Sunday, April 29, 2012

I had a dream.

It's just after 6:30 AM, but I am writing a post at this unfortunately early hour for a reason. I wanted to tell you about a dream I just had. I am not talking about racism, but I am talking about discrimination. And I had a dream where the discrimination that exists about mental illness was easily erased by educating people.

In my dream, a person at my job was fired because of doing something that clearly indicated he was psychotic. The person was said to have a mental illness, and the fact that he had stolen someone's car (yeah, I can relate to such things), and that he had contacted the President of the United States (something I'm pretty glad I never did when I was psychotic which is probably why I've never been to Guantanamo), led him to be fired. There were rumors going around at work that he was "crazy", and that it was a good thing he was fired. I then told someone at my job, "I have a mental illness myself. I used to be really humiliated about it, but I'm not now, and I can tell you I have it without being ashamed because I understand what it means. It does not mean that there is a defect in my character or a flaw in my intelligence. It means there is a problem with my neurotransmitters".

After telling this information to one person at work (who actually was a person who works with me in real life), I then went to a meeting at work where someone who was (in the dream) one of my coworkers (who looked exactly like Jordan Catalano from that TV show in the 90's called My So Called Life - and my work place would be a lot more visually pleasing if that guy actually worked with me but no such luck), brought up the topic of mental illness at work again. This guy said that he had a sister who was "suicidal". And he wanted to know if anybody at work had any advice on this. Obviously (since this was a dream), I raised my hand and said, "I have something to say!". I then told all of my coworkers and my boss' boss that I had a mental illness myself. I also told them, "I used to be really humiliated about it and I wouldn't tell you this fact then, because people think it means there is a defect in your character or a flaw in your intelligence if you have a mental illness. But that's not what it means. It means there is a problem with the neurotransmitters in your brain related to mental illness". I said as well, "I volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and one of the statistics that I learned there was that one in every four people may have a mental illness. It's a great organization which might be helpful to you".

I then went on to encourage the Jordan Catalano coworker by telling him it was quite possible his sister did not have a serious mental illness that would require lifelong treatment; she might just have a temporary episode of Major Depression. I said that depression is so common, "antidepressants are prescribed more frequently now than most other types of drugs." Oddly, at this point in the conversation, for some reason Dr. Drew appeared in the room. He gave a comment about how antidepressants are so overprescribed that it is a problem. (*I don't know if the real Dr. Drew would actually say this, but I have weird things happen in my dreams as you can tell). I then made an (odd) joke about a person being prescribed enough antidepressant medication that they could fly, which made my coworkers laugh. (It's funny how jokes like that are only amusing in your dreams and not at all logical when you wake up). But the good part was, my boss' boss smiled at me, and my coworkers accepted me as having a mental illness. They didn't shame me for it or look aghast. They understood. And they accepted me the way I am.

I went on to volunteer to speak at any churches my coworkers attend to educate people about mental illness! And (probably because that was shocking to my own self), I then woke up.

So, in my dream, I came out about having a mental illness. I know having a mental illness isn't the same thing as being gay, but I've come to think that the term "coming out" makes a lot of sense in the mental illness context, which is probably why I've read many posts on blogs and Facebook groups where people use this term. For example, having a mental illness doesn't legally prevent you from marrying the person of your choice, like being gay can. But it can prevent you from marrying the person of your choice because, as soon as that person finds out you have a mental illness, they may not want to marry you! Ignorance is very prevalent in our society. Also, having a mental illness makes you prone to discrimination in your workplace if you come out, much like being gay will do, even though discrimination is technically not legal. Having a mental illness makes people think you're "different", much like being gay might. And it leads to internalized discrimination (shame), much like being gay, particularly if the person with the illness doesn't understand what it means to have a mental illness.

In short, we're not freaks of nature. And neither are gay people. But we get treated like we are. When people find out about our illness. Like I told my mom the other day, "everybody who's a serial killer in horror movies
 has Schizophrenia and has just escaped from a mental hospital". It's quite common for us to be misrepresented as something that most of us are not (violent).

So, it was quite wonderful in my dream to be universally accepted and understood as the person who I really am, problems and all, by everybody in my workplace. This is also why it was A DREAM. Because in real life, for me, that would never happen. I know because that is exactly NOT what happened when people in my last workplace found out about my illness. They treated me like garbage, and talked about me. That workplace was a nonprofit agency for people with developmental disabilities, yet my coworkers had no understanding of mental illness, or, if they did, they pretended like they didn't.
I was not universally understood or accepted. I then quit my job even though I had no other job to turn to. I couldn't handle being there with the people knowing, and treating me like they did. The only reason I had even told anyone in the workplace was that, while I was in the psychiatric ward for my last hospital stay, a coworker who was very nosy had gone to the hospital to "visit" me, and came back to tell everybody at work, including my boss and human resources, that I had not actually been in a hospital at all, since the hospitals are legally not allowed to tell someone you're in a psych ward so they had told her I was not there. She then went on to have the police sent to my apartment "to check up on me" because she supposedly didn't know why I hadn't been coming to work. So I had to tell my boss and the human resources manager, and this coworker who was extremely nosy, that I had been on the psychiatric ward. And that was when everybody started treating me like garbage.

That was real life, not a dream, of course. In dreams, life can be so much more wonderful than it ever really is. You can have a dream, like Martin Luther King Jr. did, that rampant discrimination has disappeared and been replaced with logic, reason, understanding, and even love. That was the kind of dream I had. People accepted and understood me.  My ability to do my job  was not questioned either. They understood that having a mental illness didn't mean I was no longer going to be good at my job.

But there is no Jordan Catalano or Dr. Drew in my workplace. And the people at my workplace are not this understanding. I have a coworker who knows I'm going to school for social work and frequently makes insulting comments about how I must be writing another paper about "the crazy people". I told him finally, one day, "I don't know what you mean by that." He said, "Well that's what you're going to school for, right? To work with crazy people?" I told him that this was a very insulting thing for him to say about people and that "having a mental illness is just a disease process, it doesn't mean a person is 'crazy'". He was shocked by this comment I had the audacity to make. And that was real life. Not a dream.

So I know that in real life, if I decided to waltz into work one day and announce to everyone that I had a serious mental illness called Schizoaffective Disorder, they would not be universally understanding and kind about it. Which is exactly why I'm never going to do that. But in my dream, they were universally kind and understanding about it. They didn't discriminate. I came out about having a mental illness, and no one looked down on me for it. I was still respected. They even still laughed at my jokes. But life is not a dream.

That was a great dream though! I had a dream that everybody with a mental illness was respected and understood. If only real life were more like dreams.

