important is the question, "Is that what the person really said?" And, unfortunately, the answer to both questions is, simply, Hell if I know. As I never know. Or, I do know, and I am wrong. How does one determine delusional thinking in one's own mind? It's always tricky. I've discussed it here before. I should mention that I am still, despite not having much trouble with psychosis these days, very prone to paranoia, and thinking I'm being followed, someone's going to rape me and/or murder me and then throw my lifeless body into the dumpster in the back of my apartment building when I go for a walk in my crappy neighborhood which I do almost daily now, and thinking they're watching me at every single store of any nature that I ever enter. I also frequently think that people on the street are mistaking me for a prostitute, because most of the women who walk in my neighborhood appear to be doing it for a living, rather than to be trying to burn calories.
I've always thought this way, though. Many years before I became clearly psychotic, even back in childhood, I thought I was going to be mistaken for a shoplifter. I thought I was being watched by security guards. I thought they were going to arrest me. I thought they were going to follow me home, and then arrest me, if they failed to arrest me in the store. In my late teens, and early twenties, though, I worked in a few stores as a clerk/cashier, and I learned then that security guards really aren't that prevalent, and most of the time those cameras have no tapes in them or aren't turned on. So that, in some small degree, helped me to worry less. I still worry, however, and I suppose this being a lifelong symptom thus far indicates that I'll probably be this way forever.
At this point, you might be wondering what I look like. I was very thin all my life until four years ago when I started the weight-gaining meds; I am reasonably okay-looking, and some people would say in my thin years, attractive. I don't dress terribly shabby either. I am also Caucasian (in case you missed that little pic I put on here after the blog had been up for five years without one), and, in our racist society, I am therefore not too likely to actually be mistaken for a shoplifter, particularly if I am not actually stealing anything. But then, there is the issue of the times when I was actually stealing something. I would get the voices and the cues that indicated I was supposed to take something. In my delusional mind, when I was not on meds, I truly believed that this was the way the world worked. This was how people got nice cars, big houses, and new leather shoes. They took them. People did not actually spend money, in this world, they simply "won" stuff.
So, I would get the urge to steal a lipstick because, for example, it said "Jessica" on it (as one brand used to be named that after some famous Jessica), because I thought that life was a game, and I had beaten my sister, whose name is Jessica, in some mental task, so I was supposed to take the so-called prize which I had supposedly won. And sometimes I did take them. Stealing a bottle of water, some nail polish, or a lipstick would, of course, easily land me in the back room of a store being grilled by security guards if I were ever caught. So that fact, of course, fed into my paranoia about being watched. But at the end of the day, how many people go to jail for a tube of lipstick? I don't know, but I'd venture to guess that not so many did. More importantly, when I did this I did not consider it to be stealing, so I thought that, if I were caught, someone would understand I just took it because I won it. As that was the way I thought the world worked.
In that vein, I should mention that the news anchor, Anderson Cooper, who I believed was my other-life husband and my owner, at that time, came to speak at a college near where I lived. Since I thought he was my infinite husband (despite that he's gay and I had never met him), I went with a couple of people to hear him speak. I heard him, in this speech, clearly tell me, in a way that was quite loud and obvious, that if you don't take the things that you "win" in life, you are doing something seriously wrong and there will be negative consequences for it. So, after that, every time I heard a voice or saw a sign telling me I "won" something, I'd go about trying to find a way of coming into ownership of that thing. As you might guess, this could cause some tricky situations.
Can you say, "Grand Theft, Auto", anyone? Yes, I stole a car. I also stole my mom's car, and my brother's car on different occasions, so all in all, you could say I stole three cars. I totaled my mom's car, five years ago, by crashing it into the side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in an attempt at suicide, which is what all the signs and voices were telling me to do, and since she never got to use that car again, this is something that hasn't been forgotten in anybody's mind. My brother's car, though, I only actually took for about 20 minutes, so he didn't really care. The unknown person's car I stole (or, as it was in my mind, "took" because it belonged to me), was a different story. It was a Chrysler, albeit a really old one from the early 80's, and I thought that day that I was Jesus Christ. I got off a bus because I saw a sign that said "J.C. Auto Body" at a shop, and thought, of course, I was meant to go there. Next door to the auto place was a grocery store, and the voices told me to go directly to that Chrysler, which was clearly mine, as I was Christ.
