Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dealing with people's ignorance about mental illness, even when they're sitting at a table with you

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas is on it's way. I don't know about you, but I find dealing with my family over the holidays to usually not be the best time of my life. I tend to end up disappointed in people, or anxious, or depressed, or all of the above with a little bit of feeling rejected thrown in for good measure. Most of the problems that I'm talking about come from going to my dad's house. This year's "Turkey Day" (turkeys are grateful that some of us are vegetarians), was no different than other years. The reason is that I never feel like I belong at my dad's, which is too bad, since he is my father. I am not the only one who feels this way, either. My dad is now married to his third wife, and since I'm the first kid from the first wife, and since he barely ever talks to me at all, it's not like I feel at home at his house. I wish this was not the case, but it is what it is.

This year, things got a little annoying because one particular person who is not a blood relative of mine but is a relative of sorts now, was talking about, well, me. I think. I can't tell sometimes if I'm being paranoid or if I'm really right about things. But there were several comments made about people posting things on Facebook that are political (something I do all the time), or people who are "crazy", "kooky", "weird", and have "brain problems", and are, otherwise, generally unacceptable human beings to the majority of the people who were sitting at the table. Would it surprise me if all this was meant to be about me? Not at all. I do not fit it there. I am not a conservative, Republican like my dad and others in my dad's house. I am not a socialite. I do not weigh 94 pounds. I do not look like a fashion model. I do have a mental illness too, although I have never spoken to anybody that was there, except my dad, about this fact. (My brother and sister who know me well were not there.)

So is it possible that the little jabs at the mentally ill were intentional insults towards me, and that the laughing was directed at me? Yes, it is. And if that is the case, then these people who were talking this way and laughing, are not only not nice people, they are cruel and heartless people. Plus, they are ignorant imbeciles. I don't really care what some stupid, ignorant, cruel person says about me or thinks about me. But does it feel comfortable sitting at the dinner table with these kinds of things being said? No. It does not.

It is also possible that she really was just talking about these people she's known who were ostensibly mentally ill without knowing that I myself have a mental illness. I find that hard to believe, because several people would have had to have kept their mouths shut for years about many aspects of who I am for that to be the case, and I doubt that they did so. But even if that is the case, is it okay that she was talking about people being mentally ill in order to make fun of them? Well, no. It is not.

So what do you do in that type of situation? I don't know what you would do, but when I'm sitting there and I'm the only one at the table not laughing about something, I find it hard to say, "Hey, guess what, you're insulting and demonizing human beings which makes you a heartless wench, and you're one of the most ignorant people I know who knows nothing about brain disorders." So I didn't say that. I just didn't laugh, and I sat there. There were also the usual homophobic and racist comments thrown in for good measure. I didn't laugh at those either. But did I really say anything? No. And this is perhaps a problem with me. I sometimes keep my mouth shut when something does need to be said.

Then again, these people are all connected to me on Facebook, so they can see that I post articles about pro-choice issues and Occupy Wall Street and the ignorance of the right wing, all the time. I post this stuff because it interests me and most of my "friends", even though I know it certainly makes me feel like a weird freak to much of my family. I don't really care anymore if people who believe they are perfect human beings and nobody else is as good as they are dislike me for the fact that I am seemingly beneath them, and I definitely don't care what racist, homophobic, or sexist people think about my political views. Such people can go to hell, and their opinions of me do not matter. But it's hard when you have to sit somewhere with people you're supposed to be related to, and they're making comments about mentally ill people, even though at least half the people at the table are well aware that you yourself have a serious mental illness. It's not exactly a comfortable situation to be in.

I fail to understand such ignorance. I really don't get it. I don't get how you can walk through life assuming that everyone on the planet would be as privileged as you are if they had the good sense to be born just like you. I really don't understand the mentality that if somebody has a biological illness, then they are a failure as a human being (like my dad thinks I am). I really do not understand the idea that if someone has a neurochemical imbalance, they should be shunned and laughed at. I really don't understand the stupidity of thinking that you, yourself, are immune to mental illness, when it affects 25% of the population, either. I don't get it. I get that some people are dumb. I get that some people are heartless. But I don't get this level of ignorance and hatred. I don't get how you can talk like that and not realize that you are a problem. How can you not feel like a hateful person for acting like this? How can you not feel guilty about it? How can you be so arrogant to think you have a right to talk about people this way?

I almost feel sorry for somebody who is that clueless, because such people go through life only speaking to people who are exactly like them, and hating everybody who isn't. They never experience the beautiful variety of people in the human race because 90% of the human species isn't good enough to talk to them. They never learn anything real or new, because they are too worried about sticking to the status quo and being liked for their supposed perfection. They have very shallow world views, and very small minds. They are kind of pathetic.

Sometimes you get to be related to people who you can't really relate to. I think it's true that we can pick our friends, but not our family, so in some ways you have to create your own family. I have certain family members I can relate to, who I can be myself around, who accept me for who I am, and others who are not in that category. I have some friends who accept me, and who I can be myself around, moreso than some of my family. I like those people better than I like some of my family. I think that's okay, because it's not my fault if I'm related to an ignorant idiot who chooses to be hateful. It's really their problem they choose to be that way.

