Friday, November 26, 2010

a few things I'm thankful for


It's Thanksgiving. I have to say, for one thing, I'm glad it's over. It's 20 minutes past midnight. Another chaotic drama-filled and at times painful family holiday has passed. And everyone survived. We'll be at it again for Christmas. I have a month to breathe before then.

I don't talk about my family much at all on this blog, and never have. There's a reason for that. The blog is known to some family members and, although I don't think they ever usually read it, I wouldn't want to insult them by talking about their perosnal details. I also think it's not really my place to talk about the problems of other people; this blog is about my problems and mental illness at large. So I won't go into the details, but needless to say, Thanksgiving was interesting as usual.

Now onto things I'm less cynical about.

I'm really thankful for the people who take the time to read this blog. I truly mean that, and I would not say this if it was not the absolute truth. I appreciate and marvel at the fact that people take the time to read my words, and some of you even take the time to write comments or send me email about the blog. It is so wonderful to have your voice heard, especially when you are part of a marginalized group of people that is often ignored. As someone with a serious mental illness, I don't often get my experiences validated by other people. The people at my job and school don't know about my illness, for the most part. I get to talk about whatever, or almost whatever, I want to on this blog, and that is such a relief.

It has also been helpful to find other people's blogs that discuss mental illness, and know that we share a common bond and we are all fighting similar battles, sometimes winning, sometimes not winning so much, but fighting all the while. We are a strong group of people. So thank you for those of you who write blogs about mental illness. Thank you for your honesty. I am grateful to come across your blogs. I wish that I had the time to read them more often, and comment more often, but I do when I can and I hope you know that there are people who read your words, and your stories matter.

What else am I thankful for?

If it wasn't for NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), I wouldn't have had the opportunities I've had in the past couple of years to use my voice and tell my story, in an effort to create awareness about mental illnesses and make an impact on the world. I really want to smash the stigma that enshrouds these illnesses, and create positive changes in society whenever I can, so it has been a great thing to be able to speak to groups of people about my illness and the effects it has had on my life. I am grateful for each of those opportunities. I have another one coming up soon; I'll be speaking to the staff of the community mental health center where I go for treatment and that has me nervous but excited at the same time.

What else?

I have two adorable, loving cats that are my children, and Princess Spooky and Ribbit the Little Lion help me to feel less alone and show me lots of affection. I'm grateful to have these little beings living with me.

What else?


I'm thankful for those basic necessities in life: food, shelter, a job, an income that is enough to pay my bills. I'm also really glad I have a working car, which has had many repairs needed this year but is still running well right now, and my life has been substantially better the past few years simply from having a car, compared to some previous years when I had to rely on public transportation. A lot of people I know who have mental illnesses don't have the money for a car, and I appreciate the fact that I have one.

Anything else?
I don't have tons of friends, but I'm grateful for the friends I do have, some of whom I know through the internet, and a couple I know in person. I'm also grateful to have gotten involved with the National Organization for Women and met some fabulous feminists there.

Here's More:


I'm grateful for the health that I do have, while I deal with the health that I don't. I had years where I suffered physically a great deal, in ways that I am not suffering now. I have a couple of good doctors and have gotten more information on what the illnesses are that I am dealing with, which has helped immensely.

There's More Too:

I'm grateful for the fact that I've grown up a lot. In growing up I've learned not to take things too personally. I don't allow my father's apathy towards my existence to hurt me like it used to anymore. It is the way it is; we are not close. I don't really understand why he doesn't care to have a relationship with me, but that is life. I wish it were different, and it isn't different. I'm glad that, as a child, I did have good years with my dad where we were close, and he cared about me and we talked to each other. It's not like that now, which does make me sad, but does not crush me. I've learned to cope with it, and to lower my expectations.

In growing up I've also learned to deal with the reality of my life better. I had to make a tough choice this year and give up on getting a degree in social work because logistically, it just wasn't going to be possible for me to do that. I adjusted and picked a different major. It might not be the right choice. I don't know if I'll regret it later. But for now I think it is the best choice I could have made. I am not going to beat myself up for not being able to do all the things I want to do with my life. I have disabilities, particularly a psychiatric one, and I do the best that I can with the circumstances I've been given by this universe.

