Monday, February 28, 2011

Blog Awards! New Winners & Need Recommendations

Hey Folks,

I recently started giving out the "I Choose To Live" Blog awards from this site again. Congratulations to Depressed Reader, In The Pink, Haley, Etta, Susan, and "J" - the most recent winners! You should click here and check out the descriptions of their blogs and visit them.

Now, I need you to nominate some more blogs, so I can continue this effort to collect links to quality blogs about people in recovery from mental illness, who have actively chosen to live with their illness rather than commit suicide.

Here are the qualifications:

-Preferably a blog that is updated at least once a month.

-Should be written by a person living with a mental illness who has taken steps toward improving their lives, dealing with their condition, getting treatment, or at least learning more about the condition.

-Should be a blog that educates the public, at least to some degree, about mental illnesses. It doesn't have to be a completely educational blog, but it should have some facts and information about mental illness or at least the symptoms the person has experienced.

-Should not be a blog that just talks about what a person ate for lunch and watched on TV, and doesn't talk about deeper issues in their lives. It's fine if the blog talks about a person's daily life, but at some point the challenges they have faced need to be mentioned.

-Preferably a blog by a person who has, at some point, contemplated suicide, and chosen not to do it, or survived a suicide attempt.

-You don't have to have perfect spelling or grammar to write a decent blog, but it needs to be comprehensible to readers.

-Bonus points if your blog is about Schizoaffective Disorder or Schizophrenia, but blogs about ANY mental illness are welcomed.

That's it! If you know any blogs that fit that description, please let me know. You can email me at I don't have enough time to traverse the blogosphere and discover every gem out there. I only come across a few every so often that I keep up with. So I definitely need your help!

What the blogger gets out of this is a graphic to put on their website, and a description of their site with a link to it from here.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Depression Returns, and: Psychic Abilities or Symptoms of Psychosis?

I'm going through some depression right now. It's gotten difficult. I think it's been there for months, but I haven't really been as scared before as I am now. I'm scared I won't be able to keep up with the ten zillion things I need to do, which I am currently not keeping up with very well. I'm scared I won't be able to move everything in my apartment into some types of containers for when I have to move, which is soon, though I do not know exactly when because the mental health agency that owns my apartment building has not bothered to tell me.

I don't have Section 8 housing; I pay regular rent, not discounted. And I don't go to this mental health agency for treatment; I go to a closer one that I like better which is near where I live. So nobody at the agency that owns my apartment bothers to communicate with me, since I have no case manager there, and they basically treat me like I don't exist, unless I call them. I haven't called them lately to ask about the moving dates, because when I called previously this woman in charge of housing was very rude to me and said she had no idea when I would be moving.

They're doing construction on the building I live in, and so, I'm going to be moving into a newly renovated apartment which might have new cabinets and new carpet - I'm not sure what all the new things will be. I'd just assume stay where I live now and not have to go through this hassle to move two doors down from where I already live. It is stupid and ultimately more trouble than it's worth.

I'm keeping up in my classes. I don't have trouble with grades. I have trouble concentrating, remembering, speaking in front of a class, and taking notes. But I have so far gotten good grades most of the time throughout college, except for a few math classes and the dozens of classes I had to drop years ago.

I'm not sure if this move is making me anxious and depressed. I feel overwhelmed by all the work for my classes, and all the cleaning that needs to be done here, and the looming move project. I feel really overwhelmed. I don't feel capable of handling these things at all right now. I am utterly exhausted, but can never fall asleep last night. I stayed home from work yesterday because I was going to be late and I just said "screw it, I won't go" and called in sick. I was just really too depressed to drag myself out of bed to get there in time. This doesn't happen to me often. I usually manage to make myself get to where I need to go.

Another strange thing happened to me tonight. I am a very skeptical person when it comes to spirituality and anything of the afterlife, etc., but I had many experiences when I was psychotic a few years ago that seemed to be supernatural. I thought I had psychic powers. In a couple instances, it would seem I really did. For example, one time I had these thoughts that I was Jesus and I was supposed to take this car that was there for me in this parking lot because I was Jesus and it was a Chrysler. I walked across this huge, supermarket parking lot and found the keys were in the ignition to this old car. And that was when the voices and thoughts led me to take the car.