I am not perfect, obviously, but I will say one thing for myself, which is I choose not to hate other people on the basis of their sex or sexual orientation or race or differently abled/disabled status or economic status or other ways in which they might not be whatever the "norm" is supposed to be to the people who think that they are the "norm" and watch Fox News to verify this for themselves. I am not a hatemonger. I like being around other people who aren't hatemongers. I don't much like being around people who are. I don't really appreciate someone turning their animosity towards me when I have done nothing to harm them, ever. I also would not be against sitting down and explaining exactly what mental illness is to such a person, if she was interested in knowing. But these people are not interested. These people do not care to learn what it really is all about. They would prefer to just live on their assumptions about others, believing that they are always correct and there is nothing new to learn in the world since all knowledge was with them at birth. My own dad doesn't know the first thing about Schizoaffective Disorder. He doesn't have any idea what it is, other than from what I have told him, and he has never once taken an interest in learning about it. I have invited him to NAMI meetings and events; he never comes. He didn't attend my college graduation when I got my A.A. degree, because that wasn't a big enough accomplishment to matter to him. He thinks I'm a failure, and he's ashamed of me.

Too bad for him. I'm not a failure. I'm not someone somebody should be ashamed to be related to. I didn't go out and commit crimes and harm people, even when I did have severe psychosis, and I didn't cause severe psychosis to occur in my brain. I didn't create this disorder, or ask for it, and I have never exactly enjoyed it. I have made mistakes, but I also apologized for all my major mistakes that affected other people which occured when I was psychotic, and supposedly my dad understood years ago that these things happened because of psychosis. But I guess that in itself isn't enough of an explanation if you choose not to learn what psychosis even is. I see people's families at NAMI meetings, since most people at NAMI meetings where I live are the family members of those of us who are consumers, and not the consumers themselves. I marvel at these people, that they care enough, not only to learn about and understand their daughter's disease, but that they will get involved in an organization and volunteer their time to raise awareness about that disease, educate the public, and help the people who have it. I think those people are quite impressive, indeed. I can't really imagine having a dad who would do things like that with his time. But at least I do have a dad. I do know who he is. There are many people who don't even have that. I just wish I had one who wouldn't sit there when someone is at the table making fun of people with mental illnesses and laugh at their jokes because he doesn't care how offensive they are. And I wish I had the self-esteem to say, "Guess what? That's really offensive," to the offending parties.

Oh, the joy of the holidays....it's okay. There are good aspects of the holidays too, one of which is that they only happen once a year.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How I know now what is real about my life: after delusions (or: how I know I'm not a robot) and a warning about the internet

Since my last post elicited a response in the comments questioning how I know that I wasn't really a victim of Satanic ritual abuse, I thought I should answer that here, in case anybody else was wondering the same thing when they read my post.

There were so many things I believed when I was psychotic, that I know now were delusions, that to me telling you "this was part of being psychotic" sort of explains it, but perhaps someone reading this won't know what I mean by that, so I'll explain. I thought I was an alien, a robot, the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology), a human E-Meter (machine Scientologists use to supposedly find out if a person is telling the truth or not), the reincarnation of Anne Frank, the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and I thought that I was a victim of government mind control under programs like MKUltra, and a victim of Satanic ritualistic abuse.

The way that I know I was not a victim of such things is the same way I know I'm not a robot, and never was a robot. Everything in reality - which is the realm in which I now, thankfully, live - tells me I'm not a robot. Further, I have no reason whatsoever to believe that I am a robot. There is no evidence I'm a robot. I have no memory of ever having been a robot. And every experience I have had in my entire life, as well as everything I know about anything, indicates that I am very much just a regular human being.

It's not quite as interesting being a regular human being as it is being a robot. I remember when I walked around doing hand gestures that a human E-Meter would make, because I had seen one of these machines, and I knew that it had a little gauge on it, which I assumed I would have on me if I was the human embodiment of said machine. So I would hold my hand up to my mouth and move my finger one way or another depending on if someone was telling a lie. This is rather an interesting way to spend your time if you're completely psychotic and nothing about reality matters to you anymore, but it is rather ridiculous to spend your time in such a way when you're sane. I'm sane now, so I don't do things like that anymore. But I read a funny quote in a book recently by a man with Schizophrenia who was interviewed by the authors. He said, "If you had the choice of being a C.I.A. agent or a mental patient, which would you choose?" And this guy chose to believe he was a C.I.A. agent for years, and refused treatment for his illness. Yes, I also thought I was a C.I.A. agent for years.

Perhaps you have seen the movie the Manchurian Candidate? I thought I was one of those too, just like Denzel Washington. I thought this before that movie even came out, because I read about it online, just like I read about Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) online, and came to believe that had been part of my life too. There are some dangers in reading too much when you're already psychotic, because you might start believing in just about anything as being real. I read a lot of things about abuse and, after that itself wasn't enough of an explanation for the bizarre, miserable state of my existence, I read about "worse" things, like SRA and like government torture and mind control programming. And so, those things became part of the story I would tell.

It wasn't like I went into a therapist's office and somebody told me this stuff happened to me. Rather, I read about it, and I heard others talk about some of it, and so I would go in and say, "I think that I am a victim of blah blah blah", and a therapist, being trained of course to never doubt the truth of someone's victimization, would say, "Perhaps you have PTSD and a dissociative disorder". So, what happened after I was telling enough people enough times that I had been molested, was that I ended up going into a treatment center just for people who have been traumatized, which is, I now believe, a truly horrible program that destroys people's lives. And when I was there, I heard two women telling me about how they had been victims of SRA and they had been tortured, and they had seen horrific things and had many horrific things happen to them, and in one case their sisters were murdered by the Masons. So I also became paranoid about the Masons.

