Hearing Voices

It’s been difficult to write lately because my father is in the hospital and I’ve been running around a lot, unrelated to his hospital visits.

I really want to do a post about internal voices and external voices and why the internal ones have been considered “insignificant” to clinical practice for so long.

Most of us think about hearing voices as external, and a lot of people do, but what’s been found in clinical assessments is that the question “are you hearing voices” is quite vague.

Sometimes clinicians will ask “are they inside your head or outside?”. If you answer inside, it’s noted but not questioned further unless the nurse/intake/doctor is doing a thorough job.

So what’s been found in surveys is that quite a few people who answer “yes” to the hearing voices question heard them inside and outside of their head, or mainly inside. This prompted a few observational studies about how internal voices can differ from external and how that reflects a persons behavior.

This subject is interesting to me mostly because my voices have been both, but more heavily internal. Things are very bad when they’re external. There are reports of those who learned to live well with their voices, like Eleanor Longden, who mentioned wellness has prompted their voices to become more internal and less disruptive.

And we don’t talk enough about these heavy experiences. We don’t discuss it in a way we would discuss a topic in class or some juicy gossip with a friend and that’s what I think should change; if we can create a space where talking about these experiences, good and bad equally, in a nonchalant manner, it may just change the way others view mental health.

What do you all think? Is this an interesting topic you’d like to have some discussion on? Let me know on my social media or in the comments below.

Ive had some people contacting me on Instagram recently to learn more about my story and to ask me questions about my experience. We’ve supported each other’s pages and are communicating about advocacy. So if you’d like to do the same thing, you can reach me on Instagram: @written_in_the_photo or Twitter: @Philopsychotic.

Yesterday

For some reason, yesterday’s post entitled How Important Are Your Psychiatric Meds was posted as three hours earlier than when I actually posted it. This caused the post to show up later in the tag feeds. Some of you managed to find it, but not everyone. If you haven’t read it, give that link a click!

Today there hasn’t been a full post because I’ve been in and out of the local hospital with my father, to my own physical therapy appointments, and to a thrift store. Tomorrow I work and will be at the hospital in the evening, but will try and belt out a post on their WiFi network. It just feels ill NOT writing a post one day.

If anyone has any ideas of a topic they’d like covered, shoot me an email, comment below, or find me on my social media:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @Philopsychotic

How has January been treating you all? Hopefully a little better than it’s been treating me! 2020 is a year of transformation, and with transformation and understanding comes pain and hardship.

How Important Are Your Psychiatric Medications?

This question is for all of us, including myself, without much judgement. There are those who quit their medication and are fine, those who quit and are not fine, those who want off but are worried about withdrawal (which can trigger an upswing of serious symptoms again), and there are those who want off but their doctors disagree.

For those with any diagnosis related to psychosis, one thing you’re told especially is to stay on your meds. The reasons for why are a little less clear. This is what research says.

The Papers:

I found two articles on this topic, both Meta-Analysis (they’ve collected a group of studies and used statistics to quantify the average results of all the studies)

They both discuss studies assessing whether long term antipsychotic treatment maintains sufficient and healthy remission for individuals experiencing first-episode psychosis. There are two conclusions you will often find when searching databases for this kind of research: 1) long term medication works and 2) long term medications interferes with progress. One of these analyses kinds of lands in the middle, and the other is 100% supportive of medication.

We’ll discuss possible reasons why both valid analyses come to such different conclusions, and what this means for us.

1. Maintenance Antipsychotic Treatment Versus Discontinuation Strategies Following Remission From First Episode Psychosis: Systematic Review.

This analysis follows studies which look to understand the risks of maintenance (Long-Term usage) compared to risks of discontinuing medication AFTER remission in first episode psychosis. Seven studies were included.

Now, they looked for specific things, particularly comparing hospital relapse rates and hospital admission rates of those First Episode Psychosis individuals who maintained antipsychotic medication to those who were discontinuing their medication. For the studies which used an intermittent treatment approach, the participants medication was discontinued by 50% every two weeks. For those exhibiting prodromal symptoms, medication was reintroduced. In the crisis-based approached, medication was only reintroduced upon a full-blown episode.

Ultimately, higher relapse rates and hospitalization rates were seen in those discontinuing medication.

Two of the studies provided information on psychosocial outcomes like employment status or quality of life measurement.

