Posted in Uncategorized

Oddly Satisfying

I said I would come with more podcast information and here I come, bearing gifts of the great beyond.

My boyfriend and I decided that our unique coupling would make great entertainment for some people. We decided we’d start a podcast in which we not only talk about how we get along being an interracial couple, and me being bi-racial myself, but current events that seem to have struck the world with such a vengeance. I’m sure we’ll talk about COVID at some point, and not just the way its uprooted all our lives. We’ll discuss some difference in opinions we have, and how different personalities can yield more than just arguments in a relationship, but also provide an opportunity to grow with each other. We’ll talk about mental health as well, and not just related to our relationship or relationships in general, but how it is getting along in the world with a diagnosis that makes people–including doctors–scared.

Since we’re new to podcasting, it may take a few episodes until we’re really comfortable behind a microphone, and our true personalities shine.

I’m a comic, that’s what I do. Quite literally, I live in a comic it feels sometimes, getting turned page by page by some snort-nosed mortal with an affinity for chicks with big anime titties. And so expect some humor. I’m not going to censor myself, but I am going to keep things generally PG until we define our audience better.

When I have the time and space, I want to create a second podcast dedicated to the books I’ve read and am reading, as well discussing the stark difference between a New York Best Seller bad kind of book and a self-published bad kind of book. Some people seem to think that if you’re on the NY best seller list and your book is trash, that’s much worse than a self-publish book that’s trash, and I disagree; it doesn’t matter where your book goes or who markets it, if you are putting something out that you wish people to read and it looks like it’s been edited by a 2 year old, spit on by a five-year-old bully, and beta-read by a teacher at that one high school that made the news this year about its best student having a 1.6 GPA, then you should be held accountable.

In the podcast with my boyfriend, we’re going to hold people accountable too, including ourselves. We’re all apart of this world and we should all start acting like it.

We’ll release the podcast on Spotify most likely, or here on WordPress, we haven’t decided yet. I’m hyping us up so we could have at least one listener. It will encourage us to continue to hone this craft which, believe it or not, is a good skill to have these days. Learning Adobe Audition was pretty simple, and learning to record hasn’t been too difficult, but we want to do videos later and adopt premiere and after effects can get tricky when you’re first starting out. So please drop by our podcast if you can and give us some good vibes through the screen. Give us a listen. Give us a like, if that’ll be possible on the platform we choose.

I’ve been reading more Hollow Kingdom. Just wait.

Just.

Wait.

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

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

How To Support A Loved One’s Mental Health Journey

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

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

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

So, let’s start with something simple:

Tip #1: Offer an ear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #2: Stay Educated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #3: Be Involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

The belief is the key factor here.

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

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

Tip #4: Breathe

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

There’s not much else to say about that.

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

A Final Thought:

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

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

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Posted in Emotions, Freedom

Tips for being in a relationship with someone and their mental health struggles.

As someone labeled Schizoaffective (although I don’t consider myself disordered, disabled or “mentally ill”), and having read a few other articles online about relationships and mental health, I decided to weigh in on this with a little logic, rationality, and perhaps some harsh realities.

Paranoia, depression, and anxiety ruined a relationship with the person I am currently back together with. I won’t rehash everything. But my paranoia and anxiety wedged a wall between his family and me, and still does. It eventually wedged a wall between us as well. What I’ll share in this post is what we have learned.

Tip number 1: Your Partner is NOT Your Caregiver.

Unless the both of you have formally agreed to one person bearing the weight of taking care of appointments, reminding you to eat, reminding you to shower, reminding you to take your medication, moderating moods or behavior or trying to control behavior, and anything else a nurse or worker would do, this is NOT your job.

This is a harsh reality for many people because the first thing you’re told is your partner struggles with certain things (perhaps some of the things listed above) and may need gentle reminders or constant reminders. And there’s nothing wrong with a little help. The problem arises when this help reinforces the idea of helplessness, the concept of utter disability, both of which further the mindset which fuels depression. If your partner believes they can’t do something because their doctor says it, because you say it, or because all of the family says it, than your partner isn’t going to feel there’s a point to managing independence with their experiences.

This DOES NOT mean support isn’t vital. Support is vital in any relationship. But one person does not deserve to carry the weight of two people. Let’s explore this further.

Tip number 2: The health of both partners is more important than the health of one.

This sounds like “the majority outweighs the minority”, with some residual beliefs utilitarianism, which I’m not a huge fan of, but what I’m getting at here is that both partners must be healthy in order for the relationship to move forward as a whole. And it’s not enough to use that age old excuse of “my partner didn’t ask for this, it’s not fair.”

You’re right. Your partner didn’t ask for this. Who the hell asks for anything that causes struggle in this life? I suppose one could argue that by simple living you’re inviting and encouraging pain, but I have a feeling my readers aren’t wanting to go down that philosophical rabbit hole right now. Just because neither of you asked for this doesn’t mean milk the struggle. It doesn’t mean one persons health and well-being is more important than another’s. What it means is that balance is key. It means you, as the well partner, has a responsibility to care for yourself and your being, just as your partner struggling with their mental health has a responsibility to care for his/herself and his/her being.

