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 Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, Voices

In Moments

I said we would get back to Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments today, but I was sadly mistaken. I’m still halfway through the essay on Altruism and may re-read it before I’m ready to dive into that paradox. I’m also arranging my room to get ready to record a podcast. My boyfriend and I are thinking of starting one together where we talk about the mixture of our cultures and how it relates to our relationship. He is Mexican and I am biracial black and white. He didn’t know to put butter on grits and I didn’t know authentic tacos didn’t have cheese.

Yeah, it’s been a ride.

We have tons of great stories, and we laugh with each other every day. We want to share that joy with others. We’re also going to talk about how being so different creates obstacles for us, how we’ve overcome each of them, and how we’re still growing together. We’re going to talk about places we’ve been and places we go to (as we go to them, once Coronavirus lifts). We’ve got tons of more ideas and I can’t wait to get started on that project.

What I’ve learned from all the time I have off is that life tastes better when lived. I’ve spent so long living in my head, chasing grandiose ideals that don’t exist, that I never learned how to just BE. Now I’m learning to be. I’m making connections on Linked-In, I’m learning what I really enjoy is teaching people about science and learning science and communicating scientifically, and find that science writing pulls to me more than anything I’ve ever considered. The possibilities are endless.

If you haven’t yet found your niche in life, don’t worry. It’s there. It’ll come to you when you need it most. If you have, reflect on your journey. Appreciate the pain and the agony and the joy. We only live in moments and we only see in memories.

I’ll have more on the podcast coming relatively soon. If you have a podcast you like or one you run, link it in the comments below! If you guys think this sounds like a good idea, let me know in the comments too!

Until Next time.

Don’t forget to follow and share The Philosophical Psychotic. Join me on Instagram @alilivesagain and on Twitter @Thephilopsychotic. I don’t have friends IRL Fr Fr, so I need internet buddies. Please.

I’m begging.

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 Peer Support, Questions for you, science, Voices

What’s Your Ideal Treatment?

I think one thing that frustrates me the most about mental health treatment services today is that the services available are shoddy, expensive, and instead of being tailored toward the individual they’re tailored to the diagnosis.

For example, if you walk in to your average psychiatrist and say: “I have a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. My mom just passed and I’ve been struggling a lot at work. I haven’t had to be on meds for a while (or, I’m on a low dose of meds, or my medication usually works), and really I’ve just been struggling with anxiety. I’m shaking a lot and I think I need some help. What do you suggest?” Chances are all your psychiatrist heard was “schizophrenia”.

It’s better to leave the diagnosis out of it.

I use this example because I can empathize with it. My most recent psychiatrist, for example, couldn’t get it out of her head that I hear voices sometimes, even though I said my voices and I are on pretty decent terms compared to what others struggle through. For me, they aren’t 24/7, they are a mix of inside my head and outside of my head, aren’t very commanding, and I gather comfort from their perspective sometimes. I am not overly attached to them. What I went to her for was anxiety and mood issues, as my official diagnosis is schizoAFFECTIVE. She seemed to remove the affective part, completely ignored the fact that a death close to me unhinged me (she said “Oh, that’s tough”, and moved on), and continuously tried to medicate my voices instead of focusing on ways I could help my anxiety–the reason I came to her.

Mind you, through all of our appointments, she never once asked me what my voices are like, what I think about them, how they respond to me. The reception staff messed up on my insurance and suddenly I owe them money I don’t have. Every time I email her for a simple question, which could be answered in an email, she wants to set up an appointment so I have to pay for it. This is why I stayed away from mainstream mental health.

But it’s not just that.

Studies show residential, communal, and peer support services are, dare I say, essential for growth and recovery, and yet you’ll be hard pressed to find any of those services affordable, available, or promoted in your area. I work in peer support, and I didn’t learn about any programs until I got a job there. Doctors didn’t know, therapists didn’t know, and of course it would be much too hard for them to do their job and help me find something.

Maybe this is just a California complaint.

There are wonderful communal options and residential facilities, places where true growth and opportunity are available . . .to those who can afford 35,000 dollars a month.

My point here is not a rant. My point is that mental health treatment has gone from ice baths in asylums backed by half-assed scientists to money traps and one-size-fits-all cardboard boxes backed by people with degrees who haven’t read a psychological research paper since their undergraduate research methods class.