I walked around for years, after this hospital trip, actually thinking that people I knew were Satanists in secret, including people who I only knew from a Christian church and school who are devoutly religious, kind, and harmless. I also thought that the Masons took me from where I slept in the middle of the night to the Masonic lodge where they tortured and raped me every night, and when I woke up I simply "didn't remember" it because I blocked it all out. And then I thought I had an implant inside my body that had been put there by the government to monitor my thoughts and my whereabouts, that helicopters circling the Pentagon were really just after me, that I was a trained assassin, and that this was all true. I believed these things after I read other people saying these things happened to them. I really did read that. I read it all online. There are some very strange stories you can find when searching the internet.

At one point, I called the Tahiri Justice Center, a place that I read about in a book about a victim of female genital mutilation in Africa, and I said this whole story to someone on the phone about how I was an assassin, and she claimed to believe me, and gave me the phone number of some deprogrammer guy in another state who might be able to save me. This really happened. Around 2004.

Again, was there any evidence for me to believe I was any of these characters or that I had been through any torture? No. There was none. What there was, however, was every symptom you can imagine of psychosis. Psychosis doesn't just involve thinking things that aren't real, but also seeing and hearing and smelling and feeling things that aren't real, all of which happened to me. The auditory hallucinations have always been the main form of hallucination I've had. The reason I don't have them much now is simply because of one thing: antipsychotic medication. That medication is also the reason I no longer believe I was tortured or had an implant put in my leg, or in my brain, or that electrical wires are being used to program my thoughts. Medication can get rid of such thoughts. Thankfully, it did.

What happened when I did believe all of the things I mentioned above (plus much more that would take too long to mention here and might bore you)? Well, hell.  That's what happened. Total hell. I lived in a nightmare of psychosis for seven years, before I got properly treated for it. During this time, I reported two family members to police and social services for abuse that I thought had happened to me, which didn't happen to me, and which I didn't even remember having had happened to me in the first place. I reported one of them while sitting inside the social worker's office at that trauma treatment program. My dad didn't speak to me for six years. I missed six years of my one sister's life, and the entire first five years of my youngest brother's life, because of all this. Most of my family cut me off, and didn't care whether I lived or died, and some of them probably never forgave me.

I cut myself and said I was doing it because of this horrible abuse that happened to me. The sad fact was, I had been addicted to cutting myself for the same reason I had Anorexia. I do come from a dysfunctional family where there was a lot of chaos and verbal abuse, I did hate myself, and I did have a serious mental illness. I was not healthy. It wasn't about someone implanting a device inside my body. It was about me sitting down and cutting myself, or trying to kill myself. I didn't know that the things I was hearing, which weren't real, were hallucinations. I didn't know anything about psychosis. It occurs to me now that some people reading this blog might not even know what psychosis is, so that's why I'm trying to explain it. I do have a page linked at the top of this blog (the "about this blog" page), that explains it, but since most people who read here seem to know what I'm talking about already, I don't normally go into this kind of description of it.

Lots, and lots, and lots of people think they're Jesus. I have never done a scientific study on it, but I would venture to guess that 100% of those people are psychotic. I have met people who introduced themselves to me by saying, "Hi, I'm God", in the hospital, and I have read enough books on Schizophrenia, and met enough people who have it or who have Schizoaffective Disorder, to understand very well now that things like this are common in psychosis. I think the reason people think they're Jesus is that when you're hearing things, and seeing things that make no sense, and this is a new experience for you, you want to have some explanation for it, and having supernatural experiences is an explanation that makes sense. So, many of us develop religious preoccupation. I was raised to be very religious, and then I decided to leave religion behind, but that's neither here nor there, as I probably would have thought I was Jesus even if there had never been a time in my life where I believed in Jesus.

I will never forget  going into my mom's church with her, when I was floridly psychotic, and truly believing that everyone was clapping for me, and singing for me, because I was Jesus, and my mom was the Holy Ghost. This is not exactly a rational way to think. I was not exactly lucid. I was very sick.

I am very grateful to no longer be so very sick that I think such things. Insanity is, really, not a lot of fun. You might find some parts of it interesting at the time, or you may laugh about it later, but really, it's not a pleasant experience. I never heard nice voices that made me laugh, either. I heard people telling me to die and talking to me about the second Holocaust which I believed was going to happen in the United States, and talking to me about the pregnancy I believed I had for four years (yes, I thought I was pregnant for four years).

Now, I'm not going to say that nobody has been through Satanic ritual abuse in the history of time. I'm saying that I certainly haven't been through it, and I haven't been through lots of other things I used to think. I am not married to Anderson Cooper. He's a TV personality who is gay and would have no interest in me even if we met. But just like I thought I was a victim of SRA, I also thought I was married to Anderson Cooper under the New World Order.

I was homeless several times due to psychosis, and it was very hard to ever keep a roof over my head, or get enough money to survive. It was very hard to get through life at all. I am very lucky to even be here right now. If I hadn't been locked up in a hospital and forced to take antipsychotic medications for six months, I would have ended up dead by suicide six years ago. But I was locked up in a hospital, and I did stay on the medication. The medication worked. I got my sanity back.