I encourage you to read the analysis for yourself. I found it shocking that things like an individual’s place in society, their level of function in their community, their sense of purpose, the amount of support available, was not included. Yes, medication discontinuation seems to increase the likelyhood of relapse according to this analysis, but what could be the reason for this? Only medication? Or what about lack of support? What about the fact that tapering off medication with 50% of the dosage broken down every two weeks is indeed quite fast? Perhaps the speed effected the results of that one study.

Another rather glaring fact which makes me worry for the integrity of the analysis is the possible bias of the authors. One of them recieved support from Janssen-Cilag (think Haldol) and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (think Abilify). This author also was an investigator on trials funded by AstraZeneca (think Seroquel) and Janssesn-Cilag. He holds a Pfitzer (think Prozac) Neurosciences Research grant.

Another author received sponsorship from Otsuka to attend a conference, and has shares in GlaxoSmithKline (think Paxil) and AstraZeneca. The last author attended meetings supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals (think Lunesta).

The only inherent problem with this is conflict of interest. There are times many researchers have been caught falsifying data or misreporting data with the agreement that they would get paid extra by the pharmaceutical companies funding their research. This is also common in the world of regular medical science and was particularly a catalyst for the Opiate Epidemic. Think Purdue Pharma.

This is the largest issue medical science faces today.

2.Improving Outcomes of First-Episode Psychosis: an Overview

This overview looks at possible prevention of psychosis, which is curious in itself. You can read in the paper all the different steps and stages they present which could, with further study, advance the way psychosis is treated and/or identified in an individual. They acknowledge that despite all the preventative strategies currently in place, often people will fall back into old symptoms following their first episode.

They updated a 3-trial meta-analysis to 12 trials and found that relapse rates while undergoing preventative care strategies were, on average, lower than relapse rates of those undergoing standard treatment. However, they found that there was no substantial meta-analysis support that showed integrative preventative strategies significantly improved anyone’s potential rate of relapse in comparison to a standard level of care.

They also found that the hypothesis that each new psychotic episode “damages” the brain or is “neurotoxic” to the brain and therefore “progresses the disease” has no significant empirical evidence to support it. This hypothesis is known as the “neurotoxic hypothesis of psychosis” and I’ve heard people cite it quite often.

The overview goes on to discuss future studies and cannot conclude that any one way is the correct way. They advise against using certain medical strategies that observe and study physical illness to observe, study, and treat mental health conditions; the brain varies more so than the body in more ways than one, and to assume that both can be treated equally is pretty far fetched.

There is a lot of theory in this overview and I’m not sure how much of it could be put into practice. They discuss some ways in the article, if you’re interested, including areas of support. Accordingly, their authors were not previously supported by any pharmaceutical companies.

And so where does this leave us? We have empirical evidence that medication can halt a crisis, but it is unclear, according to the second study, if we’re simply prolonging the inevitable or helping cease the progression of something. In the case of prolonging the inevitable, it would seem more humane to let people ride through the torture and support them in other ways. In the case of ceasing the progression of something–well, it seems like we’d have more reliable and verifiable data if that were the reality.

I stopped medication because I don’t like uncertainty. And the truth of medication is uncertain. I stopped medication because I don’t like being lied to. And much of medication research and marketing is based in lies, even small ones.

This may not be the path for you. What makes your medication important to you? What makes it torturous for you? Do the risks outweigh the benefits? Would you like to discontinue them some day?

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The Power Of Un-Positive Thinking

I profess that I am not the type to belt out cheesy posts. I don’t put cheesy one-liners on Twitter, and I don’t post mushy paragraphs on Instagram. I don’t spend a lot of posts talking about the bad things about schizoaffective, or what kind of medications I’ve taken. It seems that a lot of people think that’s what advocacy is about, though: cheesy posts about staying positive, the struggles of living with a mental health condition, and stressing the importance of medication.

It gets boring.

And so I’d like to challenge everyone in the mental health community. I’d like to challenge this belief that in order to lift each other up, we must constantly mull on our struggles so that others can reach out and spurt lines of hope we won’t believe in. I’d like to challenge those advocates who don’t have any experience with having a mental health condition but still insist on belting out “you can do this” posts every five minutes.

The thing about negative thoughts is that pelting positive thoughts at them won’t change the negative thoughts’ status. They will still be louder, they will still be heavier, and they will still be more constant. It’s kind of like trying to tear down a brick wall by chucking oranges at it. It would take millions of years to make a dip.

Sometimes it’s just not enough to wake up in the morning and tell yourself the day will be good. Sometimes it’s not enough to remind yourself that life is grand, even when you feel the opposite. Sometimes it’s not about thoughts as much as it is action.