It may sound odd to tell you the next part. The car had a key in the ignition. And the car was unlocked. I don't know how my brain guessed or, maybe, knew that, from across the parking lot, but that was the case, nonetheless. So I took the car. I ended up a day or two later, perhaps (I'm not sure if this all happened in one day or several), leaving the car where I was told to leave it, as I had, by that time, understood that I would most likely go to jail if anyone found out I took the car. I knew that people still went to jail, because the way the world worked was such that society pretended we still had things like laws against stealing, though, in reality, I believed people won the items they could go to jail for stealing. It's possible to hold two completely conflicting points of view in one's mind, or facts that counteract each other, at the same time. I've done so a lot.
Now, of course, I'm better than I was five years ago, mentally. I no longer think things are won and taken. I know you have to use actual money to pay for stuff, and that the other Illuminati world I thought I lived in actually never existed. Most of the time, I even know that I'm not going to be arrested for shoplifting if I am not stealing anything. But then there are days......days when the tone sounds too serious, the implication so obvious, the words so threatening, that my brain interprets words to say "Watch her". And I can only go about my business not ever knowing whether someone said those words about me, or not. Such is life with Schizophrenia.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
1. My cat. I love my cat. Spooky (er, Princess Spooky) is a black, long-haired feline goddess, and she lives the life of a very spoiled brat. She also offers comfort, someone to "talk" to, and a fulfillment of that weird nurturing thing that apparently comes with being a woman (I don't like the term "maternal instinct' in reference to my feelings for my cat, but you get the drift).
2. I live in Florida! I hate the heat, yes, as my car has no air conditioning. I sweat on a regular basis, and often curse the sun. Yet, I live 5 minutes from Clearwater Beach, in a bright, sunny (even when it rains it's sunny hear) mecca of the worldwide vacationing tourist breed, and I do, when I think about it, appreciate that.
3. Friends. I wrote in my last post about how online friends are different from real life friends. Yet, I have a few online friends who have come to be very real to me, as friends, and who I value very much. So I am grateful for the technology that allows me to meet and communicate with these people, and for their kindness and willingness to be my friend. Also, my friend Dr. Byrd, a former professor of mine, has been an encouraging and very helpful force in my life.
4. My friend Kathy. We are good pals who keep each other company, and regularly laugh at ourselves (er, at each other), and have fun. I met Kathy when we were roommates at a group home a few years ago, and we clicked, so we've stayed friends ever since.
5. Family. I see my mom on a regular basis, and I keep in touch my brothers, sisters, and my dad. I'm glad most of them live not too far from me. I'd like to be able to visit my out-of-state relatives - particularly my grandparents - in Baltimore, but funds have not allowed me to do that in some time. I don't feel particularly close to some of my extended family, because we really don't know each other very well, and although I wish that was not the case, I am glad that I am close with my immediate family.
6. Personal willpower. I am determined to lose weight, and I am doing it. To that end, I'm also grateful for Phentermine, which is helping.
7. Risperdal injections. I couldn't easily go through a day of my life without this medication. I know this because, up until a few months ago, I had a long period of time where I was not on this medication and my days were riddled with psychosis and all the disruption it brings to one's life. I am grateful there is a medication which works for me, however much I hate the weight gain it has caused. It helps me to live in peace.
8. Music. I listen to music when I walk for exercise, and every night to help me sleep. It's helped me to go to sleep since I was about 15 years old, and I love the soothing tones of flowery folk songs especially.
9. NAMI. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has allowed me to meet others with similar life stories to mine, meet people who understand my illness and who care about ending the stigma that surrounds it, and, most importantly, to speak to the local police officers during their CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Training a few weeks ago, which was the first time I did any public speaking in my life. I loved being able to describe situations that involved the police in my life to police officers who are learning new ways to deal with people in crises. I loved being able to tell them what it feels like to be psychotic, something that they may never hear about in a clear, direct way again any time soon, but which they may witness frequently.
10. Feminism. I'm not going to list the names of any organizations here. I'm a member of one, and a fan of many, but what matters is the root connections of all of those groups, and not the work of any individual organization. For me, feminism is a major part of my life. I see the patriarchy's roots in many of society's problems, and I feel camaraderie and great joy in having contact with other women who feel the same way and are not afraid to use the "F" word.