I also got well enough to live on my own, have a job that I have kept for years, go back to college, get a degree, go onto another college for a BA degree, have friends, do advocacy work through NAMI and some public speaking to help raise some awareness, and participate in other activist activities. What I don't do anymore is spend my time reading people's stories of horrific abuse by Satanic cults, among other things. I am really glad to have a decent life now where I no longer do things like that with my time. I'm also really glad to believe in scientific facts, and to read enough to know that the things that I used to think had happened to me, obviously did not happen to me, and the beliefs I had definitely were signs of a very real illness. This is a biochemical illness, involving the neurotransmitters in my brain, and that is why medications which treat the neurotransmitter problem control the symptoms for me so that I can be my regular self when that medication is properly administered, as opposed to being completely out of my mind when not on that medication. That I know I have this illness means that I no longer need any other explanations that I might come up with in my imagination about what is "wrong" with me. There is an illness. It has a name. It's called Schizoaffective Disorder. That is my explanation.

Somewhere there are records that state that I had a dissociative disorder. And I only wish that I knew the names of everybody who had those records right now, so I could write them a letter and explain psychosis to them so they don't overlook it the next time it is sitting in front of their face.

I also will say, as I have written before here, I definitely never had Dissociative Identity Disorder. I simply diagnosed myself with it, and then got people to agree with me that I might have it. I did this after reading about it, and after having no way of understanding why I was having such emotional havoc in my life and wanting to die and doing bizarre, manic things, etc. I used to believe there were parts of me, with names that were not my name, and I would actually tell people this about myself. And I got people to believe it. I believed it too. But not totally. I think there was a very real "part" of me that always knew this was all something coming out of my imagination. It's embarrassing to admit that, and some of the stuff I did during that time period is stuff I am so ashamed of you will never read about it. But once I got past the psychosis, through medications, I stopped thinking that sort of thing and doing the shameful stuff or telling people things that were not true. I now believe the books and research that indicate DID is really quite rare and not the common phenomenon it seems to be if you read certain websites too much. I am glad that I now have the sanity to know that, because I live in the real world now. (Also, I should mention that when I believed I had other personalities, I was fully aware that  this was something I was doing, and I never "lost time", or did things without knowing I was doing them. Which is interesting because to actually have DID you are supposed to be unaware of your "alters", and I never was.)

So, hopefully this post answers the question of how I know I was not abused by a Satanic cult. If it doesn't, I'm not really sure how else I can explain it, but I can tell you that if you read the past few years of posts on this blog, that should be a good explanation. (Not that I expect anybody to spend their time doing that, I'm just saying, it would serve as a good explanation).

This post might also explain a bit too.

And a word of caution:  be careful what you read on the internet. Surviving Schizophrenia is a really good book that helps explain psychosis. I read it when I started to get better.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Child abuse (real and not real), Dissociative Disorders and family drama

         "Your silence will not protect you"
            -Audre Lorde
                 "You're as sick as your secrets."
                            -Alcoholics Anonymous saying

I don't write about this fact much here, but I come from a family full of alcoholism. There are three in my family who have had some treatment for it, one of whom has been in recovery for twelve solid years, and then another who has never admitted they have a problem of any kind. When you grow up, the oldest child in an alcoholic family, in a chaotic life with a parent who also has an untreated mental illness, things get pretty crazy. I hate the word, "crazy", but sometimes it's the only word that fits. In my family I experienced some verbal and physical abuse, which did not cause my mental illness, but did not help me feel great about myself either. I have written here before that when I was psychotic, I believed I had been sexually abused, although I really hadn't been. That is a complex issue to explain. But that happened, and had a major impact not only on my own life, but on the lives of several family members, most of whom didn't want much to do with me for a long time after my accusations, which I, at the time, believed were true.

At the same time all this was going on, I found out that there had been real, actual abuse that had occurred to two people in my family. And I can't disclose here who those people are, as it is certainly not my place to do so, but I just wanted to write about it because knowing that someone you love has been abused can hurt you too. It has caused me many years of worrying and angst, and guilt because I didn't know about or prevent this abuse from happening. And because the people who it happened to have had a really hard time with life ever since. They are two of the alcoholics I mentioned, and they are ones who do not seek help often. One, right now, is in what I think is a life or death situation, and is not doing anything to get help. I am not able to fix this. I want to be able to fix it, to make it better for them, to take care of them, to erase the past, to convince them to go to a therapist, or a psychiatrist, or an AA meeting or a hospital, and I can't make them do anything. They are adults. They are way too old to want my advice, and they don't think they need my advice.

The other day I got physically sick, vomiting and everything because of this situation. I had seen my one family member in a bad state, and realized that this person is really bad off and isn't interested in admitting they need help. I was distraught. I still am. But I can't let this get the better of me. Because worrying about people, or worse, trying to "fix" people with alcohol or drug addictions certainly doesn't change anything for the better. They have to want help, or at least that is what I have heard a million times, either in Alanon meetings I used to go to, or books I've read, or pop psychologists. I am talking about somebody I love who is an intelligent, even gifted, and witty, funny, creative, talented person, who is dying here. And there is nothing I can do about it. But the more that I offer advice, the less I get a response. So I know it is doing no good to offer advice.

