Posted in psychology, Voices

The Schizoaffected Sense

Hey everyone, I have some exciting news.

I decided since this blog has mostly turned into book reviews and travel tips, I’ve moved my mental health segments into a podcast, aptly named The Schizoaffected Sense. Right now all episodes 1-4 are available for listening at this Spotify link.

If you’d like to give it a listen, we talk about self-care, medication, and being mixed race; if you didn’t know already, my mother is white and my father is black and while that’s not uncommon today, I didn’t get to grow up around a lot of kids like me. I knew two, in fact.

Just two.

I share some deeply personal stories in the episode about medication, so if you’re squeamish or triggered by talk of suicide, consider having some support on standby while you listen.

When you do listen, come on over to my instagram @alilivesagain or come back to this post and comment what you think. The good, the bad, and the ugly: I’m here for all of it.

P.S my recording studio right now is my car, so don’t expect perfect audio. I had to do a lot of mixing just to get it to sound as it does.

Also, my bad drawings prevail! Muahahahaha!

Until next time.

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

Posted in travel

5 Things To Do While Visiting Las Vegas (that doesn’t include gambling).

If you’re someone with sensory issues like me, the thought of Las Vegas is maybe a little overwhelming, scary, or even intimidating; there are a lot of lights, sounds, people, and general sense of insomnia. Let me show you some ways you can enjoy Vegas too, with a little pre-planning, some ear plugs, and a budget.

1. Omega Mart and Area 15

Omega Mart is the second installation of Meow Wolf (don’t ask) and is a neon, glow in the dark, zip-lining, sliding, hidden treasure interact art installment. Tickets are about $45 USD each, but are worth it. There is a story to follow, with clues and information prompted by a “boop” card which is handed to you before you enter.

Warning: Once you enter, you will be confused. And the confusion will be glorious. I can’t write too much about it without giving away the secrets that make the installation beautiful.

Area 15 holds the Omega Mart as well as a few bars, some eateries–or snackeries depending on what you call ice cream and bakery items–as well as a track zip-line station and some more neon art sculptures. There are a few gift shops specific to Meow Wolf and Area 15, but enter at your own risk: prices vary.

Check that out and more here: https://meowwolf.com/visit/las-vegas

2. Rollin’ Smokes BBQ

If you’re looking for a quick, southern inspired meal, this is the place for you. Smothered in their own personal rub, built upon with several spices of deliciousness, you have the opportunity to choose from brisket, burger, rib, sandwich or salad, partnered with mouth watering sides like bacon potato salad, sweet cornbread, collard greens and brisket, and chipotle coleslaw. Their smoked meatloaf was featured on the travel channel, and has mama’s sweet D-licious sauce to tickle your tastebuds. I tried the Waygu Brisket Burger, which melted beautifully in my mouth and tasted fresh and seasoned like a good burger should. My only complaint was: where’s the bbq sauce, man?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $13 USD to $20 USD for a meal, and more if you decide to ty a sampler platter or a rack of ribs.

Want to see their menu? Check it out here:

3. Boulder City

This quaint little town is a great place to stay if you’re looking to avoid the traffic and crowds of Vegas but still want to enjoy what the city has to offer. It’s about 30 minutes outside of the city, depending on how fast you drive, and is about 15 minutes from the Hoover Dam, a very popular picture site, especially if you’re looking to build memories.

For a hotel, we paid about $250 USD for three nights and four days, a whooping 200 less than what we would have paid on the strip, and we got a beautiful view of the mountains. The only con for this is that you have to find parking in Vegas; this can be done relatively easily, as most casino resorts and parking garages are open 24/7jus, however, it’s pushing through the people that’s the hard part. They walk like they’re impervious to vehicles.

Boulder City has all the gas, markets, and ice cream shops you could hope for, perfect for that 107 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.

4. Pinball Hall of Fame

Get your nerd-on here. Pinball machines from the 50’s and onward give you hours of fun. There is no time limit, and when you walk in you simply put some cash in the change machine and use the quarters you receive as money for the machines. Some are vintage, some are new, all are fun.

How much money? As much as you want. Check them out here: http://www.pinballmuseum.org

5. Las Vegas Sign

Come on. If you go to Vegas and skip this picture site, you’ve wasted your time. It’s free, there’s parking, it’s beautiful at night, and it’s proof you visited Sin City. Be prepared to be interrupted by people standing with cameras offering to take your picture and be prepared for crowds also looking to capture that perfect selfie.