We’ve dropped the ice baths, the asylums, AND the scientists.

Don’t you think this needs to change? What would you change? What is your version of ideal treatment? Leave your comments below or come to my instagram and join the discussion!

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, 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.

If you’d like to connect or share your story here on The Philosophical Psychotic, contact me on my homepage or on my Social media:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

If you like this post, please share, comment, and follow ThePhilosophicalPsychotic. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You all give me the strength to continue writing about Mental Health through a critical lens.

Posted in Peer Support, science, Voices

Self-Compassion and Hearing Voices

Let’s talk about this concept of self-love, self-compassion and why it’s so pivotal when hearing voices.

My experience with the diagnosis Schizoaffective (Bipolar Type) may be different than yours, vastly, and much more so if you have been diagnosed with the blanket term Schizophrenia. I read a post the other day on an alternative treatment center dedicated solely to Schizoaffective, discussing their push to separate the label from the umbrella term schizophrenia, citing a need to treat it in its own category. I don’t think it’s so much the category that needs individualization, but the treatment itself. That’s a story for another day.

My point of bringing that into the story is that not everyone hears voices constantly and not everyone hears them the same way. Researchers are starting to catch up with this fact. There have been just a *few* studies into the differences between thought-like voices and external (hearing outside of the ear) voices, and some of the studies are fascinating. One, which I will link later when I find it again, cited 17% as the amount of time people say they heard exclusively external voices. For your personal interest, here is a survey and a study highlighting the differences between external and internal experiences.

Some of the marked differences included the types of responses. The researchers hypothesized that internal voices may have a more distressing quality to them–and this does not mean that external sounds and voices aren’t distressing, it just means they have a particular scale they were using to rate this. They obviously have no idea what it’s like in either experience. Let’s not make this into a petty competition about “who has it worse”. I hate that. It happens a lot in the mental health community, I’ve noticed.

The last table of the study showed some interesting percentages:

Hallucination Type:

Non-Verbal Auditory

Voices Commenting.

Voices Conversing

Voices commanding.

Commands to harm/kill oneself.

Commands to harm/kill others.

Positive/helpful voices

Persecutory Voices

Internal (or both)

63%

85%

55%

83%

30%

33%

32%

73%

External only

59%

68%

26%

66%

37%

13%

46%

53%

If you look at the study, they also listed their Chi-squared test results (statistical measurement) and their P values, bolding the significant differences. I’ve bolded the ones which were significantly different.

What Does This Mean?

They use this as evidence to confirm their hypothesis, I use it as evidence to show that variability in our experiences of the world. I also use it as evidence to show kindness and compassion is a necessity to yourself. If you are constantly being attacked by Persecutory Voices telling you the police believe you’re a murderer or a pedophile or a liar who has put their entire family in danger of the C.I.A, it takes a lot of strength to tell them “I’m better than you’re saying” or “I’m not any of what you’re telling me I am.” It takes double the strength to do so in a composed, neutral manner. It also takes a lot of practice. I still yell sometimes. I try not to do it in public.

It also takes a level of confidence in yourself, and comfortability with yourself, acceptance that what other people say about you isn’t necessarily true, and all of that can be easily stripped away from years of hospitalizations and being told you’re sick, ill, and broken. It rarely gets built back up because people with schizophrenia and psychosis alike are not encouraged into therapy much of the time. They aren’t encouraged to explore themselves. They aren’t encouraged to melt into the darkness because, well, it’s too dark. This prevents the growth necessary to heal.

Therapists and professionals are scared to talk when someone is, to them, incomprehensible, and for some reason they’re also scared to listen, as if they might hear something that makes sense in a bout of babbling that shouldn’t make any sense. And so a lot of the work is left up to us. After all, we are the ones with the voices, the thoughts, and the thought-like voices.

What Does Compassion Mean?

I had an experience a few months ago that was another cog in the machine of changing the way I see my voices. Although they’ve been telling me to kill a lot lately, mostly myself, sometimes other people if I’m around them, they’re not usually as aggressive, not since I’ve accepted them as beings tied down by the law of opposites: good must exist in the bad for the bad to exist, and bad must exist in the good for good to exist. When I realized they can’t possibly exist outside of that truth, I stopped labeling them as demons. For the past two years they’ve shaped into your regular, uncertain, lost souls, just like the rest of us.