11. My therapist. She has to see me less frequently now - twice a month instead of every week, and only in a group instead of individually, because of funding cuts. But my therapist has fit me in during periods where there was no funding for her to see me, and she has let me stay late to talk about important issues many times over the past couple years. She has helped me to gain better insight into my problems, and to think more positively about my self, my life, and the world around me.
12. My caseworker. She said she'll have to close my case soon, since I haven't been hospitalized in the past year and a half, but I've had her in my life for 4 years now. She has been someone I could call in a pinch, and who has visited my apartment even when it was in disastrous states of disrepair. She is kind, compassionate, smart, and unique. I hope that I can always stay in touch with her.
13. You. I am grateful for everyone who has read this blog and listened to my story, and particularly for those who have taken the time to leave comments and encouraging words. You mean a lot to me, and you are the ears that have heard things I could not voice out loud.
I think that sums it up for now. I may think of more things I'm grateful for later, and come back to add them. But for right now, I think I've laid out the topics pretty thoroughly.
If you like, feel free to list some of the things you are grateful for, also, in a comment here. It would be interesting to see others' responses.
I've had trouble with depression all my life, I guess. The first time I really remember it starting was when I was about 13, and my parents split up. I remember that I started to wish I had never been born then. This would later become the wish to die. That would later become suicide attempts. But, eventually, the depression faded into the background because I developed the primary symptoms of psychosis, and also because I learned how to live with depression over time. So it comes now, and I say hello to it, and I don't stare it down and wonder what I am going to do about it, like I used to when I was younger. I had several things I would do. I would go to bookstores and read stupid self-help and pop psychology books, but eventually I learned the pointlessness of that. I would cut myself, as a teenager and later in my 20's too, with razors and knives, because this gave me a sense of relief and release. I starved myself, and spent about a decade being anorexic, which seemed, at the time, a better fate than being morbidly depressed and not anorexic (but really wasn't). I would go to therapists, and take antidepressants, both of which are things I still do, and these things are helpful to a certain degree. And I'd write, which somehow always seems to help.
I had one friend who really understood depression, but we aren't friends anymore. There's no point in discussing that, as I've already done so, and it is also not remotely interesting to anybody who reads this, I'm sure. With most people, I've never talked about being depressed. I am more likely to tell a joke or rant at you about some political thing that is pissing me off. I rarely talk to people about being depressed outside of the people who kindly read this blog from time to time.
The way I think about depression now is different than the way I used to think. I don't feel it's a problem that has a simple solution which I am going to find someplace. I think it's the end result of other problems, which have complex solutions I must create myself. I am lonely; therefore I feel depressed. This would seem like a relatively simple problem to solve, but when you've been introverted and afraid of people all your life, it's not so simple. I am lonely even when I am with people sometimes. But most of the time in my life these days, I'm alone. So, yes, I get lonely. Anybody would.
I feel ashamed of my lack of accomplishments in life. This also makes me "depressed". I wish I had a Master's Degree, berate myself for not having a Bachelor's Degree, and am utterly baffled by the fact that I never even completed my Associate's Degree. Therefore, I feel like a failure, as education has always been an important part of my life, and something I have valued immensely, but also something which has proven extremely difficult due to my brain problems.
I am overweight; therefore I feel depressed. I don't want to eat anymore. I wish I could just completely stop eating altogether until I weigh 104 lbs. again, and then, I'd deserve food. I want to be myself, and my body all my life was very thin. Until the past four years, in which time I gained 100 lbs. and had the opportunity to despise what my body really looks like for the first time, as opposed to despising the way I thought it looked, which is, in some ways, a much easier problem to conquer.
Because I hate the way I look, I don't like seeing people who knew me when I was thin, and I don't like meeting new people. I feel so self-conscious about my weight that there is no way in hell I would date anybody, ever, while I weigh this much, because I cannot fathom the possibility that any guy who saw me in this state would be remotely interested. They're not. I don't care that much that I don't date anyone anymore, but it does leave me with time to spend alone. My ex-boyfriend took up a lot of my life, until he disappeared from it a year and a half ago (Jim). I can't picture me ever being involved with anyone that seriously again, because I am so fat. And because the fat was part of the reason he left me. How pathetic, that I should be hurt by someone being so superficial and cold-hearted, but I was hurt by it, nonetheless. He would tell me, "You're not attractive anymore", and "I don't want to touch you when you look this way", and "You shouldn't be eating that much", enough times that it made a definite impact. If he had punched me in the face, the pain would have been less than the pain I got from those remarks. You take a person who spent half her life being anorexic and call her a fat pig, and you know, that makes an impact that lasts a long goddamned time.
