Monday, January 31, 2011

We wear the mask: the different versions of myself I present to the world versus who I really am


I present different versions of myself to the world, as I am able and as I see fit. It is my way of hanging onto the "normalcy" I'd like to call my own but can't completely take claim of.

AT HOME:

My apartment is a disaster. I have not been throwing things away, so there is general garbage piled up. There are clothes all over the floor of my bedroom in baskets and, well, just piles on the floor. They have been there for many months. I have not been able to manage to tackle this issue. I tried, once, but gave up, quickly. I have an armoire in my bedroom covered in spilled make-up and lotions and iced tea. I just left it that way, too depressed to deal with the issue, and anyway the light fixture has been out for months and I have no way of reaching it to replace the bulb, so most of the time I cannot see the disaster that is my bedroom enough to care about it. I tell myself I can't clean because it's dark. And when it's light out, I close my eyes or simply leave the room and don't go back into it. The Christmas decorations are piled in a box, except for the ones I haven't packed yet. The toilet seat cover broke off the other day, and then the toilet seat itself, and the shower curtain is totally gone because it had holes that grew until it was a completely worthless piece of plastic on the floor. So now I just take baths. The sink in the kitchen keeps getting stopped up, so I have a plunger in the kitchen I regularly use to try to fix this problem, because I can't call the maintenance people when my apartment looks like this. I can't let pest control inside here either, so if they come when I'm home (god-willing) and not when I'm out, I simply say that they can't come in today.

The living room is piles of prescription bottles, used dishes that need to be washed. I finally washed them yesterday but there will be a new pile soon if I do not make a serious effort to prevent it. The mail, unopened mostly, mostly junk mail, is piled or just quickly thrown in the trash. The trash piles up till there are a few bags, and then I finally take it out.

I live like a slob. It's not intentional, really. But how can I say it's not intentional when I'm aware of it and I'm still living this way? I can say this: when you are depressed to the point that you feel incapable of handling a task, you can get pretty convinced that there is no way to handle that task. And that task will remain unhandled. The problem will worsen. And then you will end up a display of a person on Hoarders, with all of America marveling at how disgusting and lazy you are.

This is the home I have. This is the way I live it. I distract myself here by watching mindless television, and spending hours on the internet, doing social networking or actual reading, sometimes even classwork. Occasionally I read a book. It's hard to concentrate to read here, though, in this mess.

The cats knock things over a lot these days. I leave the things on the floor until they become an obstacle to walk across, and then I pick them up. The cats trash this place probably because I do.

AT WORK:

Before I go to work, I straighten my hair, which has been washed and blow-dryed usually, with a flat iron. I find matching jewelry for my outfit. I put on a full face of make-up with showered body and brushed teeth. I eat breakfast, take my medications (which is how I function), and my vitamins and supplements. I arrive, usually, on time. There are days when I have extraordinary trouble getting out of bed, especially recently when I have extraordinary trouble getting any sleep. But I still go to work. Albeit late on occasion. I still go. I do my job well. I say hello to my boss, which she likes. She's big on people saying hello to her, since most don't bother. I sit at a cubicle and answer 100 -160 phone calls a day, with a friendly voice, usually, telling the caller exactly how to use the college website to become a student, or to register for classes, or giving them a phone number for who they need to speak with before transferring the call, always telling them, "Have a good day". I am not miserable at work. I am functioning. I cannot say I am suffering a major depressive episode, because if I were I would not be getting to work, most likely. I am depressed, yet, I function. I chat with my coworkers, when I can. I get caught up in reading about politics, and posting links to articles on Facebook, and emailing people in the organizations I volunteer with. I work on my classes to the best I can while multitasking. Sometimes it's hard, because I'm not my real self with the people at work. They don't know I have a mental illness. It is not discussed.

Until recently.

Recently, a computer tech guy came to fix some of our computers, and while working in my coworker's cubicle he began to talk about his wife trying to strangle him, and being sent to jail for it. She is bipolar, he said. Her whole family is "crazy", he said. She mixes her medications with alcohol and she has a drinking problem. I broke my silence this time. I said, "There is this organization called NAMI which I volunteer with. You can go to support groups there. My mother is bipolar and I understand what you are talking about."

