Posted in advocacy, Community, Peer Support, Voices, writing

How I Got Into Peer Support and How You Can Too.

How Did I get Involved?

It was 3 a.m on a particularly difficult night. I was 20 years old. I found myself struggling with sleep, battling with rapid thoughts, and frustrated over my financial situation. A lot of us in the mental health community have dealt with nights like this, I’m sure. my desperation lead me to the Craigslist Job Board where scams glorified work from home jobs and door-to-door food delivery jobs. I didn’t have a very good car back then, nor did I have any secure or reliable internet connection, so both of those jobs were out of the question. I was only lucky that I stumbled across Second Story.

Second Story boasted itself as a peer-led respite house–I had to look up the word Respite–and said that it was looking for individuals from the community who had lived experience. What was lived experience? Mental health distress, diagnosis, and/or involvement in the county mental health system. I had distress and diagnosis and it paid $13 dollars an hour, a whole 3 dollars more than I’d made at the local amusement park. In my manic state, I essentially said “Fuck it” and applied.

This is kind of an unusual story in that the majority of people who got involved with second story either volunteered, had worked there in the past, or stayed there in the past, or were there when it first opened.

When it first opened, I think I’d been a junior or sophomore in high school.

But what really drove me toward peer support wasn’t the idea that I could get paid talking to people and get paid to be a mental health consumer, it was the idea that an alternative treatment to a medical-model made a real-life difference in people’s experience. I wanted to be apart of this, see it with my own eyes.

Through this opportunity, I’ve been to conferences on coercive treatment, been featured on Mad in America, experienced the Pool of Consumer Champions (the largest peer organization in California), helped train peers who were opening their own peer respite, told my story in front of a panel of clinicians and mental health workers, and received training in Motivational Interview, Intentional Peer Support, Mindfulness, and Trauma Informed Care, all without a finished college degree. Working in peer support has done nothing but help my individual growth, show me what true compassion is, and help shift my worldview out of the dark dungeon it was in. I learned about people, became interested in their story and their being, and we walked together, side by side, across whatever fire brews. We are a team and we manage together.

How Can You Get Involved?

It’s not as hard as it seems, although sometimes it can be difficult to break through. Many states (in the U.S) have what’s called Peer Specialist Certification. These are state funded certifications that show you have completed a specific amount of hours of training and therefore are certified to use your skills to walk through someone’s experience with them. California is one of those states that has no state funded certification, as the bill has not yet passed legislation, but there are different regional certifications that you can get that still provide some training and experience.

Now, I never had any of that. I was just some 20 year old punk hearing voices without knowing they were voices, with so much anxiety I’d shake at the thought of doing something out of my routine, who couldn’t keep a clean room and was pretty sure she had undiagnosed autism. I got lucky.

There are many easier ways to get involved, though. NAMI, the national whatever on whatever, does Peer-to Peer classes and groups where your involvement could lead to volunteerism or employment. (Sorry NAMI, I never remember what you’re called, and I don’t ascribe to the idea of mental illness). They’re great to become apart of the community and get to network in your area while also getting support for yourself.

If you are in an area where peer respites are a thing, you can always get involved with one of them. Call the warmline and inquire. Here is a list of some Peer Respites.

If you don’t see your state on that list, try google instead.

There are also smaller peer-run organizations that are always, always looking for volunteers or workers or drivers or someone to just come in and make a difference. Again, try googling it for your area!

If you’re worried about the impact it may have on your social security benefits, just remember that peer places are run by PEERS. They understand. A good peer place will create a mutual schedule, one that works for you and one that works for them.

How Much Training Do I Need?

This of course depends on the organization or respite house you’re working with. Second Story has an umbrella company, one that oversees the house, so we recieve paid trainings with other clinicians and mental health staff. Some respite houses are entirely peer run, meaning they own their house and all the expenses acquired. Grants and donations usually fund the whole of these houses which means trainings may be specific and limited.

