Hi! Just wanted to post this to ask people to please sign the petition to the President and Congress to increase funding for research related to finding cures for mental illness. It only takes a minute! Please share with your friends too!
In the United States in the past week we have been shocked and devastated by public shootings. First in Oregon at Clackamas Town Center, then in Connecticut at an elementary school and then in Las Vegas at a hotel. Most people, myself included, are horrified at the violence. Naturally, we now all seem to be debating about how to prevent these senseless acts. Some people latch onto gun control, some people latch onto our violently oriented culture, and some people latch onto mental illness as an issue. I honestly don’t know that there are any answers or actions that society can make as a whole to prevent things like this happening in the future, but this bit of rant is not about answers exactly. What I want to talk about is what is NOT the answer.
What is NOT the answer is scapegoating any one group of people. From my perspective as a person living with mental illness, I am (of course) sensitive to people ranting about how the mentally ill should be locked up or about how all of the shooters must have been mentally ill. Honestly, we don’t know enough about the situations or people to comment. What I have to say time and time again is that statistics bear out the fact that mentally ill people are generally not violent and are, in fact, more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of violent crime. People with mental illness are often more of a threat to themselves than to anyone else. Even if all of the shooters turn out to be mentally ill, that does not mean that all people with mental illness are violent. We can note also that all of the shooters were male, but that doesn’t mean that all men are violent and that all men should be locked away from society or have their rights stripped.
It is distressing to me that so often the conversation will turn into attacks on mentally ill people aka “the crazies” and how to keep them away from “the rest of us.” There are literally millions (or more) people living with mental illness who never harm anyone. If someone is violent AND mentally ill, that does not mean they are violent BECAUSE they are mentally ill. They are violent, because they are violent. We should focus our energies on how to make the world a less violent one with people who are less violent, not perpetuate stereotypes and attack other humans who have done nothing wrong.
Hi! As you might know if you have scanned my blog, I make it a point to talk about mental health/illness, because I have schizophrenia and I believe in stomping out the stigma of mental illness. Well, I have this cute story to share! I was waiting outside of the classroom for my biology lab class to start this fall and started talking to a supernice girl who was in my class. We got to talking and to try to explain why I had been in school so long I decided to tell her that I have schizophrenia. Lo and behold she says “oh yah, my mom has bipolar and my brother has schizophrenia too!” What a small world!!! It turns out her whole family is active in the mental health field in advocating for the erasure of stigma related to mental illness and they have a website called http://bringchange2mind.org/ . I am always surprised when I talk to people about my own illness and then they also know someone or are someone with mental illness too! It is such a big thing in peoples’ lives and when we talk about it, it is surprising/amazing/wonderful that we aren’t alone in our struggles. So, I just wanted to share this little story and a link to the Bring Change 2 Mind website. It was a wonderful feeling to meet someone else at school who knows first hand about mental illness and to be able to talk openly about it! :) Three cheers for no more stigma!!! :)
Hey check out Lindsey’s vlog! Great to hear her story! :) She is also an amazing artist! Check out her art at http://www.etsy.com/shop/lindseycormier
Hi! I’m happy to report I got my Cure Alliance schizophrenia magnet today! Strange that my bumper wouldn’t hold the magnet! haha. Anyway, please check them out at the Cure Alliance Facebook page here. Also, see the related post I made about their campaign here.
Hey everybody! The Cure Alliance has launched their 50-50-50 campaign to raise awareness about mental illness. It stands for 50 states, 50 magnets in 50 days. They want to get their mental illness magnets in 50 states in 50 days! YOU can participate! The first person from each state to contact them gets their choice of a free magnet for their car! Just email them at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can buy them from their store HERE. I think they are good for other things too, like to stick on lunchboxes or bikes or anything a magnet will stick to!!! Please also like their Facebook page HERE.