I will add that, in one of my classes, which was an online class where nobody ever saw what I looked like, at the end of this semester, I disclosed about having an illness in a comment to someone in a message board. I had done my class presentation on the results of deinstitutionalization (focusing on the negative results), and this classmate responded in the comments by telling everyone that she had a friend who was mentally ill and recently had to be committed to a hospital under the Baker Act. I couldn't keep silent, in the face of that disclosure on her part. This same classmate was gay and had told the whole class that too. I thought she was a brave person. So I responded by telling her that mental illness can involve recovery and that I am in recovery myself and doing very well. It was the end of the class, and I'm never going to see these people so I didn't care what anyone thought about it. I told her about NAMI, and about one in four having a mental illness, and about where she could go for help for her friend. This seemed like the only thing to do. I couldn't just pretend like I didn't relate to her. That would have been cruel. So I disclosed, and I didn't care what anyone thought. If only I could do that all the time, offline, then life would feel a lot more freeing. If only life imitated dreams. Maybe someday. There is always hope.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Laugh with me

So, I never talk about my job here much, but I work at a college. Let's just say it's an easy college to get admitted to and leave it at that. I don't need to be too specific in case anyone from my workplace should ever have the unfortunate chance of reading my blog. The college has a call center, which is where I have worked for almost four years. The college also has a nursing program, which is extremely difficult to get admitted to. Many people call the college who want to be nurses, or physicists, or chefs. People from all walks of life who want to do something - pretty much anything you can think of - will call this college, thinking they can do it there. I am not entirely sure why they are so optimistic. My mom and my sister both graduated from this nursing program, and it wasn't easy for either of them. I should add that I root for anyone trying to better themselves, and I do my best to help these people who call, but sometimes, the job is too much and you must laugh.

Anyway, so just for fun, I thought I'd share with you a call I had today.

"Hi, I want to be like a nurse practitioner or a APRN or ANPR or whatever because my plastic surgeon told me that that's what I would need to do to give Botox injections."

Yes, I think I spoke to you about this a couple of weeks ago, right? You wanted me to have a health programs advisor contact you about how you could become a nurse so you could give Botox injections. Now you want to be a nurse practitioner?

"Yeah, so like I want to give Botox injections for my job so like how long is that gonna take cuz like I don't have a whole lot of time I want to waste and I like really hate math and history and science so I don't have to like do any of that boring stuff to be a like nurse practitioner or whatever, do I?"

Yes, actually you do.

"Oh. So like can I do this in a year or something?"

Actually you would need to get your Associate's of Science in Nursing here before you could enter our Bachelor's of Nursing program. Then you would have to complete your Bachelor's and after that, you would have to get a Master's Degree to be a nurse practitioner.

"So like how long are you talking about cuz I don't want to waste my time I just want to get started giving Botox injections as soon as possible so I can work for my plastic surgeon."

It will probably take you at least seven years to do all of that.  First, you have to apply to become a student here....

"And then I'll have my Bachelorette of Arts?"

No, you would then get an Associate's of Science in Nursing. After that you would need your Bachelor's of Science in Nursing....

"So like how come it takes so long cuz I don't understand why it would take that long? Would you just talk to me like I've never attended college before cuz like whatever you're talking about doesn't make any sense. I don't want to do all that stuff. I just want to be a APRN."

I think it's called an ARNP. And you need a Master's Degree to be one.

"What's a ARNP?"

It's a nurse pracititioner.

"Oh, so that's what you've been talking about, being a nurse practitioner?"

Yes. I thought that was what you said you wanted to do when you called.

"Well that takes so long and I don't want to go to school that long so like why does it take so long?"

Because you need a Master's Degree to be an ARNP. On the other hand, if you apply to our nursing program, and your GPA in your general education courses is high enough that you get admitted to the program, then you can become a nurse in two years after you start the program. First you have to apply to our school, have your high school transcripts sent, take a placement test and complete orientation, then...

"A nurse? My plastic surgeon said I need to be a APNR to be able to give Botox injections."


"So like you're saying I can't just sign up? I have to like apply?"

Yes. That is what I am saying to you.

"So I become a nurse and then I apply?"

No, you do not become a nurse and then apply to nursing school. You apply to get INTO nursing school, in order to become a nurse. You apply first.

"Oh. So like, this sounds like it's too much of a hassle, so how about being a dermatologist? How fast can I do that? It's just a couple years right? Faster than being a ANPR?"

To be a dermatologist you have to go to medical school and graduate.

"Medical school? How long does that take?"

Several years.

"Whatever. I'm gonna go now. I'll talk to you later."

Okay. Have a nice day. Goodbye.


Monday, April 23, 2012

My Life in Pictures: Jessica Leach's Graphic Novel

Hello folks,

A few months ago, I got a message on this blog from Jessica Leach. She is studying at Norwich Art College (across the pond from the U.S.) to earn her Masters in Communication Design. She wanted to do a graphic novel about the experience of Schizophrenia. I sent her some of my story in email. Well, it isn't printed in book form yet, but Jessica's book is completed, and you can see it online here:

Some of the story is mine, and some comes from other people. I have to say that the portions of the story that are mine are so spot-on in the way that she displays them that they look much like my memories of my experiences (other than that she has never seen me so the girl in the story doesn't entirely look like me, but that is not the point of it!). It actually brought back some bad memories, but those memories are never far from my mind. Seeing my story in pictures made me hopeful that Jessica's book will educate some people about serious mental illness and combat some of the stigma that exists. It may be her school project, but who knows how many people will view her website. She did an absolutely EXCELLENT job! Bravo, Jessica.

Please take the time to visit Jessica's blog and take a look at her book!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Setting up and maintaining boundaries with family members who won't get the help they need

"Insanity does not run in my family. Rather it strolls through, takes its time, and gets to know everyone personally." -author unknown
One of the things my therapist said the other day was that I am learning a lot about boundaries, and how to keep them and maintain them for myself with others. For my mother, with example. It is a process, when you have grown up in a dysfunctional family where alcoholism and mental illness, and, obviously, chaos, were rampant to become an adult who has stability in your life. It is a long, arduous process. I am still in it. It is an interesting process, and one through which I have learned and grown, only to fall back into old patterns and have to learn and grow some more again. This came to mind tonight because I spent some time with my mom, and my brother and sister who are my closest family members. I have another brother and sister by my dad's second marriage, but they are much younger than me (one is still a child) and I didn't ever live with them or see them much, so we don't know each other the way I know my brother and sister who I grew up with.

It's hard to explain this, but I felt responsible for my brother and sister (the two I'm speaking of) since they were born. I never wanted them to go through the problems in life that I went through. Ever. That was my main goal. I didn't want them to go through any mental or physical abuse, or chaos, or loneliness or depression. I wanted them healthy, happy, functional. I used to tell my therapist, Barbara, when I was a teenager, "If I could take them away to the woods and raise them apart from our parents I know I would be able to protect them and keep them safe and treat them well in a way my parents never will". It sounds a little arrogant for a teenager to think that she has that ability, I guess, but I was speaking as their older sister who always felt responsible for them, and who often was given responsibility to take care of them. I wanted to protect them. And I was unable to protect them. I now know that many of the things I wanted to protect them from happened to them anyway. They have both gone through Bipolar Disorder and alcohol issues. I never wanted that for them. I wanted to protect them from that very thing. And I couldn't. So they had to go through it themselves; they still do.

