Our Scientific Crisis

In the wake of this lighting striking all over the world, there’s been a level of social (media) distancing I can appreciate. I haven’t written since my break because I don’t just want to talk about COVID. It’s just that everything else seems so irrelevant now. So, I have something very simple to say.

We are in a SCIENTIFIC CRISIS.

What does this mean?

It means we’re not focused on the task at hand: containing a rapidly spread, generally mild but sometimes very severe illness. Instead, we’re focused on our infrastructure, media reporting, fear mongering, and blame-gaming.

How many people have actually went to the CDC website and read up on what a Coronavirus is versus how many people went out and hoarded N95 masks to the point healthcare workers are falling short of the protection they need? I’m not saying self-preservation is bad. I’m saying stupidity is bad.

I’m sick of the fear mongering, in particular. I follow The Mighty, although I’ve never been published by them, probably because for my previous blog Mental Truths I email-interviewed the C.E.O pertaining to questions about the outrageous amount of funding they suck down from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for all the pro-medication ads on their website. If you want to know my stance on biological treatment, give this and this a read (i’m not against it). In my email this evening, a new article came in from one of The Mighty’s editors, summarizing this idea that doctors across the states are considering DNR’s for all COVID patients.

CHRIST! A title like that would scare me too. If I didn’t know any better. The comments were full of immuno-compromised and chronically ill people TERRIFIED. Utterly TERRIFIED. And for GOOD REASON! A breakdown of ethics of THAT magnitude would mean all hope is lost.

Doctors have indeed been discussing DNR’s in relation to those having severe respiratory reactions to COVID. These matters are discussed on a case-by-case basis with the family as they have always been since the dawn of DNR in western medicine. There are no current guidelines for COVID treatment, one of the reasons this has become such a scary time. What makes it scarier is when a website dedicated to chronically ill and vulnerable people can’t cite their sources or present an argument objectively, not even when the argument pertains to peoples’ livelihood, health, and well-being.

I’m seething behind my keyboard.

As other doctor’s have stated (you can find the quotes in that linked CNN article above), the DNR discussions have not been blanket DNR’s–essentially the statement “every COVID patient who’s respiratory system has failed will be left to die for the sake of health care workers and other patients” is the message The Mighty and other media giants like The Washington Post have been spreading. While it IS a concern for a healthcare worker to climb on a failing patient and give mouth-to-mouth when they’ve tested positive for COVID, killing all respiratory distressed COVID patients not only isn’t practical, it’s reprehensible. Two good reasons why it would never happen.

Okay, there is ONE CASE in which this would become a reality in the United States: hospitals in all states are overrun with the infectious disease, there aren’t enough doctors to care for patients because ALL the doctors are sick too, and bodies are piling up in the street. Then it’s safe to say ethics are out the window and the survival of those well enough to survive become precedent because it would be happening in all other countries as well. Luckily, COVID is not going to be the virus to drive us to extinction. Imagine more of a virus that causes the symptoms of Ebola but spreads like the Bubonic Plague. That will be our demise, surely.

What’s going on in Italy and Spain are examples of this: overrun hospitals, bodies having to be stored in people’s quarantined homes (Italy) and on ice rinks (Spain) because there is just no safe way to handle them, or any businesses open to do so. Will this be a reality for the entire world? I strongly doubt it. Is this reality for those countries horrible? I couldn’t even put into WORDS how absolutely sorrowful their experiences are right now.

We are in a SCIENTIFIC CRISIS because funding has been cut to the CDC, the WHO has made countless mistakes, researchers are ignored in favor of big business, and NOW, in the quarantine, people are forced online and what’s online? Secondary, third, fourth, fifth sources that are easy to read but entirely misinformed and not very analytical. People aren’t paying attention to the exponential growth curve of the spread of COVID, nor have they reasoned that the lack of tests (one of the reasons we in the U.S have now become the leader in contracting COVID cases) means many more people have the disease and many more people have recovered at home.

I suggest staying off of Apple News and instead read updated information on the CDC website. I suggest reading your own county information in your own state (if you’re in the U.S). I suggest straying from Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for reliable pandemic information. I also HIGHLY SUGGEST JAMA Network, a website of specialty journals that are consistently uploading studies and scientific information about SARS-CoV-2, aka COVID-19. If you struggle reading this kind of technical information, read this about how you don’t need to be medicine-inclined to get something reliable and important out of these studies. The reason why the media is so misinformed is because the people who report on experiments do so incorrectly, misunderstand conclusions, and often know nothing about the scientific process. That article will give you just enough basics to read a scientific paper, think critically, and extract the important information. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. And this time, the life of your mother, father, aunt, uncle, and cousin with or without underlying health conditions may be on the line. That’s some good encouragement to READ.

Want some information NOW? Read this article published by Louisiana State University that, with further research, may help us understand why “underlying conditions” can post a threat for coronavirus patients. Hint: it has more to do with the medications they are taking than the actual conditions.

Many people are unaware of what the tiniest bit of misinformation can do in this pandemic: it WILL make or break us. If we are not informed, if we are not reasonable, panic will consume us and all the N95 masks. Please, for the sake of your neighbors, for your coworkers, for your kids, your family, yourself, for my dad who struggles with high blood pressure, seizures, COPD, and congestive heart failure, keep yourself informed, stay indoors, limit or eliminate your contact with non-essential people, and wash your hands. If you’ve ever needed a purpose, this is a time for you to contribute to the health of the globe. You make the difference.

If something in this article hit home for you, if you want others to inform themselves about this pandemic and stay on top of relevent information, please share on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any other social media. The people who look to those sites for information could use this more than you, perhaps.

Stay healthy everyone, please. Someone in the world dearly misses their loved ones because action was not swift enough, because people thought this was the flu, because people didn’t take this seriously. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

I’m not putting my normal blurb at the end of this article. The only thing I ask is that you share this and think scientifically.

If you have a surplus of PPE or N95 masks, gloves, or disinfectant wipes, please donate some to your local medical facility. Check your county website to see if they have set up protocol for donations. Mine has.

Be safe, stay home, and stay informed.

The Do’s and Don’ts of COVID-19

My social media break has officially broken, and I am back amid panic, turmoil, and pandemic simply because being quarantined means there is nothing better to do than browse social media, panic more, and then realize that fear is more constrictive than any virus outbreak could be.