I don't know what to do about this situation. My friend Kate who I met here years ago (hi, Kate), recommended Alanon, and I am sure that is a good idea. I just have a hard time with the focus on a Higher Power, because I do not believe in God. And I also don't have a lot of free time and energy to go to meetings. But I did go for a while, and there were some understanding, compassionate people there who knew what I was dealing with. You don't talk about the alcoholic there, though. You talk about yourself. But talking about my personal problems without mentioning that I have a mental illness is kind of contradictory. And in Twelve Step groups the focus isn't on going to psychiatrists and getting treatment for mental illnesses. The focus is on self-help. I have found self-help to be of limited use to me in the past, so I guess I am wary about it. But if I want my family member to go to AA, then I guess I am a hypocrite if I do not go to Alanon myself. So I will go.

The stress of worrying about these family members is, at times, utterly overwhelming, so I have to compartmentalize it, and really try not to focus on it too much. That's hard to do when you are confronted with someone who has lost everything and is continuing to suffer, badly. But it is necessary to not let that person's problem become your sole focus in life, and your own major problem, especially, I think, if you already have your own major problems to deal with. Everybody has problems, but stress has a definite detrimental effect on my mental stability, more than it might to someone without a mental illness. So I have to be careful not to let the worrying overcome me.

The fact that these people were abused has haunted me for years, and I have at times made major mistakes in regards to that and brought it up when they didn't want it brought up, which was not my right to do. The fact that I did that makes me feel terrible, and also makes me feel guilty as though the drinking was caused by what I said, or worsened by it. That is logically not likely to be the case, but I still feel that way.

I have a hard time talking about child abuse. There were years of my life when I devoted myself to creating web pages of resources for survivors of abuse, reading books about abuse, and going to therapy for abuse I supposedly suffered, which was not factual. I spent a lot of hours on the phone with a rape crisis center and several trips to a trauma treatment program inside a psychiatric hospital in Washington D.C. where the majority of the people on the unit were diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The fact that the majority of people on any unit could be diagnosed with that is a telling thing. People don't usually have Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is indeed quite rare. But at that point in my life, I thought it was common, and I was made to believe so by the so-called treatment providers I saw who only encouraged me to get even more delusional than I already was.

I truly believed I had DID during this period, and I was told that I definitely had a dissociative disorder and it might be DID, by several therapists. These people weren't there when I thought I was being chased by the CIA and hid in the bushes from their black helicopters, or when I thought I was Jesus and almost shot myself in the head. They weren't there to witness my full-blown, obvious psychosis that lasted seven years. They just were aware that  I said I had been molested. So they led me to think that being molested, even though I did not actually remember it, was the cause of all my mental health problems. It has occurred to me that I should sue these people for the lack of actual help and the very real harm they caused me, such as the fact that my own father didn't speak to me for six years, because of all this, but I don't have the money for lawyers to sue people.

I have picked up an interesting book recently called Exposing Sybil, which says that the Sybil story was actually a hoax, and that before she was diagnosed a handful of people had been diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder in the world, and then after her book came out, thousands, and thousands were diagnosed with it. I am not going to try to make the argument here that Dissociative Identity Disorder is not real, but I will say, it was certainly not real for me, and I would bet a lot of money that it wasn't real for numerous people I met who said they had it, in that treatment center. Being tortured ritually by Satanic Cults and the Masons really doesn't happen that often that you should meet a handful of people who claim this has happened to them, and meet them all in the same place! Of course, I then believed that I was ritually abused by Satanists and Masons, too. This didn't do me a lot of good, and in preventing me from being accurately diagnosed with psychosis, I was not given the medications that could have transformed my life, like they finally did years later when I was given them. And in the process of being psychotic, I actually was raped by someone, because of my psychotic state, so you see, this "therapy" didn't do me a whole lot of good. It harmed me. And that still bothers me.

On the other hand, there are many, many people, as you can see on television frequently these days with the horrible Penn State story, who have been abused, terribly, and these people's stories deserve attention and recognition for their truth. For me, it wasn't true. For my family members, it was. Those family members never became psychotic and the person who abused them wasn't the same person(s) who I thought abused me.

Because this is all so complicated, I have never dealt with it in my therapy sessions. I am seeing my old therapist every few weeks again right now, to help me get through this difficult time period that started a few months ago, but I did see her much more often for four years. We never talked about abuse hardly at all. She knew about my misdiagnosis, and I think she wanted to steer clear of the entire subject matter. I never talked about the verbal and physical abuse that happened when I was a kid, because the focus in my therapy has always been on what is happening right now, and not what happened in the past that is old history. Sometimes I wonder if I actually need to talk to a therapist about this stuff. About the real abuse that occurred in my family which haunts me, because it has caused so much pain for my family members, and I feel their pain. I am kept awake at night worrying about their pain. But I only have a couple more sessions left to see this therapist, because the mental health center made me an arrangement to be able to afford to see her, which I can not normally afford, and that arrangement ends soon.