Other times, I would think I was channeling dead people. I felt that I was actually dead myself and in the afterlife at one point in a hospital in New Jersey. I thought I was living through the second Holocaust to occur in history and I thought that I was Anne Frank. Once, I screamed something about Dachau, and I screamed it in German. Nobody knows what I said, but my dad and my brother both clearly heard me use German words. That has never been something I could find an explanation for, but I was interested at a NAMI conference a few months ago, when a woman said she knew numerous people with Schizophrenia who would speak different languages that they did not actually know how to speak, when they were psychotic. I would love to know the answer behind how that happens. There must be a scientific explanation.

But tonight, I had this experience, where I was watching this show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" about people looking up their ancestors. Kim Cattrell was the actress looking up her ancestors in England, and I was watching this and petting one of my cats, when I felt this strange little breeze on my face. This was odd because I was in my apartment where my air conditioner is broken and the windows are shut. I felt that it was a definite breeze at that time and I could feel it on my feet. I suddenly began to think that my grandfather, who died in 2009, was there present in the living room with me. I began to think this because sitting in a chair, petting his cat, and watching this very TV show, that I KNOW he would have loved because he was very interested in ancestry, well that would be what he would be doing at his house right then if he were alive. I began to talk to him in my mind, not out loud, and tell him again how sorry I was for the things I said when I was psychotic, and that I loved him and that he was a good grandfather. I felt like there were physical sensations on my hands (but now I don't think there really were) and that this was indicating that I needed to call my grandmother. So, still feeling the tiny, light breeze, I called her, and the first thing she said to me after we said, "hello, how are you?" was, "It's really windy here right now."

I laughed. I didn't tell her why I was laughing, but at that moment it felt to me like a confirmation my grandfather was making contact with us. I know that I can't tell this to anyone in my family; they would just assume it was a symptom of my mental illness.

But I wonder, what if that really is what happened? I will never know for sure. I might be getting a little delusional with my depression, but today I had my biweekly injection of Risperdal Consta, so that would be odd timing to be getting psychotic.

Perhaps the universe wanted me to know my grandfather is okay, or my grandmother is lonely, or something. I never had good closer with him before he died.

Then again, perhaps I was imagining all of this. I guess that is the more likely scenario.

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

It's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Check it out! Also, the National Organization of Women, of which I am a member, has launched this new project: Let's Talk About It. There, you can view videos by a few women talking about their struggles with eating disorders and body image problems. You can also upload your own video, which I would encourage you to do if you have a story to tell about this issue. More people need to hear the truth about life with a poor body image or an eating disorder. It may also be helpful to you to view the videos, as I just did.

I don't often write about my history with Anorexia Nervosa, but I nearly died of it when I was young. I had an eating disorder from around the age of 13 until around the age of 24, though for the last few years of it I thought I was recovered since it was not as bad then as it was in the earlier years. I hate a miserable existence with that eating disorder. It took over my entire life, and it made me think constantly about calories, fat grams, pounds, exercise, and what a horrible person I supposedly was. I thought I was such a rotten individual I deserved to starve. And starve I did. It's not fun to starve. It's not something that makes you happy either. It doesn't fulfill any real purpose, though, at the time when you're caught up in an eating disorder you think it does. You think you're going to get to that perfect weight where you will be happy. And for me, as for everyone else with an eating disorder, that never happened.

I realized as I got older that this disorder was a screwed up coping mechanism I was using because I had a horrible problem with depression that was looming underneath. I realized that it had a lot to do with self-esteem, and that I had to learn to live with myself somehow. I realized that the misery of that existence was not worthwhile, and decided I'd rather die than have to live that way for the rest of my life.

There was this woman who lived in our neighbhorhood, when I was around 19 years old, and she was severely sick to the point of looking as if she were in a concentration camp. I would see her when I went walking to burn calories, she would be walking. And I would see how her bones were all there was to her form; there was little flesh, nothing to get rid of. Yet she speed-walked every day, and God only knows for how long. I am sure she died eventually of her eating disorder. I wanted to help her, and I thought about writing her a note recommending therapy and telling her it was not necessary to live in that hell. But that would have been a bit difficult to do, considering I still lived in that hell myself. And it was then, after crying many times when I would see this woman, as I drove by her or walked by her, that I decided, "No more". I decided to consciously fight the eating disorder and that I would overcome it. I didn't immediately overcome it after making that decision. It took a few years, but I gradually got completely over Anorexia.