I'm grateful I am able to put my thoughts into writing. This has always been my passion, writing, and I've never been able to communicate with people in person as well as I can in writing. I'm glad that I have been able to keep this blog up for five years, and that I have used it to help me make sense out of the situations I lived through. I hope that it has helped some people, and am glad to hear once in a while from somebody who says it did.
Here's Some More:
I'm grateful for my family - problematic though it is. I have some really awesome siblings. They are all younger than me, and they have their own battles to fight. But I am really glad to have them on this earth and to be living in the same state now, as they are. My mom and I have a complicated relationship, but I'm grateful that we get along most of the time now. I'm glad I don't live in Virginia, or some other state, anymore, isolated and alone like I did for three years.

I'm grateful for my medications, and lucky that they work for me. I hate the side effects. I hate that I'm 100 pounds overweight compared to the weight I was at when I started them. But I'm grateful that I am able to live in reality now, and not in a delusional, horrific world full of torment. It is because of those medications that my brain is functional and much more stable now than it was for a number of years.

I'm really, really grateful for my therapist and case manager. They have been there for me through many hard times, and have helped me because it is always helpful to have someone bear witness to your hard times and listen to you when you need a listening ear. They have helped me feel less isolated. My therapist has helped me figure out what was real from what wasn't real many times, and has given me a lot of good advice. I'm glad to have them.

Still haven't run out of things....

I'm grateful that I haven't been in a psychiatric ward or hospital for the past two years. I don't plan on going back to one unless it is a matter of life or death, and I'm happy I haven't been seriously suicidal in years. That's a big change for me. I spent a lot of my life suicidal and I'm not anymore, hence the title of this blog, which changed from "Inside My Mind".

Almost done now....
I'm grateful that I've finally gotten through my Associate's Degree and will be graduating with that next month, and, if all goes according to plan, starting a Bachelor's program in January. It has taken me many years to get to this point, and I'm really glad I made it through. Many times I've hated myself for being so far behind where I wanted to be in life by this point in life that I'm at - for not having a Master's Degree, for example. But I've learned that I have to stop comparing myself to other people because it's a useless, futile and pointless activity, and I have to give myself credit for doing what I can do within the circumstances I've been given.

And, finally....
Thank you for reading this.



Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.
-- Christiane Northrup

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude

Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow. There are many things I am thankful for, and I have made lists of them on this blog before. I will do that again. However, there are some things I'm just grateful to have survived. I had my share of scary experiences with predators who wanted to take advantage of a confused, psychotic young woman. Someone who offers to give you a ride in their car when you're lost and delusional, is a very sick criminal if they use that opportunity to force you to do sickening things. When someone takes you on a "date" and assaults you it's really traumatic for people who don't have mental illnesses, and perhaps even more traumatic, or at least confusing, to someone who is psychotic. Sexual assaults happen to lots of women every day. And so, this song is for them.

Lyrics:

"Gratitude"
thank you
for letting me stay here
thank you for taking me in
thank you
for the beer and the food
thank you
for loaning me bus fare
thank you for showing me around
that was a very kind thing to do
thank you
for the use of the clean towel
thank you for half of your bed
we can sleep here like brother and sister,
you said

but you changed the rules
in an hour or two
and I don't know what you
and your sisters do
but please don't
please stop
this is not my obligation
what does my body have to do
with my gratitude?

look at you
little white lying
for the purpose of justifying
what you're trying to do
I know that you feel my resistance
I know that you heard what I said
otherwise you wouldn't need the excuse

thank you
for letting me stay here
thank you for taking me in
I don't know where else
I would have turned
but I don't come and go
like a pop song
that you can play incessantly
and then foget when it's gone
you can't write me off
and you don't turn me on

so don't change the rules
in an hour or two
I don't know what you and your
sisters do
but please don't
please stop
this is not my obligation
what does my body have to do
with my gratitude?