So.....yes, there are reasons I feel depressed. I have also been wondering if my medications are, actually, making me feel more depressed than I would be without them. There is a distinct possibility this could be true. I would like to get off Anafranil, and Seroquel completely and see how that works out. I don't think I need either medication anymore, and I also don't think they work for me in the first place. So it's just a matter of getting my psychiatric nurse to understand my point of view (or a matter of me taking myself off them, but that would be unwise according to the professionals of the mental health world). Both of those can make you gain weight; both also make me tired. Being tired can lead to depression. When you're physically completely worn out, it's easy to have your mind delve into a place of darkness and despair. I walk a lot now, to lose weight, and I get completely exhausted by it after 45 minutes. I know the endorphins of exercise are supposed to make people feel more happy and less depressed, but I'm not sure it always works that way. I do have some physical health issues that make me really tired.
Anyway, the moral of this story is, being "depressed" is not as simple as it sounds. I think it's a complex issue, and I don't think that popping pills is really the way I need to tackle it. It's not something that necessarily can be tackled in the first place. Sometimes it's just a part of life.
It's something most human beings probably experience at some point in their lives. Winston Churchill and others after him called it "the black dog". I see it as more of a sign that there are problems to be looked into now, rather than it being the problem itself. When one is suicidally depressed, obviously you must address the depression. But I'm not suicidally depressed. I'm just living my life, and depression is there, so adjustments must be made.
I've found that recently my loneliness is underscored by the amount of time I'm spending online conversing with so-called "friends", who are mostly people I do not know at all. I think my online persona - which is not necessarily much like my real self, or, at least, not completely in line with how I am really feeling at any given time - is something that some people like, but is a far cry from really being friends with people. I have one friend who I spend actual time with in real life. I have 454 Facebook friends, who I mostly do not know well. I think it's okay to have them as so-called friends, but I'm learning that I find an emptiness in that situation, which would apparently only be erased by real friendships with people offline. I'm not sure what I will do about that. I am involved in some groups where I meet a few people or know a few people, but other than those two groups, I don't do anything that involves meeting anyone.
Right now, I feel that my main priority is to lose weight and get into better physical shape. To that end, I go to physical therapy most weeks at least once, and I exercise most days, while I eat about half as much as I used to eat (also half as much as most people eat). Losing the excess weight is extremely important to me. I know, however, that there are other issues I need to address which lead to "depression", no matter what my weight is. I hope that I will find ways of fixing those areas too.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
So today I went to the beach my with my mom. My mind reverted to five years ago, four years ago, bad days long ago, when I walked the streets of downtown on a daily basis. I don't talk about those memories much to anyone, but I feel safe in discussing them here. I used to wander the streets following the voices and the signals I saw everywhere, the cues. Some days I thought I was L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology founder) reincarnated, sometimes I thought I was a walking, human "E Meter" (that is the tool of the Scientology cult's scam, where they convince you a machine determines if you are telling the truth, basically). I had moved there because I thought I was a Scientologist. I read a lot of Scientology books when I was psychotic. Luckily, they didn't want the likes of me since I was broke and had little to contribute to their cult of corporate greed.
Oak Ave. is where I lived for a time, in a ramshackle little studio apartment, dilapidated, pathetic and terrifying. When I was at home, I always thought my brain was being zapped with electric currents by the "New World Order"/"Illuminati"/Scientology, so I never wanted to be at home. I went out and walked. I walked to the library where I thought I was reading people's minds, and absorbing information in books simply by looking at the books on the stacks. When I did actually read anything, it was about Scientology or physics or Manchurian Candidates. Most of the time I couldn't concentrate to actually read at all.
My mom and I drove by the trolleys today. There are trolleys that pick people up at the bus station and take them to the beach. I rode those trolleys a few times, during my adventures. I would get on one, because the cues told me to (cues meaning signs, voices, things people say, song lyrics, etc), and I'd ride it to where the cues told me to go. I never actually had anywhere I needed to go on the beach, but when you think you're a CIA agent or L. Ron Hubbard or Jesus, then you naturally think there are some majorly important things you should be doing with your time.