If you hate role-plays as much as I do, just remember everyone is learning and it’s okay to sound like a complete idiot.

I hate group role-plays, I should say. One-on-one role plays are fine.

The point being, if you have social anxiety, you WILL be role-playing and you WILL either get comfortable with it or never get comfortable with it and you have to practice accepting one or the other.

Do I Have To Be A Peer Counselor?

No. There are different types of jobs peers can do with trainings and certifications and experience. You can work in a hospital, for example, as a peer specialist, running groups or just walking around and talking to some of the people. If you’ve been in a hospital your self, you can relate to them and just be a general kind person to talk to. If you’ve been in bad hospitals, you know that often you are ignored or seen as dumb or treated with disrespect. You get the chance to be that one person who treats another human as a human.

You can be a driver, you can be an errand runner, you could even work to help people with mental health diagnoses find jobs. You are not limited to being a counselor.

I, for example, am going to train as a NeuroFeedback Technician this next coming month. I will be hooking people up to electrodes and skull caps and watching their brain waves as they complete training tasks. I will talk with them, relate to them a little, gather information, while also working with technology and understanding the results of said trainings. I would not have been able to get this job, pre-bachelor’s degree, without all of the 5 years of experience I have in peer support.

Final Thoughts

The point is, if you’re interested in this kind of work, you will find it. We’re always needing people just like you to be a constant, familiar, kind face for those brothers and sisters who are still struggling deeply. We need people with all sorts of backgrounds, all kinds of experience, and of all racial ethnicities.

We need YOU.

Until next time.

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

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, psychology

The Philosophy of Altered States

I’d like to talk about altered states. This includes but is not limited to the resulting mind state of those in psychosis, those who are both recreational and addicted drug users, and the natural state of mood changes. Most specifically, we’ll talk about why the want to alter our state of mind is regarded as dangerous and undesirable.

First, I’ll start off with a story: before the pandemic, I injured my back running on a treadmill.

I have a short leg and a displaced hip, so it’s not that I don’t know how a treadmill works, it’s that my body is broken.

I was prescribed Valium and Percocet. The Valium did wonders for my anxiety, especially when it came to speaking in front of panels, but the Percocet did something more. The Percocet gave me unbridled, unregulated, inorganic happiness, something I could never have without the pill itself. It made me sociable, bubbly, understanding, empathetic. It gave me confidence. It made me feel more human than I’ve ever felt.

And so the other day, while watching a terrible talk show yap about a heroin user, I started yearning for what I’d lost: that inorganic happiness. I found my mind racing, focused on pulling any old name from the archives of people I know, so I could ask them if they knew anyone selling Percocet. Once I realized I was frothing at the mouth at work like some sort of tortured, rabid dog, I stopped and pondered.

What was it about inorganic happiness that made me froth at the mouth? And, more importantly, why was I judging this feeling? Why did I label it bad?

Let me explain.

If you are feeling sad, you want to stop feeling sad. When you can’t stop feeling sad by simply telling yourself to stop feeling sad, you start feeling bad because you can’t stop feeling sad. You fall into a circle of sadness, until something–maybe a hot cup of tea or a friend or a therapist–triggers some thought that triggers some chemical that triggers some electricity that triggers another thought that eventually triggers your sadness to alter itself. You feel okay again.

So, what happens when you feel okay and wish to alter that state? What if we held each emotion to the same standard?

If I feel okay, or I feel happy, and I wish to feel more okay, or more happy, is there a moral, universal law that stops me from making that a reality?

The answer is no.

Now, we all know the consequences of going off our meds suddenly and without proper care (I frequently did that in my earlier psychosis years) and we all know the consequences of long-term, heavy, drug use, including regular, doctor-prescribed medication. So, if you’d like, you can think of that as the only hiccup here: there are physical and mental and life-changing consequences for our actions.