-Ani Difranco


Monday, November 22, 2010

suicide, young people, and getting through


Last week, as part of the "Great American Teach-In", I spoke to high school students at an "alternative" school about mental illness. NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) through its Breaking the Silence Program has an agreement with the school system in my county, and I am now part of that program. I spoke along with Dick, who has been doing these speeches for some years as he has a daughter with a mental illness. The school where we were is a place where students are sent when they are expelled from all the other schools, or when they are sent to the juvenile detention center and released. It is located directly across the street from the county jail. Students can stay there until they graduate, or until they become 24 years old.

I was nervous about doing this because I had not spoken in a school before, and I also thought that it would be difficult to keep the students interested in what we had to say for an hour an a half (the length of each class). Some, of course, were not interested, and slept right through the whole presentation. But others paid attention, and even spoke up about their own mental illnesses, or the medications they take. I discussed my high school era depression. That was my first mental illness diagnosis, Major Depression. I described what depression feels like, something I am sure many of these students know from first-hand experience, and also how I had an addiction to cutting, and anorexia, long before I developed Schizoaffective Disorder. I told them how I was first diagnosed with depression after a suicide attempt. I told them about my years spent psychotic and other suicide attempts. We stressed the following facts:

-Suicide is the third leading cause of death among high school students.
-Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students
.


The teacher in our last class talked about a student at the school who hung himself last year. She also stated that students discuss mental health issues and suicide in their papers for her English classes sometimes. She said that she has had students leave suicide notes on her desk. She was also very adamant about being glad we were there to talk about mental health.

Suicide is a huge problem. I remember my years when I would contemplate death, romanticize death, read depressing poetry by authors who killed themselves, and sometimes think, that is the way I should go out. That was long before I became psychotic. Dick asked me how many times I tried to kill myself, and I said, I don't remember. I think about seven or eight. I was suicidal without doing the act for much of my teenage years and my early 20's.

To a certain extent, some of my suicide attempts were a cry for help. The ones where I overdosed on pills - I think a part of me was just begging for help, and didn't know how to get it.

Last night I was in the emergency room because of a stupid mistake I made. I forgot to get my Klonopin prescription refilled and couldn't get it because the community mental health center is closed on the weekend with no on-call doctors. As it's a controlled substance, I couldn't get another pharmacy to fill it for me even though I go there every week. I get my Klonopin at the mental health center pharmacy because it's cheaper there and it's not covered by insurance. Everything else, I get at the regular pharmacy which is open at night and on weekend. If you've been on Klonopin for many years, as I have, you can't simply not take it for a couple days. Not taking it means going through serious withdrawals. I was told by my doctor in the past, and also the pharmacist, to go to the ER if I ended up in this situation. My memory of the last time this happened made me decide that I would rather go to the ER and wait for it for hours than suffer through the physical and mental sickness and loss of my ability to function which would occur if I just skipped it for a couple days.

Sitting in the ER, hoping to get out as quickly as possible, I recalled the times when I was suicidal or psychotic, or really physically ill, and would be in ERs for hours thinking that I was going to get some help. The truth is, you don't get much help in an ER unless you have broken limbs or a heart attack. It is not the place to go for chronic conditions. But it IS the place to go when you're suicidal. Which is how I ended up there on numerous occasions. As I sat there the other night, I thought, you know, I could choose, easily to go back to that horrid life. I never would choose to do so. But I could. I could decide to stop my medications, and that would be all it would take. I'd be suicidal again in no time. I'd be psychotic too. And I'd be in the hospital. I think sometimes it's easy to confuse a hospital with a comfort zone, especially when you feel unsafe in the world. I sometimes catch myself thinking, when I'm having a lot of symptoms, maybe a week in the hospital would help me. But I know it wouldn't really. It's not really helpful for anything other than preventing suicide, in my opinion. I never got any other kind of real help except for my five-month hospital stay, in which time medications were able to start working for me. In my experience, regular hospital stays don't do much because they last an average of 3-5 days, and in that amount of time, psychitaric medications such as antipsychotics and antidepressants, do not take full effect. It takes weeks, sometimes months for them to take full effect. So those few days in the hospital may be helpful for a suicidal person, while not being worth much for a person who needs a medication. Our current hospital system is not set up to really help people with mental illnesses. They are useful, however, in a crisis.