But one night I felt particularly scattered, my thoughts weren’t making sense, and one of my voices told me to go for a drive. They urged and urged until I got off my ass and did so. We drove out to the cliffs, and I worried if I stopped the car I’d have a heart attack. So I kept driving and cry-singing because that’s always the best medicine, and at some point I think I asked them “why are you doing this to me?” And the response I got was something along the lines of “pain is necessary”. And I stopped crying not because the answer was profound, it’s certainly not, but because it reminded me of everything I’ve ever read, everything I’ve ever calculated, everything I’ve ever understood. There was a beauty in the pain I’d forgotten about, there had to be because pain cannot exist without the concept of pleasure and visa versa. He reminded me of my own duality and that this too shall pass; it must, for something that comes must also go.

And so part of the compassion involved with dealing with voices is submitting yourself, not in a passive way, but in an understanding way. If you don’t listen to them, they will never listen to you. To talk back is to not be “more crazy”, it’s to learn about yourself. That’s all you’re doing. You’re not “feeding into the sickness”. You’re not “making yourself worse”. You’re learning more than your therapist will ever know.

Another part of compassion is building your self-esteem. This can’t come from repeated mirror mantra’s of “you can do this”. Studies show it can make you feel worse; when you don’t live up to your expectations, you take a harder hit than someone who didn’t look at themselves in the mirror and convince themselves of a lie.

I say it’s a lie because if you don’t actually believe it while you’re saying it, it’s pointless. And telling yourself you believe it is not the same as believing it.

I’ve built my self-esteem along the years through support of others encouragement. Most of believing in myself came from other people believing in me, believing I could do something when I didn’t believe I could. Now, you see the opposite effect a lot of the time: in hospitals, for example, you may encounter a professional who has no confidence in your healing path (although they may consistently say “you can do this) and the less they believe in you, the more you’re convinced you’re sick for life, doomed to a plethora of medication and condescending doctors. Imagine the opposite. Imagine surrounding yourself with supportive people who understanding that falling down, that relapse, is apart of the process. Remember the law of opposites: one thing cannot exist without the other. You will have days of confidence, days of no confidence, and it’s how to grow from each happy and not-so-happy experience that will dictate your future path.

I think there are a bunch of cliche things you can list for self-compassion and care: eat healthy, exercise, reach out for help when you need it. Those are blanket examples, things that promote over-all wellness, but I think when dealing with voices, your self-compassion must be very individualized. What you and your voices need may be different from what me and my voices need, and this is why modern-day psychiatry has failed in so many aspects.

Showing yourself compassion also means avoiding judgement. Be careful labeling a feeling, voice, thought, as good or bad. Be careful labeling yourself as good or bad. What I’ve found more helpful is asking myself how the moment (if I hear something negative or positive, if I think of something strange, bizarre, or scary) can help me grow. If a voice tells me to pick up a rock and kill my partner with it, I ask myself if killing my partner will help me grow. The obvious answer is no. And therefore I respect the request, acknowledge the voice (laugh about it kind of) and continue on with my day, judgement-free.

Is Being Alone Okay?

Yes. This is part of the individualistic plan. For me, I haven’t yet gotten comfortable talking about my voices to anyone other than my significant other, and at times (if I’m feeling spunky) my therapist. Most of you know I work in peer services, and have the opportunity to talk about my voices everyday with others who experience similar things, and I find it very difficult to do so. I was raised to stay quiet and it’s been a long journey realizing that I don’t need to force myself to speak, even if others say that’s what I need to do to heal. I also don’t need to force myself to stay quiet. There’s a delicate balance here.

If keeping to yourself, exploring your feelings and voices with yourself, is what has helped enlighten you, what has helped you process your emotions, then that is okay. Remember how we mentioned it doesn’t matter what other people say? About how accepting that mind-state may help also with voices, particularly ones that accuse you of things? Well, shocker: it also supports you in dealing with pushy people who think they know how you should live.

We get told a lot of things. We get told we have to do this, eat this, act this way, fit this mold, fit this criteria, apply for this, stop doing this, take this, etc. We are rarely given the chance to truly decide for ourselves, and taking away that level of independence doesn’t built self-esteem. You are capable of making decisions for yourself.

