Mental Health Update: Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28, 2012 at 1:18 am | Posted in 2012, Abilify, Acceptance, Anti-anxiety meds, Anti-depressants, Anti-psychotics, Anxiety, Autobiography, Bipap, Body Image, Body Narrative, Brain, Buspar, Depression, Diary Rant, EDNOS, Fat, Fat Acceptance, Fat Hatred, Haldol, Haldol DEC, Haldol Decanoate, Happy, Health, Injections, insanity, Kristin Bell, Medicine, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mood Stabilizers, Prescription Meds, Psych Meds, Psychiatrist, Psychiatry, Psychiatry Denial, Psycho, Psychoactive Substances, Psychology, Psychosis, schizoaffective disorder, Schizophrenia, Sleep, Sleep Disorders, stigma, Weight, Zoloft | Leave a comment

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.

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New Abstract Art by Me + Discussion

March 27, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Posted in abstract art, Art, art journal, Autobiography, Bipolar, Borderline Personality, BPD, DBT, Depression, drawings, EDNOS, Handmade, Hope, Illustrated, insanity, iPad, iPad Art, journal, Kristin Bell, Marsha Linehan, Memory, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mindfulness, pain, Painting, Photography, process, Prozac, Psych Meds, Psychiatrist, Psychiatry, Psychiatry Denial, Psychoactive Substances, Psychology, Sculpture, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, sketchbook, Stress, Suicide, Support System, Surviving | 2 Comments

Process:
I was reading a book by Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy treatment for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, and I was struck by the theoretical concepts that she was discussing in the book. At the same time, I had been thinking about my friend who has BPD. I thought about the unending pain she suffers and how there is so much rage and turmoil in her life. I wanted to incorporate both Linehan’s concepts and aspects of my friend into the art journal that I just started working on as a collaboration with my friend, John.

So, John began the journal by preparing many pages and providing inspirations and prompts, then he mailed it to me and it was my turn to lay down something on the pages.

The first thing I did was use a handheld scanning pen to scan vertical snippets of text from the Linehan book. I then printed out the scans and cut them up into various pieces. You can just make out some of the text, like the words “dysfunction” and “BPD” and “DBT” if you look closely at the first piece.

Next, I began by glueing down the various text scans onto the journal…all over the top of what my friend John had already done. You can see bits of the yellow wash that he had laid down already. I added handwritten elements with text that expressed how I felt about my friend with BPD. Some are “rage and flounder,” “escape impossible,” “improbable at best,” and “hermedically sealed” (which I spelled wrong, but ends up being seen as “medically sealed” in the final product which I think is just as good and apt).

I colored over parts with a reddish pen, because for me, reddish colors always seem to represent pain and suffering, if not outright blood. I also used my label maker to add “A FACE TO YOUR PAIN,” because I felt like this was my way of giving her pain a face. There is also a scrunched up scribble of a face contorted with pain on the journal page just above the label. Then I started adding layers of cut out graph paper, because I wanted part of the image to have some linear and quantifiable aspects, like the discreet squares of red in contrast to the smudgy blob of red elsewhere. I also added a cut out plastic sleeve that I applied color to.

I then decided that I wanted to cut out some of the page and expose the treatment that was done on the other side of the page by my friend John. I likened this to an escape hatch to relieve the immense pressure and pain of the page and my friend’s actual pain. I cut out “hermedically sealed,” which is how it seems my friend’s pain is stored, and I pasted it onto the next page so that it could be seen as “medically sealed” through the cutout. A lot of my friend’s history involves intense and traumatic encounters with the medical establishment, so I thought this was appropriate. I cut out and folded over some of the page to make more linear elements and to add to the color use on the page as well. I also wanted to do this to incorporate the idea of overlapping aspects of our lives and our histories.

When I cut out “hermedically sealed” it left an opening that for me seemed like a window and represents the hope I still have for my friend despite what seems like endless suffering. I painted the page that can be seen underneath with blues and greens to represent the sky and grass, and I placed a puffy Hello Kitty sticker in the window as a kind of whimsical “hello” with friendship. Part of the other cutout seemed organic and flower-like to me, so I also added a stem of a flower for more aspects of light and living, but also change and death. With some of the folded over cutouts I felt like there was too much color and light, so I blacked out the spaces with a magnum black Sharpie.

Throughout the process, I was concerned not only with symbolic aspects of representation, but also with the aesthetic elements of line, color, space, balance, etc. So, part of the experiment was definitely symbolic, but I also spent time adjusting the image elements to try to make an interesting and unifying picture.

When I felt like I was done with the journal page, I took a photograph of it and posted it to Facebook to keep track of the process aspect of the journaling project. I was then compelled to go further with the image by enlarging parts of the image and cropping them in interesting ways. I took snapshots of the screen with my iPad and then emailed them to my desktop machine where I processed them in Photoshop and then printed them out. I really didn’t know how they would look printed out or if I would use or like them at that point.

I liked how the prints looked, but I felt they really should be juxtaposed somehow, so I combined them.

The closeup crops that I made were deliberate. I based my decisions on aesthetics and also on what words would be incorporated into the image. “A FACE TO YOUR PAIN” was cropped into “TO YOUR PAIN” for one image and “OUR PAIN” for another image. I wanted to bring together these two aspects of the experience of pain, the self and the other, and comment on the interaction between the two. For my friend who suffers, it seems that her pain is hers alone and that it is an isolated state of suffering, but she also has friends, family and care providers who care about her and interact with her pain and suffering. We, of course, have our own pain and suffering, but seeing her in pain is also difficult and informs our own pain and our own worldview.