I'm not sure that anyone will really understand what I am talking about in this post, but it was hard for me to write about it here. I have always been the truth teller in my family, but in the cases of my psychosis when I told "truths" that were not true, that did a lot of harm. On the other hand, I feel as though my family members who were abused would really benefit from actually facing their abuse histories and getting help to deal with it so it would stop destroying their lives. So I wanted to write this here, because if you have been through any of the things I described, I want you to know you're not alone. If you were abused, you're not alone. If you imagined you were abused because you were delusional, you're also not alone. If you care about someone who was abused and don't know how to help them, you're not alone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What would you say to you at age 15? Speaking to high school students. Input wanted!

Okay, readers and fellow bloggers, I'm going to ask for your input on this one. I am doing a speaking engagement Thursday, for the Great American Teach-In, where I will be talking about mental health with a fellow member of NAMI, at an alternative school, where many of the students have numerous life problems, some of which are mental health problems. I spoke for this same event at this time last year, and I really enjoyed it.

But I want to make sure I do the best job possible. So here is where you come in. For those of you who struggled in high school, or your adolescence at any point, with any mental health problems, or other challenges such as not fitting in or being seen as popular, or faced discrimination or bullying, I want to be able to give some advice. Last year we talked about mental illness facts, and that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, and the third for high school students, in the U.S. - a horrifying fact. And last year, I told my story, which I will be doing again this year.

But if there were a few particular words you could share to encourage young people who might be struggling with their own illness, which may not be diagnosed, or in some cases may already be diagnosed, and the fear that comes with not understanding what is going on with your own mind....what would those words be?

I also want to make clear that all the assaults of "craziness" and "psycho killer" movies in the common language and the media are part of the problem, because stigma does prevent kids from seeking help when they need help, and that is a terrible fact.

I dealt with Major Depression and Anorexia Nervosa, starting in middle school, and throughout high school (until I dropped out the beginning of my senior year), and into my early twenties. I really suffered through a lot of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and an addiction to cutting for a long time before I ever became psychotic or developed Schizoaffective Disorder. Since most high school students with mental illness are not experiencing psychosis although some will when they get a little older, I will be talking about depression and my eating disorder along with my wild, "crazy" ride through total insanity and psychosis that lasted seven years, undiagnosed.

Do you have any particular thoughts you would like to share with these students? These are kids who are put in this school because they were often expelled from another school in the area, and like any adolescent, they are dealing with the problems and drama of those changing years, along with some poverty, family problems, and in some cases, mental illness. So I want to try to bring some encouragement to them, some advice, some hope, and a glimpse of what recovery can mean, even if you do end up really, really sick.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section with any words you would like to tell the students. If you don't mind, I might even quote you.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Pushing Through: How to Help Yourself Get Through the Bad Times

"It may be difficult to differentiate between inertia brought about by demoralization and despair resulting from repetitive failures and losses, co-morbid depression, and the anerga, apathy, avolition, and anhedonia thought to be negative symptoms of the disorder. Regardless of the cause, the person is faced with an uphill battle of the will, the only solutions for which appear to be perseverance, pleasure, and learning to push back against the illness..... Later in the course of illness, participants report finding ways to counteract these barriers. In some cases, this is done both directly and simply by pushing on through, persevering with one's interests, goals, and activities despite not feeling up to it."
-Living Outside Mental Illness: Qualitative Studies of Recovery in Schizophrenia, by Larry Davidson
If you have read any of my posts from the past month or so, you will see that I have been having a difficult time. What I want to talk about in this post is dealing with difficult times. We all have them, no matter what mental, or physical illness, or other challenge in life we have. But for people who experience psychiatric illnesses, sometimes the difficult times get overwhelming. 31,000 commit suicide each year. I named this blog with the title it currently has for a reason.

What I want to say first is that I do not believe in "the power of positive thinking" per se. I really do not. I have read some things such as Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America by Barbara Ehrenreich, where you can see someone explain more eloquently than I could exactly why this type of self-help, pop psychology, New Age nonsense is just that, nonsense. I watched the video of The Secret with my ex-boyfriend when we lived together, and I remember that I sort of thought it was amazing, and sort of thought it was ridiculous at the same time, but all I felt comfortable stating within the confines of that horrible relationship was that it was amazing. It really wasn't amazing to me. It really was pretty stupid to me. (I am sure someone reading this post will disagree, and that is your right, but I am stating my opinion). Ehrenreich wrote Bright-sided after she got diagnosed with breast cancer, and she was disgusted with how women with breast cancer were "infantilized" by things like pink teddy bears given to them by organizations that were supposedly fighting for their cause. You should read that book sometime if this line of thinking interests you at all; she's a great writer. I haven't read the whole thing, because I can't right now, but I've read lots of parts of it. (I did a presentation on her for a class today, and I've always loved her writing).

Now, that I've gotten that out of the way....I do want to say that I think there is something to be said for "pushing through" illness, as the quote at the beginning of this post describes. I will tell you about how I came across that book (Living Outside Mental Illness). I was in a library at my college trying to study, but studying was futile because my brain wasn't cooperating (once again), so I ended up piling up a bunch of books on Schizophrenia (there were no books on Schizoaffective Disorder, of course), and trying to read parts of those for help. I wanted advice, research that would give me hope, input that might assist me in functioning, some kind of help. And I found this one book that really was helpful. That was a few weeks ago. I am doing a bit better now, but I want to say that picking up those books, rather than just walking out of the library, defeated and depressed, was an example of pushing through.