This is really hard for me to come to terms with. I struggle constantly with my desire to save the world and my knowledge that my inability to manage my own life fully effectively is pretty good evidence that I do not possess the ability to save the world. I struggle with my inability to save my brother and sister. If I could, I would just live their lives for them and go through it all for them. What good what that do though? They would not have to take the responsibility to grow through their own difficulties, and I would crumble under the pressure. So I do things like offer to take my brother to Twelve Step meetings, which he never wants to go to, or to take him to work, or to make a resume for him, or things like that. But I try not to lecture as much now as I used to, to him. I know now that - as is evident from his behavior - he does not really seem to want or believe that he needs mental health treatment. Even though he was suicidal and was forced into a psychiatric hospital a few months ago. He does not seem to want treatment. He went off his medications and stopped going to see a doctor (again). He never went to live in the halfway house he was supposed to live in so he could stay sober. He doesn't seem to want to stay sober or know how to. Yet, he also, adamantly, does NOT want my advice. So should I continue to shove my advice down his throat like I have often done so many times over the years? It's ineffective. It makes him angry, resentful, and silent so he ignores me. It doesn't change him or make him take initiative. It makes me tired and stressed out more than I can afford to be. It doesn't work for anybody.

People have to live their own lives. For those of you who have family members with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems, one of the things I have learned over the years dealing with this (my mother has been mentally ill my entire life), is that people have to learn to live their own lives. You cannot live their lives for them. I cannot go to the mental health center, or get a new job or attend AA meetings for my brother. I think that's what he should do to save his life and benefit himself. I think it would bring him into recovery, which offers fulfillment, hope, and happiness. But I can't be my brother. I am me. He is him. He must want the fulfillment, the hope, and the happiness enough to reach out for help, go to the community mental health center (he does not have health insurance), get back on medication again, go to AA meetings, get sober and stay that way as long as possible, go to Vocational Rehabilitation and get help finding a job....these are things that I know would benefit him. But I am not him. He has the right, and the ability to make his own choices. They are not always going to be choices I agree with. But I do not have the right to take his choices away. I also do not have the arrogance to think that I know exactly what my brother should do with his life and he would be perfectly happy if he just did what I said. I am human too, and I don't know what goes through his mind. I want to know, I want to understand, but I rarely know how he's really doing or feeling because he never wants to tell me. So he will have to find his own way.

My brother is 31 and my sister is turning 30 in a few days. When I was 30 I almost shot myself in the head. I then got forced under the Baker Act into a hospital for five months. I then got better, and got into serious recovery, which is why I now am where I am today with a much, much, much improved life. I can't tell you how much I want that much improved life for my brother and sister. I want them to be happy. I went them to recover. I want them to get help. But they may never choose to do so. That is a fact I must accept. I can't force them to get treatment. I can't do it, and it wouldn't work if I could do it. I don't have the financial resources to perform an "intervention" on my brother and send him to an expensive rehab, and even if I did, it probably wouldn't work because he doesn't want to deal with his problems.

He is dealing with them in his own way. The way he knows how. And I know that there were years of my life when I survived by the skin of my teeth, getting by any way that I knew how, which was often horribly self destructive, painful, and brought me near my death. But I did what I had to do to survive. And eventually, I hit a crisis, I got forced into treatment, and I got better. Not everyone gets better. I don't want to think that my brother or sister will never get better, but they have to define what better is for them. I can't define  their reality for them. If they don't think they have problems, it is not my job to point their problems out. If they don't think there is anything they can do about their problems, all I can do is point them to the resources that exist and offer to give a ride there, but I can't force them to go. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a god, why that god would have put my family in so much pain. Why do there have to be five people in my immediate family who either have a diagnosed serious mental illness or an obvious alcoholism problem? Why? Five people. Not one person. Not no person. Five people. Five people struggling to stay afloat. As my dad would say "it's every man for himself". I take on the burden of these other people's problems too often, internally, worry about them all the time until I'm physically and mentally more sick myself, and it solves nothing. I have to stop doing this. It's no good for me to do this. And it doesn't help them that I do this. I have to remember to let go.

Sometimes, all you can do for a homeless mentally ill person is tell them where the nearest shelter is and point them towards the bus that can take them there. Giving them a dollar really for food isn't effective in solving their problems, but getting them to the real resources that can help will have long term benefits. I was homeless myself three times, so I don't give out money to homeless people often because I know that this is no solution to their problems. They need much more help than a dollar can provide and they need to go to the places that have that help available. There are community mental health centers throughout the United States where you can go without health insurance and get mental health assistance. It's very frustrating when you tell your brother and your sister to go to the local community mental health center that you go to, for years, and for them to then never go. It's even more frustrating when they go once and never go back, choosing to go off all their meds and suffer instead. But what can we do? All we can do for our families who have mental illnesses is give them support and be a listening ear, and offer to help them. We can intervene in a crisis, but every day is not a crisis where we can intervene. So we have limits.

I understand the frustrations of family members who want to help their loved ones who have mental illness and don't want help. I  go through this too. But I also remember that there were years when I didn't know I needed help, or didn't know what kind of help I needed, and I was still a person during those years, with feelings, and thoughts, and wants and desires and skills and abilities, and value. My brother and sister, even if they never get the help I think they need, are still human beings with feelings, thoughts, wants, desires, skills, abilities, and value. A lot of value. Who I respect.

Tonight when I spent time with my mom, brother, and sister, I valued that time. We laughed, joked around, sang, talked, played with mom's dog, and had a nice time. I must cherish these times because they don't always come often, and when they do they are important.

If you have a family member with a mental illness or substance abuse problem who won't get help, you may not be able to save them, but what you can do is continue to respect them as people, continue to talk to them, laugh with them, joke with them, listen to them, support them, give them resources, and wait for them to get  help on their own. You  can also be a good example of taking care of yourself, which is vitally important. And showing this by example might be more effective than any number of lectures. And sometimes, that is all you can do. But that is something. Cherish the good times. They are still people.

Friday, April 20, 2012

because it is only there as a thing to be dreamed of

Life was so exciting a few days ago that I was pretty much enthralled by just about everything. It was awfully great while it lasted. It didn't last. Obviously, I don't want to be manic and psychotic. I truly don't. But I sure did enjoy having some extra energy and pep in my step. Hopping down the cement stairs at the parking garage of my university was awfully fun at the time. It sounds kind of stupid, but it was enjoyable. I so rarely truly enjoy myself.

My case manager told me yesterday that she had let the doctor know I was "unhappy" with him. He said he had "observed" me being "a little manic". Hence, no lobbying to get my higher dosage of Prozac back has worked. You can't blame a girl for trying.

Anyway, so now that I'm back down to the regular, rather dull, old me, here is a poem that comes to mind. It is a poem I have loved for like 15 years. It often has come to mind, because the line "everything is easy but wrong", makes so much innate sense to me for reasons I can't really articulate to you. Perhaps you can understand. Incidentally, Randall Jarrell, who is mentioned here, was a remarkable poet who committed suicide due to mental illness.

"Old Dominion"

By Robert Hass

The shadows of late afternoon and the odors

of honeysuckle are a congruent sadness.

Everything is easy but wrong. I am walking

across thick lawns under maples in borrowed tennis whites.

It is like the photographs of Randall Jarrell

I stared at on the backs of books in college.

He looked so sad and relaxed in the pictures.

He was translating Chekhov and wore tennis whites.

It puzzled me that in his art, like Chekhov's,

everyone was lost, that the main chance was never seized

because it is only there as a thing to be dreamed of

or because someone somewhere had set the old words

to the new tune: we live by habit and it doesn't hurt.

Now the thwack . . . thwack of tennis balls being hit

reaches me and it is the first sound of an ax

in the cherry orchard or the sound of machine guns

where the young terrorists are exploding

among poor people on the streets of Los Angeles.