Anyway, the point is, I don't want to kill myself anymore. And I don't want to go back to wanting to kill myself either. I am glad that I am beyond that point. I am glad I have progressed. I don't want to go back to deteriorating and giving up my life. My life is challenging. Working and going to college and doing volunteer work and public speaking is challenging. It's not a walk in the park all the time. But I'd prefer to be challenged than to rot away in misery waiting to die.

If you are suicidal, or you know someone who is, get help, and get help right away. You can always call:
1-800-SUICIDE
or
1-800-273-8255

anywhere in the United States.
If you're outside the U.S., you can find a helpline here.


There is also a page on this blog linked above this post that is especially for you, if you are suicidal. Click on Suicide Resources.The good thing about severe depression and suicidal urges is this: it goes away. Time really does help, and eventually you really do get to the other side. Then you can look back and say, "Wow, I'm glad I didn't give up my life then when I thought I wanted to". Because you'll be happy to be alive. I am.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I have few words but I will tell you why

It's probably mostly a hormonal issues, but I am feeling quite depressed. I could not function well today. All I want to do is sleep. That's all I feel capable of doing. I am so incredibly tired. My rheumatologist gave me a B-12 shot the other day, but it didn't help.

I start to think of depressing things when I'm depressed, because that is what you do. I was thinking about things that happened to me when I was psychotic. Things I rarely talk about. Bad things. I think some of that was traumatizing.

I also start to think about how lonely I am, and how alone I am. I have not dated anybody since Jim and I broke up which will be three years ago in January. I don't believe anyone would be interested in me because I'm so overweight now. I know how stupid and superficial that sounds, but it's also how the world works.

Sometimes I also start to think about how I'll never have children. I couldn't bring a child into my life. My life is already too complicated. I couldn't put a child through the huge amount of chemicals I ingest every day either. I won't probably ever meet someone I could have children with. I don't have enough energy - due to physical health problems - to chase after a kid. And I was never a person who had a burning desire to have children. But I'd like to have the option, at least, and I really don't have it.

I am considered really abnormal by some of my family members who don't really know me, I'm sure. My cousins do not have mental illnesses, as far as I know, and they are all married or getting married and having kids and buying houses. I can't even imagine being able to do all those things. I can't even imagine working full time with the mental health and physical health problems I have. Right now my Immunoglobulins are low because of Sjogren's Syndrome. I don't want to go on another medication though, so my doctor isn't going to do anything about that other than give me antibiotics when I end up sick. I used to take this drug for autoimmune diseases called Plaquenil but it has side effects, and I'm already taking an entire pharmacy worth of medication on a daily basis.

I don't like myself much. This is something that I think about when I'm depressed, too. I'm ashamed of a lot of things about myself. I did a lot of things when I was not yet in treatment and diagnosed that I would never normally do.

I'm getting older every day. My mom noticed I had one gray hair yesterday, just a reminder that I'm aging like everyone else. I missed out on my 20's because I was severely mentally and physically ill most of the time. Now my 30's are passing by. I do have a pretty full life now, but I don't have many friends at all. I don't have a lot of close relationships. And I wish I did.

I don't have anything very positive to say right now. It's possible my antidepressant, Wellbutrin, is not working properly. It's also possible the birth control pill I'm taking to regulate my monthly cycle is making me depressed, as such pills often do. I will have to figure this out.

I know this down time will pass.

Addition to this post:
After thinking about it, I decided to delete the rest of this post because I don't want people in my family read what was here about certain things that happened to me when I was psychotic.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fund Medicare Not Warfare: Fight for Social Security Disability Rights!


I connected with my truest self tonight. So I have a slight confession to make. My last post stated boldly that I am proud to be a Democrat. And that's not quite true. I'm proud that I know the Democratic party is the lesser of two evils. I don't tend to be truly proud to be part of any political party. In my heart, I would be closest to the Green Party. I've voted for Ralph Nader before. And then I voted only for Democrats. Because there were few options. But there is a reason I'm mentioning this.