It really is the city that never sleeps. And I’m here for it.

What are some of your favorite places in Vegas? Let us know is the comments below.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @ alilivesagain, on Twitter @happyschizobs, and on TikTok @alisaysno

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), psychology, writing

Never Fear Chalk, Only Playground Bullies and Staircases.

I’ve talked on here before about my own manuscript: there’s stalking, there’s jealousy, there’s pain, pleasure, basically every ingredient you need to create a believable but obviously fictional life. There’s also crime, a smidgeon of it (not including the stalking), and so I’ve taken to reading a lot of crime novels lately. I’m halfway through two books in particular and much like Hollow Kingdom, I plan on reviewing them as I read them. So let’s get started with that today.

The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor

Not going to lie, I found this book in Goodwill for $2.99. It was published in 2018, so it’s considered contemporary fiction and the inside jacket revealed there’s a dismembered body of a teenage girl, so there was definitely crime; the book met my two requirements of myself at the moment.

We jump between 2016 and 1986, so far, from a time where our protagonist, Eddie, is a middle-aged adult and back to the time when he was a budding teenager. All of his friends have nicknames and thank God they’re nothing like the ones in Hollow Kingdom. Although they are a bit gimmicky, they’re believable for children: Metal Mickey, Fat Gav, Hoppo and Eddie is called Eddie Munster because his surname is Adams, such as in The Addams Family. Apparently “Eddie Munster was out of The Munsters, but it made sense at the time . . .”

Nicky is another one of their friends, a girl who loves hanging with the boys, and her father is the local Vicar. This only becomes a problem at Fat Gav’s birthday party because Eddie’s mother works at an abortion clinic; at some point an argument erupts and Eddie’s father punches Nicky’s father. A few days later, Eddie’s family receives a pig fetus in the mail; I’m hoping this is set up for some further plot development.

Right off the bat, we get a terrifying incident: a girl is severely injured by a rogue piece of fair equipment and Eddie is right in the thick of it, inches from being impaled. He sees the jacked up face of the girl victim but is urged to help her by a strange man, Mr. Halloran. The two, so far, have a decent relationship, although things did get a little weird when Mr. Halloran saved Eddie from some serious sexual assault from some bullies who seem more like budding rapists. He brought Eddie back to his house and Mr. Halloran has a bunch of paintings of some girls from the town, including the jacked up face girl. I think he’s being set up to be the crazed murderer of the town: he’s a teacher, he’s quiet, he’s got a bunch of paintings of girls, and he’s forming a close connection with a student. Yep. Checks all the boxes for fictional murderers.

In 2016, as a middle-aged adult, Eddie lives with a much younger roommate, a young woman he fancies but will never tell her really because he’s “too old.” Fat Gav owns a pub, and he and Hoppo are angry that Eddie didn’t tell them Metal Mickey was back in town. Metal Mickey, we learn, has returned because he wants to write a book on “the incident” and I’m assuming that means the dismembered girl, although I haven’t gotten that far yet. He says he knows who the real murderer is. Spooky.

What I find annoying so far with Tudor’s writing is the constant cliff hangers at the end of each chapter. I get that it’s meant to keep you reading and is a staple of crime fiction, it just turns me off. I want the story to flow some places and hang other places, kind of like how life does. There’s also nothing special about the writing style; Tudor’s voice is average: not quite bland but not quite unique. I’m interested in the plot line, but that’s the only reason I’m continuing to read it.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Having a degree in psychology and living with schizophrenia and going back to school for cognitive science means I know a thing or two about disorders, including the personalities along the Dark Triad, and despite what people think, psychopathy itself is not a mental disorder. It’s a personality TRAIT, alongside Narcissism (which is different from narcissistic personality disorder) and Machiavellianism. So, when I started reading this book and realized it was about serial killers, I was waiting for the diagnosis Antisocial Personality Disorder, and sure enough, as cliche as aways, it came.

D.D. Warren is a detective called to a crime scene of a woman having been skinned (in some places) and killed, a bottle of champagne and a rose left on her nightstand. The detective went back to the crime scene, encountered what I’ve learned so far was the murderer, and got shoved down the stairs, enduring an injury that’s left her shoulder and arm completely useless during its healing process.