I begin making resolutions: to take risks, not to stay

in the south, to somehow do honor to Randall Jarrell,

never to kill myself. Through the oaks I see the courts,

the nets, the painted boundaries, and the people in tennis

whites who look so graceful from this distance.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good news!

Guess what? Today was my last day of school for the semester! It was also the end of my last social work course - rather disappointing since I loved my courses. I am getting A's in both my classes this semester, which is great because I did that last semester too, so thus far my GPA at the university is 4.0. My cumulative GPA for all my years in school, is only 3.38, but that's because I failed classes for not attending them when I was psychotic in past years. Not much I can do about that, but I can make up for it by getting good grades now.

I had a fantastic day today, and I am not manic, just in a good mood.

I hope you are all doing well.

And, I found out that one of my favorite classmates is going to be in my summer course too, so that is pretty cool. She is five years older than me and  I LOVE not being the oldest person in the class! I am very glad now that I signed up for that summer foreign policy course. I am actually looking forward to it. Yesterday sucked, but I am in a better mood today. My therapist thought we had a good session today. She is a wonderful therapist; I like her a lot. I wasn't so sure about that when I had to get a new therapist, because you never know what you're going to get (therapy is like a box of chocolates), but she is really quite stellar at therapy. And she laughs at all my jokes.

So I wanted to tell you I am having a good day despite my lousy time yesterday. And I am most certainly not manic, just happy the semester is over and I did well. I have one test to take and then I'm done! Woohoo.

Also, NAMI Pinellas - my NAMI affiliate - is going to be starting a program at the community college I attended (I graduated from there in December, 2010), and they have asked me to help spearhead it. I will be getting trained at some point in the future to run a support group for students. I'm aware that I can't take on too many extra responsibilities because I generally lack the time and energy to do everything that I want to do, and I'm also running for a seat on the NAMI Pinellas Board of Directors because they asked me if I would be interested in doing that and encouraged me to do it. So that is pretty good. I have good support from NAMI. The people there are like my second family - only, they're not as dysfunctional as my real family (even though everybody has a family member with a mental illness or has a mental illness themselves in NAMI). So I just thought I would share that with you. In June I will be speaking at the next Crisis Intervention Team training, and this month they published a letter I wrote in the NAMI Pinellas newsletter. I think it's important that people do what they can to reduce stigma and create awareness, and I feel better about myself and my life, and the world in general, when I try to do things like that. I would encourage everybody with a mental illness who lives in the United States to look up your local NAMI affiliate and get involved, as well as everybody who has a family member with mental illness (and those of us who fit into both of these categories, of course).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I am a deflated balloon lying on the ground. That is how I feel right now. I did want you readers to know that I took your advice, was a good, obedient little patient (I usually am, really) and decreased my Prozac. This had the exact result I thought it would have. I went from being happy to be alive, perky, fully of energy, and very motivated, straight back to my regular, tired, blah self in one day with the dosage lowered. This most unfortunate turn of events is really distressing me.

For example, I was at work today, so tired that I was sitting there with my eyes closed whilst talking to some stupid student on the phone when someone from the upper office echelons came and tapped me on the shoulder to wake me up and hand me my new ID badge (because I always lose my ID badge). This happened as opposed to yesterday when I got up at 3:30 AM and stayed up, went to McDonald's for breakfast, went to the psychiatrist (early), went to the mall, walked through the mall very quickly, went to my Mom's house, took my brother to Starbucks and Subway and work, then went to work myself and worked for six hours, then went home. That was yesterday. Today, do you know what I did? I worked, got back from lunch seven minutes late (we have a timer on our computer system so that the boss can see if we return five seconds late, and I am the insane one), because I took so long eating my sandwich slowly that I lost track of time, and at the end of the day, I came home and did nothing. I have no more of that pep. The wind has been taken out of my sail. I feel exhausted for no reason, and last night I slept for eight hours.

This really sucks. I know it's no one's fault, and that it's not healthy to become manic, and all that. I know that the doctor had to decrease the medicine because it is probably some stupid medical guideline for psychiatrists to do that if you seem remotely hyper, and I know I was remotely hyper. But now I am back to being BLAH. Blech. Ick. In the span of 24 hours, I went from Speedy Gonazalez to being too tired to keep my eyes open whilst sitting in a chair at my boring, dead end job talking on the phone to idiots.

This really bothers me. It has made me lose hope for the future, because I no longer feel capable of what I felt capable of doing just yesterday. I hate this.

But I don't want to this to be a totally depressing post. And besides, I might be able to convince my doctor to increase the dosage again in a couple weeks (there is always hope). So I will tell you about the rather ridiculous conversation I had with my friend, who I shall call K. because that is her first initial. K has bipolar disorder and is generally on the manic side at all times, all year, every year. So when I was a bit hyper (I refuse to say I was hypomanic because I didn't think I was), I had this conversation with her that rambled on forever like our conversations always do.

"So then my mother told me I was acting like a crazy person just because I was skipping around her house, and I told her to stop using that stigmatizing terminology."

K: Did she ask you what that word meant? Wait a minute. Did you just say you were - what? Skipping? Around the house??!! You?? You're always so SERIOUS all the TIME. That is not like you AT ALL. You are always the one to get mad when I throw popcorn on you at the movies, and you are always telling me you can't believe I flirted with the waiters who were too young for me. *(She is 57, which is a year older than my mother, and she flirts shamelessly with every good-looking 18-year-old she sees).

Me: I was enjoying myself! I also posted on Facebook that I enjoy skipping down the halls at work when no one's looking and I don't care if anybody thinks that's odd.

K: You posted that on FACEBOOK? I wouldn't have posted that on Facebook. People WILL think you're odd.

Me: I don't care!

K: Ok, well, maybe I should join you. We could go skipping somewhere and when people stop and stare at us I'll just say, "I'm Bipolar and she's Schizophrenic so don't mind us! We don't care if you think we're odd!"

Me: Fabulous idea! I know the perfect place. We'll go to the Pier in St. Pete and skip all the way down it.

K: That's a long way. I guess I wouldn't be able to wear my six-inch high heels to do it.

Me: No, you could go barefoot and if you cut your feet on glass just choose not to worry about it!

K: Yes, we'll be manic together!

K ended up saying that I cheered her up even though the day before had been the anniversary of her father's death and she was very depressed about it. She said, "You always make me laugh." At least someone appreciated my perky outlook on life!

But that was yesterday. Today, I'm just deflated. Oh well. I really do appreciate all your advice and input. This is just a frustrating experience. Eh, mental illness.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Extreme frustration with my doctor

Friends, I am extremely frustrated with my doctor right now. I will call him by the pseudonym Dr. No Fun because that currently fits him quite accurately. Today, I stupidly blabbed too much to the doctor as I have an unfortunate habit of doing. Once, seven years ago when I was in the county psychiatric hospital for months, they used to ground me all the time and forbid me from going on the group outings to Dollar Tree because I would blab too much of the truth about my delusions and suicidal ideations to the nurse practitioner (she was unfortunately easy to talk to) every time I saw her. So this mental health tech who I highly suspect did not like me in the least and sadistically wanted me to die used to tell me that I should stop talking too much to the doctor, because if I didn't tell her so much I could go on the outings to the Dollar Store and the park (she wanted to have more time to paint her fingernails and talk on the phone without checking me every 15 minutes I feel quite sure). So, the sad moral of this story is that I never learned from that sadistic woman to lie to doctors like she suggested I do. I always, stupidly, thought that if I told them the truth it would be in my own best interest.