If this pandemic has been affecting your Mental Health, you’re not alone. Even if you understand the numbers are not as bad as the media portrays, even if you understand that over 90% of the people who may come in infectious contact with the virus recovery well, with mild to moderate symptoms, the tension in the air, the way people drive, the mad scramble for food, toiletries, and essentials can twist a lot of stress in your body.

So, what should we do and what shouldn’t we do during this time?

DO:

Maintain as regular as a routine as you can. Enjoy healthy meals, and try to avoid stress eating sweets and other things that not only compromise your mental health but your immune health. Exercise in nature if applicable to you: there are forests, state parks, beaches, where you can get a healthy bout of endorphins running and kick your immune system up. The gym isn’t the only place in the world to get exercise.

DONT:

Eat a pot full of garlic and think that will protect you. Chances are, you may come in contact with this virus. This chance, depending on where you live, is either very low or very high. Don’t pretend like staying in your house and sleeping all day is healthy; in fact, it could compromise you more. Fit in exercise and health where you can and however you can.

DO:

Listen to science. For the sake of your neighbors, your friends, your family, LISTEN TO SCIENCE. The facts are there. Yes, COVID-19 is indeed SARS-cov-2, according to the CDC. Yes, there are many cases. But the numbers show a different story than the media. It’s important to help curb the spread, just as it would be for any new infectious virus no matter how severe, but the fact is there are so many people in the United States who haven’t been tested, who have probably come in contact with the virus, been sick, stayed home, recovered, and are now not being counted as a COVID-19 case. This means the survival rate and infection rate is higher than being reported. This means, most likely, you’ll be okay.

Dont:

Act only in SELF-PRESERVATION. Stores are sold out of all cold, flu, and cough medicine, toilet paper, meat, and cleaning essentials. This is NOT the end of the world. By hoarding items, you are SELFISH. By hoarding masks, you are CARELESS. Most likely, especially if you are in the U.S right now, you will NOT get sick. Buying three bottles of Tylenol ISN’T NECESSARY. Masks are for the MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS taking care of the SEVERELY ILL. If you are standing in Safeway with a cart full of items right now reading this, chances are you AREN’T SEVERELY ILL. Chances are, you won’t ever be.

It was advised people get enough items for 2 weeks of self-quarantine, IF NECESSARY.

Six bottles of bleach? That’s going to last you two months, if not more.

Seven boxes of Tylenol? You’ll kill yourself. Even if you did get sick, you couldn’t continuously use it at the rate you would need to to finish seven boxes in fourteen days.

This selfishness is why people are panicking. It’s how the virus will continue to spread. It’s why young people aren’t taking anything seriously, it’s why many people aren’t social-distancing–the hysteria is off-putting, it makes it seem unimportant. So, by hoarding food, house items, and cough medicine, you’re single-handedly increasing the chances of this infection spreading quicker and harder. Those of us who are young are the ones MOST LIKELY to SPREAD this infection without knowing it. Instead of facing this scientifically, intelligently, which would make most of us young folks pay better attention, everyone is facing this hysterically, with misinformation.

Thank you, apocalypse shoppers, for ruining our chances of a speedy, national recovery.

DO:

Wash your hands for at least 20-30 seconds. If you weren’t doing that before, I’m worried. Disinfect surfaces frequently, and personal items like keys, your phone, and the inside of your car, if you want to be extra cautious.

DONT:

Touch your face or put strange objects in your mouth. If you’re anything like me, and a writer, this can be tough if you are, well, writing with a pen. I used to bite on my pens in mid-thought. Can’t be doing that right now.

DO:

Understand that if you get sick, you have a very high chance of being okay. People are dying, and that can’t be overlooked. There are some young people who lose the battle, and many older folks, most of which (from both categories) have some type of underlying cardiac or other health condition. If you smoke, your lungs will have a harder time to push back against this illness. And even still, there are some people in their 80’s and 90’s who are surviving, and some people with underlying conditions who are surviving. This is not endgame.

DONT:

Pretend like you can’t get sick just because you’re young. You can, and if it doesn’t become severe, that’s wonderful. Problem is, you will spread your germs and get the vulnerable population sick. Again, stop acting in SELF-PRESERVATION. Everything isn’t always about YOU. Sorry if that hurts your feelings. Start acting like a community. Start showing some compassion and intelligence. Keep yourself healthy, keep your neighbors healthy. It doesn’t take six bottles of bleach and all the food in Trader Joe’s to keep you healthy. Stop being stupid.

DO:

If you have mental health issues, don’t forget about self-care. Focus on activities you like. Read, write. Play video games, watch television, have a laugh. Engage in news and stories and conversation that isn’t just about COVID-19. Stay updated on current local information, but do not become consumed by it. Unlike COVID-19, panic can spread through the internet and radio.

DON’T:

Spend all your time listening to White House addresses if you’re in the U.S. For the love of God.

DO:

Recognize that people are hurting. The stories coming out of Italy are heartbreaking. Take this seriously without losing yourself.

DON’T:

Become a doomsdayer or conspiracy theoriest. Wait until the global emergency is over for all that.

The world is in so much pain right now, and is so confused. China has made great efforts and cases of COVID-19 have been drastically reduced. Recovery surpassed 80% there, days ago. This will pass.

Every once in a while, humans need to be reminded that we aren’t impenetrable. We aren’t immortal. We aren’t invincible. We’ve gotten so cocky on Earth, we think we know everything, think we can have a sustainable life with the way we purge natural resources. This pain on a global scale isn’t necessarily what we deserve, but it is a reminder that we are only organisms. There is so much more to life than money, jobs, school, Apple T.V, Trump, drugs, sex. And when our life gets disrupted, look how we crumble. Look how fast we are to only save ourselves. Life always, always has a way of curbing arrogance. Always.

We’re not curbing this virus. It’s curbing us.

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What Does Stability Look Like For You?

For some of us this simply means having three meals a day, our medication, an income (social security included) and a permanent roof over our head. For others that means a more than comfortable income, a full-time job, a family, and spare time to travel. Some of us haven’t asked ourselves about stability because it feels elusive.

Feeling Lost

This happens. Stability isn’t born out of stability, it’s born out of troubles and pain and the murky mist of a labyrinth; we are lost before we are found. Understanding that this pain exists because it must, because even pain needs space to breathe, is the first step to accepting the present.