Hey Everybody! I’m really excited about this new show on TNT called “Perception.” http://www.tntdrama.com/series/perception/
It stars Eric McCormack (of Will & Grace fame) as a university professor, author and crime solver who is also living with schizophrenia! I’m always skeptical of depictions of people with mental illness on TV and in movies, because they usually make them out to be psychopathic killers or something. I’ve watched the first two episodes of the show so far, and I think they do an excellent job of making the character seem like a regular human being! It is so fantastic! They use the hallucinations as kind of a dramatic device and employ some other Beautiful Mind-esque devices to try to make it like the viewer can see what the character is seeing. Some commenters have argued that it doesn’t show the horrific aspects of schizophrenia enough, but I personally like that they are showing him to be a regular person, and an intelligent one at that! I like that they show him holding down a job, interacting with people socially, and using the help of other people to reality test. I’m excited to see how the character and the show develop and I hope it gets picked up for another season! Please check it out if you get a chance! Again, it is on TNT Monday nights. Here is the TNT link: http://www.tntdrama.com/series/perception/
I’m taking a Women’s Studies course at school and we are looking at the topic of Motherhood. This week we are discussing motherhood and disabilities, and I came across this wonderful video series that is made by a student about a mother who has schizophrenia and how it has impacted her life and the life of her daughter. I think he did a really good job! The video is divided into four parts and I hope you watch all four parts! :)
I first wrote about taking my Haldol injections back in 2007 in http://kristinbell.org/2007/07/23/the-haldol-injections/.
I wanted to report that yes, I’m still getting the Haldol injections now once every three weeks. Haldol is an antipsychotic medication used to treat psychosis like that found in schizophrenia. I have schizophrenia and started getting the Haldol injections back in late 2000…I guess it was November or December of 2000. The Haldol injections combined with all the other meds I take have been a miracle for me.
So far (knock on wood) I haven’t had many side-effects from the medication. I haven’t yet developed tardive dyskinesia. I hope that I don’t.
I had to start getting the Haldol injections, because I couldn’t take my medications as prescribed. It sounds like a simple enough task, but my illness got in the way of me adhering to my medication regiment, and I’d wind up going off my meds and going crazy. I’ve had a good run with the Haldol. I haven’t been hospitalized since starting it, and if you know anything about people with mental illness, that is quite a feat! :) Without the injection form of the medication I’m pretty sure I’d still be bouncing in and out of insanity and in and out of hospitals.
Haldol is a powerful medication, and not one that people enjoy taking. It can cause a lot of sedation, but in the right dose with the right brain it is a miracle drug. It doesn’t work for everyone, and I probably wouldn’t extoll the virtues of it if I was taking the oral form of the medication. With the injection form of the medication I am able to take less of the medication while still getting the benefits of it. I believe that there are also short-acting Haldol injections for acutely psychotic patients, but I am getting the long-acting injections which metabolize over a number of weeks.
I know that a lot of people, including people with schizophrenia and other brain diseases, are afraid of getting injections of medication. If you are paranoid and psychotic, like I was when I first got the injection, it is terrifying to get the injections. I actually believed that the doctors were giving me a lethal injection to kill me when I got my first dose. It turns out that it was the best thing that ever happened to me, not the worst. Now there are other medications that come in injection forms too. Meds like Risperdal and others. If Haldol doesn’t work for someone then maybe one of the other injectables will work. At any rate, I think it is worth giving them a try. It may take awhile to get used to the meds and to get the correct dosing, but it is worth it in the end.
I thought I’d do a little mental health update, since it has been quite some time since I’ve blogged about my overall mental health. As some of you dear readers may know, I have schizophrenia. I first had issues with it when I was about 15. My first hospitalization was when I was 16. Towards the end of 2000 I got mostly stabilized with my Haldol injections and Zoloft. I haven’t been in the hospital since then! Yay! Quite a long run I’ve had and I hope it continues! For quite some time I had problems getting things done, being motivated and feeling down…that sort of thing, even though I was mostly fine. I think it was last year that I started taking Abilify and it has made a HUGE difference! I’m still taking Zoloft, Buspar, Haldol and some non-psychiatric meds in addition to the Abilify, but the addition of the Abilify was great. I’m doing really pretty well these days. Sometimes I have anxiety, although I think it might generally be related to performance issues with school. I also tried taking Topamax to help with weight loss, but I thought it might be making me stupid and giving me more anxiety, so I quit taking it. I think overall, the Topamax was not helping. It seemed like I was becoming less motivated and more sad with it. I also had that bad anxiety day that I wrote about recently.