And so I wonder how many of us have given negative thoughts a chance? Have we tried observing the pain when we wake up in the morning and not placing judgement on the thoughts (or voices) that tell us we’re worthless or useless? When the pain runs deep, have we tried breathing it in?

The way to take power from negative thoughts isn’t to replace them with positive thoughts. It’s to show them that you are not submissive. That doesn’t mean arguing or fighting with yourself all day. Save some of that energy. It means accepting their negativity, accepting the struggle, and moving through it not with the intention of “reaching the other side”, just with the intention of braving the moment.

All we really have are moments. They’re brief, seconds long, maybe nanoseconds long, or maybe it’s physically impossible to quantify them. But they are all we really have. And so the pain in that single moment is very real, but beyond that there is nothing else. Before that, there was nothing else. We experience time in a linear fashion, which means existing second by second, moment by moment, feeling by feeling, and so although it seems like pain strings along for years, that’s really just an accumulation of painful moments.

We observe time passing like bullet points in an essay. The only difference is the document is read-only, and there’s nothing we can edit. And so we read each bullet point and we get a feeling from it, we experience that one bullet point, and we move on to the next one.

But in life we get caught up in one bullet point and suddenly every bullet point reads like that first one. We can’t edit, so we feel helpless, and we can’t stop reading because life doesn’t stop moving. We can’t change how we feel about the pain and we can’t change the nature of the pain. The only thing we can change is our reaction.

And so I encourage all of us to be compassionate to these passing moments. They’re stuck to you as much as you are stuck to them. The more time we spend hating these moments, or running from these moments, or arguing with these moments, is just more time not spent living the way we’d like.

There’s no easy answer for living with a mental health condition. There’s no magical pill, there’s no magical therapy, and there’s no magical, positive quote on Twitter that will cure you. Life has pain, life endures pain, and pain isn’t a disease you can cure. So that one account you follow with 30 thousand followers that spouts out ropes of sticky, cheesy, positive one-liners is disillusioned. It fills people with this false sense of hope that if they just think positively long enough, something will change.

That’s just not how life works. I suppose the internet is quite infamous for distorting reality.

We shouldn’t run from pain. We shouldn’t fight it or disregard it or try and shove it away in a corner to rot because it will never rot. It’s non-perishable. When we speak about our experiences, let us talk about the negative and positive equally. Let us share things in a way that inspires hope not because our story concludes with general well-being, but because we’ve learned something from it, because we’ve discovered this balance in life that’s required to exist. Let us inspire people through our bravery in embracing pain and not just through our ability to share what’s happened to us. Let us empower each other through our confidence in living life as everyone else, not just through our living life while diagnosed.

Many of us write about mental health. I encourage all of us to scrutinize how we present our material, who we follow, who we re-tweet, or re-post. I encourage us to evaluate what our goal is in our advocacy work.

There is no right or wrong way to share your life or to lift people up. But some ways are productive and some get dull after a thousand re-tweets.

Would you like to continue the conversation accompanied by beautiful photos? Great! Follow me:

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Beautiful Ways to Be Well

Thank you all for being so patient as I had a brief break in our regularly scheduled (blog) programing.

One of the number one things I’ve started doing for my mental health within the last year is hiking. I took a hiking course last semester after learning my college wouldn’t let me take another gym course. I lost over 35 pounds in those courses, and knew if I wanted to keep the weight loss up, I’d need more rigorous exercise activities alongside my new gym membership.

I think a lot of us, out of habit, become reclusive because our mind wars against us and we start feeling uncomfortable in the world. If you hear voices, they might comment on everything or on your being near people as mine have. If you have social anxiety, you might fear everyone is judging your posture, your clothes, or your mannerisms. If you have depression, getting out of bed may seem unnecessarily arduous. With any mental health struggle, everything takes extra energy and most of the time we don’t have that.

What helped me break this cycle and understand life only has the limits I place on it was hiking. Seeing formations of the earth that extend up into the sky, that touch the layer of clouds and remind me how small we are in the universe helps me break free from the negativity in my head and spend time in awareness outside of myself.

That being said, it took a couple years to build up the courage, confidence, and wellness needed to step into the fresh air and adventure. I think people often tell us “exercise will do you good” or “if you just got out of the house every once in a while, you’d feel better.”, but they don’t understand you do need a level of wellness for that. Getting outside regularly doesn’t cure anything; it’s a sign that stability is nearer than before.