This led to one of the most extroverted of my coworkers starting a conversation with me about psychiatric meds. I ended up saying, simply, "I have to take some of those". That was all I said, but it was an admission to something I normally keep private at work. I said that too, "I don't talk about these things at work". I was suddenly aware that I had opened up the real me for viewing and I was uncomfortable. We haven't talked about it again since. I maintain the professional, friendly me. I hide the dysfunctional, mentally ill, depressed me. People like you a lot more when you are functional, you do your job, and you don't complain. I like being viewed as a competent human being, and in our society people with mental illnesses are often thought of as incompetent.

The issue comes up from time to time. Somebody will tell me about a promotion I should apply for, another job. I can't work more hours and I can't make too much money, because I'm on disability and because I simply can't do that much more than what I already do. I don't tell them this. This is private.

AT SCHOOL:

At school, I am a public policy and administration major right now. I am earning a Bachelor's degree. I don't know that I completely want this degree. I don't know that I will ever be able to work full-time. I do know that I am old to get into a career in public policy issues or any related career at all. I know that I want to do non-profit work, and that I want to help people, and this degree may not allow me to do that. But I am doing this degree because it was the easiest one for me to manage to get, logistically. I didn't have to move to another county to do it. I don't have to leave my doctors or my job behind. I don't have to hunt for another dirt-cheap apartment to live in, which is not always possible to find. I can stay where I am. Living in this apartment for four years is the longest I've lived anywhere in all my adult life. I feel comfortable here, except for the fact we all have to move into different units soon for renovations that are being done. I feel comfortable because I can go to my mental health clinic and get my injection of Risperdal Consta without a hitch, and that wouldn't be so simple if I moved. I can also do this degree part-time, and I can't manage school full-time, so that is another reason I am in this degree program.

I am a good student. I get A's and B's. I sit in the front of the class. Sometimes, I use a notetaker or a tutor, which I get through the office of services for student with disabilities, but this semester, so far, I haven't used either, because I'm in a Bachelor's program now, and in the real job world, there isn't going to be any notetakers for me to go to. There are no tutors available for the classes I'm in now. The college doesn't provide them. I am trying to get by in these classes just like everybody else, with no extra help.

A brief glimpse of my true self came through though. In my class last week, we had to take turns interviewing each other and then each person had to stand in front of the class to be critiqued. People said I was friendly and smiled a lot, but also that I was insecure. My voice was very soft, they said. My handshake was weak. I seemed very shy, they said. These are not compliments. And of course, these are not news to me. I know these things about myself. I just like to keep them behind the veil that I put on for the world. I contribute to class discussions, and I ask questions, and I enjoy learning. I don't want to be seen as the insecure young woman who doesn't know how to give a good speech.

IN MY VOLUNTEER WORK:
I've given speeches this past year or two, in front of police officers, high school students, therapists and case workers. I have spoken publicly in ways I never thought I would be able to do, and I have been repeatedly complimented for it. These speeches are always warmly received. People tell me I am brave. People cry. People say I really made them understand what it is like to live with a mental illness. This is incredibly gratifying to me. I feel like I have a purpose when I give these speeches. I am nervous, shaky, afraid. But I make myself get up there and do it anyway. I try to do it well. And so far, I have not heard any negative feedback. In my daily life, my sister laughs at how tiny my voice gets if I am asking for something from a waiter at a restaurant. Apparently my voice goes up a couple octaves, and everyone finds it amusing when my sister imitates me with a tiny, squeaky mouse voice saying, "Hi, I'm Jenny, can I have an iced tea please?". When I give speeches, I make an effort when I speak to sound confident. I think I even convince people that I am confident. Of course, I'm not.

I've been given awards in the past year that I didn't think I deserved. I've written articles for the NAMI newsletter that I didn't think were any good, but they were printed anyway. I've done a lot of work, spent a lot of time on NAMI. In NAMI I can be myself. I don't have to explain why I have no full-time job, no husband or partner, no kids, no house, no Bachelor's degree. I am me, and I have a mental illness, so whatever I do well is considered an achievement. Things that wouldn't be considered so important if I had no mental illness, are considered more important in NAMI because those people know that I live with mental health challenges. I appreciate their kindness and their encouragement a great deal. Yet, I don't talk to many people outside of NAMI or this blog about what I do with NAMI. I have a father who isn't interested. Other family members who would never go to a NAMI meeting even though I've invited them. I know how the non-NAMI world views NAMI and mental illness. This awareness impedes me sometimes. Yet, I am passionate about advocacy for people with mental illnesses, and NAMI gives me a vehicle where I can make my voice heard and make a difference.

I am also passionate about women's rights. In the women's organization I volunteer with, I am looked at, I think, as a meek person, and as under qualified for the job I have. I probably am under qualified. I do not like having the job anymore because I feel that everyone thinks this about me, and they are just waiting for my term to run out so they can elect someone else who they like better, and who has a Bachelor's degree or other qualifications, and who isn't timid like I am. I do not plan to run for reelection. I wouldn't win if I did, and I don't want to in the first place.

I'd love to fit in with that group of women. But I've never been able to talk any of them, except one person, about having a mental illness, and I don't think they understand how this illness has affected, and how it still affects, my life and my abilities. So I haven't done the best job one could do in my "job" in this organization, and I can't explain the main reason for that because the members of the board do not talk about their weaknesses or problems. It is just not done. When I did express that I had felt hurt by the way some women treated me, I felt like a fool for having done so, and I think they thought I was a fool too.

I had joined this organization hoping to make friends, but that proved to be difficult. I was asked to be on the board of directors, and that proved a job that was more than I could handle. But I still try. I have gotten friendly with some people. I do maintain an active web presence as a feminist activist. They say that I put my chapter on the map because I created the chapter's website, put it on Facebook, and tried to help increase its membership. The other members are all older than I am, so they think this is a big deal. Really, anybody could have done it. They just appreciate me because I did do it, and that's nice of them.

CONFLICTS:

These conflicting edited versions of "me" cause my problems. I cannot be my true self, comfortable in my own skin, at all times in all places. I hardly ever feel able to be myself with other people. It is hard to live this way. I need to find a way to interweave who I truly am with who I am trying to be, to become. I need to be more authentic or I'm going to get more depressed. This much I know.

I think we all do this, edit ourselves, for others. I think we all wear different masks. Sylvia Plath wrote a great poem called, "In Plaster", about that:
I shall never get out of this! There are two of me now:
This new absolutely white person and the old yellow one,
And the white person is certainly the superior one.
She doesn't need food, she is one of the real saints.
At the beginning I hated her, she had no personality --
She lay in bed with me like a dead body
And I was scared, because she was shaped just the way I was


I wish that the world was more accepting of differences, more tolerant, more educated about mental illnesses. I wish the world was more kind, more welcoming. But it isn't. And so this is the way that I function in the world as it is. Perhaps one day that will change.

In high school, I collected theatrical masks, and hung them on my bedroom wall, their porcelain decorated lavishly; they were lovely. They were meaningful. I read the poem, "We Wear the Mask", by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, when I was studying the Harlem Renaissance for an American Literature class in 1996. I loved it immediately.

We Wear the Mask


WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!


I would like to feel whole again, without these disparate parts of me going in the other direction from where I really am. Yet, this is how I function. I cannot be me, and be depressed and also function. I must pretend that I am not depressed. That I am not having any auditory hallucinations. That I am not extremely anxious. So I pretend. I try to fit in. I try to be what other people will accept and what I, myself, want to be. But when you sit at home at the end of the day, all of this acting can make you feel very lonely.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I want to hide in a corner and disappear....parties are not for me.


I've never been good at making friends. Never. In my life. I've never found it easy to meet people. When you meet people, they ask the usual questions. What do you do??? Where do you go to school??? Have any kids???

I have no husband, no significant other of any kind, no kids, no full-time job, no career, no Bachelor's Degree, or Master's or PhD. And this bothers me.

"I have a part time job and I go to school part time and I'm 35 but I just got my AA degree last month, because I suffer from a serious mental illness that has greatly impeded my success in life, and I also have chronic illnesses that affect me in many negative ways".

I could say that. Obviously, I wouldn't say that. That would chase people away faster than if I sneezed in their face.

I know I am not supposed to compare myself. But there is one thing that has always mattered to me. College. Academics. I grew up believing I would go to graduate school. I grew up knowing I would go to some school, a difficult, good school. And I went to a community college instead.

During my 1990's years at the community college, I met an awesome professor who has since become a friend. He and his wife are very kind to me, and he has been my email pal now since 1997. He has even fixed my car for me and given me automobile mechanics advice. He has been unbelievably understanding about my illness, when NOBODY else I was friends with ever was. I have talked to him a million times about things because I had a need to trust somebody, and I trusted him because he was trustworthy. He always has treated me with respect, and encouraged me to keep going with school, and told me I'm intelligent and I write well. I would have given up on college a long time ago if it were not for this professor.

So tonight, there was a party at this professor's house. He got a Fulbright Scholarship and they wanted to celebrate that, and I was invited. I am not comfortable meeting socially with people who I feel are "better" than me. I am really not comfortable in groups of people who all know each other and where I am the odd one who knows only the hosts. I really did not want to go to this party. I dreaded it. I was worried about what I would wear, what I would say. I was thinking so many negative messages, "I'm fat, I'm ugly, I'm stupid, I'm uneducated, they will think I'm weird, they won't like me, they won't want to talk to a student, and I will feel like a freak". And I pretty much did feel like a freak. But I went, anyway. I stayed for about an hour and a half, until I could take my anxiety no longer and I left quickly. While I was there, I was standing and staring at people who were talking to each other. I was marveling at the ease with which they simply conversed with one another. I was marveling at how relaxed they seemed, in their own skin. I was marveling at how these bright, highly educated people were in the same room with me, and I wasn't being asked to leave.

I stood, staring at people, and I tried to join conversations, humbly mumbling a word or two to act as if I was a participant. It was an incredibly awkward and painful experience that really highlighted my severe deficit in the social skills arena. One of the people there was a former professor of mine, and I felt so weird standing next to him thinking he wouldn't want to talk to me or even want me there, at a social event for his colleagues, so I said not a word to the man, and this made it very obvious that I am abnormal.

The one highlight of the party was that my professor's wife spoke with me. She just became a therapist and she knows about my illness. She took the time to sit with me on a couch and chat a bit, because I think she could tell how nervous I was and how I felt so out of place. My former professor friend also gave me a hug and said congratulations about my graduation last month. They made me feel better, a little bit, but I still couldn't bare the whole situation. So I left.

I wish I liked myself more. I wish I didn't feel like a total failure. I wish I didn't feel so overwhelmed by life. I wish I could keep my apartment clean, keep my dishes done, and manage my schoolwork, my job, and a social life. I am not managing well right now. I am a person who doesn't function like normal people function and this fact is etched into my skin. I don't know how to live like normal people live. I know, we're not supposed to use the word "normal". But this is how I feel. I am not normal. I never was. I never will be.

I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of being alone all the time because alone is the only way I know how to be. My therapist claims that this is because I am intelligent and "gifted people" have a hard time socializing with others. I know that's not correct because, as has been made painstakingly obvious tonight, I can't make friends with intelligent people either.

Of course it's elitist to think you need a college degree to be an okay person. I just want to feel like my life has meaning; like I have accomplished something; like I'm not a failure. I feel so much like a failure. And it really hurts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

For those who did not survive...the slaughter of people with mental illnesses


An exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, called "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" is currently in Jacksonville, which is about 5 hours from where I live. I will probably not get there to see it, because of my car not being young and healthy enough, but I would like to. It is about the slaughter and the medical "experiments" done (ie, genocide and heinous torture) on people with disabilities, including young children, during the Holocaust. A person like myself, with multiple physical illnesses and a diagnosed serious psychiatric disease would have been tortured and/or killed during this time period in parts of Europe. I wouldn't have stood a chance.

From the exhibit website: From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany carried out a campaign to "cleanse" German society of individuals viewed as biological threats to the nation's "health." Enlisting the help of physicians and medically trained geneticists, psychiatrists, and anthropologists, the Nazis developed racial health policies that began with the mass sterilization of "genetically diseased" persons and ended with the near annihilation of European Jewry.


Won't you please take the time to explore this site? I promise you, you will not leave without learning something new, whether it be a fact of which you were unaware regarding what the Nazis did, or a simple short story of the horrors one person lived through. I only wish the website was more in-depth for those of us who cannot get to the traveling exhibit.

I remember when I was a teenager, and I convinced my rather racist, Irish grandfather, who unfortunately passed away in 2009, to take me to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, while I was visiting my family in Baltimore and we went to see some museums. I don't think anyone - except a NAZI skinhead Aryan Nation sociopath, could walk through that museum without being profoundly affected, for life. I was crying as I read the stories, and I have never forgotten the brief part of the exhibit then that mentioned people with disabilities who were slaughtered and tortured. I knew then, it would have been me, too. I don't think my grandfather came away with that particular feeling of personally being implicated in this history, of being part of one of the worst stories we have to tell. Though he was an avid viewer of World War II movies, I don't think he felt the feeling I felt that day in that museum, that feeling of, "this would have been me". Because it wouldn't have been him. We were different. I was labeled.


"First They came for the Jews"

-by Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one was left to speak out for me.


Let us not only remember the horrors of injustice, racism, and other forms of hatred on Martin Luther King Day (yesterday in the U.S.). Let us remember these atrocities always, and never, ever forget the ease with which they infiltrated our human lives throughout history.

Those of us who live with mental illnesses today are better off than we ever were before in the history of time, as far as I know it. In the past, we were locked up in the closets and basements and attics, left to toil away at scraping the wallpaper like in the story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, or left locked up, caged as animals in barbaric, zoo-like institutions where we were warehoused, or we had all manner of inhumane and horrific "treatments" forced upon us, from lobotomies to Insulin treatment, not to mention all of those who were burned at the stake for being mentally ill and "evil" and "witches". We have a long history of mistreatment and of pain.

It is no wonder that people are still afraid today to come out with their illnesses and face the stigma that still enshrouds us. We have come a long way, but we still have a very long way to go. This history of the Holocaust was seventy years ago, not a thousand years ago. It is unbelievable that human beings in this century allowed this genocide to occur. Unbelievable.

Like I've said before, this world really needs to change. We really need to change it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arizona Shooting: What Does this Mean Regarding Mental Illness? What Should Society Learn?

Since this shooting that occurred this past Saturday happened, our media has been spreading non-stop messages about whether or not the shooter is mentally ill, and in many cases people in articles I've read have been referring to him as a "lunatic", "crazed", "demented", "deranged", and the like, as well as saying things about his personality, his maturity level, and his intelligence, as if these were all related to his assumed mental illness.

It does sound, in some of the things I've read, like he wrote about things in a way that indicates he was probably mentally ill, and on TV I've seen people talking about his behavior at his community college where people assumed he was mentally ill. I don't think we should automatically associate a mass murderer with mental illness, however. In the majority of cases, people with mental illnesses do not commit violent crimes. NAMI released a statement the other day, reiterating this fact.

In fact, a person with a mental illness is far more likely to harm himself, or herself, than he/she is to harm anybody else. It is a fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst college students, and the third amongst high school students in the United States. That is a harsh reality. Why people always care more about murder than they do about suicide, I'm not quite sure. But regardless, we should not allow the public to automatically assume those of us who have a "schizo" diagnosis are gun-owning, potentially homicidal "maniacs". If anything, people with mental illnesses are generally more likely to be victims of crime than they are to commit any crime. Which is a statement I make whenever I speak to police officers at C.I.T. trainings.

That said, I know from personal experience that you can have command hallucinations that could cause you to harm others when you are psychotic. This only happened to me really one time. I was floridly psychotic in the time period around 2003-2004, and living in Virginia. I had come to assume, partially based on conspiracy theories on the internet, that I was under C.I.A. mind control, and the government agency was implanting thoughts into my mind. So when I was watching a public official on TV and heard the voice speaking on the television tell me togo harm him, I immediately threw a teddy bear at the screen and screamed, "NOOOO, I WON'T!!!". It never crossed my mind to actually harm this person. I immediately decided that I would not. The voice didn't say anything about how to do this or any details, but it was just that one phrase. And I never heard that message again, or anything like it.

If, say, I had been raised to believe that owning a gun was important, or that I should, for whatever reason, be violent if I so chose to be, and if I was male and was raised to believe that being a macho-man was part of what society expected of me, and if I was prone to constant voices telling me to harm somebody, it is within the realm of possibilities that I would have hurt somebody. But that was not the case. Since I can imagine this possibility, I can't say, "Oh, people with mental illnesses never end up being murderers". Sadly, in some instances, they do. But it is also a fact that people with mental illnesses are not known to be any more prone to violence than people without mental illnesses, from the research I have read.

