Posted in psychology, Voices

The Schizoaffected Sense

Hey everyone, I have some exciting news.

I decided since this blog has mostly turned into book reviews and travel tips, I’ve moved my mental health segments into a podcast, aptly named The Schizoaffected Sense. Right now all episodes 1-4 are available for listening at this Spotify link.

If you’d like to give it a listen, we talk about self-care, medication, and being mixed race; if you didn’t know already, my mother is white and my father is black and while that’s not uncommon today, I didn’t get to grow up around a lot of kids like me. I knew two, in fact.

Just two.

I share some deeply personal stories in the episode about medication, so if you’re squeamish or triggered by talk of suicide, consider having some support on standby while you listen.

When you do listen, come on over to my instagram @alilivesagain or come back to this post and comment what you think. The good, the bad, and the ugly: I’m here for all of it.

P.S my recording studio right now is my car, so don’t expect perfect audio. I had to do a lot of mixing just to get it to sound as it does.

Also, my bad drawings prevail! Muahahahaha!

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me, again, on my instagram @ alilivesagain, on twitter @ happyschizobs and on Tok Tok @alisaysno.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), psychology, writing

Never Fear Chalk, Only Playground Bullies and Staircases.

I’ve talked on here before about my own manuscript: there’s stalking, there’s jealousy, there’s pain, pleasure, basically every ingredient you need to create a believable but obviously fictional life. There’s also crime, a smidgeon of it (not including the stalking), and so I’ve taken to reading a lot of crime novels lately. I’m halfway through two books in particular and much like Hollow Kingdom, I plan on reviewing them as I read them. So let’s get started with that today.

The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor

Not going to lie, I found this book in Goodwill for $2.99. It was published in 2018, so it’s considered contemporary fiction and the inside jacket revealed there’s a dismembered body of a teenage girl, so there was definitely crime; the book met my two requirements of myself at the moment.

We jump between 2016 and 1986, so far, from a time where our protagonist, Eddie, is a middle-aged adult and back to the time when he was a budding teenager. All of his friends have nicknames and thank God they’re nothing like the ones in Hollow Kingdom. Although they are a bit gimmicky, they’re believable for children: Metal Mickey, Fat Gav, Hoppo and Eddie is called Eddie Munster because his surname is Adams, such as in The Addams Family. Apparently “Eddie Munster was out of The Munsters, but it made sense at the time . . .”

Nicky is another one of their friends, a girl who loves hanging with the boys, and her father is the local Vicar. This only becomes a problem at Fat Gav’s birthday party because Eddie’s mother works at an abortion clinic; at some point an argument erupts and Eddie’s father punches Nicky’s father. A few days later, Eddie’s family receives a pig fetus in the mail; I’m hoping this is set up for some further plot development.

Right off the bat, we get a terrifying incident: a girl is severely injured by a rogue piece of fair equipment and Eddie is right in the thick of it, inches from being impaled. He sees the jacked up face of the girl victim but is urged to help her by a strange man, Mr. Halloran. The two, so far, have a decent relationship, although things did get a little weird when Mr. Halloran saved Eddie from some serious sexual assault from some bullies who seem more like budding rapists. He brought Eddie back to his house and Mr. Halloran has a bunch of paintings of some girls from the town, including the jacked up face girl. I think he’s being set up to be the crazed murderer of the town: he’s a teacher, he’s quiet, he’s got a bunch of paintings of girls, and he’s forming a close connection with a student. Yep. Checks all the boxes for fictional murderers.

In 2016, as a middle-aged adult, Eddie lives with a much younger roommate, a young woman he fancies but will never tell her really because he’s “too old.” Fat Gav owns a pub, and he and Hoppo are angry that Eddie didn’t tell them Metal Mickey was back in town. Metal Mickey, we learn, has returned because he wants to write a book on “the incident” and I’m assuming that means the dismembered girl, although I haven’t gotten that far yet. He says he knows who the real murderer is. Spooky.

What I find annoying so far with Tudor’s writing is the constant cliff hangers at the end of each chapter. I get that it’s meant to keep you reading and is a staple of crime fiction, it just turns me off. I want the story to flow some places and hang other places, kind of like how life does. There’s also nothing special about the writing style; Tudor’s voice is average: not quite bland but not quite unique. I’m interested in the plot line, but that’s the only reason I’m continuing to read it.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Having a degree in psychology and living with schizophrenia and going back to school for cognitive science means I know a thing or two about disorders, including the personalities along the Dark Triad, and despite what people think, psychopathy itself is not a mental disorder. It’s a personality TRAIT, alongside Narcissism (which is different from narcissistic personality disorder) and Machiavellianism. So, when I started reading this book and realized it was about serial killers, I was waiting for the diagnosis Antisocial Personality Disorder, and sure enough, as cliche as aways, it came.

D.D. Warren is a detective called to a crime scene of a woman having been skinned (in some places) and killed, a bottle of champagne and a rose left on her nightstand. The detective went back to the crime scene, encountered what I’ve learned so far was the murderer, and got shoved down the stairs, enduring an injury that’s left her shoulder and arm completely useless during its healing process.

Doctor Adeline Day (although she goes by a different last name) is the daughter of infamous serial killer Harry Day and sister of infamous serial killer (and youngest to be tried for murderer in their area) Shana Day. Adeline is a psychiatrist and cannot feel pain due to a rare genetic disorder, but she does understand her sister’s troupe of “blood means love”, something their father taught her. Shana cut people to show them how much she loves them and is diagnosed, by her sister, with antisocial personality disorder.

I would like to point out that while the book mentions it’s quite unconventional for a family member to diagnose another family member, it’s something that wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to point out the majority of people diagnosed with and living with antisocial personality disorder are not serial killers. In fact, they live relatively normal lives. They simply don’t care for your feelings and will manipulate the hell out of you to get what they want. They are driven by their own desire and could care less what you think about that. That being said, aggression and violence come easy for them. It just doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm people; it’s more like they could and would feel nothing if they did.

I’m tired of mental disorders being the reason for crime. Why can’t Shana just be a serial killer? Why does she need a label? Why does blood need to equal love? That’s more delusional than antisocial.