In 2003, when President Bush II was getting ready to start two big-old wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I protested. I lived in Alexandria, Virginia at the time, and I was sick. I was not just mentally sick, but physically sick as well. I had been physically sick for years, and still didn't know for sure what the problem was, but I frequently fell down and would get to the point of passing out. I couldn't stand up for long without dizziness and weakness. And so, when I wanted to go be part of the Code Pink for Peace vigil outside the White House, I had to rent a wheelchair to do it. So that's what I did, and that's when I truly became an activist. I went to that vigil regularly for months and I participated in numerous rallies and marches.

And that's who I really am. An activist. One of my favorite quotes is by Alice Walker. "I'm an activist", she said, "It pays the rent for living on this planet". For a long time now, mental health issues and mental health advocacy have been a big focus in my life. Also, women's rights issues and activism for women's rights have been a big part of my life. But beyond that, when it comes down to what I really care about it's a very progressive way of thinking. I don't know that I come across that way on this blog. This blog is personal, and the personal is political according to an age-old feminist phrase, and so, I am writing a political post again. I only do this once in a while here. Bear with me, and please don't run away in horror if you disagree. It's really okay to disagree with people and still talk to them or correspond or read their writing. I've learned this as I've gotten older. I do feel old now, compared to when I was an anti-war vigil attendee and activist marching on Washington in 18 degree weather. But I'm also aware that I need to hold onto that part of me because that is a vital part of who I really am, and I don't want to neglect my true self. I want to live an authentic life.

Tonight, I had the chance to see a performer named David Rovics who sang at some rallies I went to back in those days in Washington. I hadn't seen him since then, but I'd always loved his political songs. Seeing him sing in person reminded me of my core self. I felt, at once, at home again. His songs were revitalizing and a great breath of fresh air in an otherwise bland political atmosphere. There has never been much real progressive, anti-war activism where I live in Florida. There's a little bit here and there, but it's nothing like marching on Washington. And I had the mental health issues on my mind, and that was a distraction. Work and school are distractions too. But I know now, from this feeling of being at home tonight, that I need to get involved in anti-war, anti-globalization activism again, or, at least, I need to connect more with other like minded people where I live. I don't have a lot of friends. Those I do have, who live where I live, don't have my political leanings and interests. I need friends who do.

When I made a sign in 2003 that said "Fund Medicare, Not Warfare", the war on Iraq had not started yet. We were hoping to prevent it from starting. Obviously that didn't happen. There was no "Medicare-for-all" campaign then, like there is now. I just knew it made sense. Fund Medicare. Provide healthcare for disabled and elderly people. Do not fund weapons. Simple common sense. I would later, over the years, find countless people online and in writings who agreed with that sentiment. Yet, still today, our government has officials who want to cut Medicare and other important, necessary social services programs. Now that the House has been overtaken by Republicans there is even more danger of this as I mentioned in my previous post.

Today I learned from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, that the Social Security Administration is debating changing the rules in Social Security to make it harder for people who have mental illnesses to get Social Security Disability benefits. Here is some information about the proposed changes:
What’s Bad About the Proposed Listings:

The specific problem with the proposed Listings, for both children and adults, is a reference to standardized test results and the scores a person must have on those tests in order to meet the new standard. The definitions of the minimum scores are arbitrary and exclusionary.

First, there are no suitable tests that validly measure ability to work, nor is there any research showing a link between the tests of mental functioning that do exist and the ability to work that needs to be measured for the SSA process. Nonetheless, SSA would encourage its disability examiners to use “standardized tests.”

If a test is used, under the proposed rule an individual’s score must be two standard deviations below the mean for the level of functioning to be considered “marked,” and it must be three standard deviations below the mean for the level of functioning to be considered “extreme.” So in addition to encouraging the use of tests that cannot measure what needs to be measured, SSA has created a stringent— and flawed— standard in terms of the score required to qualify. This change would drastically reduce the number of children and adults with serious mental disorders who qualify for disability benefits.