Then I decided not to withdraw from my classes. This was different than times in the past when I did withdraw from classes. As someone said in a comment on one of my posts here, "withdrawal is demoralizing". It certainly is! I got horribly depressed about withdrawing every time I did it. I will probably never get over the fact that I couldn't go to Smith College when I got admitted there, like I wanted to. But this time, what I decided was that, even though I thought I was going to fail the classes if I remained in them, I would remain in them anyway - for now. So I took two tests, and got A's. I turned in papers, and got A's on them too. Actually, even though I thought I was going to fail, I haven't gotten anything but A's on everything that has been due.

Now, I'm in my mid thirties. I am not a spring chicken anymore. It isn't like I'm in college straight out of high school, where the most important thing on my plate should be getting good grades (or partying a lot). I am probably too old, and should be too mature, to care about getting any kind of grade much. But I do care, so, I mention that this pushing through in completing my classes has been beneficial to me. It has been a lesson too, because every time you do what Eleanor Roosevelt recommended and "do the thing you think you cannot do" you learn a little more about your competence.

Besides school, I've gotten back involved with NAMI in the past couple weeks for the first time in months. People there are very kind to me. They hug me, tell me they're glad to see me, and invite me to do speaking engagements at places like high schools, and hospitals (we'll be doing hospitals in the future for the first time). I am always happy to see these people. They understand my illness, so there is something already taken care of where I don't have to explain anything about myself, or feel bad about myself, the way I do in other groups, because I don't "measure up" or don't always feel great. I spend far too much time comparing myself to other people, and I never measure up, so it's hard to be in groups of any kind sometimes. But it's not hard within NAMI. (NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and it's a wonderful organization).

So returning to NAMI, despite the fact that I haven't been doing so well lately, has been something that was good for me and it was also something that I had to force myself to do.

Another thing I did that was helpful, was return to the women's rights organization I am part of (NOW) for our recent meeting. That was something I didn't do for last month's meeting, which I somehow completely forgot about even though I had advertised the meeting myself. So I forced myself to go and be around people in that group too, and those are also people I like and respect. So that was good for me. It wasn't really an easy thing to do right now, but it was good for me to do it. Working for women's rights, and mental health rights, are both empowering activities, which always make me feel better when I do them, or, at least, make me feel like my life has more meaning and purpose than it otherwise would.

Some other things that I have forced myself to do are regular grocery shopping, after going several weeks without bothering to do that, going back to the gym, after several months of not bothering to do that, and taking showers pretty regularly (not every day, but I'm not perfect by any means), after not bothering to do that for a little while. I make myself do this stuff. It isn't like I wake up and feel inspired to go and do things. I don't. I tell myself, "You must do this", and then I make myself do it. It would be easier, really, to lie in bed and do nothing, and I could certainly retreat into my mind and allow myself to stay there and accomplish nothing if I wanted to. But I really don't want to do that. I really want to live, without letting this illness destroy me. So I have learned that, sometimes, I have to push through, and do the dishes that I don't really care about doing so that they don't draw bugs, and go to the library whether or not I feel like I am able to read, so I can at least know that I tried to read. Sometimes it is this pushing through that makes my life possible to live, because if I just laid in bed and lost my job and dropped out of school (all of which I have done before), I would be suicidal right now. I would have no reason to NOT be suicidal right now. I would feel so horrible about being without a purpose, that I would want to die.

But right now, I don't want to die. And I think that part of the reason for that is my medication. Latuda does seem to be helping me. I think another part of the reason for that is simple perseverance. Like many of you, I have lived through a lot of crap over the years, and it has not been easy by any means. But what I have learned by now is that I must keep going, and not give up. Because it is the giving up that will make me lose everything, become homeless again, end up in a hospital, or wind up dead. Luckily, and because of helpful meds, I have not been in a hospital for psychiatric reasons for almost four years. That is an accomplishment for me. There were years of my life when I was regularly in and out of hospitals. That was before diagnosis, before proper medications, and before I really, absolutely knew that I had to really force myself to do the things that make life possible to live, which does not, right now, include going to the hospital.

I would never underestimate the benefit of medication, and that has made all the difference in the world in my life. Without shots and pills, in copious amounts, I would be dead for sure, and I would not be happy at all. I know this from experience. I think that medications definitely saved my life, and I will probably be taking them for the rest of my life, unless my liver fails to function anymore.

At the same time, every answer doesn't come out of a pill bottle. Sometimes the meds are not enough. Sometimes, you have to make yourself get out of bed in the morning, and make yourself go through the motions of your daily activities, and make yourself socialize. If you're having a really hard time, all of that might be too much, and just making yourself get up might be an accomplishment. And that's okay too. But what's important is to have goals, and to try to reach them. It sounds like stupid, silly, cognitive behavioral therapy stuff, but I think it's true. For me, it is, anyway. If I don't have any goals, I don't feel like I have any reason to be alive. So I make some goals, and I try to accomplish them. It doesn't always work, as you could tell if you read a lot of the posts here, but when it does work, it is a good experience to have.