So, I think I was just hoping for a magic weightloss bullet with the Topamax. It didn’t work. Boo. I have lost about 90-100 pounds though which is good, but I still need to be less sedentary. I’m also a believer in fat acceptance, but of course it is hard to say that I never want to try to lose weight. I would be an even bigger believer in fat acceptance if I wasn’t actually fat I think!!! hahaha. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is kind of true. I can accept the hell out of everyone’s fatness, but my own! lol.
Anyway, enough about fatness for now. What I want to say is that I’m doing well on the whole. My sleep patterns have improved with my sleep apnea machine, and while I’m not sleeping on any kind of normal schedule yet, I’m getting sleep every day and mostly at the same time! I still tend to be somewhat paranoid, but I’ve found that opening up with people over the years on the internet has really helped me to realize that I don’t need to be afraid of everyone in the world. I still have some delusional thoughts that blow through my brain now and then, but I consider them to be more of a slight annoyance than a big deal right now. But seriously, it is because of the medicine. If I wasn’t taking my meds, and doing so faithfully, I would be in and out of hospitals and massively psychotic. Some people don’t believe me, because I “seem so normal,” but I have to wonder what THAT means anyway? And, I don’t know, it seems like I should be insulted when people say that to me, but I’m not sure why I find it so insulting! I don’t necessarily want to be abnormal, even though I pretty much am, but I think it just bothers me that people attach a kind of value judgement to the term “normal” as if “normal” is superior. It is definitely easier to live in the world if you are “normal,” but it isn’t the only way to be in the world, that’s for sure. Normal is just such a peculiar word, no?
So, I’m doing fine. Some anxiety here and there, some weird thoughts here and there…a depressed mood now and then, but mostly just good. Which is nice. Thank you meds and thank you lucky stars! So, that’s my update after living with schizophrenia for 24 years. Wow! 24 years! Man am I getting old!!! LOL.
I was just informed of this great project called Schizowhat? that is a website aimed at raising awareness about schizophrenia. For those of you who don’t know, I have schizophrenia. I was first diagnosed when I was about 15/16 years old. I hope others of you who are interested or in some way impacted by schizophrenia will check out the website and contribute! Let’s fight the stigma! Yay!
A study performed by Hui-jie Li et. al. based in Beijing, China and published in Schizophrenia Research vol. 134 (2012) tested 12 patients with schizophrenia for facial emotion processing. In the study, 12 of the non-ill siblings of the patients were also tested along with a control group of 12 people who were matched for demographic variables like IQ, age, gender, and education levels.
The researchers were especially interested in evaluating whether or not the patients with schizophrenia had deficits in facial emotional processing like other studies from Western populations have indicated. In essence, this was a replication study paired with a cultural component to test if facial emotional processing deficits are universal or not.
The data obtained from 8-minute fMRI scanning sessions where participants were shown 20 happy faces, 20 fearful faces and 20 neutral faces (at different times with different time intervals) were analyzed and it was found that the patients with schizophrenia showed abnormal activation of the “social brain neural circuit.” In addition, the sibling participants showed slight abnormalities that fell between what the patients with schizophrenia displayed and what the control group displayed. This result led researchers to hypothesize that there might be a deficit even in the non-ill siblings that the patients’ brains are trying to compensate for.
During the study the control group showed greater activation in various brain regions that processed the happy faces, but the patients with schizophrenia showed greater activation than the controls in the left middle frontal gyrus when processing the fearful faces. The sibling participants also showed greater activation than the controls (but less than their siblings with schizophrenia) when processing fearful faces, but had similar activation responses to controls with the happy faces.
The results of the study are similar to previous studies done to test for facial emotional processing in people with schizophrenia indicating that there are universal deficits in facial emotional processing that patients with schizophrenia must compensate for.