So, now please take out your own activist hat and do a good deed for yourself and other people who live with mental illnesses or other disabilities. We must let the Social Security Administration know that we won't put up with this discrimination. We must use our voices. We must prevent them from making it even harder for a person with mental illness to get the "benefit" of a poverty level income when there is no other way for the person to survive. Here is what Bazelon is asking you to do. Please do it:
Please ask SSA to revise its proposed mental impairment Listings —and please circulate this alert widely. The deadline for comments is November 17.

You should make the following points in your message to SSA:

The proposed use of standardized tests to measure the functioning of people with serious mental illnesses is a flawed approach, with no scientific basis.
SSA should drop all reference to standardized tests in the mental illness sections of the proposed Mental Impairment Listings, especially the requirements for people to score so low on such tests in order to qualify for benefits.

Under the proposed rule, every year thousands of people who cannot work would be unable to qualify for federal disability benefits.
When you submit your comments, refer to Docket No. SSA-2007-0101 so your comments are connected to this particular regulation.

To send your message , use one of these methods:

Internet—go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for docket number SSA-2007-0101 and follow directions.

Fax to 410/966-2830

Mail to Office of Regulations, Social Security Administration, 137 Altmeyer Bldg., 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235-6401.

Tell your government that funds warfare with no regard for its massive waste of money, not mention incredible human tragedy, that we need healthcare, and we need disability benefits, and we need the money they're wasting on weapons to be redirected towards helping rather than killing people. Tell the government to fund Social Security like it should, and stop this blatant discrimination against people with mental illnesses. Speak up and use your voice and be heard!

As tomorrow (today now, it's late) is Veteran's Day, think about all the vets who have suffered, died, or committed suicide due to PTSD and post-war depression, whose lives matter and how they should be brought home now. Now. And think about the veterans of another kind of war, the hell that is a severe mental illness, and how we need help too, we need to be rescued, we need a place of peace from the nightmare. We need to know there's a lifeline. A government should be about helping people live their lives, not limiting them or ending them. Living them. In honor of all the soldiers and civilians lost to all wars, I say, fund Medicare, not warfare, just like I said it in 2003, because no war ever led to "peace" or accomplished much of anything good.

You can here some David Rovics music for free (and download it too) here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dear Voters, Where are your brains?


Tuesday was an abysmal day for me. I was at the gym, watching the returns come in on the TVs there. As each Democrat lost their race in Florida, as well as the many who lost throughout the U.S., I cringed. I couldn't withhold my disgust and muttered a few choice words out loud since nobody was within hearing range. A woman came up to me and asked how things were looking on the news. "Bad", I said, "all the Democrats are losing here". "WHAT? You've got to be kidding!" Yes, Kendrick Meek, who I voted for and who was a pro-choice Congressional candidate, lost. The National Organization for Women had him as a speaker at our state conference last year. I was impressed, and he was on my side on all the main issues. Alan Grayson, a true hero who I admire greatly, lost. Alex Sink, our only hope for a decent governor, lost.

Yes, folks, in case you didn't know already, I'm not a Republican. I don't talk politics much on this blog, because it's not the main topic here, and I realize it is a bit divisive. But I'm very interested in politics, because they affect my life. And our governments are relevant to mental illness too. After all, it is generally not the Republican party that increases social services programs' funding. It is generally Democrats. Like it or not, that is the fact of the matter. I am not totally enthralled with everything ever done by the Democratic party, but I definitely vote for Democrats, and am not the least bit ashamed to say that. I would vote for the Green party but they hardly ever get anyone on a ballot.

Programs like Medicaid, public transportation, public health, mental health treatment, all of these directly affect those of us who live with mental illnesses in a very powerful way. I depend on the government for certain things, as do many people I know who are either on disability, or living in subsidized housing, or relying on Medicaid to pay for their healthcare. In the future, hopefully, Obama's health plan will be useful, although, it would have been much better for all of those who have any kind of health problem if we would have had a national Medicare-for-all plan come through the Congress, but that's a lot to ask for when dealing with the corporate-funded politicians who don't want to give an inch of anything to anybody ever, even if it is something as vitally important and something that should be a basic human right, as health care.