Doctor Adeline Day (although she goes by a different last name) is the daughter of infamous serial killer Harry Day and sister of infamous serial killer (and youngest to be tried for murderer in their area) Shana Day. Adeline is a psychiatrist and cannot feel pain due to a rare genetic disorder, but she does understand her sister’s troupe of “blood means love”, something their father taught her. Shana cut people to show them how much she loves them and is diagnosed, by her sister, with antisocial personality disorder.

I would like to point out that while the book mentions it’s quite unconventional for a family member to diagnose another family member, it’s something that wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to point out the majority of people diagnosed with and living with antisocial personality disorder are not serial killers. In fact, they live relatively normal lives. They simply don’t care for your feelings and will manipulate the hell out of you to get what they want. They are driven by their own desire and could care less what you think about that. That being said, aggression and violence come easy for them. It just doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm people; it’s more like they could and would feel nothing if they did.

I’m tired of mental disorders being the reason for crime. Why can’t Shana just be a serial killer? Why does she need a label? Why does blood need to equal love? That’s more delusional than antisocial.

Adeline has a secret of her own, though. She goes on dates, sleeps with her dates, and cuts little strips of their skin and puts them in jars as keepsakes. I’m on page 209 right now so I don’t yet know the significance, but it better be something good. I swear to God.

So far the book has been mostly dialogue and I mean this. We get a paragraph or two of set up and story and then we get pages of dialogue, which is fine because most of the time it’s written well, but there are instances where I think the character of Adeline is much too “Hollywood psychiatrist” and a lot less “average psychiatrist,” meaning she talks like she was written for low budget movie. She has great explanations for everything and constantly knows what people are thinking without them saying more than a few words. She also talks kind of like a type-writer: old-fashioned and stiff.

That being said, I want to know who the murderer is and if he is conspiring with Shana Day, as some detectives are starting to think. I want to know if Adeline will get caught with her creepy skin obsession and lose her license (hopefully) and I want to know whether detective D.D. Warren’s shoulder will ever get better. I mean, that’s the real plot line here.

Would you guys read either of these books? What’s your chosen genre these days?

Until Next Time

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

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized

Book Review from The Psych Ward

The following blog post was written on paper with an ink tube of a pen from within a psychiatric hospital.

Knowing I’d be here for at least a week, I decided I’d bring a book. The book I decided to bring was Hollow Kingdom. Do I regret it? Not entirely. I figured without a cell phone or laptop or any real, meaningful connection to the outside world besides a wistful gaze out a barred window, I could finally immerse myself in the world Kira Jane Buxton wished to create.

I still couldn’t do that of course because the world Kira Jane Buxton wished to create didn’t come out in a way that interests me, as least as far as syntax goes. Her lengthy descriptions and seemingly extraneous scenes only slow the progress of the book.

If I read nictitating membrane one more time, I’m going to explode. I know that’s what birds have, but Christ, the phrase itself feels overused.

If you’re wondering, S.T. (affectionately named “Shit Turd”) and Dennis the dog have somehow managed to do a lot a little all at once. They rescued a domestic dog named Cinnamon from a house by attracting some sick MoFos (humans) with an iPhone, throwing it through the window and breaking the glass for Cinnamon to escape. What we learn is that the sick MoFos are desperate for power and we learn this while S.T. rides Ghubari, an eagle. We get a contrived lecture on the greediness of humans and the beauty that resides in transitions and new beginnings.

I physically yawned, but to each his own.

We get some more repetitive type language. For example, “Dark water near the rock pool started to stir–the sea stars were screaming at this point–and an arm, long and rust-red, lifted from its depths and into the air. The elongated arm suctioned itself to a rock and was followed by several more lissome limbs, which danced together to life an enormous bulbous head from the depths.”

I would have rewritten something like: “Sea stars screamed as dark water near the rock pool stirred. A long, rust-red arm pierced the air and suctioned itself to a rock. Several more limbs followed, dragging with them a shiny, bulbous head.”

Simple, but effective. If you want to add some descriptors in there, go ahead, just keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

It’s not all bad. I did laugh when she wrote, “I’m not sure why everyone hates opossums so much; they may look like someone shaved the buttocks of a poodle and taught it to talk through its asshole, but they are generally pretty likable creatures.”