In all of my crises I relied a lot on my partner. I was starved for understanding and wanted someone to pull me out of my head. I had psychiatrists, hospital visits, medication, and none of it seemed to make a difference. The weight I placed on his shoulders wasn’t fair. It’s important to communicate feelings. But not when you’re unloading those feelings like you’re a dump truck and he’s the landfill. That’s a classic case of me not having proper outlets or other areas of support. My health is my health, not his health.

Tip number 3: If your partner is the one struggling, be understanding but know when you need space

Know that you are not a savior. You are not there to pull us from our pain. No one expects you to. We have to feel our pain. We have to adapt in ways that work for us. Answers do not lie in you.

Now breathe. Doesn’t it feel good to not have the weight of someone else on your shoulders? Know that most of us are capable of taking care of ourselves the majority of the time, and also know that if we aren’t right now, most of us are capable of learning with a little firm encouragement from the entire mental health team (not just you) and with a little confidence in ourselves, which can take time to build when you’re constantly being told you’re sick and disabled. Remember: research shows thoughts have the power to transform the physical chemistry of the mind.

That being said, ask your partner what are some ways that you can support them in a crisis. Do not be offended if one the answers is “stay away from me”, or something of the sort. It’s not always someone dangerously isolating. Sometimes it’s a necessary space we need to really absorb our feelings, feel them, and help them pass on to the next life. If that causes you to feel ignored or unloved, discuss this with your partner.

Ask your partner when the proper time to get authorities involved is. Hospitalization is often another added trauma, as helpful as it may be. Handcuffs, cots, restraints, unwilling shots, all of it is trauma and can build a lot of mistrust in a lot of ways. If your partner is willing to go for hospitalization, make sure they are able to line up their treatment. Get a Mental Health Advance Directive if hospitalization is a common thing.

Empowerment is key to a confident, independent partner. They are in control, no one else. When they cannot be in control, brainstorm ways with them where their wishes can be honored (that’s an advance directive).

Tip number 4: If you are the partner who struggles, expand your support system.

This can be really hard. I’ve yet to get a steady support system around me that doesn’t involve friends from work or my therapist. And a support system doesn’t always have to be people. It can be things you use when you feel emotions taking over or a crisis budding. It could be a retreat if you have money. It could be a day at the animal shelter, petting animals. It could be local peer support groups, where you can foster connections with people who understand what you’re going through and are there specifically for mutual support.

When I feel I’m struggling, I alert my partner but I also take steps to process the pain. I’ll drive an hour or so away to some woods and a state beach and walk and contemplate and process and dissociate. It seems dangerous to some, and maybe for some people with certain struggles it would be. But for me it’s exactly what I need. To be away. It’s much less likely that I’ll be paranoid about a mountain. It’s much more likely I’ll be paranoid about that group of people across the street taking about my death. I often feel mountains intercept on people’s thoughts the way they interrupt cell phone service; their blockade stops people from hearing my thoughts or me hearing their thoughts.

If you don’t have transportation, which a lot of us do not, see if there are things within walking distance. If you’re comfortable taking public transportation, map out a route that could be helpful for you. Update your partner—remember, communication is key—but don’t send out distress signals unless it’s necessary. It’s important to reconnect with yourself, to learn your limits and push them just a bit, and to get comfortable juggling your pain without reaching for a life raft all the time. It’s the only way to learn how to swim.

Tip number 5: If you really love your partner, remember things will never be perfect and that healing takes time. A lot of it.

A partnership needs balance. It needs compassion and understanding and patience from both people. It needs trauma-informed processing from both people. It needs both parties to really see, hear, and feel each other’s perspective.

Struggling sucks. Trying to deal with other people’s struggles suck. Maybe you feel your partner will never be as independent as you hope. Maybe you feel your partner will never understand you. Maybe you feel your partner isn’t trying enough. Maybe you feel you’re trying your hardest and still not progressing; maybe that makes you feel guilty. Maybe neither of you know what to do.

And that’s okay. There’s a huge learning curve with this. And once every avenue has been exhausted, if either partner isn’t growing in a way that benefits the both of you, that’s okay to. You know why? You have the option to walk away.

No one, except your pain and fear and sorrow, is keeping you with someone who consistently hurts you.

Sometimes time apart is what fosters real growth. And sometimes it doesn’t. The point is you deserve to be happy. If you’re happy with someone who isn’t understanding or you’re happy with someone who is needing constant supervision, great! No one said that’s a bad thing. But the moment it becomes overwhelming, and growth has stopped, its time to reconsider what you’re putting yourself through.

I know

I’m aware this isn’t a typical perspective that’s written about. I’m also aware that everyone is different. There are different skill levels, different levels of lucidity and different levels of tolerance. Love is blind, I also know that.

I know that whatever satisfies your heart and your happiness is the choice for you. This article is not intended to shame or hurt or insult anyone. Its intent is to offer alternative perspective from someone who struggles with mental health issues and is learning to grow with a partner she never wants to lose because of some stupid unrealistic thoughts. It’s also coming from someone who refuses to let any mental health anything prevent her from living a full life.

Everyone is different. The point is to learn how to balance those differences so you can enjoy the best parts of sharing your life with someone.

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