I’m very pleased to report that this last term at school went great! I took the first term of Calculus and Intro. to Linear Algebra and got A’s in both classes! I also had a really good time with the classes. I had great teachers too! I have seen a real improvement in my ability to actually get to classes because of my bipap sleep machine and have seen an even greater increase in my ability to do homework and concentrate since I started taking Abilify last January. Doing well in school has always been important to me, but because of my schizophrenia and sleep problems I have had a lot of issues with being able to attend and get through classes.
When I first became ill when I was 15 my grades really suffered. For the first time in my life I wasn’t a straight A student which was quite disheartening. The last two terms in school I have been feeling a lot like my old self for the first time since I was 15!!!
Anyway, this last term was great and a real ego booster! I just hope I can keep up the success! :)
I’ve been reading a lot about identity lately. First I was reading about identity for an art history class and then just for fun. I just finished reading Revolting Bodies: The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity by Kathleen LeBesco—great book by the way. Obviously from the title, the book was about identity. I’ve also been reading some bell hooks and some other stuff. And, what I’ve decided is that mostly I AM CONFUSED! I’m not confused in the way that someone can tell me who and what I am. I am confused in a way that I seem to have been confused all my life, but I don’t know, is it normal? For me it is.
What am I talking about? Well, okay, in talking about fat identity LeBesco actually discusses this kind of confusion. The confusion where I want to be all fat-positive all the time, but then there are times when I hate myself. There are times when I feel like I just*want*to*lose*weight, but I still want to be a fat activist! lol I want to be a fat activist as long as I can be a skinny fat activist—an ally and not a “victim.” I want to be out and proud about my mental illness, but then I feel like no one will ever want to date me, because they think I’m defective. But, who really thinks I’m defective? It seems like I do. Why do I feel like that? Am I defective? What would it even mean to be non-defective, because I’m not a machine! But then again, people DO think poorly of the mentally ill. It isn’t like most people would purposely pick a mentally ill person as a love interest, and WHAT IN THE WORLD would it mean for a non-mentally ill person to seek out a mentally ill person for a love interest?!?
I also wonder about the whole “health” aspect of being fat. Do I eat too much and the wrong things and not get enough exercise? Yes, yes, yes. So, it is my fault I’m fat. Why don’t I try to be healthier? Why would I reject wanting to be healthier? Because, obviously on some level I do reject it. Maybe not all of it is “my fault” of course. At least I don’t think so. Then I’m being too easy on myself. But why do I have to be perfect?
I’m similarly confused with my politics and my understanding of myself as female. I like being female and I hate it too. I want to be a feminist and at the same time I wonder how I can possibly be a feminist when I don’t support myself fully? Does being a feminist mean you pay for everything yourself? I used to think so, but it seems like I’m still mostly a feminist even though I live with my parents. Another thing is that I have doubts about going full throttle into things. Can I be a good feminist if I don’t go gung-ho? What if, god-forbid, I disagree with other feminists?!?
I’m like this in so many ways…one foot in the door the other out. I have this inner dialogue of contempt for the world and myself sometimes, but then I try to fight that a lot (other times not so much). I truly think that one of the reasons why I love Hello Kitty so much is that I can full-throttle love everything Hello Kitty without caring if it is right or wrong or true or false or up or down to love all things Hello Kitty. I know that sounds absurd, but I think it might be true. I don’t care if people think I’m weird or childish. I just love Hello Kitty! I don’t feel so free in other areas of my life. I try to be fat-positive, I try to stomp out mental illness stigma, I try to align my politics with things that I think are right, but it is mostly tempered. Even my educational goals are splintered. I can’t pick just one thing and get on with it, so I study as many things as I can.
What does this mean for my identity and how I construct it? It is kind of like I’m living in the margins of the margins. I’m marginalized by who I am, and then again I marginalize myself by thinking I’m not fully one thing or the other. I live in the ether, because I refuse or can’t choose to live on terra-firma. Is it easier to live in the ether? I suppose in ways it could be, but it really seems difficult at times. I sometimes desperately desire to say “I AM THIS!” and “THIS IS WHAT I’M ABOUT!” but I can never manage that. I want to know what I’m about. Don’t we all?