But why is happiness the only acceptable emotion to have? Why do we strive simply for that? Why don’t we focus on respecting our sadness, our anger? Why was my first inclination to seek a stronger happiness than I already have? Why do I want to resort to inorganic happiness?

I’ve asked a lot of questions here with no answers because I really want you to think about this. I really want you to ponder why do we put happiness on a pedestal? Why aren’t we allowed to feel other feelings in the same way we feel happiness? And is that why we constantly want to change our state of being? Because happiness is the only socially acceptable form of emotion?

Think about it.

Any thoughts in the comments are always appreciated.

Until next time.

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

Posted in Book Reviews (updating)

Moral Facts and Your Opinion

Good morning, afternoon, and night to the world. Today we’re talking about why our children don’t think there are moral facts.

What’s your first impression of that sentence? Besides my obvious P.C inclusivity for the entirety of the world (brownie points?), what do you think of the term “moral facts?” This would ultimately require you to believe that there are absolutes: a fact is, after all, absolutely true. So then, is it absolutely true that murder is wrong? Is right and wrong all there is to morality? There are questions you must ponder. Does this make it subjective? We could go through this all morning, afternoon, and night.

But first, let’s start with the essay I read entitled “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” by Justin P. McBrayer, written back in 2015.

McBayer starts with the definitions of facts and opinions provided by his son’s second grade classroom, which can be easily googled:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

At first glance, this feels, sounds, and looks right. McBayer gives reasons why it’s dead wrong.

Firstly, he says that truth and proof have very different features. For example, it can be true that I am feeling sad, but you can’t prove that; you can’t see inside of my head, and I’m excellent at hiding my feelings. McBayer also says that many things which have been “proved” have turned out false. This is the limitation of our physical experience. He also states that if proof is “required for facts, then facts become person-relative.” This means that if I can prove E=MC^2 as a physicist, and you cannot, that equation becomes fact for me but not for you, a non-physicist.

What’s worse, McBayer says, is that “students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions.” Remember those quizzes back in school, usually life science or something, where they made you sort phrases into facts or opinions? I remember them. I remember getting half of them wrong consistently. Do you?

McBayer asked his son a very simple question to show how mixed up this sort of black and white thinking is: he said, “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that fact or opinion?” His son said it’s a fact. McBayer replies, “but I believe it, and you said what someone believes is an opinion.” His son says but it’s true, and McBayer replies, “so it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

So, some things that were classified as an opinion in his son’s homework were:

“Copying homework assignments is wrong.”

“All men are created equal.”

“It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.”

Value claims, the worksheet says, are not facts. McBayer claims this means that public schools teach students there are no moral facts, by way of understanding all value and moral claims call into opinion category. The problem is, in the real world, it’s required of us to “acknowledge the existence of moral facts,” otherwise we could murder and justify not being outraged.

The issue here isn’t what’s being taught really, in my OPINION, but the inconsistencies: either we acknowledge morals or we don’t. Either we teach them or we don’t. Lending mixed signals is what confuses children, and once they get old enough to truly critically think about philosophy, we’ll introduce the big topics.

What do you all think? Are there moral facts? Are there universal truths? What have you learned?

Until next time.

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

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Happiness 2.0

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments because I just couldn’t handle Hollow Kingdom at midnight. Not because it’s scary, but because I didn’t feel like raising my blood pressure.

If you click through some of my older posts, you’ll see I’ve talked a lot about happiness. One post entitled Happiness I wrote when I was taking pain pills for my injured back. I noticed the stark difference between my baseline happiness and this new, inorganic happiness. I struggled with accepting that our brain runs on limitations: we get a finite amount of dopamine, endorphins, and other stimulating neurotransmitters, unless we bring in an outside source. In this case, my outside source was Percocet. It pained me to think the contentment I felt was initiated and could never be natural.

So when I came across the essay The Dangers of Happiness by Carl Cedarstrom, I was inclined to absorb every word.

