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.

Posted in science, Therapy, Voices

Where Research In Re-Framing Our Thoughts Could Take Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at this through two lenses:

The Theory Behind It All:

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

The Questions That Now Arise:

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

2. Can we use this possibility to our advantage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could this mean? How could we study it?

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

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

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

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

Would you like to continue the conversation? Great! Follow me:

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Posted in advocacy, science, Supporting Friends/Family, Voices

Hearing Voices: Internal versus External

Something people who don’t hear voices misunderstand about hearing voices is that it’s not like sitting next to a party of five in a restaurant where you can generally tune out all the giggles and unrelated conversation and focus on the person in front of you. It’s more like that party of five arranged their chairs around you and take turns commenting on your posture, your date’s violent sexual thoughts, your wants you didn’t know you had, while also occasionally blurting a sentence that doesn’t make any sense, like “put that burrito on reservation.”

My point here is that ignoring it isn’t always the easiest or most necessary option. And to understand why this is a fact, we need to understand a little more about this.

Some people are really obvious about their inner experiences. They’ll be talking out loud or gesturing to no one. They might be laughing or crying or whispering. This is what scares people, both people, and what can make getting acquainted with our voices such a daunting experience; we’re aware (some of us) how we appear and that judgement is enough to warrant withdrawal. This tends to make things worse.

But let’s be clear: screaming at yourself at 3am probably isn’t the best way for your roommates to get to know you, nor is it a good way to get to know your voices.

It’s kind of a novel idea, to promote the “getting to know” process of things that don’t exist. But they do exist; they speak, they can have names, we can even have images to describe their non-existent physical features. They may not exist for your little brother or your mom or dad, but they exist for you and that’s still valid.

Psychiatrists and therapists aren’t trained in helping you with this process because school will tell them not to entertain delusions and to teach their clients how to cope with voices by ignoring them. This may be helpful for the clinician so they have a reason not to feel guilty when their client doesn’t remarkably improve, but it’s not always helpful for the client.

Ignoring needs to happen sometimes. But as a primary coping mechanism it sucks.

And so there’s something called “dialoging”, which I didn’t know about until attending a hearing voices workshop put on by the Hearing Voices Network. This is essentially someone on the outside speaking with your voices, getting to know them, their motives, their personality, and validating their existence. It’s for the voice hearer as well, so they can participate in a conversation instead of a shouting match. Because, again, what happens when you shout at someone? They shout back.

It’s also a common misconception, especially in clinical practice, that everyone who hears voices hears them externally.

I read a report of an experiment which examined this. They say that external voices have always been thought to represent more “severe” psychopathology, and to be more common, but that “empirical evidence has been equivocal”, meaning ambivalent. You can read for yourself at this link.

To summarize their study:

  • Some people experience only internal (coming from inside the head) voices
  • Some people experience only external( perceived as outside the head) voices .
  • Some people experience both.
  • In 1996 it was thought external voices were more severe. This project suggests, from observations, that internal ones can be more “disturbing, negative, persistent, involving, and commanding”.
  • Voices commenting and conversing observed (reported as) more internal.
  • “…no differences have been identified between internal vs. external hallucinators in other symptoms or levels of overall psychopathology.”
  • Another study, (cited Stephane et. al 2010) “found that schizophrenia patients with only internal hallucinations performed more poorly than those with only external hallucinations on an internal ‘say/think’ source memory task, suggesting that internal hallucinators may be less able to discriminate between internal versus externalized stimuli…”
  • Those with internal voices were observed to have more insight into the self-generated nature of their voices.

Why is any of this important? Well, it’s important for clinicians to read these kinds of findings and realize that experiences vary, and that one-shot generalized treatment WILL NOT work.

But it’s also important for those of us who do hear internal voices. First of all, it’s validation. Maybe you’ve been disregarded in the mental health system because your experience is perceived as “lesser”. Remember when we talked about the Soggy Boxes and the hierarchy of the mental health system? If you don’t, take a quick read at an older post of mine entitled The Soggy Boxes and The Variation of Us.

I’ve personally been reluctant to ever tell anyone about the internal half of me, because I knew the standard the system held. I also didn’t know they were voices. I did, but I didn’t.

So all this really does is remind us how different and similar we can be with each other. It also proves that the stale mental health system needs to readjust its understanding of life, of humanity, and experience in order to catch up with where we are. They’re behind US. It’s not the other way around.

If you are struggling with this currently, I’d encourage you to reach out to someone you can trust. If you trust no one, find the person you can trust the most. If you know someone who has been through similar things, reaching out to them may be the most helpful. If your options are limited, feel free to email me (info here). People seem to like connecting on Instagram better lately, so you can also reach me via my social media handles (info below).

People are fearful because they don’t understand. The nice thing is that there are many people who will make an effort to understand if you can have the patience to teach.

If you are a voice hearer and are comfortable with sharing your experience, pop it down in the comments below. If it’s a long story and you’d like a guest blog post spot, contact me! I’d love to feature your story on here.

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Posted in Voices

Hearing Voices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in advocacy, Community, Emotions, Voices

The Power Of Un-Positive Thinking

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

It gets boring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

If you liked this article, please share it with the buttons below, hit the like button, and follow ThePhilosophicalPsychotic. I appreciate every reader and commentator. You give me more treason to continue this joyous hobby.

Posted in Peer Support, psychology, Supporting Friends/Family, Voices

How To Support A Loved One’s Mental Health Journey

Chances are, if your loved one is struggling, you’re overwhelmed, they’re overwhelmed, and you all just want time to stop so you can breathe.

Unfortunately, we experience time in a linear fashion because of our physicality. Sorry.

What we can do is learn, adapt, and have a meaningful existence.

So, let’s start with something simple:

Tip #1: Offer an ear

The easiest thing to do, which can also become one of the hardest things to stay consistent with and have patience for, is be an ear for your loved one.

Understand you are not their therapist, you are not their treatment center and you are not their savior. What you are is a confidant, a safe person. You don’t have to solve any problems and if your loved one is asking you to, kindly remind them that solutions aren’t always the answer: sometimes you just need to ride the waves, feel the pain, and learn to adapt. They will know this instinctually, but sometimes the pain is so great that we just want relief. That’s why gentle reminders, patience, and compassionate words are the best a friend or parent or partner or sibling can do.

Depressive phrases like “I just want to die” can be startling and sometimes your first instinct is to ask “are you safe?”. Refrain from that. For the love of God, refrain from that.

A lot of the times in my suicidal ideation I needed to vent and get the heavy burden off my shoulders. I needed someone to hear me. I didn’t need someone to panic and make me doubt I had any control over myself.

If your loved one talks about suicide often, concern is valid. Fear is valid. But not everyone benefits from multiple 3 day hospitalizations just because they’re thinking about killing themselves.

Instead sit with them. If they have a mental health team, maybe connect with them. Ask what you can do to help. You’ll probably get a response of “nothing” or “I don’t know, I just don’t want to be here anymore”. And that’s okay. You can’t control their actions or their thoughts and sometimes space for the seriousness and the authenticity of the pain helps release the tension.

Remember yourself in this too. Your loved one is in pain and you don’t like that. You want to help. You want to pull them out. But you can’t do everything, and that’s killing you. Sometimes you get so angry you want to pull your hair out. Sometimes you just want to give up. And so do they. They don’t want to feel like a burden to everyone around them and a way to show them that they aren’t is to make sure you take care of your own mental wellbeing. Show them you will be okay.

Their feelings are not your responsibility. That doesn’t make you selfish or careless. It makes you an individual mind.

So, in short: offer an ear, really hear them, and restrain your panic. Keep firm boundaries—your friend can’t be calling every ten seconds for you to rescue them, they need to find their own footing and be less dependent. You can foster this with healthy support, a compassionate ear, and voicing your own struggle if their pain becomes too much to bear.

Tip #2: Stay Educated

This will be important particularly if your child is affected. There is tons of research coming out every day on all these labels we’ve created and a lot of the real research is in stark contradiction to what you find on your average health website or mental health forum. If this is all new to you, I’d suggest checking out my previous post, How to Read a Psychological Research Paper, so you know what to look for.

It’s nice to read personal stories of individuals who are also affected; that’s often why we tell our stories is so that people can understand where we’re coming from. If your son bursts in your room and says something like “why the fuck would you say that? Get away from me”, you might start to doubt your coping abilities, you might start feeing like you have to walk on eggshells, and you’ll eventually just blame his mental health.

The problem with just blaming the experience is that you lack the understanding necessary to actually be compassionate. You can learn to not take things personal, you can earn to ignore harsh words and phrases, but all that does is discount the experience. Let me explain.

In personal stories you may read that someone once thought his mother was part of the CIA and transmitting his thoughts back to headquarters, commenting on his movements and locations, and so he’d yell at his mom or break things or do strange things to disrupt her telepathy. In the story you might read about the fear he felt, the terror, how scared he was despite how angry he appeared.

And that’s the key. If you don’t understand that your loved one, in this state, is much more sacred and confused than angry, you’ll be more inclined to yell back or try and present evidence in an attempt to break a delusion.

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to discuss what’s going on with their loved one in this state. But if you do, if there are substantial moments of clarity, especially in altered states like this that aren’t a crisis, it can be transformative for both to explore some of the fear and terror and brainstorm some ways to help your loved one reality check when things get intense.

In order to do that, you’ll need to know some things about altered states. Read some personal stories, read some valid research, and involve your loved one in all of this. Introduce some stories to them, discuss some of the research if that’s possible at the time, and help them know they aren’t alone. Express to them your fears and your confusion. Maybe saying something like “when you do this, I get confused because . . .” And create a dialogue around confusion. For those of us with anxiety and psychosis and even depression it can be very helpful when we know where we stand with someone.

Tip #3: Be Involved

Maybe you can’t do all of this for just a friend all the time. But if you could join them at a support group or help them get to an appointment, that can really be a great tangible way of showing you care. And, again, boundaries are important; if you take your friend to her weekly appointment once, and she keeps asking for a ride every week, find a time to remind her face to face that you have responsibilities of your own. Offer to help her find a bus pass or teach her how to use Uber/Lyft. But ultimately she needs to find her own way for some of the time.

Ask what kind of involvement your loved one would like. I know when my parents came to my therapy appointments, even if it was just my mother sitting outside, I didn’t like it. It was supposed to be my own personal space, my own personal time to get my own personal thoughts out. Unless your loved one is incapable of speaking for themselves, you should give them as much space as they want so they can develop their sense of being again.

Do not take control. Reach compromises with your loved one. Discuss things. Don’t talk about things with your loved one’s doctor without your loved one present. We have a saying in the peer community: Nothing About Us, Without Us. When this isn’t honored, we feel cheated, betrayed, out of control and this can fuel paranoia for those of us dealing with psychosis; suddenly, you’re working for the CIA again and you have no idea why.

If the doctor insists talking about things without his/her actual patient involved, resist and stand up for your loved one, particularly if they aren’t in the room to do so themselves.

This is important because supporting us in empowering ourselves instead of supporting our dependence or helplessness is what becomes eventual motivation for us to find stability. In fact, it’s essential in finding stability.

You might feel that your loved one can’t do anything on their own, and maybe in a crisis that’s true. Helping has its time and place as all things. But you have to understand that a hospital doesn’t foster individualism. It fosters helplessness. And if that attitude is continued outside of the hospital, and after the crisis, there will be little motivation and little belief that things can ever change.

The belief is the key factor here.

My parents were never involved much in my health or my crises. That may have saved me, because they never treated me any different. They assumed me to be well, they assumed me to be able to feed myself and clothe myself and bathe. When I didn’t, when I went into crisis mode and was in a hospital that did all those things for me—reminders at least—and I came home to zero reminders, zero help, after a while I knew that I wasn’t going to get that kind of dependent support. I never suffered with the belief that I was incapable. Even when I wasn’t showering in a depressive episode. I didn’t believe I couldn’t, I didn’t believe it was “just too hard”, I just believed the pain was too great to pay attention to that kind of crap right then.

So, be involved, but don’t suffocate. Reach a compromise with your loved one. This may take some wrangling, and both of you may need some patience. It takes a while to figure this stuff out. A single conversation isn’t going to be enough.

Tip #4: Breathe

The best thing you can do for your loved one is be well.

There’s not much else to say about that.

And this isn’t to be well for them. This isn’t to be well so you can be their caretaker. This is for you to be well for you. This is to promote your own healthy state of mind and live your life with your loved one. It’s possible to have a peaceful existence. It’s just not possible to have it without some hiccups along the way. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It all depends on how you adapt.

A Final Thought:

These tips are built from things I wished people had done with me. Anxiety crippled me as a kid, and into adulthood; depression buried me my teenage years, and psychosis has given me insight to the universe, and not in a delusional sense. It would have been nice having close family or close friends along that entire journey with me.

And so, my parting word is this: walk with your loved one—not in front of them, not behind them, but beside them.

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Posted in Freedom, Peer Support, Therapy, Voices

A Different Way To Hear Voices: Tips and Tricks

We ask doctors what we’re supposed to do about them, how we’re supposed to manage them, how we can make them go away and often the doctors don’t have a very good answer not because they aren’t book-smart (because they’ve certainly proven time and time again they are VERY book-smart) but because they have no idea what they’re dealing with. That’s the truth.

Medication works for some of us—makes them fainter, or less intrusive at the least. But rarely will you hear someone comment their voices have gone away completely.

Couple that with fleeting thoughts that seem to come from that one area of your mind you never open the doors to, and your ability to focus is reduced to the attention span of a goldfish, literally.

What are some other ways we can deal with this?

Get Involved!

I hear that Support Groups can be helpful. You meet people who you can form (perhaps) life-long friendships with, people who understand where you are and meet you there rather than try and pull you where they are. I’ve personally never got much from group therapy or support groups. I find it difficult to be truly open with people, even after a year of acquaintanceship, and so I stray from this option.

But if it sounds like something which may be good for you, I suggest looking into your local NAMI chapter (if you’re in the United States). I would also suggest searching for alternative groups and using other language besides “mental illness” or “disorder” in your search engine. By doing that, I found a list of wellness groups 45 minutes from me with names like “Support group for those with voices and visions”. These kind of groups offer the same type of peer support, but through a different lens.

It can be transformative to engage with people who have different perspectives. Through them, you learn more about your beliefs and form a more solid understand of yourself. I find this to be pertinent in getting grounded because we lose part of our identity when falling through a crisis. We have people telling us what to do, when to do it, how do it it, how to get healthy, why we are aren’t healthy, and kind of become the property of those around us and the terror in our head.

We want to reclaim some of who we are. Sometimes that means discovering ourselves for the first time. Sometimes that means reinventing who we once were. In either scenario, solidifying your beliefs, your passions, and remembering what it feels like to be respected and give respect are all things which help us build ourselves outside of others expectations.

Explore the Unknown!

This is probably a less sought-after option because it doesn’t involve immediate relief. If anything, you’ll be in more pain for a while.

What I mean by explore the unknown is actually listen to the voices. Don’t abide by them or agree with them (all the time) or allow yourself to be convinced of something you know for a fact isn’t true. That sounds a lot easier and more practical than it actually is. But it’s worked in many ways for me.

Stop yelling back. What does yelling usually do? Make them louder, right? Your voices aren’t some shy kids on the playground who you can bully. Most of the time, they won’t submit. And maybe they don’t need to submit. Maybe they’re there to teach patience and understanding and resiliency. Maybe they’re there to teach you life lessons your parents couldn’t. Or maybe they’re just there to be assholes. I think most people you know could fall into one or all of these categories. The point is, you’ll never really know the correct category (for both people and voices) if you don’t listen.

I explained in my previous post, How Philosophy Helped Me Process Psychosis, that I lived under the impression that my voices were demons from a hell I didn’t believe in, here to prevent me from serving my one true purpose. I didn’t just snap out of this one day from medication or extra sleep or hospitalization. It took a couple years of exploring and pain and horror for me to come to any coherent realization.

Seeing how others dealt with their voices was helpful, which is why I recommended support groups at the beginning of this post. In giving myself a chance to hear others, I also gave myself a chance to hear myself. I heard that I was wanted dead. I heard that I was doomed. I also heard I was the light of the earth and I was protected. I got a lot of mixed messages.

What does listening to these messages do, besides cause you more distress?

Well, what does listening to your friend do when they’re stressed out? Sometimes, if you’re attentive and listening closely, it escalates their pain and they scream or cry and they get it all out. Then they’re quiet, they’re thankful, and they might even ask how you’re doing. This leads me into my next tip:

Start a Dialogue!

Let’s be clear here: when I say listen to them, I don’t mean ignore them. Let them vent, yes. Let them vent the commands, the violence, the sadness, the happiness, the grandiosity, whatever their M.O is, and then ask a question or two. Make a reflection. If they are telling you to kill yourself, ask them why. If they respond with an answer that sounds reasonable to you in the moment, something like “no one loves you” or “they all hate you,” consider a compassionate response like “you’re in pain; I am too. Can we figure this out together? I don’t really want to die.”

Why?

What I kept hearing over and over again was the importance of showing yourself compassion. It’s no different than what people with depression or anxiety are told: be kind to yourself.

And if you don’t believe your voices are apart of you, if you believe they are outside of yourself as I believed, remember that we’re all an extension of the universe, and that’s not some mystical hippie stuff, that’s science. We’re all made of the same material, within the same cosmos. We are all each other. Be kind to the earth because earth is an extension of you. Be kind to your children because your children are an extension of you. Be kind to your voices because your voices are an extension of you.

No therapist or friend has (hopefully) ever supported you by screaming back at you and swearing to end you, even if you yelled first or insulted them, or threatened them. And so don’t support yourself that way. Support yourself with compassion and patience and kindness, and remember that you are sharing a space with these things, these voices. You’re all in this body together. This brings up the final tip:

Create A Space for Them!

This is better illustrated with a quick story.

Last night a wave of confusion hit me. My thoughts circled around my impending death and nothing I read made sense. I could barely respond to text messages. I knew something was upsetting my system, and a familiar voice told me to go for a drive. So I did, for two hours.

I headed to some cliffs. I realized I was fighting a lot, fighting the confusion, fighting the voices telling me this drive would be my last, fighting the belief that they’d trigger a heart attack if I parked by the cliffs, and fighting the fact that none of my fighting reaped any benefits. And so I checked out.

I gave them some space. I stopped arguing with the thoughts. I also stopped being fearful of them, and I stopped feeding them with attention. I dissociated and only remember a few snippets of my drive. I did reach the cliffs, but didn’t park partly because of fear and partly because I didn’t want to sit near other cars.

While weaving down some roads I didn’t know very well, I realized my body felt a little lighter I wasn’t as stressed, and some of the thoughts of death had gone away because I’d faced my fear. One of my more familiar voices told me, “See? We know what’s best for you.”

Did they know what was best for me? I didn’t think so. I disagreed and asked why, then, do you keep telling me I’m going to die? Why do you keep feeding my anxiety? His answer?

“Pain is necessary.”

We all know that pain is unavoidable in life, but this struck me so deeply because of all the duality I mentioned in my previous post, that they were here to both lift me up and pull me down and that’s what makes them no better than me, no better than any human. That’s what makes us able to relate. That very duality is what makes us able to share this body and live with each other.

This took a few years of confusion and talking and different types of therapy and 8 years on and (finally) off medication. This took a lot of anger and frustration and fear and maybe some risks. But it’s possible.

And in The End…

There is no textbook on how to deal with your voices. There is no doctor or therapist or friend or family member or self-help stranger or medication or amazingly insightful philosophical blog that can tell you what the right path is. The hardship and pain and joy is in finding that yourself.

You do have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. Might as well figure out a way to do so peacefully.

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Posted in Emotions, Freedom, psychology, Voices

How Philosophy Helped Me Process Psychosis

This will be part of my story but also a tribute to the power and destructive properties of thought.

I started cracking up shortly after I took my first philosophy introductory course 5 years ago. We covered everything from determinism to Cogito Ergo Sum to relativisms and categorical imperatives. I suppose I should specify this was a Western Philosophy introduction class.

Mortality and ethics, both western and eastern thought, were the subjects I focused on after that. Why? Well, debates intrigued me and the confusion on whether we’re born with an innate sense of what’s right and wrong or whether it’s developed based upon laws, society, and culture struck me as a paradox; we can’t know what we knew (or if we knew anything) when or before we were born, and therefore have no variable to isolate—we will never know which influences us more; instinct or culture.

Scientifically, as of today, this is impossible to study. Philosophically, the debate rages. And no, your opinion on whether or not morality is innate is not scientific evidence. You could create a viable hypothesis, just know it’s probably not testable in a way that will provide valid results. But, nurture your beliefs anyway. Beliefs keep us alive.

On the journey into the murky, grey waters of morality, I got a sight of hell. I felt the hot breath of demons. They told me I was a dead man walking every time I stepped. They hunted me. And I couldn’t figure out why.

It started with possession. They invaded my body and others near me. This happened, I reasoned, because it was finally time. They’d been watching me all my life, I’d felt them as a child, and now they were trying to throw me off my divine path. I was here to influence the world, thwart their plans. Dead celebrities wrote through me; they’d also been watching me since I was a child. Still, when I hear of deaths, I feel them joined with me.

I turned to ancient Egyptian beliefs and amulets. I felt Thoth on my side, and spent nights creating rituals to talk with him.

Classmates were possessed, armed against me in this spiritual warfare. I dropped classes.

I didn’t believe in hell though, or God, not in the sense of “white Jesus”. I didn’t believe spiritual masters controlling our fate. And because I didn’t believe in any of this, the creatures possessing me, massacring people, were not demons. I realized I’d labeled them as such because I had no better words to do so. They never called themselves demons. And that lead me to Eastern Philosophy.

Unity is what saved me. The unity of all living things, of all emotions, of all concepts, of my body and my mind. There are forces that unify particles and molecules and atoms. Matter is just condensed energy, in the simplest terms, after all. This realization turned me toward The Tao Te Ching specifically, and Daoism; The Way. True Daoism isn’t interested much in this physical world or the conundrums that man spends so much time trying to reason himself through. As someone who was and always has been very logical and scientific, this thought confused me. What else was there in life besides reasoning?

What’s great is that a lot of mystical ideas within Taoism, ideals which could have been scientific had the philosophers not seen analysis as such a waste of time (in a lot of ways it is, though), have been and continue to be paralleled with modern science, particularly physics. The Tao of Physics by physicist Fritjof Capra is a great book to read more on this subject. I read it a few months ago, and it’s the book pictured at the top of this blog.

The Daoist way acknowledges and observes the natural transformation of things in nature, like the blossoming and decaying of a flower. Yes, this is where the T’ai-Chi T’u diagram comes in: it represents the unification of these polar opposites: one must exist for the other to exist. We’re talking, of course, about Yin and Yang. A consequence of life is death (or cellular regeneration if we’re talking freaky single cell organisms) and you cannot have died without once having been alive. In fact, we would have no concept of being alive or living if death did not rear its gentle head. And if we were always dead, well, we wouldn’t know it and words for it wouldn’t exist.

Both Yin (the darker element of existence representative of the earth) and Yang (the creative, heavenly—meaning not of earth—element of existence) have equal importance and balance everything. The symbol’s flowing movement, according to Capra, represents continuous cycles; in other words, these opposites are constantly within each other, influencing each other, and being each other because if they were alone, neither would exist.

This isn’t a Western way of thought. Here, someone is either guilty or innocent. Something is either right, or wrong. The flower is either alive or dead, and we see these things as separate from each other in the same way we see ourselves separate from each other. You can see this disconnect rooted in things like in segregation, in P.C culture, and in Mental Health. And because we don’t ascribe to the idea of fluid existence, of fluid transformation, because everything for us is so hard lined and linear—which is only logical because we experience existence in a physical sense despite knowing Time isn’t linear—we’ve developed an individualist and autonomous society.

That’s not to say it’s wrong. In fact, I stopped believing in the hard sense of right and wrong a long time ago.

And so how can something so abstract apply to life and how in the world did it help me balance madness?

Chuang Tzu explains this beautifully:

“The sayings ‘shall we not follow and honour the right and have nothing to do with the wrong?‘ and ‘shall we not follow and honour those who secure good government and have nothing to do with those who produce disorder?’ Show a want if acquaintance with the principals of Heaven [not of earth; cosmos, spiritual universe] and Earth and with the different qualities of things. It is like following and honouring Heaven and taking no account of Earth; it is like following and honouring the yin and taking no account of the yang.”

Chuang Tzu. Also quoted in The Tao of Physics.

And suddenly life made a lot of sense.

Suddenly I understood why conclusions of morality always felt so contrived. I understood why “staying positive” never worked, and never would. I understood separation and dissociation and, most of all, I understood the fluid duality of everything, including my demons.

They weren’t demons after all, just as I’d suspected. I call them false angels now, because they are good in their badness and bad in their goodness. They couldn’t be demons because according to this natural, fluid transformation and existence of all things in the universe, everything has a polar opposite. Yes, classical physics tells us this, but not in terms of fluidity.

A demon has no goodness. But because I looked through this lens of consistently being unified with all opposites, these voices and spirits had no choice but to be both good and bad. They struggled with the universal order just like every particle, every force, every human.

This concept I have brought into the novel I’ve been working on, and I’m not mentioning how much I processed these thoughts through a first draft years ago, so whenever it gets published and you read it (and you WILL read it) you will see the similarities and thought process. You will think back to this post and say hey, I remember this! I was there! I. Was. There.

I could empathize with being torn apart by duality. I often found myself between sanity and madness. Between the right decision or the wrong decision. Between living and dying. Between happy and sad. And so I empathized with these damaged, clever, and now exposed beings. I saw the path they carved, the fork in the road that they drove me toward, and saw that this was never a battle between light and dark like I interpreted. They were always both protecting and hurting me; it’s the natural order of things.

That’s the real reason I stopped fighting. Not because I couldn’t anymore, not because I was too tired or because a bunch of therapists told me to, but because I recognized the pain and confusion and duality that radiates through the waves of the entire universe. I saw myself in it, and slowly my fear dissolved.

I get frustrated sometimes still at things they say or things I feel they’re influencing. I get swept away sometimes still, too. I mentioned before I thought of voluntarily committing myself some weeks ago. So this has not eliminated the struggle. What it’s done is give it purpose. It’s given it a place in the universe. It’s given me a reason not to feel sorry for myself or tortured or scream “why me!” Into the sky. It’s helped me learn to share my body and mind and the power of thought with whatever it is in my head, whether that’s a few misguided chemicals or actual spiritual contact. Neither are different from each other: they both follow that natural, fluid rotation. They are bound by the chaotic, ordered, unity of opposites.

This is the reason not referring to myself as “mentally ill” or “sick” has always set me free. This is why listening to my body and choosing to stray from medication was the right decision for me.

Philosophy saves lives.

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Posted in Freedom, Voices

The Advantages of Pain

Let’s have a discussion about the power hidden within struggle.

After the loss of control that a crisis brings, it feels impossible sometimes to regain a sense of self and place in the world. You doubt yourself, you doubt your beliefs, your happiness, or any chance that this darker side of life has anything other than despair and mental anguish to offer.

I see a lot of #mentalhealthawareness tweets and posts on instagram that talk about how hard it is to have anxiety or how depression stops people from living life or how their mental torment holds them back in some way, and because of that the general public should stop using mental health terminology as adjectives, or the general public should “educate themselves” on what it means to have this devastating “mental illness”.

Then, there are other posts which are meant to encourage people stuck in these dark times to remember that they are strong for dealing with the pain that they deal with, and no one can tell them otherwise.

I’m never one to silence a voice, or voices in this case, but I do think we miss the mark a lot. It’s not really about how hard everything is, it’s about what we’re taught from that hardship. If you feel you haven’t learned anything, I encourage you to dig until you hit water.

It’s also not really about you being strong. Everyone struggles. Every single person in the world. And this isn’t to compare pains to one another. This is to say that if there’s one thing the human race shares across borders, it’s pain. We’re built, physically and mentally, to endure a lot of shit. The struggle worsens, though, when you lose faith and trust in your body and/or your mind. When you believe you’re inept to face a challenge, you’re basically telling your body “I don’t trust you to handle this”, and your mind “I don’t trust you to make it through this”.

The problem with that, in my completely hypothetical and unscientific proposition here, is that your body and mind start mistrusting you too. And when you’re out of sync with the two major systems keeping you conscious and alive, than you’re existing in a void.

I think the greatest lesson I have learned in experiencing psychosis is how important my body and mind are to me. I felt such a strong disconnect from my entire self. Nothing made sense. My body had aches and pains I didn’t understand and my mind told me things that didn’t make sense, things that came to me like an idea for a short story and ended up as a first, incoherent draft of a horror manuscript.

Making a decision to come off medication became a catalyst for reuniting myself with my body—the first step in my real recovery. But it wasn’t the physical act of getting off the medication that saved me. It was the fact that I made a decision based on what my body told me. I sat for some weeks and listened to my internal system until the cries were finally recognized. Hearing those cries and abiding by them restored a lot of trust between my body and myself.

My mind came next. I plunged into utter darkness. Voices said I should kill myself, and I tried. I was tackled into safety. No, I was not hospitalized that time.

But for the first time in this darkness, I let it sweep me away. I didn’t shoot arrows or fill my moat. I let evil overrun my castle and I shook its hand. It pulled me down a spiral of agony and I saw the deepest, rotted pits of my mind. I didn’t cry because I was fearful of that. I cried because darkness lead me around these pits and showed me the decaying feelings I’d neglected. The traumas I’d abused. I cried because I’d been hurting myself and I never knew it.

It’s been over a year since my descent, since I stopped taking the medication, since I got back into the gym and nurturing my body. I’ve made space in my physical self and mental self for aches and pains and darkness. I have a voice who reminds me when I’m not okay, or asks me if I’m okay when I feel a little rocky. In fact, with all of the thoughts and voices in my head, I’ve reached a compromise: we either live in this body together or none of us live at all.

I want to live. They want to live. And so we leave space for each other.

“Recovery”, or whatever you’d like to call it, for me isn’t about being strong or resilient or tweeting about how much my life has changed or instagramming paragraphs about why hope should never die. It’s about a willingness to be terrified. It’s about reconnecting myself with what I’d been too fearful to face. Granted, I didn’t do this all on my own. I had friends and therapists and some bad group therapy experiences, all of which lead me back to looking inside of myself.

This is why you will never catch me on social media telling people what they want to hear. What they want to hear is the same script that’s everywhere: you can live a normal life. Take control. Be your best you. It’s possible to live with “mental illness”.

That’s all fine if you just want to exist. But it’s deeper than that for me. Giving up control gave me more freedom than fighting for control. I don’t “live with mental illness” because I’ve been labeled schizoaffective. I just “live with myself” like every other damn human being.

We think we’re so different from others. For some of us, that makes us feel entitled, like we deserve special treatment because “we’re sick”. And then we turn around and demand we also be treated the same as everyone else. Classic identity crisis if you ask me.

For me, that mindset just never quite cut the cake.

So, there is deep beauty in suffering, and deep agony in happiness. Our minds and our bodies are built for adaptation. They’re built to endure. Trust in this.

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Posted in Freedom, psychology, Voices

Misconceptions about Schizophrenia and Psychosis

I’ve decided to write this post because these are found all around the internet and they all say the same things: these people aren’t dangerous, they can live and function just as anyone else, and the general public needs to see people for their character, not their diagnosis.

That’s all fine and dandy and true. But I think there’s a big chunk of information missing from those basic ideas.

Misconception 1: People with psychosis/schizophrenia must be medicated for life.

This is even a prevalent belief within the mental health community. Medication is helpful and for a lot of people necessary, and it often becomes a life sentence because that’s how it’s presented. Studies are beginning to show more and more that after a first episode of psychosis, and any subsequent episodes, medication for a specified amount of time (I’ve read some studies that cite a year as ideal) is most helpful if the person can then be tapered off the medication. Remission rate and functionally surpass those who have stayed on medication for a decade or longer.

Obviously everyone is different and the brain is as complex and individual as a fingerprint. This way may not work for everyone, but to insinuate it would work for no one is a grave case of clinical arrogance and lack of insight of recent research.

If you are someone like me whose body struggles adhering to the chemical fluctuations and disruption of homeostasis psychiatric meds cause, finding a proper physician and psychiatrist who are willing to work with you in the process of tapering may be a great step for you. This is a process that can and should take years.

If you are someone not like me and your medication is what you feel is holding you together (independent of your doctor’s opinion) then I am happy for you. Stay educated and invested in your wellness in the best way your body and mind asks for.

Misconception 2: Psychosis/Schizophrenia is more severe than other mental health experiences.

I hate this hierarchy bullshit.

It’s my largest pet peeve about the medical model and it’s the foundation of why some people get care and others don’t.

Psychosis is terrifying and life altering. But so is anxiety, so is depression, so are mood fluctuations. When we start comparing our pain to others pain, we create this competition and divide among ourselves rather than hold space for all of our pains and worries and fears and recognizing that they aren’t very different from each other; maybe in presentation, but not in origin.

There’s really nothing else to say about that shit.

Misconception 3: Those faced with the label Schizophrenia will have children who experience the same pain.

It’s true that heritability is a thing. It’s also true that that means nothing.

There is a chance your biological child will have similar experiences to you. This chance is actually quite small. It’s similar to the risk of alcoholism in children of alcoholics. One study showed (for boys and fathers at least) that sons of alcoholic fathers had a 20% chance of developing alcoholism. But very rarely did those with that 20% chance actually develop alcoholism.

Heritability for mental health experiences follows the same train of thought. Just because your children may have a higher risk of experiencing these variations of humanity doesn’t mean they will. Genes play a very tiny role. What dictates whether experiences emerge is so much more complicated and ranges from life experiences to the way your child thinks; remember, research shows a single thought changes the chemistry of the mind.

If your child does develop experiences, than you’ll be the best person for that child to be around. You’ve had similar experiences. You’ve felt the fear and confusion and grandiosity. You understand how that can take over and you also understand the other side, the way your thoughts change, the way your perspective of the world changes. You can be there as guidance and the patient, compassionate, understanding person your child will need.

Misconception 4: Medication makes the voices go away.

I’ve met professionals who believe this.

It’s a nice fantasy, but not a reality for most people. Medication can make them fainter or easier to ignore. But that does not eliminate commentary or shouts or fears being expressed daily by voices, if you experience that. In the last post I mentioned the possibility, the hypothesis, that psychosis is another way for the brain to express itself. Voices are an extension of that expression, in this proposal.

What does that mean? Well, in this case it means putting a bandaid on them does nothing. It will do what bandaids do best: cover the open wound, reduce swelling, protect it from the elements and any foreign bodies in the skin. The bandaid does NOT do the healing—the body does.

And same goes for psychosis. The medication can be an important step, push people from their crisis moment. But there is no evidence medication repairs anything, nor is there enough substantial evidence to say it permanently harms the brain. I say this because studies show both hypothesis to be true and false. A meta Analysis would be the best way to reveal the most likely option, but I haven’t read any as of recent.

So, screaming at people to take their medication is probably the wrong way to go about talking to your friend or family member or patient. Because medication only does so much. For me, patience, compassion, and the willingness to have a real conversation is what has helped me maintain a sense of stability. Medication pulled me from crisis. But I had to do the rest of the work.

Misconception 5: People labeled with Schizophrenia can’t live independently.

I think most people know this is a misconception, but maybe not. Just like many facets of life, living independently depends on way more factors than just functionality. Money is a pretty big one.

We don’t focus on providing open, honest, and understanding work environments, and that excludes a lot of people, not just those labeled with particular mental experiences. A closed, harsh, strict environment really influences how things are perceived but those of us with these experiences, and I didn’t realize that until I started working at the peer respite house where things are generally talked about rather than swept under the rug.

So, a lot of people still recovering from crisis go on Social Security Disability here in the United States. Many of those same people get worn down by the message that they’re disabled and lose motivation and hope in working. That lack of purpose and feeling connected to society only exacerbates the mental health experiences and therefore reinforces the idea of disability and “sickness”.

Not to mention disability pay is about enough to buy a stick of celery everyday, let alone pay rent. A lot of people are homeless because their disability pay isn’t enough to survive on and waitlists for housing are in the thousands here in California.

It takes extra work for us to be independent, but it’s possible.

It becomes less possible when everyone tells us it’s not.

This is my Happy Christmas/Holiday/Whatever-you-celebrate-Eve post.

How festive!