It’s true some people are perpetually lost. There are those of us without shelter, without family, wandering the streets at the mercy of our madness. With poor resources and a poor outlook on mental health recovery, not enough people receive the services they deserve. Chances are, because you’re reading this now, you aren’t that person.

This does not mean compare your life. This does not mean you should feel guilty for having food, shelter, and family while still being in tremendous agony–it’s illogical to compare pains. We all struggle, we all suffer, and that’s that. What it means is that you are not perpetually lost. It means you have a greater chance at recovery. That’s a fact.

Because you have a greater chance at recovery, you also have a chance to help those without your advantage. You can give back. You can have purpose and be fulfilled while fulfilling.

In this we see that being lost is not a time to mourn. It is not a sign of predestined suffering or eternal pain. Being lost is an experience to be grateful for. It’s an experience that teaches us to teach others.

A Change of Perspective

Such a change of perspective isn’t a simple jump from “negative” to “positive”, but a deeper understanding of the beauty of pain and the expectations of happiness.

We often have a vain idea of what happiness means. This can turn into us holding ourselves to unrealistic standards, and when that standard isn’t met, we crumble, our self-worth tied up in our expectations.

We can also have a clear but misguided understanding of pain: we disregard it, try to ignore it, hate it, cry over it, damn it to hell. Therefore we glaze over areas of pain that help us grow, that show us what we really want for ourselves. When we break out of the darkness and into the light, we get wary of the brightness in anticipation of pain, completely discounting the contribution pain had made–if it were not for that darkness, we may not have had the opportunity to experience the light.

Rather than try and predict our pain, rather than set unrealistic expectations of happiness, a balanced absorbance of both experiences, no matter how rough or how euphoric, can present a new way of living, one in which we experience the rawness of ourselves.

Where will you go?

And so my question for you all is where will life take you? Where will pain take you? Where will happiness take you? What journeys can you start and end?

Dramatic change can yield dramatic results.

Stability for me is a comfortable income, a travel plan, proper meals, exercise, and a compassion toward my inner demons, without which I would be heavily medicated, deeply depressed, and unrealistically expecting a miracle.

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How To (Gently) Encourage Your Friend to Get On Medication.

Step 1:

Don’t.

It’s that simple.

Why Are We Talking About This?

There are too many questions on social media of people asking Pop-Advocacy sites and people with lived experience how they should convince their friend to get back on medication. Let’s be clear that this is often out of love, concern, pain, and desperation. If you are reading this and have a friend or loved one you believe should be on medication, don’t give up on reading this just yet. This article is not here to bash you, punish you, or guilt you. It’s here for guidance.

We’re talking about this because mental health conditions strike unexpectedly at times, roll in and out of our lives in episodes, and put stress on everyone effected. We’re talking about this because often healthy boundaries get left in the dark when we’re all under so much stress. Those of us struggling can become dependent and feel helpless, while those of us who feel responsible for the well-being of our loved-one feel guilt that we can’t make this pain go away.

We’re talking about this to make it easier on everyone.

Objective Conversation About Medication

One of the reasons pestering your loved one to get on medication is often a losing battle is because there is absolutely zero objective conversation when it comes to medication. Often it is “take this because it’s good for you” instead of “What are the benefits of you taking this? What are the consequences? What can I/we do that can help you with whatever your decision is?”

The “take it because I know what’s good for you” argument is given subtly (or sometimes overtly) in the professional setting. To come home and hear it again, aggressively or compassionately, is all it takes to send someone over the edge, or push them farther away from pharmaceuticals.

There is no consideration of what the person who actually has to take the medication feels. If they feel stable enough off the medication and people constantly tell them they should get back on to avoid the ups and down or voices or anxiety, it creates a lot of self-doubt, a lot of fear, and another sense of helplessness. That can feed depression, it can feed anxiety, it can egg on voices.

If they don’t appear stable, if they lost their job or can’t maintain one, if they are having suicidal thoughts or talking to themselves often, and they still don’t want medication, telling them they should get on some can be seen as forceful and power-hungry. When we’re in the throws of an episode or just having a bad day–those exist for everyone, you know, not necessarily indicative of a mental breakdown–anyone who approaches with concern in the form of demands or a “hero” mentality will seem like an enemy. Rather than feeling the love you have for us, we’ll only feel your disapproval. We’ll feel like something is wrong with us or we’ll feel attacked. That could feed depression, anxiety, and could exacerbate delusions.

Boundaries

This is where having boundaries comes in super handy.

The thing about watching a loved one struggle is that we put a lot of their wellness on our shoulders. The thing about their wellness is that it’s not our responsibility.

That is not meant harshly.

People have choice. They are allowed to struggle. In fact, struggle can result in life transformation. Sometimes if we’re blocked from feeling, if we’re blocked from experiencing what we should, we may not come across that one moment in our lives that tells us: “I need to make some changes“.

You are not that voice for your loved one.

And so a boundary would be limiting your involvement. Resist the urge to help them at any time, particularly if they aren’t doing much to work on themselves.

But, give them space. Make statements like “You’re doing well/unwell today. What’s changed?” and when they answer, listen objectively. Avoid judging statements like “well, if you got back on your medication this wouldn’t be such a big deal” or “look, it’s not my fault you don’t want to do anything to feel better”. Arguing will increase cortisol levels in both of you.

If you feel bullied into helping your loved one, or they often use their condition as a means to exploit your help, stop blaming this behavior on the condition. Most often this is a learned behavior and a result of learned helplessness. Being angry is often a result of feeling like a burden, feeling helpless and out of control, but that doesn’t mean you deserve to be verbally or physically attacked, nor does it mean you need to accept that treatment. Medication will often not stop this behavior.

Louder Now: MEDICATION WILL NOT STOP THIS BEHAVIOR.

And if it does, it’s only because of the sedative seffects.

And so regardless, the behavior is never addressed. Your trauma is never addressed. Your loved one can continue to be angry, feel misunderstood and undervalued, and you will continue to feel like a doormat and blame their “sickness”. It’s quite a cycle, huh?

So what DO you do?

You listen.

Understand that this is not your responsibility, nor is it your struggle.

You’re concerned, you’re worried, fearful, angry, confused. So is your loved one.

Maybe they don’t need a solution right now. Maybe they just want to feel supported and understood and heard. And it’s time to consider if you’re willing to be more of a supportive force and less of a hero.