I hate to be so blunt…okay, I really don’t mind, but my mother really wouldn’t approve of such language. heh. Anyway, it really is a major chore realizing you are fucked up in the head. There’s no easy way to put it and no easy way to realize it.
Okay, maybe I could just say “mentally ill,” but that phrase seems so sterile to me compared to what it is really like to realize you are fucked up. I remember when I first became sick, and for years after honestly, I SERIOUSLY thought *I* was not the one who was screwed up, but that everyone around me needed therapy instead. I probably even told my parents that they should go to therapy instead of me.
Still, my life just seems like my boring old life to me. I hardly seem as messed up as I actually have been in real life. Doesn’t everyone try to kill themselves these days?!? I mean really! Don’t most people have eating disorders? No? What? And the psychosis? Well, I know that isn’t *quite* normal, but it isn’t THAT bizarre once it happens to you. Only, it kind of is bizarre. I guess a little more strange than “normal.” I just have to laugh about it all. It seems so ridiculous! All of it. My whole life really seems spectacularly odd is all. I really can’t imagine a life more “normal” than mine. That is why I am always surprised when I talk about one little thing in my life and people look at me funny.
Anyway, back to the realizing you are fucked up in the head. If you are new to the business of realizing it, just take the time and let it sink in, because it takes a LONG LONG time to really let it absorb properly. I think it is because once pretty much ALL of us were in the “normal” spectrum, even the ones like me who eventually jump ship into crazy-land. It seems to me like everyone pretty much likes to be “normal” in some way, even if you are a “normal” tightrope walker or a “normal” person with blue hair who likes to hang from your piercings. There is still a community for your type of normal out there. When we are kids, we are all sort of “normal.” No one really says to their teacher “yah, I want to grow up to be the guy who walks around the streets talking to voices! YAH!!!”
A lot of people say “oh, you shouldn’t use terms like ‘normal’. No one is really ‘normal’ anyway!” But really, there are NORMAL people in the world, even if the term is somewhat corrupt, so I am going to use the word normal and I’m going to quit using quote marks around it by God! haha.
I know that I am somewhat normal in some ways, but in other ways not so much, and that is okay. We grow up thinking that we want to be superstars and the best of something, but no one really wants to be completely off the charts weird. I’m just going to say, you can survive being weird. You don’t have to be a superstar. It is just important to realize that in some ways you, or at least I, am different from normal people. Part of accepting my mental illness means accepting my non-normalness, because if you think you are normal, you most likely won’t take your medication, and for people like me, people with schizophrenia, you need to realize that medication will and does help if you are on the right meds.
I don’t even know why I’m writing this. It is just something I was thinking about as I was looking out the window today. Specifically, I was thinking with a chuckle how I used to think that it was everyone else who needed a psychiatrist and NOT me. And it was just so hard realizing how it was me that was messed up and me that needed help. That’s all.
I seem to be one of the few liberal-ish people who thinks that the Arizona shooting had more to do with mental illness than politics, and I think it is kind of ironic that a great majority of the Left is talking about “dangerous” rhetoric while simultaneously throwing pejoratives about mental illness and the mentally ill around like “crazy.” Everything from “nutter” to “nutjob” to “lunatic,” “crazies,” “wacko” and every other euphemism for the mentally ill that you can think of—except a plain “mentally ill.” If the Left is really so worried about a culture of bad rhetoric, then I say they should go all the way or go home. In other words, stop calling mentally ill people disrespectful names (of course, the Right is rampant with this too). This kind of vilification of the mentally ill does exactly what the Left is talking about the rhetoric of gunning people down does—it objectifies people and dismisses their humanity. But, I guess that it is okay to diss the crazies, because we aren’t really people afterall are we? We are just wild animals that need to be chained and shot for the good of everyone. Well, that is what a lot of people seem to believe, especially when something tragic happens like the shooting in Arizona. What happened in Arizona was wrong and awful, but despite peoples’ desires to paint the tragedy into black and white terms where there is good on one side and evil on another, in reality the good and evil don’t exist. They are words we’ve made up to downplay and deny the complexities of situations that we have a difficult time understanding. We can do better.