I worked on myself for 2.5 years before my anxiety and paranoia let me hike through Big Basin State park. And in Yosemite national park these last few days, I still took my PRN anxiety medication with me, as I had a string of attacks last week unlike anything I’ve experienced in 4 years.

Nature has helped me get back on track. Breathing in untarnished air and feeling life at its most raw.

And so, dear readers, thank you for for being patient, as I stated earlier. I’d like to share some of photos I took with me and my boyfriend. We’ve been together for 5 years almost, with a year of us kinda being together but not really. That’s a whole other story.

We plan to visit all the national parks around the U.S and some outside of the U.S. Here are some of my photos of Yosemite National Park, shot on just my iPhone. Others I took with a Nikon DD300.

Mirror Lake
A Whatever Pose
A Waterfall Thirsty For Spring
It’s High
Snowy Freedom
Sunrise and Some Fall
Not Ice

Next week we will resume scheduled blogging. If you ever get a chance to experience Yosemite in the winter, it’s worth the temperature drop.

Want to continue the conversation, see silly (and beautiful) photos, or nonsensical two second videos? Great! Follow me on:

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Questions…

While everyone eagerly awaits my post which would have posted already were I not at work, I figured I’d pose some questions to all of you lovely people who have joined this journey with me. I’d like to learn more about all of you since I have put so much of myself out there.

1. What is your greatest achievement? I don’t mean this in some superficial, interview question way. I mean this in a “what has really helped you grow?” Way.

2. What is one of your passions? Do you have a particular hobby you wish could be your main source of income? What will it take for that to happen?

3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and what inspires this decision?

4. Do you have any formal education or vocational training? If not, would you like to? What interests you in the sector of education?

5. How was 2019? What will be different in 2020?

6. Is there any philosophical or mental health related topic you’d like me to cover on this site?

Sometimes I like to remind myself of my passions, hobbies, and things outside of myself that remind me I’m still alive and kicking.

If you’d like to comment below any answers, I’d love to read them and start a conversation with you!

A real post will be up shortly. In the meantime, check out my Instagram handle: @written_in_the_photo and Twitter handle: @philopsychotic for funny memes and more mental health discussion!

Totally Inconsistent

My writing schedule has been all over the place this last week and I apologize to those who have dedicated time to reading these posts. I work two overnight shifts in a row (Sunday and Monday) regularly, but have also gained a new connection in the mental health sector who I am interviewing with, and am planning a trip to a national park this weekend, so it’s been a little difficult to squeeze in quality writing time.

So, posts may be later throughout this week and into next. Today, this late post will be about how to manage panic attacks, and how to work through them. It’s something I think many of us have experienced at one time and the feeling of being out of control and unhinged is almost like a trauma.

So, stay tuned! Do not give up on me yet.

I haven’t been posting as much to my Instagram handle @written_in_the_photo, or my Twitter: @Philopsychotic either, but come and follow me there for more discussion and funny memes. We all love memes, right?

Thanks to everyone for joining this site as a follower recently! It’s great to have you all on this journey with me!

If you have any topic you’d like me to write about, you can send me a DM on Instagram or Twitter, or find my email in my CONTACT ME page.

Remember, wellness is possible.

You are more than enough, and anyone who says otherwise has no conception of your true self.

When We Can't Stop Thinking

People say secrets keep us sick.

I’d like to relate this to mental health, but in order to do so, we must read this post with the understanding that I don’t consider our experiences a product of illness or an expression of a sickness. We also must assume this only has to do with secrets in-part. So I suppose it has nothing at all to do with that saying.

What I’m getting at is that there are things we do for ourselves that exacerbate or substantially perpetuate our experiences, and there are things we do for ourselves that foster alleviation. Identifying these things is one of the best ways to care for yourself.

For example, diet plays a huge role in my mental wellness. In one of my most upsetting states, I was eating over 200 grams of sugar a day, an unknown amount of fat, and at least 200-300 grams of carbs. Alongside antipsychotic medication, my weight ballooned. After getting off the medication, radically changing my diet, and implementing a structured exercise routine, my depression lifted for the first time in my life, my anxiety lessened, and heavy psychotic experiences were less frequent.

If I skip meals and eat foods rich in sugar or carbs, my experiences worsen again.

Some of us don’t realize what we put in our body effects our mental state. Some of us know, but struggle in the transition. Some of us just don’t want to transition. None of those ways are right or wrong. But they have different consequences.

Some people have learned to take care of themselves through other peers, others with lived mental health experience. I mention this specifically because it’s what I attribute a lot of my own learning to, and also because it’s part of awareness and advocacy; we’ve been on that kick for a couple days now on this site.