Well, sometimes the truth backfires. As in, when you are feeling extraordinarily happy and energetic and excited about life in general, and Dr.  No Fun says he's decreasing your Prozac. But this isn't totally my fault. It's mostly my mother's fault. I stupidly reported to Dr. No Fun ,"my mom thinks I'm a little hyper but she only thinks that because Prozac makes her manic and she thinks everyone is like her but I'm not the least bit manic and I never get manic so it's really not to a problem at all and I'm doing extremely well right now". Translation in Dr. No Fun's ears = patient is becoming hypomanic. Which is precisely what Dr. No Fun tried to tell patient. Patient was not having any of this, and proceeded to protest with great effort, summoning all number of reasons to her mind why she might seem a bit hyper such as that she is taking sublingual Vitamin B-12 at the recommendation of her rheumatologist (totally true) and drinking inordinate amounts of caffeine right now (also totally true). Dr. No Fun didn't listen to patient and proceeded to reverse his decision to decrease her injection of Risperdal Consta, choosing instead to keep her on it, and also choosing to decrease her Prozac. Because I also stupidly said my mom thought I was on too much Prozac (translation to Dr. No Fun's ears = patient's mom might file malpractice suit). WTF?

I am thoroughly pissed off right now. If I wasn't in a great mood perhaps I would go yell at someone like a manic person, but I am not manic. I am just happy and also thoroughly pissed off at the great injustice that has been dealt to me by Dr. No Fun. Why mess with progress??? I was thoroughly energetic and cleaned much of my apartment (albeit after my mom threatening that the cops were going to come and haul me off to the hospital once my case manager told them what my apartment looked like; my mom is the source of many of my problems as you can see), and I have been functioning extremely well on very little sleep! Why is this a problem???

I really don't understand this. I wish I could write a letter to Dr. No Fun and express my extreme disappointment in him right now. It would sound a lot like what I'm writing here. I have since this appointment called the doctor's assistant to ask if there might be a way Dr. No Fun would change his mind. She called back but didn't leave a message. Could this be a sign? Probably Dr. No Fun has no intention of changing his mind. I asked for two more weeks on 60 mgs of Prozac, and thought this sounded like a mighty reasonable compromise much like the Geneva Convention. Dr. No Fun's assistant's failure to leave me a message of any indication that he was agreeing to compromise is not a good sign for me.

What to do? Well, I hinted at Dr. No Fun about what I immediately thought of doing. Doctor shop! I said, rather stupidly (did I mention my inability to shut my mouth?) that "some people in this situation would find another doctor who would keep them on their Prozac especially if they were extraordinarily happy". Dr. No Fun frustratingly agreed that some people would do this and some of those people probably come to his office, but said something like, "That's why we have an honor system here". Honor system? I don't recall signing that form. I feel quite sure I didn't sign that form.

So what to do, friends? I will tell you what I want to do, and that is to tell Dr. No Fun to get lost. But the truly unfortunate thing is that he is a smart doctor who actually seems to know what he's doing most of the time, unlike some medical professionals I have met. If he didn't have a good reputation I would probably just get rid of him right now. He is unfortunately nice too, but just not nice enough to allow me some extra happiness.

He said this could get out of control, and I could become manic, blah blah. I don't buy it. I never get manic. Not since 2005 or perhaps even earlier. I never do. I don't see it as an issue that should be of concern on my horizon at all. I am more concerned with having extreme fun skipping down the hallways at work when no one is looking and jumping down the stairs at school (I did hurt my leg doing this though, darn) and dancing around whilst cleaning my apartment. THIS IS ENJOYABLE. Why should somebody who spent a large portion of her life being suicidal not be allowed to enjoy herself.

I did keep a few things to myself when speaking to Dr. No Fun. He asked me how much I slept lately. I did tell the truth that I slept for two hours last night and I'm not tired. I did not tell how much Melatonin I took to try to make myself sleep, because nobody would understand how hard it is for me to sleep like a normal human and why I require this amount of Melatonin with the possible exception of my rheumatologist who once told me it's impossible to overdose on Melatonin. Suffice it to say, I took a hell of a lot of Melatonin last night along with Ambien, and Klonopin, and Vistaril, like I do every night. And I didn't sleep. This is rather odd, I admit, but it is probably just a fluke that means nothing. Dr. No Fun of course had to make a Huge Freakin' Issue out of my sleeping two hours last night and turn it into some goddamn explanation for ruining my life.

I should, by all rights, have the ability to prescribe my own medications by now. Do you have any idea how much medical research I've done on Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder? More than many doctors! Okay, not more than Dr. No Fun, but more than many other doctors. I wish life was not so complicated.

In other news, I bought a fabulous pair of Clarkes shoes today! I went to the mall at 9:30 AM. Oddly, the stores aren't all open yet at 9:30 AM (how late do most people sleep?) and it did occur to me that I had no logical reason for going to the mall, but I went nonetheless, and quickly walked around looking at all sorts of things, then deciding "I will now buy shoes". I then bought shoes. This is rather unusual for a person who usually goes to six discount stores before picking out a pair of shoes. A process that ordinarily takes me a month took me all of 10 minutes today! Do you understand why that is a good thing? Obviously, you do. You are not idiots. I'm not sure what Dr. No Fun would say to this story but most likely he would not understand how great the experience was of buying these shoes without fretting too much about their stupid cost.

I tried to explain how extremely productive I have been lately to Dr. No Fun, but he didn't seem interested. So I will tell you. I interviewed my neighbor for a life history I had to write on her for one of my classes, and this was the third or fourth interview we did for this project. I then wrote her entire 15-typed paged life history in one night. I also did her whole family tree, of four generations of people I do not know whilst at work. I got up yesterday at 8 AM for no reason other than the inability to sleep and succeeded in FINALLY getting my oil changed, something that I hadn't done for the past month that it needed to be done because I was too busy SLEEPING ALL THE TIME WHEN NOT AT WORK. After I got my oil changed, I went to a thrift shop. Bought toys for my mother's dog. What did my mother have to say about that? "You're on too much Prozac". WTF? I bought toys for your damned dog, who I don't even like because dogs are disgusting. Show some freakin' appreciation. My mother also told me that I was "acting like a crazy person" when I went to her house. I replied that I do not appreciate such stigmatizing terms, thank you very much. I should have just told her to go to hell, considering she's plainly as mentally ill as I've ever been herself! She's been Bipolar my whole life! And no treatment has ever been fully effective for her! But call me crazy? Oh, ok, Einstein.

I'm starting to lose track of the purpose of this post. Anyway, so I've been extremely productive for me. Not compared to "normal" people or "most" people or "neurotypical" people, but for me, yes. And WHO DOESN'T WANT TO BE EXTREMELY PRODUCTIVE? Anyone? Who doesn't want to be HAPPY? For crying out loud.

Now perhaps you can understand why I am thoroughly pissed off at my doctor right now.

