Saturday, October 15, 2011

Preoccupation, Walmart, and College

There is an article I read on Latuda, that said your scores on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) improve on this drug. Of course, that research was, I think, done by the drug company. So take it with a few dosages of salt. I did look up the PANSS, and just thought I would mention it here in case anyone else (like myself) had never heard of it before. It is used to evaluate people with Schizophrenia, and I imagine Schizoaffective Disorder too. It's not like there is some psychiatric researcher who will be interviewing me any time soon, so I just used it as an evaluation tool for myself. (I need very badly to understand exactly what is wrong with my brain so that I will not just think I am crazy and that all is lost. I must know that there is a disease process that might be treated.)

On the PANSS, there is a symptom listed called "Preoccupation", and while I recognized myself in many of the other symptoms listed, I recognized this one as the most prominent problem in my life at the present time. The reason that this is the worst problem is that this is affecting my ability to read more than anything else, and also preventing me from doing a lot of everyday activities, more than anything else is (besides withdrawal).

Preoccupation is defined in the PANSS as: "Absorption with internally generated thoughts and feelings and with autistic experiences to the detriment of reality orientation and adaptive behavior." I am in this range: "Moderate - Patient occasionally appears selfabsorbed, as if daydreaming or involved with
internal experiences, which interferes with communication to minor extent.
Moderate severe - Patient often appears to be engaged in autistic experiences, as evidenced by behaviors that significantly intrude on social and communicational functions, such as the presence of a vacant stare, muttering or talking to oneself, or involvement with stereotyped motor patterns."

What I am doing, all the time, every day, is thinking. I know that I have said I am having all these cognitive problems where I cannot think. That is to say, more accurately, I cannot think about things I would normally be thinking about, or that I should be thinking about. I can think a lot, and do, about specific things, the same things, over and over again. I am ruminating all the time. I spend many hours doing this, while accomplishing nothing. It is ruining my life, because when I sit down to study, among the other things that go wrong with my brain, this problem dominates, and it is impossible to read because I cannot divert my thoughts from their preoccupied state.

This is sort of like obsessional thinking, which I have had in the past. But it is more akin to being locked inside an internal world, where all I think about is my little world. I ruminate about conversations with people, and about what is wrong with my brain and the way that I am not functioning, and what I can possibly do about it. When I am able to read, I read things about people getting through college with mental illnesses, or about research on Schizophrenia - there isn't that much research I've seen on Schizoaffective Disorder lately. I cannot read in depth research or understand things about what specific neurotransmitters do which things in the brain, but I can at least scan through articles. I am doing this because I am desperate for help.

I ruminate to the point that I can sit somewhere, with a vacant stare, just staring straight ahead, for hours. I do it in the libraries, at home, at work, wherever. It makes me look abnormal, and it makes me feel very frustrated that  I am doing this. But it is like something is just not clicking neurochemically and I cannot just snap myself out of this.

People have made remarks at work that I am staring off into space or that I look like I am "dreaming". This would happen more often if I didn't work sitting in a cubicle where most people can't see what I am looking at. Haha.

On the other hand, when I do venture out into the world, I am overcome by sensory input which my brain misinterprets. For example, if people are talking around me somewhere, I start to think they are all talking to me, and that they are telling me things that I should be doing or asking me questions, which I will sometimes start responding to telepathically. I know that this is psychosis, and this is the main reason that I know that I am experiencing psychosis right now, rather than depression without psychosis.

I ventured into Walmart today, and you can find other posts on this site where I have written about the dangers of going to Walmart with Schizophrenia or related disorders. In Walmart a person is overcome by sounds, lights, tons of things to choose from to purchase, signs on everything, constant people moving around with their scooters and carts, and when my brain isn't doing well, I simply can't handle a Walmart. When my brain is doing better, I can go to Walmart every week, which I was doing for a while. It's not that I love
Walmarts, but they are more affordable than other stores.

Tonight at Walmart, I walked in reminding myself, out loud, what I was looking for, in order to make sure I did not forget. "Shampoo". "Make up". "Toothpaste" (I still forgot to buy the toothpaste.). I was trying to go quickly because I knew I wouldn't last long in that store today, and then I heard this kid say, "Mommy look at that lady," and I thought the kid was definitely talking about me. Perhaps the kid was not talking about me at all, but this is how it goes when you feel like people are talking about you all the time. I rushed through trying to pick up basic, necessary items, that did not require a lot of thought and contemplation, and got some stuff and practically ran through the store with my cart in order to get out of there as quickly as possible, actually saying, "Help" and "Get me out of here", out loud, under my breath, because in situations like this I beg the universe to help me. I knew that I could simply not tolerate another second in that store, and I was afraid there was no way I would make it through the check-out line. I did get the stuff, manage to go through the process of paying for it and getting myself to my car, and then, as soon as I got home, I lied in my bed, exhausted from this process, for about 40 minutes, before I could put the stuff away that I had bought.

This is how it is to go through life when you're dealing with psychosis. Simply going to Walmart will become something you put off ever doing. Simply doing little tasks that were a part of your regular life when you were not currently psychotic become extremely difficult and angst-ridden.

After I got home, I become again absorbed in my thoughts, retreating into my inner world of preoccupation which is very hard to escape. I feel that I am getting lost inside myself.

But I did manage to buy shampoo, make up, cat litter, and food. At least that much is done.

I don't think there is any way I can finish both my classes this semester. This fact is making me very depressed. I do appreciate all of the comments with your input and advice, a great deal. I think that if it was possible to get an Incomplete from my professor, which is apparently not going to happen, I would be less demoralized by this experience. I have already spoken with her at length, however, and gotten what advice I could from the tiny office for students with disabilities, and I have not gotten any information on alternative assignments that could be substituted for tests. Since I can't read the book, I don't know how I could even do an alternative assignment anyway. Maybe I could if she would be a little more flexible about this, but I did not get the impression she was willing to be that way. I also feel like at this point the pressure of these two classes is adding to my problems, and I am not able to handle them both. So what I am probably going to be forced to do is to withdraw from one of them. I will be trying to continue the other one, since for that one I already almost completed a 20-hour internship and I do not intend to have done all of that for nothing.

The idea that I could never really get better from this illness is very depressing. I was living with this belief, which kept me going, that I could get through this university in the next three years, get a BA, and then get a career, and have a life without poverty. I was really believing I could do that. But now I think perhaps I was living in a dream world. I don't know how to look forward to a future without any of my goals in it. This is a difficult thing to do.

1 comment:

In the Pink said...

Oh Jen...my heart goes out to you when I read your words, "I don't know how to look forward to a future without any of my goals in it."

I can relate to that pain. Can you believe I used to want to be an Oncologist!? I had to take Chem 1 twice just to pass. After having a mental break down while away at OU Norman I just kind of gave up the doctor dream. And yes it is depressing to have to rebuild yourself after failing. But you can do it Jen...you really can!

I know that school is so very important to you but it is not all of who you are. You are a charitable woman with vivacity and sensitivity along with a witty tongue. I love your writing.

As for Walmart...it is a horrible source of stress for me to. I sweat like a pig in there because I am so nervous when I go by myself. Oh to be mentally ill. LOL...isn't it a great and unpredictable life?

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