What I’ve noticed is that telling your story can be both freeing and suffocating. There are some people who are able to write a blog about themselves, or speak about themselves, or start a small non-profit advocacy program and live a healthy life. There are others who do the same, but are engrossed on the internet and social media, who tell their story so much that their entire life is dedicated to mental health.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, either. But what I notice is that it doesn’t seem healthy for everyone. I think it becomes detrimental when all you talk about is your bad days, or your good days, your experiences, what makes life difficult, and all these things that only serve to remind you how different and/or limited you are. The more that mindset is fed, the less life is lived.

What I mean by that is when you separate yourself from the whole of society, in a good way or a bad way, you start forgetting you’re apart of that society.

I remember being so engrossed in my depression and anxiety, before I experienced any altered states. And it wasn’t just the experience taking up all my time, because depression and anxiety are both all-encompassing, but it was the fact that I spent all my time thinking about both. I’d think about it in a positive light too. I’d blog my experience and talk to others about it; we’d relate and it was a positive moment in a lot of darkness. But it kept my thoughts trapped in this bubble.

People also like to say in mental health that “We are not our illness”. Again, assume that for this post, and for any post on this site, I do not adhere to the terminology “illness”, “disorder” or “sickness”, but the fact is if you spend all of your time talking about your experiences, in a positive or negative light, you are basically your “illness”.

NOT being your “illness” would entail you living life. It would entail you understanding that yes, sometimes things are hard, but that doesn’t make you special.

That’s another thing about certain advocates. Everything is about mental health–everything. Why focus so much on the hardships? Why not focus on the things you’ve been able to do because you’ve gotten support and found a healthy path? Why not show people what they could potentially do were they to also find their path? That would encourage me, at least. What doesn’t encourage me is people saying #depresssionfeelslike.

I gained a lot of freedom from getting involved in other things besides mental health and from hanging around friends without mental health struggles. Every once in a while I’ll talk about things, express views, but I do it at appropriate times and if people are willing to hear.

Sometimes people think I don’t blurt my diagnosis or experiences because I’m ashamed. Really it’s because I’m not a sum of any diagnosis or any experience. I don’t need to say, “yes I graduated with schizoaffective”. I just graduated. And that’s the whole of it.

Travel. Show yourself you can do something unrelated to the terror in your mind. Volunteer. Find a passion. Reignite a passion. Meet people. If people are too much, maybe a hobby. I’ve had to push myself away from reading fiction books with mental health characters because I want to remind myself I’m still in the world, even when I feel like I’m not.

I want to remind myself there is so much more out there than what’s just in my head.

I think we often forget that.

Would you like to continue the conversation, see silly (and beautiful) potos, or nonsensical two-second videos? Great! Follow me:

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Update Post

Tomorrow we will discuss what happens when we get so stuck in our mental health experiences that they become our lives. Sometimes this even leads to forgetting we have a life, or forgetting we have true potential to live the life we’ve always wanted.

Today I have prior engagements to attend to. I have no time to really focus on this post like I want to. Tomorrow will be free.

If you’d like to keep up with me outside of this blog and see how possible it is to live a productive and generally satisfying life with a schizoaffective label, pop on over to my primary social media:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter @Philopsychotic

I talk about struggles, epiphanies, and good days, bad days, and ask questions on Instagram and Twitter. I’d be happy if you joined the journey!

Until tomorrow, dear readers.

What Makes Us So Divided?

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that there is a divide in perspectives about mental health in our little neuro-diverse community, and this can effect how we advocate and what we educate ourselves about.

Currently, there are two major extremes, and I think each has existed since the dawn of mental health “treatment”, since we started categorizing behavior and attempting to quantify it. This divide became more noticeable after the cure-all lobotomies were deemed medically unfit, opiates for anxiety and psychosis became too addicting, and the development of Thorazine (I.e the chemical lobotomy) hit the shelves. Patients were more controllable, malleable, and more people were able to leave Asylums and enter society.

The problem with Thorazine and E.C.T, the next best treatment for depression and psychosis, was the damage they caused. No one really knew how medication worked, other than later observing a few chemicals in some people, a few others in other people, and never being able to come to a solid conclusion. We still don’t have one. E.C.T fried some people, disintegrated their personality, shredded their memory, but some were content with this because they weren’t really able to have any other feelings about it.

Drugs made money. Did I forget to mention that? A lot of it.

And eventually groups of people who felt outpatient treatments like medication, and inpatient treatments like E.C.T and solitary confinement, were inhumane, united and developed into the Anti-Psychiatry group.