*the pic is a high school yearbook pic of the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, that was posted at ajc.com
*** Update 1/9/2011 to Clear Up Confusion: I am in no way advocating that the shooter be given a free pass and let go to go out and commit more killings. That is not what this post is about.***
The dust has not yet settled in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona where many people were injured and several were killed by a gunman who open fired on a group gathered outside a Safeway to participate in a meeting with Congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Already people are lining up on each side of their political fence to throw the blame at one another for inciting violence in “the crazies,” but what I fear will probably be lost in all of this is that it probably has nothing to do with politics and more to do with a lone shooter who was most likely mentally ill and set adrift in a gun-toting culture of violence that doesn’t want to deal with the “problem” of mentally ill people, let alone the stigma of it all.
If it turns out that the gunman is mentally ill, there will likely be no discussion about the real issues related to mental health care for people who are seriously ill, and the media will again brandish a VIOLENT person as a representative of what mental illness is. I checked out what is reported to be the gunman’s youtube page: Classitup10 who is supposedly Jared Lee Loughner and his videos are filled with the kind of nonsensical, paranoid ramblings classic in mental illness, especially untreated schizophrenia. If these are in fact his videos, and if he is mentally ill (which is all conjecture at this point: Jan. 8, 2011, 3:30pm), I wonder and fear how this will play out in the media and how it will play out in the courtroom.
Of course, my sympathies are for the people killed and injured and their families, but it would also be tragic if this entire situation was blown up into a political football that people just pass back and forth. If we could come to learn more about the real reasons for violence in our society and possibly learn something real about mental health care and stigma, perhaps all would not be lost. I am not crossing my fingers though.
* below is another pic from the same source of Jared Lee Loughner in 2010.
I’ve wanted to make something for my psychiatrist for a LONG time, and I finally made something today! I hope he likes it! Those are his dogs that he has in his office with him. They sit on his couch with me when I go see him. :)
I’m just going to say it: GOD DAMN DEPRESSION!!! It is so horrible that words cannot describe it, right? You know what I am saying. And, at this moment, I have no idea how many people out there are thinking about or attempting suicide. It is the great loss, the tragic loss…every suicide. I’ve tried wrapping my head around it. Tried thinking of it as someone’s way out of pain, but the truth is, each attempt, every moment spent toiling over it: TRAGIC.
I know that it feels like the only way to relieve the pain. Looking back on my own suicidal ideation and attempts, I can only wonder: WHAT WAS I THINKING!?! Okay, I know what I was thinking…tired. tired of being tired. tired of having this huge pain that I couldn’t really describe, this unending sorrow swallowing me whole. Tired of being a failure, and broke, and stupid, ugly, horrible, disgusting, friendless, and every other bad thing I could think to call myself. But, I don’t know, mostly I didn’t even care if I lived or died. These few pills will take away the pain? Okay, I’ll be dead and it won’t matter anymore. My big dillema was getting rid of my body without horrifying other people. Continue Reading Suicide…
So, schizophrenia sounds like a really friggin’ scary deal, and, it kind of is, but the odds are that you probably will not develop it. Interestingly enough, schizophrenia effects about 1 percent of the population worldwide according to most statistics. There also seems to be little variation to the 1 percent figure. In other words, developing and developed countries seem to have the same rates of illness. It seems that there is not one place that has more or less of the disease.
Here are some other figures provided by narsad.org, Continue Reading Notes on Schizophrenia: Probability/Social Aspects…
First, my apologies, because I fear that this post will just be a standard, ill-conceived diary rant. Sometimes I don’t know what else to do than to simply spew words on a screen (I was going to say on a page, but there aren’t any “pages” in the computer world exactly.) It is 5:30am on the Continue Reading Standard Ill-Conceived Diary Rant…
Sometimes I wonder if I have just become my illness. I know that there are other aspects of me, but, how can I separate my mental illness from myself and just say Continue Reading Am I My Illness?…