I find that processing things in my head is quicker, more efficient, and when I come to a realization I get a warm feeling from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Those are moments that change my perspective. I rarely have those moments when discussing feelings with people. That being said, there are moments I can’t keep things in my head, when I need to vent to someone, or ask for an outside perspective, and those times are okay too.

Overall . . .

. . . I think it’s important to recognize that no one is one-size-fits-all and that every way of living is an acceptable way of living, as it is life doing what life does. We may not see one person’s life as the way we think it should go. We may see more potential in them than they do in themselves, and that makes us want to help, make us want to push them into being “better” and that’s a judgement. It is. It is inevitable in life that some people will never heal. You may judge or perceive this as sad, but if everyone always healed then there would be no such thing as being stuck. If there was no such things as being stuck, well, there would be no such thing (or need for) healing. We wouldn’t exist as complex beings, only cookie-cutter versions of each other.

Each way to wellness (or not wellness), whether that be medication, no medication, therapy, no therapy, family, or no family, is an acceptable path. Once you are able to avoid judgement of where you are, once you are able to avoid the trap of “I should be here, but instead I’m here“, you will see life get much simpler.

If you want to connect or inquire about sharing your story/organization here, reach me at:

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Twitter: @philopsychotic

If you enjoyed this post, please share, like, and follow The Philosophical Psychotic. I appreciate all of my readers and commentators. You all give me more reason to encourage critical thinking about mental health.

Posted in psychology, science, Voices

Mental Health Month: Schizophrenia

*This is a post dedicated to my Mental Health Month series, where each week we talk about different diagnoses, share stories, and ways toward wellness. Tomorrow we will cover Bipolar Disorder. If you have some experience to share for any of the topics we cover (or have covered), contact me here or on my social media handles and we will get you featured.*

Today we’re talking about schizophrenia and related diagnoses, one of which I have. I’ll share some of the things I’ve experienced and ways that I’ve dealt with certain aspects.

The reason Schizophrenia is now considered a spectrum is the wide ranges of experiences people have, and the level of distress resulting from those experiences. Our last DSM separated Schizophrenia into subtypes like “paranoid, residual, undifferentiated, disorganized, and catatonic.” I think it was a big sigh of relief when these boxes were removed. The DSM 5 now reads with these diagnoses:

  1. Delusional Disorder: This basically means someone is consumed with different types of delusions (like grandiose or jealous type) for at least one month or longer. If people do experience hallucinations, they are related to the delusions. Usually functioning isn’t as impaired at the same level of someone in an acute psychotic episode.
  2. Brief Psychotic Disorder: This is more like what someone would picture an acute episode: hallucinations, delusions, and some version of disorganization.
  3. Schizophreniform Disorder: I honestly thought they’d removed this a long time ago, but this is like a short-term schizophrenia; episodes are usually between one and six months long. This includes hallucinations, delusions, disorganization, and negative symptoms (apathy, lack of response, e.t.c).
  4. Schizophrenia.
  5. Schizoaffective Disorder: this includes elements of schizophrenia, like hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech and combines it with elements of a mood disorder, like depression or mania. The mood symptoms must be present concurrently with the top criteria of schizophrenia.
  6. Substance/medication induced psychotic disorder
  7. Psychotic disorder due to another medical condition.
  8. Cataonic conditions.
  9. Other specified Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder.
  10. And of course unspecified.

Are Psychotic People Dangerous?

The thing that gets misconstrued often about psychosis is the level of danger someone experiencing an episode poses. Of course there are cases of those lost in delusion acting aggressively. There are many more cases of abuse and violence against those in psychosis.

The thing that isn’t understood is that when we are in this fragile state, everything is terrifying. Your smile is terrifying–a sign you’ve been conspiring against us. Your tone of voice, your pitch of voice, your very existence in our world means you are, in one way or another, against us. Every person, television, web camera, corporation, government institution, is a hunter and we are the prey, frightened only because we’ve just realized this whole time people have been plotting to harm us. And suddenly every bad thing that happens, or has happened, every innocent mistake we witness, every abnormal movement becomes apart of that plot.