Adeline has a secret of her own, though. She goes on dates, sleeps with her dates, and cuts little strips of their skin and puts them in jars as keepsakes. I’m on page 209 right now so I don’t yet know the significance, but it better be something good. I swear to God.

So far the book has been mostly dialogue and I mean this. We get a paragraph or two of set up and story and then we get pages of dialogue, which is fine because most of the time it’s written well, but there are instances where I think the character of Adeline is much too “Hollywood psychiatrist” and a lot less “average psychiatrist,” meaning she talks like she was written for low budget movie. She has great explanations for everything and constantly knows what people are thinking without them saying more than a few words. She also talks kind of like a type-writer: old-fashioned and stiff.

That being said, I want to know who the murderer is and if he is conspiring with Shana Day, as some detectives are starting to think. I want to know if Adeline will get caught with her creepy skin obsession and lose her license (hopefully) and I want to know whether detective D.D. Warren’s shoulder will ever get better. I mean, that’s the real plot line here.

Would you guys read either of these books? What’s your chosen genre these days?

Until Next Time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on Twitter @happyschizobs

Posted in advocacy, Community, Emotions, Peer Support, psychology, science, Uncategorized, Voices, writing

Why I left Social Media Mental Health Advocacy

I got tired of living for my unwellness. It’s as simple as that.

One of the most rampant messages in mental health advocacy among peers is “I am not my illness,” which also requires you to view yourself as ill, which I never have, even with such “damning” diagnoses like Schizoaffective and PTSD. The thing is, if you are not your illness, why is it the focus of your day 24/7? Why are you constantly evaluating your symptoms to the point where simple, normal, everyday reactions are suddenly a product of your “illness” and you post each bad moment (with a sprinkle of good)? Don’t get me wrong, I get that the whole point is to erase stigma, especially when a diagnosis is on the schizophrenia spectrum. We’re seen as dangerous or unpredictable or unfit for society, and to come out and share your story theoretically shows people that we do not fit those labels. You know what else shows that?

Literally living your life.

Literally.

I hate that word literally, but this time I actually mean LITERALLY.

I’ve held a job for the last five years, I go to college, I love reading, art, writing, making music, writing songs, shopping, traveling, driving, going out for a drink once in a while. I enjoy people for the most part, until I’ve had enough of them. Best Buy and other tech stores are my safe haven. I would like to work in a lab one day or maybe as an editor or maybe both. The last thing on my mind is schizoaffective, and not because I don’t deal with bizarre thoughts or anxieties or delusions or voices or voice-thoughts or visual interruptions, but because the more I focus on it, the worse it gets.

If some people want to focus their life around their symptoms, that’s great. For me, I’d rather show neurotypical people that I can live just as normal and full of a life as they can. That discounts the myths of dangerousness and unpredictability more than me selling my face on instagram or Facebook with a caption of “we are not ‘this, this, this or this’.”

Don’t mistake this for hate. I know many people who do just that on Instagram. And you know what? We NEED some of that. We need some people constantly talking about it to keep it in people’s faces. The thing is, I’m just not fit for it. I want to live happily and healthily and focusing on psychosis doesn’t help me do that.

What I will never give up is sharing pertinent information on mental health and discussing the ramifications of the unending fraud of psychological and pharmaceutical research. For example, a ramification of that is everyone actually believing in the poorly supported hypothesis of chemical imbalance. It’s why I’m going to school.

I will also always counter people’s stigma where I find it. I will always promote peer services and maybe one day design research around them. So I’m not giving up being apart of the mental health community. I’m giving up what I thought I was supposed to do: share my story constantly, talk about my symptoms constantly, wrap my whole entire life around my experiences, constantly.

That shit is boring, I’ve realized, and stressful.

I feel this is the last time I will mention my diagnoses on this blog for the sake of my own health. I appreciate people who do share their story and who find solace in it. I, too, found solace in sharing my story when the psychosis hit heavy and I was still in denial and confused and suddenly my entire life was a lie. I needed people to relate to and I had so much to figure out about myself. I’ve gone past that point now. Now it’s time to actually live.

Thanks for reading, guys. I was absent to go to my second viewing/funeral in the last five months, and just needed a few days to let the existentialism quiet down.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me over on instagram @alilivesagain or on twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in advocacy, Late Night Thoughts, psychology

Learned Helplessness In The Mental Health System

This is a term you may be familiar with if you work in mental health. It’s often used to describe patients who have spent significant time juggling between facilities, programs, and hospitals and as a result struggle with meeting their own basic needs.

It’s no secret that decent mental health care in the United States comes with a high price tag. Community-based programs that are essential for helping shed feelings of isolation and learning social skills (both of which can be necessary for us mental health consumers) are often tagged for those with the thousands of dollars to pay for it. As someone who was working full-time and provided with decent health insurance, I was offered a spot at a program like this free of charge. Unfortunately, the company I work for is switching insurances, and I’m not positive I can work full-time right now anyway.

It’s taken a lot to find that one little place. Through consistent panic attacks, paranoia, nights of hallucinations, I finally got in contact with a hospital who patched me through to a social worker. The social worker took a week to get back to me, just to tell me she didn’t work for that department anymore. She patched me through to a social worker in a different state who found me a program in less than thirty minutes.

Since none of that panned out, since I can’t find any psychiatrists near me and can’t afford holistic care, since I’m not sick enough to be in a hospital but not well enough to be by myself, I’ve resorted to daily breakdowns. My hope for healing waned. My therapist said I was experiencing “learned helplessness.” Let me explain why I’m not and why, if you are ever told this, you should think about it just as deeply.

Learned Helplessness Comes From:

Constant struggle with no perceivable escape.

People with learned helplessness have often accepted that they are unable to care for themselves–they believe they cannot control their outcome. They have been classically conditioned to believe they are inept.

The example my therapist gave me to explain the concept of learned helplessness was that of the experiment by psychologist Martin Seligman. You may know him as a positive psychology backer, and an avid studier of learned helplessness. Seligman and colleagues administered shocks to dogs strapped in a harness in a cage. In this case, the cage represented a trap and the shocks an unavoidable outcome. When the cages were opened, the dogs refused to leave the cage even when escape was made possible. The hypothesis here is that the dogs learned to expect pain and to expect no escape.