So, I wasn't happy to see the House of Representatives become largely Republican the other night. I'm never going to be happy about it. It's not the end of the world, and certainly, there are many limits to what Democrats will do to help people too, but in my opinion the more Republicans there are in power, the worse the situation is for the people at large. Most people are not wealthy. Most people are not business owners. Most people are not white (shocking though that is to many). Most people are not adequately represented by politicians, as most politicians are funded by corporate powers that be. The guy that just become the governor of my state did so with many millions of dollars he had available of his own money. He basically bought the election, even though he is a known crook who belongs in jail. And there's nothing I can do about it.

I think it's vital for people to vote, and I have mentioned that here before. I regret that I did not mention it here in the past week, when the elections occurred. Women fought for 150 years to win the right to vote in this country, before we finally got it in 1920, a year when my great-grandmother was alive and well. I don't take this right lightly. There were years when I was psychotic and did not vote, either because I was too mentally out of it or simply because I didn't have any transportation and was preoccupied with my life problems. But now, I always vote. I would encourage everyone to do so, whether you agree with my views or totally disagree with them. It's important that people participate in a democracy, if we can call what we have a democracy (I'm not really sure it's an accurate term). But if you look at the track records of what our government has done regarding programs that help people - programs that are desperately needed by people living with mental illnesses - well, it's not a very pretty sight. The track record is quite ugly. What funding we do get for mental health and social services is won through hard fights. If there were no advocacy groups, no activists, no non profit organizations fighting in this battle, there would be no social service programs at all, most likely - no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidized housing, community mental health centers, health department clinics. If some politicians had their way, all these things would disappear. As it is, the funding in Florida for mental health is dismal at best. We rank 49 out of the 50 states when it comes to mental health treatment according to NAMI. We can't afford to lose any more ground. But on Tuesday, we just lost a lot.

I'm trying not to be totally pessimistic about this situation. I know that there are people in the government who do care and who will do the right thing. They're just outnumbered, particularly in Florida. We have a lot of ignorant people here, perhaps a lot of self-centered people who don't care about others, a lot of money being spent on very ugly political campaigns like the one that just elected a former CEO who plead the Fifth 75 times in a court case over the illegal misdeeds of the healthcare company he ran, as governor. Luckily, just recently when I spoke at the conference on homelessness, I heard the Secretary of the Department and Children and Families speak, and he definitely seems to be on our side. He had good things to say about the need for funding for programs that keep people with mental illnesses off the streets. He wants to get funding for clubhouses like The Vincent House, a great place in Pinellas Park for people who live with mental illnesses. But he's not the governor or a member of the legislature, and those people who are have a lot of say over the kind of funding our programs get. He can only do so much. I am hoping that he does as much as possible.

As I look to the media for information, I am often reminded of how biased much of the media is, particularly such outlets as Fox "News". H.B.W. at his blog, Letters from the Sanitarium just wrote this good post about Bill O'Reilly making jokes about suicide. Bill O'Reilly is not exactly one of my favorite people. But Amy Goodman is. She does an excellent radio program called "Democracy Now", which you may be familiar with, and has written a number of great books. I have seen her speak twice, and got an autographed book from her this past summer. She wrote this piece on the way advertising influences the media's reporting on elections. I think it is definitely worth a quick read.

Meanwhile, those of us who advocate for people who live with mental illnesses, for poor people, for homeless people, for women, for gay people, for people in general, will continue to go forward, and fight the good fight. I found a good example today of folks doing this at the website Minds Interrupted, about theatrical performances created to further awareness about mental illness. Also, taking after the excellent educational program Minds on the Edge, which you should definitely check out if you haven't already, this year's annual meeting of NAMI Florida will have a "Minds on the Edge" panel, and I am planning on being there along with the fellow members of our chapter.

In two years, we'll have another presidential election, and hopefully, by then, the majority of voters will see that the nation needs progress, not another move backwards. Until then, I won't give up hope. The "Tea Party" does not speak for the majority of the people, certainly does not speak for me, and will not have success at taking over this government if the people with brains that operate have anything to say about it.

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