Not everyone is vocal and so obviously outlandish. I, for example, spent a lot of my time in my room with a blanket over my head playing Minecraft in the dark. I spent five or six days a week doing this. Meanwhile, one of my coworkers controlled mby body, blocked the thoughts she hated, inserted new ones, forced me to eat a bowl of cereal, hounded me until I did it. I couldn’t walk properly and I’d lost awareness of my body because it wasn’t really mine anymore.

I spent weeks playing Grand Theft Auto in a room piled so full of trash and clothes my door couldn’t open properly and I couldn’t touch my carpet. The sheriff managed to shove my door open, though. That was when the voices were keeping me up all night with screams and mocking banter and whispers. I sat rigid and silent, only answered their questions with “yes” or “no” even if they asked an open ended question.

My diagnosis is Schizoaffective, first diagnosed as Bipolar 1 and several other things.

What pains me is when I hear about people deep in their experience who trigger the fear in officers that they’re trained to have to protect their lives. One man, over 8 years ago, came at an officer with a boom. This officer knew of the man’s psychosis and still opened fire with 7 shots.

Another man, silent, mute, like me, but naked, walked along a highway in the middle of the night. A trucker stopped him, called police when the man, also diagnosed schizoaffective, crawled up on the roof of his semi. The cops, assuming he was on drugs, gave him a pair of shorts or something, called the paramedics who took his vitals. The Sargent then drove the man to a closed gas station and dropped him off. That man then wandered back to the same highway and was killed by a car that didn’t see him.

The Sargent’s defense was that he’d dropped the man off in a safe place.

Are psychotic people dangerous? Not usually. What’s dangerous is the situations made volatile by people who don’t understand.

What does Research Say?

I’ve written on this before (big surprise) and if you’re curious, you can read the post, “Is Schizophrenia a Brain Disease?” You may be surprised by the answer. If you frequently keep up with psychology research, not the pop psychology agenda, you probably won’t be.

Can People Live Normally With Psychosis?

Yes.

For some people that means taking medication or living in a group home where social skills and independence are prioritized. For others, this means getting off of medication or moving out a toxic living environment. For all of us, though, who choose some version of wellness, it usually means keeping a routine, engaging in consistent self-care, and learning to manage our experiences to the best of our abilities.

Not everyone hears voices 24/7. Not everyone’s voices are external. Not everyone’s voices are negative. Not everyone has visual hallucinations. Not everyone is hospitalized constantly, or for insanely long periods of time.

So what happens to those who don’t reach a stable wellness? A lot of people give up on those who don’t seem to present a lot of insight, as if it’s someone else’s responsibility to make them develop insight. I don’t want to say that stability isn’t achievable for some. What I will say is that the level of insight depends on many things: support, past trauma, current trauma (hospitals, police, doctors), self-esteem, general worldview. All of this gets distorted in psychosis, yes, but the foundation is the same. If someone has spent a lifetime in child abuse where intimidation, violent threats/attacks, and coercion dominates their perception, assuming even bizarre things like aliens probing their thoughts is routed in a feeling of lack of privacy, feeling intruded upon, and invaded. If those underlying feelings are never addressed, if only obvious positive symptoms (like hallucinations) are dulled, and that is called the ultimate progress, then that persons self-esteem, drive, and hope will suffer.

Much of the mental health system stifles the cultivation of wellness for those with psychosis in many ways.

Living normally can mean many things. It could mean working. But it could also mean just steady self-care. It could mean being satisfied. It could mean getting on social security disability and getting back into hobbies and cultivating contentment. It doesn’t have to mean what society wants it to mean.

What Are The Experiences Like?

This varies in intensity and frequency across the spectrum of Schizophrenia. Common experiences are auditory and visual hallucinations, olfactory (smell) hallucinations, tactile (touch) hallucinations, thoughts and feelings of being hunted, attacked, hated, and the reasons for these feelings are what become delusions–for example, if someone feels they are being watched, the delusion isn’t just the action of being watched, but why; the government has tracked their IP address, put bugs in their phones, turned their family against them. They hear the agents outside their window, conspiring.

Other experiences may include a severe drop in drive, motivation, and emotional expression. They may have an affect that is inappropriate, that doesn’t match what they say or the atmosphere of the room. This is the reason one of the top Google questions about Schizophrenia is “why do schizophrenics laugh randomly?” They’re hinting at affect, but also possibly voices. Sometimes they say funny things and we laugh. That’s a normal reaction to something hilarious, but on the outside it seems scary, weird, and bizarre. There is no scientific consensus to whether medication is the cause of these “negative symptoms.” If we get some studies that aren’t done by researchers with severe conflicts of interest (e.g grants from pharmaceutical companies) we may get a definite answer.