This isn’t debate class. Having a stellar argument won’t result in discussion, it’ll result in fallout. You want discussion. Go in objectively. Go in with the conception that this is not your mind nor your body, but it is the mind and body of someone you care deeply for. Go in understanding that they have the right to choose and you have the right to your beliefs and discuss both. You may have to agree to disagree and just enjoy each other’s point of view.

If you’re really invested, research all the advantages and disadvantages of medication. Read stories of people who have been helped and hurt by medication, read stories of those who have successfully lived off of medication. Read psychology research papers (not secondary sources). If this part is confusing to you, read this.

Think of a time in your life when you made a decision or something happened which transformed your perception of yourself, the world, and the people around you. Now imagine that never happened.

Controlling someone’s choices can block transformative experiences. Life isn’t debate class.

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February’s Scheduled Mental Breakdown

I like that I’ve already failed in keeping up with my scheduled posts. If I’m actually consistent with a goal I set, someone call 911 because my identity has been stolen.

This will be a short post and not research based. I’ll try and do these once a month. Again, if I *actually* do this once a month, call 911, stolen identity, yada yada.

I preach a lot about the benefits of self-care and ways to manage different experiences/symptoms. A lot of the time the information is helpful and the tips are ones I use myself. And so I wonder, because this happens to me at times: when none of your coping strategies work, what do you do?

I’ll write a more formal post on this idea later, with actual, helpful ideas, but at the moment I have no conception of supportive thought.

I suppose being aware of what your body and mind are feeling and why is important here. My possible reasons for this scheduled mental breakdown include:

  1. Family stress.
  2. Missing deadlines for an online class because of exhaustion from family stress.
  3. Impending death
  4. Health anxiety
  5. Re-activated PTSD symptoms, related to health.
  6. Loud thoughts/quiet voices
  7. Not believing my life is real
  8. Being trapped between school and work and unable to take a break from either.
  9. Believing my therapist, doctors, and friends believe I am a liar about my mental health. *Side note: anyone else ever felt this? That people think you’re just some fake person creating lies for attention? Anyone start thinking about it so much that you think maybe you are a fake and the last 6 years haven’t actually happened, you’re just confused? But then wouldn’t that actually make you crazy? Anyone? This is really fucking with me today.
  10. Physical health frustrations, including forcing my doctor to give me an EKG because I’m terrified of dying suddenly from Cardiac Arrest because of palpitations I’m not even sure are real (I have a history of feeling things in my body that aren’t happening–biofeedback proved it.)
  11. Feeling blank thoughts.
  12. Wanting to withdraw from people but knowing I shouldn’t and also that I can’t, given I must finish these courses and also go to work like a good citizen.
  13. I’ll never get serious mental health assistance because I live at home, in America, can handle working three days a week (barely), am enrolled in college, and have never been outwardly violent, disruptive, combative, or otherwise non-compliant (other than stopping medication). Instead, I spent months in my room, showering only if I went to work (had been on-call); I dropped my classes, spent all of my time playing Minecraft, did rituals to call the god Thoth for help/wisdom, listened to voices and loud thoughts, slept, had nightmares, didn’t sleep, and held maybe one or two short conversations with my parents who figured I was just “going through a phase”–but because none of this caused me to talk to myself or be disconnected in the way you’re expected to be, I don’t get taken seriously.
  14. Anxiety. Just. Anxiety.
  15. Drinking on the weekends.
  16. Not exercising like I was.
  17. Falling short on responsibilities.
  18. Forget *actually* being sandwiched between school and work. Just the feeling of being trapped.
  19. Falling short on personal expectations.
  20. The potential of wasting my potential.
  21. Financial issues

I think that’s a pretty solid list. The healthy thing would be to work through each issue one by one and identify things which can be easily changed and things which may just need to be felt and moved through. Accept that it could take weeks and that this is a rough patch.

But today I just feel like laying on the couch and being unhealthy. So maybe that’s what I will do. My cat seems to feel it; she’s never this cuddly.

Until next time.

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If you enjoyed this post, please share, like, and follow ThePhilosophicalPsychotic. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You give me more reason to continue this joyous hobby.

Distractions: For Better, or For Worse?

One of the popular coping mechanisms most often quoted by self-help websites, short articles, or purported “ways to help your anxiety” is distractions.

Distractions range from averting your attention to a video or a game to focusing on a particular object in the room. It can be reading, running, homework, or even social media. All of these tactics can be considered a way to remove your thought from dark, confusing, or anxiety riddled thoughts.

If you use distractions, I’d love to hear your experience with them. I will base this analysis on my experiences and the trainings I’ve participated in.

Distractions are often used in all states of frustration, but are commonly suggested for anxiety and depression. In anxiety, these are used as grounding techniques. Some distractions, like averting your attention to something in the room, is just that; you become more aware of the present, more aware of your body in the present, and less aware of the circular thoughts or racing heart rate (depending on your level of anxiety).

I have found this can be quite effective in myself, particularly when it comes down to the pre-panic state: you know, when you feel that warm, familiar wave of dread pass from your head to your toes, when your heart rate starts pumping hard, and your first thought is: here it comes. I had that moment in my old car one day. Terrified, I defaulted to what my therapist at the time suggested—look around and describe an object out loud. And so I did. By the time the light turned green, my panic had reduced over 50%.

None of the other techniques worked well for my anxiety. I found when watching a video, the voices in the videos became background noise to my own anxious circular reasonings. I couldn’t gain enough focus for reading, and any quiet activity (including meditation) only made me more aware of my racing heart. Often these distractions served to increase my anxiety.

Years ago I had taken a psychology course and learned more in depth about the executive functioning of the frontal lobe. I learned about the analytical and reasoning skills which often reside there. I also happened to be taking integral calculus at the time, and noticed a stark reduction in my anxiety while immersed in math.

You could hypothesize this was because the activity of math is very distracting; your focus is not on your thoughts or the world around you, your focus is on using the extremely helpful acronym ILATE (Integer, Logarithmic, Algebraic, Trig, Exponent) to decide how to tackle an integration by parts problem.

I tend to hypothesize that the brain activity that requires math can ease a flight/fight response. I tested my hypothesis a few times only on myself (that means, don’t take this THAT seriously, it’s an IDEA, not a FACT, and I had no control to PROVE that the brain activity required makes a difference). In my pre-panic mode, I did some calculus. Twenty minutes later I had finished my homework and forgot what I’d been so anxious about.