If learned helplessness is a result of being trapped, beat down, and losing sight of escape, then the mental health system has been systematically abusing people under the guise of treatment for ages.

When are we going to stop blaming the people who experience mental illness, who are constantly being beat down, held back, vilified, rejected, for feeling hopeless? Why do professionals immediately see fault in the person (just keep trying!) instead of fault in the system of support?

Note: This isn’t to say we should rely on others to pick us up–we’ve got to also work on believing in ourselves and coping properly with our experiences. It’s just a lot easier and healthier to do that with the proper guidance and support. No one can do everything by themselves all the time.

A Possible Reason

In social psychology, there is the concept of external and internal perspectives. There is a term for this I’m blanking on. Those with external perspectives often attribute outcomes to the environment around them, things out of their control, and often come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Those with internal perspectives often attribute outcomes to their attributions, things like their personal drive and work ethic and come from higher socio-economic backgrounds. As you can imagine, there are advantages and disadvantages to both perspectives.

I know people on both ends. I know people who consider themselves successful and attribute that to their constant strive for “something greater”, to their hard work, to their positive thinking, without acknowledging the two-parent home they come from with successful, hardworking role models, without acknowledging the support they had in following their dreams or attending college, without acknowledging the financial opportunities they were provided. I know people who don’t consider themselves successful and attribute that to their traumas, a broken economic/social system, and lack of opportunity without acknowledging their effort has waned.

One advantage to having an internal perspective is that when hardship arises, you are more likely to take proper measures to cope. You are more likely to seek support and utilize the support. The disadvantage is you see others as not trying “hard enough.” You also are less likely to support others in coming up because if you did it “by yourself”, they should be able to as well. You are less likely to take part in the community and less likely to advocate for community-based reform. You may be one of those people who see homeless individuals as useless bums.

One advantage of having an external perspective is that you see the structure of the world around you. You acknowledge (and experience) the pain of a system designed for failure. The disadvantage is depression. The disadvantage is that you give in to what you believe is your fate and struggle in seeing the change that could be made. You are more likely to relate to others who have struggled, and you’re more likely to be involved in helping others because you know what it’s like to feel like you have no one and nothing.

Which perspective do you think most (definitely not all) psychological professionals come from?

Cognitive Dissonance

Psychological professionals are trained to see the system as something there to support and guide their clients. They also go into the profession with the aim of supporting and guiding their clients. If it feels like that goal isn’t being accomplished, it may challenge their self-concept something fierce. This leads to cognitive dissonance: the imbalance between what someone consciously believes about themselves (including their attitudes toward different things) versus how they behave.

This is where I believe professionals need to be a little softer on themselves. Acknowledge that money, attitude, trauma, self-discipline, and outside support are just a few of the things that determine someone’s success in their mental wellness. Sometimes people can’t find help, and when they can’t find help, when they are sad about that, when they are feeling hopeless and defeated and angry, those feelings are valid. The system is often not our friend and we have a right to be angry about that–because no matter how hard we try, we can’t fix that by ourselves.

No matter how much I exercise, no matter how healthy I eat, no matter if I take meds or don’t, no matter how much I meditate, no matter how much I breathe during my panic attacks, no matter how many times I tell myself the pentagram on my ceiling isn’t real, no matter what I do to cope, I will not have thirty thousand dollars a month for personalized, integrated, holistic, community based, science based treatment.

What would give me thirty thousand dollars to blow? A really, really good job. What would give me that kind of job? Mental stability. What would help me achieve mental stability? A lot of support. How do I get a lot of support? Thirty thousand dollars.

Now, there are alternatives, and the system has set this up so that in order to receive these services, you must never aim higher than them.

County services, for example, are often provided to those below a certain income limit–this includes those on disability. If someone is stable enough to get a part-time job, and that job pays ten dollars over the state insurance income limit or disability income limit, that person risks losing the services which have been most helpful to them. No one wants to risk that.

And so you have an escape route, you see, much like the dogs. You can be well, work as many hours as you can and lose your integrated services. But much like the dogs, that escape doesn’t feel safe, not after having been shocked for so long. Inside the cage, at least you know what to expect. In a twisted reality such as this, the cage actually feels safer.

There are too many factors that go into being mentally well for this one-size-fits-all system to be as effective as it purports.

Agree or disagree? Leave it in the comments below, or join the discussion here:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

If you liked this post, please share and follow The Philosophical Psychotic. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You give me more reason to encourage critical thinking about mental health.

Posted in psychology, science, Therapy

The Two Branches of Psychology

If you have been or are a psychology major, or you’re thinking about becoming one, you’re probably familiar with (or will become familiar with very quickly) people riding your major off as humanities, soft-science, and asking you “bro, you gunna be my counselor now?” There’s a reason psychology isn’t taken seriously, and part of it is the narrative psychology professionals have created and perpetrated. Let me explain.

Having been this major for a while now, I see two very distinct branches of psychology: the humanities side that dominates the media and is what everyone thinks of when you say you’re majoring in psychology, and the science side, which rarely ever makes the media unless the research hasn’t been peer reviewed and the researcher is money hungry.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a series called “Is Psychology a Science?” which you can read the first of at this link. We concluded there is a lot of science and that the problem is it isn’t being taken seriously, or it’s purposefully being subverted.

The Perfect Example: Gabapentin

At work, I’ve spoken with plenty of people who have been prescribed Gabapentin for anxiety or depression or as a PRN (as needed) medication. After a panic attack which I mistook for an allergic reaction to a medication, I ended up in Urgent Care and was prescribed Gabapentin “to make it through the weekend” because it’s “really great for anxiety.” I picked up the prescription (with insurance, it only cost eighty one cents, kind of how Percocet only cost me one dollar, and no, I don’t have high tier insurance) and got straight to work.

Gabapentin is FDA approved for treating Seizures and Postherapetic neuralgia (nerve pain, particularly after Shingles). It is often prescribed off-label for anxiety (usually social phobia, GAD, panic attacks, and generally worry), depression, insomnia, neuropathic pain related to fibromyalgia, regular pain, just pain, migraines, any headaches that could probably go away with aspirin or time, as a replacement for benzodiazepines (Ativan, e.t.c), as a replacement for opioids (oxycodone, e.t.c), alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepine withdrawal, alcohol treatment (reduce drinking or sustain abstinence), bipolar disorder, any mood disorder, any perported mood dysfunction, restless leg syndrome. It can be taken as needed or daily. It belongs to its own class of drugs: the gapapentinoids. Another drug you may recognize from commercials that belongs to the gabapentoid class is Pregabalin, a.k.a Lyrica.