He talks first about Aristole. If you recall from your undergraduate philosophy days, Aristotle insisted happiness came from being a “good person” and that meant living an ethical life, guided by reason and cultivated virtues. The Stoics, Cedarstrom says, decided no matter how daunting life became, no matter the circumstances, people could be happy. Christians took that and 360’d it: pain was more desirable, as it lead to a “divine union in the afterlife.” Happiness, after all, couldn’t ever be met on Earth, only in the Crystal City with God.

Today in the west, where capitalism rules, we are more inclined to pursue that unobtainable happiness within ourselves. Cedarstrom says “to be happy in a time when we price authenticity and narcissism, we need to express our true inner self, get in touch with our deeper feelings, and follow the path set by ourselves. . . we are assumed to find happiness through work and by being productive. We are required to curate our market value, manage ourselves as corporations, and live according to an entrepreneurial ethos.”

This means if you’re unemployed, you’re worthless.

Okay, not worthless. It means you can’t truly be happy. You must never rely on other people for help, you must “struggle for self-improvement” and your fate is in your own hands. ONLY in your hands.

This is why people beat up homeless people.

This is why money, particularly in my county, is shoveled away from community organizations that are set up to help lessen the circumstances that can cause homelessness. This increases drug use and relapses in mental illness which in turn increases homelessness. Do you see the problem, yet?

Cedarstorm says, “If we may all be equally happy, irrespective of our circumstances, then that would equip politicians like Mr. Bush with convenient excuse[s] to stop looking at structural issues like class, social and economic inequality, or poverty.”

What Cedarstorm is getting at is quite disturbing: we’re using this message of the American Dream, of this deluded individualism, to distract ourselves from the actual problems we face in society. This is why people go hungry, it’s why crime rates soar and people think “thoughts and prayers” on twitter means something. We’ve created an illusion of happiness.

That’s not to say we can’t be happy, something Cedarstorm doesn’t get into. It’s true we use our self-righteousness as a way to shun those we think aren’t “trying hard enough”, but there is truth to the message that if we want to get somewhere in this society, we have to push ourselves–not because that’s the formula for happiness, but because that’s the formula society has created. It’s an unfortunate creation; rather than help each other, we trample over each other and call it helping.

When I took Percocet, the happiness was distracting. I didn’t worry, I didn’t think, and I nodded out in class. My notes look like someone with Parkinson’s wrote them. But I was happy.

We’ve basically drugged ourselves.

I’m not bashing people who work hard, and I’m not bashing people who don’t work at all. I’m encouraging us to look at things from a different perspective. I’m personally someone who strives for progression in the self and beyond myself; I don’t consider it progress if I’m not lifting others up while I do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have groups of encouraging people surround me. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have continued to progress.

My stubbornness helps.

But the point is, this idea that we have to do everything by ourselves is complete and utter bullshit. That thought process is designed to keep those who are already down further down; when we see them as lazy, as not working hard enough, we don’t feel the need to expend our precious energy on helping them. But in reality, who has helped you get to where you are today?

My parents have helped me, even through all the pain we’ve suffered together.

My former coworkers have given me more emotional support than I’ve ever received, and they are the sole reason I’m continuing my education.

My friends.

Professors who ran after me in the rain and pleaded with me to never stop writing, never stop learning. Professors who walked me through a calculus problem step by step because I learn differently. Professors who just inspire.

Random strangers who have smiled at me on the street, who have engaged in conversation not knowing I was feeling terrified, scared, sad.

The nurse at the last hospital I was in who told me my so-called illness is actually a gift.

The doctors who have been patient with me through all my worries.

And so many more. Without them, I wouldn’t be me, and the same goes for you. You haven’t done anything by yourself.

It’s an illusion.

Until next time.

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

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

Two Books and a Bad Drawing

Keeping to my promise from days ago, I read some more of both Hollow Kingdom and Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments. Here’s where I stand:

Dear God, someone burn Hollow Kingdom.

