This is a great presentation/speech. I hope you can watch and share it! It really needs to go viral! Hopefully the correct video will play. It is a TED talk about mental illness and community.
Hey Everybody! I recently made this new brain/neuron fabric and gift wrap! I made a giant brain pillow for my psychiatrist too, and he seemed to like it which was awesome! :) Here are some pics! Also, the fabric, gift wrap, and wall paper are available on spoonflower here: http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/3713721
This is a survey by NAMI about experiences with ER mental health services. I believe the survey is for both people with mental illness and friends/family who have experienced the ER mental health situation. Please take the survey to help improve ER mental health treatment. I hope by taking this survey ERs will listen to how to improve things!
Hey Everybody! I just wanted to let you know that I had a blog story published over at HealthyPlace.com. Here is the link: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/yourmentalhealth/2013/10/30/is-not-disclosing-mental-illness-perpetuating-stigma/ . I hope you read the article and can participate in the conversation. I’m really interested to hear what people think! Thanks! :)
Recently I made a medication change (with the help of my psychiatrist), and as you might know from your own interactions with meds sometimes it can cause issues to develop. I was happily strolling along for a couple of months with a few bad days here and there, and then I started to notice the bad days piling up more often. I was really irritable, sad, became unmotivated, and suicide starting sounding better. I became alarmed, because I knew something was going wrong, but how was I supposed to explain to my psychiatrist that “irritable” is a symptom for me?
The problem with mental illness is that even when we fit into a diagnosed category of disorder, we all have our own unique symptoms that we need to pay attention to. I have schizophrenia, but for years I didn’t appear “sick enough” to most doctors, because they expected me to be talking to the walls and completely disheveled. There were times when I was talking to the walls and completely disheveled, but the doctors rarely saw me during those times, so they figured I wasn’t that bad off. Because I could communicate relatively well most doctors dismissed schizophrenia as a diagnosis.
Over the years I have come to realize what my symptoms are (for the most part), and now that I am doing better I can advocate for myself more effectively. However, it still isn’t easy to call up my psychiatrist and say “wow, I’m extremely irritable, this isn’t normal for me, and I need to increase my meds.” Most psychiatrists won’t believe that “irritable” is in any way related to schizophrenia, but for me (and many others) it is. I don’t become psychotic over night, and I don’t believe that I should have to be talking to walls in order to get the help I need. I also don’t believe that people should have to try to kill themselves before mental health professionals take people seriously.
Unfortunately, a lot of mental health professionals won’t take a person seriously unless they are debilitated to the point of needing to be hospitalized. So, as people living with mental illness or people who love people with mental illness, we have to be very proactive about getting the help we need before it turns into a crisis. Think about the good days and what you are like on those days, and compare them to the bad days. What are YOUR symptoms? How do things manifest in your day to day life? You might want to write down what you know your symptoms to be, and take that list with you when you talk to your doctor. It isn’t easy or fun, but we have to advocate for ourselves even when we are not doing our best.
In the end, you know your symptoms the best. Remember that you aren’t “crazy” for wanting to feel better and you aren’t making up excuses. Be pragmatic and straightforward, and get the help you need.
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!
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!!! :)
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.
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 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 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.
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.
“Understanding the Borderline Mother” by Christine Ann Lawson is an interesting book, but I felt that it focused far too much on the negative aspects (yes there are many) of the Borderline Personality. If you pick up this book, but didn’t know anything about Borderline Personality Disorder you would probably think that people with the disorder are pure awful with no redeeming qualities. The book does have some good aspects and is compelling to read, but it seems too one-sided and lacks any understanding of any of the pain and suffering that might motivate the behavior of a person with this disorder. Borderlines are often difficult patients and difficult people to understand, but many times it seems they are completely misunderstood in therapeutic situations. This book does not really attempt to “understand” the Borderline, but does describe some of the behaviors that are often times seen. ( )
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…
Well, not only am I a schizophrenic, but I’m a regular girl type. The kind of girl you all know. Which means that growing up I had regular girl problems (not that eating disorders are girl-only problems), not just schizophrenic girl problems. I was a chubby kid. And then as a teenager I went on a crash diet right around the time I first started losing touch with reality. I essentially starved myself so the weight would come off, but then, my hair started to come off too. And, eventually Continue Reading So…the Bulimia….
I just finished reading “Manic: A Memoir” a few days ago, so I thought I’d share my opinion with you. The book is the memoir of this high-powered female attorney from Los Angeles who has bipolar disorder. I’m usually really interested in most Continue Reading “Manic” A New Memoir of Bipolar Disorder…
Well, it is that time of year: the holidays. I know that for people with eating disorders this can seem like the most terrible time of year. Whether you are facing holiday get-togethers with family, friends or co-workers or are just tempted by the food that is normally around, there is no doubt about it: if you have food issues these times will be hard. The thing I want to say about this is Continue Reading Steps To Body Acceptance #6…
Whew! It has been awhile since I have written a tip/trick. The last few months have been crazy, but not really in a good way. Oh well. The tip I’m writing about today has to do with this special time of year for people. This may be rather specific to people who are in the US and/or to people who celebrate certain holidays. Anyway, in the US most people have some holiday that they celebrate or they go on vacation or just have some time off. The major holidays are Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Kwanza, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Again, I know there are more holidays that I’m sure I’m missing, but these are the big ones. So, here is my tip: Continue Reading Tips And Tricks For Surviving A Mental Illness #11…
Okay, I have to admit this. College has really been the pits for me. It just wasn’t all I thought it was cracked up to be. I’ve gone to let me count them now…six different colleges for one huge spree of undergraduate education. I’m approximately $46,000 in debt and I have NO IDEA how I am going to pay that bill. Part of the Continue Reading College: The Pits…