Anyone remember Lyrica commercials? God. Disturbing shit. I don’t watch television anymore, only streaming services, so I haven’t seen a pharmaceutical ad in a while. I don’t miss it.

What Does Research Say?

I didn’t take the Gabapentin because research told me what the doctor didn’t, or couldn’t: there is no robust evidence supporting Gabapentin for any of the off-label prescriptions above. My first indication of this came from a Vice article, which I was hesitant to read because, well, it’s Vice. So I took their investigative journalism with a grain of salt and used it to guide my database research. Here’s what I learned:

  • Parke-Davis, the company that funded research and research articles for Gabapentin purposefully avoided publishing the disappointing effects of Gabapentin. They tweaked the research to appear positive. This was found out in 2009, when researchers looked more carefully at the articles more carefully.
  • David Franklin, biologist, started working for Parke-Davis in 1996. He quit three months later, just after an executive “allegedly” told him: “I want you out there every day selling Neurontin. We all know Neurontin’s not growing for adjunctive therapy, besides that’s not where the money is. Pain management, now that’s money.” You can read more here.
  • This was all in the past, and Parke-Davis paid 420 million in restitution for violating, in the most disgusting way, psychological and biological research. The problem is, the rhetoric that Gabapentin is a “great drug” and “works well for anxiety, depression, and your momma’s broken hip” still permeates the medical world. Particularly the psychological one. This was done purposefully.
  • There is no substantial evidence for any off-label use. I searched the databases all this morning. I found one measly Meta-Analysis (review of multiple studies studying the same thing, analyzed statistically) that showed 7 studies using Gabapentin for alcohol use reduction or abstinence. It was better than placebo slightly, but “the only measure on which the analysis clearly favors the active medication is percentage of heavy drinking.” So, it didn’t stop drinking or help withdrawal, it just kind of made people drink less. Or mix the two. Which is even more dangerous.
  • The only research with Gabapentin and anxiety says it’s not substantial enough to help panic attacks and that many people are most likely experiencing a placebo effect when they take it. Given that I learned that, I saw no point in trying Gabapentin: the chances it wouldn’t work for me because I don’t believe it will was too great. When I checked my college’s database, I went through over ten pages of articles and didn’t see one study geared toward Gabapentin and anxiety.

What Does This Have to do With Psychologists?

Well, the same rhetoric permeates the clinical psychology department of the world as well. That is, psychologists are more likely to trust the word of their colleague than to go read a primary research source themselves, scrutinize the methods, results, and read the confounding variables. Human beings are naturally trusting, and that is a beautiful thing. It gets us into a lot of trouble though–most likely a colleague hasn’t read the primary research either, and is simply going off what their colleague told them.

Believe it or not, this is a research topic in psychology.

I came across this analysis in my searches this morning. In summary, the researchers did a qualitative analysis of different psychologists in private practice, and their attitudes toward things like empirically supported treatments. What did they find?

  • Psychologists are “interested in what works.”
  • They were skeptical about using protocols described by the treatments proved to work.
  • They were worried non-psychologists would use those treatments to dictate practice (which I’m having trouble seeing as bad).
  • Clinicians mostly used an “eclectic framework”, meaning they drew from many sources (most of which were probably not supported by any empirical data, I’m guessing.)
  • They valued: experience, peer networks, practitioner-orientated books, and continuing education that wasn’t “basic”. So, nothing that involves a Starbucks drink I guess.
  • If resources for learning empirically supported treatments became easier to access, they would be interested in implementing them into their practice.
  • Money, time, and training are all aspects which have been preventing psychologists from actually implementing researched practices into their treatment. 68% cited this as a major issue preventing them from adhering their practice to researched methods. 14% said it was because they just didn’t believe in the efficacy of the treatment and 5% said it was because that treatment wouldn’t fit a cliental population. Again, that is a belief, not a fact.
  • Only 19% of psychologists surveyed around the nation (United States) used psychological research papers as their primary source of research information. What the fuck are they reading? The Key To Beating Anxiety by some random self-published author on Amazon?

The analysis is much longer than what I’ve listed here, and gets deep into some real topics anyone considering going into clinical or counseling psychology should pay attention to. The message to take away here is that attitudes and beliefs are driving how we are being treated both in the psychological world and the medical field. Physicians fall prey to the “word-of-mouth” about drugs in the same way psychologists fall prey to the “word-of-mouth” about treatments. This is why I write these articles: it’s up to the consumers to play an active role in what they are putting into their body, how, and why. It’s also up to the consumers to be informed in treatments, ideas, and beliefs.

Otherwise, you’re giving your life up to someone who may not know what they’re talking about any better than you do.

Lastly, let’s get something straight: I’m thankful for every medical professional I’ve ever come in contact with, because they’ve all taught me something for better or for worse. I’m thankful for the front-line workers who have spent the last 8 or 9 months using insanely inventive strategies to try and keep their worse Covid patients alive. Doctors are reading researched evidence because the links to research are suddenly in the media, and researchers are putting out what works and what doesn’t, as they should always be. This scramble to beat Covid has stirred probably the most ethical (and probably also the most unethical) research that’s been done in a while.

It suddenly makes sense to do things right when your life is at stake.

The point is, stay informed, stay healthy, and read.

Agree or disagree? Leave it in the comments below, or find me here:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

If you liked this post, please share and follow The Philosophical Psychotic. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You give me more reason to encourage critical thinking about mental health.

Posted in Emotions, Freedom, psychology

In Dealing with Death

2020 has seen a lot of this. It seemed my friends and I would make it out alive. One of us didn’t.

I am unfamiliar with the grieving process, very new to it in fact, and along with a whirlwind of instant pain, denial, regret, more pain, and consistent waves of feeling the need to give up, pathetic nihilism has punched me directly in the gut.