As I told him, I have looked up all the symptoms of mania online, and I do not have them! I do not have rapid speech. I do not have rapid thoughts. I do not laugh hysterically at all times (sometimes, yes, but that is normal for me), and I do not scream and yell and hit people. I have never been violent. I have never attacked a person. I am not psychotic. I am fully in reality. What is the problem here?

Yet, just because somewhere in that godforsaken DSM-V or IV-R or whichever it says that people who don't sleep enough are becoming manic, Dr. No Fun decides to ruin my productivity. He actually called it lowering my gas or something like that. Whatever. I reserve the right to be ticked off about this.

Not to mention that I signed up for a 6-week summer course on foreign policy that meets at 9 AM twice a week and there is NO WAY IN HELL I will ever manage that schedule if my Prozac is decreased. I will go back to sleeping until noon. I am not a drug seeker; I am just logical. Prozac also defeats my OCD! What more could you ask for?? I haven't been having the annoying obsessive thoughts hardly at all since Dr. No Fun put me on the dosage that he himself stated was the dosage used for OCD. It worked. I told him this. He didn't care. WTF?

I am annoyed.

Edited to add: I will have to take less Prozac tomorrow. Thanks for your comments.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Winners of the I Choose to Live Award, and cleaning my apartment!

First, I am excited to report that there are no less than 17 new winners of the I Choose to Live Award! This is the largest number of blogs I've ever given the award to at once. The award hadn't been given out in a long time. There still may be some of you with blogs out there, or blogs you've read who deserve this award so be sure to shoot me an email on the address on that page and let me know if this is the case. I love giving out the I Choose To Live Award!

Next, I am happy to report that I've been cleaning! Yes, cleaning. It's not all done, but I have definitely made progress. My case manager bought me a new vacuum cleaner with money from the community mental health center, because somehow my case is still open even though it was supposed to have closed by now. So I was very pleased with that. I got to pick out the vacuum I wanted, so I get a bagless one, and I really love it.

Ribbit walking on clean floor.
The lovely new vacuum cleaner.

I've also declared war on my fruit fly problem in my kitchen. So I have some tips for you, in case you ever get an infestation of your own:

  1. Get fly strips to catch and kill the buggers.  I don't believe in murder, but in this case a mass slaughter was necessary and welcomed.
  2. Spray, you can either make some non-toxic stuff or just go straight for the chemicals like I did.
  3. Make traps, which I've read you can do with apple cider vinegar, and I learned that it doesn't work with white vinegar. You put a piece of fruit in a cup under plastic wrap along with the apple cider vinegar and a shot of dish soap, poke holes in the wrap with a fork, and wait for the suckers to meet their death.
  4. Pour boiling water, or bleach or vinegar, down all the drains in your house.
  5. Let your mom (or go yourself!) buy you Hot Shot Pest Control Strips to hang in your kitchen. These are simply miraculous.
Problem solved!

I've been also following the Fly Lady site, so thank you all for that helpful tip!

I have been feeling quite productive and rather extraordinarily happy lately. I'm doing pretty well with things. It's not perfect, but who is perfect? My mom thinks I'm on too much Prozac, and I'm getting hyper. But I think it's working and I am not usually ever prone to mania anymore, so I don't think I have to worry about that starting, but I will watch it just in case. Overall, things are going well. I don't like the things my mom has to say to put fear into me, about how I'm going to get evicted or end up in the hospital because of the state of my home, or how I'm going to get manic and hit people. Sometimes it's best not listen to my mom. I am managing well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

From where I've come

Thank you to everyone who left helpful comments about my messy apartment problem. I truly appreciate your tips, advice, and encouragement. My mom actually told me about that Flylady website before, and I will check it out. I'm working on the apartment one bit at a time, and expect to have it in reasonably clean condition within a couple weeks. My case manager is going to use money from the community mental health center to purchase me a working vacuum cleaner, because she (ahem) noticed my floors (or the lack thereof) last time she came to visit me. It's good having a case manager. She's been in my life for seven years, and I don't know what I'll do without her. But that brings me to this post.

I did a speaking engagement tonight for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to a group of family members of people living with mental illnesses who are taking a family-to-family class. It was really great to hear their feedback, when I was done, and they told me that I was inspiring. So I thought to myself, hey, why not write some of this story down again since not everyone has been reading this blog for years and knows the whole story. So I think I will share some tidbits on from where I've come.

I was the girl at 15 who carved, "I HATE ME" into her arm with a kitchen knife.

I was the girl who starved herself nearly to death, telling her therapist, "I'm going to starve myself to death", and weighed 83 pounds at the age of 17.

I was the young woman sitting in the fast food restaurants listening to music with headphones to drown out the voices she was hearing, and crying in front of everyone in the place, whilst they ignored her.

I was the young woman in Penn Station in New York City seeing aliens, the sign of the devil (666), and the end of the world happening to her, who called her brother and sister and screamed at them to get out of the United States before they were taken to concentration camps in the second Holocaust.

I was the young woman who drove her mother's car to the top of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge at top speed and rammed into a guardrail, trying to drive over the edge to die because the voices told her to do so.

I was the woman who tried to kill herself with pills three times, and had to drink charcoal and have her stomach pumped.

I was the young woman who laid in bed for years.

I was the young woman who thought she was a Manchurian Candidate with a microchip inside her body that the CIA was using to monitor her whereabouts and control her thoughts. I was the young woman who tried to cut the microchip out of her leg with a broken glass.

I was the young woman who failed college classes by not attending them because she heard everyone in the class and the professor talking about her impending death when she did attend.

I was the young woman who lived in three different homeless shelters at three different times in three different years.

I was the young woman who was sexually assaulted three times because she was too psychotic to defend or protect herself.

I was the young woman who believed there was no way out but death and who bought a gun, took it to a shooting range, learned how to shoot it, and held it, loaded, in her mouth one night in 2005.

I was the young woman who was hospitalized in psychiatric units more than 25 times in her life.

I was the young woman who was told she was going to be sent to a state hospital in New Jersey where she didn't know anybody.

I was the young woman who didn't go to Smith College when she got the Ada Comstack Scholar's Program scholarship to attend there and thought she was a failure for it, because she wound up in a homeless shelter instead.

I was the girl who overdosed at the age of 15.

I was the girl who dropped out of high school because of depression and Anorexia Nervosa.

I was the young woman obsessed with a guy she met on the internet because she thought he was the only person who would ever like her, or love her, even though he couldn't care less about her and she had never even met him.

I was the young woman who thought nothing of herself, and didn't value her life.

I was the young woman who was hopeless.

I was the young woman wandering the streets, hiding out in the bushes from the Pentagon helicopters in Virginia because she thought the government was spying on her.

I was the young woman who believed she was pregnant by immaculate conception for four years with a baby that was going to be used as human food when she was to have it removed from her body inside a concentration camp.

I was the young woman who wandered the streets of Scientology-ville, otherwise known as Clearwater, Florida, believing she was the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, and that this religion which said psychiatry was evil was the only way of life for her.

I was the young woman who never felt like she truly belonged anywhere.

I was the girl who hid in the library during lunch in high school because she was too afraid to eat or be around people.

I was the young woman who stole a car because the voices told her to take it and didn't know she was doing anything wrong.

I was the young woman who didn't think she would survive.