Dear God, someone give me more of 77 Arguments.

Let me explain.

Hollow Kingdom

I’ve started editing this book as I read, crossing out extraneous sentences and verbose explanation, things the readers can infer while we read the book. That is the area which most infuriates me about reading this. Because, the thing is, were that taken care of by the editor, this book would have been close to groundbreaking. There aren’t really any books advertised that describe the apocalypse from the animal’s point of view, and I haven’t read any, so this could have been a very new, very intriguing topic.

For example, instead of saying “he blinks” or “his blinking” or “he blinked”, she says “his nictitating membrane licking his eye.”

Now, I understand the need for varied vocabulary, but not when it takes away from readability and believability. Some advice: just because the ‘dictionary word of the day’ is relevant to your writing, doesn’t mean you should use it.

S.T also calls the crows he doesn’t like “ass trumpets” and I’m just over these silly little names. I would have laughed at ass trumpet when I was 14. I won’t at 25. This isn’t advertised as a kids’ novel or a YA novel either.

I did get a tickle our of the bear cubs being called fuzzy potatoes. If she’s stopped there for that whole chapter and not said ass trumpets or any other silly names, I would have been okay. Fuzzy potatoes passes.

So far I’m only on chapter 8. S.T and Dennis the Dog are embarking on their own travels to seek the wise Onida and find the reason why the MoFo’s (humans, remember?) are acting so strangely. S.T wants to find the cure for his beloved Big Jim. Dennis went after a bear that came out of the library and got side-swiped by a huge claw. Other crows and birds came to their rescue, and S.T has a bit of an attitude with them; we learn that S.T’s wings are clipped and he’s been more of a human pet than a wild crow. The other birds refer to humans a The Hollow Ones, and S.T doesn’t like that either. There’s a whole conversation about S.T going to find Onida and then he rides off on Dennis’ back like fucking Clint Eastwood or something.

I don’t know what Chapter 8 will bring, but if it’s any more silly names, I’m flipping a table.

Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments

I read two essays, but the one that sucked me in was How Should We Respond to “Evil” by Steven Paulikas. The line ” . . . the notion that evil can be ‘destroyed’ is an ethical version of a fool’s errand.” is what caught my attention.

The subject of this essay, although written in 2016, is the Sept. 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. This goes for both sides when I repeat, “how can we be sure something is evil and not simply opposed to our interests?” For example, the tragic 3,000 death in the 11th attacks were countered with 460,000 deaths in Iraq, and that includes more American soldier deaths than civilian deaths at the WTC. We are tying to “make order out of chaos”, as Paulikas puts it. What did we solve in meeting murder with murder? What did we prove? Paulikas asks, “can evil ever fully be destroyed . . .?”

He describes Paul Ricoeur, another philosopher who suggests the solution isn’t to identify evil, but to “respond to it appropriately”, that the real pain of evil isn’t the act, but “the experience of the victim.”

I would agree.

And so to bust down the doors on evil’s house, to ransack his place, to steal his jewelry and kill his dog isn’t honoring the experience of the victim, it’s creating more victims; It is, in itself, evil, to respond violently to evil.

We consider these types of responses as justified. When someone murders three people and we put them to death, we consider that justice for the victims when in reality we’ve only created more; the family of the murderer who may not have known that side of him/her, mourn their loss as well. We’ve circulated loss. Congratulations.

That’s not to say punishment isn’t needed. But that’s exactly Ricoeur’s point: we need to respond appropriately. We must focus on the victims. Help them, support them, lift them up, and let the one who perpetrated the evil live within his perpetrated evil. If that means life in prison or banishment or whatever, then fine, but let’s not put the focus on the evil committed. Let’s put the focus on the victims who suffer. And if the punishment is indeed death as in many places, let’s put the focus then on the victims we’ve created, the family, and know that we can mourn loss with them without feeling sorry for the murderer.