I'm not going to pretend like it was totally my will power that got me over the eating disorder, however. I think will power had something to do with it. Another major reason I got over it was that I got so physically sick, diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that I had no energy to exercise anymore and no ability to starve myself. I was already in severe, chronic pain with all sorts of infections and bizarre ailments. When you're so sick you can barely get out of bed, it really doesn't seem possible to make yourself sicker on purpose. So I began to fight for my health, out of necessity, rather than actively working towards destroying my health.

I'm not healthy now, but I'm not a starvation victim anymore. I live with chronic illnesses, but I manage them better than before. I now have Schizoaffective Disorder to add to the list of illnesses, of course, which I didn't have back then, so I guess that sort of adds to my list of problems, but I am so very grateful to be over anorexia.

When I was 24 and finally recovered, I was in a college class with a professor who read one of my papers where I discussed body image and my own eating disorder, and she told me she had a niece who she was afraid was anorexic and on the verge of getting very sick. I asked her if I could send her niece a letter, and then I began corresponding with this wonderful young woman, who actually gained something from my words. I felt like I had done something meaningful to help a person when her aunt, my professor, told me that her entire family was grateful for my health and that I helped save her niece's life. Her niece is now a grown woman, and I caught up with her online a couple years ago. She said that I was the woman who changed her life. I think she changed it herself, but I'm really glad if anything I have to say helps anyone, so her words were very meaningful to me.

Today, I'm overweight and have a different challenge with that, but that has nothing to do with being Anorexic when I was younger. I'm overweight mostly because of the medication I have to take, and partly because of poor eating habits. I got this way pretty quickly a few years ago after starting to take antipsychotics, and I haven't been able to get rid of the weight. So, today, people look at me and see a fat person. I look at myself and don't recognize myself sometimes, because it still shocks me that I'm actually overweight, after so many years of seeing myself as overweight when I really wasn't. It's hard to live with this situation, because I still have a hard time with body image. It didn't help matters that my longest relationship was with a man who told me he was no longer attracted to me because of my weight gain, and then he left me.

So, the struggle continues in a way. But I know I'm a happier person than I was when I was anorexic. I know I am a more free, alive person than I was then. My heart goes out to girls with eating disorders. Too often, I see people online talking about their eating disorders in a way that glorifies them as if dragging on the endless pain was some kind of goal, and that bothers me. I think one has to really make an effort to get over an eating disorder, and I know it's very hard for many women and girls to do that (and guys, too). For me, feminism was a great tool to learning to care about myself and value myself as a human being, as well as learning to realize that it is society that makes women think they belong in a size 0, and that they should despise their bodies if they don't look airbrushed. I blame society for this problem, and I am very angered by advertisers and the sick cultural obsession with an unrealistic standard of so-called beauty. For this reason, I helped organize a "Love Your Body Day" event for my local NOW chapter in 2009, and I will do that again if possible.

What I want you to know, if you have an eating disorder, is that you deserve a better life, and it's possible to get one. It's really hard to get better, but it is possible. And for all those who struggle with body image problems, you don't have to be dying of Anorexia to have a problem with your body image. It is a problem that we get when we look at the media that surrounds us and we see failure in ourselves for not meeting up to that ridiculous standard. But learning to love yourself, and learning to realize that the image of women you seen in movies, on television, and in all those magazines is not only not healthy, it's not even possible for the vast majority of the human race to ever look anything like that. So it's really not worth suffering to try to reach that standard of so-called beauty. Real beauty, of course, comes from within. That's not just a cliche; it's true.

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Open Letter to My Representatives in Congress, and an Important ALERT for Americans with Mental Illnesses

This is an open letter that I will be sending to my Representatives in the House and my Senators in Congress.

Dear Representative,

My thoughts are with you now that you have made this fateful decision to cut back Medicare and Medicaid funding, when that funding needs to be increased. I am wondering about your humanity and if you have ever taken the time to walk in another person's shoes. For example, I wonder if you have a daughter. Imagine if your happy, healthy daughter reached her twenties, and suddenly began to see giant bugs on the walls of your home and bats flying around her bedroom, when none of these things were there. Imagine if she began to hear voices telling her to do things, and constantly telling her she was an evil, horrible person. Or telling her that she was Anne Frank, or Jesus Christ. Imagine if she was delusional and believed that she really was Anne Frank, or Jesus Christ.