I was the young woman whose mother called the police to beg them for help for her.

I was the young woman whose mother took her to court to get an order of protection to keep her away because she was crazy.

I was the young woman whose father didn't talk to her for six years because she said he molested her and tried to murder her, when he really hadn't, since she truly believed these things to be true.

I was the young woman in the traumatic stress disorders unit saying she had Dissociative Identity Disorder and her name was Amber Anderson.

I was the young woman who allowed men to use her sexually for not knowing she was worth something better than that.

I was the young woman who thought medications were poison and was afraid to take them.

I was the young woman who tape recorded her suicidal reports to the world, before she intended to shoot herself in the head, and who purchased gifts for her family and left them in her apartment, and who wrote a living will and left it on her father's office desk, and who intended to shoot herself to death. But the police stopped her.

I was the young woman who nobody expected to be able to recover because she was so far gone.

I was the young woman utterly alone in the universe.

I was the young woman with no friends.

I was the young woman who thought she was destined to die.

I was the young woman who thought she had no talents or anything to give to the world, who believed she was worthless, who cut her flesh out of the anger she had at herself.

I was the young woman who talked to herself to try to get her sanity back.

I was the young woman who walked into stores, psychotic, pretending to work there, and who terrified the employees of several places while doing so.

I was the young woman who was too afraid to speak up.

I was the young woman who didn't know she was sick or needed help. Didn't know. Didn't know.

I was the young woman who was not told she was psychotic because the doctors didn't figure it out for seven years and two dozen hospital trips.

I was the young woman who thought she was being gang raped and beaten up every night while in the psychiatric hospital and believed it was a torture chamber.

I was the young woman who went for days without showering or eating anything other than  Twizzlers and pizza and went for weeks without leaving her bedroom other than to go to the bathroom.

I was the young woman who you would see staring off into space in the library, lost inside herself.

I was the young woman who had no hope.

I was the young woman who was lost.

I was the young woman who almost gave up on herself, the same way others gave up on her.

I was the young woman who felt powerless over her own mind.

I was the young woman who was victimized.

I was the young woman who was terrified.

I was the young woman who flirted with death and almost lost.

And now........................

Now I have come from that dark place, and today I am the woman in recovery.

I am the woman whose life was saved by medication and a five-month hospital stay.

I am the woman grateful to be alive.

I am the woman who is an advocate for people with mental illnesses and tries to spread awareness through publicly telling her story.

I am the woman who writes her legislators to ask for funding for community mental health centers like the one she goes to for treatment.

I am the woman who is comfortable in her own skin.

I am the woman who knows what reality is, who doesn't have delusional thoughts about being people she isn't, who knows who she is, and who remembers what it was like when life was not this good.

I am the woman who graduated with her A.A. degree with honors in 2010 from a college she first attended in 1993.

I am the woman who is a student of social work and political science at a well-respected university.

I am the woman who gets A's in her classes even when she's having psychotic symptoms because she knows what to do about them now.

I am the woman who has a second family in NAMI where people respect her for who she is and don't treat her like a second class citizen even though they all know she has a serious mental illnesss.

I am the woman who will tell you the truth about herself if you're interested in knowing it.

I am the woman who visits her psychiatrist each month, gets an injection of medication every two weeks, and goes to therapy regularly because she wants to be well and live.

I am the woman who will go to the beach by herself to take in the sunset because she's grateful to be alive.

I am the woman who has made lists of reasons she wants to live to remind herself in case she ever forgets again.

I am the woman who won the Iris Award and the Consumer of the Year Award of 2010 from NAMI Pinellas for advocacy on behalf of people with mental illnesses.

I am the woman who speaks to the police every year during their Crisis Intervention Team trainings and tells them what it's like when the police come to take you away in handcuffs, so they can understand how to approach people in crises.

I am the woman who responsibly cares for her two cats.

I am the woman who has lived in the same apartment building for six years where she has paid the rent every month by herself with nobody's help.

I am the woman who has worked for six years on a part time basis, after going through vocational rehabilitation to find a job.

I am the woman who will answer the phone when you call the local community college and advise you on how to become a college student.

I am the woman who listens to music because it makes her feel better, and helps her motivate herself, not because she's trying to drown out voices.

I am the woman who doesn't hear voices most of the time anymore.

I am the woman who knows what to do if she does hear voices again, and isn't afraid to handle it.

I am the woman who is the membership director for her state's branch of the National Organization for Women because she wants to advocate for women's rights and not put up with violence against women by anyone.

I am the woman who has been the secretary of the NAMI Pinellas Consumer Council for years.

I am the woman who received a $500 scholarship for a student with a disability at the community college she attended.

I am the woman who wants to be a social worker, and help people who live with mental illnesses. I am the woman who knows she can do it.

I am the woman who did an internship last year at the same crisis center where she was a patient seven years ago for months.

I am the woman who answered the consumer council phone and advised people on where to go for help whenever they called for months.

I am the woman who talks to her dad when he wants to talk to her.

I am the woman who is close to her mom.

I am the woman who asked for forgiveness for reporting family members to the police for abuse that didn't happen.

I am the woman who knows she did not ever have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and doesn't believe many people do have it.

I am the woman who no longer feels totally disabled by Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, and goes to the doctor for help when she needs to.

I am the woman who can tell you about all the mental health services available to you in the county she lives in and recommend some good things to do if you need help.

I am the woman who gives out the national suicide helpline on Facebook after she finds out one of her Facebook friends killed himself.

I am the woman who posts on conspiracy theory message boards to let psychotic people know that she once had the same thoughts they have now, and she got better with medication.

I am the woman who writes research papers on the unfortunate results of deinstitutionalization and who does class projects and presentations on homelessness and mental illness.

I am the woman who spoke at the Southeast Conference on Homelessness and Supportive Housing in 2010, the Directions for Mental Health training conference of 2010, Bayside High School during The Great American Teach-Ins of 2010 and 2011, and other community groups to open up a dialogue about mental illness, in the hopes that she could have a positive impact on at least one person's life.

I am the woman who has attended anti-Scientology protests.

I am the woman who has real friends, and acquaintances, and a social life of sorts.

I am the woman who loves to laugh.

I am the woman who takes her medication daily and doesn't care what you think about that.

I am the woman who writes the blog Suicidal No More: Choosing to Live with Schizoaffective Disorder, and who, on a daily basis, makes the choice to live.

I am the daisy that blossomed in spite of the cement that encased her.

Sometimes it's okay to look at how far you've come and be a little proud of yourself - not to get an inflated ego, but to be grateful for where you are at today.

If you have a mental illness, have hope. I have hope. It gets me through. Along with a sense of humor.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lying in Bed Like my Grandmother: overwhelmed by messiness

I have been thinking about my grandmother who, today, lives in an assisted living facility with my grandfather, and doesn't walk anymore. They say it's that she doesn't want to walk because she gave up on life. I saw her give up life a long time ago. In fact, the way that I remember my grandmother in my childhood is that she was always in bed. I would go into her bedroom, and jump on her bed and yell, "Nanny, get up!! Get up!!! Come downstairs!! Come play with me!!" and she would growl at me in her way that eventually became an endearing grandmotherly thing, and tell me to get the hell out of her bedroom. Adults used to encourage me to try to drag her out of bed. This was in the 1980's. I remember my grandmother this way all my life. In her bed.