When I was on medication, I was more focused and aware of my surroundings, but I was tired and had trouble caring about things. Apathy can come after a psychotic break, especially a first psychotic break, and again, there is no scientific consensus on whether this is result of the medication blockading certain synapses, damaging them, or just a result of the brain restructuring itself after the break.

For me, my voices are often but not constant, internal and external, random, mocking, encouraging, and repetitive. I also hear familiar voices, such as friends or coworkers, particularly when I’m around them. When I worked at the local library at the beginning of 2019 (yes, I tackled two jobs) I often heard the boss and the branch manager discussing me. One afternoon in particular, I was shelving some books. I heard them giggle and the boss (my supervisor) said my name, followed by words I can’t remember and the branch manager said “well, what are you going to do about her?” very loudly, and when I whipped my head around, they were talking, smiling, laughing, and I couldn’t hear them at all. They were across the library.

I took my cart to a different part of the library, felt my heart racing, and tried to look at the event objectively. They were far away, I couldn’t hear them, and maybe they weren’t taking about me. But they’d said my name. Maybe it was something good. Or maybe they hadn’t said anything at all. Every day in that place was me psychically defending my honor. I quit abruptly four months into the job.

I also hear unfamiliar voices, strangers walking down the street. One afternoon, before I was hospitalized this last time I think, my boyfriend and I were on the wharf walking back toward the street. We walked past a couple, and the man growled “you better watch your back”.

This was when I knew there were people placed on the street to intimidate and berate me. I knew some were possessed by the same entities that wanted me dead. I spun around and I asked my boyfriend, “didn’t you hear that?” Of course he didn’t, and I stopped in the middle of the walkway, blocked it really, watching the couple, and spoke loudly; “that guy just told me to watch my back. He thinks I don’t know what’s going on, but I fucking do. They don’t know who they’re messing with.”

I don’t know if my boyfriend remembers this, he may not, but I remember the fear, the anger, and the uncertainty.

Some people see creatures, demons, devils, regular people, spiders. Some people feel things crawling under their skin or in their organs, or smell strange scents. I remember smelling a lot of weird, noxious fumes not of earth and fire smoke. I always feel like someones touching me, grabbing me, trying to pull me in a different world. I feel things crawling on me frequently(not in me thankfully) and I misinterpret a lot of my body’s signals.

All of these things together can be incapacitating, terrifying, and unreal in real way. I still think back on some things and don’t believe that any of it happened, that I made it up, and that belief often has my voices calling me a liar, that I’m some kind of malingerer and my therapist knows it, my coworkers know it, and it’s going to cost me my job and my therapist is going to put me in jail.

How ironic, right?

How Should I Respond?

If your friend, child, parent, or any other relative is experiencing an episode or is home, on medication, and still in the midst of psychosis frequently, panic is probably the most incorrect way to respond. The second most incorrect way to respond is feeding or attacking delusional, disorganized, or otherwise different behavior. Do not agree that the government watches your son, but don’t dismiss it either. Sometimes the underlying feelings of being watched are fear, mistrust, or anger. Address those.

Studies show that the involvement of trusted family members during someone’s hospitalization can enhance and support the person’s recovery. Show up, visit, learn what you can. My mom feared driving over the hill to the hospital I was at and so my boyfriend brought me clothes and visited. It would have been nice to have either one or both of my parents though, so they could not only see the extent of my fear and mental frailty, but also so they could get involved and be a source of comfort. It’s so hard to get them to be a source of comfort sometimes.

Most of all, respond with compassion, patience. Step outside of your world and into ours.

This post is so late (it’s 11:46 pm for me on May 14th) because I have loads of classwork and have been working full-time for the first time in my life. Adjusting to that is taking some time. And so tomorrow, later as well probably, we will cover Bipolar. If you have a story on any diagnosis and you’ like to share it here, CONTACT ME or reach me on:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

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

Posted in advocacy, Community, Peer Support, Supporting Friends/Family, Voices

Broken and Crippled by Mental Illness

*A featured personal story for this MENTAL HEALTH MONTH series.