I think that there will be, for many years to come, people who are psychotic. I don't live in a country where mental health research is a high priority, and I don't think that there is going to be a cure for psychosis in my lifetime. So it is important to consider that the way society deals with people who have severe mental illnesses matters. It should matter to everyone. If people are killing themselves, personally, I think other people have a duty to care about that. I don't think we should care only when a murder occurs. I think we should care all the time. But since many don't really care about suicide, perhaps the murders that have occurred where the murderers had a mental illness should serve to wake these people up to the need for better mental health treatment, support systems, funding for research, and social services.

I read in this article that Arizona dumped half the people who were receiving public mental health treatment last year off their rolls. That is a problem. When you cut funding for treatment, and people are left to wander the streets in psychic pain, psychotic, hungry and homeless, that is a problem. That is going to have societal effects, and it is going to have very negative effects. Arizona has already seen an increase in hospitalizations and people being locked up in jails since this funding cut occurred.

Further, it would be wise, besides considering the obvious need for more funding for treatment and research, to consider the environment in which we live. Perhaps many "deranged" people who do not actually have mental illnesses, but who would fit my definition of deranged, can watch volatile rhetoric on television or read it online or in newspapers and not get confused by it. Psychotic people can get confused by it. I know, because, when I was psychotic, the things that I read about influenced my delusions. The more I read about Satanic ritual abuse, the more I believed it must have happened to me. The more I read about Manchurian Candidates, the Bluebird Project and MKUltra, the more I believed I was a victim of C.I.A. mind control. The more confused I got.

When you're psychotic, you try to make sense of the bizarre perceptual problems you are having. You try to figure out what the reason is behind the bizarre things you are seeing and hearing all around you. This is one reason why people frequently believe they are Jesus Christ when they are psychotic. That would explain the bizarre occurrences. Miracles and supernatural powers might be behind it all. Or, maybe, if you're watching Fox News a bit too much, you might think the evil liberals and all the Democrats and progressives of any kind are behind your problems. It's not beyond the realm of possibilities that this would occur.

Which brings us to the issue of responsibility. I think the public officials with their hate-filled campaigns, and the teabaggers with their vitriol owe it to the rest of us to be more responsible with their speech. I think putting crosshairs over candidates you don't like on your website, is, plainly dangerous and wrong. And I think we, as a society, should hold these people accountable for the things they say. I think this recent horrific incident is a reminder that this country's hate-saturated media is pretty out of control. And words do matter. I'm not suggesting censorship. But perhaps companies should refuse to sponsor shows on networks like Fox News where the hatred is poured out by the gallon by the right-wing neocons every day.

In the end, the best I think we can hope for out of this situation is the possibility that mental healthcare will become a more obvious need and requirement to those who do not already live with mental illnesses and understand why it's important. I'm not really believing that's going to happen right now, though. I read that Congress is talking about putting Plexiglas around their office building, and people are talking about how public officials need better security all across the media right now. To me, the need for better mental health treatment should be blatantly obvious here to everyone, but that, sadly, does not seem to be the case.

Another possible good thing that could happen would be better gun control laws. Why anybody would be against gun control is beyond me. Guns kill people every day here, and it is a problem that countries where you're not allowed to own a gun do not have. There is no real reason why you would need a gun if you're not intending to kill something, and I personally don't think anybody needs to kill an animal to survive. But even if you did need to kill animals, you certainly don't need semi-automatic weapons that can fire off 31 shots in a few minutes to do it.

Let's hope that there is some positive outcome to this most recent nightmare. I do hope that it will wake some people up. I doubt it will really, but I still hope it will. It's really hard to have faith that there will be an increased awareness about mental illness after this incident, because there have been numerous similar incidents where the murderers were thought to have mental illnesses, and mental health treatment was not improved, and funding was not increased afterwards. It's really a sad commentary on our society that gun sales have increased around the United States since the shooting happened.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Unable to sleep, once again....and going off Seroquel

I have been tapering off Seroquel for the past three weeks. I went from 800 to 600 and now I am supposed to be on 400 mgs. The problem is that I cannot sleep. I don't mean I have difficulty getting to sleep. I really cannot sleep on this dosage. I have been taking Melatonin for months. The 3 mgs stopped working so I moved up to 6 mgs a night. My rheumatologist said this was okay. I was still having trouble sleeping, though, even when I was on my regular dosage of Seroquel. Now on this lower dosage of Seroquel, the Melatonin isn't working at all. I'm wondering if this might be because you're not supposed to take Melatonin every night for months, as the nurse who gives me my Risperdal Consta injections just told me the other day. I didn't realize that your body will stop making it's own Melatonin if you are taking it every night for a long time. The nurse didn't know if a few months was a long time or not, though.