I didn’t just test it with calculus. I tried puzzles too, like Sudoku. It had a calming effect, but not with the same intensity. I used Algebra and easier, grade-school level math. The effect seemed equal to that of calculus. I hypothesized that something about the structure of formula, organization, and arithmetic calmed that flight/fight/panic sense more so than just the logical part of the activity (as we’d see in the solving of puzzles like Sudoku). If you’d like to read a little more about arithmetic, brain development, and implications, you can check out this study here, and browse the references too. I’d like to study this for real one day.

But for depression, this didn’t seem to be the case. I couldn’t muster the energy or the cognitive functioning required for math when depressed. In fact, I couldn’t muster either for any task and found myself lazing away, not bathing, not working, not seeing hope in a future.

Distractions for depression seemed illogical to me, even when I sat contemplating suicide. I didn’t want to put a bandaid on a broken leg, I wanted a way to fix the leg, I wanted something to snap the bone back in place so I could recover properly. Distractions never seemed to do this. Even when a distraction, like zoning out on YouTube, kept me from thinking about dying, I had to watch the videos constantly to get rid of the thoughts. And even then they’d sneak in.

Distractions for depression come from this ideal, I think, that thoughts of suicide and other painful things are inherently wrong. We shouldn’t be having them, so until we can get rid of them indefinitely, or as a way to stop you from acting of them, we put you in front of a screen or a book or the internet. Rather than encourage an exploration of the pain, we must remind you how wrong your pain is by suggesting you do everything possible to stray from it.

But if your pain is a Cougar, the last thing you want to do is turn your back and run.

And so we come to this conclusion similar to many things in psychology: both are right. Distractions can be useful until they become a life-line, until they become the only coping mechanism.

We could also safely say that there isn’t some finite list of coping mechanisms. I didn’t learn how precious math was to me until I experimented with my own inferences; a therapist would have never said, “hey, try math!”. This highlights something important about our mental health journeys, I think, and that something is: explore. There is no limit on what will or won’t help; try everything until there’s nothing else to try. And then try something else, because there’s always something else to try.

We get trapped under this idea that because something works for one person, it should work for us too. Problem is life doesn’t work like that. Distractions may save you pain. Distractions may cause you more pain. Medication may work, medication may not work. There is no perfect treatment because we understand maybe 1/6886th of the brain and its complexities. That should put you at ease, right?

If you have a particularly unique coping mechanism you’d like to share, pop it down below or find me on social media (also below).

I send updates on posts on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve also started a Writing Schedule: new posts will be on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If an idea can’t wait, I will post on a Sunday or a Monday (follow my Social Media accounts for that).

And as always, thank you for reading.

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A Broken System: What We Can Do.

I cited an alarming statistic in my post Is Psychology A Science Part 1 (which you can read at the given link) that one of my research professors cited: there are about 40,000 psychological research papers published each year, and, on average, clinical psychologists read about 1 a month. That’s .03% of all research papers. I unfortunately don’t have a statistic for psychiatrists. I’ll work on getting one.

If our doctors are not keeping up with current successful treatments, it means they are also not keeping up with current unsuccessful treatments, which get weeded out in research as well. Remember, the whole point of science is to prove ourselves wrong so we may find what is right. But if we go around thinking we know what’s right (i.e, relying solely on intuition and clinical arrogance), we’ll never investigate what’s wrong. And that’s so backward.

And so the question becomes what can we do to make up for this deficit?

Possible Options:

Educate Ourselves:

This requires us to think differently. Many of us are deep in our pain, and that’s okay. It’s okay to hurt, it’s okay to lack the ability (right now) to do everything you need for yourself. Your goal, at this very moment, is to be kind and compassion to your needs.

Part of being compassionate to your needs is caring for your health. And in order to do that, we often rely on the knowledge of our doctors. This can be more unhealthy behavior however, because it’s giving up our sense of independence and ability to navigate our mind by ourselves.

Some of us don’t have any other option at the moment and I recognize this. When I got released from the hospital, I needed my doctors to listen and manage my medication. They at least managed my medication. This was productive for a crisis. But not sustainable as long-term treatment. It’s not studied for long-term treatment.

Educating ourselves and participating in our treatment can enhance our wellness. If you have access to a college student, or are a college student, primary sources are the best form of knowledge. If this is unfamiliar territory to you, take a quick glance at one of my other posts How To Read A Psychological Research Paper.

If you are not a student and don’t know a student or professional with access to journals, contact me if you want articles on a specific topic. I can provide some.

Secondary sources like textbooks and articles online (including mine) can be okay as long as you take careful note of their references and click on the primary sources they’ve cited. If they haven’t cited primary sources or don’t include references, there’s a good chance the information isn’t reliable.

Any researched information you can present to your doctors and psychologists as ways to participate in your treatment.

Social Media:

This is a strange option because there’s a lot of unreal, invalid information on Social Media. But there’s quite a large mental health community on social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram. Facebook, I’m sure, has one as well. There are researchers who post relevant articles and information which you can investigate.

I don’t suggest spending a lot of time on social media if you are prone to depression. There has been lively debate on whether people spend more time online because they are depressed or if being online too much makes people depressed. Studies are showing more and more that feelings of isolation are increased by online use, not the other way around. Here’s one study. I’m sure there are many more.

If you can balance your health and internet usage, I’d suggest finding people online who model wellness. Not only can you find people who have experienced what you experience, but you can find people who have tried different avenues of treatment and have other perspectives. One of the worst things we can do for ourselves is allow our mindset to be fixed on one perspective.

On social media, there are advocacy groups and pages. You can find programs near you, conventions near you (if that’s something you’re into you), and you can get involved. Giving back can restore a sense of purpose for us, and that is a step in renewing self-esteem.

Think Outside of The Box:

Investigate different perspectives. Build the courage to try new things, not only in treatment but in your everyday experience. For example, my hair was always long, curly, frizzy, and a nice shield between me and the world. I hid behind it in grade school, along with bundling in thick sweaters and baggy jeans, even in the summer. I needed to protect myself because I felt unsafe everywhere and around everyone. When I started shedding sweaters for T-Shirts, I gained a sliver of confidence from it; I was more open and people could sense that. Because people sensed that, they were more likely to smile and/or talk to me.