Imagine if she committed crimes, like stealing a car, because the thoughts in her mind were so warped she thought this was something she was supposed to do, and did not realize it was a crime. Imagine if the images, voices, and thoughts she was having all told her to kill herself, so she took an overdose of pills. Imagine this happened again, and she took another overdose. Imagine it happened again, and she tried to drive a car over the guardrail of a 150-foot bridge, totaling the car, but being lucky to survive. Imagine if she bought a gun, a .357 magnum, with her Second Amendment rights I'm sure you enjoy protecting, and tried to shoot herself with it. Imagine you young adult daughter who was always a kind, and pleasant person arguing with the police as they took her away in handcuffs to a psychiatric ward. I don't have to imagine these things, because I lived them.

What would you do with your daughter, I wonder? She would need serious medical care. She would need to be in a psychiatric hospital for some time, in order for medications to work. She would need a lot of follow-up care after that with a psychiatrist who could prescribe the medications, and a therapist who could provide counseling. She would need affordable housing too - another thing you cut the budget for.

Where would you get the money for this treatment for your daughter? Being in her twenties, and having to drop out of college, and being unable to work, she would have no health insurance. She would not be able to buy any health insurance, nor would you be able to buy it for her, because she would have a serious pre-existing condition such as Schizophrenia, and you can go ahead and try buying insurance with that label attached to your name. It won't happen.

Where would you get the money for her care? Also, where would she get the money to live? Would you pay for her housing, food, electricity, car insurance, and all other bills while she was unable to work? Could you afford to do this for the rest of her life?

I assume you are a caring parent, who wants his daughter to survive. So, you would, in this situation, have no choice but to do the same thing that millions of other people have to do every day, and that is have your daughter apply for Social Security Disability Benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSDI or SSI). If your daughter is lucky, and organized, and can fill out all the extensive paperwork involved, and if she has a lawyer to help her as most people need, she might get approved for one of these programs. By the way, these are also programs your Republican Party likes to cut the funding for. You daughter would need one of these programs to survive.

Now, once your daughter is finally approved for SSI or SSDI, she will get either Medicaid or Medicare. And then, she will be able to afford the injections, and many pills she has to take each day to be able to function more like her healthy self again. She will have a community mental health center to go to, where she can get affordable therapy and see a psychiatrist. She might now not be suffering from constant hallucinations and delusions and psychic pain, if the doctor can find the combination of meds that will work for her. She might be able to return to school eventually, or get a part-time job that is not stressful.

Thanks to Medicaid/Medicare, and Social Security, your daughter will be able to survive. If she can get public housing, she will also be able to have a roof over her head.

But you want to take these programs away. So go ahead, take them away. Take away your daughter's lifeline, her only hope to ever have a decent life and be a functioning human being. Take away the very thing that is making her feel like herself again, that is taking away her mental torture that she lived with for years. Take away her community mental health center where she receives the care she needs. Cut the funding for that. Put her back in Hell. And take away the roof over her head while you're at it. So now she will have no income, no medication or healthcare, and no place to live. She will be one of the many mentally ill homeless people sleeping on park benches and starving.

Would you do this to your daughter? You've made clear that you would do it to me, and millions of others like me. So, I suppose you would do it to your daughter too? Or, when it comes to your family, do you have a heart? Could the God that you believe in have told your to care about your neighbors, and not harm them? Perhaps you will realize that all of the people you are disenfranchising are the daughters, and the sons, of someone somewhere. They are the brothers and the sisters of your coworkers and your neighbors. They are the people who work part time in your office, or at your gym. They are me. I work part time and attend college, because I want to have a productive life and make contributions to society. I also volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, where we spend a lot of time trying to educate the public about mental illness, the way I am trying to educate you now. I do function enough to be productive and happy. I am not in a torturous state anymore.

If you met me, you would not know I was ever psychotic and homeless and living in a mental hell. But if you take away my Medicare, my Social Security you will see it for yourself, because I will be psychotic again, homeless again, and possibly dead by suicide, all in short order. That would be what would happen to me. I know this, as I lived through this kind of horrible situation before.

So, what I am asking you to do is protect my right to breathe. I think I deserve to live. I am a good person who works hard at many things in life, and I have never intentionally set out to harm anybody. I don't think you should have anything against me. I don't think you should assume my life is worthless. I have a family, and they care about me, and they don't want me to die. Don't take away my life. Don't take away my lifelines.

Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and Public Housing are lifelines, and I fail to understand why they are constantly being threatened by politicians who do not understand their importance. Mental Health treatment at community mental health centers like the one I go to for therapy and psychiatric treatment are vitally important, and they save lives. Research into better treatment and possible cures for mental illnesses is vitally important and could potentially change the world and save many people needless suffering. Research could find a way to stop your daughter's illness. My hope is that after you read this letter, you will have some understanding.

Vote for saving lives. Don't vote for murder. Don't vote to put people onto the streets, psychotic and hungry and lost. Be humane. Please. I am begging you.



Readers: Please note the following alert on very serious matters for those of us in the U.S. with mental illness:The below is information I received form the NAMI:
Massive Cuts Loom for Federal Mental Health and Housing Programs
Action Needed!
R 1 Continuing Resolution Federal Budget Cuts for FY 2011
Mental Health Services

The House bill slashes $200 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a 5.5 percent cut below the agency's FY 2008 funding level.

Cuts $86 million (7 percent) from research on mental illness at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), reducing funding to $1.404 billion.

Special Education:
A $557 million reduction to special education funding.

Reduces HUD Section 811 program by 70 percent--from $300 million in FY 2010 to $90.36 million.

All House offices can be reached by calling 202-224-3121 (not a toll free call), or go here to TAKE ACTION ON THIS ISSUE RIGHT NOW!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Motivation: Finding it, Cultivating it within and Keeping it

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. -Winston Churhill

This past weekend, I motivated myself to get moving. I would say, "something motivated me", but I've been thinking about what that something might be, and I can't come up with an answer other than, I just did it myself. So, I cleaned my kitchen, fixed the problematic kitchen sink again, that is always getting stopped up, did a ton of terribly dirty dishes that needed be done much sooner, cleaned some of my bedroom, my bathroom (with help of a replacement shower curtain sent to me by a funny friend who read my post here about the ripped up shower curtain I hadn't replaced!), did three loads of laundry, and generally felt better about life in my apartment.

I tend to go into a state of feeling absolutely futile, incapable of creating the changes that need to made in this apartment. This is not something unusual amongst people I have met who deal with mental illnesses. When I used to go to a NAMI support group, numerous members revealed they were hoarders, and that was before there were any TV shows on hoarders. It is very common amongst the members of my family who have bipolar disorder, that they are extremely disorganized and messy. I do think it is partially a learned behavior, which I learned from my mom. I also think it's related to my mental illness. But these are just factors; they are not excuses for letting the problem get out of control. When I let the problem get out of control, it's when I'm depressed and overwhelmed, and I just, plainly, give up.

I decided this past weekend to stop the giving up part. I decided to take control of the reins again, and start actively working on these problems in my apartment rather than hiding from them by staying away from home, or staying preoccupied with TV and the internet and sleep when I am home. And so, I got some things done. I also studied, took an online test I was anxious about, got an A on it, and felt good about accomplishing something with school. So far my two Bachelor's classes are not very difficult. I have not had any assignments yet in one of them, however, so I am not sure how difficult it will be when we have our first test soon.

But I have this tendency to worry about assignments and tests, fearing I will fail, and then I end up getting an A. This is something I do frequently, as my mother has pointed out to me more than once. "You always think you're going to get an F," she'll say, "and of course you always get an A! Why do you DO that?". I suppose it is related to self-esteem, and of course I know I have problems in that area, but another aspect is that I put things off for too long. I tend to procrastinate, waiting for myself to come up with the necessary motivation to finish a project, study for a test. Luckily, I usually do come up with the motivation, right at the last day the thing is due, and I get it done.

But why do I put myself through this procrastination? It is that difficulty with motivating myself. Sometimes, like this past weekend, and tonight, when I went back to the gym to exercise for the first time in months, I do get that motivation going for myself. And in those moments, I can feel satisfied and proud of my accomplishments. Other times, I flounder, waiting for the motivation to come to me. And it doesn't come.

As I write this, I am watching a documentary program with Lisa Ling on the new OWN (Oprah) network. It's a show called "Our America", and it's focusing on faith healers, specifically one named Todd Bentley, and people who go to his revival church hoping to be healed from various disabilities and diseases. I am familiar with Pentecostal Christian churches and revivals, because I grew up in them. I also came to disavow that religion many years ago, as a fifteen-year-old, and I don't believe that there is such a thing as a real faith healer.