Once, I set off to find the home of my muse, Tom Cruise. I adored Tom back then. Tom would go on television and tell the world that psychiatric drugs were poison, which was one of the main reasons I didn't want to take them, as I believed they were, literally, poison, so I understood Tom's points. God only knows how many unfortunate souls have had their lives destroyed because they bought into the corporate scheme of Scientology and became convinced psychiatric drugs and psychiatric treatment were evil things. (There have been some deaths documented due to this.)
While we were riding by my old stomping ground, I told my mom a few, tiny things about those days. I rode the trolley all the way till the last stop once. It's kind of funny to recall that now. Sitting in a trolley, thinking you're reading minds and people are reading your mind and you're on a special mission with some important duties you must fulfill that are never, quite clear enough.
But some things I don't talk about, as my mom doesn't really like to hear about it. I used to wander the streets in the middle of the night, trying to stay away from the electricity zapping me inside the apartment, and looking for things I was hearing I must find. I once ran into a creepy man that tried to solicit me for prostitution and I had to run away down the street at 3 AM. I was skinny then, and relatively attractive, not that it matters. Any woman walking the streets at 3 AM is a target in this patriarchal society in which we live. It's not safe. But when you're psychotic, you do things that aren't safe. I did them all the time.
Today I went to the beach with my mind clear. I passed Oak Ave, the library, and all of the Scientology buildings I used to be drawn to. I wasn't scared like I was when I was on my missions back then, or when I was paranoid and thought I was being followed at all times. I looked at the water, as we drove over the bridge to the beach and admired the beauty that is Clearwater, Florida, a place people come to from all over the world, to visit this beach. I laid in the sun, and swam in the Gulf of Mexico, and got sand on my feet and in my shoes, and I enjoyed it. I wasn't followed, or zapped. I wasn't hearing any voices, or hearing double speak, or seeing cues, or visual hallucinations. I knew I was safe, finally, now, in that same spot where I was not safe at all years ago. I noticed the bad memories that came to mind - the things I am not comfortable discussing even on this blog - and I let the memories go, freeing my mind, floating away on the wing of a sea gull. It was a beautiful day.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Unfortunately, the only way I have been able to do this was to use a diet pill to combat the constant hunger that comes from my antipsychotic medications. I went to an endocrinologist and he prescribed Phentermine. I'm not stupid, so I realize that I can't take a diet pill forever, and also that when I go off the diet pill I am likely still going to have to take the antipsychotics for the rest of my life. What to do about that? I'm not sure yet. I'm hoping new drugs for Schizophrenia will be developed soon, and I know that there is one in the works. I can only hope that one of these new meds will work for me and not cause weight gain like the others have. I have to hang onto that hope, otherwise I'll be morbidly depressed and lose heart. So, for now, I am really working at this.
I do not just rely on these pills to work. Mostly, what is working for me is my own self-discipline. I'm eating about 1200-1400 calories a day, trying to stick to the 1200 as much as possible. I am walking 4-5 days a week, 30-45 minutes and when it rains, I go to the mall and walk there until I've put my time in. I tried to get my mom onto this walking kick, so we went to the mall together to walk yesterday, but my mom loves to shop too much, so that did not work out so well! Also, I am not eating a lot of sweets or junk food. I'm a vegetarian and I don't eat a lot of fatty foods. I know that the low-carb diet is all the rage, but I'm not doing it that way right now. If I have to do that, then I will institute that diet into my regimen. So far, I am seeing some (albeit rather slow) results this way, and I hope to continue in this vein for as long as it takes.
Kate, if you read this, I wanted to mention you inspired me to work harder at weight loss, and I really appreciate that.
Monday, July 06, 2009
When someone asked me recently if I missed Jim, I said "no", and I meant that. I do not miss him anymore like I used to. But I do miss the routine. I miss the assumed safety - or what felt like safety - in the routine. The routine was not about him, really, or about me, really. I'm a feminist and I'll be damned if I ever make another man's lunch. But when I met Jim, we were in a hospital setting. We went through the life in the mental health realm after leaving the hospital, together, and we clung to each other. I needed something in my life to make sense, and I needed something to make me feel "normal", and I needed something that felt akin to progress of some nature (ie, a normal life). I got that through my relationship with Jim. I even enjoyed doing those little housewife sorta tasks I never thought I would do for anyone, ever, because in those tasks I was filling a role. I was the good girlfriend. I was someone else's partner. I was someone who mattered to someone else. And that is what I miss now.