This month, I chopped off all my hair. The sides are shaved, and the top is a cute, curl-hawk. For me, it symbolized my need to stop hiding. I have to put myself out there, experience new things, make rash decisions, make planned decisions, and enjoy my life. It took 8 solid years of mental health work, psychosis, depression, and deep pain to reach a point in life where I had enough confidence to do this.

And so I encourage all of us to remember if something isn’t working, don’t keep doing. If you are someone who wants to stay on medication and your current medication isn’t working, the next logical step is to try a new one, correct? Treat other therapeutic options the same way. If one type of therapy or therapist or psychiatrist isn’t working, try a different one. If no medication has ever worked, try another option. If you’re tired of living one way, live another.

There is nothing that says we must stay stagnant. There is nothing that says we must endure the same pain over and over again. The only people placing limitations on us is us.

These are only a few things we can do as consumers to promote our own wellness while navigating a system filled with cracks. Feel free to post your own ideas in the comments bellow, or contact me on social media/email. People seem to like DMs on Instagram the best.

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About Mental Illness

I recently learned in a personality psychology course that the effect size in regard to how much words make a difference to people is very small. I’m currently trying to find studies which either argue for or against this, but in the meantime I decided I’d write a short blurb about it.

I’ve found nothing becoming about the term “mental illness”. It feels defaming and self-deprecating. I don’t really consider myself disordered and I’ve been ambivalent about the term schizophrenia and schizoaffective. And if I find these studies accurate, verifiable, and reliable, than I suppose none of this really matters.

I’ve been hung up on it since I was 14. In the CCMD, one of volumes, I remember reading schizophrenia was labeled as “Integration disorder” or something similar. I read a lot of books describing mental struggles as strengths, describing medication as poison, describing this idea of “illness” as bad. I agreed, and to some degree I still do.

But I’m learning to drop the words, really. It’s not about what you want to call it. Call it Schizophrenia, call it Integration disorder, call it Mental Illness, Disorder, Disease (even though there’s not enough actual scientific evidence to prove the disease part), call it whatever you want to call it because regardless we’re all talking about the same experiences. We’re all talking about the same pain, the same beauty, the same horror, the same frustration. The issue comes when people internalize the concept of illness.

The issue comes when someone loses sight of the rest of their future because they’re being told they need to take medication for the rest of their life and they can’t work, they won’t be normal, and everything has to change now–for the worst.

This is a problem because us humans are infamous for letting go of alternative possibilities when we’re provided an answer. This happens to be scientifically proven.

What I mean is, if our answer is: “take meds for the rest of your life”, our brains don’t automatically respond with “I need to find some stable ground, heal myself, and maybe find a way to not take so much medication/taper off. Or maybe I won’t. I need to explore all my options”.

When the answer is: “you’ll have this for the rest of your life”, our brains don’t automatically respond with “I may have this for the rest of my life, I also may not. What are other options?”

No, we say, shit, I have to take these meds. If I don’t, I’ll be unwell again. This is my life line.

We say, shit, I’m doomed. This has ruined my life. There’s nothing I can do.

Sometimes life experiences and therapy and friends and support forces help us see that our life isn’t ruined. Sometimes we can get off medication, and sometimes we can’t. What’s hard for me to swallow is that a lot of us don’t ever get to the point where we can consider either point of view. What’s hard for me to swallow is that when we try and advocate for each other, we do so from the perspective of “illness” instead of “wellness”.

We glamorize this idea that “I live with a mental illness and I’m doing well.” We have that weird AA group mentality of powerlessness. Studies show AA is actually quite ineffective and having been in both AA groups and Al-anon, I find them very cult-ish. I’ve also met countless people who have been saved by AA, NA, and other support groups based in “higher-power” thinking.

But essentially, if all our power comes from us being powerless, then we’re not actually powerful. We’re not anything really, but a pawn. A puppet, maybe. We let ourselves be pulled by the strings of our “disease” or disorder and we find no other avenues of compromise because we are powerless. Sometimes we feel because we made a choice to be powerless, we are empowered. Other times we argue against this adamantly, that we “manage” our illness, and “we don’t let it control us”. But the thing that all these black and white views have in common is fear. The fear, and knowledge, that we can’t control anything.

Why do we need to? That’s the question I ask everyone who presents me with this argument. Why is control even an aspect here? When you are in a healthy relationship or friendship with someone, and you have a disagreement, do you let them decide everything for you, your thoughts and feelings, because you’re powerless against them? Do you shout back and yell and scream and punch them? Hopefully not! Hopefully you don’t engage in either activity. Hopefully you engage in compromise.

When you’re in an unhealthy relationship, if someone is abusive, the partner often submits, terrified, hopeless in an uncontrollable situation. I am guilty of trying to force my thoughts and my mind into submission: I abused myself. My mind is guilty of trying to trap me in madness; my mind abused me.

But if we can engage with compromise with others, if we can strive for balance, if each person can have equal say and equal pull, if I can influence my mind and feel safe allowing my mind to influence me, then the issue of power and control is eliminated. We are free.

Is the healthy opposite of not being able to control anything absolute submission? Is the healthy opposite of powerlessness absolute power?

And so I don’t subscribe to the concept of being mentally ill. I accept that I experience moods and delusions and hallucinations indicative of what we’ve categorized as schizoaffective. But I am not a pawn. To be submissive, to feel I either need all of the control or I shouldn’t have any control, is ill to me. And so I don’t consider myself ill.

I’ve tried very hard to avoid the term “mentally ill” because of this. But hearing about these studies and their small effect size has got me wondering if any of it really matters. It’s got me wondering if the actual concept of mental illness can be looked at differently now.

It’s got me wondering if we will ever get away from this “sick not weak” hashtag.

It’s got me wondering if we will ever see ourselves as having potential for balance, for real vitality again, for health and wealth, without also having to mention the name of our disorder.

I honestly don’t care if you’re a writer with schizophrenia. I just care that you’re a writer, and a damn good one. I care about what you write. I care that you’re living well and are happy. If you have schizophrenia, great! If you don’t, great!

Let’s empower each other’s wellness, not our illness.

PS: I never said this was a site of popular opinions, or popular science.

I stray from popular for a reason. Popularity usually invalidates authenticity.