I think this is a touchy, uncomfortable subject for some people because we’re raised behind the mythological versions of good and evil: angels vs demons, good gods vs destructive gods, and we think these things are black and white even when, time and time again, the world shows us the blurred lines. And so friends, I implore you, look beyond what you’ve been taught. People are not simply good or evil, they are an amalgamation of sinful, prideful, grateful, decent, destructive, beautiful–and much more.

I also implore you to read this book. Some of the essays are a little wack, but most of them are quite enlightening.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @ThePhilopsychotic. I appreciate you.

Posted in science, Uncategorized, writing

Why I’m Leaving Behind Psychology as a Major (but still read and talk about research).

It’s not challenging enough, simple as that.

It’s also one of those majors where 80-90% of the students pass because it’s not challenging enough. And what I mean by that is it’s easy to get through a class without doing the supplemental reading or textbook work. You can even write papers without reading all the research necessary for your paper–and still pass.

The problem with textbooks and laxadasical studying is that these students grow into clinical professionals who believe their intuition knows better than science. Now, in some cases, intuition is important. Maybe your client has a tendency toward injuring themselves, and you notice this is increased when they lack eye contact in a session, talk softly, and rub their hands. You ask if they’ve had thoughts of hurting themselves, and maybe that client is comfortable with you, so they admit it. That’s using your intuition correctly.

When you believe that you know how to treat someone’s Panic Disorder or PTSD over the ONLY emprically proven method of CBT, you’re being clinically arrogant.

You can sit here and tell me “well this treatment worked better for me than CBT.” Great. The problem is that’s anecdotal. If we studied your treatment specifically, maybe we’d find your psychologist hyped up the treatment so much, your effects were placebo. Granted, once you knew that, your symptoms could come back full force, but at least you’re know the truth.

If you’re a psychology major and don’t know what “anecdotal” means, you’re only proving my point.

I know many people whose mindset is “C’s get degrees” and that’s true. For some classes like physics where the required GPA at my university is 2.7, that’s true. Those classes are HARD.

If your mindset in psychology is “Cs get degrees” and you become a clinician with the “C’s get degrees” mindset, I wouldn’t want you on my professional team. It’s nothing against you personally, it’s about the drive, the motivation, and the curiosity. I want all three of those things in someone who is digging into my brain.

You can also say there are a lot of different career options under psychology, and that’s true, but none of them interest me. It’s all a bunch of reading and that’s just not challenging enough.

Research psychology tickles my fancy, but what’s the point when the people who are supposed to be reading the papers (clinicians and professionals) DON’T READ THEM.

I. . .

It’s BAFFLING.

Almost sickening.

The general public still believes chemical imbalance is a proven theory, when it’s nothing more than a poorly supported hypothesis (that’s been debunked by researchers many times) that got headway in the media and is easier to accept than “we don’t know what’s going on, maybe people are just a variety of human” or “maybe people are more traumatized than we realize.”

In fact, a lot of research gets headway in the media. Often if you hear a researcher in the news, their article isn’t peer reviewed nor do they have multiple replications of their data under their belt. They just want the recognition. The writers who write about science don’t always have a background in it, mostly a background in journalism or English, and purport things that aren’t discussed in the research or that they are misconstruing; they don’t understand methods and procedures, and therefore misrepresent the findings.

That’s what propels me toward science writing. If I can impact the public, if I can help researchers get valid experiments out to the general public, that would be grand. I’ll have a background in lab science as well as psychology research and I’ll understand when a researcher puts out an article talking about the black hole in the center of our universe, I’ll know it to mean we’re not getting sucked in right away.

I’m not saying don’t pursue psychology. I think they are many great students as well, who are going into it with the mindset of “I want to make a difference.” And that’s beautiful. Just make sure you understand the facts and the research and you and I will be fine.