I just didn’t know how to react other than laugh.

And “Seattle spring has more moods than Tiffany S. from Tinder.”

But we continue with the cheesy phrases like “yard demolishing fuck trolls” and “pubic badger” and “crumble-cheese turd burgers.”

That’s just not funny to me. It’s trying too hard is what it is.

So Dennis and S.T. have joined a murder of crows who are helping S.T. accept his truth as a crow and getting help from him to break windows. They plan to start breaking out domestics (pets) when they find 6th crows slaughtered and picked clean to the bone. We learn the sick MoFos have started evolving (for survival reasons) into these gigantic birds that are described like Cassowaries but are likened to raptors. At this point, I don’t know what the hell is going on. All I know is I am 263 pages deep into this book and I’m looking forward to the end because then it will be over.

So far, I’d rate this book a solid 2/5. What saves Buxton is her occasional insertion of beautiful writing. Sometimes her descriptions are flawless. Sometimes her dialogue flows. But for the most part, it’s painfully amateur, or at the very least, painfully cheesy. Will I be reading the sequel?

Of course.

Until next time.

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

Posted in advocacy, Community, Emotions, Peer Support, psychology, science, Uncategorized, Voices, writing

Why I left Social Media Mental Health Advocacy

I got tired of living for my unwellness. It’s as simple as that.

One of the most rampant messages in mental health advocacy among peers is “I am not my illness,” which also requires you to view yourself as ill, which I never have, even with such “damning” diagnoses like Schizoaffective and PTSD. The thing is, if you are not your illness, why is it the focus of your day 24/7? Why are you constantly evaluating your symptoms to the point where simple, normal, everyday reactions are suddenly a product of your “illness” and you post each bad moment (with a sprinkle of good)? Don’t get me wrong, I get that the whole point is to erase stigma, especially when a diagnosis is on the schizophrenia spectrum. We’re seen as dangerous or unpredictable or unfit for society, and to come out and share your story theoretically shows people that we do not fit those labels. You know what else shows that?

Literally living your life.

Literally.

I hate that word literally, but this time I actually mean LITERALLY.

I’ve held a job for the last five years, I go to college, I love reading, art, writing, making music, writing songs, shopping, traveling, driving, going out for a drink once in a while. I enjoy people for the most part, until I’ve had enough of them. Best Buy and other tech stores are my safe haven. I would like to work in a lab one day or maybe as an editor or maybe both. The last thing on my mind is schizoaffective, and not because I don’t deal with bizarre thoughts or anxieties or delusions or voices or voice-thoughts or visual interruptions, but because the more I focus on it, the worse it gets.

If some people want to focus their life around their symptoms, that’s great. For me, I’d rather show neurotypical people that I can live just as normal and full of a life as they can. That discounts the myths of dangerousness and unpredictability more than me selling my face on instagram or Facebook with a caption of “we are not ‘this, this, this or this’.”

Don’t mistake this for hate. I know many people who do just that on Instagram. And you know what? We NEED some of that. We need some people constantly talking about it to keep it in people’s faces. The thing is, I’m just not fit for it. I want to live happily and healthily and focusing on psychosis doesn’t help me do that.

What I will never give up is sharing pertinent information on mental health and discussing the ramifications of the unending fraud of psychological and pharmaceutical research. For example, a ramification of that is everyone actually believing in the poorly supported hypothesis of chemical imbalance. It’s why I’m going to school.

I will also always counter people’s stigma where I find it. I will always promote peer services and maybe one day design research around them. So I’m not giving up being apart of the mental health community. I’m giving up what I thought I was supposed to do: share my story constantly, talk about my symptoms constantly, wrap my whole entire life around my experiences, constantly.

That shit is boring, I’ve realized, and stressful.

I feel this is the last time I will mention my diagnoses on this blog for the sake of my own health. I appreciate people who do share their story and who find solace in it. I, too, found solace in sharing my story when the psychosis hit heavy and I was still in denial and confused and suddenly my entire life was a lie. I needed people to relate to and I had so much to figure out about myself. I’ve gone past that point now. Now it’s time to actually live.