I recently was reminded by a family tree someone did that both of my grandmother's parents died when she was a child. She has never driven a car. She worked outside the home as a teenager, but after getting married and having seven kids, she never worked outside the home again. She was always very dependent on my grandfather. They have a really close-knit relationship.

But there is something about my grandmother. Something that has always drawn me to think of her as depressed. She does, actually take antidepressants. My dad told me once years ago that she had been in a psych ward. And in 1999, when I was psychotic, she said to me, "Jenny, go see a psychiatrist." Which I wish I had done.

I lived with my grandparents for a year and half, and that was the period when my psychosis took hold. Nobody knew that. Probably nobody I'm related to in Maryland even knows that now, all these years later. None of them really talk to me anymore. But that year, the year I was going to the community college, and in the honors program there, and had applied and got admitted to Smith College's Ada Comstock Scholars Program, that year, living with my grandparents, taking trains into see a specialist in Washington D.C. on Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, and desperately injecting myself with alternative medications to try to get better from that, better from something, better..... That year, that was the end of my rational life, for a long time.

And now that I think about my grandmother, I wonder what she saw in me that year that made her know I needed a psychiatrist. I wonder if it was something she could relate to. My bedroom was always a mess at her house. She would tell me to keep the door closed and to clean it up. I had a really hard time organizing myself as I've always had, all my life. I don't like living like a slob, but I have a really hard time trying to not live that way.

That is part of the reason I'm thinking of my grandmother right now. She who is lying in a bed in an ALF in Maryland, with her husband nearby in another room. He told my dad recently that he was worried she wouldn't live much longer. See, on Saturdays, I act like my grandmother. I lie in bed. I have plenty of reasons I could give you for this. And, hey, I don't lie in bed 365 days a year, like I did a few years ago. So I can say that. I can tell you I still have chronic physical conditions, like Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Sjogren's Syndrome. And the truth is, I don't really know how much those conditions are affecting me right now. My rheumatologist recently had me take antibiotics for two months and a high dosage of prescription strength Vitamin D because all my joints were hurting and my bloodwork showed an ineffective immune system.

But when it comes right down to it, I don't know why I spend the weekend in bed. I get up to go to the library. Usually, I do that on Sundays. I go to one at my former community college which is open then, and I go then because I didn't, usually, go on Saturday. I have been spending Saturdays in bed for many months. I go all through the week days, to work, to school, and I function. I am getting an A+ in both of my classes, the same grades I got last semester in both of my classes. I am doing well with school, so that's not a problem. But it takes everything. It takes all my willpower, and all my concentration, and all my energy to just get by.

I don't know what the problem is. My doctor increased my Prozac because of my OCD symptoms, not because of depression, because I didn't say I had any depression problem. But maybe I do, and I just don't recognize it. It's somehow related, this lack of ability to organize myself, and this lack of motivation to clean my apartment, and this getting overwhelmed so easily by my own mess. It's related to my mental health. How, exactly, that it is related is hard to explain. But it is related. So I get overwhelmed, and I give up, and I lie in bed.

Today was the day I had planned to clean my apartment. For a week, I planned it. Today would be the day. I didn't do it last weekend, so I had to do it today. It's in  very, very, very bad shape right now. I must do it very soon. I worry that the landlord will evict me if they hear from the pest control guy who comes to spray for bugs that my apartment is a disaster. And it is a disaster. I was driving behind a truck that said "1-800-JUNK We will haul your junk!" yesterday, and I thought about calling them to see if they would just come and pick up garbage and take it out of my apartment. I was joking to myself about this. Like, yeah, that's what would happen if I had a house, I'd have to call a truck. My mom has called trucks to her house to haul junk. I learned how to be a slob from my mom. She was like this. But I am now worse than she is. I am now a sloth, lying in bed all Saturday, because Monday through Friday takes every bit of energy I have to go to class, go to libraries, study, get good grades on projects, go to work, do my job, not get too stressed out, go to therapy with my new therapist, go to the psychiatrist, and do all of those things. And then it is Saturday, and it is time to tackle the mess, and I just stop.

I get too tired, and too overwhelmed, and I just lie there. My new therapist said if you're tired from physical illnesses, it's okay to lie down all day. But the thing is, I don't want to be lying down all day. I want to be accomplishing bare necesseties of life that I need to do to get by here. I am talking about a colossal mess. I am talking about flies throughout my house being drawn by food lying around and beverages lying around and getting spilled and I'm not cleaning any of it up. I am talking about not being able to walk through all the clothing on the floor of my bedroom. My bedroom which I carefully decorated myself so it would be nice, and pretty. My bedroom, like the rest of my apartment is a disaster. My dishes haven't been washed in I-don't-know-how-many weeks! It is not normal to live like this. That is the thought that comes to mind. This is NOT normal. This is NOT okay. This is going to get me EVICTED from my home. I have to FIX this and fix it now.

And then, I don't. I just give up. Like my grandmother who gave up on life years ago, retreating to her bedroom every day, and lying down. I lie down. I don't want to do this. I don't want to live this way. I want to take a class this summer, and I don't know how I'm going to be able to do it, because it would involve getting up early in the morning two more days a week, and I'm not sure I can even hack that. Because of having withdrawn from a lot of classes due to my illness when I was younger, I cannot withdraw from any class anymore, or else I am ineligible for any financial aid for school, which means I will never graduate if I drop a class. But I don't want to be in my 40's  when I do graduate, so I want to take a six-week summer class, to get some more credits done and keep my momentum up. This won't be possible with the state my apartment is in right now. I have to clean it up! I have to function!

If it was just laziness, that would not be so hard to fix, but it isn't that. It's related to my mental health in ways that are hard to explain, but it isn't that I'm lazy. I'm getting really good grades in school, and I go to my job. I am doing well with those things. I show up, I do my work, I work hard, I give it my all. But then when it comes to my home, I collapse at home. I am tired, and I am overwhelmed, and I cannot handle the mess by myself. I need some kind of assistance, but there isn't any. I don't really want assistance, but I don't know what to do. If there was assistance, I would say no thank you for it, because the mess is too humiliating to let anybody see it.

I have to find a way to get this place cleaned, and to not end up like my grandmother. I have to have hope that I really can get through college, that I really can work, that I really can someday work full-time, that I can live. I have nothing without hope. I must have hope.

Tomorrow, I must clean. It's Easter (today, actually, it's 3 AM), but I must clean because it must be done. I have no choice.

My friend doesn't understand why I can't go to the movies. Nobody in my life really understands me. I can handle so much, and then my limit is reached. I must find a way to incorporate cleaning my home into the limit of what I can handle. I must find the wherewithall within me to do it. I must go on.

This summer, I am also planning on trying to get off Risperdal Consta, so that I can try to lose weight and not be so obese anymore. I am very overweight, and it is the meds that made me this way. I have been talking to my doctor about this for a long time, and he said over the summer, when I'm not in classes (even if I take a class it will be brief), he would be willing to see how I do without the Risperdal. I am nervous about this, and I think that I probably should be nervous about it. My doctor says he's not as keen on me going off the drug as I am. But he's willing to let me try to do it. So that is also in the works.

But first, I must clean. Tomorrow, I will not spend the day in bed.