Some months after my relationship with the boys’ dad ended, I had what can only be described as a ‘break down‘. And that’s exactly what it felt like because, both physically and mentally, I was broken.

Anxious About Anxiety

I started to get these odd sensations; I could feel my heart thumping out of my chest and could hear it pounding in my ears. Lots of jumbled and disturbing thoughts races around in my head and I felt scared all the time, so I was constantly jittery. I was anxious about being anxious again and much of the time I felt like I was on the world’s longest and biggest rollercoaster.

Sometimes, there was so much adrenaline buzzing through my body, my nerves were jangling, and I couldn’t sit still, so I’d pace around my home. At other times, I felt exhausted or gripped vice-like with sheer terror so I couldn’t move.

Drowning in Quicksand

I was having what I now know to be panic attacks – throughout the day and particularly at night keeping me awake until it was time to get the boys ready for school. It felt like how people explained having a heart-attack. My fingers and toes were tingling, and I could feel the colour drain from my face. I was finding it hard to catch a breath it felt like I was drowning in quicksand, so I’d lie rigid until it passed, knowing it would be followed by another, and another.

It was torturous, twenty-four-seven, week on week and with no end in sight, I wished I was dead. Although close friends and family were aware of the break-up, I couldn’t tell anyone what was going through my head, scared they’d think I was mad and that I should be locked away. This was to continue for around eighteen months.

Help was on it’s Way

I’ll be eternally grateful that our GP eventually noticed and taking me aside, he urged “Tell me, what’s the problem? You’ve lost so much weight and though you smile, I think you are very sad.” Once I’d explained and told him that I was devastated by the break-up, he was able to get me to immediate counselling. He actually drove me to our local hospital where he knew the Psychiatric Team.

Fortunately, although I had suicidal thoughts, the psychiatrist and his team were confident that I had no intention of killing myself. I’d told them I knew I couldn’t do that to my sons. I couldn’t possibly leave them with that legacy. Three years of painful weekly counselling followed.

Return to Study

I was on the road to recovery when I realised I wanted to study but I wasn’t sure I was clever enough and I wasn’t sure what to study. I thought I’d test the water and start small, so I took evening and weekend courses in Shiatsu. This was quickly followed by Swedish Massage, Seated Massage, Aromatherapy and finally, Indian Head Massage, where I was trained by the blind guy who invented it (Narendra Mehta). I loved it and so too did my family and friends who I practised on.

I had the massage table, the massage chair, lots of fluffy white towels and a full kit of aromatherapy oils. However, despite passing my exams with distinction in all the above types of massage, I just couldn’t charge anyone. I didn’t like asking for money so all I asked in return was a fluffy towel or an aromatherapy oil.

In February 1997 I learned I was about to be made redundant again, which was fantastic as I’d seen a large advert in the Evening Standard looking for General Nurses to study at my local University and Hospital. This didn’t so much interest me but, right at the bottom of the ad, there was a few lines about becoming a Mental Health Nurse. It felt right, and I believed that my own experience of mental illness would help to make me a good mental health nurse.

My Recovery

So, during my recovery from, what I learnt was, a lengthy psychotic depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and anorexia, I applied to train as a Mental Health Nurse. After three long years of study, I worked successfully as a Mental Health Nurse in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I had the honour of meeting thousands of people who shared their chaotic and difficult life stories with me, possibly for the first time ever. I always felt humbled by their often-fraught experiences and journeys through mental illness.

Now Physically Disabled:

I remain extremely passionate about raising mental health awareness, I’m a determined advocate of mental illness and continue to fight the stigma, the social exclusion and discrimination that come with it.

As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” – Paul Shane Spear

“Think of the enormous impact if just ONE PERSON improved the world of just ONE PERSON. That alone might change the world. And everyone in the world would be part of the change.” – Samuel Rozenhider

A big THANK YOU to Caz for her willingness to share her story about moving through anxiety. Catch her at THESES LINKS:

For tips on anxiety and panic attacks, you can use my link, here: https://mentalhealthfromtheotherside.com/2020/01/17/10-quick-and-easy-coping-techniques-for-anxiety-and-panic-attacks/

Or use my home page, here: https://mentalhealthfromtheotherside.com/

My twitter feed, here: https://twitter.com/hannahsmiley

Pinterest boards, here: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/800444533760600123/

Read more about today’s anxiety diagnosis and research post for Mental Health Month

Posted in advocacy, Community, Peer Support, Supporting Friends/Family, Voices

The Line Up for Sharing Your Story this Mental Health Month.