It's interesting to watch these people who do believe, though. I can see that they find their motivation through their belief in God. They expect that God will come and give them healings, miracles, answers to prayers. They get their answers from his supposed words. I don't believe, so I have to be more responsible about where my motivation comes from. Since no God is going to hand it to me, I must search for it within. In some ways, I envy these people of faith, with their speaking in tongues, rolling on the floor, screaming out to Jesus, and believing all the while that they will be healed. But what happens when they do not get healed? Back to square one then. You're still dealing with your disability or disease, and now the ball is in your court. I find that eliminating that whole process of believing in faith healers can really just save one time and simplify matters for you.

Sometimes, I do hope that some strong motivation, and some physical energy I do not normally possess, will come to me. I hope that I will wake up feeling energized, not tired, but with Sjogren's and Fibromyalgia, I often wake up tired. I hope that I will feel a zeal within to hurriedly clean my entire apartment and pack everything up for the upcoming move. But that does not happen. I can spend a lot of time waiting for it to happen. What I realize more and more, is that I spend too much time like that already. I have to do more active motivating of myself like I did this week, to clean, to do school work, to go to the gym, to take care of myself and my life. I have to force that one foot to go forward, and the other foot to follow, no matter how exhausted, depressed, or overwhelmed I might be. I won't always be able to do this. My body won't always comply. But I have to try, and try more often.

A year and half ago I had lost fifty pounds. Part of the reason for that was a diet pill that suppressed my appetite and ended up causing me cardiac problems in the end. But another part was that I went to the gym regularly, really watched what I ate, and was very strict on myself. There are many memories I have of being rail-thin with anorexia and starving myself. I do not wish to go back to that life, ever. But I do know that I have the ability to be more of a self-monitor now than I have been recently when it comes to what I eat. I also realize that because the medications I take caused Metabolic Syndrome and led me to gain a huge amount of weight which I have not been able to lose, the losing of it will be no easy task.So it's not just as simple as working out and getting fit. With Fibromyalgia, there is no simple working out thing that I can do. The amount of exercise I am able to do is very limited compared to healthy people my age.

But I need to do what I can, and for the past few months, I was giving up and I was not doing much at all about exercise. I need to cultivate a feeling of motivation in myself.

Unlike the people on this TV program, I know there will be no miracles for me. I believe that medical science offers me a lot of help, but there are no cures there either. I must take care of myself the best I can, and that unfortunately involves maintaining mental stability by taking the very medications that cause Metabolic Syndrome and weight gain. They are fat pills, and in the case of my injections of Risperdal Consta, fat shots. I hate them, but I need them at the same time.

Getting ready to move is going to take a lot of motivation. It is also going to require me to get good sleep and stay as organized as I can. I don't have the time to lose with wasted days when moving is coming up maybe next month. I need to fuel my energy into tackling this issue. There is no way around it.

When it comes to the smallest, every day tasks, for most of my life I've had this habit of counting to motivate myself. When I count to 100 forwards, then backwards, for example, I'll get out of bed. I do this when I'm feeling really low on energy and I force myself to get moving with this method. It works for me, and it causes no harm, so I will continue to do it when necessary, however silly it may sound to other people. It's like having a timer inside your head. I just turn on the timer, and when the time runs out, I get going.

I also use music to motivate myself. I play loud music when I'm cleaning, and at the gym, of course there is always loud, up-beat music. I think this technique tricks the brain into going into "active" mode. Similarly, I use soft music to help me sleep. I can't sleep without it usually.

So, to sum up this post, I think that motivation comes from within, but can also be enhanced with various techniques.

Thinking about this makes me wonder what others reading this do to motivate themselves, or where they find motivation in the world, if from somewhere outside themselves. So where do you find it? Do you have trouble getting, or staying, motivated? I'd be interested to know!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

"Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness", psychiatry as an imperfect science

"Take schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: For more than a century, those two illnesses have occupied separate branches of the psychiatric taxonomy. But research suggests that the same genetic factors predispose people to both illnesses, a discovery that casts doubt on whether this fundamental division exists in nature or only in the minds of psychiatrists."
-Gary Greenberg, Wired Magazine

As someone whose has been diagnosed both with Bipolar Disorder and Paranoid Schizophrenia, and who diagnosis was later changed to Schizoaffective Disorder (a combination of the two, basically), I take interest in the above paragraph. Apparently the formulation of the new DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in its newest, upcoming form, is fraught with conflict. Some doctors believe that there are all sorts of problems with this new edition of the manual. And one, Allen Frances, who was lead editor of the fourth edition of the manual, disagrees whole-heartily with the way it is being written and several of the new diagnoses in it.