Jim moved out a year and a half ago. I haven't seen him since that time period. I have never even thought about dating anyone since then, but not because I was still attached to Jim. Rather, I was, and am, humiliated and disgusted by my weight, to the point that the mere thought of trying to go on a date with someone seems hideous. Who wants to date a person who weighs this much? Society would say, basically, no one. And how am I supposed to explain that the weight gain came from taking antipsychotic medications which inherently cause weight gain? I guess I could introduce myself as a person with Schizoaffective Disorder? A lot of guys are looking for a woman with psychosis who is obese, right? Hardly.
Partly because of my weight, I did not go to a family reunion that took place in Baltimore, where most of my relatives live (and where I was born), this past weekend. The main reason I did not go was a total lack of funds to take such a trip. The other reason was that I cannot get time off work right now. But underlying those was a third reason: I am fat now. None of those people have seen me fat, unless they've seen pictures. Those relatives remember me as the thin person I used to be when I had anorexia, and I didn't want to deal with the shock and the stares and the gossip that would inevitably come with being fat. The last time I saw one of my grandmothers, she was shocked by it and basically said so by accident. I don't want to go through that process with 50 relatives. I also don't know what those people may or may not know about my mental health issues, and that is a concern. All in all, things just did not work out for me to get there.
And what hurts now, really, is knowing that almost no one cared at all if I was there or not in the first place. I'm not very close to my extended family anymore. I became homeless in the town they live in ten years ago, and after that, I never heard from them. I also did not make much effort since then to be in contact with many of them, until I joined Facebook where numerous cousins of mine have accounts. I love my family, of course, but I don't know a lot of them very well, as I live in Florida. This adds to the sense of isolation that I am feeling strongly these days.
I miss the safety I felt when I lived with Jim. I miss the safety, even, of hospitals I was in (not all of them, but one or two), where I was able to be my full-on, psychotic self and have total breakdowns without seeming out of the ordinary at all. I miss, sometimes, being locked in where I couldn't kill myself so the choice of whether to live or die was out of my hands. I miss the camaraderie of some of the people I met there. Would I want to EVER go to another psych hospital again? Hell no. I definitely would not. What I am trying to illustrate here, however, is what it feels like in my life right now. I feel very alone.
Mental illness puts up this barricade between the people who have the illnesses (or as we say in NAMI, the "consumers") and the people who don't have them. If you come from a family where people simply do not talk about such things as psychiatric illness, then when you get such an illness your behavior will likely seem weird, bizarre, and any number of confusing adjectives, because the people in your family will not know that there is a simple, logical explanation for why you are the way you are. Just as this is true within families, it is true within the entire world as well. People with mental illnesses are labeled all sorts of things, all of which have stigma attached to them, and all of which serve as barricades between the person in the bell jar and the world behind the glass. My hope is that, in my life, I contribute as much as possible to breaking down those barriers along with the millions of other advocates and people with mental illnesses around the world.
In the mean time, I still feel quite isolated and alone, which is, in turn, causing me to feel very depressed. I know depression well, so it's not like I cannot manage this, but it does get tiring sometimes.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Hillary Clinton wrote that "it takes a village to raise a child", and I would argue that it takes a village to save someone's sanity from mental illness as well. For me that village started that summer, in that hospital. I had a case manager who came to visit, the mental health techs to chat to about things, the kind and caring nurse named Kim who gave me my Risperdal injections, the Nurse Practitioner who prescribed and treated me, the other patients who I was friendly with (in some cases, anyway) - one of whom became my first long-term boyfriend in a relationship that would last three years.
I didn't know then that I was healing, that I was becoming myself again, that I was gaining insight into the reality of my situation, that I was being saved from my own suicidal thoughts, that the medications would eventually work to stop the auditory hallucinations and the delusional realm in which I lived.....I just knew that I had almost no freedom. I knew I had people telling me what I could and could not do, that I had to have someone watch me shave my legs if I ever chose to do so, that I was locked into a tiny building in a really crappy part of St. Petersburg, and that I felt like I was never going to get out. I had been sentenced there for six months, under the Baker Act, a law which allows people to be committed to psychiatric hospitals against their will.
"The label of mental illness, once obtained," I wrote, "works much like a garbage disposal on one's life. Indeed, I thought my life was over.