Thanks for reading, guys. I was absent to go to my second viewing/funeral in the last five months, and just needed a few days to let the existentialism quiet down.

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

Posted in Community, science

Changes, Changes, Changes

I’ve been absent from this blog, which was at one point my baby after I monstrously left MentalTruths.com to biodegrade in the internet ether. It seems I have a problem with deciding what I would like to write about. Anyone else?

I have taken hiatus from the mental health world. I’ve learned that constantly talking about my experiences has kept me unwell. I worked for almost five years as a peer counselor for at an adult residential discussing other people’s problems, and relating mine to theirs, and being a support, and it’s just been a really great way to distract myself from myself. It’s also been the most enlightening experience of my life. I’ve learned compassion and patience and work ethic and I am eternally grateful.

But it’s time to move on.

I will continue, on this site, to talk about psychological research and how it relates to what we see advertised to the general public (hint, it’s warped and embellished A LOT). What I WON’T be talking about as often, unless relevant somehow, is my personal experiences with voices, visions, depression, PTSD, or anxiety. If you are curious, you can reference other such great writings on this site such as : My Experience With Schizoaffective or February’s Scheduled Mental Breakdown.

I’d also like to focus on other topics of interests that I have, like fiction writing and photography and graphic art. There will be some structural site changes coming up that include new tabs for easy access to Psychological Research articles, writing articles, photography, and any other categories I’ll write about. I would like to create a community of many interests and hopefully full of some writers willing to share work with each other!

If all of this sounds interesting to you, please consider following ThePhilosophicalPsychotic, and also join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Any feedback or ideas are also greatly appreciated! What would YOU like to know about psychology research? (Disclaimer: I am not yet a researcher, but my bachelor’s is toward the field, and I’m considering my master’s in science communication. All information I provide on this site WILL be from primary, peer-reviewed sources, however).

What would you like to see a story about? Want to write one together? I’ve never done that before, but I’m open to it.

What kind of photos are your favorite? Do you do photography?

I welcome all and any comments, even if it’s just a heart emoji. People seem to like those.

Until next time.

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:

Instagram: @written_in_the_photo

Twitter: @philopsychotic

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 advocacy, Late Night Thoughts, psychology

Learned Helplessness In The Mental Health System

This is a term you may be familiar with if you work in mental health. It’s often used to describe patients who have spent significant time juggling between facilities, programs, and hospitals and as a result struggle with meeting their own basic needs.

It’s no secret that decent mental health care in the United States comes with a high price tag. Community-based programs that are essential for helping shed feelings of isolation and learning social skills (both of which can be necessary for us mental health consumers) are often tagged for those with the thousands of dollars to pay for it. As someone who was working full-time and provided with decent health insurance, I was offered a spot at a program like this free of charge. Unfortunately, the company I work for is switching insurances, and I’m not positive I can work full-time right now anyway.

It’s taken a lot to find that one little place. Through consistent panic attacks, paranoia, nights of hallucinations, I finally got in contact with a hospital who patched me through to a social worker. The social worker took a week to get back to me, just to tell me she didn’t work for that department anymore. She patched me through to a social worker in a different state who found me a program in less than thirty minutes.

Since none of that panned out, since I can’t find any psychiatrists near me and can’t afford holistic care, since I’m not sick enough to be in a hospital but not well enough to be by myself, I’ve resorted to daily breakdowns. My hope for healing waned. My therapist said I was experiencing “learned helplessness.” Let me explain why I’m not and why, if you are ever told this, you should think about it just as deeply.

Learned Helplessness Comes From:

Constant struggle with no perceivable escape.

People with learned helplessness have often accepted that they are unable to care for themselves–they believe they cannot control their outcome. They have been classically conditioned to believe they are inept.

The example my therapist gave me to explain the concept of learned helplessness was that of the experiment by psychologist Martin Seligman. You may know him as a positive psychology backer, and an avid studier of learned helplessness. Seligman and colleagues administered shocks to dogs strapped in a harness in a cage. In this case, the cage represented a trap and the shocks an unavoidable outcome. When the cages were opened, the dogs refused to leave the cage even when escape was made possible. The hypothesis here is that the dogs learned to expect pain and to expect no escape.

If learned helplessness is a result of being trapped, beat down, and losing sight of escape, then the mental health system has been systematically abusing people under the guise of treatment for ages.