New followers (welcome and thank you!) may not know, but for those of you who have been following me for the last few months, snooping through my old posts and wondering if I’ve fallen from the earth, know that I approach things from an excruciatingly logical and philosophical standpoint. I use scientific research as support for and against my own curiosities. And so when my best friend of 13 years passed away from child birth complications at 25 from a pregnancy she thought had ended months ago, I fell into panicked logic: everyone dies. She hadn’t been taking care of herself, very rarely cared for her health. The hospital she went to is notorious for poor service. I listed at least a hundred reasons why this happened, but that didn’t soothe all the emotion: fear. Anger. Sadness. Depression. Some more anger. The feeing of unfairness. A hallow feeling for her alive son, 3 years old. Terror: this could have been anyone. This could have been me.

We were going to go “turn up” at our high school reunion together in three years. I won’t be going now.

We were going to hang out on this vacation I’m currently on. We never got the chance.

Our kids were (eventually) going to grow up together. They won’t now.

We talked every day, and although we had many fallouts over really petty things, we knew deep down we cared for each other.

I regret not making more time to see her. Although we constantly told each other “don’t die” when we knew the other was doing some stupid stuff or was sick, I regret that my last text message to her that she never saw, the one I sent before taking off to Ukiah for a few days and a soak at Vichy Springs, was “Don’t die; if you die, I’ll never talk to you again.”

To give that text some context, she had said she was throwing up from some bad pork, and was convinced it wasn’t COVID.

European studies show the grieving process is different for everyone: some benefit more so from mourning in solitude and immediately returning to their daily routine. This could include work, school, family life. The same studies show if those people attend talk therapy or journal, their grieving lasts longer, the dark feelings linger longer and they effectively get worse. The same study showed others needed the talk therapy and the journaling to process the pain. Despite what people think, and despite what I thought, grieving comes in all shapes and sizes.

Living with anxiety and Schizoaffective while on zero mood stabilizers or antipsychotics means big events like this can yank me into Alice’s wonderland. There are things I do to prevent this: isolate, cry, read, and fall into a pit of existentialism.

Why are we here? What is our actual purpose? If we simply die, and we will at any time, any place, for any reason, what is the point of remaining alive? These are questions we’ve all thought about. They’re basic, kind of petty, and when looked at logically not very scary at all. But I understand on an emotional level now why people run toward faith in something, anything–another human, a god, a monster, a devil. Postulating about our own mortality in the first quarter of life, the supposed meaninglessness of it that is, is enough to bring the strongest, smartest, most emotionally stable person to their knees.

I feel that I’ve crossed into another world, this world, but something’s different while everything’s the same. It’s the same feeling I got when I graduated high school and it’s the same feeling I’ll get when I graduate college: that’s over–now what? Why does everything feel new? I wake up feeling like I’ve never woken up before. I eat like I’ve never tasted food before.

I’ve also felt lost about the afterlife. We always told each other we’d haunt one another if one of us died first. She hasn’t haunted me yet.

So, I turned to Daoism for guidance as I always do, before I turned to depression, anxiety, voices, or thoughts of matrix glitches. In Daoism, death is never focused on, and neither is mourning. Death is supposed to be about transformation and the return of The Being to the universe. It’s a celebration, then, that the one who has passed hasn’t really passed, but has just been redistributed. The absence of them, then, is not absent at all. This gives a more concrete understanding to the saying “she’s still with us.” She is, because she is us and we are her and all of us are the universe.

Maybe it sounds cheesy, unbelievable, and scientifically invalid, but we know very well that energy cannot be created or destroyed. In fact, we don’t even really know what energy is other than “a capacity to do work.” I’ve taken so many classes where that’s been drilled into my head that I have no other way of saying it other than that very definition, quoted from every physics, chemistry, and math professor. We also know that matter, down to it’s truest form, is tightly condensed energy. We are energy. We cannot be created or destroyed, in a particle sense, and so in some way we are redistributed: whether that be into soil, into the mouths of maggots, or any other disgusting decomposing terms you can think of. The one thing we haven’t really understood yet is consciousness. What is it and where does it go? It’s chemical of course, we all are, but it’s something else too. I wonder if one day we will identify a similar “spooky action” of consciousness.

Daoism also sees death as life, meaning they are both one. Neither can exist without the other, obviously (we wouldn’t have a concept for either if that were the case). But philosophy is philosophy and our observation of things, our mathematical understanding of things, can only go so far as long as we’re trapped in this physical world. Perhaps there is nothing after this life. And what’s wrong with nothing?

If there is nothing, then there is something. Our nothing will be the something, and something tells me we’ll feel that in the nothingness.

I will always miss her.

Posted in psychology, Voices

What a Bad Day looks Like

What a bad day, or week, or month, looks like for people with psychosis is variable. This is what it’s like for me this week.

I count today as a bad day, and figured writing in the midst of the experience, if I can continue steady coherency, may paint the best picture. The two sentences above took some rearranging as a bunch of words came out that didn’t make a complete statement at all.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep until around 4:30 a.m because of a tightness in my chest, anxiety as usual. This comes from a myriad of things. One reason is simply anxiety. I struggle with trauma, and some thoughts were triggering those reactions. Another reason is voices. For the last few weeks they’ve been instructing that I kill myself. They’ve told me I’m going to die, specifically from a heart attack, which has been a fear of mine for many years. After experiencing family members in and out of the hospital for multiple Alcoholism related events, (Seizures, blood pressure spikes, medication mistreatments on the part of the doctors) I struggle with feeling my body and not assuming the worst.

I don’t usually talk about what they tell me, as they also tell me not to tell people. They also tell me no one will believe me, and I often believe that, as a lot of my experience has been internal voices. Although science tells me this is valid (I can site the studies if you’d like), multiple mental health advocacy websites will not acknowledge this. HealthyPlace.com is one of them. I’ll talk about my history with them later. It’s usually the websites that take kickbacks from drug companies and have antipsychotic ads all across their homepage that seek to limit the expression of variable experiences. Internal voices can be just as distressing, more so for some people, and are not the voice of your conscience that you hear when you make a mistake or that inner voice you hear as you’re reading this post. They are separate voices, often pushing their way through clouds of my own thoughts intrusively, spontaneously, and they can get loud. When they push the volume, I experience both external and internal voices. Today I hear nothing external.