His primary reason for this disagreement? New disorders and being created which will, inevitably, lead to many new diagnoses being given, and therefore, many new psychotropic drugs being sold. Essentially, a new diagnosis means millions of new dollars for drug companies. I have a problem with this.

Drug companies are, in many ways, the thugs of modern medicine. They profit on our suffering. They influence research. They influence the DSM, and they influence our leading organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness of which I am proud to be a member, but a member who is critical of this aspect of the organization. (Drug companies sponsor many of NAMI's fundraisers and programs in a variety of ways that are not completely clear to me, but for example, they sponsor our local fundraisers and newsletter all the time.)

I am grateful for my medication. I am not grateful that if I didn't have Medicare, these medications would be costing literally thousands of dollars a month which I do not have, and therefore, I would not be getting them. Not getting these necessary medications would lead to my death, as it almost did many times in the past, or, at least, to my homelessness and extended horrible misery, as it also did in the past. That bothers me.

There are many people in the United States who cannot afford their psychotropic medications. I have some of these people in my own family. If you have insurance, it does you very little good when the co-pays are too high for you to be able to pay them, so you can't get the medication you need. If you don't have insurance, the only hope you have is to get into a prescription plan run by a pharmaceutical company whereby they will supply you with medication, but the minute you get health insurance of any kind, you lose the ability to participate in one of those programs. So you have to forgo any insurance you might be able to get which you might need to cover other health problems. If you have an income that is not poverty level, you also lose the ability to participate in most of those programs. If you do not keep up with all the paperwork to get approved and to stay in the program, then you'll never be a part of it. So many people are left without medications they need. This is why we have millions of people walking around (and if not millions at least thousands), without the medications they need to function and lead a decent life. This is why we have homeless people lining our streets, suffering from mental illnesses, and not knowing at all what can be done about it, if they even have enough insight to know they are ill in the first place, as many unmedicated people do not.

Medications are not a cure-all, of course. There are many people for whom the meds simply do not work. There are many others who have no desire to take them and choose not to do so, believing that the side effects and dangers far outweigh the benefits. I'm not one of those people. I'm afraid of the side effects - I'm already pre-diabetic thanks to metabolic syndrome caused by my antipsychotic medications, and I am afraid of the long-term effects of these drugs which are as yet unknown, since nobody has been on them for a lifetime yet.

But I know that they have made a monumental difference in my life, taking away most of the psychosis that used to torment me, destroy my life, and eliminate my ability to fully function in the world. They have taken away suicidal depressions too. They have left me able to function as a person who is stable enough to do so, free of the torment of psychotic delusions and hallucinations that confused me and destroyed me in the past to the point that I was not living in the real world. Because of medication, I have a roof over my head, a college degree, a part-time job, a current college career, a few friends, the ability to do some volunteer work, and relative stability. I am not living a perfectly normal life, by any means. But I am far better than I was sans meds. I don't wish to go back to those days without meds, ever, unless some other method of treatment that would work for me becomes available.

Yet, like I said, I am afraid. There is much to be afraid of, and much to be skeptical about. I know there are increasing numbers of people who criticize the pharmaceutical industry and its incestuous relationship with mental health treatment. I know that many people are put on medications because those medications are new, and therefore are making billions of dollars for a drug company which pushes doctors around the country to prescribe them. This has been done to me many times. I went to my first psychiatrist as a teenager, and as soon as a new antidepressant came out, he put me on it. He did not seem to care what the side effects were, and assumed that if something was new, then it was inherently better - a fact I have learned from experience is not true, though it seems to be believed true by many doctors.

I think we all need to keep our fingers on the pulse of medicine. We need to be aware of disagreements like those listed in this article about the new DSM-5. We need to be aware that psychiatry is a very imperfect science, one fraught with discord, and our best hope is to educate ourselves as much as we can about our illnesses and the treatments available.