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Where Research In Re-Framing Our Thoughts Could Take Us

We get consistent word from our therapists that if we re-frame our thoughts, we can change the way we think, the way we perceive things, and that will ultimately help us cope with life. This is often done with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a very proven (as in scientifically) therapeutic method.

There are people who praise this method for saving their lives and others who don’t, and CBT takes a lot of work–a hell of a lot of work. You won’t see results if you don’t take it seriously, and if you’re anything like me, it’s hard to take it seriously when you’re heavily depressed or so anxious you want to jump from your skin. Let me give some background on why this topic is so interesting today.

Amidst all the anxiety this morning, I spiraled down with thoughts of failure, pain of where I am in my life right now versus where I could be, and felt out of place in the classroom; other students whispered about me, and thought very loudly about me. I lost focus in the lecture and I felt bad about that.

The professor popped a meme up on the screen of some woman with a stack of papers at work scribbling maddeningly and saying “this is a two-cupcake Friday”.

I don’t remember what this portion of lecture was about, or if the meme was even relevant, but through all my cloudy thoughts and thoughts of the students around me, one of my voices said calmly “you’re having a bad day.”

And I was. But the significance of this is far greater than just that realization.

Another thing therapy shoves down our throat is that our problems which feel permanent and hopeless are often temporary and malleable. In the moment, I felt miserable. I thought I was falling into another depression, that I’d spent the last year and a half off meds and this day, today, was going to be the day I decided to go back on them because I just couldn’t take the pain anymore.

It’s been a hard three weeks, and to ignore all of those factors and conclude “it’s just my brain making me mental again” would be foolish. I’ve been stressed, and today has been particularly difficult: I had a bad day. There’s nothing else to look at.

Multiple things came to mind as a result of this voice presenting his softer side. The first was–I tell myself the very same thing all the time. I’ll say to myself, “Ugh, today is a bad day.” And I’ll recognize it, but the reality doesn’t always sink in. And so I thought, as I sat through my second course more invigorated and positive, are we more likely to believe others about our true state of self, of being, than we are to believe ourselves?

Let’s look at this through two lenses:

The Theory Behind It All:

  1. Personality Research Shows that friends/family are more accurate in describing things we may be good at, like school/work. (Look up INFORMANT JUDGEMENTS and studies by Connolly (2010).)
  2. Research in this area also shows friends/family are better than us at predicting our personality traits like contentiousness and openness.
  3. Some personality researchers focus only on showing how much we DON’T know about ourselves (like WHY we think the way we do, or WHY we did something/feel something).
  4. Researcher Carol Dweck studied growth/fixed mindset and the influence on intelligence. In her study, children were influenced with praise on their intelligence versus praise on their effort. The study didn’t have anything to do with the effect of the words, but the outcome. Still, the words had a great effect on the thoughts of the children.

The Questions That Now Arise:

1.We are our largest critics, so they say. Why does it seem we doubt the POSITIVE things we tell ourselves, but are convinced of the NEGATIVE things about ourselves?

2. Can we use this possibility to our advantage?

3. For those of us who hear voices, can we train our voices to re-frame their approach, or do they naturally mature as emotional stability improves and coping mechanisms enhance state of living/being?

4. What makes us more likely to believe NEGATIVE things about ourselves versus POSITIVE things?

5. What makes us put more weight on OTHERS words versus our own?

6. How could research in this area of behavior and cognition help further treatment and therapies for psychosis?

These are passing thoughts I had during my second and last lecture. I wondered about it because I had been soothing myself all morning, giving myself reminders that my anxiety is bad, I’m not having a heart attack, that I’m just having a bad day. The moment my voice reiterated that, relief washed over my body. Suddenly, my heart rate slowed and I could focus in class. My head wasn’t as clouded and I went to my second lecture in a great mood–partly because I was fascinated at the effect he had on me.

And so the wonder continues: there is no argument that when a voice tells you you’re worthless, or stupid, or that you’re going to die, you feel immediate dread, sadness, anger. Therefore, were one to tell you something positive, it seems reasonable the same intensity, but positive (happiness, comfort, contentment) has the potential to flow through you. The problem is there isn’t a lot of research in helping people unite with their voices, nor with themselves, regardless of whether they hear voices or not.

When I attended a Hearing Voices Workshop in San Francisco, the man in the couple leading the discussion heard voices and had just been diagnosed with dementia. They’d been spending time training his voices to remember things for him. According to his self-report, and his wife’s informant judgement, it had been working.

This would be regarded as a case study and we can’t put a lot of weight on those scientifically. But it can be a catalyst for real research and potentially a new therapeutic avenue for soothing psychosis.

It seems that we need affirmation when it comes to positive things about ourselves. It seems we need someone to agree with us, or remind us, that yes, we are safe. Yes, we are okay. Yes, this too shall pass. Yes, you are strong, yes you are this, yes you are that. It’s as if we have the inability to create that foundation for ourselves and truly believe it.

But when it comes to the negative things, our failures or short comings, we take them at face value. We don’t need someone telling us “yeah dude, you failed”, for us to think of ourselves as a failure. In fact, someone affirming our negative beliefs about ourselves seems to make it more likely we’ll believe that in the future, whereas someone affirming our positive traits/beliefs doesn’t.

What could this mean? How could we study it?

Many of us may internalize what trauma we’ve experienced as children or adults and so the automatic sense of “everything is horrible” may influence our natural thought. But even among memories of trauma and experiences of trauma, we had moments of great fun. I grew up with my dad being violent and using drugs, terrorizing my house. But I have equally intense, positive memories of being out in the garden with him, planting tomatoes and helping him work on his cars.

Why is it that the negative becomes the basis of my emotional foundation? And can we use what we know (and can still learn ) about this very automatic bias to creative equally positive, habitual thoughts?

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that since one of my False Angels reminded me I’m “just having a bad day”, I haven’t heard anyone else talking, my anxiety is at a steady, manageable level, and I’m more motivated than ever to finish this degree and research.

And to think: I’ve ignored them for SO long.

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My Experience With Schizoaffective

I did not talk in school. Violence, arguing, and substance use permeated my home. I wet myself multiple times because my anxiety wouldn’t let me raise my hand to ask to go to the bathroom. I fainted in fourth grade when asked to solve a math problem on the board. My demeanor was spotted, as far as my knowledge goes, in Kindergarten. It would have been in the years 2000-2001. My parents were informed I’d “grow out of it”. I didn’t.