In my mind the world was ending. In my mind, I was pregnant, I was in danger, people were speaking to me in code, I was Jesus Christ or Anne Frank (they alternated depending on the day), and I needed to die. The staff wouldn't let me go on outings at first, because they thought I'd run in front of a truck if we went for a walk down the block. I felt I was suffocating in this prison-like place, and I wanted out. I also was becoming increasingly aware that I actually did have a real, legitimate, serious psychiatric disorder and that it was not going to go away any time soon. This is what I feared the most. It was a fear I had to learn to live with.
What I didn't realize at the time, what I couldn't know then, was that being locked up in that little prison-like building, being forced to take medications I thought were poisonous, being forced to face the fact that I did not have a healthy brain.....this saved my life. I was, literally, saved from death by going to that hospital at that time, and I am, today, imminently grateful for the care I received there, for every helpful word said to me, for the injections, the meds, the quiet time, the time to regroup. And I came out of there swinging. It didn't happen all at once. Changes were gradual, but I definitely went out on an uphill slope and have continued to improve ever since then. I have, as this blog can testify, had times when I was quite ill again for months, but never as ill as I was back then when the diagnosis was fresh and the medications had not kicked in.
Then last year, I found out some horrible news. The SRT program was being shut down due to budget cuts from the state of Florida. When I heard this, I started writing letters. I wrote about how that program saved me. I wrote about how I had many other hospitalizations that did not work to help me because I couldn't stay long enough for the medications to work. I explained why a place like SRT, which offers stays of many months, was necessary for people like myself. I sent the letters to all my state representatives and county commissioners. They wrote back and said nothing helpful.
So, that brings me to tonight. NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) had its monthly speakers' meeting tonight, and the speakers were from various local community mental health agencies, including PEMHS. At this meeting were Chelle, the nurse practitioner who prescribed my life-saving medications in 2005, and Kim, the kind and gentle nurse from that time. I saw them from across the room. At previous meetings I had seen Chelle, and I had told her how much she helped me, and that I am doing much better now. But I hadn't seen Kim since 2005.
As the CEOs and operators of these various agencies spoke, I listened to the news of budget cuts, the closing down of needed programs, the strain from the economy.....a lot of bad news, and a lot of rigmarole. So I raised my hand at the end, to ask a question. "SRT saved my life", I said, "and since it's closed now, I want to know what you do with people who are Baker Acted and need to stay long-term in a hospital." The answer was that they send these people to Tampa, which still has an SRT program. So if I nearly die of a suicide attempt or something, and I end up in that situation again (which I most likely never will; thank you universe), I will be sent to another county for my hospital stay. A county where I do not know anyone, and where I do not live. What if visitors need to take a bus, as many do, to visit someone at SRT? Being in a prison-like atmosphere for months is hard enough without having the added loss of contact with family and friends that a person may have. My visitors (my mom, usually) were the highlight of my days there, when I had them.
But that was the answer tonight. That is the situation. We send them to Tampa.
After the speakers were finished, I ran over to Kim, who was beaming and laughing. "Do you remember me?" I asked, so excited to see her. "Of COURSE!" she said. I told her I was looking at her from across the room and thinking, "Hey, that's Kim! She gave me my injections!", and for that moment, standing next to her and telling her I am doing well now, telling her I've lived in the same apartment for three years, and things are okay....for that moment I felt myself go back to 2005. I visited the Jennifer locked up in the room that was like a prison cell, with that metal bed, writing in my journal about how much I hated what was being done to me in that place....and I told her, "You will make it. It will be okay. And this will save your life."
I cried the whole way home. It meant a lot to me to see Kim and Chelle, and I cried for the person I was who was so confused and so terrified for so long back then. I cried for all the people who will never see the inside of that safe, prison-like room where I got better. I cried because I'm angry that the government of this country does not consider mental health care to be a priority and that the state of Florida continually cuts back necessary programs. But I cried, also, because of happiness.
The URL for this blog has been outdated for about four years(!), because it was created when I was very suicidal, and before I was diagnosed correctly (so I thought I was "sane", hence "suicidalyetsane"). Well, it's high time that be changed, just in case any new people who come here are curious as to why it sounds like I'm suicidal all the time from the URL.
The new URL for this blog is: http://www.suicidalnomore.com/
Unfortunately insidemymind.com was already taken, so I decided this was the next best thing.
Please save the new URL to your favorites if you plan on coming back, as I am not sure how long the old URL will continue to work.