When are we going to stop blaming the people who experience mental illness, who are constantly being beat down, held back, vilified, rejected, for feeling hopeless? Why do professionals immediately see fault in the person (just keep trying!) instead of fault in the system of support?

Note: This isn’t to say we should rely on others to pick us up–we’ve got to also work on believing in ourselves and coping properly with our experiences. It’s just a lot easier and healthier to do that with the proper guidance and support. No one can do everything by themselves all the time.

A Possible Reason

In social psychology, there is the concept of external and internal perspectives. There is a term for this I’m blanking on. Those with external perspectives often attribute outcomes to the environment around them, things out of their control, and often come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Those with internal perspectives often attribute outcomes to their attributions, things like their personal drive and work ethic and come from higher socio-economic backgrounds. As you can imagine, there are advantages and disadvantages to both perspectives.

I know people on both ends. I know people who consider themselves successful and attribute that to their constant strive for “something greater”, to their hard work, to their positive thinking, without acknowledging the two-parent home they come from with successful, hardworking role models, without acknowledging the support they had in following their dreams or attending college, without acknowledging the financial opportunities they were provided. I know people who don’t consider themselves successful and attribute that to their traumas, a broken economic/social system, and lack of opportunity without acknowledging their effort has waned.

One advantage to having an internal perspective is that when hardship arises, you are more likely to take proper measures to cope. You are more likely to seek support and utilize the support. The disadvantage is you see others as not trying “hard enough.” You also are less likely to support others in coming up because if you did it “by yourself”, they should be able to as well. You are less likely to take part in the community and less likely to advocate for community-based reform. You may be one of those people who see homeless individuals as useless bums.

One advantage of having an external perspective is that you see the structure of the world around you. You acknowledge (and experience) the pain of a system designed for failure. The disadvantage is depression. The disadvantage is that you give in to what you believe is your fate and struggle in seeing the change that could be made. You are more likely to relate to others who have struggled, and you’re more likely to be involved in helping others because you know what it’s like to feel like you have no one and nothing.

Which perspective do you think most (definitely not all) psychological professionals come from?

Cognitive Dissonance

Psychological professionals are trained to see the system as something there to support and guide their clients. They also go into the profession with the aim of supporting and guiding their clients. If it feels like that goal isn’t being accomplished, it may challenge their self-concept something fierce. This leads to cognitive dissonance: the imbalance between what someone consciously believes about themselves (including their attitudes toward different things) versus how they behave.

This is where I believe professionals need to be a little softer on themselves. Acknowledge that money, attitude, trauma, self-discipline, and outside support are just a few of the things that determine someone’s success in their mental wellness. Sometimes people can’t find help, and when they can’t find help, when they are sad about that, when they are feeling hopeless and defeated and angry, those feelings are valid. The system is often not our friend and we have a right to be angry about that–because no matter how hard we try, we can’t fix that by ourselves.

No matter how much I exercise, no matter how healthy I eat, no matter if I take meds or don’t, no matter how much I meditate, no matter how much I breathe during my panic attacks, no matter how many times I tell myself the pentagram on my ceiling isn’t real, no matter what I do to cope, I will not have thirty thousand dollars a month for personalized, integrated, holistic, community based, science based treatment.

What would give me thirty thousand dollars to blow? A really, really good job. What would give me that kind of job? Mental stability. What would help me achieve mental stability? A lot of support. How do I get a lot of support? Thirty thousand dollars.

Now, there are alternatives, and the system has set this up so that in order to receive these services, you must never aim higher than them.

County services, for example, are often provided to those below a certain income limit–this includes those on disability. If someone is stable enough to get a part-time job, and that job pays ten dollars over the state insurance income limit or disability income limit, that person risks losing the services which have been most helpful to them. No one wants to risk that.

And so you have an escape route, you see, much like the dogs. You can be well, work as many hours as you can and lose your integrated services. But much like the dogs, that escape doesn’t feel safe, not after having been shocked for so long. Inside the cage, at least you know what to expect. In a twisted reality such as this, the cage actually feels safer.

There are too many factors that go into being mentally well for this one-size-fits-all system to be as effective as it purports.

Agree or disagree? Leave it in the comments below, or join the discussion 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 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:

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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.