I started self-harming (cutting, burning, hitting) when I was 11, just a few months before we wound up homeless. The last time was two years ago, about age 22.

Marijuana made things tolerable in high school. If I smoked all day, I wasn’t anxious or depressed. I smoked from 7am until I went to sleep. I’d leave school to smoke, cut class to smoke, and if I didn’t have it, I was thinking about it.

My internal world was very rich, and I hypothesis my severe withdrawal is why many of my voices are internal.

Cars were the first thing to talk to me. They told me jokes and had very different personalities. I’d sit on the floor of our studio, right in front of the door and just laugh and laugh. I learned I didn’t have to talk out loud to them, they could hear me when I thought my answers too.

But, I was a kid. Many kids are imaginative and I was particularly so.

The first time I heard an external voice that startled me was sometime in my freshman year of college. I’d been through psychiatrists and therapists already for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. This voice wasn’t much of a voice. She just screamed. She’d scream at night in particular.

I didn’t sleep a lot, and in high school this was because of anxiety. In college, I just didn’t need to sleep. I spent some time conducting fake studies and believing I’d cured all illness with a simple frequency level. I took physics, calculus, and chemistry to learn more and lost sight of my actual major. I knew I had a path, and with each new direction I took, a new feeling would tell me THAT, that right THERE, THAT’S my path. I’m being guided.

I dipped in some more depressions, on and off. Severe ones. They landed me in crisis units. I didn’t bathe, I quit jobs, I wouldn’t clean my room and by the end of an episode, my ankles would be buried on my floor in junk–clothes, paper, scribbles, drawings, poems, trash, trash, and more trash.

I’d hear voices, the screaming woman still, and a male. He told me I was a dead man walking. He’d call my name and laugh when I turned to look for him. I also had voices interrupting my thoughts. I didn’t know they were voices then, and they’d tell me I wasn’t crazy.

Things took a darker turn quickly. People started being possessed–my classmates, my new coworkers. This was around the time I started working at the Peer Respite. Possessed by demons, the voices, and it was their talking I fell asleep to at night.

They didn’t just communicate with me externally or internally. They left signs around the world for me: messages with news casters, trash, online ads, television shows and commercials. Then they showed me hell.

I don’t believe in hell, but I didn’t have another word for what they showed me, so I called it that. They showed me torture boards where they stood beside my latched body, laughing, turning gears so my limbs could be pulled from my body. They took the form of clowns in my room at night and my childhood fear of sleeping in the dark returned.

I believed they manipulated my dreams as well. They were there with me sometimes, I could hear them, and they sent the Day Walker after me. This became a reoccurring dream for me: a man who killed in broad daylight. He chopped off his victims heads and stuck them on stakes, which he then scattered around town as signs to me. The last dream I ever had of the Day Walker (named so by my voices), he’d found me hiding underneath a car. I smelled the mud on his boots. I never saw his face.

I awoke drenched in sweat and tears. I was used to my dreams being permeated in blood, rape, murder, mutilation, dismemberment, and terror. But something about this one was different. The voices said he was coming for me, and so were they. I then determined they were demons.

When the Las Vegas shooting happened, and the investigators couldn’t find a motive, I knew my demons were right: they’d possessed that man and killed those people as a message to me. The message was: we’re going to thwart your reason for existence, because your reason for existence is light and our reason is dark.

I don’t remember a lot about this time. I’d entered a silent war, a war whose outcome would determine my fate and the fate of the earth, given my future importance. I was constantly told I’d be killed. This scared me. I was anxious all the time, withdrawn, confused mostly, losing track of time, school, and work.

At home I stayed in my room. I’ve always been withdrawn from my parents, and this time was no different for them. It was when the sheriffs showed up to their door, though.

Eventually I threatened I kill myself because the demons wouldn’t stop. This prompted a 911 call, unknown to my parents, and I was taken away in the back of the sheriffs car in handcuffs to the hospital I hated being in.

I called home incessantly, demanding to know what they were telling my parents–which was nothing. I paced and paced and was sent an hour from home to a new hospital. A better one, in my opinion.

I got sleep there, something I hadn’t had in so long. And when I came out, sedated and still very confused, loopy, I followed butterflies who told me I should follow them. I spent hours walking without knowing I was walking. I took up a habit of wood burning and carving.

What I find most interesting about my journey is how it is to put into words all the things I experienced, so many of which I only have snippets of clear memories of. I have vivid feeling-memories of pain and voices and confusion, mostly. I tried to kill myself again, this time actively, but was saved. That was the loudest my voices ever became, and that was the result of stopping (all) my medication too quickly–a SSRI, an antipsychotic, and some anxiety med.

I have another voice, usually external but sometimes internal, who will ask me how I am. He’ll check up on me when I’m having a particularly hard day. That was the beginning of me seeing the benevolent side of these so-called demons, who I now refer to as false angels. He emerged when I started learning how to get in touch with my feelings.

So, I didn’t do anything drastic. I never ran down the street or screamed at people or openly talked to myself or to others so incoherently. So much of my experience in early life was internal, as protection, that my mental health expressed itself internally as well. It was rare my anxiety showed, or my depression. I have people to this day tell me I don’t “look” anxious, or behave anxiously–there are some people who I can see it in; they walk into class shaking or tapping as a soothing technique. They ask clarifying questions constantly or confirm their answer constantly, fearful of being wrong.

I didn’t know how to put my childhood into words, particularly not as a child.

One of the misconceptions about psychosis is that we’re all the same level of “obvious”. But that’s what we see in the news, or read about in people’s stories. It’s how we get killed by police using improper force out of fear. But not all of us go kicking and screaming into the hospital. My terror petrifies me, and so being fearful only paralyzed me. I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t fight the nurses, I sat in my corner of the hospital and listened to my brain rampage.

I wanted to share this so everyone knows where I’m coming from when I write these posts. It’s a place of understanding and also a place of not understanding; I’ve never been thrown on a cot and injected. I’ve never walked down the street with no shoes, homeless, talking to my voices and being arrested for trespassing. I’m still very disconnected from the very people I share so much in common with.

I think it’s worth celebrating the differences in our experiences, not just the similarities. Psychosis is notorious for taking over. It’s notorious for being unpredictable and obvious. It’s got some subtle undertones in some of us though, and sometimes it feels wrong to express this, given the hospital trauma–like cot injections– so many of us experience.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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