Sometimes people are so depressed, or are experiencing so many of the negative symptoms of psychosis, that they cannot go out and accomplish the typical things that society looks at as accomplishments. I have been there, many times. I understand. What I think matters in times like that is that you do very simple things, like get up, get dressed, get your mail, eat, etc. You do not have to work to have a life worth living. You do not have to go to college to have a life worth living. I do those things because I am now able to do them, but that was not always the case for me, and I'm glad I lived through the years when it wasn't. I read in Living Outside Mental Illness that something many people with Schizophrenia do, and something I certainly have done for many years, is go to fast food restaurants. And sometimes the reason they do this is to simply be around others. Because there are times when holding a conversation is too hard, and there are many people who have not even one friend to talk to in the first place. But if you can get out of complete isolation, that's an improvement, and, according to this book, many of us instinctively know that. So people will go to McDonald's and sit out in the world, for a little while, before retreating to their homes to be alone. If that is all you can do, then that is all you can do. But that is not nothing, that is something.

I think that college matters to me more than it matters to some people, because it has always mattered to me. This is probably related to the fact that I always got accolades in school which I did not get at home, as a child. I learned to love school, and getting good grades. I'm not saying that everybody should go to college, or do the things that I do. All I'm saying is that it is important to do something, to move about, to take actions, to go forward, to set some goals and work towards them, to not give up, to live. Anne Sexton wrote in, "Live":
"So I won't hang around in my hospital shift,

repeating The Black Mass and all of it.

I say Live, Live because of the sun,

the dream, the excitable gift"
I believe in the Twelve Step idea that you should take things "one day at a time". I try to do this, and it helps me in difficult times. If I look at the whole next year, I will become overwhelmed, and give up. I don't know, for example if I will remain in college for a whole year, or if I will ever graduate. When I try to look at cleaning my apartment after it gets disastrous, I will get overwhelmed if I think about cleaning the whole thing, so I have learned it is important to just focus on cleaning one room at a time. You have to do things in steps, sometimes.

I plan on getting A's, or, at least, B's in both my classes this semester. And I will do it. I plan on keeping my part-time job, and I will do that too. In the worst case scenario, this will be the absolute all that I can do, but hopefully I will manage to fit in a few other things like NAMI events, and going to the movies, and maybe even reading something here and there, and taking care of the laundry, the dishes, the cats' litter box, the grocery shopping, and the daily stuff that everybody has to do. I plan on pushing through.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My cats & companions; and about service dogs

 This is Spooky on her old Princess bed, she never used much
 Chat Noir: Spooky on the couch in my old apartment:

This is Spooky at Christmas time a couple years ago, in my old apartment, going after a cereal bowl with some milk left in it:

 Ribbit the Little Lion this past summer, in this apartment:
This is Ribbit yesterday, couldn't be bothered to pose for a picture:

Someone asked me recently if I had ever thought of getting myself a service dog. This person is a friend of mine who knew I was having a really hard time with psychotic symptoms, etc., so I guess he was thinking I could use some more help. But I'm not a dog person. There are people who are, though, and if you have a mental illness, I just thought I'd mention that there is such a thing as psychiatric service dogs, in case you hadn't already heard about this.

I have seen at least one person with one of these dogs, possibly more than one, at the community mental health center where I for treatment. There is a requirement by law that you get the dog specially trained, and then once they're trained, as far as I know you can take them anywhere you like to take them with you. This seems like something that could potentially be helpful for some people, so I just wanted to mention it here. I have brought it up before to a family member who loves dogs and has Bipolar Disorder.

As for me, I'm a cat lady by trade. I cannot bring a dog into my home, because it would involve me having to clean up dog matter which is something I refuse to do with my time. I like cats, as they simply do their own thing, much like I do myself, without asking for a lot of assistance. They also do ask for attention, and I give it to them, but they're not as demanding as a dog, and they don't require me to be home a lot, like I would need to be if I had a dog that needed to be walked.

I have had cats all my life. When I was little I had a cat named Spooky. She was one of my first cats, along with Razmatazz, also known as Razzy, when I was three years old. Spooky was a black cat. So four years ago, I went to get a cat again, with my ex-boyfriend who claimed interest in this although he never did lift a finger to care for the cat after we got her home, and then became a deadbeat dad who disappeared from her life (but that's a sad tale).
We picked out a black, little kitten, and named her Spooky II. Spooky, who quickly became known as "princess" because she is so beautiful and so aware of her beauty, has been my close companion now for four years. We both were better off after the ex-boyfriend/deadbeat dad left the picture. Spooky sticks to me like glue.

Ribbit, also known as The Little Lion, who is the dominant one of the two, came to live with us almost two years ago now, after my brother's divorce where his wife decided not to take her cats with her, and since my brother is allergic, the cats needed new homes.

Ribbit and Spooky don't exactly get along well all the time. Ribbit terrorizes her, and she runs and hides. But they also play together at times, and the other day, they were lying in the laundry basket, and Spooky was giving Ribbit a bath, which was the most precious thing I've seen in a long time. He just laid there, looking indignant, yet complacent, and let her lick his fur.

So these are my companion animals, Ribbit and Spooky. I don't know what I'd do without them.

I've had other cats in my life, like Buttons, who kept me company and laid on my head when I was suicidally depressed many times, and Tuffy, who did the same and had six toes, because he was a "Hemingway cat".

Do you have any pets? Do they help you in your hard times?

 This is Spooky last night. She likes to lie on the computer monitor, where she no longer actually fits because she's a little on the fluffy side now (ahem), while I'm online:
 This is Ribbit last night in the living room: