Posted in advocacy, Community, Late Night Thoughts, Peer Support

Your Role In The mental Health System

This is to all my fellow psychology majors, graduates, and future students. What do you believe your role in the industry is?

To all my fellow mental health consumers, what do you believe your role is?

These are the two simple questions I have. I’ll share mine, and I ask for you to share yours in the comments below!

I am both a major and a mental health consumer, but both roles have shifted dramatically. I thought my role as a worker was to help people. I thought my role as a mental health consumer didn’t exist; I knew I struggled with anxiety, but I believed it was just another hurdle to get over, and I’d gotten over many hurdles before.

I learned my role in the industry as a worker wasn’t to help people, and that people are mostly capable of helping themselves. My role was one of support and guidance so that they may discover what they are capable of. My role has also shifted recently in this aspect. My schooling has shifted from the goal of counseling psychology to the goal of research and clinical education. I know I want to be one to bring science and empirical data to the forefront of the industry. All this glorious information is sitting there wasted because clinicians don’t take the time to read it, and because the system is built in such a way that paying for training and education is ridiculously expensive for clinicians. Research is becoming more biased and doctored and that’s obviously a problem too. I want peer support integrated. I want evidence-based treatment properly understood.

My role in the industry as a consumer has changed as well. It’s bounced back and forth between dependent and utterly independent. It’s bounced between needing professionals and shunning professionals. It’s bounced between feeling hopeless and feeling as if I’m finally healing. I also have learned that my role includes reaching out to others, accepting their help, while also letting others reach out to me.

I look forward to reading your thoughts below.

Or, catch up with me on:

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

Posted in psychology, science, Therapy

The Two Branches of Psychology

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

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

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

The Perfect Example: Gabapentin

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

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

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

What Does Research Say?

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

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

What Does This Have to do With Psychologists?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

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

Posted in 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 Community, Emotions, Uncategorized

Reflections

We’re nearing the end of 2020. What’s helped your mental health most through this global travesty of a year? Perhaps you’re feeling grateful you don’t live in the United States right now. Perhaps you met a reading goal, or are graduating this year. Did you make a new internet friend? Get a new doctor? Start a new medication that’s working? Find an amazing, binge-able series on a streaming site? I did: have you seen The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix?

What has been horrible for you this year? Have you lost someone to COVID or another circumstance? I did. Have you fallen back into a depression or has your anxiety kept you glued to your bed sheets? Have your voices gotten louder or meaner? Did you have to drop out of school or are you feeling particularly underwhelmed by your performance this year?

It’s important we make reflections on ourselves, good and the bad, not to dwell on either but so that we can understand the process our physical body may be going through. Maybe your bones hurt or your muscles are aching. Maybe you’ve had bathroom trouble. Maybe you’re hyperventilating a lot or you notice your heart rate has been elevate. If you are younger, you may be noticing this in particularly. Take the time to acknowledge that this year has been one large clusterfuck of trauma. Our physical bodies take in as much stress, pain, and trauma as our minds. Remember to thoroughly nourish both.

I have been absent on this blog, but have returned. I have in plan a series where we discuss the DSM-5, the history of the DSM, and what it means in a psychological context. This includes where the DSM board gets their information and how that information gets translated into vague descriptions of unverified mental conditions. We will also discuss where we think the future of mental health care is going and where those of us who are consumers want it to go.

If you have something in particular you’d like to read about, let me know in the comments below or contact me here.

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:

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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 Uncategorized

Thank You!

I wanted to say thank you to all the new followers. I’ve been watching the numbers up-tick, but haven’t had a clear mind or space or time to shout out to all of you. One thing I love about writing a blog is meeting everyone in the blogosphere. So drop a comment below telling us about yourself, your reason for writing, and a link to your blog so others can take a gander at your passion! We want to hear from you! I know I want to hear from you!

I like the idea of creating a community within a community, especially during COVID when everything is so virtual. I mean, if you’re here in the US where social distancing isn’t cool and coughing on people is, then yes, everything is still virtual.

Share this post so others can also come and join the party!

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:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

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

Mental Health And African-American LIves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I say affectionately, FUCK YOU.

Get off your fucking high horse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Night.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts

Mental Health Month: Update #2

If this was a full-time position, I’d be fired by now.

I am struggling cognitively in a way that I haven’t in a few years. Writing is difficult. The post on Substance Use will be tomorrow evening after I get off work, granted my mind does not melt from my ears between right now (10pm) and 7pm tomorrow.

You all have been so patient with me, so kind, and have been thoughtful readers.

A big welcome to the many of you who have followed recently in these last three weeks. We will be on a grand writing adventure together.

Until tomorrow, friends

If you want to share your personal mental health experience (anonymously or otherwise) on my website, contact me on here or via my social media below:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

Posted in psychology, science

Mental Health Month: Dissociation

As promised, here is last weekend’s OTHER Mental Health Month post. Tonight we’re talking about Dissociative Disorders.

You all know how this works: we talk about what the manual classifies as disorders, then we talk about the experiences. If you would like your mental health story (substance use and LGBTQ+ also!) shared on this site for Mental Health Month, contact me here, or reach me on my social media (linked below). People have seem to like reaching out through Instagram, and I enjoy talking with people. Feel free to contact me just to chat–that’s what’s been happening most recently.

Let’s dive into it.

Like Bipolar, this section is concise in the DSM-5 and tied deeply to studies in cognitive psychology, especially when it comes to the controversy of repressed memories. You’ll recognize the first diagnosis:

Dissociative Identity Disorder: This is not a light diagnosis to come by, although it has a wild history of it’s introduction into mainstream mental health. Formally known as “Multiple Personality Disorder,” DID is characterized with identity crisis. This means someone’s personality states are split into two or more, and can affect memory, behavior, perception, cognition, and other senses. This can be reported by others, or noticed by the individual themselves. Gaps in memory of trauma or everyday events may be obvious. This, obviously, must cause severe distress. We’ll talk more about this below.

Dissociative Amnesia: This is also related to trauma. The individual will be unable to recall autobiographical information related to a trauma or stressor. This is not the same as being stressed out and forgetting your keys. The forgetting must be above and beyond that of ordinary memory decay. This can be with or without dissociative fugue.

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: Depersonalization is feeling detached, or outside of your body observing your thoughts, feeling, and bodily sensations. Things feel unreal, your self is absent, and your sense of time is distorted. Derealization is a detachment with respect to what is around you: objects, people, feel unreal, wrong, or are distorted. You do not leave reality but this does cause distress and impairment in everyday life.

Other Specified Dissociative Disorder: Mixed symptoms of the above types.

Unspecified Dissociative Disorder: People experience characteristics of the above, but none of it meets the full criteria. Again, your normal is disordered.

Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real?

This is the big question everyone asks.

I don’t refute people’s experiences. If someone tells me they have 25 different personalities, I’m not going to sit there and tell them they don’t; I’m not inside their body or their brain, and I haven’t lived their life. And it seems in the science community that experiences aren’t being question either, but rather the onset of symptoms comes into question. So, let’s talk about what we DO know.

  1. People are distressed by these experiences. Some lose control of their lives, bounce between hospitals, treatment centers, group homes. People are reliving traumas in their body and their mind. This is not a joke.
  2. Repressed memories, since their conceptual birth within Freudian times and psychodynamics, have never had any real conclusive studies. Behaviors can be studied of course; biological responses can be studied, of course, but whether or not someone’s memory is correct cannot be studied. If you ever take a cognitive neuroscience or psychology class, you will learn that memories are reconstructive. That is, our brains put memories together as we remember them. They are not snapshots of the past. We retain central ideas and key themes, but we will not remember incidents or scenes as they are. Flashbulb memories, those that are caused by sudden trauma, have been shown just as unreliable as our regular memories. Researchers have actually seen this process; new neurons branch and stimulate growth as we remember something–they are not pulling from neurons that are already there. Memory is not as simple as it seems and research on repressed memories is inconclusive.
  3. DID has a bad wrap. It got a bad wrap from people across the country back in the day opening treatment centers, holding people who are struggled with some sort of mental distress in their lives, tying them down, and telling them they have different people living inside of them. These centers were eventually disbanded for fraudulent billing (they got a lot of money for this breakthrough treatment) and got ousted as a cult. They kept people from their families, told them their families were the ones who had abused them, and ruined a lot of lives. It took years for those people to get real trauma therapy and realize their identity was intact. There’s a documentary on one of these centers that I watched in my Research course least year. If I find it, Ill post the link. The concert today, though, is whether this kind of literal brain washing is still happening.
  4. Planted memories are a little more solid than repressed memories. Again, our memories are reconstructed upon remembering, so it’s been shown that people are inclined to fill-in-the-blanks sometimes, remember something that was there that wasn’t.

So, in the spirit of respecting those who know this to be their experience, and also respecting cognitive science which shows it may be possible to create these personalities in therapy, I looked up an article that compared the two causes of DID: Trauma Or Fantasy? I can’t link the study because I downloaded it from my school’s database, but if you’re interested in reading it, contact me.

Researchers compared four different groups: Genuine DID diagnosed individuals, DID simulating individuals (people acting), people with PTSD, and a healthy control group (“healthy” meaning unaffected by a condition). Long story short, results showed that those in the Genuine DID group were not more prone to suggestive memories nor were they more likely to generate false memories. There are some limitations with this study, one being that it was a small group of people and that their malingering results came back inconclusive; I didn’t see them list any reasons for this. They used reliable and valid testing measures, but didn’t experiment, which is a big problem if they’re really trying to challenge the fantasy model of DID.

The point of all this scientific arguing? People’s experiences are people’s experiences. I honestly don’t care if a therapist put it in your head or if you actually went through a horrific trauma. The point is you’re distressed, you’re suffering, and no one needs that in their life. As far as experience is concerned, DID is as real as any other condition.

Does Your Trauma Need To Be Severe?

This is a hard question. When it comes to DID, it’s highly unlikely those series experiences are going to come after something like your verbally abusive dad. I’m not saying it can’t, we don’t know everything there is to know about the brain or how it processes things that harm us, but it is unlikely. However, derealization and depersonalization are common in people with anxiety and PTSD.

My second depersonalization episode happened when I was 15. I remember (and there’s a chance I’m remembering incorrectly, remember?) sitting in the passenger seat of my mom’s car as she drove me to school. I usually rode my bike or walked, but it was raining particularly hard that day. I felt myself floating, my spirit, and I was leaving my body. The inside of the car didn’t feel real, my arms didn’t feel real, and the experience of life wasn’t real. I told my mom, I said, “see, there it is again, none of this feels real. The car doesn’t feel real. It’s weird.”

I don’t remember if she said anything. But from that point on, dissociation became synonymous with living for me. I walked across four lanes of traffic and the three miles home with friends shouting at me, shaking me, calling my name, and I was lost in a void. I don’t remember them shouting at me. I don’t remember them touching me or that I’d narrowly escaped death. What I do remember is blackness. Becuase that’s all I saw.

It wasn’t painful.

It felt ethereal almost. I’d shed my physicality. I’d shed my ego, my anxiety, my worry, my fear. I’d shed my anger, and I had a lot of it back then. I’d shed my need for escape. I’d shed my uncomfortable reality. And, as strange as this sounds, it felt damp and warm, the blackness did. I couldn’t feel it how we feel, say, water on our skin, but I felt it in a purely infinite, internal sense. I felt spread across eons and for the first time I felt complete.

In our world, we diagnose this as dissociation, but I have not been convinced. This felt like I experienced raw life, real life, what we are outside of these meat sacks. But that’s a whole other conversation.

I remember walking through the door of my apartment and my dad asking me how school was. That, and the void.

I was never sexually abused or physically beaten to the point of hospitalization. I’ve never been in a car accident or a house fire. By big trauma event standards, I’m pretty low on the scale. I have endured repeated emotional and verbal abuse, some physical violence, homelessness, schooling terrors, and an alcoholic/drug addict parent while growing up. There are painful memories and a lot has stuck with me. So, the answer to the above question is, no. If something hurts you, your body and mind respond in the best protective coping mechanisms it can. Sometimes it needs to yank you out of the physical world and remind you who you are.

Does Excessive Day-Dreaming Count?

By DSM standards, no.

But, if your day-dreaming becomes so distracting that you find yourself struggling day to day, it’s worth talking about.

Thank you all for coming down this road with me. Mental health isn’t just my job or my personal affliction, it’s also my passion to share my experiences and knowledge, and to be apart of this kind of writing community. I am terrified of speaking and haven’t yet climbed over that hurdle, so writing is the next best way for me to be active in mental health advocacy. Thank you for being there with me.

This Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we will continue with Gender Dysphoria, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and Personality Disorders. If you have a story you’d like to share with me, here are my social media handles. *Feel free to just chat with me, it’s been great getting to know all of you* My email info is linked above as well.

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 promoting critical thinking for all.