Now, as time has passed, we have made mental health treatment look very pretty. Hospitals are (mostly) clean, medication is monitored more closely, and drugs like Thorazine are not as widely used in the continental U.S. I can’t speak for Europe or Canada or South America. I know Africa doesn’t have much of a choice but to use the older drugs like Haldol and Thorazine because they don’t ever get monetary assistance with anything. People are still chained to poles in the middle of psychosis in some parts of Africa.

But just because something looks pretty here in the U.S doesn’t mean it’s better. E.C.T is still popular. People say it saves their lives and maybe it does. But to send pulses of electricity through someone’s brain without fully and scientifically understanding the consequences (I.e why does it cause memory loss? Why does it effect some people’s personality?), and without fully and scientifically understanding how the depression is relieved (is it because the brain is being damaged or because their personality is so fried they could care less to be depressed?) is probably one of the least ethical ways to go about treating other humans.

The APA specifies that benefits must outweigh the risks for treatments like this to continue. I’m not convinced they do.

The same goes for medication: it’s researched (barely), results end up skewed (publication bias) and no one actually knows the long term effects for the “updated” ones.

So I understand the mistrust, the disdain, and the need for something better, something that feels compassionate and reasonable and ethical. That’s the driving force of most anti-psychiatry believers. I know because when I read Brain Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry by Peter Breggin M.D at 14, I started reading research (I had friends in college with access to databases) and was appalled. I declared myself anti-psychiatry.

The other extreme side is the medical model. Most people who believe in this model also believe that having the drugs is better than having their lives in shambles because of psychosis or mania or depression or whatever. The risks, for them, DO outweigh the benefits. Many believe that their doctors do the best they can.

They also tend to believe that our experiences are the result of chemical imbalances. They agree that these experiences are brain diseases.

Now, I have no issue with either view. Do I tend to lean toward hypothesizing our experiences are more so a variation of the human mind over hypothesizing chemicals (that have no stable baseline to be compared to) and brain deterioration causes “mental disorders”? Yes, I do. But since neither have been proven absolutely wrong, I can’t say I believe one over the other.

The issue with this division is that it impacts what and how we advocate.

When we should be advocating for whole person care and individualized approaches, we waste time convincing the world that we’re “sick” and therefore need compassion (but not too much because we don’t need pity). We don’t want people seeing our “illness” as us, but flaunt the diagnostic label and call ourselves “just the same as everyone else, but different.” When we should be empowering each other, when we should be guiding each other on how to adapt to our experiences, we waste time hating the medical model and spouting all the reasons it’s wrong.

We’re just going in circles. It’s asinine.

I don’t think we all need to ascribe to each other’s beliefs. That’s one reason why I encourage everyone to read research; when done correctly and ethically, science will tell you facts and you can dispute them, but that doesn’t change them. We can disagree on everything else. But not facts.

Now, it’s another thing when the science is wonky.

But in terms of advocacy, being on the same page is pertinent. Otherwise, we’re only impeding each other’s progress; I’ve been witness to consumers putting other consumers down because they don’t believe in diagnosis, or they do believe in diagnosis. Suddenly wanting off medication and believing that you can live a life off medication is a cardinal mental health sin. Suddenly gaining benefit from medication and feeling more comfortable on it is a cardinal mental health sin.

We need to remember that we’re all on the same side. But we also need to pay attention to facts. When we advocate, it’s not about diagnosis. It’s not about being different. It’s not about how corrupt the pharmaceutical industry is. It’s not about how psychiatrists are over-medicating and over-diagnosing. It’s not about the lack of available facilities, or sub-par care. It’s not even about our own experiences. Let me say why.

A lot of these are issues we want to address are serious issues. But they will be addressed naturally if what we present are coherent arguments and factual knowledge, all with compassionate nudging. If we prove that we are a strong, united forced, if we prove that we have insight to what we need for our mental health improvement, we can work alongside healthcare instead of against it or in spite of it. We can do things besides push medication on each other. We can do things besides convince each other medication is poison.

We can recreate the whole mental health system. And I’m sure we can all agree it needs a serious make-over.

And so I say, when you post on your site, on your social media, or when you’re giving talks, keep this in mind. Keep in mind that it’s not just about your diagnosis or labels in general. It’s about all of us. It’s about integrating into the system and becoming a part of it. If you want things to change, if you want to really be heard, if you want compassionate care for us all, that is the way to do it.

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek just isn’t going to cut it.

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