But, I bit the bullet and told my therapist. She got concerned, and I worried she’d 5150 me (California’s version of forced psychiatric care). I really just needed to vent about what they’d been telling me, though. This morning I haven’t heard them much, as I just woke up, but the tightness in my chest comes in waves, and my stomach has been upset back and forth. No it’s not Corona, and not it’s not a physical problem, as much as the voices will tell me as such.

I struggle with somatic experiences, and correctly labeling those somatic experiences. Today, I’m convinced my voices–although I don’t hear them as I’m listening to this music–have done something to my body. I believe I hear my ancestors, and I also believe I hear and receive messages from what I call False Angels, kind of like the concept of Jinn. They are tricksters, angery sometimes, nice other times, liars and truth tellers, conflicted and dual in their existence just as we are. I also believe they like to harm me spiritually and internally to try and prevent me from living the life I want to. *For example, as I’m editing this and reading back, the more I read over their identities, the more upset my stomach becomes, because they know I’m talking about them.*

This morning I believe I feel my anxiety because they’ve done something to me overnight. Two parts of me appear when I have this kinds of thoughts.

I am post first-psychotic-break and for many people that means living with an uncanny realization that things you experience are not necessarily the things you think they are. I know my body and mind play tricks, and so at the above thought a part of me pulls me to the side of: “that isn’t real”. It tells me anxiety can cause the same feelings. It tells me what I’m feeling may not exist at all. It tells me to focus on other things.

The other part of me craves the unreality. Not only does my mind concoct surprisingly sensical (to me) impossibilities, it also thrives off it, it seems. I’ve always been an imaginative child, and that talent intensifies in these sorts of thoughts. This part of me believes I am so special that divine and otherworldly entities focus their existence on warping mine. This part of me pulls me toward dissociation, toward long thought, toward staring at the wall, toward lethargy, toward apathy. That is where I am this morning, on the raft of dissociation and a flight of unreal explanations.

I’m forgetting my words, stumbling over these sentences, and quelling my frustration with Kodak Black and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie.

I’m getting messages from the songs, feeling connected to the artists, and reconsidering my life. I doubt myself constantly, and never has that been more obvious than this last week. I’m worried how long I can keep up working full time. I’m worried if I’ll have to fall back on a medication regimen and risk my long-term physical health. There’s a reason those diagnosed with Schizophrenia have a shorter life-span, and it’s not suicide. It’s medication, poor diet, cigarettes, and lack of support. I’ve corrected my diet, got off medication, never smoked cigarettes–now I just need to convince myself I deserve support.

There are overwhelming senses of failure mixed in with all of this, like no matter what I do I am trapped. I think a lot of us experience that.

I’m not going to lie and say I’m going to “try and stay positive.” I’m going to do the exact opposite. I’m going to plunge as low as I need to. I’m going to fall beneath the voices if I need to. Let myself be absorbed by the unreal thoughts if I need to. The best way I’ve learned to survive this is to let go of this idea of control. Writing this is a good reminder of that.

Bad days are a way of life. They are necessary for life. I am thankful for their boldness, their spiciness, their unequivocal strength. A voice has let me know that I’m genius, that I’ll be famous specifically, and although I’ve always been bright, I learned to squash my ego because it only fuels what the psychiatric industry considers delusions. When he tells me to kill myself, I say “I don’t want to do that”, often out loud, sometimes inside. Other times I’ll ask him “why would I do that?” and that shuts him up. I learned that from a Hearing Voices Network workgroup. The point of it was to initiate a conversation with your voices, really get into the meat of their existence, but for me it seems to scare him away. I’m happy with either result.

I heard a child sometime this week, I haven’t heard since. I don’t hear women often, but when I do they’re usually condescending, external. One woman specifically screams. She mocks used to mock me before I fell asleep, but I haven’t heard her in a while. My sleeping patterns have improved, I think that’s why. I have a kind man, external and internal, who asks me if I’m okay when I’m struggling. I haven’t heard him recently either. I don’t know who I’m left with. This is uncharted voice territory.

I will spare everyone my long-winded thoughts on why I think this most recent string of voices is one deep voice in particular, wanting me to kill myself.

I don’t know what the rest of the day will be like, and I don’t need to waste time assuming things either. Comment what your bad days are like below.

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Posted in advocacy, Community, psychology, science

Black Mental Health in America

ATTENTION:

If you are black in America right now, you’re probably feeling pretty unsafe, especially if you’re in the south. If you are black in America right now with Schizophrenia, you’re probably feeling pretty unsafe, especially if you don’t have a lot of support. Chances are you don’t have a lot of support.

We know racism has been around. This ain’t nothing new to us. Some places you see it more than others. For example, the South tends to be a prime example of blatant, flamboyant displays of hatred. Here in California, in Santa Cruz, things are more subtle. You’ll have the skinhead clerk ring up your groceries, toss them aside, not ask you if you want a bag, never look you in the eyes, whereas he’ll greet the white woman in front of you and the white man behind you with a pearly smile.

(He works at The Dollar Store on Portola, if you’re reading this and from Santa Cruz. At least, he was. I haven’t seen him in a while.)

If you are biracial or light skinned, you might experience a lesser racism here in Santa Cruz if you keep quiet. If they assume you’re hispanic, you won’t be treated as equal but you’ll be offered more opportunities than your black friends, especially in school. If they are confused of who you are, if they see your brown skin, your curly hair, but don’t hear a thick accent industries have coined as “black”, they will treat you as an unknown. An unknown is just as dangerous. I’ve had four cop cars (a total of eight cops) called on me for a license plate light that wasn’t out. They kept my boyfriend and I sitting in the car for a total of thirty minutes while they ran my license, my insurance, huddled in a group behind my car, flooded us with white light from two SUVs. Had I let my anger or fear show, the night may have ended very differently.

Feeling hunted is a prime experience of paranoia. I think the reason this has not exacerbated my paranoia is because there is valid reason to fear existence right now.

It’s different now. The racists are coming out to play.

A local black woman (catch her page: @bellagmo on IG), someone who has been integral in bringing the community together during this time, was chased down the street on Fourth of July by a white person screaming “I”ll be racist if I want, black bitch!”. She continued her rant, saying she was downtown every day, hunting her–people like her. Black women, men, people. She made active, verbal threats caught on camera, things like, “I will fuck you up!” The police gave her a stern finger wag. A rope tied as a noose was seen hanging on a sign up by our University campus: UCSC.