When I combined the crop prints, I was “mindful” of the tension between the different images on the page and wanted to incorporate Linehan’s ideas about thesis, antithesis and synthesis in the overall picture. For me, the synthesis is the final completed work, but up until then I felt that I was going back and forth trying to find the finished piece. I felt that I needed to bridge the piece to make it more cohesive, so I added a red ribbon that tied the gaps that I saw together, also tying my friend to the world and people outside of herself. I then added sculpted copper wire to put back in a bit of the organic that I thought was lost and to act as a core and a crowning jewel.

For the second image, I employed much the same process. I printed out crops of the journal and then cut and fit the pieces together like a puzzle. For me, the second piece is more about hope, so I used the “A Window Opens” text in part of it and the overall image is less dark and red. The border of the image is a handwritten excerpt from Linehan’s text that talks about dialectics and how it is a process that persuades and encourages movement. I used the red yarn to imply some movement, but also tension. The yarn is tight, but not so tight that it tears the page. It also helps to unify the image I think, adding that aspect of synthesis.

The journal page.
The first finished piece.The second finished piece.

Review: Loud In the House of Myself by Stacy Pershall

February 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Posted in Acceptance, Anorexia, Anti-anxiety meds, Anti-depressants, Anti-psychotics, Anxiety, Ativan, Autobiography, Binge Eating, Bipolar, Black & White, Body, Body Image, Books, Borderline Personality, Bulimia, Compulsive Eating, Compulsive Exercising, Depakote, Depression, Eating Disorders, EDNOS, insanity, Internet, Kristin Bell, Lithium, Loud In the House of Myself, Mania, Manic, Manic-Depressive, MAO Inhibitors, memoir, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mood Stabilizers, Navane, Prozac, Psych Meds, Psychiatrist, Psychiatry, Psychoactive Substances, Psychology, Reading, Review, Self-Harm, Self-Injury, Stacy Pershall, Stories, strange girl, Suicide, Surviving, Thin, Weightloss | Leave a comment

Loud In the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl is a new book by Stacy Pershall. Of course, I was immediately drawn to this memoir, because it is a) a memoir b) about a “strange girl” and c) deals with mental illness. Yay! Since I’m undoubtably a strange mentally ill girl, I knew I had to read this. Pershall writes about her life growing up in Arkansas and her morphing from an über-sensitive child into a teenager and young adult with Borderline and Bipolar issues. Anyone familiar with the mental illness memoir genre will certainly have heard of Elizabeth Wurtzel, and I just bring her up, because UNLIKE Wurtzel, Pershall is not whiny in her writing! Pershall is matter-of-fact about her trials and symptoms, even though the reader can imagine the actual playing out of illness to be much more harsh and unbearable.

Pershall describes her unrelenting eating disorder, mood swings and suicide attempts with a steady and precise hand. This book seems really accessible to me, because Pershall speaks not only to those of us who have been through the mental health care system, but also to people who might not really understand this special weirdness. The only thing I would like to see more of in this book is more OF this book! haha. Seriously though, I enjoyed reading this memoir and would love to read more from Pershall. I would especially recommend this book to people struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder. There is a special misery only known by Borderlines that is never really represented in the books that ostensibly deal with Borderline Personality Disorder. I really wish there were more accounts like this that show the uncrazy through the crazy of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Review: Devil in the Details-Scenes From an Obsessive Girlhood

September 4, 2010 at 12:10 am | Posted in Anti-anxiety meds, Anxiety, Anxiety Attacks, Autobiography, Books, Brain, Buspar, compulsion, Compulsive, Humor, Kristin Bell, memoir, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Psychiatry, Psychology, Religion, Scrupulosity | Leave a comment

“Devil in the Details: Scenes From an Obsessive Girlhood” by Jennifer Traig will tickle your inner OCD child if you have one. I’m not a full blown OCD person, but I can relate to some of what Traig writes about, and she shows us with much wit what a full blown disorder is like. It is great that she has such a wonderful sense of humor about a disorder that is so crippling to her and so many millions of people like her. For those who don’t understand Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, this gives a good glimpse into a life that is severely train-wrecked by it. I give this four stars instead of five, because I found the ending a bit weak compared to the rest of the book that kept me enthralled. My only unanswered question is: am I the only one who noticed that the candies on the cover of the book aren’t COMPLETELY straight???!!! haha. (  )

Review: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

September 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Posted in American, Autobiography, Books, Kristin Bell, memoir, Race, Slavery, The South | Leave a comment

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is Maya Angelou’s memoir of her life up until about her early twenties. Mostly set in the South, she tells of a semi-impoverished childhood in an early 20th century America that is still reeling from the legacy of slavery. Perhaps what is most striking about this memoir is that it was written in the 20th century, but the life she describes is very different than what people experienced even a mere 50 years later. The story is engrossing and at times horrifying, but always interesting. The only reason why I give this book four stars instead of five is that I felt the ending was a bit of a let down–perhaps because I wanted to read more. This book is well worth your time and effort and is an example of why Maya Angelou is so renowned. (  )

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