I’m writing this for others but also for myself. It’s been hard deciding to drop a major I once fell in love with. It’s a break up. I’m processing emotions and feelings of betrayal.

It’s hard, guys.

Until next time.

You’re not following The Philosophical Psychotic? Don’t forget! Just hit that little button and we’ll be all squared away. Join me on instagram @alilivesagain and twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Uncategorized, Voices

In Moments

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

Yeah, it’s been a ride.

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

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

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

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

Until Next time.

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

I’m begging.

Posted in Late Night Thoughts, Questions for you, science, Uncategorized, writing

Death in the Anthropocene

I fell asleep at 8pm last night and woke up at 5 this morning and so let’s talk about death.

I read this essay called Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton in the book Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments. If you’re a philosophy buff like me, if you took a lot of classes in undergraduate college on the subject and found that you talked often about the older guys and not so much about the people today, then this is the book for you. I will say some of the people today are lacking in their creative abilities and misunderstanding a lot of basic philosophical concepts, but I guess that’s just how we move with the time.

How to Die in the Anthropocene (our new era today), though, is well above some of the other essays I’ve read so far in this book. It talks about facing one’s death in light of climate change, in light of war, in light of being human and succumbing to our ultimate end. Scranton challenges that a bunch of philosophers sitting around and talking about life doesn’t make changes, BUT that the Anthropocene may indeed be the most philosophical of ages in that it’s requiring we question what it means to live, what does being human mean, and, most importantly, what do our lives mean in the face of death? He says, “What does one life mean in the face of species death or the collapse of global civilization? How do we make meaningful choices in the shadow of our inevitable end? . . . we have entered humanity’s most philosophical age–for this is precisely the problem of the Anthropocene. The rub is that now we have to learn how to die not as individuals, but as civilization.”

He describes his time in Iraq and how he faced death everyday. Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure, a samurai manual, provided some solace. It said we should “meditate on inevitable death” daily. And so Scranton did so, imaging each day that he’d be blown up or shot or killed in some other war-torn, horrific sense, and he’d tell himself he didn’t need to worry because he was already dead. What mattered, then, was helping others come back alive. Tsunetomo says, “If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead. . . He gains freedom in the Way.”

In the end, we realize that we are already dead. Each day is a new death for us in that every moment is something new, the next moment new still. We are indeed living death. Scranton doesn’t focus on what we need to do to save ourselves or our planet, he focuses on the fact that we’re already dead and that instead we should focus on adapting to this new way of life; “we can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster . . . or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.”

That is learning how to die.

We can apply this to physical life just the same as Scranton did. When someone passes, they leave behind what has come before (life) and if they move on to something, each moment will start anew again, as there is nothing that doesn’t come with something; if something came alone, there would be no such thing as nothing, and visa-versa. If we didn’t have death, there would be no life, quite literally, and so to those wondering whether living infinitely is possible, it’s not. You wouldn’t be alive if you can’t die. You couldn’t even “be” because there is no chance for you to “not be.” Sorry to burst your bubble.

I would argue that in the face of death our life means exactly what it’s meant to mean: we are here, shortly, and then we are not, and that goes the same for the bee that stung my foot, for the plants I sniffed as a child, for my first cat who died peacefully on the kitchen floor. We aren’t here to make a purpose on earth, we’re here to die. And the sooner you’re okay with that, the sooner life will be enjoyable.

Death hurts. I would go so far as to say it’s the most hollow, defeating, crushing feeling I’ve ever felt, to have someone pass on without either of you ready for that. But it doesn’t have to be. They have not only graduated from life, they’ve completed their purpose.

We can’t know if anything is next, we’re almost purposefully physically limited from ever knowing something like that. All we can know is that we will all complete the same end-goal and we should find celebration and happiness in what people do here and in their graduation.

This isn’t a somber topic. Rejoice.

Until next time.

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

Posted in Emotions, Freedom, psychology

In Dealing with Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will always miss her.

Posted in 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:

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