There is so much hate against us in this county, in the world. And where do we get to go to express this pain?

Our white therapist?

Our white psychiatrist?

Our white Primary Care?

The nearest black therapist accepting patients is over 4 hours away.

There is an inherent feeling of being bonded with people of the same ethnicity. This does not mean other ethnicities can’t be helpful, supporting, or amazingly kind. It just means it’s not the same. My white therapist isn’t going to understand when I say watching people with my skin color and darker, people with my culture, people who talk the same as me, eat the same foods as me, like the same music, the same stories, have the same BLOODLINE as me, getting slaughtered on film makes me feel hunted. They won’t understand when I say it brings up a sadness generations deep. They won’t understand when I say I just want to stay inside, and not just because of COVID. They won’t understand when I say I feel like I’m doing all I can to be involved with my community but that I still don’t feel like it’s enough. They won’t understand when I talk about how invisible I felt growing up in a school system that labeled me hispanic and refused to acknowledge my own culture, who refused to teach the reality of my ancestors. They won’t understand the damage done by people who told me I wasn’t black, that I was Oreo, without even knowing my history.

You know what they’ll tell me?

Maybe it’s time to stay away from the news.

Because they don’t understand that when one of us gets shot, hanged, threatened, I will still know. The news doesn’t need to tell me. I feel it in my heart.

If you think this is just another person whining about inequality, you damn right.

I’m not whining, I’m putting the truth in your face.

I grew up unable to talk, terrified to do so, Selectively Mute. My voice was never encouraged and so I never developed one. And that, my friends, is the definition of genocide: to silence a people until their screams are just as invisible as their being. They’ve done it to Native Americans and indigenous people across the globe. They’ve taken their names, their language, tried to warp their culture, shame them as alcoholics, drug addicts, shove them in the corner of the classroom and forget about them after the bell rings.

I’m tired of walking around with this fucking weight on my chest. It feels like I can’t breathe, and it’s not because of COVID. It’s anxiety. It’s all this anger and confusion and sadness that I’m carrying with my ancestors who marched from their native area of what is now called Tennessee down to the western part of what is now called Mississippi. It’s all this anger and confusion and sadness that I’m carrying with my ancestors who were tossed, chained, onto a boat by pale men who didn’t speak their language, who didn’t respect our pleads for our children, for our lives, for our existence as a culture.

And now you expect me to respect yours?

My mother’s family is Polish. They fled Poland to escape World War 2.

No matter what ancestral part of me you rip into, I’ve been running, fighting, fearful, crying. My first instinct, whenever confronted with a problem, even the smallest thing, is to escape, hide, retreat, survive. A white therapist interprets this as chemical imbalance. Do you see the problem here?

I have been carrying this anger and fear since I can remember forming memories. It’s not just coming out because the racists are. It’s always been here and I’ve never talked about it because I’m supposed to keep my composure. I’m supposed to “let the past be the past.” I’m suppose to “just live in the now.” It’s not something therapists bring up because they have no idea it exists. Now I have voices in my head telling me to kill myself, and I attempted it in 2018. I also have voices that protect me, that feel with me, that make me laugh. I have voices I consider my ancestors and that, to me, isn’t a disorder.

I have anxiety that alerts me when I need to run, which is all the time. I’m constantly running. I’m constantly breathing hard. Just as all my brothers and sisters today, I’m having to carry 400 years of agony.

I remember growing up learning how we are apart of the animals, the Earth, the plants, the air, the sun, way before I learned the physics and math that say the same. I remember learning about both The Christian God and The Creator. I grew up with the last name Dauterive, the name of a man I am not biologically related to; my father’s biological father’s last name is Ware. My family is scattered. My grandmother grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. My father grew up in Sacramento. He moved to Santa Cruz, and we didn’t stay in contact with his family very much. I don’t know much about them other than bits of native history, food recipes, and cultural things my dad passed down. His dad grew up in Louisiana. I will never know what boat his ancestors came off of. I will never know what my name really is.

Dauterive is the last name of four different slave owners in Louisiana.

Who knows what Ware is attached to.

If you are black and have struggled with psychosis, anxiety, depression, bipolar, or any other label, understand that the medications you take (I have taken them in the past as well) are tested on white people for less than four months. If you’ve struggled finding one that works well with your body, or one that has strange side effects no one else seems to get, this may be a reason why. Understand that if you are a black woman, most of the med trials are done with white, middle-aged men. The trainings therapists receive are not culturally aware, they are based on white culture. Understand that it is up to you and I to break down the stigma in our own family and help our older parents understand that our mental health is not just some “defect” or “disorder” or “chemical imbalance”, it’s also the result of our genes being bombarded with environmental, traumatic triggers for 400 years.

This trauma is in our nervous system. We aren’t getting anxious for no reason. There is a reason: never having been safe. Never having been free. Being labeled dangerous, disgusting, dirty, less than human.

To my black, native, and biracial brothers and sisters: we no longer need to keep it in. We no longer need to keep our composure. We have a right to be angry. We have a right to demand change. We have a right to rest when we need to. We have a right to make racists uncomfortable.

We have a right to use our voice.

It’s taken me 25 years to learn this, and I’m not ashamed. I’m angry.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the kind of passion that can come from an angry person. But let me tell you. It’s somethin.

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Posted in advocacy, Community, Emotions, Freedom, Late Night Thoughts, Peer Support, psychology

Civil Rights Movement 2020

NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.

This is the slogan circulating social media as I speak.

Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, NYC,Atlanta, Minneapolis, Memphis, Louisville. The list continues.

I posted yesterday about the importance of African American mental health support in a time when we are watching ourselves get killed across social media, in a time that is eerily similar to the civil rights movement of 2020–except that now we have video.

Now we have PROOF.

We can watch the brutality, watch the racism, watch the hatred.

We can see the anger, the violence, the threats that result from hundreds of years of oppressive social states.

I think popular opinion is that protesting is okay but looting is overkill. I refuse to take a stance on this because the level of internal anguish that comes from generational trauma cannot be overlooked because a Target burned down.