Hello friends!

I have some time before work to put out the writing schedule of this months posts, all dedicated to learning more about DSM diagnoses and the research that backs them up (or doesn’t). I’m also asking for people’s experiences so that we may add a personal aspect to all of the clinical madness.

If you want to submit your story (200 words or more), you can find my contact information on my HOME page (click here) or you can reach me on my social media handles (below).

Each post will go live on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday each week of May. The Line Up is as follows:

Week of May 4th: Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive/compulsive and related disorders, and Trauma and Stressor related disorders.

Week of May 11th: Schizophrenia, Bipolar, and Dissociative disorders.

Week of May 18th: Somatic disorders, Eating disorders, and Depressive disorders.

Week of May 25: Gender Dysphoria, Neurodevelopmental disorders, and Personality Disorders.

On Monday, May 31st, we will give a quick summary, explore feelings that may come up, and find ways we can celebrate and inform people about mental health every day, not just one month out of the year.

For submitting your story:

If you would like to present something 200 words or more, your story will be posted separately from the main article, but on the SAME DAY as your topic. For example, if you want to submit your story about anxiety, it will be posted within an hour of the main post this Thursday.

If you would like to provide a quote or small paragraph (less than 200 words) it will be included in the main post at relevant points.

For both types of submissions, I can link your blog, social media, name, or anything else that you’d like. For longer stories, if you want to write a bio, I will put it at the end of your post.

Please share this information with friends, family, and anyone you feel would want to participate. If you yourself wants to participate, please contact me.

Social Media:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

Let’s empower each other and remind the world why we matter.

Posted in advocacy, Community, Peer Support, Voices

Share Your Story

In honor of May being Mental Heath Month, I’ve decided to do something consistent, informative, and fun on this blog.

During the course of May, starting this week, every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I will be doing one or two posts dedicated to a diagnostic category. This means we will be covering stuff like anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, ADHD, Autism, and more.

I notice when people give information about disorders, they limit what they share to symptoms, medications, and the everlasting advice of self-care. This will be covered as well, my sources being my DSM-5 copy. But we will expand on this, address the most recent research articles I can find (and gain access to), and talk about supportive options that vary beyond just medication and doctors. We will address mental health as whole-person health.

I would also like to include personal experiences or quotes from those of you willing to share. This could be a direct quote or small paragraph from YOU that expresses what it feels like to experience living with mental health conditions, or it could be as simple as a list of words describing your experience.

If you would like to do a longer piece (anything above 200 words), I will post that separately, the same day as the other article, and link the two to each other. For example, if your story is about your experience with anxiety, I will link that up with the article talking about anxiety disorders.

You can reach me from my contact page (listed on the home screen of my blog) or you can reach me at my social media accounts listed below. I will also be including some of my own experiences if there aren’t enough people who feel comfortable sharing.

Please share this with someone who you feel might want to participate, or with someone who you feel would like to follow this series throughout this month. We will be learning a lot and challenging the current perspective of mental health.

The goal of this little project is to show the world that we are capable, determined, literate, and worthy human beings, just as everyone else. This is also a way to empower each other and remind ourselves that we are so much more than we give ourselves credit for sometimes. Especially during these times, its important to remember the good about ourselves, about others, and sharing our stories can support us in that.

If you’d like to participate, you can reach me at my social media handles here:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @thephilopsychotic

Or click at this link to be taken to my contact page.

Give me an idea of what you’d like to contribute and we can work together in getting your voice out there. Feel free to also contact me if you have a particular category you’d like this series to focus on this coming Thursday, Friday, Or Saturday.

I will also include your blog, social media handle, and/or name (if you’d like) at the end of each article. All articles will be promoted on my twitter handle and Instagram handle.

Thank you everyone. Please share this so we can have multiple voices. Mental Health month is about togetherness, erasing stigma, and uniting as a positive force in the word. Stay healthy, be well, and I’ll see you all on Thursday.