So I started taking Tylenol PM (the generic kind) a few nights ago. It is now also not working. I have tried everything in the past for sleep, in my life. I hate telling people I have trouble sleeping, because everybody thinks they have the answer to that problem, and no one really seems to understand severe insomnia that is resistant to all the normal remedies. Years ago, when I was manic, I went five or six days without sleep, literally without any sleep. I took like six Benadryls at night trying to knock myself out, and I did not sleep at all. So now that this problem is BACK, I'm not too happy about it. I finally do fall asleep eventually in the morning, but it's not early enough to get enough sleep before going to work.

I have stopped drinking regular iced tea in the afternoons and evenings. Switching to decaf did not help me get to sleep at all. I don't drink Diet Coke at night anymore, so that is not the problem. I don't drink anything else with caffeine. I have tried eating bananas, as my case manager said was her recommendation. In the past, in my life, I have been on many medications to help me sleep, as well as trying all sorts of old wives' tales like Chamomile tea, and natural remedies like Valerian Root. But when I am like this, like I have been the past couple weeks, it does not matter what I try. Nothing works. I simply am awake all night. It was not a big problem last week, because the college where I work was closed and I was off work all week. This week, I am back at work. Next week, I will also be back in school. So right now, this insomnia is a big problem.

Besides being unable to sleep, I've been lacking motivation and feeling rather depressed - more than usual. I simply cannot make myself clean my apartment like I need to. I can't believe that I haven't done what so badly needs to be done around here, but the thought of starting to work on it overwhelms me every day, and I give up before I start. Generally, when I am living in squalor like this, it's because depression has come back to visit me once more. And who likes to live with depression? I hate it.

As much as I want to be rid of Seroquel, I can see that even the slightest lowering of it's dose has already created me problems. I don't know what I'm going to do starting tomorrow when I will have to be on 400 a night and no more. I know I'll be up all night, even worse probably than now.

My psychiatrist's medical assistant at the community mental health center told me to take the Melatonin a few months ago when I first complained about this problem. I need something stronger than that now, obviously.

What I would give to be able to live life without drugs and vitamins. What I would give.....I am so sick to death of relying on these pills to be able to function. I am so sick of needing more pills as more medical problems develop. I am so sick of not being able to simply, eat, sleep, and live like everybody else without being heavily medicated.

I chose to stay on my Risperdal Consta injections, when my doctor (ARNP actually) said that I could go off either that or Seroquel. This is because my therapist and I have both noticed over the past three years that when I am on these injections, I do well. When I am not on them, I am psychotic. Simple as that. When I am on pills, probably my body is not absorbing them properly in the first place because of inflammation due to my autoimmune conditions. I was told by a gastroenterologist last year, after he gave me an endoscopy, that I had inflammation in my stomach. Inflammation is actually a much bigger problem than I previously realized.

My therapist believes that my chronic diarrhea problem (*I hate talking about this stuff and apologize for mentioning it, but I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome in 1996 or 97) and the inflammation are preventing my medications from being properly digested. Except for the injection, because that doesn't go through my stomach. We both thought for a while that I might have Celiac Disease, but when I got that endoscopy, the gastro doc convinced me that I definitely did not have Celiac. I chose to believe him, given that the alternative would be to embark on a lifelong Gluten-free diet just to see if it might help me, not knowing if it really would. I am, however, taking probiotics now, to see if that helps resolve my digestive issues.

In a new book I just bought about prediabetes, called Stop Prediabetes Now, the authors state that inflammation is also related to prediabetes and diabetes, and that inflammation is the main cause of heart disease, and leads to heart attacks, plus a greater risk of getting cancer. I am starting to think that this inflammation I have needs to be directly addressed and it is not being addressed at all right now. I have an as-needed prescription for an anti-inflammatory drug, Naproxen, but because that pill destroys your digestive system over time, I almost never take it.

So here I am at 1:45 A.M. wide awake. This really sucks, and I do not know what to do about it. I refuse to go back onto the dosage of Seroquel that led me to gain 100 pounds. I will not do that to myself anymore. But I need to sleep, and Seroquel, at that dose, makes me sleep. So I miss it for that reason.

My goal for the new year is to find a new body and move myself into it. Preferably one that actually works.

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