I do not wish harm on anyone, be it protester, officer, or store clerk. We must keep our focus. We MUST remember the message and focus less on the damage we can cause. Every human can cause destruction. It takes someone truly enlightened to channel that hurt and anger into a passionate, effective message.

I have been crying for hours.

A 19 year old man was killed by officers in a San Jose protest. I live 45 minutes from San Jose. Our protests will be happening this weekend.

I have been crying for hours.

I wonder what George Floyd sees, if he can watch us from the other realm. I don’t know much about him other than community members describing him as a kind, generous man. Was his death what we needed? Is this what transitions our country into a time of healing? We thought change would come with Trump and it indeed has: it’s brought disorganization, divide, and racism to the forefront of our consciousness. This is the 2020 vision we all thought it would be.

I have been crying for hours.

There are videos of eight year old african-american children crying for equality in a room full of people, speaking to adults in charge.

I have been crying for hours.

I don’t think the feelings can be properly explained. I have been feeling invaded and attacked, my paranoia surfacing strong. I am feeling that Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram have been hacking my cell phone because of the message I am spreading. I am trending in social media on Instagram for videos I have found online of necessary violence against protesters who AREN’T looting.

There is an undeniable connection between all of us African-american’s right now. It seems we are always united in pain.

That’s painful.

When this ends, will we go back to killing each other in the name of “honor” or “reputation” in the streets? When this ends, will our style, culture, and way of being in the world be imitated and copied still by musicians, influences, and celebrities who have been SILENT in the face of this revolution? When this ends, will we encourage our kids to be more involved in politics? When this ends, will we still have to identify ourselves as black Americans? Or will we be called simply “Americans?”

When this ends, will we still be united?

What can we do to lift each other up after this? We can’t just destroy buildings and black-owned businesses.

We are always united in pain. How can we maintain our unification in revelation?

I am 24 years old, my birthday in 2 weeks. My father is 61 years old, and was just a kid during the 1960’s civil rights movement. He has been arrested illegally for a robbery he didn’t commit and spent a year in jail until they found out they were wrong. He’s spent his life fighting racist citizens and cops and community to the point that he sleeps with a hunting knife near and is always worried about getting into a fight or someone bursting in our door.

It’s my turn now to experience a racial revolution, to participate, and to find my identity. I am a light-skinned African-American who has been profiled by police, given unjustified tickets, had back-up and four cops called on her while she was simply sitting in the car, hands very visible on the steering wheel. I did not breathe. I grew up in a school with maybe 4 black students, and went on to a college that catered only to Hispanic students (for the record this wasn’t a problem, many Hispanic students need the help, but so do the black students who are systematically underprivileged compared to even Hispanic students).

My chest is tight. I can’t imagine living in the 50s, the 20s, the 1800s.

I’m mixed race; I would have been a product of rape and an eventual sexual object used for humiliation and, in my adulthood, a symbol of rape.

I can’t imagine living in the United States in any other time than this one.

I’d be dead.

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Twitter: @philopsychotic

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Posted in advocacy, Emotions, Freedom, Late Night Thoughts, Peer Support, psychology, Supporting Friends/Family, Uncategorized

Mental Health And African-American LIves

There was not a Mental Health Month post on Thursday for Somatic Disorders as I anticipated, not because I ran out of time but because my mind has been engrossed in other disturbing realities and going-ons in America. I will do a post on Somatic Disorders soon. But firstly, we need to discuss something.

For all the mental health websites and advocate pages on Instagram who are American-run and have not mentioned ONE DAMN THING about the riots in Louisville, Kentucky and Minneapolis, Minnesota right now, you should be ashamed of yourselves. ASHAMED.

How dare you claim to be an advocate of mental health and not bring to light the racial issues that are not only causing MORE trauma for today’s generation of colored folks, but is fueled also by the generational trauma of our ancestors.

I am a mixed race individual; my father is African American and my mother is Caucasian. I am light skinned, often mistaken for Mexican, and my mental health and physical health has been impacted by this. Doctors are less attentive. They don’t listen properly. They accuse me of drug use in the middle of my panic attacks.

For African American people in America, there is a lot of grief. There is a lot of trauma, a lot of loss, a lot of pain. We feel unsafe, unheard, tossed aside. That births anger, rage, and perpetuates violence. With the recent murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Abery and Breonna Taylor (George and Breonna murdered by police; George was already on the ground with three cops on top of him and Breonna was IN HER HOUSE), all of these feelings and this connection we have to each other is growing stronger. Violence is happening because of the angst of hundreds of years of BULLSHIT.

So the fact that so many pages are claiming to talk about Mental Health and are avoiding this issue for political reasons I suspect makes me sick to my stomach. Until this is addressed in all facets, nothing will change. As social media has been circulating: No Justice, No Peace.

Not only does blatantly ignoring this subject aide in the problem rather than the solution, it also sends the message that those of us in the american mental health system who are dark don’t matter as much. We don’t need to talk about this collective pain we feel right now because your page can’t afford arguments in the comments.

I say affectionately, FUCK YOU.

Get off your fucking high horse.

Remember when I said I have made very frank posts on my previous blog? This is one of them.

Get off your fucking high horse and recognize that the deaths of these people, the murders of these people, affect African-American people across this nation. My anxiety, my grief, my voices, my paranoia have all doubled because of what I see happening to the people who are part of my ancestral family. I feel the same for the Native Americans who are hit the hardest with COVID-19 and receiving absolutely no help, except a box of body bags rather than PPE. Part of my family is Native to North America and their suffering has only added to my grief.

This IS a mental health topic. Racism IS a mental health topic. Not because racism is a disorder, but because how it effects people dictates their mental states. To advocate at this time for mental health without reminding followers and subscribers that people of color are collectively struggling mentally with this, to the point that VICE has to be the one magazine to offer self-care tips for African Americans, IS SELFISH.

It’s SELFISH to ignore this as a mental health topic.

I’ve been sick to my stomach all day, lost in my thoughts and my pain and watching Minnesota burn down their police station.

If we truly are all in this together, then where is your support for the black community right now? Where is your acknowledgement of our mental health in a time when we are watching ourselves get killed? Somewhere up your ass?

Good Night.